Santa Fe with kids: dining, shopping, and touring

When most parents think of Santa Fe, New Mexico, spas and art galleries come to mind. However, this small town in the high desert has its share of kid-friendly activities. Here where to go, where to eat, and where to shop if vacationing in Santa Fe with kids.



There are a few must-sees in Santa Fe with kids. To start, you’ll want to tour the Plaza and Palace of the Governors with kids, which is located in the heart of downtown and within walking distance of most hotels. Historically a trading center, the Palace of the Governors features a shaded walkway filled daily with local artisans; the Native Americans here get their spot by lottery. Wares range from small handmade trinkets for a few dollars to $400 fired bowls and other pottery.


Also in the Plaza is the Five and Dime, a kitchy souvenir store filled top-to-bottom with fun gifts and foods. Be sure to head to the back of the store to try a Frito Pie; this Santa Fe treat is a bag of Fritos filled with chili, cheese, and toppings. Many other shops line the square, including Rippel, featuring authentic silver buckles and innovative hand-crafted jewelry, but even better for kids is the outdoor market area one block toward the Loretto Chapel and La Fonda Hotel on E. San Francisco: here you’ll find baskets of low-cost gems, necklaces, bracelets, and trinkets.


Canyon Road features over 100 of the world’s finest art galleries, but if your kids won’t last long in this environment (mine don’t!) head left of the Canyon Road entrance to the site of Fort Marcy and the Cross of the Martyrs. This regional park includes a short walkway up the hill to the site of the original fort from the 19th century, and offers a beautiful view of the city. Get your art fix by visiting the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, ideal for kids.


For adventure in the high desert, join Santa Fe Walkabouts for a 4×4 ride along historic Route 66 to see remnants from the Camino Real trading route and a fun drive to the bottom of a steep mesa.

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When choosing dining options in Santa Fe with kids, plan a meal at each of two restaurants, both located near downtown on Guadalupe Street. The Cowgirl Hall of Fame  is well-known as a local watering hole with nightly live entertainment, but this fun and funky restaurant is so much more. Head to the back of this meandering establishment to find an outdoor seating area in a courtyard featuring a full-sized children’s play structure, plus chalkboard walls and other toys.  Listen to the live music, enjoy one of many local microbrews on tap or a great margarita, and let the kids play! The food here ranges from burgers and fries to authentic New Mexican cuisine. We recommend the nachos as an appetizer.


Across the street at the railway depot is Tomasitas, with the most authentic Northern New Mexican cuisine in the city (according to locals). Tomasitas is completely casual, making it an excellent pick for kids, plus serves up the best margarita I’ve ever had. The guacamole and blue corn chips pair with the margarita perfectly, and their entrees range from enchiladas, tacos, chile rellenos, and tamales. All meals come with authentic sopaipilla (fried bread) and feature green or red chiles in the New Mexican tradition. Ask your server to have the chile sauce on the side if you’re not used to it: it’s very hot, but delicious! A kids’ menu is available, and restless kids can go outside with a parent to watch for trains.


Check out our review of the Inn and Spa at Loretto, our Santa Fe lodging pick.

About the author

Pit Stops for Kids AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly at a number of travel publications, and contributes to OutdoorsNW magazine as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.




  1. Kate and Mike says:

    We agree! We were there over the Christmas holidays this year with a bunch of tweens and teens. For the most part, we visited different restaurants and locations (see our website for details). But we came to the same conclusion you did….this is a WONDERFUL place to visit with kids of any age. Great post.

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