New Mexico Feature

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Kids and Families

New Mexico is an underrated family destination. It doesn't have the major theme parks or obvious family attractions of some places, and artsy places like Santa Fe and Taos are seemingly adult-oriented. But much of the state, from cities to secluded parks and wilderness areas, offer plenty for kids and teenagers. The Land of Enchantment is rife with museums with interactive, high-tech exhibits, as well as historic sites—from ancient pueblos to the mountain villages in which Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett tussled. It's also a mecca for skiing, hiking, mountain biking, and plenty of other family-friendly activities.

Choosing a Place to Stay

You'll find a good variety of midpriced chain accommodations throughout the state's most visited regions—places that typically have pools, rooms that can be combined to become family suites, and helpful perks like refrigerators, microwaves, free breakfast buffets, and kids-stay-free policies. A more recent statewide development has been the opening of several large resorts operated by Indian Pueblos, most of them around Albuquerque and Santa Fe (the Hyatt Tamaya, Buffalo Thunder, Sandia, Hard Rock). Although these properties all feature casinos, they also abound with kids' attractions, including sprawling pools and athletic facilities. The Hard Rock has a bowling alley, arcade, and Laser Tag, while the Hyatt Tamaya offers horseback rides and presents family-oriented cultural activities like storytelling and bread-baking demonstrations. Also, the state's many inns and B&Bs often have at least one or two units well suited to families. Many of these smaller accommodations comprise a series of separate casitas, some with multiple bedrooms, kitchens, and extensive sitting areas.

What to See and Do

In the state's heavily visited north-central Rio Grande Valley, from Albuquerque to Taos, you'll find dozens of attractions popular with visitors of all ages. Albuquerque has the best variety: Albuquerque BioPark (with its aquarium and zoo), ¡Explora! interactive science museum, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, the hands-on New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, the National Hispanic Cultural Center, the International Balloon Museum, and the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway. You could easily keep kids entertained here for several days.

The museums of Santa Fe and Taos are better-suited to adults or older kids, although Santa Fe's Museum of International Folk Art and New Mexico History Museum have plenty of exhibits geared to all ages, and El Rancho de las Golondrinas living history museum is a must. What families also appreciate in these parts are the many outdoorsy pursuits—horseback rides and skiing, and opportunities to explore Native American culture at Bandelier National Monument and Taos Pueblo (Acoma Pueblo, an hour west of Albuquerque, also shouldn't be missed).

Elsewhere in the state, the regions with the greatest family appeal tend to be dominated as well by outdoorsy activities. White Sands National Monument and Carlsbad Caverns are favorites in the southern part of the state, and kids also love the Wild West culture of Lincoln, Fort Sumner, Ruidoso, and Cloudcroft.

The state's spicy regional cuisine is a legit concern if your kids aren't adventuresome eaters. But in just about any region with family attractions, restaurants typically offer a kids' menu with burgers, grilled cheese, and other more accessible foods.

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