Close to Home: Santa Fe Children’s Museum & Rooftop lunch on the Plaza

This week we decided to visit Santa Fe but decided to avoid Museum Hill and the art scene. Granted, I have seen some amazing artwork up north, but Santa Fe has more to offer than art.

The last travel feature did not include Dustin, so I thought it would be fun to do a more kid-oriented trip this week. I have been wanting to visit the Santa Fe Children’s Museum for years and thought this was a great opportunity to finally check it out.

As usual, before we left, I had Dustin calculate how much gas would be needed to get to Santa Fe. It is 120 miles round trip, so Dustin determined that we would need $12.50 for gas at a rate of 35 miles per gallon, assuming gas prices are at about $3 per gallon. He also looked up the admission for the museum so we could plan our food budget ahead of time, since Santa Fe is notoriously expensive.

He looked it up online and they charge $7.50 for adults and $5 for kids. So he figured we had about $25 for lunch. Its not a huge budget for Santa Fe, but doable for two people.

There a few options for the drive to Santa Fe from Edgewood. I am a mountain kid, so I always prefer the back roads. We decided to take N.M. 344 through Cedar Grove down to N.M. 337 and then north to Interstate 25. The drive is beautiful, all evergreens, scrub oaks, wildflowers and breathtaking views of valleys and mesas. It’s one of my favorite drives and I usually go that way to go anywhere in Northern New Mexico from the East Mountains.

The Children’s Museum is off Old Pecos Trail, which is the last freeway exit in Santa Fe, and you can see the museum from the road.

When we got inside we were prepared to pay the admission prices Dustin found online but we ended up getting a teacher’s discount since we are homeschooling. Our admission ended up being $8.75 instead of $12.50. Either way, the price for admission is not high.

The museum is a little bit smaller than I was expecting. From the outside it seems a lot bigger. They had a couple of exhibits that were closed, so that could have been part of the illusion.

The museum was also more modern than I expected. There were information kiosks on topics like nanotechnology and solar power. Dustin and I spent most of our time playing with the wind tunnel, magnets and the bubble-making station.

Both the bubble and wind exhibits seemed to be quite popular with most of the kids we saw there. The wind tunnel is a giant tube that goes almost from the floor to the ceiling. Air is forced through the tube and there are lightweight items that people are encouraged to let loose inside the tunnel. You can watch them fly out of the top and gracefully float back down.

The bubble-making station is similar to the one they have at Explora in Albuquerque, where they have a giant-round tub filled with soap water, but the wands were way better quality and they had a larger variety of shapes to play with. Dustin and I like to make these stations at home as well and play around with strings and sticks and other homemade wands. After seeing these ones, we have some fresh ideas for metal coathanger repurposing into bubble wands.

Dustin was elated to find a single corn snake in the reptile corner and spent some time photographing it and showing off his snake knowledge. Herpetology is one of his passions and he spends a lot of time doing snake research at home.

The outside area is the coolest part of the museum, in my opinion. It is a garden play-land, complete with musical instruments, a play boat, an adobe clubhouse and lots of native plants. Designated garden patches are filled with vegetables and flowers. They also had fruit trees all over the place; I saw plums, peaches and apples.

I really enjoyed walking through that area and quizzing Dustin on all the plants. He knew quite a few. I have taught him a lot about our local flora, as we do a lot of foraging and gardening at home, and I was pleased to see how many he knew.

We also spent quite a bit of time with the outdoor musical instruments. They had a vertical xylophone and two different sets of chimes. One set was more like a xylophone where you could tap on individual pipes and the other was more traditional; the wind could make the noise or you could.

After we played we decided to find food. I let Dustin pick the restaurant with only one rule: No pizza. He is crazy about pizza and I am burned out. We used Google to find some restaurants and Dustin found one called Coyote Cafe.

The Coyote Cafe was not far from the museum and we got there in about 10 minutes. It is a rooftop cantina-style restaurant on the plaza. Unfortunately, the focus was really on cocktails and not food. They did have real food though, and not just bar snacks.

Because it was on the plaza, the menu was quite expensive and Dustin had his first taste of the tourist traps of Santa Fe. We had to split a green chile cheeseburger and juice to make our budget work. Next time we will definitely be sticking to hole-in-the-wall restaurants like most locals do.

The plaza is old and all the buildings are adobe. Santa Fe is the oldest city in New Mexico, so it is a great place to check out if you have never been. They also have a public parking area because the streets are quite narrow. It is a neat place to walk around in, as there are lots of little shops and tons of food.