San Diego to Flagstaff w/ 2 kids; Interesting stuff on the way?
I hope I did this right. We are taking a road trip (our first with kids) on 3/21 through 3/25. The main destination is the Grand Canyon & Petrified Forest with a visit to Oatman and maybe stay overnight in Laughlin on the return, unless you have some better (fun) suggestions. I've already read a lot of interesting ideas. We'd like to make it interesting for the kids while driving but us adults also appreciate excellent food/wine (prime rib, mexican, hamburgers, sandwiches,???) for dinners while trying to stay within our limited budget. Any odd or interesting sights for 4 to 8 years olds are appreciated. I'm planning on traveling via the 40. Thank you and I look forward to hearing your input.
The secret to the Family Roadtrip
There have been lots of postings about this subject. You might try the gray search button (on the top of this page) and search all topics under Family. And I would suggest a quick reading of <a href = "http://www.roadtripamerica.com/OnTheRoad/On-the-Road-with-Chris-Epting.htm">Chris Epting's tips<a/> about this subject.
Plus, we have a few links and tips about <a href = "http://www.roadtripamerica.com/tips/families.htm">family road trips<a/>.
My 2 cents
That's a lot of miles for such a short period of time with young kids. San Diego to Kingman is 385 miles, Williams is almost 500 and would be pushing it for day one of travel. 3/21
Williams to Holbrook, a trip though the Petrified Forest and back to Holbrook is 200 miles. Day 2 3/22
Holbrook to Grand Canyon is 177 miles. Day 3 3/23
Grand Canyon to Laughlin, via Oatman is 225 miles. Day 4 3/24
Lauglin to San Diego is 345 miles Day 5 3/25
That means you will be moving and driving each and every day. IMHO, you would be better off dropping the Petrified Forest this time and just concentration on the Grand Canyon. You would be able to spend at least 2 nights here. Another thing to consider is the weather. It still snows this time of the year and it can make driving times a lot longer. Check the montly forcast for Flagstaff...it shows snow for that time of the month. (yah...I know weathermen are never right...but we have encountered snow in the Flagstaff area in March. The Grand Canyon is a higher elevation so if it does snow, they will get more.
san diego to grand canyon w/kids
Thanks for your input. I did add an extra day to the schedule so we weren't as rushed. We'll be leaving early monday morning instead, maybe visit Route 66 and spend the night in Flagstaff, from there we can decide which parks to see and when. I would also like to visit Canyon De Chelly. Are the Grand Canyon Caverns and the Meteor Crater worth taking the time to stop at?
I have printed directions and schedules off of Mapquest, does anyone know how accurate they are for time?
AND I have been searching out restaurants for the Flagstaff area. I understand "Rod's" in Williams is good for steak. Has anyone eaten at Kokopelli Bistro in Flagstaff? I love wine tasting and can't make it to their winery but their menu sounds delicious.
Not a fan of Mapquest
Personally, I think the underlying database utilized by Mapquest is not the best out there. Google.com has a mapping program and the one used by Msn.mappoint.com is even better.
No matter what the mapping programs, show, as a general rule it is impossible to average better than 53 mph over an six-eight hour driving period. In order to average 65 mph over eight hours it is necessary to drive faster than 85 mph most of that time.
If you can bend your schedule to include Cornville, you will be amazed at the cuisine served at the <a href = "http://www.roadtripamerica.com/eats/manzan.htm">Manzanita Inn<a/>
Family Trip: Canyon de Chelly, Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, Route 66, etc...
Hi fellow travelers,
We just returned from our first family vacation from San Diego to Arizona. I would like to share with you our experience. Our family included my husband, myself, and our two boys ages 4 and 8.
We left on monday 3/21/05 @ 3:45 a.m. and arrived in Flagstaff by 10:00 a.m. We were so ahead of schedule we decided to visit the Sunset Volcano Crater, this was interesting but I placed it at the bottom of my must-see list compared to what was to come.
We next went on to the Meteor Crater about 50 miles away (arrived @ 2:30 p.m.). This is definitely a MUST-SEE, we were all very impressed. Be sure to watch the informative short movie. A great gift shop for kids.
Our final destination for this first day was the Wigwam Teepees in Holbrook on the old Route 66 (we arrived @ 5:00 p.m.). If you're passing by Holbrook at least stop by for pictures and visit with the owners; John and his sister, and check out the classic cars. The kids enjoyed "sleeping in a Teepee". We asked about a place to eat in Holbrook (which consists of about 3 Mexican-AMERICAN restaurants and were directed to the famous "Joe & Aggies" Cafe down the street. My husband traveled Route 66 as a 5 year old and wanted us to be a part of his experience so he thoroughly enjoyed talking with one of the "older" owners and looking through the old photos. Living right next to the border we have wonderful Mexican food options in San Diego and I prefer "authentic", spicy Mexican food. This was definitely "AMERICAN" food and I'm sorry to say not up to our standards. At the very least stop and take pictures, get something to drink and check it out. Around the corner is the Dinosaur gift shop, another must see and photo op.
We left the next morning (Tues. 3/22 @ 7:00 a.m.) for Canyon De Chelly which I read about here. Just inside the 191 is "Chambers Trading Post" where you can get gas, Petrified wood and snacks. Since we hadn't eaten breakfast I asked for a "homemade tamale" as advertised out front. Now this was my idea of terrific Mexican food. They were hot, fresh, very spicy, and made with shredded beef ($2.00 ea.). DELICIOUS!
We reached Canyon De Chelly @ 9:00 a.m., I recommend visiting this beautiful place early while the sun is still rising. It was simply stunning! Since we were on a tight schedule we always asked the Rangers what areas were must-sees in 2-3 hours. We were able to see most of the look-out points and it's just amazing. Some people won't agree with me but I found it more interesting than the Grand Canyon! Now keep in mind I'm deathly afraid of heights and had to keep a tight hold on my 4 year old who is fearless. I would love to go back when the kids are older, stay overnight and take the truck tour through the river bottom.
On the way back we stopped at the Hubble Trading Post but didn't have time to visit and tour the outer buildings. The actual Trading Post was interesting enough, another must-see.
Our next stop was The Petrified Forest which we arrived @ 3:00 p.m. After checking in with the Rangers we watched the informative 20 minute film, unfortunately my exhausted 4 year old took this opportunity to fall asleep in my lap. We took turns with our 8 year old at the recommended look-outs. A definite MUST-SEE! I would like to return and take some of the longer walks through the forest, I know these would have been great to burn off some of the kids energy while getting closer to the actual "forest". If you're traveling with kids be sure to ask for the Junior Ranger Activity Booklet which they fill out while driving and turn in at the last station where they take an oath to protect the National Park and receive a badge, very cool. We did get to see a lone Pronghorn Antelope.
Our destination for the evening was Flagstaff but on the way I "had" to stop at "The Jackrabbit" and "Twin Arrows" on old Route 66 I'd seen here and on our way the day before. We made it to The Jackrabbit, got gas, souveniers, pictures and of course my husband had to stay and talk with the owner who showed him more great memorabilia. It was too dark to stop at the Twin Arrows so we'll have to save it for next time.
We arrived in Flagstaff @ 6:30 p.m., showered and raced out to find my choice of a dinner spot "Kokapelli Bistro" on Route 66 after looking up their winery and menu outside of Pheonix. Unfortunately I did not email first to double-check and they were not open @ 8:30 p.m. even though their sign said they close @ 9:00 p.m., so we ended up at Cocos which was fresh and good. There are lots of great restaurants in Flagstaff and the section of Route 66 is beautiful at night with lots of quaint shops. Another place to visit in the daytime.
We left @ 7:00 a.m. on wed 3/23 for The Grand Canyon from Flagstaff. It had snowed overnight and the drive through the higher elevations of Route 180 were beautiful with the pines covered in snow. My kids were just "itching" to get out in the snow and have snowball fights since they'd never really been in the snow before. As we dropped in elevation the snow disappeared and so did our hopes for snow-covered Grand Canyons, but as soon as we arrived at the front gates (9:00 a.m.) it started snowing! After waiting in a short line and parking we raced to the first view point which was just clear enough to see. We were then pounded with a stinging mini snow storm as we walked to the visitors center but that didn't stop us from having a little snowball fight on the way:) The North Rim was closed for the winter and they just started a new system where you can only take a bus to the South Rim unless you have a Handicap Placard in which case you are allowed to drive your car. By this time it was still a stinging snow storm and we had a long walk from the closest parking spot to the shuttle bus pick-up. After a short wait we were able to find a seat for ourselves. When we got to the first view point it was so cloudy and cold no one wanted off and everyone wanted on so we were standing room only after that with only the last 2 view points clearing up. We decided it was safe to get off at Hermits Rest (last stop) where they had hot chocolate, snacks, gifts, a warm fire and a beautiful view. They also offer a Jr. Ranger activity Booklet (Visitors Center) but this one has to be signed by a Ranger after attending one of their talks which you turn in, swear in, and receive another badge back at the Visitors Center. We took this opportunity to have a REAL snowball fight after we found a small snow bank. Even though we were not able to experience all of what the Grand Canyon has to offer I will always remember the fun time in the snow.
I arranged our trip ahead of time to make sure we ate Rods Steakhouse on Route 66 on Williams after reading about it here. We arrived @ 4:00 p.m. before rush hour. I was looking forward to the prime rib after hearing it recommended but was disappointed with the lack of flavor. If you're looking for a thick piece of meat....then order this. My favorite is at the Hunter Steakhouse here in San Diego, it melts in your mouth. My husband ordered the T-bone steak covered in sugar and then seared, this was tasty. They offer homemade biscuits with honey or butter and their tall margaritas were popular, I had wine in my own personal small bottle. Our oldest had the old stand-by of chicken strips which were good and once again the 4 year old passed out in my lap during dinner. I almost forgot another interesting item....the womens bathroom contains 2 stalls (can't speak for the mens) but the doors consist of frosted glass!! My 8 year old thought this was pretty interesting so we had to take pictures. I recommend stopping here and traveling the small strip of old Route 66 but be sure to bring your camera along!
After a great trip in Arizona it was time to head back towards California so we left @ 7:30 a.m. and headed towards The Grand Canyon Caverns in Peach Tree which we added at the last minute since we were doing great for time. We arrived @ 9:15 right before they started the first tour. I'm so glad we didn't miss this! It was fascinating, the guides and employees were very friendly. Their old-west-style restaurant looked like the food would be tasty and in fact the guide recommended it but we had already eaten breakfast. We did learn that it was recently purchased by 4 investors from California who plan to make it even better. It seems they've found out there are several other caverns existing underneath this one and hope to open up one in the next 5 years. A great place for kids and the caverns stay at a temperature of 56 degrees year round!
Our next stop was the ghost town in Oatman which I was really looking forward to. We came in from the scenic Route 66 which was just spectacular as you got within the last 10 miles of Oatman, beautiful rock formations, valleys and hillsides and this time of year there was lots of wildflowers. Next thing you know, we rounded the last hill and the small town of Oatman came into view….it was more than I’d hoped for. I was looking forward to seeing and feeding the burrows since I’m a fan of hoofed animals. We had about an hour to kill before the 1:30 “real gunfight” so we visited the historic Oatman Hotel where Clark Gable and Carol Lombard spent their honeymoon in 1939 which was “interesting”, hard to believe movie stars would choose this hotel to spend their first wedded night. For a snack we ordered a funnel cake in the lobby and it was THE BEST FUNNEL CAKE I’d ever eaten. We also fed the few donkeys that were in town at this time, you can purchase sliced carrots and alfalfa cubes to feed them for $1.00/bag so if you plan on stopping you might want to bring your own bags of carrots. I saw no trouble with the donkeys as far as temperment but they truly do not like dogs. A few of the old-timer donkeys even have their own orange cone parking spaces with their names on them. It was finally time for the gunfight, since the traffic drives right through the small town we had to form a human barrier so the gunfight could begin. The gunfighters are local “colorful” residents who volunteer their time and when they’re finished pass the hat and collect for The Shriners charity which to date have donated $26,000.00! We enjoyed the show and were ready to eat. A local tshirt salesman had recommended the café next door to the Hotel which we proceeded into, ordered, and promptly left after our order and waitress had not checked in after half an hour and we watched others get served before us! Upon asking for the check for our drinks all the waitress said was “Buffalo Burgers take a long time to make”, what’d they do, feshly kill one? I was sooooo disappointed since I like to eat Buffalo Burgers whenever I can and their “donkey ear” fries sounded interesting too. At least stop in this café because the walls are all lined with dollar bills! We went across the street to another café where it was cheaper, we were promptly served but the menu was your standard hot dogs, corn dogs, burgers, fries and chips, good for picky kids. We shared a “Donkey Breath” burger which consisted of a small hamburger with raw garlic paste spread over the patty, not bad. Both restaurants had live music (one individual) but the cheaper place had a better singer. It was enough to hold us over. As we’re leaving we noticed more donkeys came into town, some were very young and we were told to break off the carrots first so they wouldn’t choke. At one time I had 4 donkeys eating out of my hands. Now the weather was perfect this time of year since it reaches 116 degrees in the summerL
Our final destination for a hotel was Laughlin, NV, now I hadn’t been there in 18 years and my husband had never been there but we both enjoy Las Vegas when we can. I knew the river was beautiful and wanted a hotel on the water, after reading a few feedbacks I picked the Golden Nugget. Unfortunately I did not make a reservation even though I called the week before and they were wide open. We were lucky my husband spoke some Portuguese since he made friends with the gal from Brazil at the check in and she managed to “plead” a room for us even though they were sold out , unfortunately it was not a river view but very nice indeed. The hotel was very clean and well laid out, you don’t have to cut through the casino to get in and out unless you are going to the river. We dumped our luggage and took a walk behind the hotel on the “River Walk” before it got dark. There is fish food you could buy to feed the large, ever-present carp which the ducks promptly devoured. It was very beautiful and serene with colorful fresh perennial flowers lining the edges of sidewalk, log fences, and green grass for about the length of 3 hotels. We ran into a seasoned Laughlin traveler (with 5 kids) who said the greenery was all due to excess rains and would not look like this in the summer. We managed to find a small stretch of “beach” where the kids skipped stones and had a great time and a small man-made fountain-type stream where they would drop pennies on one side only to race to the other to watch them “race” down the drain. The dinner buffet was Seafood that night (it was very popular) which we waited in line an hour long line to eat, now I'm not a huge buffet fan but I know some of you are so I will share the menu with you. They offered; raw oysters on the half shell, crab legs, fried shrimp, fried fish, baked chicken, fresh salad, crab cakes, fairly tasty desserts and your usual assortment of accompanying side dishes, it was all fresh and well tended to. We then proceeded to take another walk. The next morning we took a walk down to The Edgewater for breakfast next to the Colorado Belle, who had an even bigger beach and larger selection of rocks for skipping. We left @ 11:00 a.m. and arrived in San Diego @ 3:30 p.m. very tired.
Now I would like to point out we made excellent time with only necessary stops ( gas, bathroom..), exceeding the speed limit only slightly, and the weather was cool. I can’t imagine visiting these places in the summer and dealing with the crowds and heat. We had a perfect vacation and my husband is already planning our next Spring Break vacation. I hope you enjoyed reading about our trip and it has helped you in some way. Thank you for your input and this website.
Last edited by Catonthemove; 03-29-2005 at 09:26 AM.
Reason: adding to descriptions
I noticed recently that there is some change in the theories scientists have about Meteor Crater -- I believe these had to do with the velocity of the impact. I too have always enjoyed my visits there.
I'm sorry Rod's wasn't as good as you'd hoped -- I have eaten there many times and have always had great tasting food there. Let's hope your tasteless cut was an aberration!
Perhaps next year we can convince you to come visit SOUTHERN Arizona...
I really enjoyed reading your lengthly report. I can't wait until our "RoadTrip Report" package is ready for deployment. It would be perfect for someone, like you, who is able to provide such detailed and timely information.
Enjoyed your report!
You must have two great little troupers because that was a lot of driving!
3:45 A.M....no wonder you could do so much!
Thank you and forgot the apple pie!
I'm glad you enjoyed reading it, if it hadn't been for this site I probably never would have documented it. Now whenever we share our trip with friends I pass out this report and they love it plus I can look back again and again!
I forgot to mention the HOMEMADE APPLE PIE @ Rod's Steakhouse was AWESOME, the best I'd ever eaten!!!! They offered three crust pies (one was cherry but I can't remember the other) plus cheesecake and other desserts.
Our 4 year old was not a good traveler prior to this trip in fact I dreaded being on the road with him, he's one of those that can't put himself to sleep when he's exhausted-even in a car-and gets even more energy when we get to a hotel. I did buy a portable DVD player but we only used it 4-5 times the entire trip, our 8 year old helped to keep him entertained-he's a seasoned traveler. They'd been so excited to go on a vacation the momentum just kept them going, being the last to go to sleep and the first to wake up (too early I must say) but it worked well for our busy schedule and they did sleep a straight 15 hours+ once they got in their own beds.