If you are looking for family-friendly things to do this summer have you considered taking a road trip? In central Arizona, there is a lush region called the Verde Valley, with breathtaking landscapes, historical sites, and fun family-friendly excursions! Here are some of the must-see sights and things to do along the way…
The Red Rock Scenic Byway
Beginning just off I-17, this seven-and-a-half mile stretch of road traverses the spectacular scenery of the red rocks leading into the town of Sedona. As the byway winds through the Village of Oak Creek and through the piñon pines of the Coconino National Forest, it offers several pull-offs and scenic viewpoints where families can marvel at the landscapes. Famous sites like the Chapel of the Holy Cross and the renowned vortexes at Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock are also located along this road. The Red Rock Scenic Byway has been deemed “Arizona’s First All-American Road,” indicating that it is distinctly American and considered a destination in itself.
Family Fun Adventures
Take a break from driving, park your car, and take a trip down the Verde River or on the Verde Canyon Railroad – fun for everyone! The Verde Canyon Railroad launches from Clarkdale into the wilderness of the remote Verde Canyon, where Arizona’s beautiful high desert meets the unspoiled riparian. Passengers enjoy a close-up view of the canyon’s striking vistas of raw pristine nature. The Railroad offers a variety of special rides, such as Starlight Tour, Wild Splendor, and Ales on Rails.
The Verde River is a clear spring-fed river surrounded by a diverse landscape. There are several tour companies that offer a variety of canoe, kayak, and paddleboard excursions perfect for exploring the river and its bounty. The fishing is excellent with rainbow trout, largemouth bass, crayfish, sunfish, channel catfish, and more. (You will need licenses). Or just splash about in the river-it’s shallow, but mind the current! Spectacular State Parks & Heritage Sites
The Verde Valley is home to a variety of state parks that preserve the region’s profound natural beauty and provide havens for outdoor enthusiasts. Red Rock State Park is a 286-acre nature preserve that encompasses trails, verdant meadows, and a riparian habitat teeming with plants and wildlife along the banks of Oak Creek, also it’s an outstanding place for viewing the jaw-dropping red rock formations. Dead Horse Ranch State Park is across the Verde River from the town of Cottonwood. It has over 20 miles of trails, and 3 lagoons – making it a beautiful place to truly explore the natural environment of the Verde Valley. One of the most famous is Slide Rock State Park in Sedona’s Oak Creek Canyon, with its natural water slide – making this a fun stop for the whole family.
Built by the Sinagua peoples, who were ancestors of the Hopi, the Palatki and Honanki Heritage Sites were the largest cliff dwellings in the area when they were inhabited between 1150 and 1350 A.D. These fascinating remains are just minutes from Sedona. The Palatki Heritage Site includes three trails: one that leads to the cliff dwellings, one that takes visitors to a view of the dwelling, and one leading to pictographs created by the various groups of indigenous peoples that occupied the Verde Valley. Montezuma Castle is an impressive testament to the ingenuity of the Sinagua peoples. After admiring the structure, visitors can journey to the nearby Montezuma Well, which was an underground cavern that collapsed and filled with water. At 55 feet deep and 368 feet wide, the well is a lush desert oasis and a fascinating ecosystem that hosts a variety of rare plants, animals, and insects.
The Charming & “Haunting” Towns
The Verde Valley is dotted with historic small towns. Cottonwood and Clarkdale are two such towns. The small but bustling walkable center of Old Town Cottonwood is packed with an eclectic collection of restaurants, art galleries, antique shops, and family-friendly shopping. Clarkdale was founded in 1912 as a home for the miners of nearby Jerome and their families. It is the home of the Arizona Copper Art Museum, as well as a plethora of historic buildings and houses from the turn of the twentieth century. Located on a hilltop at 5,200 feet elevation, the tiny town of Jerome towers above the Verde Valley, offering stunning views and a tapestry of galleries, not to mention a few great ice cream shops! This historic copper mining town was founded in 1876 and was once the fourth largest city in what is now Arizona. It has since been dubbed the “Largest Ghost Town in America,” attracting many purveyors of the paranormal with ghost tours and allegedly haunted destinations like the Jerome Grand Hotel (a former mental institution). Jerome is now a thriving artist community, with galleries, restaurants (try the Asylum – it’s eerily good), and hotels inhabiting the town’s nineteenth-century buildings.
The Small City of Sedona
This beautiful town has long attracted tourists with its landscape of towering red rock canyons and numerous opportunities for hiking and outdoor exploration. Take a jeep tour, hot air balloon ride, there’s so much to see and do! Spiritual gurus are drawn to the area’s vortexes (sites where the strength of the earth’s energy is believed to promote healing and renewal). In recent years, Sedona’s arts scene has grown exponentially, leading The New York Times to call the city “a new west enclave of galleries.” From painting to sculpting to jewelry making, several different mediums of amazing artwork are represented at Sedona’s many galleries. Dining in Sedona is as eclectic as the art and as diverse as the landscape; family-friendly, pet-friendly, upscale, fast food, haute cuisine, American, Italian, Mexican, you name it Sedona has it!
Sedona is a must-see destination on any road trip through the Verde Valley, and El Portal Sedona Hotel offers an ideal family-friendly base for experiencing all that the city and the surrounding area have to discover. Located within walking distance of uptown Sedona and Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village, El Portal offers a unique lodging experience for guests and their pets. El Portal is a AAA Four Diamond Hotel and voted Best Pet-Friendly Hotel in the US by 10Best.com and USA Today. The pet-friendly hotel offers families and their furry friends unpretentious luxury in a tranquil setting. Guests have access to personalized concierge services for the Sedona area; owner Steve Segner is an avid outdoorsman and helps guests plan day trips, hikes, jeep, and wine tours, hot air balloon rides, tee times, spa treatments and more. Guests also have access to two swimming pools, a full gym, and basic spa services next door at Los Abrigados – just show them your key, it’s as easy as that! To book your Verde Valley Adventure, call 1.800.313.0017 or reserve online.