October 26, 2016

From the Road: Arizona to California (Week Three)

It’s hard to believe that we’ve already been on the road four weeks (I’m still catching up on week three, as you can see). My husband was with us this whole week, which was definitely helpful, especially when there were sights I wanted to check out that I knew would be a no-go with the kids.

It was another week of bickering here and there and painfully slow wi-fi, but it was also a week of new sights and experiences, like rafting along the Colorado River, walking along the Las Vegas Strip and seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. 

Day 15: Page, AZ 

I’d been looking forward to this day of our trip for some time. We had at least six or seven hours on the road as we made our way from Albuquerque to Page. I’m not a big fan of long drives, but a stop along the way in Monument Valley made it worth the time in the car. If only I was a fan of westerns.

monument valley

We arrived in Page around 4 pm with just enough time for me to drop my husband and the kids off at the hotel so I could hop on the last tour of the slot canyons at Lower Antelope Canyon. I wish the kids would have wanted to check them out too, but honestly, after a long day in the car, I was glad to be on my own for an hour or two.

lower antelope canyon

Day 16: Tusayan, AZ

Before leaving Page for Tusayan to explore the Grand Canyon, we got up early for a half-day rafting trip along the Colorado River with Colorado River Discovery. It was more of scenic float near the Glen Canyon Dam, but it was just the right speed for a family with young children.

rafting the canyon

Before we left town for the Grand Canyon, it was a must to see Horseshoe Bend. There’s a lookout point in Page and the views did not disappoint. It was a hot day and the ¾-mile walk to Horseshoe Bend was across sandy paths, so I can’t say I’d recommend this with small children, especially since the walk back to the car was uphill.

Day 17: Tusayan, AZ

At last, the Grand Canyon. I’d been looking forward to seeing this wonder for ages. Tusayan is a great place to stay since it’s not even 15 minutes from the main South Rim entrance. There are only a handful of hotels and restaurants in Tusayan, which literally spans two or three blocks along one road, so book early if you want to stay in Tusayan. As a bonus, the park shuttle picks up in Tusayan.

I had a big day planned in the Grand Canyon, but naturally that fell apart. Still, I was able to walk along the rim trail to take in the views while my husband took the kids to the Yavapai Museum of Geology by park shuttle (I met them there on foot). We also caught a ranger program in the afternoon. I must have taken three dozen photos of the Grand Canyon. And yup, they mostly all look the same.

Day 18: Las Vegas, NV

On the way to Las Vegas, we made a couple of stops to break up the trip. First stop: Seligman, AZ. Supposedly, Seligman is the birthplace of historic Route 66, so naturally we found lots of touristy shops and trinkets to purchase in this small town.

seligmanOur next stop was Chloride, AZ. Chloride is also just off the highway on the way to Las Vegas and is a wild west ghost town. It was an old mining town, but it’s been abandoned since 1944. Still, you’ll find a restaurant and a couple of gift shops. And of course, we stopped at the Hoover Dam.

Late in the afternoon, we rolled in to Henderson (about 30 minutes outside Las Vegas) for our stay at the Westin Lake Las Vegas. This hotel was an oasis, for sure. There was a fantastic kids pool, a water slide, a ping-pong table and oversize chess and checker boards. More on our stay once I return home.

westin lake las vegas-pool

Day 19: Las Vegas, NV

My original plan was to get up early and go as a family to Valley of Fire State Park, but that was another plan that fell apart. It was just too hot and there was no way my kids would go for driving an hour to explore the park. Fortunately, my husband was with us and was game for spending the morning playing in the hotel pool with the kids.

valley of fire state park
 Valley of Fire State Park was amazing. The 100+ degree heat kept away many visitors and I felt like I was the only person in the park a few times. In the evening, we headed to the Strip for dinner at Buddy V’s in the Venetian. It was fun to visit the Strip, though it’s been awhile since I’d been to Vegas and I’d forgotten how long it can take to get to where you’re going from your parking garage.

Day 20: Irvine, CA

When we first rolled in to Orange County we drove straight to Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park. I was excited to check out a new theme park and Camp Snoopy at Knott’s Berry Farm was a real hit with the kids. There were loads of kids rides, as a well as a live show and opps to pose with Peanuts characters. We were exhausted when we finally checked in to our hotel in Irvine.

knotts berry farm-camp snoopy

Day 21: Long Beach, CA 

Before we made our way to Long Beach, we spent the morning at Irvine Regional Park. This is a fantastic park with a train around the park, bike and paddle boat rentals and a small zoo. The Orange County Zoo is a great size, making it easy for my 10 y.o. and I to work together on the children’s scavenger hunt.

irvine regional railroad

Next stop: Long Beach. The town is beautiful, for one, but I was most excited about staying the night aboard the Queen Mary. I was glad to learn after we’d checked out that the ship is supposedly haunted. There are plenty of ghost tours, so that should have been a tip. The ship is docked next to the port for Carnival ships, so we enjoyed waving good-bye to those passengers, too.

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