A Family-Friendly Road Trip Through the American Southwest

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Advisor - Liz McDougal
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Liz McDougal

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Curator’s statement

The American Southwest is one of the best road trip destinations in the USA. From the glitz and glam of Las Vegas to the desert and mountains of Arizona, there is so much for a family to do and see. This 7-day itinerary is a family-friendly way to soak up all the breathtaking landscapes and unique experiences the west has to offer.

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Day 1: Arrive in Las Vegas

buildings and city lights during sunset

You’ll arrive in Las Vegas and check into your hotel. This hotel is one of my favorites for family because every room is a suite and its meant to make you feel like you're in Italy. Grab a bite to eat here while you watch the gondola’s go by then walk over to The Linq promenade and try out the zipline and visit I Love Sugar to statisfy a sweet tooth. Continue to explore the strip as the kids will enjoy seeing the lights and crazy architecture of the casino’s and resorts. My kids enjoyed seeing the free Atlantis show at Ceasar's Palace as well as The Mirage volcano which erupts to fire, lights and music.

Day 2: Shows & More Vegas Fun

Fake Roman fountain inside hotel with painted sky ceiling.

Focus on some more attractions —dinner and a show. Las Vegas has a wild attraction called Meow Wolf Omegamart. Its an all ages interactive art installation that looks like a grocery store and everything is for sale. Look closely for portals that accesses other areas and uncover a narrative. It is inside the Area 15 complex that includes a myriad of other features including a zip line roller coaster, axe throwing, an ice cream shop and other interactive experiences as well as dining spaces to enjoy lunch and a cocktail. For dinner before the show, grab a bite at Mon Ami Gabi located underneath the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas with views of the Bellagio Fountains. Its also great for crepes at breakfast. No trip to Vegas is complete without a show and the one I highly recommend for kids of all ages is Blue Man Group. I have teenagers and they loved its variety of acts, rockin’ music played on quirky instruments and unconventional style of entertainment.

Day 3: Road Trip Time

Car on the main highway with rocks in background

On the way to Grand Canyon, stop and explore The Hoover Dam, which is more interesting than you might imagine. It is possible to tour it if you want to learn about the engineering of the dam or simply walk and take in the feat of engineering that it truly is. From here it is a 3 hr and 45 minute drive to the Grand Canyon. You’ll go through Williams, AZ which is located on the historic route 66 and is known as “The Gateway to the Grand Canyon." The historic town still has a very much old west feel and is a great place to stop for lunch. Cruiser's Cafe 66 was originally a telegraph office and later a gas station, but is now a classic American diner that mesquite-smokes its own BBQ on the front patio and also has a gift shop. Make your way to Grand Canyon village after lunch and stay at the El Tovar hotel for a restful night before your explore the park. Reserve this early because lodging in the parks books well in advance. Also know that traffic can be heavy getting in and the later your arrival the less traffic there is so take your time enjoying the scenery and stops along the way.

Day 4: Explore the Grand Canyon

the grand canyon on a hazy sunny day

Waking up in the Grand Canyon is something special to experience. The grandeur of it is really a bucket list item to check. After breakfast, head to the visitors center and grab maps and ranger books for the kids. There are many options on things to do. If you want to hike, there are many trails of all skill levels that start right from the main village. You can take a mule ride, a bicycle tour or drive the scenic Desert View Drive to the many lookout points. After a long day, have dinner at the El Tovar dining room that features locally sourced ingredients with views of the canyon.

Day 5: Sedona, AZ

Beautiful view of a green valley amid red-rock mountains in Sedona, Arizona

Today is a 2 hour drive to Sedona. The kids will enjoy seeing the cactus fields and the incredible red rock formations along the way. Sedona has small town southwest vibe including excellent restaurants, galleries and shopping, set against incredible red rock views. The area is known for its outdoors life, its vibrant arts community as well as its many vortexes which are said to be areas of spiritual energy. Check into the Enchantment Resort. This property is tucked into rock-rimmed Boynton Canyon, just steps from Sedona’s Boynton Canyon trailhead. This allows you and your family to access miles of slickrock trail and epic views without ever hitting asphalt. Go for a hike and then enjoy the margaritas by the pool which are made to order and nice to enjoy in that Arizona heat!

Day 6 & 7: Scottsdale, AZ

Mountains surrounding a city with trees on a sunny day

You’ll end your trip in beautiful Scottsdale, AZ at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. I absolutely love this resort for families! It features 650 guest rooms and suites along with tons of activities such as waterpark slides, golf, tennis, super cool kids and teens clubs and amazing restaurants. The kids club has free fishing poles and RC boats the kids can check out to use in the lagoons on the property. There are several dining options on site as well. We enjoyed Bourbon Steak for an upscale dinner and Toro Latin and Rum Bar for casual asian fusion and sushi the next which featured views of the golf course which my husband loved.

All good things come to and end and you will take your transfer to Phoenix airport the following day for your departure home and start planning your next trip!

Need to Know

For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Lauren Martin’s guide, Adventure in the American Southwest.

Advisor - Liz McDougal

Travel Advisor

Liz McDougal

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on road trip travel.