The last few years, we've thrown around the idea of taking our week off for Thanksgiving and making a road-trip out of it. We usually let time slip by, then before we know it, T-Day is a week away and we forgot to make plans, and are scrambling to put together some kind of side dish to bring to the feast. But not this past Thanksgiving... we actually NAILED IT. We threw around a few destination ideas, then settled on a 4 day trip to one of the 7 wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon. Brace yourselves, this is a long one!
SATURDAY: we hit the ground running' Saturday morning with the goal of getting from San Clemente, CA to our hotel just outside of Grand Canyon National park.
The kids were quick to appreciate the change in surroundings, from our coastal beach town, through a few cities, over some hills, and to the barren desert. Of course, they were armed with an iPad and a handful of movies for a mini-van's DVD player, BUT, we really scored with "The Great License Plate Hunt". It's pretty basic, the kids each had a sheet printed out, and crossed out license plates as they saw them. I was sure we would only see the few states that surround us, but to all of our surprise, we found well over 30 of the states! It led to good talks of what cool stuff is in our states and where they are in relation to us.
we made a quick lunch stop at Del Taco in Barstow. that may be a minor detail to most, but it's always a must for me, being one the first Del Taco establishments EVER. Trust me, it's a notch above all the rest.
Del Taco - 2871 Lenwood Rd. Barstow, Ca
After lunch it was pedal to the metal. We stopped in Kingman, AZ to hit a Redbox for some fresh movies. Fueled by some trail mix, we made it to our endpoint for the day at the Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon, which is just south of the park entrance. Good hotel with a vibey lodge, indoor pool and decent rooms. In hindsight, it would've been cooler to stay somewhere inside of the park, but it's all good.
SUNDAY: We got up at a decent hour and charged to the park. We took our first opportunity to check out the view at the south rim. It's truly breathtaking, and a little freaky, and totally worth it. The kids climbed on rocks (that weren't close to the cliff), then we checked out the main visitor center to watch a movie and grab some Jr. Ranger activity books. We took a quick hike on a trail that goes below the rim, saw some deer hanging by the train station, checked out another vista point, then by early afternoon decided we could move on! I'm looking forward to our next trip to the canyon when the dudes are a little older and we can actually do some bigger hikes, but I was still stoked to have the dudes see this at this early point in their lives.
The next stop was a surprise win for the trip... Flintstones Bedrock City in Williams, AZ. This stop is less than an hour south of the Canyon, and definitely an easy one. Now, my dudes have NEVER seen a minute of the Flintstones cartoons... but that didn't stop them from loving this place. It's a little village made up of houses, restaurants and statues of characters, and half of the attractions seem to be either broken or closed, but it still rules. Although it was a tad eerie, we all were happy for the opportunity to run around and take pictures with Fred and the gang.
Next, we made our way to the next big stop, downtown Willams, AZ. Williams is a proper Route 66 town with all the quirky diners, souvenir shops, and TONS of neon at night. We stayed at The Lodge on Route 66, which I can't recommend more. The rooms were perfectly sized with a little patio outside in the middle of everything for good hang time.
Dinner: Cruiser's Route 66 Cafe ruled. Pretty much straight out of Pixar's movie Cars, the food was good and price was right, with some local beers for me, and ice cream for the dudes.
Nighttime: The Polar Express Train on the Grand Canyon Railway. This stop is right out of the movie, minus the super weird CGI humans. You take a ride to the North Pole with hot chocolate and cookies along the way. Santa came aboard to say hello, and you sing Christmas carols all the way back to the station (it was about 1.5 hours roundtrip). The kids freaked in the best way possible, and we made it back to the hotel to watch the Flintstones on YouTube until everyone fell asleep.
MONDAY: Started the day off with a trip to the Deer Farm & Petting Zoo a few minutes east of downtown. Rad little place where we all got to feed some real life DEER! We made friends with a sweet camel and a friends goat, then hit the road towards our next stop Sedona!
Our hotel wasn't all that spectacular, but we had a few great adventures in town:
Slide Rock State Park: In the summer this place looks amazing, with natural river slides you can play in, but since it was winter we just hiked along the water, and climbed some beautiful red rocks.
Coffee Pot Restaurant: We were lucky enough to meet up with some friends here for breakfast. Definitely has the feel of more of a locals spot, which is nice. Great food, great service and they were awesome with our crew of 5 little dudes looking to spill anything they could get their hands on.
Hikes: We hit the hills for a hike up into the amazing red rocks that make Sedona so famous. You can't really go wrong here, but if you have a more hiking-friendly crew, it might be rad to explore a VORTEX. A vortex is a magical place where the Earth radiates a spiritual energy for meditation, healing or self discovery! Cool, right? We didn't make it to one because the hikes are generally greater than a couple of miles, but again, when my dudes are ready, we'll be there.
ET Encounter Diner: This place was a HIT. I saw another family post a shot of this place on Instagram, and it seemed like a win. The place is over the top, all aliens everything, but we loved every bit of it.
Sedona's hills are straight out of an old cowboy movie. Downtown was a little more slick than we were hoping for, but by trekking outside of the lines a little bit, it was a great stop.
TUESDAY: We then hit the road home, but made a nice warm stop in Palm Springs. We scored a ridiculous deal on a room at the Rancho Las Palmas, which was on a radar because of their crazy good pools. We spent all morning enjoying the lazy river and making our backs hurt on the water slides. Totally rad. We bookended the trip with lunch at Del Taco, a quick visit in the Shag art gallery/store, and a very necessary stop at the dinosaurs that Pee Wee's Big Adventure made so famous.
All in all, an amazing trip that we all will remember. And we made it home before Thanksgiving!