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When you think of a New Mexico vacation, do you envision a leisurely hot air balloon ride over a vast desert? Speaking from experience, a New Mexico family vacation is actually full of kid-friendly adventure. At national parks and monuments, kids can climb through caves, slot canyons, and historic cliff dwellings to explore the rich Native American history of New Mexico. There’s good food and art too. Here are our picks for the top ten fun things to do in New Mexico with kids on your family vacation. We cover all the best places to visit in New Mexico, from the depths of Carlsbad Caverns to the peaks of the Southern Rockies.
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Fun Things to Do in New Mexico on a Family Vacation
10. Play Cowboy and Cowgirl at a Ranch or Resort
New Mexico dude ranches and resorts offer guests a chance to experience the Western life. Hyatt Regency Tamaya helps families get the most out of their visits through its Srai Wi (My Children) family program with activities focused on the culture of the region. The resort also offers a variety of outdoor activities for families from horseback riding to their Plaza Pool featuring a 2-story water slide. While riding bikes together on the trails behind the resort, families can reconnect with one another and nature in the beautiful New Mexican landscape.
Looking for a more adventurous experience? Roadrunner Tours in Angel Fire offers a more rustic experience with family overnight trips including dinner, breakfast, and camping gear. Also, the historic Bishop’s Lodge Ranch Resort & Spa (currently under renovation and set to re-open in 2020) offers a beautiful, upscale location in Santa Fe where generations have enjoyed horseback trail rides in the nearby national forest.
Read Trekaroo’s list of New Mexico Chuckwagon Suppers & Western Shows.
9. Become an Amateur UFOligist in Roswell
One of the more unusual things to do in New Mexico is celebrate the intrigue of the 1947 Roswell incident. Stop by the International UFO Museum and Research Center to learn about this legendary extraterrestrial incident. UFOlogists, an alien costume contest, a motorcycle rally, fireworks, and an air show await at the Roswell UFO Festival. The Robert H. Goddard Planetarium presents a variety of shows for both children and adults featuring the constellations, planets, and other celestial sights on a regular basis.
Looking for more things to do in New Mexico with kids? Check out more New Mexico National History, Science & Space Museums.
8. Ski Taos on a New Mexico Family Vacation
Taos Ski Valley, located at the southernmost subrange of the Rockies in northeastern New Mexico, is legendary for its steep slopes and high altitude of over 9,200 feet. It’s one of the few places in the Southwest that gets enough snow for skiing. The views are stunning, the pine trees majestic, and, like many of New Mexico’s most beautiful locations, it’s remote. The drive up to Taos Ski Valley is quite the adventure in itself; the mountainous road winds past many of Taos’ adobe-style mud homes, pueblos built from the solid red earth beneath.
Planning a ski day on your next New Mexico family vacation? Read Ski School: Learning to Ski as an Adult at Taos Ski Valley.
Feeling nutty for snow? Read where to go sledding/tubing in New Mexico.
7. Stand in Four States at Four Corners
Four Corners Monument marks the point where the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet. It’s the only point in the United States shared by four states. Anyone and everyone with a United States travel bucket list travels out to this remote point for the classic photo op. Do note that you must pay an entry fee since the monument is on tribal park land. There are several stands selling Native America goods that surround the monument.
6. Slide Down a Sand Dune at White Sands National Monument near Los Cruces
At White Sands National Monument about one hour from Las Cruces, you can climb to the top of the dunes for a photograph and then sled down on a plastic snow saucer purchased from the park gift shop. Even with the bright sun beaming down, the pure white gypsum sand stays surprisingly damp and cool. With dune after dune, this is the perfect place for family fun. Parents can simply let the kids go fly a kite, make “sand” angels, run, roll, or slide down the dunes.
To plan your adventure at this New Mexico attraction, check out what you need to know when visiting White Sands National Monument.
5. Climb Inside Native American Cliff Dwellings at Bandelier National Monument in Los Alamos
Bandelier National Monument near Los Alamos offers up-close views to ancient cliff dwellings and 11,000-year-old petroglyphs. For adventurous older children, the highlight is climbing steep, nearly vertical ladders up into the Alcove House. If you have a fear of heights or have tots in tow, there are plenty of reconstructed cavetes that even the littlest explorers can reach using ladders only a few rungs high. Rarely have I seen my children experience so much joy while learning about history as they did exploring the rocky dwellings at Bandelier National Monument.
4. Discover the Petroglyphs and Views at El Morro National Monument
There are over 2,000 inscriptions carved into the sandstone bluffs at El Morro National Monument. These range from ancient petroglyphs created by ancestral Puebloan people hundreds of years ago to Spanish poetry artistically and carefully left behind for future travelers to enjoy. The national park visitor center at El Morro provides hikers free laminated guides to borrow that translate over a dozen of the more recent inscriptions. It is intriguing to read words, phrases, and dates left behind by travelers centuries ago.
Adventurous families won’t be able to resist the rocky trail along the top of El Morro’s scenic bluffs. The trail atop the bluffs afford some far-reaching views of the valley below and the Zuni Mountains all around. There are also excavated Atsinna ruins dating back over 700 years up on top of this striking rock in the middle of the desert.
Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, about two hours east of El Morro on I-40, is another beautiful place to see ancient petroglyphs in New Mexico with your family. Take a hike, enjoy the beautiful sunset, and examine the estimated 24,000 carved images residing here.
Looking for more things to see in New Mexico on a family vacation? Take your family on a road trip to see all of New Mexico’s attractions using our Epic Southwest National Parks Road Trip with Kids road trip itinerary.
3. Ascend to New Heights in a Hot Air Balloon above Albuquerque
Take to the sky for the ride of your life. With all of the ballooning activity in New Mexico you have several balloon ride companies from which to choose. In Albuquerque, Rainbow Ryders offers families the chance to drift over the Rio Grande Gorge on a New Mexico vacation with kids.
How about 600 hot air balloon rides launching all at once? The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a world-renowned attraction and destination for kids of all ages. For more than three decades, the first week in October brings once in a lifetime photo opportunities as hundreds of hot air balloons sail silently through the crisp fall air. Besides the balloons, there are bands, children’s acts, fireworks shows, and interactive education at the Balloon Discovery Center.
Back on the ground, Albuquerque is a town full of “not to miss sights.” Explora Science Center and Children’s Museum combines the best of science and pure kid fun. The ABQ BioPark is comprised of Rio Grande Zoo, Botanic Garden, Tingley Beach, and the Aquarium. At Aquarium Overnight, parents and children sleep next to the sharks!!
Find the best hotel deals in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
2. Eat Sopapillas and Chile Rellenos in Santa Fe
New Mexico has a cuisine all its own and the best place to indulge is in Santa Fe. The food is inspired by local Native American tribes as well as Mexico just across the border. It is also uniquely spiced with the state’s famous chili peppers. My kids loved drizzling honey on their sopapillas before every meal. This traditional fry bread is served in most restaurants as an appetizer — but, don’t fill up before the main entrees come out! My best advice: eat chile rellenos and enchiladas whenever you have the opportunity. You won’t be disappointed!
People in Santa Fe sure know how to celebrate their history. In early summer, kids can join in on the crazy fun at Rodeo de Santa Fe. This traditional old-time rodeo features a parade and kids’ events such as “mutton bustin'” (little ones ride a sheep) and a hilarious calf scramble (kids try to catch a calf for a prize).
However, Santa Fe is fun for the kiddos year around. At the Santa Fe Children’s Museum, kids learn water conservation and ecosystems through interactive exhibits. Families can also visit El Rancho de las Golondrinas (The Ranch of the Swallows), is a ranch turned living museum that recreates 18th Century Spanish colonial ranch life. Guides are dressed in period clothing and demonstrate how people once lived.
Looking for ideas on where to enjoy Santa Fe’s folk art scene with kids on your New Mexico family vacation? Check out Trekaroo’s Top Five Things To Do Near Santa Fe with Kids and Santa Fe with Kids: For Artisans and Adventurers
1. Go Deep Underground at Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Set in limestone that predates the dinosaurs, Carlsbad Caverns National Park is full of archaeological treasures, from fossilized prehistoric plant and animal life to Ice Age native artifacts. The caverns are a full day’s drive from any other major attractions but are well worth the long journey. All visitors should tour the main section of the cave, the Big Room. Carlsbad Caverns offers six guided tours. Minimum age requirements differ for each tour. Good times to visit are either spring or fall when the desert is in bloom. From May through October, you’ll see more than a quarter million Brazilian bats spiral up from the sky at sunset to hunt for dinner each night.
Plan your trip to this top New Mexico attraction using Trekaroo’s Guide to Visiting Carlsbad Caverns National Park with your Family.
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Looking for more things to do with kids in New Mexico? Read tips & reviews from other Trekaroo families.
Lead image by: Bigstock/Cascoly
From coast to coast, we’re determining the Top 10 Things to do with Kids in each state of our great nation.