Best Things to Do With Kids in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Spider in front of Meow Wolf art installation in Santa Fe, NM
Spider in front of Meow Wolf art installation in Santa Fe, NM | © Patrik Urban / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Ildiko Hetesi
3 August 2020

From the Meow Wolf Art Gallery to the Harrell House Bug Museum, there are plenty of fun, educational things to do with kids in Santa Fe. They might even be lucky enough to visit the Paleteria Oasis for an ice cream. Here are Culture Trips top picks on what to do with young ones in the city.

Visiting Santa Fe with kids may seem challenging at times, but parents should rest assured this city has enough to keep them busy and interested. Many sites with entrance fees will give kids discounts or sometimes if the child is under 12, let them in for free. The recommendations here are all in town, but should the little ones get restless, remember that right outside of the city is the great outdoors, with countless options to keep even the most high-energy child entertained.

Lose yourself at the Meow Wolf House of the Eternal Return

Art Gallery
Map View

This is the landmark that most Santa Fe locals will recommend to a visitor with children. Meow Wolf has been keeping the locals entertained since 2016. It features permanent art, design and creative installations in a former bowling alley, with plenty to challenge the senses. The space currently has 70 loosely interconnected installations where visitors can develop their own line of discovery and narrative. Installations such as an enchanted tree house, a tiny model of a wild west ranch house powered by hamsters, luminescent corridors where gravity seems to cease and many other enterprising art projects keep both the eyes and the head spinning. Online tickets are available ahead of time and are highly recommended as the venue is popular and caps the number of visitors to make sure it is not overcrowded.

Let the children play at the Santa Fe Children’s Museum

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This is technically an indoor and outdoor playground which can be entertaining, especially for younger children. It offers engaging, hands-on and sensory experiences for those up to the age of eight. Santa Fe Children’s Museum has, among other features, a sensory garden, a bubble pan, a boat race and a train model table.

Teach the kids about the world at the folk-art museum

Cathedral, Museum
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The Museum of International Folk Art concentrates on toys, dolls, house models, colorful religious folk art, masks, fabrics and beadwork. The museum’s exhibits represent diverse cultures and constitute the largest collection of international folk art in the world. The core collection has grown over time from works from 34 countries to over 130,000 objects from more than 100 countries. It is hands-on, beautifully displayed and a wonderful way to educate children on both different types of art and the different cultures they originate from.

Try some Mexican ice pops at Paleteria Oasis

Ice Cream Parlour, Dessert
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Paletas are Mexican ice pops known to all who have grown up in or visited Mexico. They can be difficult to find elsewhere, but the Paleteria Oasis has you covered. A paleteria is an ice cream and snack shop offering all the guilty and sticky pleasures of childhood. The business uses the best ingredients available and all ice pops and ice creams are made in-house. They come in an incredible variety of flavors – guava, strawberry, lemon, vanilla, pistachio and pecan just to name a few. Beyond that, a bewildering array of Mexican sweets are on display and for sale. Even if you come here only to look, there is a good chance that both you and your kids will leave with sticky hands and lips. And, considering the heavy Spanish influence in Santa Fe’s cultural fabric, this is an authentic experience.

Take a chocolate making workshop at Art of Chocolate/Cacao Santa Fe

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With children over 10 who like chocolate, this visit may just be the ticket. Both the Mayan and the Aztec cultures had roots in the territory that is today’s New Mexico, and both cultures knew and appreciated cocoa. In Santa Fe, there are a number of boutiques specializing in chocolate of the highest quality. But this place also teaches the visitors the history and gives away some of the secrets of the making. Dip in!

Walk the Haiku Pathway

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The Haiku Pathway is located at the Santa Fe Community College and was created in 2017 by two local artists. It consists of 36 semi-circular, domed ceramic discs set into the ground, each having a short, contemplative haiku poem written by students from the university’s creative writing class. Some haiku are whimsical and some profound, but all are great fun to read while walking along the path.

Discover the bug lover within you at the Harrell House Bug Museum

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Truly special and somewhat unexpected, this collection of thousands of bugs – around 200 living creatures and over 5,000 mounted bugs from all over the world – is located within a shopping mall in the northern part of the city. A friendly staff member helps you gain some knowledge of this unique universe. Say hello to Ethyl the Whale on your visit. The giant blue plastic whale patchworked together from plastic debris is located on the grounds of Santa Fe Community College and is the work of two artists from San Francisco. The large-scale installation is trying to draw attention to two of the world’s most pressing environmental issues: plastic garbage and its impact on our oceans. Visiting this landmark offers a great chance to ponder this contemporary issue with children of any age.

These recommendations were updated on August 3, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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