No matter what time of the year it is, parents are always looking for ways to entertain and distract children. Lucky for you, there’s a place in town built especially for this kind of activity. A short walk from the plaza, the Santa Fe Railyard as become a must-see for tourists, and a welcome addition for locals, as a hub of entertainment, shopping, dining, and events. Boasting 28 individual gardens, a vibrant children’s play area and rotating public art installations all-year long, there’s plenty to experience, including free workshops, classes and kids’ programs.
Where the Trains Are
Ever since the late 19th century, the Railyard has been a focal point for a special kind of transportation that ebbed in the late 20th century but is roaring back in the 21st as a more economic and environmentally friendly means of travel. Also, kids love trains! Consider introducing them to the concept of train travel with short trips on the New Mexico RailRunner Express – which offers commuter service between Belen, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe seven days a week. A day pass from Santa Fe to Albuquerque is $3 for adults, while kids 9 and under are free.
Or, as a special treat, consider taking the kids on a creative journey back in time with Sky Railway, which rolls out into the desert several times a week with a variety of adventures for adults and kids alike. What’s different here? This train isn’t on a timetable to get to a destination, which means it can roll at a much slower speed, allowing for riders to walk out onto the observation car and watch the beautiful landscapes flow by. Whether it’s the Stargazer, which offers telescopes and stories about the night sky, or Pablo the Dragon’s Holiday Train, which offers story time by none other than Mrs. Claus herself, the skies are the limit for imaginative kids.
Scattered throughout the Railway Park are a variety of family-friendly art galleries, studios, and performance spaces that welcome the little ones. Or maybe you’re looking for a place to feed the tykes after a morning or afternoon of playtime. The Santa Fe Railyard offers plenty of suggestions, with restaurants catering to every taste, including those of difficult eaters. Another choice treat is the Violet Crown Cinemas, offering 11 wall-to-wall screens showing blockbuster movies and independent films on a regular schedule, as well as reclining seats and tray tables for snacking on gourmet popcorn and other snacks.
Learning Can Be Fun
Another great way to entertain the kids, while educating them, is the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market, which takes over the Santa Fe Railyard every Saturday and Tuesday, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. For over twenty years the Farmers’ Market has brought hundreds of people to the Railyard for their food and shopping needs, making it one of the oldest, largest, and most successful grower’s market in the country. Because the Market specializes in locally grown and created products, your kids can get first-hand knowledge on how their food is grown, learning all about the thriving agricultural community of northern New Mexico. The vendors are very friendly and open to answering questions from little ones.
Educational Programs for Kids
One of the commitments of the Railyard Park Conservancy is providing education opportunities, for young and old alike. For those with kids, this is a great way to get kids interacting with nature, science, and more. Students in particular will find plenty to think about, including field trips and youth in-service programs. Here are just a few of the other options available.
- Saturdays during the summer are Sand Play days offering an opportunity for toddlers and elementary school children to get in touch with nature, by exploring, discovering and thinking creatively through sand, water, and utensils.
- Putting recycled items to work, the Conservancy’s Pop-Up Playground, or PUPs, program offers kids access to a wide array of materials, including wood pallets, logs, cardboard, hay bales, fabric, and paint. With these items, they are invited to build their own playground, by working together with other kids. Check the schedule to find out when the next PUP is planned.
- Free Kids Sing Along classes are orchestrated by the Queen Bee Music Association from 10 – 10:45 a.m., on Wednesdays. There, Sarah Jane and Teacher B lead classes through a variety of music games for toddlers and babies, featuring such favorites as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, and Dinosaurs Don’t Roar Anymore.
- Another favorite for kids and teens is the Railyard Park Scavenger Hunt. Younger kids are invited to identify items that are soft, rough, with legs, or with wings. Older kids are given the opportunity to think critically, while interacting with nature, finding the Acequia Madre, or even locating the time capsule in the Park. Versions are available in both English and Spanish.
- A special treat for parents and kids alike is the independent bookstore Bee Hive Books, on Monteuma Avenue. The shop has a wonderful selection of reading material, from picture books to young adult novels.
You can’t really go wrong taking your kids to Santa Fe Railyard. The trains alone are a huge draw, but there are tons of things to do like rock climbing, playing in a sandbox, or running around in a grassy field. For more information about Santa Fe Railyard Park, visit the website.