Family Trip To Arizona and Road Trip There With 12 Towns Visited
Throughout the year we take many short trips and a couple of longer family trips. One of the longer trips is usually a beach vacation the other is a national travel for about a week. This way we get diversity in our travels and have some fun experiences beyond just the beach.
This year we traveled across the coast (first for us with the kid) to Arizona. There, we planned a car road trip through several towns making a circle from Phoenix and seeing the variety of experiences and landscape that Arizona has to offer.
Many have asked us upon hearing that we are going to Arizona if we are going to Grand Canyon. After all, it is the Grand Canyon State, it states so on their state license plates. However, for this trip, we decided not to see the big hole. We have been there before, pre-baby, and we figured the kiddo was too young to enjoy it at this time.
Getting Ready For The Flight
For this trip, we decided to have two checked bags and two carry-ons as the major luggage. We also had our personal bags which were our favorite Lowepro bag, backpack with a cooler bottom, and a kid backpack.
In the larger suitcases, we (and that means my wife) packed everything using the eBags packing cubes. She was looking to make packing and unpacking during the road trip easier without having to remove everything and repack as we had 7 pit stops along the way. She divided up the larger packing cubes into the first half of trip and second half of the trip. This way during either portion we only need to open one to take out the cloth for the day. It made a big difference in getting dressed quickly every morning and out the door for our daily adventures.
Our tickets, passports, and all other travel related documents were neatly stored in the RFID Travel Passport Wallet
The kid has her own bag, the Brica By-My-Side Safety Harness Backpack. It is still the one we have used from a couple of years ago as a tether, and now it’s a travel treasure chest of toys and games. She has her favorite travel dolls and animals there. Plus a collection of light balls, trinkets, and coloring books.
Overheard on a plane flying across the US:
“I didn’t realize we will be flying over land the entire time.”In Arizona, we had quite an itinerary for our road trip. It included 12 towns: Phoneix, Tucson, Tombstone, Globe, Roosevelt, Willcox, Holbrook, Winslow, Flagstaff, Sedona, Camp Verde, and Scottsdale. To get us around all of these places we rented a car from Silvercar. This was our first time ever renting from them. Silvercar operates a fleet of vehicles 100% Audi. They were actually recently acquired by Audi due to this fact and renamed to Silvercar by Audi. Our rental was the Q5. It provided plenty of space for all 3 of us and all of our luggage. The car was brand new with just over 400 miles on it. Most importantly when you rent from Silvercar and you let them know you are traveling with a small child they will include a car seat with your rental. This was huge for us as we didn't have to figure out how to get a car seat at a destination nor have to drag one on the plane. The car seat was also new and was already in the car when we got it. The only caveat was that we had to install it ourselves. Though after doing this a couple of time in my car and setting up one in the in-law's car, it was a relatively easy task that took about 10-15 minutes.
The service we received from Silvercar was impeccable. While they could not deliver the car directly to the airport, they were waiting for us at the car rental lot. They also helped with full information on directions on how to get there. Moreover, they were communicating with us prior to the rental day, several times before we boarded the plane, and continued once we landed up until we drove off.
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Our first hotel stop was at Crown Plaza - only 10 min drive away from the airport. However, the conveniences of this hotel ended there. We were very disappointed with it as it did not at all live up to its name. There was no valet or any info where to park the car when we arrived. There was a very lazy bellboy. When I dropped off my wife and kid at the main entrance with bags, he didn't even move to help them load them and bring inside. My wife had to strongly ask him to assist.
The initial room we were given was very dirty and smelly. There were bottle caps on the floor and the sheets were covered in stains. We did get a better room after a complaint about the first one. It smelled better and was cleaner. Breakfast at the hotel was also bland and subpar. The positive thing that came out from this is that this hotel was the worst by comparison of all the others for the rest of our trip.
View from our window at Crown Plaza: Pueblo Grande Museum - though it didn't cool very grand
Off To The Adventure
After a quick breakfast,, we were off on our road trip towards Tucson.
No humidity they said. No rain in the desert they said, it will be hot they said. It rained all day on our drive and while we were in Tucson. It was supposed to be a scenic drive though we didn’t see that much due to rain. But we made the best of it. First stop was at the Whistle Stop Depot. While it did not look like much, after a couple of minutes there we found out how the name came to be. A locomotive train was going by and it was blowing its whistle as it was nearing and going through the spot. Though the trains no longer stop here, they still blow their whistle and it is a historic landmark.
We walked around the town for a bit to check out the sites. Though with rain getting stronger, we changed our route a bit to make a straight line to our lunch place, The Drunken Chicken. We have heard about the west coast waffle and chicken and wanted to get some for ourselves and this place had pretty good reviews. We got a plate with waffles and mini chicken pieces plus one with chicken strips. The food was very good.
In most larger towns in Arizona, parking meters accept credit cards and have the zone and meter ID on it. Write these down. We parked in the old town and walked some distance away in our strolling. With walking and stopping for the food we almost missed the timer expiring on the meter. I had to walk back and get the car with a few minutes to spare. If you download the app of the meter and have its ID, you can add on time wherever you are without worrying about going over or rushing back.
After lunch and a bit more strolling as the rain was finally over, we started out to our main destination in Tucson, the Tanque Verde Ranch.
For dinner at the ranch a couple of times a week they have a Cowboy Cookout where they set up the food and table outside under the stars. To our disappointment due to all of the rain the feast was moved inside that evening. We did still enjoy a great bbq meal with tasty sides. And while she didn't get to ring the dinner bell, our kiddo got to announce dinner was ready over a microphone to the entire place. We were both surprised and impressed.
The next day we had a full day of activities planned around the horses. While planning the trip we found out that the ranch had a kids club where they take your kid in the early morning and show them how to ride horses, have them ride horses, have meals, play time, and other activities. All of that without us having to be there. That meant that left us time to do our own stuff and be able to enjoy a horseback ride together.
We went to drop off the kid early in the morning as they were scheduled for a breakfast ride. When we got there, we were the first ones to sign up. As it turns out, she was the only one to sign up for the club that day. Best of all, they still went through all of the activities and took care of her the entire time. She had a blast as all of the attention was on her. She got to learn how to hold the reins, ride the horse, have breakfast with us at the pit stop we took in the middle of our ride (she was driven to the spot on a golf cart), ride some more, play in the kid's area, and swim in the pool to cool off.
We had a great time on our ride as well. It took us through some awesome scenery, up and down hills, and a lot of cacti around us. The breakfast pit stop consisted of freshly made on the spot pancakes. After fueling up, we got back on the horses and took a different route back to the ranch. On the way back, I ended up behind a horse that was not very friendly. According to the rider, it tended to want to kick other horses. While I tried to keep my horse a bit back from this one, mine didn't have much patience for very slower horses and kept trying to get ahead. As we were coming around the bend, the rider on the horse in front pulled on the reins too hard and the horse started to paddle backward all the way right into mine. With the big butt quickly coming upon us and not really slowing down, my horse Flash had nowhere to go as down off the path. There was a bit of a drop-off and so I halted the horse before it decided to venture further down. And then it got its footing, turned around, and got back onto the path.
For me, the most dreaded part about riding a horse these days is dismounting. I have a history of getting my foot stuck in the saddle stirrups when getting off. I have fallen a couple of times because of that. Thankfully, the ranch had real stirrups that were full width and the same on each side. This has not been the case when took rides in the Dominican Republic and similar destinations.
The room we had at the ranch cannot be called just a room. We had almost a full house. There was a large bedroom, a sitting room, large bathroom, many closets, an outdoor space, and a fireplace. We had the fireplace going the evening we got there as it was rainy and a bit chilly, plus the kiddo really wanted to curl up in front of it and read her bedtime books.
Also the first evening we use the indoor pool. We were the only people there and had the run of the place. The next day, we swam in the outdoor pool and there were some more folks there as well. Overall, we had a great time on the ranch with great accommodations and even better service and people.
After the ranch, we traveled further south to Tombstone. A town made famous by the movie by same name, Tombstone. We arrived there late in the evening, just in time to get some dinner before most of the places closed down for the night after 8pm. The food spot we chose was the Big Nose Kates Saloon. We were surprised at how many people were dressed up like cowboys and clothing of the times. Waiters were dressed up, but so were some of the patrons that came in for a drink or some food.
For the night, we stayed at Larian Motel that was only a block away from the main street. The manager there was friendly and gave us the keys to our room as soon as we pulled so we can get settled quickly since we were with a kid. The place was clean and comfortable, and quite accommodating.
While in Tombstone, we had breakfast an Old West Chuckwagon. As we found out, it is run by a husband and wife team. Wife is at the front working as hostess and waitress, while husband is in the kitchen making the food. And delicious food it was. We had some of the fluffiest tastiest pancakes around. The eggs and bacon were also delicious, and the meal revved us up for a day of exploring.
First stop in town was the BirdCage. It is a museum of the history of the wild west. It was a theater and a saloon all in one. There were shows put on stage, while a different type of shows was going on in the top balconies. It is $12 a person for adults, but worth the walkthrough as it pretty much covers all of the details and artifacts of the time. While there are other places around time, we found that this one included all in one space.
O.K. Corral is the famous spot for the gunfight from 1881. And they do have the show set up in the space set up for it, near the actual spot of O.K. Corral. While it is famous and most people go there, I went to see the gunfight at the Gunfight Palace. Wife and kid did not join me since the gunshots are very loud and kiddo would not be able to sit through the show. I enjoyed it. There was quite a bit of shooting and gun smoke. The acting was OK, the overall experience was great.
After meeting up with the ladies we stopped into some stores to get a souvenir t-shirt that I get from all of our travels. Next, we took a ride on a stagecoach that took us around town and a bit beyond the main street.
As it was getting quite hot, next stop was the ice cream parlor. I and kiddo got scoops of ice cream, while mommy got herself a milkshake to cool down.
After Tombstone, we started up back up North though more towards the East. Next on our itinerary was some boozing while kiddo is snoozing. We drove over to Willcox Wine Country and a couple of the wineries and after all of the day events, our kid passed out sleeping in the car. The first wine stop was at Golden Rule Vineyards. Not only did it have a great name, but it also has a great collection of wine and very tasty pistachios. They grow both grape and pistachios right on their property.
We did a flight of wines to sample and we liked just about everyone. The type of wines they had here was right for our palette. And the pistachios most definitely so. We ended up getting a bottle of red wine and a 2lb bag of pistachios. Also, we got to taste some of their grapes right off the vine as they were just about finished with the harvesting. These were some of the best sweetest tasting grapes on the vine I have tasted, and I have tasted several as I love grapes.
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» A (few) aspirins a day to keep headaches at bay
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