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A Roadschool Guide to Santa Fe - The Flippin' Tilbys

A Roadschool Guide to Santa Fe

The Roadschoolers Guide to Santa Fe

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Santa Fe is the capital of the Land of Enchantment. New Mexico knows how to market their state – just read their slogan! Santa Fe is full of history, art, western culture and it’s all tucked into an enchanting desert backdrop. See what I did there? Why re-invent the wheel when someone smarter than you did all the work so you don’t have to? Let’s dive into the educational prep so you can teach your kids why this town is so enchanting.



An educational trip to Santa Fe wouldn’t be complete without hearing the voices of the people who have lived there the longest – the Pueblo. White Shell Water Place, by Richard Sanchez is a perfect place to start understanding the complex history of the Santa Fe Native Americans.

If you are wanting to read about the trade route that made Santa Fe what it is today then there are quite a few books about the Santa Fe Trail, including It Happened on the Santa Fe Trail , At the End of the Santa Fe Trail , All the Stars in the Sky, and Tree in The Trail.

If you are looking for something more visual to get your kids excited about visiting Santa Fe, Santa Fe Reflections is full of 250 stunning images that shows the festivals, markets, museums and more that makes Santa Fe such a great place.


Art is a huge part of Pueblo culture, as you will discover when you visit. With this particular trip, I thought it was important to find PUEBLO art projects, not just Native American. Each tribe has distinct art, culture, history, religion, etc. that can’t be  lumped into a grey bottle of ‘Native American’. Here are some of our favorite ones; El Pueblo At-Home Arts and Crafts, Pueblo Home and Landscape

Fun fact: So many movies have been filmed in Santa Fe! From Rent to The Lone Ranger, Hollywood loves filming in this beautiful city.


Although not the most educational, watching a few movies filmed in or about Santa Fe is a great way to get excited about visiting. A few to get you started are Thor (2011, filmed in Santa Fe), Jack Kelly’s longing for Santa Fe in Newsies (highly recommend), the mild rom-com Holiday in Santa Fe, and Johnny Depp’s The Lone Ranger.


A Taste Of History: The Santa Fe Trail  is a fun 25 minute overview of the History of the Santa Fe Trail and the foods travelers might have had. For a more broad historical account check out Painting Santa Fe, an hour long documentary taking Santa Fe from adobe pueblo to a world-renowned center of the arts.

We had so much fun with these resources, and better yet, we learned so much! Pro tip: pass the road-tripping hours by singing Santa Fe along with Jack Kelly because:

Dreams come true, Yes they do, In Sant Fe


Learning about Santa Fe’s rich culture is fun, but actually experiencing it in person is a whole other level. 


Santa Fe has a great line-up of arts and culture offerings but when we heard about Meow Wolf we knew we wanted to try this bowling alley turned collective immersive art installation. Their mission statement is to spur creativity and imagination through art and we felt every bit of that during our 4-hour exploration of the 20,000 sq ft installation. We did a little research here and here before heading out but really, the point of Meow Wolf is to explore, discover, be OK not understanding, and just experience it openly. Don’t overthink and try to find the ‘point’, but have fun picking up random clues. 

It is fairly expensive and no food is allowed in the experience, but it is very easy to exit at any point to go to your locker, bathrooms, or to the fun cafe. The experience was never scary at all for my somewhat timid children, although it was very, very stimulating. We would periodically find a quiet room (the geodome was our favorite) to chill and decompress before continuing on our explorations. 

Some other great (and more traditional) museums that offer rich roadschooling experiences are  Santa Fe Children’s Museum, Museum of Arts and Culture, Palace of the Governors.

 Food   One of our favorite ways of experiencing any culture or area is by its food, and food is one of the many things Santa Fe really delivers on. We started our trip by getting breakfast at the home of the original breakfast burrito, Tia Sofia’s, in downtown Santa Fe. While we waited for our egg-stuffed goodness to arrive, we hoped online and read about the history of the breakfast burrito. We ordered ours ‘Christmas Style’ and got both red and green chili’s. Yum! 

We also ate at The Shed and Tomasita’s during our visit and would highly recommend both of these family-friendly restaurants  to get your fill of authentic Southwest cuisine. This article is fantastic if you and your children are wanting to dive deeper into the history of the food of the Southwest.

Downtown Santa Fe

Downtown Santa Fe claims the title for being the oldest capital city in the United states. It’s a fantastic mix of traditional pueblo, old West, and Colonial Spanish style, and is a magical place to wander and explore. 

A great place to start is the traditional style Spanish square, where you can find countless handmade treasures laid out on colorful blankets and looked over by their makers. Next, check out the many shops and eateries along the square, and tour the historical Palace Of The Governors – kids are free!

Self-guided walking tours are one of our favorite ways to explore a city with kids, and Santa Fe has some fantastic choices!

Hot Springs

One of our favorite roadschooling activities is finding hot springs! Santa Fe has a variety of hot springs in the surrounding area, but many of them are in resorts and adult only.

We were able to find a few hike-in hot springs in the Jemez valley and ended up at the McCauley Warm Springs, a 4 mile round trip hike that was fairly steep but well worth it! We spent a good part of the day swimming, resting, and picnicking near the 3 idyllic pools.

Since most hot springs ‘out in the wild’ can attract individuals wanting to enjoy the waters in their birthday suits, be sure to walk ahead of your children to check things out. The water is not hot, it is warm-ish, so swimming on a cold day might not be enjoyable.

Bandelier National Monument

Native Americans have called the Santa Fe area home for thousands of years and one of the best places to feel their presence is at Bandelier National Monument, known as Tyuonyi village to the pueblo people. 

We spent an entire afternoon exploring this incredible cave-dwellers village, finding answers for the junior ranger pamphlet, and asking the friendly rangers questions. There are many caves that you can crawl inside and it is a great, hands on history experience. Bandelier is about an hour drive from Santa Fe and is fairly remote, so plan on taking food and spending a few hours!

To learn a little before you head out, check out this overview and watch Bandelier’s Official Movie.

Santa Fe is an amazing roadschool destination for all ages. Get out, go explore, and learn about what’s around you!


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