Santa Fe rarely ranks at the top of the family vacation bucket list, largely because it’s lacking long stretches of sandy beach or a billion-dollar theme park starting with the letter D. (It could also be because most Americans, let alone kids, have no clue how cool New Mexico is or where to locate it on a map.) But this city, and its surrounding natural landscapes, offer kids pleasures far beyond those of animatronic mice in Florida. Among its most obvious charms are the gorgeous high-alpine-deserts, perfect for hiking and horseback riding; some of the Southwest’s best winter ski mountains; traditional adobe architecture; and nearby Native American ruin sites that date back 1,300 years. Other fun facts that may impress your kids: Santa Fe is the highest state capital in the country (at 7,500 feet), and is one of the only places in the world where cowboys and Indians still really exist.
A few miles outside town, nestled in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this dude-ranch-style resort has horseback riding and beautiful hiking trails just out the back door. It also offers a multi-sport camp—including tennis, boxing, golf, and many other sports for kids age four to 16. The action-packed downtown Plaza is just a seven-minute drive away.
Inn and Spa at Loretto
For families who want to divide and conquer, this downtown hotel has a spa for mom, an “Outdoor Adventure Curator” who will double as a guide for dad on hikes up local peaks, and an outdoor pool for the kids. And for family fun time, there’s an Indiana Jones-style Treasure Hunting adventure package for everyone.
Inn of the Governors
Set right in the heart of downtown, with a year-round outdoor heated pool, giant Southwestern “Mountain Sunrise Breakfasts,” and seven mini-suites (each with two queen beds, a pull-out queen sleeper, a kiva fireplace, and a private balcony), this inn has plenty of space for even big family groups. And if parents need a little more alone time, right next door is Del Charro, which serves the tastiest, most affordable margaritas in town.
Villas de Santa Fe
One of the only apartment-style lodgings in town, these units a few blocks north of the Plaza have full kitchens, a pool and hot tub area, and pull-out sofas for the kids to crash on. For skiers, it’s also on the north end of town near the drive up Hyde Park Road to Ski Santa Fe resort.
Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado
Just 15 minutes north of town, this sprawling resort has gorgeous sunset views, an on-site concierge who can plan age-appropriate activities for kids, babysitting services, and innovative programs like “Kids in the Kitchen”—where children spend the day shopping at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market, then cooking what they purchase in the kitchen with a bona fide chef. (Parents can join in, too.)