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. There are so many things to do in Santa Fe with kids.
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 twice and are ready for a third visit.
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. Read on for a few of our favorite things to do with kids in Santa Fe!
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.
Insider Tip: A new Meow Wolf, Convergence Station, has opened in Denver. You may want to make plans to visit that one also!
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.
New Mexico History Museum
Learn about the history of New Mexico with your family by planning a trip to the New Mexico History Museum. While you’re walking through the museum, you’ll spot dozens of captivating exhibits that walk you through time and provide you with valuable information on the city’s history. You can find out more about the indigenous people who lived in Santa Fe, how Arizona became a state of its own, and even more about WWII.
Exhibits change from time to time, but you can always expect to have a fun learning experience while you’re here. If you’d like to spend the day discovering all that there is to know about the city of Santa Fe and the state of New Mexico, this is an excellent spot to visit.
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
Enjoy the sight of modern artwork created by artist Georgia O’Keeffe at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. It’s not the biggest museum in the city, but it still has much to offer. If you’re an art enthusiast looking for inspiration in beautiful pieces, this is an excellent museum to visit with your partner. You’ll get to see charcoal sketches, colored drawings, and photos taken by the incredible artist throughout her lifetime. The museum is dedicated to this amazing woman who learned to express herself through art.
Museum of Indian Arts & Culture
Another fantastic museum to visit in Santa Fe is the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture. It’s a spot to visit when you’d like to learn about Native Americans and their incredible culture and history. You can see stunning artwork and fine jewelry crafted by the indigenous people. Each exhibit contains something unique, such as contemporary glasswork, folk arts, and more.
Spend time on Canyon Road, a street known for its artwork galleries and neat shops that you can visit with friends or family. While you’re walking or driving through Canyon Road, be sure to stop at The Teahouse to grab a drink and something to eat. You can visit the San Miguel Chapel, spend some time at Patrick Smith Park, and even visit Water History Park.
Make sure you’re checking out all the neat galleries, eateries, and boutiques selling unique items for you to bring back home with you. It’s an excellent way for visitors to experience the city of Santa Fe through food, artwork, and more.
The Loretto Chapel was once a Roman Catholic church that people visited for mass. It’s become a popular place for tourists to visit while in Santa Fe because of the stunning spiral staircase inside the building. Initially built in 1878, the chapel is a historical building with beautiful paintings inside of it. Admission to the chapel is only $5, making it a great spot to visit when you’re looking for something fun and affordable to do in the area. You can take photos of the experience and learn more about the chapel’s history, along with how that impressive staircase came about.
Dale Ball Trails
Dale Ball Trails isn’t too far from the downtown area of Santa Fe, and it’s the perfect spot to visit for an incredible outdoor experience. Thousands of people stop by this area to enjoy exploration, hiking, and other outdoor activities. The loop trail stretches for roughly 4.4 miles and is perfect for both beginner and advanced hiking enthusiasts.
You can walk on the trails with your family while enjoying the views, go for a jog, or even ride a mountain bike. Some of the trails are a bit more complicated than others, so be sure to wear the proper footwear and clothing to stay comfortable while you’re out there.
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.