Sedona with Kids: A Perfect Family Day

by Amanda Castleman, an AOL Travel ContributorPosted Oct 19th 2010 05:50 PM

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Sedona with Kids: A Family Vacation

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Arizona's Red Rock landscape forms a vast natural playground that is great for family vacations. Anyone visiting Sedona with kids will find fresh wonder in this desert landscape, including natural waterslides, Spanish pastries and Wild West hide-and-seek among the crimson buttes. Or just the simple joy of a clear sky full of bright shining stars. The following are some family vacation ideas to make your Sedona adventure your best family vacation yet.


Morning


Start at the kitschy Coffee Pot Restaurant with views of its namesake crag and a redwood patio beside a waterfall. Children can gobble down pancakes (happy face and silver dollar) or brave the infamous last item on the 101-omelet menu: eggs cooked with jelly, peanut butter and banana.

Coffee Pot Restaurant
2050 W. Highway 89A
Sedona, AZ 86336
928-282-6626
http://www.coffeepotsedona.com
Daily 6AM-2PM

Family vacations in Sedona with kids should kick off with the highest priority in the desert: water. One of the nation's best swimming holes, Slide Rock State Park lies seven miles northeast of Sedona on Route 89A. A natural water chute flows down rust-colored stone near one of Oak Creek Canyon's last intact homesteads. In 2011, the site celebrates 20 years on the National Register of Historic Places. But kids usually cheer louder about the creek's slippery, slimy incline or wading along the banks. Arrive before mid-morning to secure a parking spot.

Slide Rock State Park
6871 N. Highway 89A
Sedona, AZ, 86336
928-282-3034
http://www.pr.state.az.us/Parks/SLRO
Daily 8AM–5PM
$10 vehicle entry fee; $20 Memorial Day-Labor Day

Work up a little more appetite wandering the shady cobbles of Tlaquepaque (pronounced Tla-keh-pah-keh), a Mexican-style arts and crafts village just south of Sedona. Among the many things to do are casting pennies into the tiled fountains and browsing The Storyteller Bookstore for regional children's tales such as Three Little Javelinas, a story about how Southwestern swine battle the trickster Coyote amid houses of tumbleweed, cactus ribs and adobe bricks.

Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village
336 Highway 179
Sedona, AZ
http://www.tlaq.com/
Daily 10AM-5PM
928-282-4838


Afternoon


Like an army, a family travels on its stomach. So get some vittles at the Javelina Cantina, a third of a mile down Highway 179. Named for the area's hairy, stinky peccaries, this lively joint serves kids' meals as well as quesadillas, fruit cocktails, tacos, burritos or enchiladas. Adults may prefer the ceviche, carne asada (roast meat) or salmon tostada (grilled salmon) with mango and black bean salsa. Finish off with churros (deep-fried Spanish pastry) or honey-topped, cinnamon-sugar sopapillas.

Javelina Cantina
671 Highway 179
Sedona, AZ, 86336
928-282-1313
http://www.javelinacantina.com
Daily 11:30AM-9PM

Burn off the sugar high after lunch at Sedona's best family vacation stop. Coconino National Forest protects the world famous Red Rocks, as well as ponderosa pine groves and even alpine tundra. But, of course, the scarlet Martian-looking landscape captivates youngsters most of all. The iron-rich sedimentary stone blazes from pink to ruby to claret: fossilized layers of ancient sand dunes thrown high by tectonic plates, then eroded by wind and water. The result? Only the best landscape ever for hide-and-seek, especially if you mix in some of the area's cowboy mythology.

Explore the buttes, spires and canyons, watching for ancient petroglyphs etched in the crimson cliffs. Cathedral Rock – at Red Rock Crossing – remains the most photographed place in Sedona, though travelers with children often prefer the familiar bulges of the Snoopy formation. Other highlights include Bell, Chimney and Coffee Pot Rocks. Pack an umbrella, sunshade or pup tent for a nap break in one of the park's picnic areas.

Coconino National Forest Visitor Center
8375 State Route 179
Sedona, Arizona, 86341
928-203-2900 or 800-288-7336
http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino or http://www.redrockcountry.org
Daily 8AM-5PM
Red Rock Pass $5 daily, $15 weekly per vehicle

Shift gears 17 miles south at Montezuma Castle. The Sinagua Indians lived here 800 years ago in cliff dwellings. These digs may be prehistoric, but they're far from primitive; the community's five-story, 20-room apartment rivals some Manhattan penthouses. The Junior Ranger program there is great for those on family vacations in Sedona as it challenges kids to sketch mesquite trees, touch an irrigation ditch and spot a whiptail lizard, among other tasks in the excellent 16-page booklet.

Montezuma Castle National Monument
Off Interstate 17 at exit 289
Camp Verde, Arizona, 86322
928-567-3322
http://www.nps.gov/moca
Adults $5, children under 16 free


Evening


Anyone visiting Sedona with kids should keep them awake long enough for the stars to shine. The sky unfolds some of the brightest, clearest constellation views in the country. Evening Sky Tours can guide you through the cosmos from any dark spot in town. Professional astronomers point out spiral galaxies, space station passes and red super giants, among other sights. The cooler night air may not be "muy caliente," but the experience will cap your family vacation in Sedona and burn forever in your family's memories.

Evening Sky Tours
Locations vary
928-203-0006
http://www.eveningskytours.com
Nightly at 8:30PM. Reservation required
Adults $60, children 7-15 $20
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