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Old 04-01-2016, 06:56 AM
 
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Hi,

My boys will be 4 and 6. We are looking for a fun, budget, family-friendly vacation idea in the SW. We are interested in a warm desert experience. Don't care about shopping, but would love waterparks/pools, outdoor spots, ranches, quiet/old tourist attractions (like old buildings), old trains, that sort of things.

I find most people mention Phoenix, but I am wondering if it's worth it to instead check out places in NM, TX, or similar. Not really interested in long (4+ hour) road trips, but one or two may be ok. Our time off is around Christmas (Dec 18-Jan 4ish), if that matters.

Please, ideas! Thanks
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Old 04-01-2016, 07:57 AM
 
Location: Illinois
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The SW is pretty spread out. There are a lot of things to see that meet your criteria if you are willing to drive around. Your call on that, but I'll list a few interesting places for you. Much of this depends on whether you lean more towards authentic, or towards resort/tourism. I lean toward the former.

Tombstone, AZ = you can spend about 1 full day here. Fun gunfight shows, historical southwest relics and sites. A real "old west" feel. And while some might say it's a bit touristy, I mostly disagree. It's pretty much the real deal, with some touristy stuff mixed in.

Arizona/Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, AZ = this is a marvelous outdoor desert zoo, incredible views, helpful docents to teach the kids about the wildlife. Animals are mostly kept in natural habitat enclaves and are free to roam. Highly recommend. It's way out on the west side of Tucson, over the hills. This is one of my favorite places anywhere.

Sedona, AZ = this is where all the red rocks are. There are resorts here as well. You can take Jeep tours, and/or visit Slide Rock, which is the country's only natural rock waterslide, set in a gorgeous environment. You will take 1,000 pictures.

Obviously, there is also the Grand Canyon. Besides that there are other beautiful things to see like Canyon de Chelley, etc.

If you do go to New Mexico and are anywhere near Roswell, it's worth a couple hours to show the kids the alien stuff there. The whole town tries to capitalize on the the sighting from decades ago, but they do have a decently cool museum there and it's just kind of neat to have the kids experience that kind of "magic". Not worth a long drive, but if you are passing through, stop in.

Texas is huge and a whole different thing. If you really want the true SW experience, I would honestly recommend Arizona or New Mexico. I don't have as much knowledge about NM.

Phoenix has a plethora of resorts and things like that, and it will have more of the "safe" amenities you may be looking for. But it won't be as much of an authentic SW experience as the other places mentioned. It's a big, sprawling city.

Hopefully, this gives you some things to think about.
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Old 04-01-2016, 08:02 AM
 
Location: northern Vermont - previously NM, WA, & MA
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What time of year?

October - April: Go to Phoenix/Tucson and Southern, AZ
April - October: Go with New Mexico

If you end up in Arizona, Phoenix is a good base but you may also want to consider Tucson. There are plenty of resorts there to with big pools, also guest ranches on the outskirts, outdoor recreation opportunities, and nostalgic attractions.

Tucson Hotels, Events, Restaurants, Things to Do Planning
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Old 04-01-2016, 09:45 AM
 
Location: Illinois
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OP said Christmas time.
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Old 04-01-2016, 10:24 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh
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I'm not sure why so many are mentioning Phoenix when it is clear that you don't want a typical city experience. I would avoid Phoenix. I agree with all of the rest of Kmanshouse's recommendations. Check out the Flagstaff area to see if there are any outdoor rec activities that would interest you. Another option is to raft or kayak the Colorado River.
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Old 04-01-2016, 12:36 PM
 
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Wow, thanks! That's a lot of great info I will certainly look more into Tuscon, that seems more our style. We are certainly more into the SW style/desert rather than city, which is so different than where we are.
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Old 04-01-2016, 12:50 PM
 
Location: Illinois
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Another, if you pick Tucson:

Sabino Canyon on the NE side. There is a greeting center at the base where you park that has some info. You can catch a tram that winds its way up through the canyon along the creek. You can take it to the top, or you can get out at one of 8-10 stops. Ask the guide, one of the stops (it used to be Stop 8 I think) is right next to a swimming hole. Think of really cool rock formations and clear (cold) water that you can swim in if so inclined. Water levels depend on the winter snowfall up in the mountains, but you can call and ask ahead of time how the water is. It's a fun tram ride for adults and kids alike, and you'll learn about the area. And it's gorgeous.

The tram runs every so often, so if you get out, you can enjoy the rocks or water, etc. and catch another one later coming back down.

You'll need to rent a car. If you do, this would allow you to hit the Arizona/Sonora Desert Museum, Sabino Canyon, and take a drive to Tombstone (maybe 2 hours each way, IIRC). Definitely research these on your own to make your own opinions.
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Old 04-01-2016, 02:46 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluecarebear View Post
I'm not sure why so many are mentioning Phoenix when it is clear that you don't want a typical city experience. I would avoid Phoenix. I agree with all of the rest of Kmanshouse's recommendations. Check out the Flagstaff area to see if there are any outdoor rec activities that would interest you. Another option is to raft or kayak the Colorado River.
If you go to Flagstaff, you can do the Grand Canyon Railway just outside in Williams. I have a 4 year old boy who adored the experience. You get to see a lot of great scenery and its even complete with a real train robbery.

Phoenix will be very expensive around that time of year due to all the bowl games.

Additionally, a "warm desert experience" will be hard to find. With Phoenix being the warmest, you will be lucky to see highs in the low 60s and nighttime temps in the low 40's - Phoenix was in the 20's at night around last new years. Other places in the southwest will be much cooler than that.
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Old 04-01-2016, 03:02 PM
 
Location: East of the Sun, West of the Moon
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Christmas-time in northern NM is a good probability of snow. In southern NM there in much less snow but plent of cold.
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Old 04-01-2016, 05:15 PM
 
Location: Midwest
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Las Vegas aka Lost Wages!

Las Vegas for Kids, Children, and Families
23 Awesome Things To Do With Your Kids In Las Vegas
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