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- Things to Do in Santa Fe with Kids
- 1. Museum of Indian Arts & Culture
- 3. Meow Wolf House of the Eternal Return
- 4. Santa Fe Mountain Adventures
- 5. San Miguel Chapel
- 6. The Miraculous Staircase at the Loretto Chapel
- 7. Ski!
- 8. Lenora Curtain Wetland Preserve
- 9. More Santa Fe Trip Planning Tools
- 10. Where to Stay in Santa Fe with Kids
- Find More Places to Stay Near Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe might not immediately register as a kid-friendly destination. Your mental picture might be high-end shopping, desert art galleries and things grownups like to do…without kids. Although Santa Fe does offer lots of adults-only fun, there are also lots of kid-friendly choices. Check out these fun things to do in Santa Fe with kids.
Things to Do in Santa Fe with Kids
Before I visited, Santa Fe, New Mexico had been on my travel bucket list for a long time. I’d always imagined my Santa Fe getaway to be sans kids. My hubby and I would sleep late, eat leisurely meals in trendy restaurants. We’d shop, we’d laugh, we’d absorb the culture and all the fun, grownup vibes in this oh-so-charming Southwestern city.
It didn’t exactly go like that because kids but despite everyone telling me that Santa Fe is an “adult’s town,” we found a surprising number of things to do in Santa Fe with kids.
Update for 2021: Many venues are operating under a reservation system so check individual websites when you’re planning your visit.
1. Museum of Indian Arts & Culture
The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture is a premier repository of Native art and material culture and tells the stories of the Native American people of the Southwest from pre-history through contemporary art.
Please note: No photography is allowed inside the museum. There are some lovely sculptures outside the venue which you can photograph. The museum exhibits are “hands off” although there is a children’s play area full of things your kids can touch. While this is a kid-friendly and educational experience, make sure your kids understand the no touching rule before you start out.
Admission is $5.00 for New Mexico residents (first Sundays are free) and $9.00 for non-residents. Children under 16 are free, which is a big bonus for families. Senior and group discounts are also offered. Check the website for more info.
Docent-led tours occur roughly three times daily*. Call the museum in advance to confirm times.
*Tours are currently paused for health and safety reasons.
The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is included on the New Mexico Culture Pass, which I strongly recommend checking out if you’re going to spend some time in New Mexico. The New Mexico Culture Pass includes single admissions to museums and historic sites across the state. At $30, it’s an awesome deal. I recommend looking at this before planning your trip to Santa Fe, as it can give you some great ideas on things to do.
2. Museum of International Folk Art
The Museum of International Folk Art contains the largest collection of folk art in the world. Pretty cool, huh? Exploring folk art is a great way to learn about people and culture. There’s such a diverse collection of things at this museum we could have easily spent several hours exploring.
What I loved most about the Museum of International Folk Art was the amount of hands-on activities for kids. As with most museums, there’s a lot of “don’t touch,” but it’s nicely balanced with things kids can get tactile with. Check their website for info on current exhibits.
Admission is $7.00 for New Mexico residents and $12.00 for non-residents. Children under 16 are free. The Culture Pass mentioned above includes the Museum of International Folk Art.
If you’re interested in a docent-led tour, contact the museum directly to see what’s available.
Other area museums:
We did a relatively quick three days visit to Santa Fe so we didn’t get to visit all the museums available. You can also check out Santa Fe Children’s Museum, Harrell House Bug Museum, The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, and the New Mexico History Museum.
TravelingMom Tip: A lot of the Santa Fe museums are located very close together, making it easy to visit them in one day. If you visit Santa Fe with younger kids, I recommend breaking this up with lunch or outside play to keep their interest.
3. Meow Wolf House of the Eternal Return
Meow Wolf is…well, it’s hard to describe but I’ll try. It’s a trippy, hands-on art installation that is fun for kids of all ages. If a multi-dimensional mystery house with secret rooms and passages to hidden realms sounds interesting to you, then this one’s a don’t miss.
Everyone we talked to in Santa Fe either asked us if we planned to visit Meow Wolf or told us we needed to go, so make sure you add it to your list of things to do in Santa Fe with kids.
Older kids and adults will really get into solving the mystery but younger kids will see this as a giant playground with lots to discover. Plan on several hours inside Meow Wolf if you want a shot at solving the mystery.
Meow Wolf is currently open Friday and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and has more limited hours on Sundays and weekdays. Check the hours before your visit since they will change seasonally and with ticket demand.
I also recommend sturdy shoes and dressing for an active, fun time. I wore flip flops and carried a backpack and found both unsuitable to climbing and sliding, although I made it work. If I had a do-over, I would have dressed for the gym.
4. Santa Fe Mountain Adventures
If you are looking to get out and get adventurous, check out Santa Fe Mountain Adventures. I love getting outdoors and discovering new hiking trails but as a mom traveling alone with young kids, planning safe, appropriate day hikes is challenging. You can research and hope for the best, but why do that when you’ve got some professional adventurers that will take care of the details for you?
We did the Petroglyphs and Historic Route 66 tour in the Pinzegauer. A Pinzegauer is a Swiss Army transport vehicle that is awesome for off-roading. The tour we did took about two hours and picked us up and dropped us off at our hotel.
Please note: Our visit was in summer 2018 and this particular tour does not appear on Santa Fe Mountain Adventures’ website. However, they have a lot of different tours and activities and several that looked just as cool, if not cooler, than the one we did.
If you want a longer-day activity or something more challenging, Santa Fe Mountain Adventures has many options for great day trips. Explore their website and see what appeals.
5. San Miguel Chapel
The San Miguel Chapel is touted as the oldest church in the United States. This adobe structure was built by Tlaxcalan Indians from Mexico under the direction of Franciscan Padres between 1610 and 1625.
San Miguel is an active church. San Miguel offers Latin Mass at 2:00 p.m., and Ordinary or New Mass at 5:00 p.m. on Sundays. The Schola Cantorum of Santa Fe sings Vespers and a Gregorian chant Mass every third Sunday of the month at 4:00 p.m. The Chapel is open during most of the week for prayer and for visitors. Check in advance of your visit for current availability.
The website does not list an admission price but we paid $1.00 each to enter in 2018. Exploring the church doesn’t take a great deal of time. Kids are welcome to ring the bell inside the church, which is pretty awesome. You may take as many photos inside as you like.
6. The Miraculous Staircase at the Loretto Chapel
The staircase at the Loretto Chapel is something of a mystery. No one understands who built it, what kind of wood was used and the general physics of its construction.
When the Loretto Chapel was completed in 1878, there was no way to access the choir loft twenty-two feet above. Carpenters were called in to address the problem, but they all concluded access to the loft would have to be via ladder as a staircase would interfere with the interior space of the small Chapel. I know…you’re probably thinking this was some not-so-great planning. I thought the same thing.
Legend says that to find a solution to the seating problem, the Sisters of the Chapel made a plea to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. In answer to the Sisters’ prayers, a man appeared at the Chapel with a donkey and a toolbox looking for work. The carpenter completed the staircase, then vanished without pay or thanks. After searching for the man (an ad even ran in the local newspaper) and finding no trace of him, some concluded that he was St. Joseph himself, having come in answer to the Sisters’ prayers.
The design was innovative for the time and some of the design considerations still perplex experts today. The staircase has two 360 degree turns and no visible means of support. Questions also surround the number of stair risers relative to the height of the choir loft and about the types of wood and other materials used in the stairway’s construction.
If you’re looking for a family-friendly ski spot, check out Ski Santa Fe. Located just minutes from the Santa Fe city center, you’ll find great prices, lessons, equipment rentals and more.
8. Lenora Curtain Wetland Preserve
About 15 miles outside of town you’ll find the Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve, a 35-acre nature preserve located on the I-25 frontage road in La Cienega, adjacent to El Rancho de las Golondrinas. This rare natural marsh, or “cienega” in Spanish, hosts a bountiful diversity of plants and wildlife. The Preserve contains three distinct plant communities or zones: riparian/wetland, transitional and dry uplands.
Admission is free.
9. More Santa Fe Trip Planning Tools
If you are planning your own adventure, check out one of the two Tourism Santa Fe Visitor’s Centers, located on the Plaza at the Plaza Galeria (66 East San Francisco) and the Rail Yard at the Santa Fe Depot. Check out the State of New Mexico Visitor Center, which is located right across the courtyard from San Miguel Chapel.
I recommend planning in advance as much as possible, especially when traveling with kids. That said, even if you’ve got all your plans firmly sewed up, a stop at the local visitor’s center is always a good decision. You’ll meet people who are intimately familiar with the area and can suggest activities you might not have considered.
10. Where to Stay in Santa Fe with Kids
We recommend family-owned Inn of the Governors in downtown Santa Fe. The Inn of the Governors is within walking distance to many local shops, restaurants and other attractions.
We stayed in a Family Suite which offered two double beds plus a spacious living area with a balcony and a fireplace.
The hotel lobby is really fun to explore. It has beautiful furnishings and it’s luxurious without feeling pretentious. There’s a daily tea and sherry hour from 4-5 p.m. where you can enjoy tea, sherry and some delish homemade biscochito, which is similar to Biscotti.
The Inn of the Governors offers a free Santa Fe Kid’s Crawl Package so make sure you ask about that when you make your reservation. Your kids will receive a package of crayons and a coloring book drawn by a local artist. Parents, check out this coloring book and don’t write it off as “kid stuff.” The coloring book is a guide book that gives your family suggestions on things to do in the city. The Kid’s Crawl Package also includes a family admission to the Harrell House Bug Museum, so make sure you check it out!
Also check out the attached Del Charro restaurant and bar. This on-site eatery offers a mix of New Mexican food as well as classic American fare. There’s an adults-only bar area and a family-friendly dining room as well as outdoor seating.