Keep it real in Santa Fe: Adventures and cultural treasures await families on vacation


Dancers at Santo Domingo Pueblo

Dancers at Santo Domingo Pueblo

Santa Fe offers the traveling family a different sort of vacation this summer as the destination encourages visitors to ditch shopping malls and theme park roller coasters and instead explore centuries old Anasazi villages and  to explore and get their thrills from biking, river rafting and hiking. Here are some suggested Santa Fe attractions for families:

Museum of International Folk Art – Filled with more than 10,000 pieces of folk art from all over the world in just the Girard Wing alone, the Folk Art Museum is a must for kids.  Regularly voted Santa Fe’s “Best Museum,” the Folk Art museum houses the world’s largest collection of cross-cultural traditional folk art from dolls, puppets and masks to textiles, ceramics and Spanish colonial folk art. Music, drama, dance, storytelling and material culture of more than 100 countries is presented in life-size interactive exhibits, cultural festivals and hands-on activities.

The Museum of Indian Art and Culture – Using poetry, story, song, dance and artifact, the museum presents the rich, complex and diverse stories that illuminate the art and history of the Americas and the American Southwest through two millennia. The permanent display, “Here Now and Always” gives an in-depth look at the evolution of the American Indian in the Southwest through installations, artifacts and video. The museum’s Discovery Room for kids is filled with hands on and learning exhibits including foam ‘adobe’ building rocks to create a ruin.

During July and August the Museum of International Folk Art and the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture take turns hosting “Kids Alive!” every Thursday. These free events offer arts and crafts centered around Native American art, like simple pottery or weaving, and folk art. Coming up this summer June, 2013 at the folk art museum is, Tako Kichi: Kite Crazy in Japan, a show that will include kite-making workshops and kite flying on the plaza at Museum Hill.

The Randall Davey Audubon Center – The old home and grounds of artist Randall Davey offers 135 acres of gentle hiking and interpretive trails through a preserved historic property plus a longer spur for those who want to hike a little bit more. This is a great place to walk with younger kids who may not be up to a more difficult hike.

More challenging hiking terrain is easily had in the Santa Fe National Forest.The boundary is just 7 miles from downtown Santa Fe and opens into over 1 million acres of public land covered in trails. In addition, the Dale Ball Trail system offers 30+ miles of trials looped together around the edges of the city. Short or long hikes are possible with great views of the city and mountains, all within easy access of town.

Explore ancient civilizations at Bandelier National Monument

Explore ancient civilizations at Bandelier National Monument just north of Santa Fe

Geocaching Challenge – Kids are immediately engaged in this creative, GPS driven hunt for Santa Fe’s many attractions in the Santa Fe Plaza area. Using a GPS device and the “Santa Fe Adventure Passport”–available from the Information Specialists at the Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau’s offices in the Santa Fe Convention Center or by download from – searchers follow GPS coordinates to find clues at each of eight locations. Getting the passport stamped as each place is discovered and returning the completed form to the bureau’s offices earns a prize for completing the challenge. It’s a fun way to learn about one of the country’s most interesting cities.

Mountain biking – Riding the dirt in Santa Fe is as easy as renting a bike, or using your own, and rolling out of town onto the Dale Ball Trails. The Dale Ball trailhead at the top of Upper Canyon Road leads to miles of terrain. Or, take the family’s bikes to the newly developed La Tierra Trail system 10 minutes from the Santa Fe Plaza. This 1,500 acre complex offers easy trailhead parking, well-marked trails and rides, or hikes, for all abilities on the 27-mile multi-use network.

New Mexico History Museum – Santa Fe’s newest museum, opened in 2009, also holds some of the city’s oldest treasures. Along with its most significant artifact, the adjacent Palace of the Governors built in 1610, the museum offers interactive exhibitions as it tells the fascinating stories of New Mexico’s past. From cowboys and Indians to scientists and scholars this is one place that can capture the imagination of everyone in the family. Coming up beginning in April, 2013 will be Cowboys Real & Imagined, about the rise of America’s folk hero including musical performances and Western movies filmed in New Mexico. For little buckaroos, the museum has taken special steps to make the exhibit both fun and educational. They’ll have their own signs with text about the displays told in kid-friendly language by Popcorn, the palomino horse. Kids will also be able to try on cowboy costumes and star in their own stories.


Shop for Native American made gifts at local Pueblos and Art Markets

Shop for Native American made gifts at local Pueblos and Art Markets

Native American Pueblos – New Mexico’s heritage is built on the Native American culture. 19 Pueblo tribes are scattered around the state including the 8 Northern Indian Pueblos in the Santa Fe region. These centuries-old communities are a living link with the most indigenous of U.S. peoples and reveal much about the tribe’s past and present. Ceremonial feast days, harvest festivals and other celebrations throughout the year are wonderful times to spend at the Pueblos, sharing in the tribe’s sustaining traditions.

The Santa Fe Children’s Museum – This diverse museum located close to downtown is a marvelously creative place that puts an emphasis on learning through doing. There are all kinds of different ‘stations’ plus a large, one acre, outdoor space with a performance area, greenhouse with animals, garden, water garden, and seasonal projects. The well-run organization hosts visiting artists, musicians and kids experts. It also offers a way to drop the kids off for some supervised fun and is a family resource that many visitors don’t discover.

The Santa Fe Southern Railroad – Leaving from the Santa Fe Railyard the Santa Fe Southern train offers a regular schedule of trips on period cars including a dome car and an outdoor flat car with a stop in Lamy, NM, the turn around point. The route passes through the surrounding countryside with huge vistas and ends in the historic town of Lamy, the turnaround point, where lunch is available.

Lodging – Santa Fe offers accommodations for every family’s budget. Many of the city’s 4,200 hotel/motel/B&B/inn rooms can be found in comfortable chain hotels and motels offering affordable rates that are competitive with any destination. Luxury lodging is also available. The same goes for meals; Northern New Mexico’s savory cuisine can be found at many of the city’s 200+ restaurants in addition to foods and flavors from around the world at most every price point. Book online and save.

Information courtesy: Santa Fe CVB

More Ideas for Families
Visiting Santo Domingo Pueblo
Get Away to Santa Fe for Spring Break
5 Places for Great Pizza in Santa Fe

Photography copyright: Elizabeth Rose Photography