Best Things to do in Santa Fe, New Mexico with Kids
Santa Fe, New Mexico, filled with art and adobes, may not sound too appealing to kids. However, we found this historic city in the Land of Enchantment to be family-friendly with plenty of history, outdoor activities and a unique southwestern culture. Here are our suggestions for the best things to do in Santa Fe, New Mexico with kids.
Explore National Monuments
While there are numerous activities to keep the kids busy within the city limits, these national monuments and parks are worth the trip.
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks is about 35 miles from Santa Fe. Resulting from volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, these tent rock and cone-shaped formations formed an otherworldly landscape. The one-mile Cave Loop Trail was great for kids and let us get closer to these unique rocks. There is also the longer Slot Canyon Trail for the more adventurous which wanders through narrow passageways with a steep climb to the top for panoramic views.
Bandelier National Monument is about an hour away from Santa Fe and offers diverse flora and fauna within the park. Visitors can explore the 1.2-mile Main Loop Trail that includes archaeological sites and ladders into small alcoves, which is ideal for families. Kids can learn about the Ancestral Puebloans who lived here, see remains of cliff dwellings, examine petroglyphs and also participate in the Junior Ranger program.
Try the Food
My kids can be picky eaters but they liked the variety of New Mexican cuisine with influences of Spanish, Mexican and Native American flavors. Strings of chile peppers (ristras) hanging in many structures are ubiquitous in Santa Fe. The chile is king here — green, red or both. We enjoyed sampling delicious, local dishes including the green chile cheeseburger. Visitors can even go on a green chile cheeseburger trail. My kids couldn’t get enough of the sopapillas (fried pastry) with honey. Don’t forget to take home some biscochitos, New Mexico’s official state cookie. This is regional cuisine at its finest.
Appreciate Local Art
Santa Fe is an art mecca with over 240 galleries and many art museums including the famed Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. We did our own art tour on Canyon Road where a majority of the galleries and studios were located and housed in historic adobe structures. We enjoyed seeing the diverse art pieces on display. Give the kids the camera and let them take photos of their favorite pieces.
While there are plenty of art museums here, kids can also learn from other varied facilities. The Santa Fe Children’s Museum is a popular attraction for the whole family to enjoy interactive exhibits and programs. We didn’t get a chance to visit El Rancho de las Golondrinas or Ranch of the Swallows but would have loved to step back in time at this living history museum. Visitors can learn about the culture and history of 18th and 19th century New Mexico through original and reconstructed structures, museum exhibits, and interacting and learning from villagers in period costumes.
Enjoy the Great Outdoors
Santa Fe is blessed with 320 sunny days annually. With 30 miles of hiking trails and over 50 parks, there is no shortage of outdoor fun that ranges from white-water rafting to rock-climbing. The Chamisa Trail is near the city and great for families. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains offer plenty of day hikes and trails. Kids will also enjoy the Railyard Park with plenty of space for hike and bike trails and even climbing walls and rope courses.
Explore Historic Santa Fe
We loved exploring the shops and restaurants in adobe structures around the historic plaza including America’s oldest continuously occupied public building, the Palace of the Governors. This state history museum is free for children 16 and younger. My kids enjoyed the open areas and gazebo. The plaza offers plenty of food options and craft vendors, including many Native American artists.
Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is an imposing building that stood out among the adobes. The interior is stunning with its many colorful stained glass windows. Don’t miss the La Conquistadora Chapel’s relic collection from various saints.
San Miguel Chapel claims to be the country’s oldest church and worth a look for its original adobe walls. Don’t miss nearby Loretto Chapel’s miraculous spiral stairway. This elegant staircase was believed to have been built without nails, glues or screws but using only square wooden pegs. It’s a beautiful chapel with a very interesting history.
Santa Fe Hotels
Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza has an enviable location in the heart of downtown Santa Fe. Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder is only 15 minutes from downtown Santa Fe and that much closer to Bandelier National Monument.
Do you have any other suggestions for things to do in Santa Fe with kids?
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Mary lives in San Diego, California with her husband, 13 year-old daughter and 10 year-old son. She was born in the Philippines, grew up in the U.S. territory…