Are you looking for a vacation that has lots of outdoor activities, delicious regional food and sunny skies year-found, plus history, culture and more fascinating museums than you can possibly visit? Then think about heading to Santa Fe, New Mexico. There’s no way kids can be bored in Santa Fe. It’s a lively, flavorful, fun place, whether you’re eating spicy chilis, buying handmade souvenirs from local artisans in the outdoor markets, hiking mountains, or admiring the nightly spectacle of the incredible sunsets.
Art is everywhere:
Even if your kids aren’t big museum-goers, give some of the ones here a shot; there are dozens to choose from. The Museum of International Folk Art is a toybox of treats with its incredibly detailed dioramas, dollhouses and puppets. Steps away is the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture where you can walk through ancient pueblo recreations and listen to the songs and stories that tell the origins and history of the Native people of the Southwest.
Even the colorful Georgia O’Keefe Museum is fun for older kids who can appreciate her landscapes and flowers, mountains, and even cityscapes. Want to see what local artists are up to? Take a stroll down Canyon Road and pop in and out of the hundreds of galleries there. Most have outdoor sculpture gardens, perfect for fun selfie shots your kids will love.
A must for any family with an American Girl-loving child, is a trip to El Rancho de las Golondrinas, a living history museum dedicated to the Spanish Colonial heritage and culture of 18th and 19th century New Mexico. It’s also the setting for the story of American Girl Doll, Josephina, who grew up in the area in the 1820s.
Located less than half an hour south of the city, you can arrange for a special 2-hour Josefina tour to see how she and her family met the challenge of living on the ranch.
For a truly magical experience for even the most jaded kid, head to Meow Wolf, an immersive art installation that words cannot describe. It’s kind of like Oz meets Narnia on steroids. Explore the neon forest, room after room of hidden doorways that open up to secret worlds; climb a treehouse, enter a secret portal through the refrigerator, play musical dinosaur bones and get lost in a chaotic wonderland. There’s even a children’s activity area where kids can channel all the creativity they’ve seen and create their own installation. This is a must-not-miss if you’re in town.
Santa Fe is home to dozens of creative classes if you want to do it yourself and make something special to take home. There’s glass-blowing at Liquid Light Glass, ceramic workshops at Baca Street Pottery and demonstrations and lessons in traditional Mexican and Southwestern cuisine at Santa Fe School of Cooking. Be sure to check that the class you want is child-friendly.
If mom and dad get some time off, head a few miles out of town to Ten Thousand Waves. At this serene Japanese-styled bathhouse nestled in the woods at the base of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, you can get an oxygen facial, herbal wrap, or foot massage, soak in one of many hot tubs and lounge around in the fresh mountain air in a kimono while sipping your choice of teas from a huge menu of options.
Or right in town, hit the Spa Sage, the full-service spa at La Posada resort, and treat yourself to a couple of hours of escape. You may never want to come home.
Outdoor Santa Fe:
For the skiers, Ski Santa Fe is only minutes from downtown. There’s also horseback riding, golfing, fishing, and tons of hiking nearby with great scenic vistas.
If you don’t want too much activity, Santa Fe is a great town for walking, even if it’s just to shop. Peruse the stalls along the plaza where local Native Americans sell their hand-sculpted animals, silver jewelry and painting, or find fun alleyways where there are hidden fountains, flora and stores with beautiful clothing and knick-knacks. You can always take a local jeep tour into the dessert for some off-road adventures. Or take a walking tour – there are those that focus on native cuisine, ghosts, architecture, and chocolate.
Chocolate. Need I say more. Santa Fe is a chocolate-lovers haven. You can sign up for a chocolate-tasting tour or visit a few spots on your own. Head to one of the two locations of Kakawa Chocolate House where you’ll find numerous hot chocolate elixirs on tap. Based on recipes recreated from historical sources, you can try pre-Columbian to Colonial American creations in beautiful hand-painted mugs from Oaxaca, Mexico. Want something spicy? Try the Chili Elixir. Sample a few before choosing…it’s going to be a tough choice. Pair the liquid deliciousness with their innovative truffle flavors (goat cheese sage or cherry chili) that will have your mouth watering.
With all your activity, you’re going to need lots of sustenance. Santa Fe is a food-lovers dream with dozens of world-class restaurants. Taste authentic native cuisine like the huge breakfast burritos at Tia Sophias and for the sophisticated palate, a modern take on old world cuisine at Sazon (where you can have a baby grasshopper tortilla – maybe better for an adults-night out!). For the adventurous, be sure to try the local red and green chilis offered with most meals; or be brave and ask for “Christmas” any time of the year and you’ll get both.
Beware (especially with kids); if they say the peppers are “hot;” they truly are! The spicy hot fudge sundae at The Shed seemed like a treat, but it was more than most could handle, even with the vanilla ice cream on top to cool the palette. The common antidote to such spiciness is to use milk to cool the burn, but our waiter suggested sucking on some sugar for instant relief.
It’s also a margarita kind of town with specialties of the house on most menus. But kids aren’t left out – get them a virgin variety.
Staying at the historic La Fonda on the Plaza is like being in a fun, yet classy and comfortable museum. There is art on every wall and in every corner. Every headboard is hand-painted by a local artist as are some of the shower tiles. Even the glass covering the fire extinguishers is decorated as are all the gorgeous windows surrounding La Plazuela, the restaurant in the hotel’s central courtyard. It’s a blast of old-world Santa Fe elegance, with modern amenities, a pool and fitness room and a rooftop lounge with amazing sunset views.
Be sure to take the free tour to learn about the hotel’s role in the city’s history; it’s part scavenger hunt, part history lesson. Young ones also get a drawstring backpack upon check-in, filled with goodies including a flashlight to do their own exploring.
For more information, itineraries and a calendar of events, check out: santafe.org.