The Best Place for Kids

By Richard Mahler

Author of "New Mexico's Best"

The hands-on Santa Fe Children's Museum "offers kids a chance to learn by doing," says local writer (and parent) Catherine Coggan, author of Family Adventures in New Mexico. "There's a climbing wall, bubble-making machine, a contraption containing 180,000 metal pins, magnet exhibits, as well as snakes and other live animals that children can touch or hold."

Other highlights include a kind of human gyroscope, modeled on a device used by the astronauts to simulate weightlessness, and a pair of outdoor parabolic reflectors that throw voices over long distances. Special science and art classes are offered periodically, as well as puppet shows and concerts.

Coggan names Jackalope a runner-up in this category. The "folk art by the truckload" emporium has a prairie dog village, petting zoo, ice cream stand, and periodic fun events that include a Mexican jumping bean race and pumpkin-carving festival. There's an extensive greenhouse, and the main store is full of amazing toys and knickknacks-from African masks to Yugoslavian zithers. Ethnic craftspersons are often on hand to show how they create their work, and there's live music on the weekends.

If You Go: Suited to visitors 12 and under, the Santa Fe Children's Museum (505-989-8359) is at 1050 Old Pecos Trail and is open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. There is a fee, but admission is free for everyone the first Sunday of the month. Jackalope (505-471-8539) is at 2820 Cerrillos Road, open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

Insider Tip: Adults may want to make a side trip within the Children's Museum building to visit the Bataan Memorial Museum (505-474-1670), which displays some of the 30,000 items commemorating the large number of New Mexican soldiers involved in World War II's infamous Bataan Death March. Open 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily except Sunday. Admission is free.

Richard Mahler is author of "New Mexico's Best" and several other books. A journalist and photographer as well, he specializes in travel writing, among other subjects. He has contributed to National Public Radio since 1973 and to the Los Angeles Times since 1979. He has written thousands of articles for more than 100 magazines and newspapers, including The New Mexican, New Mexico magazine, and Santa Fean magazine. A longtime resident of New Mexico, he lives in Santa Fe.

For a full listing of Richard Mahler's books, and to place orders for them, visit

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