FX Excursions

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Family Time in Santa Fe, New Mexico

by Elyse Glickman

Nov 26, 2017

© Pcivello | Dreamstime

Destinations / North America

Santa Fe is a “big” small town known for its panoramic vistas, eternally hip artists’ community vibe, Southwestern U.S. history and its long-standing inclusive culture. When you consider this town is 400 years old, the oldest state capital in the U.S. with the oldest house and public building still in use, it’s no wonder its appeal to people of all ages is outsized, timeless and season-less.


If your family is athletic, there’s no shortage of skiing venues and other outdoor sports pursuits. Families more interested in history and the arts will find Santa Fe exciting just as exciting, with everything from art galleries and nationally acclaimed museums to live theater and interactive experiences. The city has the foodie thing down, too, with distinctively New Mexican and international cuisine and a renowned cooking school.

cowboy on horse in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Photo: Phyllis D. Peterson | Dreamstime

Perhaps the best thing about Santa Fe may be the fact it is wholly and definitively American. The mélange of Native American, Spanish and European cultures solidify Santa Fe’s status as both an ultimate American melting pot and ideal home base for artists (Georgia O’Keeffe, most famously), writers (Cormac McCarthy, Douglas Adams, and even D.H. Lawrence) and fashion designer/filmmaker/favorite son Tom Ford.


This interesting diversity is on full display during the holiday season, from the decorated streets and adobes to the city’s unique version of Las Posadas, a festive reenactment of Joseph and Mary’s search for a room at an inn in Bethlehem. The procession/show originates at the historic Palace of the Governors (the oldest government building in the United States still in use) and spirals its way around the Plaza, picking up people along the way. Another only-in Santa Fe holiday destination is Midnight Mass at the landmark Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis de Assisi.


Museum Contemporary Native Arts building outside corridor, Santa Fe , New Mexico

Photo: Kennethchern | Dreamstime

Some travelers would argue the New Mexico state capital’s prolific assortment of museums rival the art scenes of much larger U.S. cities. For starters, there is the venerable Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and several establishments that bring the American West’s history to life, including the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and Institute of American Indian Art.


Canyon Road remains a draw for visitors and locals alike with its colorful expanse of art displays that spill out from brightly painted cottages on to the lawns and streets. However, one of the newest additions to the art scene includes the particularly kid-friendly interactive art installation Meow Wolf, which blends local folklore and science fiction in House of Eternal Return, its centerpiece made up of rooms, secret passages, interactive light and musical objects. The theme centers on the mystery of a local family that disappeared one night after conducting a forbidden experiment inside their Victorian mansion.


Other favorites for younger visitors include the Museum of International Folk Art, with nearly 106,000 folk dolls and figurines from around the world in windowed dioramas and the Santa Fe Children’s Museum where kids can explore water channels, climb through mirrored tunnels and attend workshops with local artists and scientists.


Like Santa Fe’s museums, there are hotels and restaurants for every interest and taste. La Fonda on the Plaza is an architectural delight providing amenities families with different aged children will want, down to a central location, famous Sunday brunch and large pool. Parents bringing kids over eight will love


La Posada de Santa Fe. The former home of the Staabs (a leading Santa Fe family during the 19th century) is a fantastic in-city oasis, with museum-caliber public spaces indoors and out and cultural events in the lobby.


Families looking for a casual mid-20th-century road trip sort of spot instead of a sprawling resort should check out and into the Old Santa Fe Inn, which features cozy rooms, a fun do-it-yourself burrito breakfast bar and proximity to the Plaza. The Hotel Santa Fe, more than half-owned by the Picuris Pueblo, has a wonderful home-y quality as well as some nice authentic local touches such as a restaurant serving the only Native American food in town, and 91 suites ideal for families who want to stay in one room but still enjoy a sense of privacy.


Some of the nation’s most buzzed-about high-end restaurants, including the sublime Geronimo and The Coyote Café, are based in Santa Fe. That said, there are plenty of all-age friendly eateries that do extraordinary things with local ingredients and recipes, including the Blue Corn Café, known for its epic burgers and portions, Cowgirl BBQ, The Pantry and The Shed.

Artichoke flower at farmers market in Santa Fe, NM

Photo: Louise Roach | Dreamstime


Given the diversity and depth of Santa Fe’s overall food culture, the Santa Fe School of Cooking is still hot after a quarter century with its cooking demo classes, hands-on classes, restaurant food tours and The Family Cookin’ Class, which provides an opportunity for adults and kids to spend time in the kitchen together and get a taste of the local cuisine.


If your family is scheduled to be in town on a Saturday, the place to be is the colorful Santa Fe Farmer’s Market. Pick up fresh produce from local growers — organizers ensure 100 percent of all of the fruits and vegetables sold at the market are from farms and orchards around northern New Mexico — plus, artisan breads, jams and jellies, other packaged foods and handmade crafts. Food vendors often offer free samples, while live music and street performers entertain the kids.


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