Established in 1834 by local Spanish farmers and ranchers, this charming village has today become a secluded, artsy escape from the sometimes daunting summer crowds and commercialism of the Taos Plaza—famous residents include actress Julia Roberts and former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who own ranches adjacent to one another. You reach the tiny commercial district along NM 150, about 5 mi north of the intersection with U.S. 64 and NM 522 (it's about 9 mi north of the plaza). The drive is part of the joy of visiting, as NM 150 rises steadily above the Taos Valley, offering panoramic views of the Sangre de Cristos—you pass through Arroyo Seco en route to the Taos Ski Valley.
Arroyo Seco is without any formal attractions or museums, and that's partly its charm. The main reasons for making the trip here are to behold the dramatic scenery, grab a bite at one of the handful of excellent restaurants (ice cream from Taos Cow Cafe and tamales from Abe's Cantina are both revered by locals), and browse the several galleries and boutiques, whose wares tend to be a little more idiosyncratic but no less accomplished than those sold in Taos proper.