Family Fun

4-Day Northern Arizona Itinerary for Families

Crafting an itinerary for a multi-generational group vacation is a balancing act, often requiring a spreadsheet, not to mention diplomatic skills and a degree in counseling. But a trek through Flagstaff, Williams, Clarkdale and Prescott should keep everyone in your tribe smiling.

Day/Night 1: Flagstaff

At the base of the San Francisco Peaks, this mountain enclave is a hub for year-round outdoor adventures, blending a crunchy vibe with sophistication.

Surrounded by national forest, Flagstaff is hiking heaven. In town, Buffalo Park has a two-mile loop with mountain views among pine-filled hills. Nearby, Walnut Canyon National Monument’s Island Trail is a one-mile trek into a canyon of cliff dwellings. North of town, the Aspen Nature Loop Trail is a moderate 2.5-mile meander through ferns, meadows and aspen. (While you’re there, check out Arizona Snowbowl’s scenic gondola rides).

Flagstaff is a foodie haven. James Beard Award nominee Rochelle Daniel’s Atria has a lengthy wine list and a seasonal menu of signature dishes like Sonoma duck with barley risotto. Satisfy pizza cravings at Fat Olives, which serves carefully crafted Neopolitan-style pies, or head to Satchmo’s for spicy Cajun food and smoky barbecue. Macy’s is Flagstaff’s long-time hangout, where guests linger over cappuccinos and enjoy dishes like vegan-friendly waffles or hummus sandwiches. Weekends, locals line up at MartAnne’s Breakfast Palace for chilaquiles and breakfast burritos.

For a rustic experience, try Arizona Mountain Inn & Cabins, which has an inn and 17 cabins scattered amidst Ponderosa pines—great for extended families. Tucked atop a hill, Aiden by Best Western is a new concept that plays off its repurposed 1970s-era building.

Day/Night 2: Williams

Williams once had a rep as just being a place to fuel up before Grand Canyon National Park. Today, it’s a vibrant visitor magnet, with Route 66 history, shops and restaurants, and the wide-open spaces of adjoining national forests.

Animals strike curious poses at two wildlife destinations. Since 1969, Grand Canyon Deer Farm has elicited “awwws” as a petting zoo for Bambi lookalikes. At 160-acre Bearizona, the animals are uncaged while you drive slowly—and stay in your car—to see bears, wolves, bison and more in a natural habitat.

If the thought of having only a car door a between you and a wolf doesn’t set your heart racing, Canyon Coaster Adventure Park lets you control the speed on an alpine coaster as it dips and twists on a mile-long track. Summer and winter, you can also tube downhill.

For something with less adrenaline, but plenty of nostalgia, stroll Route 66 through historic downtown Williams to see shops, restaurants and vestiges of the Mother Road. Get your kicks—and bearings—at Williams Visitor Center, which has displays about the fabled roadway. Need more than a stroll? Sycamore Rim Trail hikes you through pine forests to the edge of Sycamore Canyon. Turn back at any point along the trail or do the entire 11-mile, moderate loop. Dogtown Lake offers an easier hike, with a two-mile nature trail encircles a peaceful reservoir.

Steep yourself in nostalgia at Cruiser’s Route 66 Cafe, set in an old filling station reimagined as a ‘50s-style diner. Behind its scarlet facade, Red Raven Restaurant offers grilled duck breast or basil butter salmon within an historic storefront setting. Yes, you can get a balanced meal at Pine Country Restaurant, but most go straight to dessert—a slice of coconut cream or strawberry peanut butter pie—or any of the dozens of flavors available daily.

In town, the Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel offers a full-service hotel and restaurant right next to the historic Williams depot, where you can take the train—complete with vintage rail cars and Western entertainment—to the edge of the Grand Canyon. At Inn History, a vacation rental property, stay in one of six newly built cabins, all designed with a nod to Grand Canyon’s human and natural history.

Day/Night 3: Clarkdale

Founded in 1912 as a copper mining company town, Clarkdale has become known as an arts community with a boho spirit.

Take a train ride into a scenic canyon on the Verde Canyon Railroad, where you’ll learn about the area’s copper mining history, Native American culture and local wildlife. Or get out on the water with Clarkdale Kayak Company. They offer guided floats on the Verde River where you’ll see Native American ruins and a riparian zone dense with willows and cottonwoods. Located in Clarkdale’s historic high school, Arizona Copper Art Museum details thousands of things made of the metal, from pudding molds to architectural elements.


Start the day with coffee and a freshly baked decadent pastry at French-inspired Violette’s Bakery Cafe. At Smelter Town Brewery, sample craft beer, Arizona wine (the surrounding Verde Valley is, after all, known for its wineries) or seltzers, along with snacks like bratwurst and chips. A short drive from Clarkdale, Pizzeria Bocce is a lively spot for pizza, paninis, and yes, bocce.


Stylish Park Hotel, in the same 1915 brick building as Smelter Town Brewery, preserves historic architecture but offers modern amenities like free Wi-Fi, charging stations and refrigerators.

Day/Night 4: Prescott

Surrounded by pines and dotted with lakes, Prescott blends cowboy culture with and an artsy ambiance.

On a series of trails, hike the Granite Mountain Wilderness to see massive boulders, junipers and pines. The Lynx Lake Loopis an easy, 2.5-mile trek around a cool lake deep in the national forest, while closer to town, the Peavine Trail is a six-mile, flat ramble past Watson Lake and Prescott’s famous Granite Dells.

Go back in time at Sharlot Hall Museum, where historic buildings and an exhibit space trace Prescott’s history, including its stint as Arizona’s territorial capital. Nearby, Heritage Park Zoo is a sanctuary for creatures from mountain lions and bears to Gila monsters and desert tortoises.

Time your visit to include some of Prescott’s many notable events. In summer, release your inner cowboy during the World’s Oldest Rodeo, founded in 1888. Plan a return trip for December’s annual courthouse Christmas lighting and parade, which you can view from the capacious Courthouse Plaza—the town square, site of many other local events. Year-round, get tickets for concerts, plays and films at the restored, historic, 1905 Elks Theatre.

Raven Cafe is a favorite for live music and brunch with an emphasis on organic, vegan and vegetarian options. Down the street, Murphy’s is known for prime rib served up in an 1890s mercantile building. Is it cocktail hour yet? Head to The Point Bar & Lounge for a speakeasy style and signature drinks like the Spaghetti Western sparked with mezcal and tamarind syrup. At Superstition Meadery, the scent of honey perfumes the air as you sample flights of mead and hard cider.


Opened in 1927 and designed by noted Southwestern architect Henry Trost, the redbrick Hassayampa Inn is the restored grande dame of Prescott, boasting a cage elevator and a ghost, in addition to pillow-top beds and a dog-friendly policy.

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About the Author

Nora Burba Trulsson

Nora Burba Trulsson is a long-time Arizona resident and a freelance writer specializing in travel, food, lifestyle, architecture and design topics. Her articles have appeared in Phoenix Home & Garden, Arizona Highways, Sunset,, Valley Guide, Modern Luxury Scottsdale and other publications and websites.

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