Taos, Santa Fe, thereabouts with small kids
April 30, 2021 1:31 PM   Subscribe

Vaccinated parents of two small children planning a road trip from Austin in late May/early June. We narrowed the destination to Taos or Santa Fe or nearby because that seems to be the right mix of 1.) manageable driving distance with 2.)a change of scenery. Looking for ideas, tips, and links on recommended home base rentals. This is our first time taking a trip as a family of 4 and we don't know what we don't know. We have two boys: a very active toddler (2.5 years old) an infant (7 months). We are looking for spacious home base, preferably with outdoor space for the toddler to stretch his legs. We would like to be somewhere where we could do outdoor activities, grab food, be comfortable with kids, and avoid large crowds/tourist areas. Please share any guidance on how we can best structure a long car ride with kids, places you stayed that you would recommend, sights you visited that small kids may enjoy, and how to make the trip also feel somewhat like a vacation for the parents.
posted by allthingsconsidered to Travel & Transportation around Santa Fe, NM (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
For your toddler in the car: get a bunch of small little toys (little figures, stickers, whatever--think birthday party favor-type items) and pack several different little bags or baggies with a few items each (maybe four things per bag). Your child should not know you have any of these things. Deploy these during the ride as needed, one at a time. When toddler is getting frustrated or irritable, hey! Here's a little bag of interesting new things! I did something like this when I did a drive of about five or six hours with just me and my active toddler, and it was a huge help. You can also carry interesting, new toddler-friendly treats or candy (like licorice, maybe?) and bring out one piece at a time, too, if you're okay with that. (Make it a car-only thing or something.)

I don't know if you all listen to any music as a family, but find some music that the toddler loves that you all can tolerate, and load up a playlist.

Are you going to do this drive in one or two days? I'd suggest two days, and I'd suggest taking it slow both days, with lots of breaks (like, don't ever go past a rest area with room to play without stopping and running around a bit), and stay overnight in a place with an outdoor pool.

And speaking of pools: I don't know how much you all swim at home, but access to a pool was a big part of making vacations go well when my kids were little. They burn up so much energy, and in hot places, it can be a real relief for the adults too.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:03 PM on April 30

When we went to Santa Fe with a 6 year old, we stayed at Inn of the Governors and appreciated having our own entrance (motel style), the heated pool, the breakfast buffet, and I think there were free cookies in the afternoon? It's right downtown so it's walkable. We visited the Botanical Garden and saw a family-friendly circus show at Wise Fool, hiked, saw art, and went to Meow Wolf. A family member lives there and she has said that there are rather a lot of tourists and mask wearing is not 100% - she is vaccinated but not going out due to the number of tourists.

Apart from the question of Taos/Santa Fe, I think when traveling with kids, it's best to have a lawn for balls and rolling around, a pool, a playground, and a couple of walk-around places like zoos, gardens, sculpture parks, spacious galleries, etc. I would choose based on the appeal of the walk-around places and then find a hotel near there with a pool.
posted by xo at 4:32 PM on April 30

it's worth looking driving scenic route 14, between albuquerque ans santa fe-- it's beautiful and scenic and if the kids are passed out in the back you could enjoy the sights and chat. there's a place called tinker town that's weird and might be visually stimulating for kids, it's semi outdoors.

diablo canyon is a very chill, flat hiking landscape that would be fine with a baby bjorn and a little walker.

more indoor stuff:
the parking lot of meowwolf has some pretty cool monumental sculptures so you could eat a picnic under a giant spider, but if inside has re-opened by the time you go, any kid who can walk would find it awesome and mind blowing. it's self contained so they can run around be amazed and they won't break anything. Very cool for adults of any age as well

there's also a cool weird pet store in santa fe not too far from meowwolf that is almost like a tiny zoo. jurassic pets- lots of snakes and lizards and stuff.

the international folk art museum might be cool for a toddler... there's a lot of dioramas in glass cases that are very cool and miniature, you could play a lot of "what's that?" & "do you see a...?"

also look up the sandia peak tram between albuquerque and santa fe perhaps. it's breathtaking and a novel container that a kid would find cool i think if they were well rested and down to gaze out the window.
posted by wowenthusiast at 10:08 PM on April 30

I live close to Santa Fe. I think the pet store @wowenthusiast mentions might have been Pete's Pets, but that's closed now.

You may want to consider the wetlands preserve (for the NM definition of wetlands), The Audubon center or Los Golondrinas for outdoorsy activities that aren't too far away.
posted by korej at 4:40 PM on May 1

Taos is great but it's pretty small! I had a good time there, but I'm an adult who likes cultural destinations (like the Taos Pueblo, which is currently not accepting visitors due to COVID, and the Earthship village). Taos doesn't have a zoo or anything like that, though it does have a lot of galleries. I think you'll get more city amenities in Santa Fe.

Re: the car ride, bring extra blankets and pillows. Kids get cranky when they can't get comfortable. Also, if you do screens at all, this is a good time to have the options for screens. You can get an adapter to mount a tablet to the back of your seat, and it can help on long car rides for sure.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 9:09 AM on May 3

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