Arizona Road TripApril 27, 2012 No Comments
Okay, so we started in Phoenix, Arizona. There was business to do, a really nice hotel with a really nice swimming pool that should keep the kids occupied. And it did, while the business was being conducted. But when a full few days for family fun turned up, we’d had enough fun in the sun. So we headed north and west, to two small towns in pretty mountainous settings with a historic vibe, nice strolls, good food, and some lodging choices far different from the sleek commercial property that had been housing us.
Taking Scenic Highway 89A to Jerome, Arizona
We’d had highway 89A recommended to us as a greatly scenic drive several years ago, and decided to check it out this trip. Jerome, Arizona is reached via many twists and turns in the road. It’s a former copper mining town with a wild history of debauchery and fires. Today, it’s a quaint art mecca with a fascinating mining museum and a population between three and six hundred residents, many with an artistic bent. In fact, there are more than thirty galleries and artists studios in town, and if you reach this pretty little town on a Saturday, there’s a monthly art walk. The Old Jerome High School houses many artists and their studios. And since visitors come for the art but not in huge packs daily, the artists are glad to show their wares, and friendly to kids, too. One artist created a quick aluminum bird shaped from a shredded soda can – and gave it to my daughter. If you’d like to browse some antiques, try the House of Joy, a former brothel with everything from old tea cups to mining treasures.
Museums and More
And speaking of mining, a must-stop is the Jerome Mining Museum. While my kids’ favored the exhibit that recreated an old town saloon, there were other goodies including a Cold pistol used in a famous gun fight, miner’s candle sticks, and the sure to captivate any child “potty cars” used by miners underground. Also fascinating were the photos that depicted mining life, and displays of Jerome, Arizona domestic life from an earlier period ranging from milk bottles to a Chinese laundry’s washing machine.
We also enjoyed exploring the Douglas Mansion, built in 1916 of adobe made right on the property and painted white. In its day it featured the incredibly rare luxuries of central steam heat and a vacuum system.
Since the owner of Douglas mansion is no longer around to offer an elegant meal in his massive dining room, we found time to make a lunch stop at the tiny Flatiron Café on Main Street. With a pleasant outdoor patio and good sandwiches, we enjoyed the sunshine and the mountain air and the reasonable prices. And if you’re staying over night, the Jerome Grand Hotel is perched on the top of a hill. This old beauty has small rooms and a slightly rickety – but child enchanting – caged elevator. The hotel has several suites to fit families. It was once a miner’s hospital and is reportedly haunted. The hotel’s restaurant, the Asylum has a white-table-cloth atmosphere for adults and a kid’s menu. We took dinner at the more casual Quince Grill and Cantina on Main Street, where vegetarian options were easier to come by.
Twisting and Turning into Prescott
The next morning we headed to Prescott, another historic town perched along a mountain road. Excellent views come with the terrain here, including a sweeping view of Watson Lake. The road is narrow but the views continue to be great as you head into Prescott. As a side note, if you keep going toward Sedona, Highway 89A continues to be unsparingly beautiful, especially just north of Sedona near Oak Creek Canyon. It’s a welcome, if less traveled, drive than busy Highway 17.
But you’re heading to Prescott – or at least we did. Our lunch stop was the Raven Café. Local art, great coffees for the adults and smoothies for the kids. Fortified, we explored the beautiful western art in the galleries at the Phippin Museum. The museum is dedicated to George Phippen, who was the first President of the Cowboy Artists of America, and the exhibits follow the wishes of its founders, creating a special place for the display of artists whose work depicts the American West. If you visit over Memorial weekend in May, you’ll find an extensive art sale put on by the museum, where you can take home some of your own western art and support the museum foundation. Currently, there are some wonderful works on display by pioneering female artists.
A surprise in this quaint western town was The Spot children’s museum. Open only on weekends, this interactive exhibit space, gives kids and parents a truly fun look at hands on science, with exhibits on water, air, light, wind, recycling, magnets and more. We loved that the museum focused on green technology and ecology both in terms of the museums exhibits and their use of sustainable or recycled materials.
We spent the night in Prescott’s very low key, old time Hotel Vendome. The kids loved the claw footed tubs in the bathrooms. Although the rooms are small, the rates are very reasonable, and old time cowboy movie star Tom Mix once hung up his saddle here.
Dinner found us at the Palace Restaurant & Saloon. You’ll find live music and a beautiful wooden bar that was saved from a raging fire by patrons in 1900. We loved the historical treasures in cases adjoining the bar, and the crispy fries.
We Scream for Ice Cream
Heading back to Phoenix, we stopped in slightly dusty Wickenburg at the Screamer’s Drive In for a really good, and inexpensive root beer ice cream float.