We just (and I do mean just) got back from our Spring Break trip this year. On the docket for this trip: State #10 for the boys. Arizona. I love the list of where we’ve been, but when I think of my goal and what’s left, being only 20 percent in is still a bit concerning. Let’s put this in real terms – my oldest in 8th grade. I have 4 years and counting.
That said, let’s get back on topic.
Arizona. Is stunning!! We had planned the trip so that we could explore a good portion of the state. Our itinerary included the following:
- Day 1 – Phoenix
- Day 2 – Sedona
- Day 3 – Grand Canyon/Flagstaff
- Day 4 – Flagstaff
- Days 5 thru 8 – Phoenix
Fair warning, it was quite a bit of car time. All told, we did 10 hours of driving in 4 days. The commitment was completely worth it in my mind. The change in elevation alone gains you outstanding scenery views, but the change in temperature, and therefore landscape, is just amazing. Desert to mountains to an incredible National wonder really can’t be beat.
When I describe vacations to friends, it is always in three main buckets. Things the kids loved, things we all loved, and things that are fun for just the parents (or adultish humans). On that note:
Slide Rock State Park, Sedona
I am not sure my explanation of this spot will do it justice. It is, per the power of Mother Nature , a naturally formed waterslide. The rocks have smoothed out under a river coming off the mountains. As a result, my oldest declared it the coldest water he has ever been in, but both he and my 11 yr old had a ton of fun “riding” down. Note: My boys are big for their ages (6 and 5.5 feet tall, respectively), so I would advocate sticking to older kiddos for this activity. They do need to hold their own with the current, and be able to stand at the end to pull themselves out. Neverfear, however, there are a ton of spots for some hiking and brief climbing around the river, and a few shallow spots where tiny humans can splash around to get in on the water fun.
Fractured Prune, Flagstaff and Phoenix
A design your own donut shop. So, basically, heaven. We have an unhealthy attachment to donuts in our house. (Can anyone suggest a healthy attachment to donuts?) Thus the planning of every vacation includes donut research. In the case of Arizona, research led us to several different locations of a glorious place called the Fractured Prune. Fun for kids big and small, as you can watch your donuts being made. They have the fryer visible through glass, where the donuts move up a shoot and drop so the staff can customize your glaze and toppings. The possibilities are endless. I think we were trying to figure out how to franchise such a place and bring it to Minnesota by the time we left.
The swimming pool, Phoenix
It is vacation, after all. Also, 0ur March week there was unseasonably hot. As in, mid-90’s toasty. For my three blonde, blue-eyed, very fair children, this meant lots and lots (and lots) of sunscreen. And since we are all used to 30’s – oh, and it was snowing here when we flew out – we pretty much lived in the pool.
Fun for All
My sister posted a pic with a caption that stated the “Grand Canyon didn’t disappoint”. She was greeted with someone’s apt response: “Duh! That’s why it’s not called the Meh Canyon”.
But I digress.
You could, quite easily, spend days at the Grand Canyon. Every view is slightly different. It’s huge, and majestic, and pretty much a jaw-dropper. My parents were taking us back there after their recent visit two years ago, and couldn’t stop at enough points along the rim.
Our favorite spots? The Watch Tower is straight-up spectacular. Walk the spiral staircase inside it (okay, my acrophobia may have gotten the better of me, but still) and have a 360 degree view for miles. The Rim Trail is also a fun hike. You can take any portion you like – some down into the Canyon, itself, and some along the upper edge (as the name would suggest.) All told, I think it is a 12 mile hike, if you want to be really adventurous.
One parental confession from the Grand Canyon: I bought a child safety harness. I know. In your head you just said “leash”. Me, too. But look, that’s one. very. long. drop.
Your four year old is super calm and well-behaved, you say? Mine is precocious and full of energy and has not even an ounce of fear. So I totally bribed him with pool toys from Target if he wore the wrist band that attached him to Daddy or me all day.
Did I once look cross-eyed at people who did such things? Yep. Was I young and childless at the time? Yep. Do I know it was likely a good decision, but acknowledge it still feels a little odd? Yep. Did I return to Minnesota with the same three children I left with? Yep.
Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock and Holy Cross Chapel, Sedona
I heard that Sedona is a place for couples, hence the reason we really only spent a day there. That said, there are a number of family friendly trails and viewing areas that everyone can enjoy. In our case, we started at the south end of town and worked our north, since we were driving to Flagstaff that evening.
We began at Cathedral Rock, then hiked around the park by Bell Rock and finally, saw the Holy Cross Chapel. All of them are gorgeous. The park near Cathedral Rock is neat, with little streams that our youngest thought were a great big playground. And my older boys loved the “Beware of Snakes” signs. Largely because they enjoyed the request to mind your small children, as I am 90% sure they were envisioning something eating their little brother.
Chapel of the Holy Cross was my favorite stop. It is peaceful, serene and beautiful. Even with 3 boys in tow. There is something about a church suspended on bluff – my raucous bunch becomes downright reverent.
Los Altenos, Flagstaff
Look, we all gotta eat. And it’s Arizona. We said the two things we needed to have before we left were good pizza (see below) and really good Mexican. The Really Good Mexican food was found here: Los Altenos. It looks like a whole in the wall, or the strip mall, because that’s where it’s located.
Venture inside, however, and you will meet an awesome crew that will guide you through their menu board. Of which I think we ordered one of everything. Family trip – there were 8 of us. We unanimously agreed that the pork carnitas in absolutely any form were the ticket. My husband had the enchilada, my son had the taco and my dad had the platter – proving that you could, actually, just eat it off of cardboard and it would still be amazing.
Huss Brewery and Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co., Phoenix
My sister and I took our first vaca night as a girls’ night out. While I research donuts, she researches beer. And since bakeries are a morning thing…
For Huss Brewery, if you are driving into an area that looks like it is all businesses/warehouses, stick with it. We almost bypassed it altogether. It is a super cute little stop with mostly “belly up to the bar” seating. We split a flight so we could try out a bunch of their flavors, which was an awesome way to go. Please try anything with coffee in it. Whatever coffee they use there is the most spectacular smelling stuff on the planet, imho. You could almost just sit there and sniff it, but that might be weird.
Arizona Wilderness is much more “pub-like”. (They also have fire pits!!) Their sours are pretty tasty here. I had the Blood Orange Gose, which is as yummy as it sounds. Additionally, their coffee flat (I think we were addicted after Huss) and the cherry IPA caught my sister’s eye and made it both to our table and fully escaped their glasses.
We ate on the brewery side of things here, too (I know, you’re sensing a theme). Because while Pizzicletta is one of the most recommended restaurants in Flagstaff, it is also crazy small. As in, one long table inside that they seat family-style. With 8 of us, we would filled that table on our own. Walk around the south side of the building and, voila – Mother Road Brewery.
Like the restaurant side, Mother Road doesn’t have a ton of indoor seating, but they do happen to have a fun, laid-back patio. They also happen to have Pizzicletta’s menu. Mmmm…. beer and pizza. Do yourself a tremendous favor and order the Amore oi Mari. Two words: prosciutto and arugula. Together they may solve the worlds problems. At Pizzicletta, they will, at the very least, provide a delicous dinner. I will recreate this pizza at some point in my kitchen.
Ever see the airline commercial that tells you to use your vacation? Amen. If you’ve followed my long-winded (worded) post this far, please take it one step further and put this on your calendar. While your kids are swatting at each other in the backseat, they will thank you for it.