desert vacations Archives - 2 Dads with Baggage
PRESS/MEDIA
Read Next

Road Tripping: Sedona in the Summer

Road Tripping: Sedona in the Summer

Beautiful Sedona, Arizona, is a must-stop for any family trip through the Southwest. We love road trips and although temperatures are rising, our last visit proved it’s easy to have a great time in Sedona in the summer. Just make sure your car has AC! We piled the kids and all our stuff into the sporty Kia Sorento with room to spare, wheeling down the roads armed with Starbucks and an excellent sound system.

Kia Sorento road trip

Our sporty Kia Sorento was a comfortable ride for our summer road trip to Sedona.

Hope you enjoy our suggestions for how to enjoy Sedona in the summer with kids!

Sedona in the Summer With Kids

Take a Jeep Tour

Sedona is postcard-famous for its amazing red rocks and gorgeous canyon scenery. One of the best ways to see it up close is off-roading with Pink Jeep Tours. The 4-wheeling can get a little wild, and sometimes it felt more like being on a rollercoaster instead of a jeep. Still, we were securely belted in and grateful for the shade canopy as we explored dirt trails and streambeds. The drivers are also knowledgeable guides, and we were surprised to learn the whole area was once at the bottom of an ocean!

Pink Jeep Tour in Sedona

The Pink Jeep tour was a highlight of our visit to Sedona in the summer.

From the canyon floor, we wound our way up rock faces and through narrow gullies. Our driver perched us on top of a gigantic boulder – the perfect spot to get out for a closer look and some Insta-worthy pics.

Tip #1: Put the kids in the back where the ride is bumpiest. They laughed and giggled throughout the whole trip, while the adults rested more comfortably in the calmer seats.

Visit a Real Western Ghost Town

If you want to have a great time in Sedona with kids, there’s no better way than to visit an authentic Old West ghost town. Jerome, Arizona is just an hour’s drive away from Sedona and it’s true Old West mining town. With lots of local color and many tales of historical fiction, Jerome may be a ghost town but it is far from dead. We toured several fun (air-conditioned) restaurants, shops and galleries on the downtown streets. If you read my post about the Haunted Whaley House in San Diego, you know our girls are fascinated with ghosts.

ghost town tour in Jerome Arizona

Abandoned lockers at the old Jerome High School haunted me in more ways than one!

To raise our chances of seeing some spirits, we booked a guided tour on the Ghost Town Tours’ Spirit Walk. Although we didn’t see any apparitions, the kids were definitely spooked when we walked through a deserted old high school. It was a ghostly site complete with creepy locker rooms and abandoned gym.

Tip #2: Try to visit mid-week when the summer crowd is even less, and you may end up with your own private tour guide like we did.

Morning Hike at Bell Rock

You can’t talk about having a great time in Sedona with kids unless you include a morning hike. We like to head out before the sun gets too hot. (Our sleep-until-10 a.m. girls grumbled a bit about having to wake up early until they saw the spectacular sunrise.) We drove the Sorento to the trail head, and  kicked off our hike through the red rocks and twisted junipers of Bell Rock.

Bell Rock in Sedona Arizona

The beauty of Bell Rock is just breathtaking, and yes this is a photo I actually took.

Choosing one of the easier hike options, we spied tons of desert flora and fauna along the way. Colorful birds, hawks, bunnies (awwwww!) lizards and butterflies all came out to greet us. The fresh morning air, nature show and the desert in bloom made for some pretty amazing photo opps. It felt like a mashup of True Grit combined with Snow White. (Triton expected at any moment a bedraggled cowgirl would appear with blue birds resting on her shoulders.)

Tip #3: Bring bottles of water, a hat and some granola bars in your backpack. It’s easy to work up a sweat and hunger, and you’ll avoid the kids wanting to run back to the car.

Stargazing in the Desert

One of the things our family loves the most about the desert is the clear night sky, which our kids just don’t get to see in our urban home. Sedona is a designated International Dark-Sky Community, with very few streetlights and far from any big city. The night sky in Sedona is pitch black, making it one of the best places to stargaze in the US. We booked an evening sky tour with Sedona Star Gazing. We geeked out when they heard it would be led by a former NASA engineer, using a real telescope. Plus there was no hiking involved—bonus!

stargazing in Sedona

It was sooooo cool to look through the telescope and see Saturn and her rings.

Sitting in an open field in comfortable lawn chairs, we took turns looking through an enormous telescope. Our guide used a laser pointer to point out one amazing star after another. We even saw Saturn and her rings, Jupiter and some of its moons, and tons of stars and constellations.

Tip #4: Sedona in the summer is colder at night than you might expect, so bring long pants and sweatshirts for extra comfort.

Shopping in Downtown Sedona

When the tours are over, make sure to leave some time for souvenir shopping. We quickly got used to the misters that keep visitors cool as you stroll downtown Sedona. Offering an eclectic mix of art galleries, crystal shops, restaurants and more, downtown Sedona is a bustling scene. The kids had an especially great time in the rock shop. Checking out the large variety of colored rocks and stones, they picked out some special ones to bring home as gifts for friends.

Tip #5: Plan the jeep tour and shopping downtown together. The starting point for the jeeps is right in the middle of the main downtown area.

The cliffs and rock formations surrounding Enchantment Resort are just stunning.

Whether gorgeous scenery, hiking, exploring history, or stargazing, there are lots of ways to have a great time visiting Sedona in the summer with kids.

How to visit Sedona:

Sedona is just over two hours north of Phoenix by car. It’s a beautiful drive as you climb though the Tonto National Forest and into red rock country. The Sedona Visitors Information website has tons of great info and links to hotels, restaurants, and attractions.

Where to stay in Sedona:

There are many fantastic hotels, resorts and B&Bs in Sedona, and we can recommend a couple that we loved:

Enchantment Resort & Spa – This luxury accommodation is tucked into a picturesque red rock canyon, offering rooms and suites decked beautifully in the desert theme. Their spa, Mii Amo, is world renowned and we could totally see why. Summer rates start around $379.

Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock – With views looking out over the desert floor directly aimed at Bell Rock, this Hilton comes perfectly equipped. The hotel is decked out with a spa, tennis courts, large pool area, spacious rooms and more.  Summer rates start around $212.

Prickly Pear Margarita at Enchantment Resort

The signature Prickly Pear Margarita was a nice greeting at the Enchantment Resort in Sedona.

 

 


Read Next

Downtown Palm Springs is a Great Destination with Kids

Downtown Palm Springs is a Great Destination with Kids

*Our visit to Palm Springs was hosted in part by the Hyatt Palm Springs, and our views expressed here are, as usual, our own.

I’ve been visiting Palm Springs since I was 14 years old. Believe me – that spans many years, tons of good times and a LOT of visits. Now continuing those fun adventures with my own family, we’ve stayed in many different parts of the Coachella Valley. We are convinced that Downtown Palm Springs is a great destination with kids.

After a gazillion visits since the girls were babies, we’ve instilled this same love for Palm Springs in Sophia and Ava. They beg to drive over from San Diego for the hot desert sun, cool swimming pools, date shakes and warm nights outdoors. One of the big draws for them is the downtown Palm Springs area, because there is so much to do, see, eat and explore. Everything is located in an area we can easily walk (or drive when we’d rather ride in air-conditioned luxury).

Hyatt Palm Springs

The Hyatt Palm Springs is located smack dab in the middle of all the action of downtown Palm Springs.

We recently had the opportunity to stay at the Hyatt Palm Springs, right downtown on East Palm Canyon Drive in the heart of Palm Springs. Our experience was awesome because we were right in the middle of it all.

Downtown Palm Springs is a Great Destination with Kids

With so many activities, great restaurants and shopping right outside the front door of our hotel room at the Hyatt Palm Springs, we could easily have parked the car for the weekend and never seen it until time to go home.

Here’s a sampling of why our family thinks Downtown Palm Springs is a great destination with kids.

Lulu California Bistro in Palm Springs interior view with colorful art

Three levels of dining at Lulu California Bistro allow for plenty of colorful people watching!

Downtown Palm Springs Offers Great Restaurant Choices

Downtown Palm Springs is so walkable, we never had to get in the car to head out for a meal. This is a huge plus especially for families with stroller-age kids. Though our girls are much older now, we can still remember the packing up, buckling into carseats and folding strollers into the back of the car. Here, we were able to walk outside and choose from any number of restaurants within a five minute walk.

 Steamed Pork Belly Bun at Watercress Vietnamese Bistro

The steamed pork belly buns at Watercress were out of this world, or as they are properly known, Bánh Bao Thit Heo Kho. (The cocktails there were darn tasty as well).

We particularly enjoyed our meals at Lulu California Bistro, The Tropicale Restaurant, and Watercress Vietnamese Bistro. All were delicious in their own ways, kid friendly, and a short walk from the Hyatt.

The Tropicale Restaurant in Palm Springs

Toasting another fun visit to Palm Springs at The Tropicale Restaurant.

Palm Canyon Drive is a Shopping Mecca

For decades, East Palm Canyon Drive was the center of it all. Teeming with shops and restaurants, the area has enjoyed a resurgence of interest in the last several years. Now it’s is a vibrant and exciting area for strolling and shopping again. Fashion, art, gifts and mementos can all be perused within a several long and interesting blocks. The sidewalks are even decorating with stars that honor famous people who have lived in Palm Springs.

Adding color and fun, the mid-century modern architectural movement is highly celebrated in Palm Springs. There are several galleries and shops downtown that feature decor from that era, now popular again and selling better than ever. Here’s a handy shopping map of Palm Springs to guide you.

Some of our favorite shops are Trina Turk/Mr. Turk, Greetings cards and novelty gift shop, and Modern Way mid-century furnishings.

Palm Springs Art Museum

Right behind the Hyatt is the new location of the Palm Springs Art Museum. This new building contains a surprisingly great collection of pieces, full of color and story. During our recent visit, the museum was hosting an Andy Warhol exhibit with some of his finest and most famous works.

On regular display is a collection of works by such masters as Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, Robert Rauschenberg and Ansel Adams.

Bike Accessible for All Ages

If the kids have mastered the art of riding a bike, downtown Palm Springs is a safe and easy place for a cruise. Bike rentals can be reserved at several places, and the Hyatt even had a collection for free use by guests. Our family has always loved riding along the flat streets in back neighborhoods, in the areas behind the Hyatt against the mountains.

Palm Springs home of Leonardo DiCaprio

Celebrity homes abound in Palm Springs, like this one belonging to Leonardo DiCaprio.

Many Hollywood celebrities have owned homes in these areas. Today, bike routes can be planned to ride past the current Palm Springs home of Leonardo DiCaprio. Other celebrity homes easily seen from a bike include the former homes of Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe and many more.

And if you are uninterested in riding a bike (like one of my kids) you can take an air-conditioned tour of movie star homes with Palm Springs Celebrity Tours. They take you to all the hot spots, and even fill you in on the scandals and stories behind the homes. Plus you get to stop for a date shake, which is a Palm Springs specialty. If you haven’t had one, you must!

The King of all the Starbucks

This story is not complete without a shout-out to the gorgeous new Starbucks in downtown Palm Springs. We’ve been in a few Starbucks locations in our travels, and this one takes the prize. The architectural design is significant in its own right, and it appears that many sustainable elements were used in construction. Fronting on a public plaza, this Starbucks has plenty of seating inside and out. We enjoyed an ice coffee drink outside under the shade of date palms, while watching the world go by.

Starbucks Downtown Palm Springs

The Starbucks in downtown Palm Springs has got to be the most beautiful one we’ve ever visited.

Swim in the Pool

With kids, sometimes these little forays into civilization need to be balanced with pool time. The beauty of staying at a hotel like the Hyatt Palm Springs is that you are steps away from the pool. Several times during our stay, we returned back from shopping or a meal to take a dip. After all, there is nothing like floating on your back in a Palm Springs pool. With the hot sun on your body and the view of purple mountains rising nearby, there is something magic about this place.

Pool view at Hyatt Palm Springs

The pool at Hyatt Palm Springs beckons us on a hot day.

 

We’re already counting the days until our next visit!

 

 


Read Next

The Living Desert is a Zoo Like No Other

The Living Desert is a Zoo Like No Other

*Our visit to The Living Desert was graciously hosted by them as part of a great tour organized by Visit Palm Springs, and we are grateful for the experience.

When people think of the desert, they typically envision endless sand dunes, scrubby little plants, some cactus, a bunch of rocks and maybe a lizard or two. But a zoo in the desert? Yep, and it’s awesome – The Living Desert is a zoo like no other. Located in Palm Desert near Palm Springs, The Living Desert is an amazing destination right in the middle of the blazing sun and dry, dry, dry conditions.

The Living Desert entrance

We’ve been visiting The Living Desert since the girls were babies, and as they have grown so has the park.

The Living Desert serves up an oasis of sorts, a respite where animals that are accustomed to dry conditions can feel right at home. What started in 1970 as a nature trail and preserve has grown and evolved into a legit zoo that is fun and interesting for the whole family. We visited recently and thoroughly enjoyed our experience.

The Living Desert is a Zoo Like No Other

flowers in bloom at The Living Desert

When visiting in springtime, you can catch the desert flowers in bloom at The Living Desert

The Birds and Bees

Across some 1,800 acres of parched land, The Living Desert thrives by showcasing the flora and fauna natural to this climate. The Living Desert’s gardens are vast and lush with plants indigenous to the area, including cacti like Cholla, Agave and Barrel Cactus.

We were lucky enough to visit in the Spring, during the short window when everything is in bloom. Cactus, wildflowers and other kinds of flowering plants were all just beginning to peak, so the area was rich in color and variety. With all these flowers in bloom, there were tons of birds and bees jetting about and adding energy to the mix. We even spied a Road Runner (the real kind, not the character from the old cartoons with Wile E. Coyote).

The Living Desert cactus gardens

Gardens at The Living Desert are artful displays of local plants that can withstand the intense sun and heat.

The Living Desert has several zones planted specifically to nurture species native from the immediate area as well as North American frontiers.  The kids loved the vivid colors of the California Fuschia, Desert Mallow and Indigo Bush along with many others blooming bright pink, yellow, deep blue, red and more.

Animals Adapt

Those desert critters are a resourceful bunch. In order to withstand the intense heat and drought conditions of desert living, they learned to avoid heat and retain water. It’s amazing to see how they reserve energy, keep themselves cool when it’s more than 100 degrees outside, and still thrive.

One of the things we loved witnessing while at the Living Desert was the Cheetah Run. Three cheetahs, sisters who have been inseparable since birth, are housed in a spacious enclosure planted with grasses and heavily shaded with trees.

cheetahs relax at The Living Desert

The three cheetah sisters at The Living Desert conserve their energy while relaxing in the cool shade.

Once a day, their keepers encourage them to get exercise by running from one side of the very long enclosure to the other. And boy can these girls run – it was breathtaking to see how fast they are, and how cool they stay despite the hot sun. When their run was finished, they went back to relaxing in the grass just as comfortable as before.

Feeding Time

In several places throughout the park, guests can participate in feeding the animals. In the colorful lorakeet exhibit, guests are invited to entire the aviary carrying a small cup of nectar. Lorakeets are so attracted to this nectar that they fly right over to the guests and land on their heads, shoulders, arms and hands – trying to get a delicious sip. If you like birds, this is an incredible experience. If you don’t like birds, this is your worst nightmare. Good thing we like birds!

giraffe feeding time at The Living Desert

Giraffe feeding time at The Living Desert is fun for the whole family.

Over at the giraffe area, the Living Desert has built a special viewing platform so guests can be eye-level with this stately creatures. At certain times, guests can feed the giraffes a special cracker they seem to love very much. The kids had a blast watching the giraffes’ long black tongues reach out of their mouths and grab the cracker like a hand. Evidently, their 20-inch tongues are prehensile just like a monkey’s tail – they can move them far more independently than we humans. We were all fascinated and could have watched for hours!

The Model Train Display

The Living Desert model train exhibit

The model train exhibit at The Living Desert is massive and fascinating, with more than 3,300 feet of tracks.

Not really a desert-specific exhibit and certainly not an animal, the working model train sets on display in the center of The Living Desert are nothing short of fantastic. Their sets are miniature versions of towns, lumber yards, stations and even a scaled version of Mount Rushmore. With more then 3,300 feet of track laid, they criss-cross and wind around each other in constant motion. Kids and adults alike are fascinated at the intricacies of this display.

How to Visit The Living Desert

For all of these reasons and many more, The Living Desert is a zoo like no other. There is plenty of parking, and lots of shade but it’s always a good idea to bring a hat and sunscreen.

The park is open every day October 1 to May 31 from 9:00am to 5:00pm, and in the summer months every day June 1 to September 30 from 8:00am to 1:30pm.

Entrance fees are $19.95 for adults, $9.95 for kids 3-12, and kids under 3 are free.