Road trips are one of the best ways to vacation, especially when youre towing along a couple kids. Whether youre flying cross country and picking up an RV for a week, or just venturing out your backdoor in the minivan for a long weekend of local adventure, seeing what this country has to offer out the windows of a vehicle is a satisfying experience, for both young and old. We recently road tripped through the state of Arizona, from top to bottom, and along the way found great places to recharge our batteries and refuel our bodies, all with a kid-friendly spin. So whether Arizona is hundreds of miles away or right in your backyard, load up the car and the kids and get road trippin. Leave the hotel and restaurant recommendations to us!
Tanque Verde Ranch > Tucson
Located in the southern part of the great state of Arizona, near the border of Mexico, lies the best dude ranch in Arizona, the Tanque Verde Ranch. This ranch combines the best of cozy hotel accommodations with a real life operating ranch, full of over 150 horses for you to ride, groom, and love on during your stay.
With the Rincon Mountains surrounding the grounds, right next to Saguaro National Park and Coronado National Forest, Tanque Verde Ranch boasts desert beauty unlike anything you’ve ever seen. With huge cacti local to this area only, rolling mountain hills dotted with unique vegetation, and sunsets you’ve only imagined seeing, this western family paradise is near perfection.
Tanque Verde Ranch offers five different accommodation options, all kid-friendly, with all-inclusive packages to make resting, dining, and doing as seamless and stress free as possible. They have a Kids Club for the little travelers, where supervised fun is had all day long, and for the adults, a laundry list of activities to keep you energized and educated.
This ranch is so extensive in its beauty, offerings, and details that we dedicated two entire posts to it.
For the entire low-down on Tanque Verde Ranch, be sure to check out Spring Breakin’ Tucson Style at Tanque Verde Ranch and The Daily Mom Travel Diary: Our 3 Days at the Best Dude Ranch in Arizona!
Moving up north, toward the center of the state, lies the city of Scottsdale, which holds the magnificent Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch. This 27-acre resort is surrounded by the Sonoran Desert, with the McDowell Mountains as a perfect natural backdrop. Featuring a championship 27-hole golf course, luxurious Spa Avania, shopping galore, a massive water playground with 10 pools appealing to both kids and adults, and top dining options, this hotel could easily be your home away from home for a week, while you see all that Scottsdale, Arizona has to offer.
Choose from one of the 493 guest rooms, whether that’s a standard room, a suite, a Regency Club room, or a Hypo-Allergenic room, there’s a resting place just perfect for everyone you’re traveling with. Not only is this resort kid-friendly, but go ahead and bring the furry member of the family along to partake in all the outdoor adventures Arizona offers, as the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch has an amazing “4Paws” pet friendly program for both dogs and cats, that will leave your beloved pets feeling just as welcome and comfortable as you will!
This hotel isn’t just a safe place to sleep at night; it features some unbelievable activities, especially for kiddos. There is a rock climbing wall for those who want to get some practice in before braving the real life cliffs all over Arizona, both a water and land playground that is spectacular in design and provides hours of active, outdoor fun, and Camp Hyatt where your kids can playfully and engagingly learn about the Arizona culture and geography.
Don’t forget about the ground’s evening gondola rides, tennis courts, and Native American Learning Center, in addition to all the area activities that the resort’s Adventure Activity Team can coordinate for your family that will keep you moving from sun up to sun down.
The Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch features a wide variety of dining options, to keep you satisfied as you burn off calories on all your active Arizona adventures. With unique bars and restaurant experiences, including live music and open air dining, you won’t even want to – or need to! – venture off the premises to grab a bite to eat.
One of our favorite kid-friendly places to eat at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch is SWB, Southwest Bistro. Dine indoors or outdoors, as the space flows seamlessly between areas, and enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a Sunday brunch with your family as you soak in the warm sun and breathtaking resort and natural views.
Using wood-fired ovens to create culinary masterpieces such as pizzas and fajitas (Fajita Friday anyone?!), a kid’s buffet with fruits, veggies, pizzas, pastas, and other kid-lovin’ treats, and an award-winning pastry chef for those delectable desserts, SWB is the place to make a reservation at pronto while you’re staying at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch.
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Arabella Hotel > Sedona
Head even further north, where the air gets a bit chillier and the cacti are few and far between, and you’ll hit Sedona, a bustling desert mountain town that is full of charm and breathtaking views. Whether you’re just passing through for a night or spending a good amount of time in Sedona, the Arabella Hotel will give you a welcome respite from your travels. Within eight acres in a centrally located Sedona hotspot, this modest hotel gives you just what you need for a comfortable night’s sleep, plus some!
This hotel is another pet-friendly option, because it wouldn’t be right to talk about a family vacation without including the most loved member. With plenty of open space to run, play, and hike, both you and your four legged BFF will have plenty to do, plus a safe and welcoming place to rest after it’s all done.
Roam around the property and you’ll find a wide variety of comfy seating and fire pits, perfect for evening sunset viewing parties and family bonding time. Cool off in the large pool after a long, hot day of hiking the red rock trails, squeeze in a quick workout at the hotel’s state of the art fitness center, or soak in the hot tub under the stars while the crisp, Sedona nighttime air bites your cheeks. Take advantage of the hotel’s free bicycle rentals, and spend an afternoon with the family biking the rolling hills of Sedona, exploring the city, its plentiful shops and delicious dining options.
One of the unique features of the Arabella Hotel is their Sunset Vista, a high-desert garden area that is a short walk behind the hotel grounds, leading to a magnificent view of towering red rock cliffs, only made more magical bathed in the warm light of a Sedona sunset. Take the family up the hill for photo opportunities and to bask in the glory of the Arizona landscape, and on the way down, nestle into an Adirondack chair around the fire pit, while good conversation meets your ears and even better views form in front of your eyes.
Arabella Hotel graciously offers their guests a complimentary breakfast, because they know that starting the morning with a burst of energy is important while venturing through Sedona. Most excitingly at the Arabella Hotel when it comes to dining is their Elote Cafe, an award-winning modern Mexican and Southwestern restaurant that features seasonal, locally-grown ingredients and a unique cocktail menu. Enjoy exquisite cuisine amidst breathtaking views, and remind yourself that a road trip just doesn’t get any better than this.
If you’re a road-tripper who needs options, then another fantastic place to eat out in Sedona is Pisa Lisa, an authentic wood-fired pizzeria with a full bar, some of the most delicious gelato out there, and an atmosphere that is beyond perfection for families. The fun restaurant’s name came from owner Lisa Dahl’s father, who used to pinch her occasionally and say I wanna little piece of Lisa!. The name stuck, and now her father’s memory lives on everyday in this little pizza joint, through the tasty food and the satisfied customers.
Dine inside or out on the patio, even on chilly Sedona evenings, as the heat lamps are pumping and the wine is flowing. Enjoy the paper thin crust pizza, with a wide variety of unique combinations, sip on the tomato bisque soup that kids can’t get enough of, and load up your bowl with every flavor of gelato you can possibly fit for a dessert you’ll never forget.
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel > Flagstaff
In the northern area of Arizona sits the city of Flagstaff, conveniently close to well-loved Arizona landmarks, including the Grand Canyon. While staying in this part of Arizona, checking into a hotel that is familiar and inviting is a great way to reset your mind from all the new experiences it has been taking in. The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, located right off the famous “Old Route 66”, is an easy home away from home, with its modern, yet homey style, top notch customer service, and comfortable rooms.
If you’ve ever stayed at a DoubleTree before, and we’d be surprised if you haven’t as they are widespread over the entire country, and for good reason… you know that their signature chocolate chip cookies make them stand apart from the others. Even if it’s midnight when you check in, dusty and sweaty after a long day of road-tripping, hiking, and exploring, who can resist a warm cookie before tucking yourself into a plush bed of cool, crisp white sheets? DoubleTree goes above and beyond with their customer service, especially when catering to children, so there doesn’t need to be any hesitation when booking this hotel for your family Arizona road trip.
Enjoy the outdoor pool, fitness center, large lobby with double exposed fireplace, and modern bar for a nightcap after the kids are sleeping soundly. When it’s time to eat, you can stay put by enjoying in-room dining, head down to the Woodlands Cafe for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or have a fun and interactive dining experience with the family at the hotel’s Teppanyaki and Sushi restaurant, Sakura.
Sakura is located right inside the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Flagstaff, adjacent to the Woodlands Cafe, just a few steps from the front lobby. It’s a classic Teppan Style establishment, where you can gather round the metal cooking area with your friends and family and watch food be created in a magical and joyous way by the talented chefs.
Voted as one of the “Best Restaurants of the Southwest” by Food and Wine Magazine, Sakura offers their guests classic Japanese cuisine, as well as a wide variety of incredible sushi selections. Fun for kids of all ages, even the oldest with the youngest hearts, this is a great place for a filling dinner before hitting the hay.
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Embassy Suites by Hilton > Flagstaff
Another family hotel favorite in Flagstaff is the Embassy Suites by Hilton, a modest, comfortable place to rest the day away with your tired little ones. You know what to expect when you check into an Embassy Suites, and there is comfort in that. You know your room will be spacious, with a living area to drop all your bags, plus a cozy bedroom with clean, plush linens, and plenty of room for the whole family to stretch out – minus the pup, sorry Biscuit, you gotta sit this one out.
With a front lobby full of Native American decor and ample seating for guests, every morning you’re treated to a complimentary made-to-order breakfast to give a jump-start to your busy sight seeing day, and each evening… wait for it… a complimentary Manager’s Reception where for two full hours, you can enjoy on-the-house wine, beer, and liquor, as well as snacks the whole family can munch on. There is also a Corner Pantry, open 24 hours a day, where you can grab a quick salad, sandwich, or meal to eat, or have it delivered to your room for when midnight snacking calls.
Enjoy the outdoor pool when the weather is warm, the hot tub when the weather is cool, and the fitness center to burn off your free drinks.
When you’re driving through the desert, you sort of expect, well… the desert. Nothing quite prepares your mind for suddenly seeing the second largest man-made lake in America appear in the middle of the desert, with sky high red-rock formations flanking its sides, snow-covered mountain tops in the distance, and wide beaches of red sand. Lake Powell, in the northern part of Arizona stretching into southern Utah, is arguably the most scenic lake in the country, and is home to Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas, where sleeping, playing, and dining are had at their very finest.
Located at the Wahweap Marina, where boats are docked and taken out for excursions, this large natural playground gives you the opportunity to experience Lake Powell in a fun and unique way. After sleeping off the previous day’s activities in your traditional room, suite, or family unit, go ahead and explore the lake by renting a powerboat, kayak, or paddle board to cruise through the still waters on a self-guided adventure, go on a boat tour (we recommend the Antelope Canyon one) where you can learn about the history of this great lake, grab a pole and go fishing, golf, hike, or just spend the day at the pool, overlooking some of the most magnificent beauty you’ve ever seen.
For an even more authentic lake experience, park the car and board a houseboat, from economy to luxury options, to really take to the seas, or use Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas’s RV and campgrounds if your road trip vehicle was a tricked out, family awesomeness RV.
During your stay at Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas, don’t worry about having to leave your new favorite American lake to fill up your belly. With a large variety of dining options to choose from, right on the premises, you can be guaranteed that you and your little never-ending eating munchkins will never be hungry during your stay at the lake. From the Rainbow Room and the Driftwood Lounge to Wind and Anasazi Restaurant, there isn’t a bad view or a bad bite at this resort.
Photo Credits: Dani Nicole Photography