Itinerary: Family Road Trip Across Arizona’s Route 66

I am a huge fan of Route 66, so as you can imagine, an Arizona road trip is a dream for someone like me. We did this trip back in March over Spring Break and it was everything I imagined it could be.

Arizona Road Trip on Route 66

We started our week-long Arizona road trip in Las Vegas with a late-night flight from the east coast and an overnight at the Embassy Suites Las Vegas (we do love their omelets). I found the hotel online and it was perfect, as in, close to The Strip, but not too close.

Day One

Our first stop of the day was the Neon Museum to check out old hotel signs and hear stories from back in the day that included the likes of Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin. I tried to go the last two times I was in Las Vegas, but I got shut out because I waited too long to buy tickets.

This time I bought tickets well in advance and the one-hour tour did not disappoint. You can only see the restored and unrestored neon signs by way of guided tours that set off every hour. Snap lots of photos as you pass the signs because once you’ve walked by, you can’t go back.

Our next stop was Downtown Las Vegas for lunch at Nacho Daddy. Not only do I love nachos, but after lunch we were able to walk half a block to watch the zipliners fly down Fremont Street. As a bonus, there aren’t quite as many crazies here as there are on The Strip.

Once the kids were fueled up and ready to go, we drove to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area for one or two short hikes. I was eager to hike the 2.5-mile Calico Tanks Trail for the incredible views of The Strip, but it was not to be (I hiked it a year prior and it’s incredible).

Related article: 15 Fun Things to Do in Las Vegas with Kids

We arrived at peak time on a Sunday during a holiday week, so the park gate was closed to any more traffic. We couldn’t even enter to drive the 13-mile loop drive around the recreation area. I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised. It was a perfect day for a hike.

We drove past the park and found a trail just off the road at the suggestion of the officer at the gate. It was still quite nice, but I’ll be back another day for Calico Tanks. Other easy hikes for kids inside the park include the Lost Creek Trail (.75-mile) and Moenkopi Loop Trail (1.5 miles).

Day Two

Our first stop was the Mohave Museum of History & Arts in Kingman to check out the famous Route 66 murals. We also hit the Historic Route 66 Museum & Powerhouse Visitors Center on our Arizona road trip, which tells the story of Route 66 Arizona through photographs. They’re about a block apart from each other and one ticket gets you in to see both.

Once we had our fill of Route 66 Arizona history, we walked across the street to Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner for classic burgers, fries, and root beer. Apparently, Oprah came here and had the root beer (her photo is on the wall with a root beer), so now my son orders root beer everywhere he goes.

After lunch, we piled back into the rental minivan and were on our way to Seligman along a more desolate section of Route 66 Arizona. This section does not line up with the current I-40, so it’s not used nearly as much. We hopped out of the car for snaps of Giganticus Headicus, a 14-foot Tiki style head, Hackberry General Store, and Historic Seligman Sundries.

A stop on our Arizona road trip at Angel & Vilma Delgadillo’s Route 66 Gift Shop & Visitors Center is a must, not as much for the food at this walk-up joint, as for the antics of the employees. Ask for a straw and you may get a piece of hay (straw). Ask for a small soda and you may receive a soda in a medicine cup. We were definitely entertained after a day spent mostly in the car.

In late-afternoon, we rolled in to Williams, the gateway to the Grand Canyon (the town is about 50 miles south by car). I booked our stay at The Lodge on Route 66, a classic motel (not a chain) right on the main street. It was recently renovated and was absolutely perfect.

Day Three

Since this was my second time visiting the Grand Canyon, I was eager to check it out in a new way. So we boarded the steam train at the Grand Canyon Railway in Williams (just a few blocks from our motel) at 9:30 am and we were on our way.

But first, a Wild West show. At 9:15 am, train guests are treated to a 10-minute show featuring gunslingers, outlaws, and a law-abiding sheriff, of course. Then we were on our way for real, on a two-hour, 15-minute journey by train to the Grand Canyon.

There’s a lot to see out the windows, like scrubby brush and pine forests, but we were also entertained by a western singer taking requests and holding a sing-along. On the way back, we enjoyed a good old-fashioned train robbery, which doubled as a way for actors to collect tips.

Related article: 10 Things to Do When You Visit the Grand Canyon with Kids

In between, there was the Grand Canyon. The train arrived at the historic El Tovar Hotel at 11:45 am and we had nearly four hours to walk around and explore or take the shuttle to other parts of the park. That gave us plenty of time to eat lunch in the food court at Maswik Lodge and hike along the paved Rim Trail. We also made time for ice cream cones, of course.

Our train returned to the station at 5:45 pm, but in the summer, two trains go out and back each day, so if you need more time, you can get booked on the train that returns at 6:45 pm.

Day Four

We left Williams in the morning and continued east on our Arizona road trip to Holbrook along Route 66 Arizona. But first, a stop at Meteor Crater in Winslow, about 75 minutes from Williams. This massive crater in the earth was created by, yes, a huge meteor as we learned in the 10-minute film and on the one-hour tour along the rim of the crater (a guided tour is the only way to see the crater).

Next stop, lunch in Winslow, about 30 minutes from Meteor Crater. We ate at Relic Brewing Co. (delish) and snapped photos at Standin’ on the Corner Park. Yes, you too can be “standin’ on the corner in Winslow, Arizona” as the Eagles song goes. I also took photos of the huge Arizona 66 shield in the middle of the intersection.

It was then time to move on to Petrified Forest National Park. The highway literally cuts right through the park so there’s no reason not to stop in and explore. Make the Painted Desert Visitor Center on the north side of the park your first stop for a short park film before driving along the 28-mile road through this park. Also, be sure to grab a Junior Ranger activity booklet.

There are a lot of great stops to make in Petrified Forest National Park for scenic views, including The Teepees and Blue Mesa. We also walked the easy one-mile Painted Desert Rim Trail. On the south side, stop at Agate Bridge, Crystal Forest, and Giant Logs for petrified wood.

Related article: 5 Things You Must Do Near the Grand Canyon

The hikes in the park are nice and short. Just right for kids. We hiked the .4-mile Giant Logs Trail just behind the Rainbow Forest Museum. Be sure to note the park closing time before you go. When we were there the park closed at 6 pm. I didn’t realize it was closing so early so we ended up going through the park more quickly than I would have liked.

At the end of the day, we checked in to the Wigwam Motel, a total bucket list stay for me. These teepees built in the 1950s still stand today, and retain 1950s amenities. As in, no wi-fi, scratchy towels, and polyester bedding. But they are awesome. There were actually seven of these motels at one time, but just three remain today (the other two are in California and Kentucky).

Day Six

We made it nearly all the way to the border with New Mexico on our Arizona road trip before it was time to turn around to head back toward Flagstaff along Route 66 Arizona. I’d planned a couple of fun stops to break up the trip west, but they didn’t all work out as planned.

Related article: 8 Places to Spend the Night in a Teepee

I wanted to stop at the Rainbow Rock Shop in Holbrook to check out the specialty rocks and petrified wood, but even though it said it opened at 10 am, it was not open at 10:15 am. So I took a few quick photos of the huge dinosaur outside and we were on our way.

Next stop, Geronimo Trading Post. It’s right off the highway and they claimed to have the world’s largest petrified log, so I thought it was worth a stop. Well, I didn’t see this log and all the souvenirs were very expensive, so I was ready to move on.

A few more minutes down the road was Jack Rabbit Trading Post. They’ve got the famous “Here It Is” sign out front that’s in the Cars movie, so naturally I had to stop to take a photo. I also popped in the gift shop for a magnet, a bottle of Route 66 soda, and a copy of Route magazine.

We continued on to Flagstaff (geesh, there were a lot of stops that day) and took a quick spin around town before heading to Lowell Observatory, which is famous for its discovery of Pluto. The kids got to look at the sun, see the telescope used to discover the most famous dwarf planet, and check out the interactive exhibits just for kids. There’s also a Junior Astronomer program.

Day Seven

From Flagstaff, we took a day trip to Sedona. It’s less than an hour to Sedona by car and it cost so much less to stay in Flagstaff (like half as much). We stayed at the Wyndham Flagstaff Resort. I found this stay online too and it was actually a timeshare, so it was a three-bedroom condo with a kitchen, two bathrooms, and a washing machine. Perfect.

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In Sedona, we did a 50-minute guided tour with Sedona Trolley. The driver made several stops along the way to allow us to get off and take photos. It was a great way to start the day in Sedona, especially since we’d never been there before.

After the trolley tour, we drove to Red Rock Loop Drive and made a stop at Red Rock State Park. We did a short hike for views of Cathedral Rock, as well as Buddha Beach. So beautiful. We capped off our trip to Sedona with a drive up to Airport Mesa for what I think are the most incredible views in all of Sedona. You have to pay to park, but it’s so worth the couple of dollars.

For those eager to see more of Arizona from the comfort of the rails, book a ticket on the Verde Canyon Railroad. The train depot sits just 30 minutes west of Sedona, taking passengers on a scenic journey across the scrubby high desert and through a red rock canyon. It’s easily one of the most picturesque train rides in Arizona

Day Eight

On the last day of our Arizona road trip, we slowly made our way back along Route 66 Arizona to Las Vegas to fly home. It was a 4.5-hour drive to the airport, but I found some fun stops to make along the way to get out of the car and see a bit more of Arizona before we flew home.

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Just west of Flagstaff is Bearizona, a drive-thru wildlife park with bison, black bears, bighorn sheep, and mule deer. Grab a seat on the Wild Ride Bus, which departs four times each day for a guide-narrated driving tour of the park. There’s also a petting zoo and a walk-through area where you can pet sheep and goats. This stop was a big hit with my animal-loving kids.

About 90 minutes later, we stopped at Alpacas of the Southwest, which is run by one guy who will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about alpacas (as well as the federal government’s reach into agriculture). We also got to meet Ted, the resident alpaca who greets guests. He likes to take selfies too.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end and we were on our red-eye flight home to the east coast in the blink of an eye. However, it was a great trip that was just right for adults and kids. We will definitely be back another day.

Have you taken an Arizona road trip Historic Route 66? I’d love to hear about your experiences and favorite parts of your trip.