Santa Fe travel: 10 fun places to visit on your winter family trip

Planning a winter family trip? Santa Fe is a fun place for all ages. While there are no easy fixes like Disney World, Sea World, Busch Gardens or Six Flags, a little imagination and advanced planning will pay off with a trip that is sure to charm even the grumpiest child. Santa Fe has four distinct seasons. Winter weather can vary from temperate to really cold. Bring appropriate clothing. Here are some places the entire family will enjoy.

In and around town:

The Santa Fe Children’s Museum is a great place for families with young children. It’s an intimate space with hands-on interactive stations to delight the young. The museum’s enthusiastic volunteers will engage the kids in activities and parents can, too. The grounds also offer fun things to do including a greenhouse with a menagerie of small critters and an area with giant percussion instruments. The museum is a great place for children to indulge their natural curiosity and explore the world around them.

Santa Fe Children's Museum

Santa Fe Children’s Museum, photo Steve Collins

The Girard Wing at the Museum of International Folk Art will delight children of all ages. The museum is on Camino Lejo, dubbed Museum Hill, because it’s home to four museums. The Girard Gallery houses colorful folk art from more than 100 nations. There are dioramas filled with small colorful people and miniatures that kids can relate to. It’s a bright, happy, place; people leave with smiles on their faces. If you still have energy, check out the Museum of Indian Art and Culture on the north side of Millman Plaza, or come back another day. It’s a treasure trove of Native American art and artifacts.

Randall Davey Audubon Center sits at the end of Upper Canyon Road. Families can hike and explore nature at this local outpost of the National Audubon Society. The Center id on135 acres of land, surrounded by thousands of acres of National Forest and the protected lands of the Santa Fe River Watershed. They offer guided bird walks on the two nature trails. There are over130 species of rare and common birds as well as lots of plants and wildlife to see. A great trick with kids is to get them to sit quietly in the wood and see what animals will come by. If one shows up, they’ll remember it forever. Bundle up if it is cold and enjoy the day.

Museum of Indian Arts and Culture

Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, photo Steve Collins

Both Ski Santa Fe and Taos Ski Valley offer downhill skiing and snowboarding. The Santa Fe area is 45 minutes from town and the Taos ski area about 2 ¼ hours. Both offer lessons, rentals and packages. Cross-country skiing is also available in Santa Fe and the surrounding area. Snowshoeing, and sledding are also a great options.

Farther afield:

The Puye Cliffs are the ancestral home the Santa Clara Pueblo people. The site can only be visited on a guided tour. The guides, members of the Pueblo, are very knowledgeable about the history of their people. Tours vary somewhat, guide to guide. There are three tour options. The Cliff Side Tour climbs past the cliff dwellings. You can peer into, but not enter the caves. The Mesa Top Tour explores the remains of the ancestral Pueblo at the top. The Puye Experience Tour includes both the cliff dwellings and the mesa top. Sometimes the cliffs are closed to tours or advanced reservations are needed. Check with them in advance.

Bandelier National Monument, located about an hour north of Santa Fe, offers a trip into New Mexico’s history. First settled around the 12th century, the ancestors of the current-day Cochiti Pueblo lived here until the mid-fifteen hundreds. Visitors can view and in some cases access caves via ladders. There are petroglyphs and hiking trails. Due to the 2011 Las Conchas wildfire, some trails and areas remain closed, but there’s still a lot to see and do.

Cave at Bandelier, courtesy Bandelier Nsational Monument

Cave at Bandelier, courtesy Bandelier Nsational Monument

If you have time, visit Valles Caldera National Preserve, about 20 minutes west of Bandelier. Or make this your day’s destination. The caldera is a large depression caused by the collapse of land after a volcanic eruption. Valles Caldera is believed to be about a million and a half years old. The preserve, owned by the Federal Government, but privately administered encompasses 89,000 acres. Valles Caldera offers activities all year. They are open daily, reservations are needed for some activities they offer. Winter activities include cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and horse-drawn sleigh rides.

winter aspens, courtesy Karen Denison of Outspire

Winter aspens, courtesy Karen Denison of Outspire

You can also combine a visit to the Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos with a trip to either Bandelier or Valles Caldera. They are all in the same vicinity. The Bradbury, in the Los Alamos, home of the Atomic Bomb, has kid friendly interactive exhibits. There’s lots to interest parents, too.

Author’s note: As former hotel concierges, owners of a travel concierge and trip-planning business in Santa Fe, the writers may have at some time been guests of business or services mentioned in this post or may be guests in the future. These experiences do not influence our posts in any way. 


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8 Responses to “Santa Fe travel: 10 fun places to visit on your winter family trip”

  1. Charu
    December 2, 2019 at 9:19 am #

    I love the winter aspens, and loved the Bradbury Science Museum when I visited Los Alamos -we even walked down Bathtub row!

    • Billie Frank
      December 2, 2019 at 9:53 am #

      Glad you enjoyed it! I really enjoyed the Historical Society Museum. If you didn’t get to Puye and Bandelier, definitely put them on the next itinerary.

  2. Jim ODonnell
    December 6, 2019 at 9:15 am #

    I can proudly say I’ve done ALL of these and that everyone of them is an excellent suggestion. Admittedly, this Taoseno would rather be on the beach right now but….

    • Billie Frank
      December 6, 2019 at 9:33 am #

      And this Santa Fean would gladly join you!

  3. Pueblo Bonito bed & breakfast inn
    December 6, 2019 at 5:14 pm #

    Great Blog and information for Santa Fe winter travelers. Great suggestions for families, singles, or couples anytime of year! The snow just makes them even more fun and beautiful!

    • Billie Frank
      December 7, 2019 at 1:31 pm #

      Thank you so much. We want Santa Fe Travelers to be a resource for both locals and visitors to Santa Fe. Hope your guests enjoy and benefit from it.

  4. Mike's Road Trip
    May 25, 2019 at 9:17 pm #

    I visited Bandelier last year, just before the fire. I heard the park was closed for a long time, is it back open? I did a video on my experience if you’re interested in sharing with your readers:
    Mike’s Road Trip recently posted..Finalist for “Best of the Road”My Profile

    • Billie Frank
      May 26, 2019 at 6:15 am #

      Congratulations on your Rand McNally Best of the Road. Maybe you’ll make it to Santa Fe. There are two big fires that affected Bandelier. The Cerro Grande fire in 2000 and last summer’s Las Conchas Fire. They sustained a lot of damage last summer, but were able to open on a limited basis. They are working to get more things back to “normal” but it will never be the same. They lost the bottom of the Waterfall Trail that went down to the Rio Grande. It washed away in flooding after the fire. Flooding remains a big concern this year.

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