Explore ancient civilizations, create your own “kids rule” work of art, make new animal friends, and discover strange and unusual facts about Santa Fe with our top walking tours recommendations for your family-friendly visit.
1. DiscoverSantaFe Scavenger Hunt
Explore deeply historical places on foot with the whole family on DiscoverSantaFe’s interactive scavenger hunt. Sink deep into roots and culture with this active 2.5-hour informational sightseeing tour that helps you roam to all the right spots through an artfully crafted mysterious game with a cliffhanger feel.
How does it work? Players purchase the hunt at www.www.discoversantafe.us and are sent codes that incentivize their walking tour with intriguing questions, clues, fun facts, and invitations to interact with selfies and comments for competitive points.
Whispers of ancient Santa Fe beckon all ages with historical hints that not only guide you but provoke introspection on some of the most important bygone and crystalizing moments of New Mexico’s “strange but true” history. You’ll stop at intense and emotional landmarks that denote history-altering events, bygone scenes of our ancestors, and lesser-known scandalous acts.
Here are some benefits that make this hunt a “must do” for your family trip to Santa Fe:
- What better way to bond than to learn completely new things together and use teamwork to complete goals? Even though there are purposeful points on the hunt, it really is a nice way to kick-off your trip or vacation to downtown Santa Fe because it exposes you to places you might not have otherwise noticed. You may find yourself making notes about places to come back to later.
- An exercised kid is a happy parent. With all the visual stimulation, walking, and interaction, both kids and adults will have used lots of energy and brain power to master this kid-friendly stroll with an informational twist.
- Competitive? Or do you just want to stroll and learn? You can divide your group into teams and compete for time and points or treat it like a guided tour. Fast paced and exciting or slower and ambling? It’s your choice. Either way, the hunt will intrigue you and give your whole group about two miles of mild exercise in Santa Fe’s lovely climate. And chances are you will experience one of New Mexico’s 300 days of sunshine.
- Just like Santa Fe, our scavenger hunt is dog friendly. Some vendors in Santa Fe Plaza leave water offerings in front of their shops for canine visitors but make sure to bring plenty of your own water for both the pooch and the whole family as the dry climate and attitude require extra attention to hydration, no matter the season.
- The hunt was crafted by local residents of Santa Fe to cater to families and groups. This discovery experience of architecture, ancient peoples, and historical happenings is as authentic as it gets!
- Whether you are a family of four with youngsters of different interests, or baby boomers on a wine tasting quest, the cadence of the hunt will make you happy. You can play the scavenger hunt when it fits into your schedule. You’ll have 2.5 hours to complete the whole walking tour but families with younger children or folks who like a rest here and there will be happy with the benches on the Santa Fe Plaza for a brief, pleasant rest stop and people-watching opportunity.
Ready to DiscoverSantaFe like a local? Go to: www.discoversantafe.us or call 505-522-3201.
2. La Cieneguilla Petroglyphs
Walk back in time and connect the dots from the Kokopelli tribal symbols you see all over the Southwest and see their origins on this beautiful mesa trail above the Santa Fe River. Most people recognize the hump-backed flute player symbol with much controversy on its intended meaning – but this sightseeing opportunity offers many more symbols to view, interpret, and speculate on. Human-like and animal-like figures abound on the dark boulder face just a short hike from the parking area.
Begin your adventure by prepping for comfort. The La Cieneguilla Petroglyphs trail is a poetic experience, with puffy clouds, blue skies, and views of the gorgeous mesa. Though you’ll reach the petroglyph viewing area in five or ten minutes, there are areas in which loose rock on inclines makes it wise to wear hiking boots and dress for the weather.
Once you hit the basalt cliffs you’ll stand in the same place local Puebloan, hunter-gatherer residents carved their stories into the rocks between the 13th and 17th centuries and be filled with awe. Bone blades and hole drilling are some methods used over the years to create these long lasting and intriguing hints of human communication. The Paseo Real is home to 4,400 of these images within less than a mile as recorded by a 1991 archeological survey. Knowing that you can also discover petroglyphs by accident while rogue hiking the cliffs of other nearby rivers like the Rio Grande helps stimulate thoughts about how the scattered communications may have worked together as a larger body of information used to form ancient societies.
Get the Most from Your Visit
Rather than just delve into this activity as a visual sightseeing opportunity, the whole family will get a fuller experience from your day with a little education ahead of time. Given the fact that there is legend around the characters and symbols you’ll see, also understand that archeologists and historians have different theories on their reasons and meanings. Some believe the people, birds, animals, and stars to be signs of fertility, plentiful hunting grounds, rejoicing in abundance, and the charting of courses and adventures – and some interpret some of these symbols as extraterrestrial activity.
We have some tips for you to get everyone in the family digging deep into this experience. Children especially can benefit from connecting the dots and drawing conclusions on this cultural stroll. Try posing these questions while at the site:
- Think about how easy it is for us to communicate important information by texting, laptop, and paper and pen – as opposed to the time and energy it would have taken to carve this iconography deep into rock faces. How does that influence your guesses about these communications being essential to survival or just for fun doodling or artist whimsy?
- Discuss possible meanings of these symbols.
- Consider what these early Native Americans were trying to communicate.
- Speculate on the reasons carving symbols on these rocks might be a good thing.
- Who would benefit from seeing these symbols?
- Can you think of other important recordings of history and compare their motivations?
Make sure to bring water and protect yourself from the sun with a hat and sunscreen. Arid climate and elevation effects can be much more comfortable if you stay hydrated and understand that people of all ages and fitness levels can grow more tired than usual if not acclimated to these factors. Keep on the lookout for rattlesnakes on the trail.
Respect this fragile, historical, and valuable archive of human history by leaving no trace. Do not touch the rock faces or images or remove anything from the site. Stay on designated paths to avoid degrading natural areas. Pack out all trash.
Directions to La Cieneguilla Petroglyphs: From the intersection of Airport Road and NM 599, continue west on Airport Road for 3.3 miles. There is a gravel parking area on the west side of the road and a BLM sign. Follow a trail marked by arrows for five to ten minutes to access the basalt cliffs where the petroglyphs are located.
3. Santa Fe Farmers’ Market
Grab your shopping basket and plan to spend a couple of slow, lazy hours tasting delicious, locally made treats, and shopping for produce, eggs, meat, chiles, honey, handmade artisan gifts, and apothecary personal care goods at one of the oldest farmer’s markets in the U.S. The soundtrack to this festive market is live music, lots of laughter, and conversation between knowledgeable vendors and visitors.
The underlying sentiment of this local market is truly family-friendly and a great way to emphasize the importance of community as each purchase you enjoy supports local farm families, promotes energy conservation, builds community, preserves open space and wildlife, and helps ensure farm security for future generations, which after all, is what family is all about, right?
One hundred percent of the grown goods available at this community-supported agricultural market are produced right in Northern New Mexico and 70% of ingredients used for its gift and specialty goods are also produced locally. You can find local artist treasures and fair-trade handmade crafts in the gift shop such as painted tiles, puppets, tea towels, and more.
Meandering around at open air markets always goes better with a cafe break so plan to stop Cafe Fresh, right inside the market shops area and try a Bhakti Chai or famous Green Drink made from local produce. If chocolate is your revival medicine, then head over to the Farmers’ Market Pavillion Cafe for pastries and donuts from local vendors while you get an eyeful of authentic
flavor and Santa Fe resident culture, as 70% of the market shoppers are local, according to a recent poll.
Pose the question of how shopping local creates and supports community to your family members and turn this into a critical thinking adventure. It’s a fun thing to think about while appreciating the bounty of goods hard-won by the vendors who supply us with so many of our day-to-day needs.
Another way to get the most from your day is to choose a favorite nearby hike or park ahead of time and use your shopping experience to create the perfect picnic. Kids will enjoy this local residents’ favorite park, Dale Ball Trails-Sierra Del Norte Trailhead, just a ten-minute drive from the market up Hyde Park Road. High, gorgeous vistas of Santa Fe with fresh, local gourmet treats . . . what could be better?
The kid-friendly Santa Fe Farmers’ Market is open Saturdays year-round, and Tuesdays May through November. It is located at the Market Pavilion at 1607 Paseo de Peralta (in the Railyard District). Check out the website for exact times and details at santafefarmersmarket.com or call 505-938-4098.
4. Kindred Spirits Animal Sanctuary
When you enter the gate of this homey animal sanctuary, you’ll be greeted by 20-25 old dogs of all sizes with wiggly butts, wagging tails, and big smiles. It is a happy place for senior horses, chickens, geese, and other old creatures lucky enough to make it there.
Your walking tour of this ecological, free roaming five acres is 45 minutes of fascinating facts about its senior animal residents, surrounding wildlife, and even microscopic soil critters. You’ll learn how the trees, dirt, microorganisms, and animals with each of their unique digestive systems and diets work together to balance a healthy universe. The undulating paths and variety of terrain give both the animals and visitors a stimulating walk and interactive experience.
Ulla Pedersen created this heaven on earth for discarded animals in 2002 with some friends after being an ICU nurse for many years. When she retired, she had all the caregiving skills she needed to take her animal advocacy to the next level. Originally from Denmark, she noticed very different attitudes toward seniors in the U.S. – a serious disregard for both elderly people in her tenure as a nurse, and also for old animals that she rescued when families just dumped them for having a problem as small as “a little piddle on the floor.”
She didn’t just help the animals in doing this though – she created a place of wonder and discovery for children and families who take the walking tour, volunteer, or work at the farm. The introductions and backgrounds visitors get on each animal build relationships. Much like a big party, the outing begins with a group who starts out as strangers, make deep connections, and become friends. Pedersen says she gets letters years after tours from people asking how their little brown hen friend is doing, or about other animals they bonded with.
As you hear about the likes and dislikes of each resident, what landed them at the farm, and who their besties are, the animals surround you and walk with you. There are no cages, no leashes, and very few boundaries, as Pedersen designed it to be as natural as possible so that full development and fulfillment of each resident can happen. She grows most of the homemade food for the animals on the farm with the help of volunteers and a few workers. This free and wholesome approach to caregiving works so well that the senior animals live to be older than most you have ever met. A good example of this is a Labrador who was admitted to the sanctuary at age 14 and lived vibrantly to age 22. She notices this pattern with many of the residents.
How much do you really know about chickens? Pedersen and her brothers grew up working in the poultry barn on her parents’ farm. “Our parents would give us sandwiches for the day, some shovels, and send us off to clean the barns. I always thought of them as my friends and kindred spirits.” Her knowledge gained by many years of close chicken relationships will entertain and enlighten you.
The takeaway for visitors is:
- Inspiration to see seniors in a new way and how they can thrive with a little extra attention.
- Being a caregiver is an honor and helps human beings grow to their full potential.
- Tools to be in harmony with the animals in our lives.
- Learning how trust is grown and can change everything.
- Meeting new animal and human friends.
- Taking a lovely walk in a mini heaven on earth.
Tours are by appointment with Covid-safe precautions.
Contact: 505-471-5366 to schedule.
Kindred Spirits Animal Sanctuary is located at 3749-A Highway 14 in Santa Fe.
See the website for details here: kindredspiritsnm.org
5. Dragonfly Art Studio for Kids and Adults
A family outing at this maker studio loaded with art materials and creative ideas is the perfect complement to an active day. We’ve included this in our walking tour list because it complements many of the art experiences one can have in Santa Fe and is above all interactive and engaging. Whether you have experienced the hypnotic sensory explosion of Meow Wolf, enjoyed the outdoor Canyon Road artists tour or Railyard Arts District, taking what you have seen to the next level and creating your own masterpiece is a perfect quiet and calming activity. With so much art to be inspired by in Santa Fe, taking the experience full circle and dabbling in a therapeutic family art project can give your feet a rest while proving how art influences the mind.
Winding down for quiet crafting time in this cozy and colorful workshop is a great way to keep your hands busy while sharing family stories, recalling recently viewed Santa Fe artists, or just catching up. One foot inside the studio exposes you to the collective imaginations of children and adults that will definitely inspire you to create your own masterpieces.
Interacting with family members through art is an intimate way to understand one another through trust and courage of expression, and the willingness to be vulnerable. Many people say, “I am not creative. I can’t even draw a straight line.” This guided studio experience proves many doubters wrong while strengthening family bonds.
Owner, Oceanna Holton, is your guide to creative expression. Her intention when she started teaching children art 21 years ago was to build confidence, encourage creative expression, and expose them to the many art mediums there are to choose from. Her studio shows that variety in its arrangement of materials for children and families set amidst an encouraging environment for the artist’s mind.
Holton often shares welcoming music and stories as a soundtrack to the creative sessions – as if you were a guest in her home. Purposeful display of mediums and tools for printmaking, painting, drawing, stuffed animal sewing, clay, embroidery, indigo dying, and more add to the warmth and welcoming of this encouraging salon.
The calm guided experience weaves coaching on how to use the art materials and encouragement of individuality with the history of related art, and why it is important. This puts both children and adults in the driver’s seat and crystallizes how important it is for them to not just view art, but to contribute to society by making and sharing it as well.
How will your trip to this desert artist haven shape the art you make at Dragonfly? We are pretty sure creating unique mementos as a family will recall your great idea to do something unusual in the City Different for years to come and express what the locals call “New Mexico True.”
Reserve your customized experience here: dragonflyartsf.com
Dragonfly Art Studio is located at 1513 3rd Street, Santa Fe, NM 87505.