Sitting prominently in the Sangre de Cristo foothills, Santa Fe – the Capital of New Mexico – is one of America’s most distinctive cities. Founded by Spanish missionaries at the start of the 17th century, it remains littered with eye-catching colonial architecture along with several notable cultural institutions that lay testament to the city’s past, including the New Mexico History Museum.
While Santa Fe is a history buff’s paradise, it is also a popular destination with families, with a huge number of kid-friendly things to see and do here. If you’re planning a visit with little ones and would like to build an itinerary that features plenty of landmarks and activities guaranteed to get them excited, we’ve picked out 12 of the best things to enjoy in and around Santa Fe with children.
Let the little ones loose in a children’s museum
Whatever your kids predilections, there’ll be something to keep them entertained at Santa Fe Children’s Museum. Whether it’s making sand art, blowing bubbles, getting creative with lego, or the simple pleasures of climbing, jumping and sliding, the museum makes for a great family day out. Be sure to check out the planetarium too, which offers a great way to introduce your kids to the magic and wonder of astronomy and the night sky.
LOCATION 1050 Old Pecos Trail HOURS Mon-Fri 11am-6pm Sat-Sun 11am-5pm
Hitch a ride on a city pedicab
See the famous sights, places of interest and hidden corners of Santa Fe with the wind in your hair by booking yourself onto a colourful pedicab ride. Helmed by entertaining and knowledgeable drivers – many of whom are local artists – the two-seater human powered tricycles offer a truly unique way to get to know the city. Passengers can customise their urban adventure to suit their tastes and time constraints, with tailored tours for children, as well as special interests including photography and art galleries. Tours can be any length you choose, with pricing structured as $5 for every 5 minutes. The pedicabs operate from 9am-10 pm seven days a week from May to November.
Embark on a thrilling canyon adventure aboard a 4×4
Situated some 15 miles northwest of Santa Fe and home to dramatic vertical cliffs that attract hiking and rock climbing enthusiasts from far and wide, Diablo Canyon is one of the region’s most impressive natural attractions. Intrepid types can also explore the site by joining a fun-packed, family-friendly off road tour aboard an all-terrain 4×4 vehicle. Run by a renowned local company called Santa Fe Mountain Adventures, the tour invites visitors of all ages to hop onto a Swiss Army GE230 Wagon which will serve as your viewing point for enjoying the area’s desert plants, wildlife and other spectacular views. The tour includes a short hike to the canyon itself. Pricing is $99 per adult and $61 per child, plus tax.
Join a fun-packed scavenger hunt
Kids love a scavenger hunt and in Santa Fe families can combine a 3-hour sightseeing tour with an interactive smartphone-guided hunt that requires you to solve clues and complete challenges across the city. In recommended groups of up to 5, you’ll make your way among both well-known and overlooked sites and landmarks, including churches, cathedrals, outdoor public art exhibits, town squares and historic hotels, guided the whole way by the purchased quest that’s stored on your phone. Santa Fe Scavenger Hunts usually involve around 2.5 miles of walking, but participants can start and finish at their leisure.
Santa Fe Scavenger Hunts can be booked through GetYourGuide.com.
Immerse yourself in Santa Fe’s botanical life
A great way to spark your children’s imaginations about the great outdoors and its natural bounty, Santa Fe Botanical Garden is a tranquil haven awash with plants, bugs, and all manner of pretty and fascinating things. Created to celebrate, cultivate and conserve the rich botanical heritage and biodiversity of the region, there are individual sections dedicated to different aspects of the botanical world. Every Friday morning the garden also hosts special activities for 3 to 5-year-olds.
LOCATION 715 Camino Lejo HOURS Thurs-Mon 9am-5pm Closed Tues-Weds
Discover a dream-like funhouse
Perhaps Santa Fe’s most quirky and original family-friendly attractions is Meow Wolf, fabulous surrealist funhouse with a habit of leaving kids at once bewildered, amused and desperate to come back to experience it all over again. Visitors can pick clues to solve mysteries or simply explore the interactive space and its dream-like exhibits in a state of captivated wonder.
LOCATION 1352 Rufina Circle DATES Sun-Mon & Weds-Thurs 10am-8pm Fri-Sat 10am-10pm
Traverse the city on foot
One of the best ways to get to know a city is simply to explore it on foot, delving into its nooks and crannies and taking time to soak up the atmosphere. In Santa Fe, visitors can join organised guided walking tours that invite you to take in the very best the city has to offer. Suitable for all ages, The Best of Santa Fe Walking Tour is hosted by a knowledgeable and entertaining local guide who will regale you with intriguing stories and legends as you traverse the city streets.
The Best of Santa Fe Walking Tour can be booked through Viator.com
Peruse thousands of folk art items
With more than 130,000 objects within its vast confines to peruse, there’s no chance of anyone getting bored at the exceptional Museum of International Folk Art. Among all the fascinating folk art items there are numerous child-friendly activity centres dotted throughout the venue, as well as a dedicated kids’ corner where your little ones can unwind and enjoy some sensory quiet time.
LOCATION On Museum Hill, 706 Camino Lejo
Visit a fascinating living history museum
Life on the frontier in early New Mexico was a whole lot different to how it is now, but there’s still a chance to experience what those nascent days several hundred years ago were like thanks to El Rancho de las Golondrinas. Open from May to the end of October each year, the historic ranch and living history museum is located on what was once the Camino Real, the Royal Road that extended from Mexico City to Santa Fe, and features costumed performers re-enacting famous scenes from the era.
LOCATION 334 Los Pinos Road
Get your kids to learn some culinary skills
Santa Fe has an excellent foodie scene and families with older kids or younger teens can give them a chance to pick up some local culinary skills by joining an organised cooking class. Run by Santa Fe School of Cooking, the hands-on classes teach participants how to create a range of delectable dishes, while explaining the science behind cooking and the rich culture and heritage behind New Mexico cuisine.
LOCATION 125 North Guadalupe Street HOURS Mon-Fri 10.30am-4pm Sat 10.30am-3pm Sun 11am-2pm
Hit the ski slopes
If you or your kids have never dipped their toes in the skiing waters (to mix metaphors), then the Santa Fe Ski Basin, located around 15 minutes’ drive from the heart of Santa Fe, offers the perfect opportunity to do just that. With children’s ski lesson packages operated by experienced instructors, the famous ski area provides an ideal introduction to the sport for newbies and novices, while more experienced skiers can test their skills on the extensive gladed runs.
Explore a bug museum
There are few children in the world who aren’t at least a little bit obsessed with bugs and creepy crawlies, and happily for families visiting Boulder the city is home to its very own bug museum. Housing a collection of over 4,000 mounted insects and 100 live bugs, Harrel House Bug Museum is a veritable treasure trove of exhibits and information about the tiny invertebrates that inhabit our natural world.
LOCATION 542 North Guadalupe Street HOURS Mon-Sat 11am-5pm Sun 12pm-5pm