When you’re busy with daily life, even if you live in a spectacular landscape like northern Arizona, it’s easy to forget the wonders that surround you. This Spring Break, treat your kids to great adventures and experiences right here.
Our list of day trips will take you from the depths of the Grand Canyon to the urban bustle of Phoenix. They also run the gamut from a budget day to a super splurge (be sure to check out individual websites and Groupon for discounts). The best part is, you can spend every night in your own bed.
Here are a few suggestions on how to enjoy spring break from home:
Professional baseball teams have been coming to the Phoenix area for spring training in a warm climate since 1947. Back then just two teams, the Cleveland Indians and the New York Giants, traveled to Arizona to prepare for the regular season. Today, 15 teams train in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Known as the Cactus League, spring training includes daily games at venues across the Valley.
If your kids are sports fans, it’s a great way to see their favorite players up close and watch their favorite teams play. Plus, the games are inexpensive compared to regular season games; tickets can be purchased for as little as $5, with prices going into the $20 range. Games are played daily at 1:05 p.m., making it a perfect day trip from Flagstaff; you won’t even have to get up early.
There are Cactus League games in Glendale, Goodyear, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Surprise and Tempe. The participating teams are: Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals, California Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland A’s, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers.
A full schedule can be found at cactusleague.com.
Fishing with kids
Kids love to fish — especially if they can pretty much be guaranteed to catch a fish. This is what makes the Sedona Rainbow Trout Farm a great day trip. Located off Highway 89A before you get to uptown Sedona, the trout farm has everything you need — bait, poles and easy-to-catch fish.
Plan to get there mid-morning so the kids can catch their fish by lunchtime. Plan to pay $8 to $12 per fish, depending on the size. Then you can pay 50 cents to have your fish cleaned.
The facilities include grills and picnic tables and you can buy a “grill kit” (includes lemon, butter, salt, pepper, plate, fork, napkin and foil). You can also buy cold drinks. You’re also welcome to bring your own fixin’s so before you leave home, pack up some side dishes and drinks.
If the little ones are tired, head home. If not, check out the hiking options listed below. http://sedonarainbowtroutfarm.com.
Take a hike in Sedona
Get out your hiking boots and head south to the red rocks of Sedona for the day. Couch potatoes, hard-core hikers and everyone in between can find a perfect hike. Before you head down the Highway 89A switchbacks, stop at the overlook. The visitor’s center here has trail maps and Red Rock Pass parking permits.
Easy to moderate family hike options include:
— West Fork: The trail heads past the ruins of a homestead and follows the creek into the canyon. You can go as far as you like; turn around when you think you (or your kids) are halfway tired. This is a vendor-operated site and you have to pay $9 to park.
— Airport Mesa: The Sedona Airport is on a mesa just south of uptown and boasts a loop hike with the promise of a vortex visit. This is also the hot spot to watch the sunset.
— Secret Canyon: This is a moderate hike up a canyon — about 2.4 miles each way — with red rock views.
— Fay Canyon: A short 2.5 mile hike through a canyon with some great views.
By now, you’ll probably be hungry. If you have a picnic lunch, find a nice rock by the creek and enjoy your meal. Otherwise, stop for sandwiches at Indian Gardens Cafe and Market, 3951 N. State Route 89, or head to Tlaquepaque (336 State Route 179) to browse the shops and get a bite to eat at the Oak Creek Brewing Co.
Hualapai raft trip
The Hualapai Reservation is located on the rim of the Grand Canyon, about two hours west of Flagstaff and includes the famous Skywalk, a glass observation bridge suspended over the canyon. The Hualapai’s Grand Canyon West Rim attractions: the Skywalk and other overlooks, an Old West town, helicopter tours and horseback rides are a fun way to spend a day.
But for the more adventurous, the tribe also operates one-day whitewater rafting trips on the Colorado River. Visitors meet at the Hualapai Lodge in Peach Springs (from Flagstaff, drive west on I-40 to Seligman then continue west on Route 66) where they are bused down to the river, loaded into motorized rafts and taken down several rapids amid the breathtaking scenery of the canyon.
The boats stop for a side hike to a travertine waterfall and a picnic lunch. The trip ends with a dramatic helicopter ride from the river’s edge up to Grand Canyon West. From there, rafters are bused (a bumpy, two-hour ride) back to the lodge.
This is a great trip for families with older kids. The rafting season opens March 15, just in time for spring break. The water temperature is about 45-47 degrees all year and the March high temperatures are around 70 degrees.
Rafting is $381.36 per person. Reservations can be made by calling (888) 868-9378 or visiting grandcanyonwest.com.
Grand Canyon loop drive
As less expensive day-trip option to the Grand Canyon, drive to the canyon via Highway 180. Stop at the South Rim visitor’s center and pick up a Junior Ranger form. Spend some time at the South Rim exploring and helping your kids answer the Junior Ranger questions. Find an empty picnic table and enjoy a picnic lunch then treat the kids to an ice cream cone to enjoy on the porch of the El Tovar.
Back at the visitor’s center, the kids can turn in the form and earn an official Junior Ranger badge. Then get back in the car and head east on Highway 64. Stop and check out the Desert View Watchtower. Head out of the park. When you get to Highway 89, a right turn will take you back to Flagstaff.
But just to the left, the Cameron Trading Post makes for a great stop. A walk through the gallery is akin to a visit to a museum and the gardens are a treat. The restaurant features menu items including prickly pear French toast, Navajo tacos and Navajo beef stew and is a great place to stop for dinner. Back to Highway 89 and you’ll be home in time for bed. www.nps.gov/grca. camerontradingpost.com.
Stay in town
Spend a day as a tourist in Flagstaff. Start by exploring culture, anthropology, geology and history of the Colorado Plateau at the Museum of Northern Arizona. Just across the highway, visit the Pioneer Museum, where you can walk through old log homes and take a picture with the old steam engine. Back in town, walk around downtown and choose from a wide variety of lunch stops. Then continue your exploration of the past at the Riordan Mansion State Historic Park.
Finally, no tour of Flagstaff is complete with a stop at historic Lowell Observatory. During the day, telescopes will give you a close-up view of the sun. At night, see distant stars, planets and galaxies when night falls. Indoor astronomy exhibits complete the experience.
Another option: Hike the lava tubes in the morning and then head up to Snowbowl for lunch in the lodge followed by an afternoon on the slopes. Flagstaffarizona.org.
For animal lovers
Kids love animals and three nearby attractions let them get up close and person with a variety of critters.
— Out of Africa: Just under an hour’s drive from Flagstaff, Out of Africa offers safaris, tours, walks, observations, animal shows and even a zip line. Admission is $16.35 for kids, adults $32.75. OutofAfricaPark.com. From here, head into Cottonwood to check out the funky downtown with lots of good eats (and wine tasting for mom and dad). outofafricapark.com.
— Bearizona: In Williams, the Bearizona wildlife park features North American animals in a natural environment. You can drive through in your car or take a guided bus tour; it’s all included in the entry fee: children age 4-12 years $10, adults $20, kids 0-3 free. bearizona.com.
A less expensive option is the Deer Farm (adults $9.95, children 3-13 $5.95, younger kids are free) where kids can enjoy a petting zoo. Spend the afternoon in downtown Williams. deerfarm.com.