Recently, I fell in love with Santa Fe. It is a town with distinct culture, incredible food, and lots of activities to enjoy. There are so many fun things to do in Santa Fe with kids that I am already daydreaming about my family’s next visit.
Santa Fe is a wonderfully vibrant place to visit for families with children. With a mild climate all year round and tons of sunshine, Santa Fe is a city steeped in cultural history. It’s a place that speaks to the artisan and the adventurer in all of us.
Santa Fe can inspire creative aspirations in little ones. It’s for the future artisan and the budding adventurer. Santa Fe is a beautiful blend of pueblo revival architecture, a mix of the Native American and early Spanish influence amidst a vibrant green and brown high desert landscape.
It was founded in 1607 and was once the capital of Spain’s and Mexico’s territories north of the Rio Grande. Santa Fe is home to the third largest art market in the United States. It also has the benefit of being an extremely walkable city.
Explore more of the state. Here are our favorite things to do in New Mexico with kids.
Things to do in Santa Fe with Kids
MeowWolf Santa Fe
Meow Wolf is a wonderfully weird immersive and interactive art experience that is a blast for all ages to explore. It is hard to fully explain exactly what it is, you just have to experience it for yourself!
Meow Wolf originated as an art collective in 2008, founded by a group of artists, musicians, and writers. They came together to create unconventional and collaborative art projects and hence, the “House of Eternal Return” was born.
The House of Eternal Return is not just an art exhibition; it’s a fully immersive, interactive experience. You basically explore a very large exhibit that is designed to look like a Victorian house with secret passages, portals to other dimensions, and surreal environments.
The artists use lots of different forms of art, including paintings, sculptures, video projections, and sound installation to create a fantastical and otherworldly atmosphere.
This is a popular attraction so I suggest buying your tickets in advance online, especially on weekends. Also, there are Meow Wolf installations in a couple other locations now, like Las Vegas, but this is the original. We have visited the Las Vegas attraction, which is also awesome, but completely different from this one.
Tour Canyon Road
Taking a stroll down Canyon Road is like taking a stroll through an art gallery. There are nearly 240 galleries located in Santa Fe. All manner of sculpture and art with varying styles from Southwest to contemporary modern can be seen from the road. My family enjoyed the diversity of the galleries in this area and had a fun time day dreaming and selecting our favorite items in gallery.
Even if you’ve got toddlers that you don’t want to take into the galleries, there is plenty of colorful outdoor whimsy to keep short attention spans at bay. There are a few different outdoor sculpture gardens which they will surely enjoy and you don’t have to worry about them breaking a big copper statue.
Take a Guided Art Tour
Many of these artists reside along Canyon Road in quaint studios where huge, outdoor sculptures are displayed for visitors to peruse. Trekaroo’s Kuo family took an art tour with Santa Fe Art Tours and stopped by three studios on Canyon Road.
The first stop was the Bindle Stick Studio which houses Jeffery Schweitzer’s work He is an author and illustrator of children’s books. The kids admired his unusual story books that in my mind resembled something straight out of Edward Scissorhands.
The second stop was Vivo Contemporary, a gallery that showcases several contemporary artists. The children learned firsthand from a local visual artist about her wood and paper inspired art pieces. They even saw one of her pieces on display get sold.
Their favorite studio was the Art House. It showcases contemporary digital art inside one of the earliest, original pueblos built in Santa Fe. While Sara Kuo had never been a great fan of contemporary art, much less digital art, so it surprised her how much she enjoyed it.
The tour guide explained the materials and meaning behind each of the artworks in such a way that the artist’s creativity really resonated with the entire family. The kids’ attraction to digital art was palpable, especially with the Spider Drone.
Explore the Georgia O’Keefe Museum
The Georgia O’Keefe Museum is the only museum in the United States that is dedicated to an internationally-known female artist. The museum showcases O’Keefe’s paintings, drawings, and sculptures. As art museums go, it is accessible and kid friendly. O’Keefe’s art runs the gamut from her trademark large paintings of flowers, to abstractions, and landscapes.
There are discovery guides and sketchbooks that your kids can carry around the museum. Check the museum’s website for family programs such as “Dramatic Play and Art” and early openings just for families and children.
El Rancho de las Golondrinas
Take a step back in time at El Rancho de las Golondrinas, a living history museum which reveals life on an 18th century ranch. Located in La Cienega, just south of Santa Fe, the ranch was originally a paraje, or stopping point, along the Camino Real, the historic trade route between Mexico City and Santa Fe.
There are several historic buildings on site, including adobe houses, a church, and a schoolhouse. There are typically demonstrations showcasing traditional skills, such as weaving, pottery-making, and blacksmithing.
The ranch hosts a variety of special events throughout the year, including their annual Festival de los Niños in July. They have lots of activities for the kids like tin stamping, rope and tortilla making,wool spinning, and mini adobe house making. They will have plenty of food trucks, local artisans, and their popular resident critters like goats, burros and churro sheep.
This museum is open June 1st through October 31st.
Museum of International Folk Art
Another great museum in Santa Fe is the Museum of International Folk Art where kids will see that art is diverse, whimsical, and fun. While the museum’s exhibits are primarily for viewing, many feature interactive elements that can engage children. Look for hands-on activities, touchable artifacts, and multimedia displays.
The museum has an extensive collection of textiles, wood carvings, pottery, masks and costumes. Kids will especially enjoy the collection of folk toys and games from different cultures. These items reflect cultural values, traditions, and ways of life, providing insight into the lives of children and families around the world.
Play and Learn at Santa Fe Children’s Museum
Kids need play and exploration time. The Santa Fe Children’s Museum is an engaging place and a great stop to do something that is entirely kid-centric.
Do your kids like creepy crawlie bugs? The vast insect collection is remarkable. Let them play in the huge outdoor sand pit, build some creations at the LEGO station, play with magnets, splash at the water area, all while having fun learning about science via the interactive exhibits. Best of all, the museum is located only one mile south of the Plaza.
Photograph the Wonderful Architecture of the City
If you’ve got kids who are budding photographers (or huge fans of Instagram), photographic opportunities abound in Santa Fe.
Popular spots include the Loretto Chapel with it’s miraculous free standing staircase, the nearby San Miguel Mission (1610) which is the oldest church in the US, and the outdoor art various galleries along Canyon Road.
The 1800’s era St. Francis Cathedral is hard to miss at the end of Cathedral Place and is filled with beautiful stained glass. If you visit during the fall, the walk along the Santa Fe River in between the plaza and Canyon Road is a lovely spot for photos among the changing foliage.
Meet a Native American Craftsperson in front of the Palace of the Governors
The Native American Vendors Program is the place to stroll through to find one of a kind handmade wares made and sold directly by Native American artists. it is located in the portal of the Palace of the Governors (1610) which is the oldest continuously occupied structure in the United States. It is adjacent to the plaza and the New Mexico History Museum.
The Native American artists put down blankets full of their handmade goods and it is so interesting to stroll through and see their creations. I purchased a turquoise bracelet from an atrist that I treasure. It feels good to know the money is going directly to the artists.
There are also several shops around the square that represent artists directly. You will pay more for authentic goods but they will also be art you can treasure forever.
Looking for something that is heirloom quality? Check out the John Rippel U.S.A. shop just off the main plaza on Old Santa Fe Trail. The shop sells hand-engraved and hammered sterling belt buckles made by John himself, as well as unique jewelry such as the reversible flip ring crafted by local artisans such as Gloria Sawin.
New Mexico History Museum
If you are looking for a break from passing weather near the plaza, the New Mexico HIstory Museum inside of the Palce of the Governors is a great option. My family learned quite a bit about the history of New Mexico before it joined the union and the diverse peoples and cultures that have occupied the land.
There are exhibits about the Native American tribes in New Mexico, the Spanish colonial period when missions were founded and Spanish culture weaved its way into the fabric of the region, the arrival of American settlers, and eventual statehood in 1912. I would say children 10 and up would get the most fromthis museum.
Climb into a Kiva at Pecos National Historic Park
Pecos National Historic Park preserves and interprets the cultural and natural history of the Pecos Pueblo and the Santa Fe Trail. I highly suggest checking the park website and arriving in time for a guided tour, it helped us appreciate the ruins we were looking at and gain better understanding of its history.
The Pecos Pueblo is an ancient Native American settlement that was inhabited for over 400 years before its abandonment in the 1830s. Today you cna visit the remain of a once thriving community and learn about why it was such an important spot for trade and other gatherings.
One of the highlights for my family was the opportunity to climb down into kivas which are underground rooms used by Puebloans for religious ceremonies and social gatherings. They are considered portals to the underworld and places of connection to the spiritual realm.
You can also visit the beautiful remains of the Spanish mission church, which was built in the early 17th century and a great representation of Spanish Colonial architecture in the region.
Pecos National Historical Park includes the Glorieta Pass Battlefield, a site of a significant Civil War battle. Yes, you read that right. There was a Civil War battle in what would eventually become New Mexico. You can take a hike and explore the battlefield to learn about the “Gettysburg of the West.”
Visit the Randall Davey Audubon Center and Sancturary
Not only is Santa Fe the nation’s oldest capital city, but it’s also the highest capital city residing over 7000 feet above sea level and surrounded by millions of acres of national forest.
If you’re looking for trails that are particularly kid-friendly, look no further than the Randall Davey Audubon Center & Sanctuary, a 135-acre sanctuary ideal for wildlife viewing and ecosystem exploring. 190 different species of birds have been viewed at the sanctuary.
After exploring the trail and looking for birds, head to the new Nature Discovery Area and playground which has a treehouse and other play structures for the kids to enjoy.
Bandelier National Monument
Visiting Bandelier National Monument is one of my family’s favorite things that we did while staying in Santa Fe. This natonal monument allows you climb up high into cliff dwellings, an exhilerating experience that we will all remember fondly, even those of us who battle a healthy fear of heights.
Start your visit at the Bandelier Visitor Center to get oriented. You can watch an orientation video, obtain maps, and learn about the park’s history, geology, and archaeology.
The Main Loop Trail is a 1.2-mile loop that takes you through the heart of the archaeological area. It leads to the cliff dwellings and provides beautiful views of the surrounding canyons. The ladders are short and easy for little ones to climb.
If you have older kids in your group who are looking for more adventure, take the Alcove House Trail from the Main Loop. It is only about a 1/2 mile before you reach the base of the alcove which is 140 feet above the floor of Frijoles Canyon. You can climb into it via four long, wooden ladders and several stone stairs.
Valles Caldera National Preserve
Valles Caldera National Preserve is a massive volcanic crater, or caldera, that formed over a million years ago. The preserve encompasses a large grass valley surrounded by scenic volcanic peaks. The grassy valleys and meadows provide essential habitat for wildlife including elk, deer, coyotes, and a wide variety of birds.
Valles Caldera is home to several old cabins which once housed cowboys as well as others who worked on this former ranch land. There are also sulphur springs to visit, creeks and ponds to fish in and several different hiking trails to conquer.
Have an Offroad Adventure
If you’re looking for some guided adventures for the entire family, check out Santa Fe Walkabouts. They offer hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, and scenic cultural tours.
One highlight of Trekaroo co-founder Brennan Pang’s trip was the off road adventure in the six-wheeled Pinzgauer vehicle along the old Route 66. The Pinzgauer is a unique all-terrain vehicle which is named after an Austrian breed of horse.
The views of the high desert are expansive and stunningly beautiful. You’ll get a chance to marvel at the old unpaved route 66, the remains of the original El Camino Real, and various petroglyphs from the early inhabitants of the area.
The friendly and knowledgeable owners and guides Georges and Sue make the trip engaging and educational. You’ll learn about the different periods of history, including the Native American and Spanish cultures.
The Ghost Ranch is a 21,000 acre retreat and education center that hosts a variety of artistic workshops throughout the year. It was also the former home of Georgia O’Keeffe. It is an amazing landscape that is open for multi-day visits as well as day pass visitors.
Most families will like the day pass option which allows you to hike and explore the natural wonders of the Piedra Lumbre.They offer several guided tours that vary from walks in the footsteps of O’Keeffe, paleontology tours, and even horseback rides.
Ghost Ranch is open daily from 9am to 4pm except on Thanksgiving Day, the Friday after Thanksgiving and December 23-January 1. The $10 fee ($5 for under 12) allows access to Ghost Ranch facilities and museums. They have museums dedicated to both paleontology and anthropology
Puye Cliff Dwellings
Puye Cliff Dwellings are located in Santa Clara Pueblo, about 45 minutes north of downtown Santa Fe. They were inhabited by ancestral Puebloan between the 10th and 16th centuries. Their cliffside dwellings were both homes as well as defensive structures against enemy visitors.
Tours are available 9am – 5pm, Thursday through Monday, weather depending. They also do have some special closures from time to time, so check their website for the most up to date info before visiting. There are a few different tours to choose from, including adventure tours where you can climb ladders to enter the dwellings as well as mesa top tours for those who might be less mobile.
Ski Santa Fe
Ski Santa Fe is the go-to ski resort for folks visiting Santa Fe since it is only 16 miles from town. The ski resort has a safe and cozy feel. Surrounded by pine and aspen trees, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is the back on which we skied. There are essentially only two buildings: the main and the kids ski school.
It’s an easy walk to and from the rentals and the beginner lifts are close to the base of the main building. The facilities are well maintained and the cafeteria has a nice view overlooking the lifts.
Trekaroo writer Sarah Kuo loved that she could spot her daughter in class from where she lounged with a cup of hot chocolate. She also enjoyed skiing on the the green runs in the morning before they got more crowded with kids after ski school let out.
Autumn brings Fiestas de Santa Fe, the city’s largest annual celebration commemorating the resettlement of the capital city in 1692 by Spanish colonists. Fiesta is the ideal time to visit Santa Fe with kids as the city comes alive with entertainment, parades, and candlelight processions.
One of the most unique events during Fiesta is the burning of Zozobra, an ugly, scary, flailing, and groaning fifty-foot marionette. The Zozobra is the “Man of Gloom” and is burned in effigy signifying the discharge of anything bad that happened during the prior year. Collective gloom and doom is burned and in its place festivities and celebration reside.
Eat, Eat, and Eat Some More
I think New Mexican food just be my most favorite food on the planet. I want red chile and green chile everything. My family and I agreed that we never had a bad meal the entire week we were in town. Here are some spots Trekaroo can recommend from personal experience
Looking for a romantic dinner or a fantastic breakfast? Check out Luminaria, located at the Inn and Spa at Loretto. The patio and veranda also lend a great outdoors atmosphere on warm nights. I recommend trying the blue corn pancakes with piñon syrup or the eggs Benedict, topped hollandaise sauce with sweet corn salsa.
Santa Fe has plenty of family-friendly restaurants, many with outdoor seating. First on your list should be the casual Cowgirl BBQ. Why? It’s got “The Mother of All Green Chile Burgers,” a great selection of craft beer, AND an outdoor playspace for the kids! The menu has a wide variety of items, including some vegetarian options.
Frito Pie at Five and DIme
For a quick, fun, and not so healthy lunch, check out the Five and Dime at the edge of the plaza. It may look like a general store, but head to the back and it’s got a snack bar that sells Frito pies. What’s a Frito pie you ask? Hot steaming chili and cheese thrown into a Fritos chip bag! Anthony Bourdain ate it, and so did we.
Kakawa Chocolate House
Located just down a block or so away from Canyon Roaad is the the Kakawa Choco House has every flavor of hot chocolate and coffee imaginable. This is not the hot chocolate you pour out of an envelope into a glass of hot water, this is the AMAZING stuff.
The have traditional drinking chocolates as well as Mesoamerican recipes (I loved the chili dark chocolate exlir) as well as historic European recipes like French Lavendar and Italian Citrus. They also sell really yummy chocolates, truffles, and cookies. We grabbed a variety and shared them all as a family before hitting up Canyon Road.
The Shed is located in a historic adobe building in the heart of downtown Santa Fe. This family-owned institution has been serving authentic New Mexican cuisine since 1953.
Some of the restaurant’s signature dishes include red and green chile enchiladas, carne adovada (marinated pork), blue corn chicken enchiladas, and posole (hominy stew).We found reservations to be a good idea, especially if you are coming for dinner.
Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen
Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen has been a fixture in Santa Fe since it first opened its doors in 1950. Like The Shed, it is a family-owned restaurant that prides itself on preserving and celebrating the culinary traditions of New Mexico.
Their margarita selection is massive (they have over 100 options!!!), and there is surely boozy flavor combination that will jump out to you. I love a good cucmber jalapeno margarita myself and Maria’s delivered! Favorites include the enchiladas (I loved it Christmas style), chile rellenos, tamales, and carne adovada. And save room for sopes for dessert!
Plaza Cafe Downtown
Even older than Maria’s and The Shed, The Paza Cafe Downtown has been serving hungry visitors since 1905! They serve up classic American comfort food with a Southwestern twist and I assure, the food is good!
Located just steps away from the historic Santa Fe Plaza, this restaurant serves up three meals a day. Breakfast options include huevos rancheros, breakfast burritos, and pancakes. Lunch and dinner faire includes sandwiches, burgers, salads, and classic New Mexican dishes. Their Santa Fe Frito Pie (upside down) was delish!
Boxcar Santa Fe
If you are looking for a spot with great (and reasonably priced) food and drinks as well as TVs so you can watch sports (especially if you are traveling during NFL season), the Boxcar is a great option. I was able to enjoy a greenchile cheeseburger an a beer here because they have gluten free options for both! I can’t remember the last time that happened.
My mom had the best enchiladas she can ever remember having, my daughter testifies that their wings are “on point” and my son speaks highly of the nachos.
Wine Tasting at Gruet
My brother has been in the wine industry most of his professinal career so when I saw his eyes light up when he saw the Gruet tasting room, I knew this was a spot we needed to make time for. My teens took advantage of some screen time and rest in the hotel room while we sampled some of the best sparkling wines anywhere.
I know what you are probably thinking, is New Mexico a wine destination? When it comes to Gruet, I can assure you that it absolutely is. They have amazing roses and even some impressive reds which are impossible to get anywhere else. I highly recommend sharing a couple flights and purchasing a few bottles of the stuff you won’t be able to get back home (which is most of it).
We were able to sneak in around 4pm one day but reservations a highly recommended because the secret is out and you likely won’t get as lucky as we did. Their wine club is a great value as well.
Where to Stay in Santa Fe
Inn of the Governors
My family absolutely loved our five day stay at the Inn of the Governors over Thanksgiving break. We found the property to be a tremendous value, given its central location downtown, amazing full service breakfast, and lovely accomodations.
I appreciated that visiting this hotel felt like staying at a local inn instead of a resort owned by a massive hotel group. The complimentary sherry by a roaring fire at hospitality hour every evening was the perfect warmup after spending a few hours in the chilly weather. And it was so nice that they kept the pool heated year round.
The breakfast at Inn of the Governors was definitely the best complimentary breakfast I have had anywhere. I had huevos rancheros served “Christmas style” (red and green chili sauces) multiple times. They also had more traditional breakfast options, lighter fare like outmeal and fruit, and some awesome breakfast tacos.
We also had Thanksgiving dinner at the hotel where we got to choose from a traditional turkey dinner or order off their regular menu. I couldn’t resist the blue corn chicken enchiladas while my son and husband ate their fill of the traditional options. Food at Del Charro was excellent and reasonably priced. Their bar was also a great place to hang out and watch football in the evening.
Inn and Spa at Loretto
Santa Fe has a wide variety of accommodations. The Inn and Spa at Loretto is a solid choice. Stay near the plaza in this distinctive pueblo revival style hotel modeled after the Taos Pueblo. This posh inn and spa is within walking distance to all of downtown, next to the historic Loretto Chapel, and made it on Travel + Leisure’s 500 World’s Best list.
There is a refreshing outdoor pool, and some of the rooms have balconies, which offer views of the city and the sunrise. The spa is top notch, having earned a Reader’s Choice award from Conde Nast Traveler.
What not to miss: The miraculous steps at the adjacent Loretto Chapel. The blue corn pancakes with piñon syrup for breakfast at Luminaria restaurant.
Tip: If you’ve got light sleepers (kids or adults), request a room on the side opposite from the cathedral, as the bells can tend to ring loudly.
The Lodge at Santa Fe
My favorite part of visiting Santa Fe is admiring the pueblo-style adobe architecture. So imagine actually staying inside one. The Lodge at Santa Fe is a locally-owned hotel that fuses the Native-American, Mexican, and American West culture into its interior decor.
The grounds are lovely with their stunning view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The hotel is only a short walk from the main plaza, but tucked away from the hustle of the square.
Trekaroo team member Sarah Kuo’s family of five stayed in an expanded room called a “kiva king-sized bedroom” with king-sized bed, roll-out couch, a bathroom, and a mini-fridge. The staff was helpful and accommodating and their room was conveniently next to the parking lot where they shuttled our ski equipment into and out of easily.
Bishop’s Lodge Ranch Resort & Spa
Just outside of town, Bishop’s Lodge Ranch Resort & Spa sits on 450 colorful acres in the Tesuque Valley, surrounded by national forest in the Sangre de Cristo Mountain. The hiking is unbelievable!
Bishop’s extensive line-up of family-friendly activities includes sunset cookouts, a seasonal camp for kids, and a multi-sports kids program. During their stay, the Anderson’s enjoyed a wrangler-led horse ride around the corral.
A special thanks to Brennan Pang, Sartah Kuo, and Ann Anderson who have all previously covered Santa Fe for Trekaroo. Their expertise helped me pull this comprehensive guide together.