Santa Fe is one of those destinations you may think of as not being kid friendly. However, for any family with an interest in history, culture and art it is the perfect place to ignite your kids’ imagination. Santa Fe delights all of the senses from the sight of enchanting vistas to the smells and tastes of the chilis and chocolates of New Mexican cuisine. There are so many things to do with kids in Santa Fe. Read on for a few of our favorites!
And now a multi-sensory, multi-dimensional place born of art gives families all the excuse they need to visit Santa Fe, New Mexico. We visited Meow Wolf last May and are looking forward to another there adventure later this month.
Fun Things to do in Santa Fe with Kids
Meow Wolf bills itself as an immersive art experience. But really it is a multi-dimensional, multi-sensory place of discovery and imagination that was born of art. Part amusement park and part art experience, it is housed in an old bowling alley. A secret agent greets visitors on a TV screen prior to entry. Facing an old house visitors step up to the front porch and enter through the front door. Visitors explore the house, checking out the living room, kitchen, dining room or laundry room or head upstairs to the bedrooms.
Stepping into a refrigerator with my mom and sliding through the clothes dryer with my four-year-old son upped the unique-experiences bar for my family in Santa Fe. In a day and age when kids too often hear “be careful” and “don’t touch that”, Meow Wolf encourages the opposite. We were all expected to open and then explore through doors, cabinets and anything that could conceivably be an entry. I can’t remember experiencing anything quite so interactive, adventurous or stimulating to the imagination. Most importantly, Meow Wolf was FUN.
This is by far our favorite of all the things to do with kids in Santa Fe!
Meow Wolf brought our imaginations to life, making me think I could have been stepping out of C.S. Lewis’ wardrobe into Narnia in real life. The experience continues to spark conversation in our house and has given our children the ultimate opportunity to practice telling stories. We are planning a return visit to figure out the family’s story.
Botanical Garden at Museum Hill
Visiting the Botanical Garden was an opportunity to see plants native to the area and learn a tiny bit about how indigenous people lived hundreds of years ago. Visitors will see and learn what a Horno is, a beehive shaped mud oven used by Native Americans to cook bread, corn and meats. A fun sculpture exhibit by Dan, Arlo and Michael Namingha is scattered throughout the garden. Kids will enjoy a small area for digging and creating their own chalk art.
Museum Hill & Plaza Museums
While we only had time to explore the Botanical Garden at Museum Hill, there are two other museums in the area we would have liked to have visited: the Museum of International Folk Art and the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. Also the Plaza in Santa Fe boasts the New Mexico History Museum and the New Mexico Museum of Art which houses a collection of Georgia O’Keefffe paintings. Or, you may just want to visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum itself.
Santa Fe: A Favorite Family Travel Destinations
Santa Fe is one of those places that boasts experiences, smells, sounds and tastes that you really can’t find elsewhere. One reason that our family travels is to break our kids out of the bubble we live in. We aspire to expose them to new and interesting ideas, cultures and experiences. Happily Santa Fe, nicknamed the City Different, accomplished this goal for us.
Daytrips from Santa Fe
There are also so many things to do with kids just a short drive from Santa Fe!
Bandelier National Monument
Kids will thoroughly enjoy checking out petroglyphs carved into the cliffs and imagining how people lived hundreds of years ago. The village on the canyon floor would have been ideal for summer living, while the dwellings built into the cliffs may have been winter dwellings. The homes dug into the “tuff” of the cliff were fun to climb up into and imagine people living there or gathering in the larger cavates at Bandelier National Monument.
Slightly further off the path, Mesa Verde is a place you must take time to see if you have any interest in American history. The Ancient Pueblo people flourished here approximately 1400 years ago. They built elaborate stone communities in the sheltered alcoves of the canyon walls. Mesa Verde was designated a World Heritage Site in 1978.
Taos, New Mexico
A detour to Taos will take you across the spectacular Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. You will arrive at this a charming town known for its history, art and skiing. Here you can browse galleries, museums and enjoy New Mexican cuisine.
El Santuario de Chime
This religious shrine is known for its legends of miraculous healing. Though located seemingly in the middle of nowhere, some 300,000 people make a pilgrimage here annually. Many walk from 30 to 90 miles away during Holy Week. Whether you visit for healing or history, it is a National Historic Landmark and well worth a short detour.
Where to Stay in Santa Fe
There are lovely historic hotels right in the downtown square of Santa Fe. On our most recent visit we had the opportunity to stay at the Four Seasons Rancho Encantado. We think we found the best spot to view sunsets here and it was conveniently located to all of our Santa Fe mountain adventures.
This is an updated version of a post originally published in October 2018.