Santa Fe: The Perfect Playground

Not to brag, but I surprised my sister and brother-in-law with the ultimate gift last weekend: A break from their kids during their Santa Fe stay. While they toured art galleries and sipped top-shelf margaritas, I introduced my 7-year-old niece and 9-year-old nephew to the kid-friendly wonders of Santa Fe.

Pieces like this animal-eyed work from the Andes Exhibit at the International Folk Art Museum expand kids’ world vision.
Pieces like this animal-eyed work from the Andes Exhibit at the International Folk Art Museum expand kids’ world vision.

With an abundance of hands-on arts exhibits, miles of free biking and hiking, and scores of open-air festivals, I heard plenty of oohs and ahhs, but not one, “I’m booooored.”

 

The Harrell House Is Crawling with Knowledge

Kids swarm to see the bugs at Harrell House.
Kids swarm to see the bugs at Harrell House.

Tarantulas, millipedes, and scorpions, oh my! The Harrell House of Natural Oddities & Bug Museum offers a scientific adventure for nature lovers big and small. With 2,400 specimens on display and scores of live insects children can hold in their hands (under the watchful eyes of the Harrell House pest pros, of course), children are drawn to this locale like moths to flames. The gift shop offers toys, fossils and science projects. Luckily for me, the tarantulas aren’t for sale.

 

Interactive Galleries will Make Art Aficionados of your Little Ones

At any one of the museum’s kid-centric events, kids are encouraged to touch the art.
At any one of the museum’s kid-centric events, kids are encouraged to touch the art.

Each year, the Santa Fe Arts Institute hosts Arts Alive! events at museums across the city. Spur your little traveler’s creative side with sessions like Japanese kite-making, crafting animal masks, and creating Brazilian dolls, happening Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am-2pm. Arts Alive! proved to be so popular that programs like Tako Kichi: Kite Crazy in Japan, has just been extended through July 27. And the breathtaking hand-carved animals featured in the Wooden Menagerie: Made in New Mexico, will be on display through next February.

If an Arts Alive! visit doesn’t fit into your travel plans, not to worry. My niece, nephew and I devised our own ideal itinerary. We started by peddling along to the Santa Fe Botanic Gardens along its scenic bike path before cutting over to Museum Hill. The Hill features four of Santa Fe’s premier museums—the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, the Spanish Colonial Museum, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and the Museum of International Folk Art—in one walkable location (even for the shortest of strides).

We made our last stop at the folk art museum, with more than 150,000 cultural artifacts captivating my niece and nephew. Besides the traditional masks and dolls from around the world, interactive galleries—complete with hands-on art stations and a Tree of Life-theme play area—transfixed my pint-sized tourists.

Panoramic views from the Museum Hill Café patio thrill adults and kids alike.
Panoramic views from the Museum Hill Café patio thrill adults and kids alike.

After all the oohing and ahhing, we were a little famished. So we grabbed a quick, tasty bite at Museum Hill Café. The outdoor bistro boasts stunning mountain vistas and a broad menu perfect for every palate.

Santa Fe Children’s Museum Leaves EVERYTHING to the Imagination

The Santa Fe Children’s Museum offers the ultimate playground for a child’s mind. And if you’re like me, you can’t help but rediscover your inner child within its walls. This place brims with fun activities for the kids: A dress-up area, cozy story space, water table, wooden blocks, giant bubbles, and much more.

Space Station: The Santa Fe Children’s Museum offers an entire floor for interactive activities.
Space Station: The Santa Fe Children’s Museum offers an entire floor for interactive activities.

My nephew couldn’t get over the rope chairlift…yep, only in Santa Fe. Outside, the kids tore into a digging area, live music space, a working garden, and more.

But the real hit was Makerspace: An 800 square-foot workshop full of cool tools and technology, from soldering irons to sewing machines to a computer lab. Just sign your kid up for their workshops and classes and let your little ones craft their perfect day.

Their calendar of upcoming events includes an open art studio, watercolor exploration, and even a jewelry-making class on Sundays!

A Crafty Celebration Worthy of Your Scrapbook

The Spring Festival and Children’s Fair makes any kid a happy camper.  (Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor)
The Spring Festival and Children’s Fair makes any kid a happy camper.
(Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor)

Planning a Santa Fe visit June 2-3? Don’t miss the annual Spring Festival & Children’s Fair. This weekend celebration will be held at El Rancho de las Golondrinas, a living history museum set on 200 rolling acres. Kids love the sheep shearing, weaving, and blacksmithing demonstrations, and can try their hand at archery, arts & crafts, face painting, and lots more. Factor in wagon rides, music, dancing, live animals that include mini-horses, a rare white buffalo, and a wolf, and you’ve got a memory that can only be made in Santa Fe. Kids 12 and under get in free, so pack a family picnic and get ready for a weekend adventure.

Make This Vacation Your Kids’ Santa Fe-vorite

When my niece and nephew reconnected with their Mom and Dad after all of our explorations, they could barely get the words out fast enough to describe the experience. These sights and sounds had them truly inspired, as well as really tired. (I got major thumbs up from both parents and kids on this outing!) The fact is, the adventures we adult Santa Fe enthusiasts can discover here are darn near equaled by the thrills that await the kiddos. So don’t forget the camera. Your kids will want to relive this adventure over and over.

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