Vail Travel: Taking three generations to Santa Fe, New Mexico |

Vail Travel: Taking three generations to Santa Fe, New Mexico

Liana Moore
Special to the Daily
New Mexico is named Land of Enchantment for its stunning landscapes and rich history.
Liana Moore | Special to the Daily |


Taos, New Mexico

A detour to Taos will take you across the spectacular Rio Grande Gorge Bridge to a charming town known for its history, art and skiing. Here you can browse galleries, museums and enjoy New Mexican cuisine.

El Santuario de Chimayo

This religious shrine is known for its legends of miraculous healing. Though located seemingly in the middle of nowhere, some 300,000 people make a pilgrimage here annually, many walking from 30 to 90 miles away during Holy Week. Whether you visit for healing or history, it is a National Historic Landmark and well worth a short detour.

Mesa Verde

Slightly farther off the path, Mesa Verde is a place you must take time to see if you have any interest in American history. The Ancient Pueblo people flourished here approximately 1400 years ago, building elaborate stone communities in the sheltered alcoves of the canyon walls. It was designated a World Heritage Site in 1978.

When we think about a weekend getaway from Vail, we often make plans to go to Denver or another Colorado mountain town. But there is a whole different world of culture available with a beautiful five-and-a-half hour drive from Vail up through Leadville, Buena Vista and past Salida into northern New Mexico to Santa Fe.

The first time I visited Santa Fe was while working for Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival founder John Giovando, who made his permanent home in Santa Fe. At the time, I visited Santa Fe specifically to experience the Santa Fe Opera and Music from Angel Fire. That visit, we just touched on the sensory experiences Santa Fe has to offer, so recently we decided it was time to return, and with three generations of our family.

In addition to more art galleries than you could imagine, Santa Fe boasts a long list of museums and a full calendar of art exhibits and festivals. Here are a few we experienced, and a few others on our list for the next visit.

Meow Wolf

Meow Wolf bills itself as an immersive art experience. But really it is a multi-dimensional, multi-sensory place of discovery and imagination that was born of art. Part amusement park and part art experience, it is housed in an old bowling alley.

A secret agent greets visitors on a TV screen prior to entry. Facing an old house, visitors step up to the front porch and enter through the front door. You can explore the house, checking out the living room, kitchen, dining room or laundry room, or head upstairs to the bedrooms. You will see people crawling through the fireplace, stepping into the refrigerator or sliding through the dryer in the laundry room. You will follow suit.

We immediately chased our kids through the fireplace to a room with a huge dinosaur skeleton lit up in neon that you could tap to make music. Their grandparents followed right behind. This space led to another space, and another, each that was a unique new world.

Our family would return to Santa Fe again just to experience Meow Wolf again. It was the highlight for all three generations of our family.

Botanical Garden at Museum Hill

Visiting the Botanical Garden was an opportunity to see plants native to the area and learn a tiny bit about how indigenous people lived hundreds of years ago. Visitors will see and learn what a Horno is, a beehive-shaped mud oven used by Native Americans to cook bread, corn and meats. A fun sculpture exhibit by Dan, Arlo and Michael Namingha is scattered throughout the garden. Kids will enjoy a small area for digging and creating their own chalk art.

Museum Hill & Plaza Museums

While we only had time to explore the Botanical Garden at Museum Hill, there are two other museums in the area we would have liked to have visited: the Museum of International Folk Art and the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. Also, the Plaza in Santa Fe boasts the New Mexico History Museum and the New Mexico Museum of Art which houses a collection of Georgia O’Keeffe paintings. Or, you may just want to visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum itself.

Currents New Media Festival

We had the opportunity to visit the Currents New Media Festival, which runs through June 25. This is a free multimedia art festival in the Railyard. Some of the exhibits were very cool and fun, while I will admit there were others that I did not understand. All were interactive.

One of the more fun parts was watching the grand matriarch of our family try to figure out the Rotisserie Rickshaw, an exhibit where art meets science and food. There was also an exhibit where the kids could make their own cartoon video on a life-sized screen. A robot wandering the exhibit caught the attention of our preschooler. This festival, in its eighth year, was certainly something different to do and see.

Santa Fe Artists Market

Held both at the Cathedral Basilica downtown and at the Railyard, we took the opportunity to explore art from local artists and purchase some small souvenirs for the kids. They are still having fun with their puzzle art.

Street Art

Santa Fe is a city where you can find art in the most unexpected places, many times on the side of a building. We were lucky enough to spot some being created and stumble across more that was old and weathered.

Santa Fe Opera

The Santa Fe Opera opens June 30 for its 61st season. While the Santa Fe Opera does offer traditional opera productions, they are perhaps best known for their interesting premieres. The 2017 season features the premiere of “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs.” Whether you choose a traditional opera or something that pushes your comfort zone, the Opera House itself is a magical place to experience.

Lensic Center for Performing Arts

While we did not have the opportunity to see a performance at the Lensic Center ourselves, we were lucky enough to get to chat with the executive director just long enough to want to experience it on our next visit. The Lensic was built in 1931, fell in to disrepair and was revived in 2000 to be recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as an official project of Save America’s Treasures. Vail audiences may find some of the programming familiar from the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet to Chris Botti.

Canyon Road

This historic area in Santa Fe is lined with hundreds of galleries and boutiques and a full calendar of events.

Santa Fe Dining

In addition to these visual sensory experiences, you will want to experience authentic New Mexican cuisine in Santa Fe. It is as much of an art form as any of the museums or galleries. Make sure to try green chili in as many forms as possible, as well as a variety of moles.

Liana Moore is Chief Mama Blogger at Insider Families and Marketing Director at Antlers at Vail. She can be reached at, or

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