A Children’s Tour of Santa Fe

Touring Santa Fe with Children

 Special Sights, Sounds, and  Secrets of Santa Fe 

I See Santa Fe! Children's Guide ebook cover
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Exploring Downtown:

 The Most Decadent Breakfast in Santa Fe

Chocolate mousse at the French Pastry Shop! Located in La Fonda, the hotel at the corner of San Francisco Street and Old Santa Fe Trail, just off the Plaza toward the Cathedral. Baguettes with butter and strawberry jam are good too. They have lots of other pastries (and wonderful giant, butter cookies covered with almonds and dipped in chocolate), and even some healthy stuff.

Senior Murphy Candy

 Yummy! Especially the pinion (featured in I See Santa Fe!  by Libby Lynn and Moses James) candy. Also in La Fonda, but enter from the Old Santa Fe Trail side.

The Sheep Shop

Better than a petting zoo!  You can rub, pet, and snuggle furry sheepskins in front of the Overland Sheepskin Company under the portal on the south side of the Plaza, but only if your hands are VERY CLEAN!

The Bead Shop

The windows at Glorianna’s Beads (55 West Marcy Street)   suggest mysterious treasures. Inside find a world of ancient and modern beads, trinkets in all price ranges.

Palace of the Governors Gift Shop   

The silver and turquoise jewelry for sale under the Portal (front porch) of the Palace of the Governors is wonderful (featured in I See Santa Fe!  by Libby Lynn and Moses James) , but our favorite, and much less expensive, souvenirs are found in the Gift Shop (entrance around the corner on Washington Avenue). Somewhere, tucked away, they often (but not always) have little beaded cloth or leather turtle fetish pins from Zuni Pueblo.

Zuni fetishes are small animal “charms” usually carved stone (look in the shops around the Plaza). The Zunis associate turtles with long life, so these pins make fun, and maybe useful, gifts.

The Best Views of Santa Fe

1)      From the fifth floor Bell Tower Bar of La Fonda Hotel (just off the SE corner of the Plaza), open spring to fall. Even the kids can come up for a quick look, or a snack.

2)      From the Cross of the Martyrs in Ft. Marcy Park. Climb up the trail from Passeo de Peralta (between Otero and Marcy Streets). Pueblo warriors shot arrows and arquebus (a primitive type of musket) balls down on the Palace of the Governors from here during the successful Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The ruins of Old Fort Marcy, built in 1846, are also on this hill.

A Stroll through Green Santa Fe

Narrow green parks flank the Santa Fe River (featured in I See Santa Fe!  by Libby Lynn and Moses Jamesall through town. A nice, long stroll for the whole family runs from Old Santa Fe Trail downstream to Guadalupe Street  (then maybe finish with a trip to Tomasita’s for lunch or dinner).

The Loveliest Spot in Santa Fe: Sena Plaza

Enter this lovely plaza  from Palace Avenue about two blocks east of the Plaza for a quiet break from the rush: gardens, ancient trees, a splashing fountain (featured in I See Santa Fe!  by Libby Lynn and Moses James), benches, even the surrounding shops seem quiet. The kids can explore while the adults sit and relax (although a restaurant seems to be taking over more of Sena Plaza each year).

You need to climb in a car for these:


Not the legendary creature, but the legendary import store out on Cerrillos Road. Acres of interesting clothes, crafts, furniture, ornaments, pottery, and things that whistle, chime, bang, and rattle. Find treasures for young and old.

Storytelling at the Wheelwright Museum

Summer evenings in a lovely setting up among the museums.

The Children’s Museum

* * * The most fun place in Santa Fe for children! (featured in I See Santa Fe!  by Libby Lynn and Moses James).

A Geography Lesson

The Santa Fe Plaza (featured in I See Santa Fe!  by Libby Lynn and Moses James) was built at the end of the Santa Fe Trail.  Actually, that’s not quite right. The Plaza was there first. The Santa Fe Trail was laid out to end at the Santa Fe Plaza. Anyway, the Plaza is where the Santa Fe Trail ended.

Look along the south side of the Plaza (the side away from the Palace of the Governors) for a granite marker commemorating the End of the Santa Fe Trail.  Look closely at the map on it.  Can you see why the designer should have studied geography a little harder?

Hint: New Mexico is famous for making up one part of the Four Corners area, the only place in the United States where four states touch each other. Just which corner of New Mexico makes up our part of the Four Corners? What three other states does New Mexico touch? Did the mapmaker know that?

 Bishop Lamy’s Puzzle

In 1851 the cultured and aristocratic Bishop Lamy arrived in Santa Fe from refined and civilized France to “shape up” the Catholic Diocese of New Mexico. To his disgust, he arrived in a sleepy, backward town in the middle of a world of mud. Dejectedly he dismounted his fine horse at the outskirts of Santa Fe and walked through its mud streets lined with mud houses (for what was adobe but mud?). When he finally arrived at the grand parish church, where the several thousand Catholic souls of Santa Fe worshiped each Sunday and every holy day, it too was made of mud!

Bishop Lamy began to dream of building a magnificent cathedral in Santa Fe, like those he knew back home in France. Now Bishop Lamy was not just a dreamer. He made things happen. He quickly began to attack the three biggest obstacles to making his cathedral happen: money, materials, and a location to build his marvelous cathedral.

Bishop Lamy dealt with money and materials readily and routinely (although both were to become recurring problems as construction progressed). Location remained a puzzle, however. The location needed to be in the middle of the town, just like the parish church. The location needed to be large, just like where the parish church stood. And the location needed to be owned already by the Catholic Church: there was only enough money to either buy new land or build a cathedral, not both.

The Bishop finally realized that the only place to build his new cathedral was on the land where the parish church then stood.

It would take several years to build his magnificent cathedral. But the people could not go without services for years. Where could he continue to hold church services for thousands of people year round for several years while the cathedral was being built?

What a puzzle! Advisors offered many possible suggestions. Bishop Lamy finally selected one. It was the (almost) perfect solution! He was able to build his cathedral, while continuing to hold regular masses every day and large church services on Sundays and holy days.

Today we see Bishop Lamy’s magnificent cathedral (featured in I See Santa Fe!  by Libby Lynn and Moses James) at the top of San Francisco Street, with a statue of Bishop Lamy himself out front.


1)      If you were one of Bishop Lamy’s advisors, how many different solutions could you suggest to him to solve his puzzle of how to build his magnificent cathedral?

2)      Which solution do you think Bishop Lamy finally chose?

Trivia Trekking

As you trek through the streets of “The City Different,” see how much of this Santa Fe trivia you can track down.

The Missing Word

A tall pointy monument dedicated to soldiers stands in the middle of the Santa Fe Plaza (featured in I See Santa Fe!  by Libby Lynn and Moses James). If you read the writing on each side of the monument you will notice a rough blank space in the inscription on the north side (the side facing the Palace of the Governors).

One summer afternoon during the early 1970s an unknown but official-looking workman climbed over the fence surrounding this monument. He pulled a hammer and a chisel out of his overall pockets. As tourists and locals watched, he slowly and carefully chiseled away one word from the inscription. His work finished, he replaced his hammer and chisel in his overall pockets, climbed back over the fence, and walked off into the maze of streets north of the Plaza, never to be seen again.

Trivia Question: What word had so offended the unknown workman that he took matters (and hammer and chisel) into his own hands?

Top of the Towers

As you walk up San Francisco Street from the Plaza toward the Cathedral built under the direction of Catholic Bishop Lamy (featured in I See Santa Fe!  by Libby Lynn and Moses James), look at the tops of the two Cathedral bell towers. The tower on the left has several large blocks on the top. The tower on the right does not.

Trivia Question: What are those large blocks, and why are they there?

Hint: Bishop Lamy did not have enough money to finish his Cathedral the way he wanted it.

Over the Cathedral’s Front Door

Look at the stone carvings over the big front door of the Cathedral. At the center, find a triangle that has unusual writing inside it.

Trivia Questions: What language is the writing and what does it say?

Hint: Tradition says Bishop Lamy put this carving over the door because Santa Fe’s Jewish merchants contributed money to help build his Cathedral.

La Conquistadora’s Chapel Ceiling

Enter the Cathedral (quietly) and walk up to the front, close to the alter. Look straight up at the ceiling of the Cathedral. Notice how smooth and white it is. Now turn left (look down again before you start walking) and walk into the chapel that contains a small, richly dressed statue of the Virgin Mary, called “La Conquistadora” or “Our Lady of Peace.” Look up at the ceiling here. It looks very different, doesn’t it?

Trivia Question: Why is the ceiling in La Conquistadora’s Chapel so different from the rest of the Cathedral?

Hint: The answer is related to Bishop Lamy’s Puzzle.

Two Trees

You will see lots of trees while trekking around Santa Fe.

If you visit in the spring you will see many small trees covered with lovely white blossoms. If you visit in the summer these trees will be weighed down with lovely golden fruit. These are the apricot trees of Santa Fe. Apricot trees are not native to Santa Fe, or even to North America. They came from another continent.

Trivia Question: How did these trees get to Santa Fe?

In the spring you will also see lots of large bushes covered with purple-colored (actually, lilac-colored) flowers. These are the lilacs of Santa Fe. Often you see them growing along old acequias (Bonus Trivia Question: What is an acequia?). Like apricots, these are not native to Santa Fe.

Trivia Question: What famous person (whose name you already know) brought the first lilacs to Santa Fe to help “civilize” it?

Help from Governor Peralta

You can’t get lost in downtown Santa Fe. When in doubt say, “Follow me. I know exactly how to get to one of the main streets, Passeo de Peralta.” Then lead off in any direction and you will (magically) arrive at Passeo de Peralta, named after the Spanish Governor who founded Santa Fe. 

Trivia Question: Why?

~ ~ ~

Find the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of New Mexico’s capital city in
I See Santa Fe!  by Libby Lynn and Moses James

“should delight any child under ten”
New Mexico Magazine

I See Santa Fe! Children's Guide ebook cover
Ebook US $2.99
Paperback US $4.95
Available from these booksellers

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Book Publisher ~ Estab 1983