When I told friends, including Cara, I was planning a weekend to Winslow, Ariz., many of them asked “…why?”
The Petrified Forest had caught my eye, and I’m a wuss for day trips; I’d rather spend an overnight and break up a long day of car time, and Winslow was the nearest destination to the forest.
I agree, Winslow could easily be overlooked, but it’s got rock ‘n’ roll history, Route 66 vintage vibes and an incredible national park less than an hour away. Sounded like the makings of a good weekend getaway to me!
Read on for how we made a weekend out of Winslow, Ariz.
The entire reason for the trip, this national park is part designated wilderness, part archeological site. There’s ancient petroglyphs, guided walking trails, historic sites and animal encounters—something for everyone in your family!
The park has two entrances: the north and south sides. Online, you can find a lot of people recommend entering from the south side and here’s why: that’s where more of the natural petrified wood and nature experiences are.
The north side is more heavily focused on the human history from the Hopi buildings, Route 66 historic stops and even railroad tracks from the 1880 Santa Fe line.
Choose your own adventure knowing what your kids will be most interested in and start at whichever entrance works best for their interests. (Each side has a visitor’s center where kids can earn their junior ranger and junior paleontologist badges, plus the family dog can earn a ‘bark ranger’ badge as well—it’s super dog friendly.)
We started in the south end and spent most of our out-of-the-car time there. (Be warned, there is a lot of in the car, out of the car experiences, so if your kids hate getting in and out of the car, this may not be a great experience for them).
At the south entrance, we walked through the small yet fascinating museum (free) that had bronzed dinosaur and other early animal bronze castings and explained how the trees became petrified.
The exit of the museum leads you directly onto the trailhead for a nearly half-mile walking trail called Giant Logs which features some of the largest and most colorful logs in the park. “Old Faithful” at the top of the trail, is almost ten feet wide at the base! This paved trail has several sets of stairs and is not suitable for strollers; baby wearing is recommended. But it isn’t difficult, confident walkers can most certainly do this trail!
Next, we picnic lunched at the shaded picnic tables (there’s lots) and refilled our water bottles here. Be warned, there’s no food sold inside the park, so you need to pack a cooler.
Still at the south entrance, we trekked up one of the longer trails called Long Logs that’s just over 1.5 miles. I took Maverick’s jogger stroller on the path, and parts were most certainly bumpy, but doable. If I did it again, I’d plan to babywear him, though! This path is one of the largest concentrations of petrified wood in the park and it was neat to be able to see them all so up close.
After loading into the car, we followed the directions for the self-guided history and culture tour through the park. This guide’s directions are written from the north end, but it was easy to reverse them for our purposes.
For the remainder of the 28-mile driving route through the park, we used the car pullouts to stop at each area for quick photos and to see the sights. You can absolutely spend more time at each stop, but with little guys, getting in and out of the car wasn’t realistic for each stop.
Downtown Winslow is where you’ll find the famous photo opp of “Standin’ on the Corner” that The Eagles song immortalized. The park features a life-sized bronze of a guitar-carrying balladeer and a mural that depicts the girl in a flatbed Ford. It’s “kitsch” in a good way and for sure.
We went around 8 a.m. to avoid crowds, and it worked! We were the only ones standing on the corner! There was already a live musician singing old rock’n’roll, which added to the whole vibe.
Parent hack: Behind the photo opp is a grassy area with picnic tables and a small bandstand, perfect for getting wiggles out and having time for kids to snack and play.
Two blocks away from the classic photo opp is the Mion Museum inside the historic La Posada Hotel. Take some time to explore this historic hotel’s rich arts and culture scene (and yes, there’s board games and wood block toys to entertain little ones!) Their large gift shop is the best souvenir shop in downtown Winslow, too.
Don’t miss the hotel’s restaurant and bar, The Turquoise Room. We stopped in for happy hour for jalapeño margaritas and they were delightful. If you plan to dine here, call ahead; they were completely booked all weekend with reservations—if you didn’t have a reservation you could only get takeout.
Relic Road Brewing Company
I’m a sucker for a local brewery, so our first night’s stop was Relic Road Brewing Company (just across the street from “Standin’ on the Corner”). Oh-my-gosh this spot was a gem!
Twenty Arizona beers on tap, a dog-friendly patio and a scratch-made kitchen made this place a 10/10 for me. Very family friendly, the restaurant had delicious homemade mac ‘n’ cheese on the kids menu (Mav devoured it), and homemade ranch.
The menu puns riffed off of The Eagles song were fun to spot throughout the menu, too. My favorite was the ‘take-it-cheesy” grilled cheese.
Captain Tony’s Pizza & Pasta Emporium
A small-town version of a Peter Piper Pizza, this was so much fun to take Maverick to for dinner on our last night in town. Owned by a local dad himself (whose kids work there, too!), it is the perfect place to let your kids get silly, a little loud and run amuck.
The game room had fun for all ages with classic video arcade games (and plenty of them!) plus tons of little prize machines, too.
Typically, they offer both menu and buffet options, but due to COVID protocols they do the buffet a little different (but I liked it better than a normal buffet experience!). I ordered the salad buffet and simply told the server what I wanted in my salad—it was made better than I ever can make at a buffet, so I call that a win!!
Mav got meatballs with marinara sauce and we ordered the largest calzone of my life and honey bbq wings.
Parent hack: There are two pool tables in the middle of the game rooms if parents want to get a pitcher of beer and play while the kids play arcade games. (They have Arizona beers on tap!)
Where to stay
You may have noticed we didn’t dine out for breakfast at all—that’s because our hotel, the Best Western Winslow Inn, served hot breakfast each morning, a huge value when traveling with kids (who are also hungry as soon as they wake up). I’m talking bacon, eggs, biscuits and gravy, cheese omelets and more. This alone is one of the key reasons I prefer Best Western properties whenever traveling.
With COVID safety protocols in place, they have hotel staff plate your breakfast for you to take it back to your room to eat. Mav thought the breakfast picnic in bed was pretty neat, ha!
Another bonus of this property was the fridge in the room; it’s hard to keep a toddler fed and having the ability to pack real food in the fridge was a real perk. I had brought some chicken and chia seed pudding for him, plus our picnic fixings for the Petrified Forest trip. We also got a growler filled at Relic Road Brewery and was able to keep that cool as well.
Now that Maverick is more toddler than baby, I get why parents are thrilled when hotels have indoor pools to burn off energy year-round. The hotel staff were so kind and loved seeing Mav head to the pool each day.
If you haven’t stayed at a Best Western since you were a kid yourself, they have been updated a ton and are lovely properties. Best Westerns are honestly my first pick when traveling right now with Maverick (remember that’s where we stayed in Sedona back in the fall, too!), because the value is too good to pass by—plus there’s free WiFi!
Mchood Park & Clear Creek
Just a few miles outside of downtown Winslow is Clear Creek Canyon and a small park with a playground. Access is $7 a day per car, but this was the only playground we found near town, plus you can spend much more time here than just playing on the equipment.
There isn’t a large beach area, but there’s a small area where canoes load into the water that was shallow enough for small kids to play in. Older kids can jump right in—we saw lots of that while we were there!
The area is well maintained, clean and offers lots of picnic tables. I most certainly would return back here for more than the hour we spent here next time.