Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Family Vacations in New Mexico


Family Vacations in New Mexico: Santa Fe
The Palace, a National Historic Landmark, has a covered porch that serves as a marketplace for Native Americans selling jewelry and crafts to tourist and locals

Santa Fe is the second oldest city in the United States. It's a place where the merging of three cultures -- Anglo, Hispanic, and Native American--can be seen in its vibrant art, architecture, and food.

The center of the town is the Plaza, which once marked the official end of the Old Santa Fe Trail. It is now lined with shade trees, famous landmarks, and museums, including the Palace of the Governors. Native American artisans display their wares on beautiful blankets in front of the Palace: You'll see silver-and-turquoise jewelry, pottery, leatherwork, and handwoven blankets for sale.

The town is filled with numerous galleries that exhibit exquisite southwestern art, shops that offer the best in fashion, and sophisticated restaurants. For a decidedly unsophisticated culinary treat your kids will adore, stop at the Five and Dime General Store on the Plaza and order a Frito Pie: A bag of corn chips opened and piled high with chili and cheese. You can top it off with chopped onions and jalapenos if you wish; stick a fork in it, and you're ready to enjoy this delicious Santa Fe specialty.

The town is rich with excellent museums. The Museum of International Folk Art has proved to be a children's favorite. Among its collections are toys from all over the world, including folk dolls and figurines creatively placed in dioramas that show scenes of festivals, funerals, parties, and simple activities of daily life. There are puppets, costumes, masks, and more.

Be sure to visit the innovative Lloyd's Treasure Chest, located in the lower level of the museum. Visitors are encouraged to peek into its storage drawers and get a behind-the-scenes look at museum collections. The museum's lounge features books about different cultures as well as a wide assortment of toys.

On the outskirts of Santa Fe, El Rancho de las Golondrinas is a living-history museum that demonstrates life in early Spanish colonial New Mexico. Self-guided tours are an option throughout the summer, and special docent-led tours focus on the life of the American Girl character Maria Josefina Montoya, a Hispanic girl growing up on her family's ranch in New Mexico.

Also just outside the city, you'll find Jackalope, a zany seven-acre bazaar filled with knickknacks, pottery, and furniture, along with a petting zoo of barnyard animals and a prairie dog village.

The colorful streets of Santa Fe are nothing compared with the colors that rise into the sky each year at Balloon Festival time. Read the next page to find out more.

Santa Fe Information

New Mexico Department of Tourism

Address: 491 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM

Telephone: 1-800-733-6396 ext 0643

The Plaza

Address: Santa Fe Plaza at NM-589 and Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM

Telephone: 800/777-2489

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • New Mexico State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in New Mexico, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

More to Explore