Traveling with Kids to Santa Fe, New Mexico (Part 2)

I recently wrote about our family vacation to Santa Fe, New Mexico and talked about our hotel and the local cuisine. This time I’m trying to help answer, “What to do in Santa Fe with Kids”. I think it’s a testament to the destination that most of our favorite activities happen to be free.

Free ART SHOWS

Santa Fe has numerous art and history museums. There is one called Meow Wolf that looks interesting and interactive. However, the admission price for our family would be about $80. (Our youngest could get in free because kids under 3 are free). To save some money, we walked around an outdoor art show where we talked to local artists about their work.

Walking tour

My favorite part of Santa Fe was walking through town and exploring the southwest charm. You can use an online map from SantaFe.org to navigate your way through different areas of town including the Guadalupe District, The Plaza and The Railyard.

Walking helped burn off some of the amazing food we ate during our trip. I wrote about our favorite restaurants here.

Santa Fe New Mexico is the oldest capital city in the United States
If you plan to walk a lot, it’s good to remember that Santa Fe sits at 7,199′ in elevation.

Before kids, we occasionally traveled abroad where we staid in tiny hotel rooms and shared sandwiches (and bottles of wine). European vacations with kids seem much less romantic 😉 Now I’m looking for ways we can gain cultural experiences closer to home.

Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the United States. The blend of Anglo, Spanish and Native cultures can be seen in the architecture, food, and art.

The blend of Anglo, Spanish and Native cultures can be seen in the architecture, food and art.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

Santa Fe’s Cathedral is located in downtown Santa Fe near The Plaza. The historic cathedral is an active Catholic church with daily Mass. Visitors are also welcome to tour when services aren’t taking place. We took a moment to say a family prayer of gratitude.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

Loretto Chapel

We also visited the Loretto Chapel which is known for the Miraculous Staircase. This historic landmark is no longer an active Catholic church, but can be rented out for weddings. There is a fee to tour the chapel.

Loretto Chapel with famous staircase connected to St. Joseph the carpenter

Parks and Playgrounds in Santa Fe

We are always on the lookout for playgrounds for our girls to burn off their extra energy. Santa Fe, New Mexico has a lot of great public outdoor spaces. I believe one of the reasons Santa Fe prioritizes outdoor parks is the dry climate. Unlike where we are from (where we are worried about rivers flooding), most homes don’t have large, lush lawns because the financial cost and water waste would be too high. The parks help save precious resources and provide recreation – I’m all for that!

Railyard Park

Railyard Park is conveniently located within walking distance to our hotel downtown. It is a green park – designed to fit in with the natural surroundings of the mountains. The children’s area includes climbing walls and slides.

Frenchy’s Field/Santa Fe River Trail park was a big hit. We played on the playground’s swings and teeter-totter, then took a scenic stroll on the walking trail around a large open field and down along the river.

We visited Ragle Park which has an impressive-looking slide. Unfortunately the slide was boarded up during our visit. Another disappointment was our failure to make it into Tent Rocks National Monument. We were hoping to hike in the unique rock formations, however we didn’t arrive early enough. The traffic to get into the park was well over an hour.

Mountain Drive from Santa Fe to Taos & Red River

When it was time to go, we were sad to leave Santa Fe behind, but excited to begin the next part of our trip. From Santa Fe, we took a scenic drive to Taos. There are two routes called the “High Road” and the “River Road”. We drove along the “River Road” where we enjoyed views of the Rio Grande and surrounding mountains. You could make a whole day out of this drive. Taos.org provides tips for places to stop along the way.

We continued our drive to Red River, New Mexico for lunch at Red River Brewing Company. Re-energized by our stop, we drove on to the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Southern Colorado.

New Mexico has always held a special place in my heart because of childhood trips I enjoyed there. It was wonderful to return as an adult with my own kids.


Great Sand Dunes National Park: A One-of-a-Kind Family Adventure

Great Sand Dunes National Park

As I watched my daughter dancing on the sandy beach, I looked up at the snow-capped mountains and the largest dunes in North America. The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Reserve is located in southern Colorado, and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Medano Creek

We went to the park mid-day on Memorial Day, so I was relieved when we got into the park without a long wait at the entrance and we were able to find a good spot in the popular Dunes Parking area. We were very lucky! During peak season it’s better to avoid crowds and afternoon storms by arriving early in the morning.

Medano Creek runs in late May at Great Sand Dunes National Park

To get to the dunes, we had to cross Medano Creek which flows each season when the snow melts off the mountains (typically in late May). The water was freezing cold, but it was so much fun to take off our shoes and run laughing and splashing across the icy stream.

Sand, water, mountains at Great Sand Dunes National Park

We played in the sand, which was nice and cool on our bare feet. During summer months, the sand can be as hot as 150 degrees Fahrenheit!

Dancing in the sand at Great Sand Dunes National Park

We witnessed some visitors carrying sand sleds and sandboards which can be rented out at local equipment stores.

Wind at Great Sand Dunes National Park

Wind created the formation of the Sand Dunes over time, so it’s not surprising the Sand Dunes can be windy. We experienced a little bit of the wind which can blow sand and make hiking less enjoyable. The park recommends using sunglasses, long sleeves and pants during high winds.

Our visit to the Great Sand Dunes National Park was short, but amazing. I hope we can go back soon to explore more of the park and surrounding areas.

You can learn more about the Great Sand Dunes National Park in the online visitor’s guide.