More than 300 days of sunshine. Countless adventure activities (like skiing, hiking, stargazing, and horseback riding). Delicious Southwestern eats. Cool museums and workshops little ones will love. These are just a few of the things that make New Mexico’s capital city the ideal vacation spot for your entire tribe. Tucked into the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, perched 7,200 feet above sea level, “The City Different” earns its nickname via its abundant cultural and culinary offerings. But it’s the friendly locals, ideal weather, and a landscape laden with must-see artwork and nature views that really make it unforgettable. Plus, there’s a ton of kid-friendly offerings you might not expect to find like interactive play places, hands-on rodeos, astronomy tours, and a bustling Farmers Market.
Tia Sofia’s has has been serving up no-frills regional dishes for more than 40 years now and signature items include: One epic breakfast burrito and the stuffed sopapilla and taco plate at lunch. There’s also a bookshelf for tiny readers to occupy their attention while they wait.
The most talked about attraction in Santa Fe is the “House of Eternal Return,” created by the Meow Wolf art collective and featuring more than 135 artists. Part haunted house, part jungle gym, this interactive experience is less museum and more amusement park. It’s a 20,000-square-foot fully explorable playground located in a former bowling alley (and financed in part by Games of Thrones creator George Martin). Learn the mystery of the Selig family as you wind through 70 interconnected spaces (think secret passageways, chaotic portals and colorful forests and caves) of their Victorian mansion. It’s a great time for the whole family, but anyone under 15 needs to be accompanied by an adult.
Harrell House Bug Museum
Tucked away in the DeVargas Center Mall, this affordable and accessible museum is home to hundreds of the state’s creepiest and crawliest residents. Kids and adults will love examining the impressive “Crawlywood Collection,” made up of 2,400 mounted exotic insects from all over the world and brave visitors can even hold a few of the museum’s live bugs or stick around for feeding hour, where fish, turtles, lizards, snakes, and tarantulas chow down.
Santa Fe Farmers Market
Sip Mexican apple cider slushies at the Santa Fe Farmers Market on Saturday mornings, where local vendors gather from 15 counties in northern New Mexico, selling fresh veggies, baked goods, and, of course, red and green chiles.
Museum of International Folk Art
The world’s largest collection of folk art is housed at this museum and once inside, your crew will want to head straight to the “Tree of Life” play area, complete with toys, books, a library, and a puppet theater stage. The Museum Hill attraction also encompasses a sizable selection of costumes, dolls, puppets, and colorful toys from around the world, and hands-on arts and crafts programs are offered throughout the year. Kids 16 and under get in free.
Santa Fe Bite
This casual spot at Garrett’s Desert Inn is home to their famous “Green Chile Cheeseburger”—they serve approx. 450 on a busy day—and mini me’s will be pumped for shakes and eat-with-your-hands favorites like chicken fingers and cheese enchiladas.
With more than 90 galleries lining this half-mile stretch of historic adobe houses—once a footpath used by the Pueblo Indians—Canyon Road is the epicenter of Santa Fe’s renowned art scene. Pop into the Wilford Gallery to see Lyman Whitaker’s kinetic wind sculptures moving in the sprawling outdoor garden, or sign the fam up for a local tour perfect for younger art fans. Guests can meet the artists and even engage with colorful digital art on Santa Fe Art Tours’ kid-friendly Canyon Road tour, specially designed for families with children ages 5 to 9.
You’ll devour your fair share of green chile in Santa Fe, but The Shed’s red is regularly voted the best in town. Kids can also nosh on quesadillas, posole soup, or soft tacos wrapped in blue corn tortillas.
Santa Fe’s famed pink sunsets give way to some of the darkest skies around and guide, owner, and astrophotographer Peter Lipscomb has been teaching (and entertaining) Astronomy Adventures’ tour-goers about the high desert’s starry night for 17 years in this two-hour show-and-tell. Lipscomb keeps the tours intimate (12 people max) so stargazers get ample time viewing the night sky through his giant telescope. Tours take place Thursdays, Saturdays, and some Tuesdays throughout the year.
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
Even though it’s about an hour outside of downtown with hundreds of acres of untouched wilderness, Northern New Mexico is a hiker’s paradise and Kasha-Katuwe is a must for families. While there are plenty of trails suitable for all fitness levels, a good start for smaller climbers is Tent Rocks. Created by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, the national monument is made up of cone-shaped formations that kids can see up close on the one-mile Cave Loop Trail. Plus, the sweeping panoramic views at the top are unbeatable for ‘grams.
Where to Stay
As the most historic hotel in Santa Fe (and the only one situated directly on the Plaza or what’s referred to as the central landmark city-square), you can’t beat La Fonda on the Plaza for its proximity to nearby destinations and “Kids Stay & Play Free” package, which includes: accommodations, complimentary breakfast for two adults and two children, and four free tickets to Meow Wolf.
Located in the heart of downtown (just three blocks from the Plaza), the 83-room motor court Garrett’s Desert Inn has everything a mom could need: suites with refrigerators and microwaves, wireless internet, continental daily breakfast, a pet-friendly policy, and a heated outdoor swimming pool open May through September.
The digs here may lean toward the pricey side, but the Four Seasons Rancho Encantado Santa Fe has a lot to offer intrepid travelers including free meals for children under five, complimentary guided morning hikes and also transportation to and from the Santa Fe Plaza, cozy in-room fireplaces, and an on-site adventure center with custom itineraries and outdoor excursions like hot air ballooning and day trips to Taos (for an additional cost). There’s also a kids’ “Chef’s Table” program, where budding young foodies can learn about prepping and cooking, just like the pros.
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