Any Santa Fe parent will give you an earful about New Mexico’s less-than-ideal public education system. But if you don’t have to worry about where they’re going to go to school for the next twelve years, the city is an absolute blast for kids. The downtown area, with its multi-cultural Old-West vibe, is chockablock with adobe architecture, cool museums, and stores selling whimsical toys and books; just beyond there’s easy access to wilderness and nature activities. With the exception of the Cowgirl Hall of Fame’s Kid Corral—where kids can order off their own special menu and sit outside with their friends while their parents enjoy a burger and a beer—most restaurants in town don’t cater specifically to children. But there are enough other kid-friendly venues and attractions, both in and around the city, to put Santa Fe at the top of your list for your next family vacation.
Santa Fe Children’s Museum
If you want to meet local parents, hang out at the Children’s Museum. Every mom and dad in town has logged hours at this interactive wonderland with its climbing wall, puppet stage, garden, and open-art studio where local artists come every week to introduce kids to their medium of choice (from acrylics to blocks and glue).
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
This summer, Santa Fe’s most popular museum is offering an “OK to Go” program, which lets families create pieces of art in the Museum's courtyard based on the exhibitions in the galleries. And don’t worry about trying to hush your kids inside. During the Saturday morning Family Program, parents and kids get to visit before the O'Keeffe opens to the public. Afterward, they can participate in kid-friendly activities at the adjacent Education Annex. Best of all, all family programs here are free.
Beehive Kids Books
At this quiet adobe oasis, kids can peruse all manner of books, from board-style picture books for toddlers to young-adult page-turners. (Those that get restless while their siblings browse can amuse themselves at a drawing and game table.) If you want to inspire your kids to read over the summer, plan a stop here at the beginning of your trip.
Fort Marcy Playground
In the past five years the exterior of this city-owned recreation complex has been given an extreme makeover. With lush green grass for kicking around a soccer ball, a putting green, a running track and paved trail that runs around the perimeter, and playground equipment galore, this is an ideal spot for kids to get their yayas out before moving on to a more refined activity, like dinner.
Ski Santa Fe
Just an 18-mile drive from downtown, Ski Santa Fe has a Children’s Center for kids age three months to 11 years. Drop the baby off in the nursery for a half-day of mom-and-dad alone time on the lifts; enroll your kids age three and older into half- or full-day lessons, or rent skis and teach the kids on your own. This family-friendly mountain, with its ample sunshine and 225 inches of average annual snowfall, is a great place for kids to fall in love with skiing.