Fun Things to Do in Santa Fe with Kids

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Things to do in Santa Fe New Mexico

Worried about bringing the kids to Santa Fe? The New Mexico state capital is well known as a getaway destination for adults with high-end shopping, art galleries and pricey restaurants. But we found a ton of kid-friendly things to do in town too. If you’re visiting Santa Fe with the family, here are some of the not-to-miss activities and attractions.

The writer was hosted.

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.

Hungry? Try one of these Santa Fe restaurants for tasty Southwestern and New Mexican fare.

You will want to add the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture to your list of things to do in Santa Fe with kids
Entrance to the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe. Photo credit: Jill Robbins

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.

There’s an admission charged for anyone ages 16 and older. New Mexico residents, seniors and groups get a discount and everyone gets in free on the first Sunday of the month.

Docent-led tours occur roughly three times daily. Call the museum in advance to confirm times.

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.

Need a place to stay? Try one of these awesome New Mexico resorts

Make sure you add the museum of international folk art to your list of things to do in Santa Fe with kids
The Museum of International Folk Art has a ton of exhibits and many of them are hands-on. Photo credit: Jill Robbins

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.

There’s an admission charge for anyone ages 16 and older with discounts for New Mexico residents. 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.

Make sure you add the museum of international folk art to your list of things to do in Santa Fe with kids
The plaza area at Museum Hill is a fun place to explore with lots of places to take pictures. Also, have lunch at the Museum Hill Cafe – it’s delicious and the atmosphere is fun. Photo credit: Jill Robbins

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.

SheBuysTravel 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 at one of these awesome Santa Fe restaurants or outside play to keep their interest.

meow wolf facade
Meow Wolf is a must-visit in Santa Fe. Photo credit: Maria Smith

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.

Make sure you add Meow Wolf to your list of things to do in Santa Fe with kids
Would you like to climb into the dryer and slide into another realm? Photo credit: Meow Wolf

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.

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.

Put Santa Fe Mountain Adventures on your list of things to do in Santa Fe with kids
Have you ever ridden in a Pinzegauer? Photo credit: Jill Robbins

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. Or check out for more Santa Fe adventures.

Put "visit San Miguel Chapel" on your list of things to do in Santa Fe with kids
Check out the oldest church in the United States! Photo credit: Jill Robbins

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 p.m., and Ordinary or New Mass at 5 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 p.m. The Chapel is open during most of the week for prayer and for visitors.

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.

Make sure you add the Loretto Chapel to your list of things to do in Santa Fe with kids
Don’t forget to check out the Loretto Chapel and its mysterious staircase when you are in Santa Fe. Photo credit: Loretto Chapel

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 or the general physics of its construction.

When the Loretto Chapel was completed in 1878, there was no way to access the choir loft 22 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.

7. Ski!

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.

9. Santa Fe Railyard Park

Want space for a little walk? Need to let the kids run around and let off some energy? The Santa Fe Railyard park is a great spot.

Look for a children’s play area, beautiful gardens, public art and community events and programs.

unique play structure at the Randall Davey Audubon Park
Let the littles run off steam in this unique park. Photo credit: Maria Smith

10. Randall Davey Audubon Park

The hiking and bird spotting at the Randall Davey Audubon Center is what the area is known for but the biggest draw for families is the fantastic play area and tree house.

It’s a free, fun family activity. Look close and you may spot herds of deer, rabbits and other animals.

11. Bandelier National Monument

Located about 50 minutes away from Santa Fe, the Bandelier National Monument is a must-see. The cliff dwellings Native Americans created 1,000 years ago are simply amazing to see and even climb inside. They are really engineering marvels.

You can explore, hike and have the kids experience history.

lobby floor of the New Mexico state capitol building in Santa Fe
The New Mexico State Capitol building is open to the public, so include it when visiting Santa Fe. Photo credit: Maria Smith

12. New Mexico State Capitol

Unlike most state capitol buildings, the New Mexico State Capitol is open to the public. It is in use as the seat of government for only several weeks each year but houses unique art yearround.

It is a gorgeous spot for all those Instagram-worthy photos too as it is the only round state capitol in the United States.

young boy inside santa fe oldest house
Santa Fe’s Oldest House is eye opening for kids to see how homes have changed. Photo credit: Maria Smith

13. The Oldest House

The Oldest House is believed to be built on the foundation of an ancient Native American Pueblo built in the 1200’s. The adobe house, which is now a museum and gift shop was built by the Spanish in 1620.

14. Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

The impressive looking Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is the mother church of the southwest dioceses of the United States. It is often called the heart of Santa Fe and daily mass is still celebrated here.

The gift shop and Basilica are open to visitors every day except Sunday and Monday.

15. 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.

Check out Inn of the Governors when making your plans for things to do in Santa Fe with kids
The family suite had lots of room for our family of four. Photo credit: Inn of the Governors

16. Where to Stay in Santa Fe with Kids

We recommend the 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.

Check out Inn of the Governors when making your plans for things to do in Santa Fe with kids
The pool is a great place to relax at the end of the day. Photo credit: Inn of the Governors

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.

Check out Inn of the Governors when making your plans for things to do in Santa Fe with kids
Having a balcony overlooking downtown Santa Fe is awesome. Photo credit: Jill Robbins
Jill Robbins is a freelance writer covering lifestyle, travel, health, and commerce. Her writing has appeared in SheKnows, HuffPost, Tripsavvy, Insider, AARP, and other publications. Jill lives in San Antonio with her husband and two youngest kids, although she’s usually somewhere else. You can find out what Jill is up to by reading her blog, Ripped Jeans and Bifocals.
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