Jump in the car with the family and explore the beauty that Arizona has to offer with these unique Arizona Day Road Trips!
Chances are, if you are in Arizona, when holiday weekends roll around you look for somewhere to go. Somewhere unique perhaps to take the family.
I do the same, and it’s always fun to have ideas in mind. Some quirky, some educational, and some just plain amazing. I have done many of these round ups for weekend day trips, road trips and more, and they are always fun to keep handy.
You know, just in case you are looking for something to do!
Here are some quirky and unusual places you might consider visiting (if you haven’t done so yet!) — all are perfect for day trips with the kids without going all too far.
Asarco Open Pit Mine, Sahuarita
Take the kids to see a working, open-pit mine – the only open pit mine in Arizona open for tours without reservations. Mine tours are conducted Saturdays only – with the exception of major holidays. Mine tours are conducted at 9:30am, 11:00am, 12:30pm, 2:00pm, 3:30pm.
On your tour, you’ll see how copper ore is mined in the open-pit and then at the center you can see how it is processed in the mill to extract the copper minerals.
The mine tour begins at the Mineral Discovery Center. There you can purchase tickets for the tour and become familiar with the copper mining process in our exhibit center and video theater. There is no admission charge for the Mineral Discovery Center exhibits, Discovery Theater, or gift shop.
If you have kids, this is a wonderful learning experience with many interesting photo opportunities (including that big rig, above!)
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
Open 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The park has the largest Natural Travertine Bridge in the world – 183 feet high over a 400 foot long tunnel that is 150 feet at it’s widest point. You can enjoy the bridge from up top or hike down.
The park is $5 for adults 14 years and more, $2 for ages 7 – 13, and kids under the age of 6 are FREE. Head up to Payson on 87 North – at the traffic circle take the 2nd exit, and stay on AZ 87 N for another 8.6 miles, then turn Left on NF 583. The park is on the left.
Wigwam Village Motel, Holbrook
The Wigwam Village Hotel in Holbrook is located off Rte 66, and allows you the chance to sleep in a wigwam. FUN! The hotel was finished in 1950, and operated until the late 1970’s by Mr. Chester E. Lewis.
The 15 concrete and steel teepees are arranged in a semi circle. Each teepee is 21 ft wide at the base and 28 ft high. Rooms feature hand made hickory furniture, a sink, toilet, and shower.
While the original Wigwam Hotel had gas pumps, they are no longer in place. The hotel operated through the late 70’s, then Mr. Lewis sold it and it remained open – but only to sell gas. Years later, his wife and grown children re-purchased the property and reopened the motel in 1988.
The Motel is located at 811 W. Hopi Drive in Holbrook – click for reservations. Each teepee has a private bathroom with toilet and shower, a television and air conditioner.
Titan Missile Museum, Green Valley
The only megaton Missile Silo from the Cold War that is open to the public. The Titan Missile Museum is located on Duval Mine Road in Green Valley – a very low-key area perfect for a missile silo. The titan was the largest nuclear missile silo in the U.S. until it was decommissioned in 1982 by Ronald Reagan.
Inside, you can see a closeup of a missile used for training exercises (the original was moved when the silo became a museum). You can also see the control room and living quarters. Only a few nights each year can you arrange to sleep in the old quarters.
Our kids loved this museum and we always take family to it when they are in town. It’s quite a drive from Phoenix but definitely worth every minute.
The museum is located at 1580 Duval Mine Road in Sahuarita.
McMath Pierce Solar Telescope on Kitt Peak, Sells
This is the world’s largest instrument that is dedicated to studying the sun.It holds a 110′ tall tower and 200′ long diagonal shaft – and was completed in 1962. The main instrument behind the Telescope is a heliostat, which tracks the sun through the sky and focuses its light down the diagonal shaft. Not only is it the world’s largest telescope it is sensitive enough to observe bright stars at night.
Visit by driving 56 miles southwest of Tucson on SR 86 – located on the Tohono O’Odham Reservation (90 minutes from Tucson).
Large Binocular Telescope, Safford
The LBT in Safford is the largest telescope in the world – it has TWO very very large mirrors that act as eyes. Each is 27 ft across and 17.7 metric tons each. They allow for a resolution of a 75 ft telescope – actually, better clarity than the Hubble Space telescope, which is in space.
The Telescope is in the Arizona Pinaleno Mountains, and currently snaps pictures of the spiral galaxies, and more. The visitor center for the telescopes on Mount Graham is the Eastern Arizona College Discovery Park Campus. They do weekend tours of the Mount Graham International Observatory.
Tours begin in mid-May and run through mid-November. Permits are required to enter the refugium so advance reservations are required.
This city was one of experiment, constructed to show how urban conditions could be improved while minimizing destructive impact of the earth.
The original site was intended to house over 5,000 people but lack of funding lead to the problem. Right now the population varies – 50 to 150 people. There is a 5-story visitor center, gift shop and cafe, a community swimming pool, apartment residences, storefronts, and an outdoor amphitheater. Students often visit from around the world to participate in workshops.
Visit by heading North of Phoenix on 1-17, exit on 262 in Mayer. They are open 9 – 5, Monday through Saturday and 11 – 5 p.m. on Sundays. They are closed on major holidays.
Bucket of Blood Street, Holbrook
If you are up in Holbrook visiting the Wigwam Hotel, pop over to the Bucket of Blood Street — it’s a scene of gunfights that took place in 1886 that caused so much death between two rival groups of cowboys. The sheriff named the saloon “Buckets of Blood” and the bar ran until the early 20th century.
It’s now no longer open (lack of traffic) but you can still find the street on which the bar stood – it’s off 1-40. Follow the exit for 77 South, and the signs for the street are just past the railroad tracks.
Walnut Canyon, Flagstaff
Arizona has lots of cliff dwelling ruins – this is just another one to add to your list! Back in 1100 CE to 1250 CE, the Sinagua people of Arizona were a pre-Columbian people who lived in Walnut Canyon and built 80 dwellings beneath the ledges of limestone. They ran a trading empire that extended to Central America. For reasons we don’t know, they abandoned their community in Walnut Canyon. You can, however, still visit the ancient cliff dwelling ruins, as they are a protected national monument.
To get there, head north to Flagstaff on the 1-17, then go East on I-40 towards Albuquerque. Exit on 204, and go south to the visitor center, 3 miles down the road.
Coconino Lava River Cave, Coconino
This cave is located in the Coconino National Forest in Flagstaff – it’s MASSIVE. You can walk inside and have dozens of feet overhead. The cave is close to the surface above ground, too – the cave is open year round but the dirt roads might be difficult in winter months or when the weather is rainy/wet.
The cave is 0.75 mile – the longest in Arizona. Discovered in 1915, it was formed 650,000 and 700,000 years ago when lava erupted from a volcanic vent in (nearby) Hart Prairie. While people can tour, dogs are not recommended in the cave.
Tonto National Forest Cliff Dwellings
The Tonto National Monument is a National Monument in the Superstition Mountains, right in the heart of Gila County (central Arizona). Seven hundred years ago, the Tonto National Monument blended Native American cultures. You can see pottery, artifacts and more, from the northern Sonoran Desert dated from 1250 – 1450 AD.
It’s a fun place to visit and explore for people of all ages. It’s also close enough that it makes a wonderful day trip that can be accomplished in a few hours.
The Tonto National Monument is about a 2-hour drive from Phoenix, or 75 minute drive from the East Valley. To get there from Phoenix, take US60 east to Globe. Then travel north on HWY 188 until you reach the monument on the left side. There will be signs to direct you too the appropriate exit.
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