Drying chilis. Photo by Sean Quillen, Unsplash

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Every good story needs a conflict. Similarly, the best family vacations – at least those on TV – always seem to have an obstacle that must be overcome. For example, in National Lampoon’s Vacation the Griswolds struggle with their cursed station wagon as they try to drive across the country.

Meanwhile, in A Very Brady Sequel, America’s favorite blended family has to outwit a conman in Hawaii. And in Home Alone, the McCallisters accidentally leave their youngest kid, Kevin, behind.

I’d like to think I’d never do that. But recently my family took a trip to New Mexico, and we had a serious problem from the get-go. Our conflict? We made the mistake of staying at a hotel that was so great we almost didn’t want to leave it during the day.

Don’t get me wrong: sometimes it’s fine to go on a vacation and opt for room service in lieu of exploring. But that’s definitely not OK when you’re staying in a destination as cool as Santa Fe.

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Hotel Santa Fe in New Mexico

Santa Fe is not only the oldest capital city in the country, but it’s also one of the richest, in terms of culture. In fact, the hotel we chose, Hotel Santa Fe, is owned by the Picuris Pueblo. It’s the only Native American hotel in the city and one of very few in the U.S.

The hotel’s award-winning collection of artwork, which represents more than a dozen tribes, is so impressive that at times it felt like we were staying in a gallery-meets-museum. That said, Hotel Santa Fe, and its exclusive on-site retreat, The Hacienda, are definitely family-friendly. Dogs are even welcome (for a $25 per night fee), too.

Top Tier Treatment at Hotel Santa Fe

Upon arrival, we were greeted by our own personal butler who was always happy to help us during our stay. All of The Hacienda butlers are basically walking guidebooks for Santa Fe. Of course, they also know everything about the property.

Our kids loved the hot tub, and they begged to come back in the summer to check out the beautiful outdoor pool, open seasonally. If you stay during Memorial Day through Labor Day, you can even enjoy dining, family style, in a traditional teepee.

Read More: A Journey of Discovering Native American Art in Santa Fe and Albuquerque

Dining at Hotel Santa Fe

Because we visited in December, we ate most of our meals in Hotel Santa Fe’s restaurant, Amaya. While my husband and I were huge fans of the Quesadilla Verde dish, the children wolfed down their Churro Waffles so fast I think they set a world record.

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The Hacienda also had an incredible continental breakfast, and every evening there was a nice spread of complimentary hors-d’oeuvres. It was nice knowing that if we overindulged, we could always make up for it in the fitness center.

Read More: Experience ‘Spirited’ Luxury at La Posada: A Haunted Hotel in New Mexico

The Spa at Hotel Santa Fe

The property also boasts a destination spa. Hotel Santa Fe is within walking distance of downtown, and after a long day of sightseeing I highly recommend treating yourself to the Moccasin Dance foot massage or the High Altitude Hydrating Facial. Since we’re from Colorado, it wasn’t hard to adjust to the elevation (nearly 7,000 feet).

We did have a tough time, however, leaving our room. Between the private balcony, cozy fireplace, and amazing butler service, we had no reason to leave!

Or did we? After all, in 2023 Santa Fe took the number two spot on Travel + Leisure’s list of America’s 15 favorite cities. Nicknamed “The City Different,” there’s no shortage of memorable things to do and see, whether you’re in town for two days or 10.

If you’ll be traveling with kids in tow, below are our family’s top five favorite things to do. (Yes, we did manage to leave Hotel Santa Fe after all.)

The Railyard

The Santa Fe Railyard is a lively arts and entertainment district in Santa Fe. Photo by Carri Wilbanks
The Santa Fe Railyard is a lively arts and entertainment district in Santa Fe. Photo by Carri Wilbanks

No trip to Santa Fe is complete without checking out its lively arts and entertainment district, The Railyard. The Saturday farmer’s market is hosted here, year-round, and every Sunday there’s also an artisan’s market.

Of course, if you visit during the week you can still enjoy The Railyard’s museums and all the welcoming outdoor space. There’s a playground for the kids, a performance green that hosts free live entertainment, plenty of shaded picnic spots, and access to the multi-use Santa Fe Rail Trail.

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Meow Wolf

Since 2008, Santa Fe has been home to the House of Eternal Return, Meow Wolf’s first permanent exhibition. It’s aptly named because you’ll definitely have to return to see everything. I didn’t personally count them, but there are more than 70 rooms, spread throughout 20,000 square feet.

Since all the rooms are highly interactive, you can’t just breeze through them. Plus, you’ll want to factor in time to visit the gift shop and the funky Float Cafe & Bar (I recommend the “Meowgarita”).

Downtown Santa Fe

Downtown Santa Fe. Photo by Canva
Downtown Santa Fe. Photo by Canva

Travel back in time via this historic neighborhood that’s home to the oldest church in the country. While it’s not as old as San Miguel Chapel, which dates back to around 1610, The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis Assisi is also worth checking out.

Kids can burn off any extra energy in the adjacent Cathedral Park. And when you need to refuel, we highly recommend The Shed, a downtown institution and winner of a “James Beard America’s Classics” award.

Santa Fe Children’s Museum

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While not the largest children’s museum we’ve been to, this beloved urban oasis (it serves more than 60,000 visitors annually), has plenty of hands-on exhibits including a water play space area, a toddler zone, a “make-and-take” craft corner, and a gem and minerals section with kid-friendly microscopes.

Outside, the massive backyard is currently being renovated to house a performance space in addition to the already-popular sandbox and community garden.

Bandelier National Monument

While it’s 40 miles west of Santa Fe, Bandelier came highly recommended to us by our butler at The Hacienda. Today, this national monument is a beautiful wilderness area. But as you hike, you’ll come across plenty of petroglyphs and cliff dwellings that suggest thousands of years of human occupation.

Our kids are too young, but if yours are 8 or older (and you time your trip right) you can even head out on a ranger-led full moon hike.

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Author Bio: Carri’s passion for travel was unlocked when she spent some years living across Europe and South America. She’s never been one to shy away from a new adventure, be it swimming with pigs in the Bahamas, bird watching in the Galapagos, or Heli-Hiking in British Columbia. And while she used to mostly travel solo, she now likes to hit the road with her 6-year-old son, 3-year-old daughter, and husband in tow.

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