Does spring break seem like a distant memory? I agree. Last month we had the pleasure of returning to the beautiful state of Arizona. We have family in Scottsdale, so we travel to the desert each year during the spring. This is one of my most favorite places to visit and a trip our family looks forward to year after year.
As we take different short trips each year, we have discovered that Arizona has plenty to offer both kids and parents alike. While we definitely enjoy a lot of down time, which includes swimming, sunshine, and Grandma babysitting, we also try to get out to explore more of the Scottsdale area and other parts of this beautiful state. This year, we drove north to Sedona to spend 3 days exploring ancient Native American ruins, touring the Red Rocks via a Pink Jeep tour, and swimming in a natural water slide. Below I offer some inspiration for your next (or first) trip to America’s Southwest:
In and Around Sedona
Driving from Scottsdale up 17 N through the Tonto National Forest, the scenery is breathtaking. As soon as you leave the “Valley of the Sun,” the saguaros fade away quickly and the landscape changes to low shrub. While it’s a short drive from Phoenix and Scottsdale (ideal for young families – around 2 hours), there was so much to see on the way.
Montezuma Castle & Well
On the very top of my list, Montezumas Castle is an absolute must-see. We were awestruck by the amazing engineering of this well-preserved dwelling built into the cliff side above Beaver Creek in the Verde River Valley. A very easy hike along a paved path leads visitors directly underneath the dwelling, which was built approximately between 1110 and 1425 AD. The kids were hot and their attention spans waned, but they enjoyed imagining themselves in the cliff dwelling as they toured the grounds and viewed the diarama which recreates daily life in this Singua village.
It’s also worth the drive to view Montezumas Well, a natural limestone sinkhole with a near constant flow of natural spring water. The well has been used for irrigation since the 8th century and you can see some of the original canal systems that are still in use today.
Pink Jeep Tours
Hands down, the Pink Jeep Tour was the family’s favorite activity of our entire trip! What a blast we all had traversing boulders and rocking our way thru the Red Rock Valley! This tour is not only filled with fun, roller coaster-like thrills sure to please squirmy kids but also takes you onto the Red Rocks without having to hike in (key when you have small children). Our tour guide, Mike, was very knowledgeable showing us geographical points of interest and educating us on the history of the valley, all the meanwhile taking us on the most thrilling of adventures. We took the 2 hour tour, which is the most popular, and choose a mid-morning time to avoid the afternoon heat. Although we didn’t spy any wildlife, we did see a flowering agave plant (which flowers only once during their 10-25 year lifetime and right before it dies), learned that the rocks get their red color from iron deposits, and we saw examples of the fault line running through the valley to the Colorado Plateau.
Not for the faint of heart, Slide Rock is a natural “waterslide” with rocks and deep pools perfect for water play. To note, the water is very cold. It was refreshing on a warm Arizona afternoon but it definitely took your breath away at first splash! Also, the slides are pretty rough and can move small kids quickly, so you would definitely only want your swimmers to partake. The park was filled with other families all having a great time (it was crowded but didn’t encroach on your fun time). Aside from a shaded picnic area, there are plenty of places along the river to soak in the heat on the rocks (and dry off) or seek shade on the banks.
Leaving Sedona on our way back to Scottsdale, we planned several stops. We first drove thru the very quant town of Cottonwood with plenty of antique shops and an amazing gem store. We then stopped at another site of an ancient Singua pueblo, Tuzigoot. Termed “crooked water” in Apache, the remains of a 110 room pueblo overlook the Verde River flood plain. You can buy a multi-day pass that allows you to visit all three sites (Montezumas Castle and Well, and Tuzigoot) and I would recommend stopping in at the ranger station. The kids got National Park passports which allows them to place unique stamps for each national park and monument we visit. We plan to fill them with more stamps soon…if only we can remember where we stored them upon our return home?!
Our final stop was a the old mining town of Jerome. Once a booming copper mine, Jerome is now a “ghost town” with a dwindling population due to the close of the mine in the mid-1950’s and the fact that it is slipping down the mountainside. The town boasts lots of fun history and spectacular views. We ate an outstanding lunch at Bobby D’s BBQ (a former Chinese restaurant originally built in 1899, supposedly still haunted by it’s owner). John and I found the Jerome history museum to be filled with interesting artifacts but it didn’t hold the kids’ attention. Instead we bribed them with ice cream.
Planning your own trip to Sedona? Want to learn more about Scottsdale or traveling to the Grand Canyon with kids? Shoot me a message with inquiries, as I’m happy to share more. Or leave a comment. Your questions and feedback could inspire more Arizona travel posts!
Thanks for reading! ~Jenn (and the Lovin fam)
This post was done in collaboration with Pink Jeep Tours. As you can always expect, all opinions shared on this blog are entirely my own.