Family Vacation Guide to Santa Fe, New Mexico

Last updated 19th December 2023

Santa Fe, New Mexico is home to some the country’s best food, culture, art and outdoor activities. From high end shops and art galleries to skiing or hiking in the Sangre de Cristo mountains to savoring the famous green chile and taking in a stunning sunset view, there’s no end to the family fun in this quirky but upscale capitol.

One of the rooms you can explore at Meow Wolf, an immersive art experience.

Arts & Culture

Santa Fe is renowned when it comes to the arts. The city boasts incredible museums and art galleries and even many of the hotels here have extensive art collections on display. Its rich cultural history is highlighted in everything from the architecture to the turquoise jewelry sold by the local Native Americans.


Museums abound here and there’s plenty to entertain all interests. Budding historians will love the informative New Mexico History Museum that goes through everything from Native American history to early Spanish influence to the atomic bomb development. Mini artists can enjoy the Georgia O’Keefe Museum or SITE Santa Fe, which features a rotation of contemporary and boundary pushing exhibits. Little ones can have a more hands-on experience at the Children’s Museum. Depending on your family’s tastes there’s plenty more to choose from including the Museum of International Folk Art, the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture and the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art.

Canyon Road

Santa Fe is world-renowned for their art scene among collectors. Stroll along Canyon Road and pop into art galleries as they strike your fancy. Here you can find everything from giant lawn sculptures to twinkling crystal pieces to more traditional paintings. Who knows, maybe you’ll even find a new piece for the living room.

The Plaza

Iconic adobe buildings with colorful accents surround the Plaza, the center and heart of the main downtown area. Here you can find everything from upscale clothing boutiques to Native Americans selling handmade turquoise jewelry, to authentic cowboy boots and hand-painted souvenirs.

Meow Wolf

Kids will go wild at this interactive exhibit that’s become a phenomenon drawing crowds from across the country. It’s hard to describe what exactly Meow Wolf is, but if you picture a psychedelic version of the Upside Down from Stranger Things you’re not too far off.  Kids can explore an overgrown treehouse, walk through a kitchen fridge door down a trippy hallway, stroll through a neon forest and more. This spot can easily keep the whole family entertained for several hours. Pro tip: Try to go during non-peak hours (like during the week) and get tickets ahead of time online.

A family braves rapids while white water rafting.

Outdoor Adventures

Nestled between the Sangre de Cristo and Jemez mountains, Santa Fe has an impressive outdoor scene no matter what season you visit. Hike to breathtaking views, ski your way down the slopes or brave the Rio Grande rapids.


If you’re in Santa Fe during the winter months, then hit the slopes with your family for skiing or snowboarding fun. Featuring seven lifts and trails perfect for all skill levels, this is a great place for kids to learn or to take their skills to the next level. And if you don’t have a car, there is public transportation to the mountain from downtown.


Santa Fe is an outdoor lover’s paradise. Choose from a dizzying amount of hikes that range in difficulty and enjoy gorgeous views and wildlife. If you’re there in the fall you’ll be treated to stunning golden aspens dotting the mountain ridges. A few of our favorite trails include Dale Ball, which is a moderately easy hike and is also bike friendly. If it’s your first day in the area, Cerrillos Hills State Park offers a gentle path perfect for getting acclimated (don’t forget that Santa Fe sits 7,200 feet above sea level!). Meanwhile, those with more experience or who are looking to backpack or camp for the night will love Winsor Trail that offers views of Lake Katherine that are certainly worth the extra effort.

White Water Rafting

For adventurous families, a day out on the water is just the ticket. Head down the Rio Grande or Rio Chama for an unforgettable experience. Several companies will take you out for everything from half-day to multi-day trips and make sure you have everything you need.

The historic hotel La Fonda on the Plaza.

Where to Stay

Old world charm meets contemporary luxury when you stay in Santa Fe. From sweeping views and roomy casitas to classic New Mexican design details, these hotels and resorts have it all.

La Fonda on the Plaza

For convenience, it doesn’t get better than staying right on the Plaza at the historic La Fonda hotel. The family-friendly spot is quintessentially New Mexican with authentic craftsmanship details and classic adobe architecture. They even have a special family package that allows up to two kids under age 17 to stay for free and includes breakfast for the family plus tickets to Meow Wolf. They also offer tours specifically for children that allows for a closer look at the fabulous art housed in the hotel .

Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado

For a quieter home base with uninterrupted views, the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado is ideal. The resort offers plenty of outdoor activities kids will love from hiking and biking to horseback riding. Their casitas are ideal for families, with options ranging from one-bedroom rooms with rollaway cribs to two-bedroom interconnecting suites for larger families.

La Posada

Cozy up by an in-room fireplace and enjoy thoughtful New Mexican decor at La Posada. Kids can enjoy the heated saline pool all year and activities like s’mores by the fire, which is held every Tuesday evening. Meanwhile, parents can have their own fun with a margarita and tequila tasting.

Tacos at Cafe Pasqual’s with New Mexico’s famous green chile on the side.

Where to Eat & Drink

Red or green? That’s the state’s official question and it refers to which kind of spicy chile you want slathered on your meal. Hit these delicious restaurants for a taste of the distinctive New Mexican cuisine. Brave eaters can respond to the classic question with “Christmas” to try both types of chile.

The Shed

Conveniently located just off the Plaza, The Shed is a must for trying the local red and green chile. It’s colorful sign and doors beckon visitors and during the warmer months the patio is an ideal place to grab a bite. Try the enchiladas, green chile burrito or carne adovada to eat like a true New Mexican. For younger or less brave eaters they also have a kids’ menu with everything from Kid’s Tacos to staples like grilled cheese and burgers. For parents, don’t miss trying one of their fabulous margaritas.

Cafe Pasqual’s

Head to Cafe Pasqual’s for a delicious breakfast made with fresh and organic ingredients. Try the three-corn pancakes for a sweet treat or the chorizo burrito for a heartier meal. They don’t take reservations for breakfast so arrive early or stop in across the street at Doodlet’s Toy Store if you have a short wait.

Kakawa Chocolate House

For those with a chocolate jones, this spot is a must. The one-of-a-kind creations include chocolate elixirs, caramels, truffles, ice cream and more. They offer both classics as well as bold flavors like cherry-chili and hibiscus.

Bang Bite Filling Station

If you’re on the hunt for a quick but delicious meal, be on the lookout for Bang Bite Filling Station, a food truck loved by locals and tourists alike. The Bite Burger is spicy perfection and the fries will make your mouth water. And for those who haven’t gotten their taste buds totally acclimated yet, there are non-spicy options too.

Breathtaking views of one of Santa Fe’s famous sunsets.

Sunset Views

Painted fiery skies are a nightly treat in New Mexico and Santa Fe offers some great ways to take in the radiant views.

From a Hot Air Balloon

Albuquerque, New Mexico plays host to the world’s largest hot air balloon festival and it’s common to see the colorful balloons dotting the cloudless blue skies in Santa Fe too. Take on this bucket list-worthy adventure and float above it all with one of several companies in the city that offer rides.

Vista Grande Overlook Observation Site

This overlook deck located just below the Santa Fe ski area is a great place to take in full mountain views. The drive up also allows you to enjoy the mountains from multiple angles. Start the drive up 30-40 minutes before sunset for prime golden hour and sunset photo ops.

Rooftop Pizzeria

If you prefer to stay close to the city center, head to the top-floor patio of Rooftop Pizzeria where you can still take in the vibrant sky while also enjoying some pizza or pasta.

Unique cone-shaped rock formations at Tent Rocks.

Day Trips

If you have the time, a day trip from Santa Fe is highly recommended. Within a quick drive from the city are incredible hikes, beautiful national parks and ancient ruins.

Tent Rocks Hiking Trail

This mid-level hike is easy enough the whole family can do it. Plus, the otherworldly cone-shaped rock formations in the area make for a unique trail you won’t find anywhere else.

Bandeleir National Monument

Kids will absolutely love scrambling up the wooden ladders at Bandeleir National Monument to see rock carvings and ruins from the Ancestral Pueblo People dating back 11,000 years. Knowledgable rangers can teach kids about the rich history of the area on guided tours. The area has both short and long trails so you can easily tailor your trip depending on how much time you have and how old your kids are.

Valles Caldera National Preserve

This 13-mile wide, inactive volcanic caldera is a nature-lover’s dream. Meander through the huge mountain meadow and bubbling streams while taking in wildlife like elk, coyotes, black bears and golden eagles. During the winter months you can also try snowshoeing or cross-country skiing to explore the area.

By Hannah Freedman