Santa Fe, in the high desert of New Mexico, is well-known as an artsy town with strong connections to the nation’s past. The city is ripe with culture, beauty and local history. Friendly locals, beautiful scenery and year-round sunshine also make it the perfect destination for a family looking for some desert fun. Whether your family enjoys museums, history, sightseeing, outdoor action or quirky fun, there is no shortage of family fun in this Southwestern desert gem. With so many great options, it is hard to choose where to begin, but the following list is a helpful guide.
Spend a few hours exploring Meow Wolf, Santa Fe’s one-of-a-kind art experience. This unique installation combines various art forms carefully crafted by nearly 200 artists to create the House of Eternal Return. The attraction takes place inside the home of the fictional Selig family, where reality warped into a maze of tunnels, secret passageways and bizarre rooms. Visitors are able to create their own unique experience by choosing their own path to discovering the house’s mysteries. This interactive and creative art exhibit lets kids explore their wildest imaginations and gives adults a much-needed escape from reality.
This Roman Catholic chapel dating back to the 1850s is one of the most-visited places in Santa Fe. Famous for its architectural beauty, it is home to the famous mysterious staircase. The story of the staircase stems from the legend it was constructed without the aid of any nails or supports, creating a beautiful helix-design that draws visitors from all over the world. Although the staircase is off-limits for safety reasons, the chapel is now used for weddings and as a museum. Visitors can not only enjoy the local history showcased in the museum but the beauty of the chapel itself with its stained-glass windows and intricately carved religious figurines.
Bandelier National Monument, just east of Santa Fe, covers 33,000 acres of New Mexico wilderness. The park features stunning landscapes, rugged terrain and beautiful wildlife. Perhaps the most famous park attraction is the cliff-side homes of the Ancestral Puebloan people, dating back to 1150 A.D. and built into the volcanic bluffs located within the park. Families visiting the park can take a ranger-guided tour of the easily managed Main Loop Trail to learn about the history of the area. More vigorous hikers who don’t mind climbing ladders should explore the Tsankawi area to see some of the park’s petroglyphs, amazing views and the pueblo village. The park can only be accessed by a shuttle bus that departs from the nearby Juniper Campground or the White Rock Visitor Center every 30 minutes.
Continue the outdoor adventures with a trip to Nambe Falls, just north of town. This hidden jewel is located in the heart of the stunning New Mexico countryside. There are two trails — the high road and the low road. Either route requires mildly strenuous hiking and be prepared if you take the low trail because you will definitely get wet in order to reach your destination. Regardless which route you take, your efforts will be rewarded with amazing views of the falls. This site is a great place for enjoying a picnic lunch in a relaxing and beautiful location.
Little boys love bugs, right? Well at the Harrell House Bug Museum they can certainly get their fill of creepy crawlies. This unique museum is the home to more than 2,000 mounted bugs and spiders, including some of the rarest species in the world. The museum also proudly maintains more than 150 live creatures that visitors can see and, in some cases, hold. Make sure to plan your visit in the afternoon for the daily 4 p.m. feeding time.
If you need a break from sightseeing, museum hopping or hiking the local trails, take some time to explore the shops of downtown Santa Fe. There is something for everyone here — no matter what you are looking for, you will find something uniquely Santa Fe. Rainbow Man is a great stop for the whole family. They offer a unique selection of local arts, crafts, jewelry and more. Native jewelry and Chimayo weavings are excellent souvenirs to commemorate your vacation while kids love the native folk art items like hand-carved wooden animals. The shop showcases local artists that use the culture and landscape of New Mexico as inspiration to make one-of-a-kind artwork and gifts.
However you pass your time in Santa Fe, your whole family will leave enamored with this intriguing city. Thanks to the great weather — the sun shines almost year-round — there is never a bad time to visit this remarkable city.