What to do in the Southwest that doesn't involve looking at rocks?
July 16, 2009 10:21 AM   Subscribe

Somehow, a friend has roped me into an eight-day, old-school Southwestern road trip, from Kansas to Arizona and back, on July 22-30. What's good to see on this route?

The pins mark overnight stays. We're already seeing the following:
  • Painted Desert and Meteor Crater, AZ
  • Arcosanti (the future, as envisioned by the 1970's)
  • Sedona, AZ (to "explore the red rock formations and new age nutjob culture")
  • Grand Canyon
  • Navajo National Monument
  • (drive through) Monument Valley
  • Goosenecks State Park
  • Arches National Park
  • Cisco, UT
  • Pikes Peak
  • Garden of the Gods Park
Can you tell he's a geography major? Anyway, I'm a hardline college-town Northeasterner, and my idea of a tourist attraction is more like the Rose Center or Toscanini's. Does the hive mind have any thoughts on how to balance this trip out a bit with some cool additional destinations? I might even be able to convince him to jettison something if you guys come up with something really juicy. Good places to eat are especially welcome, because we won't be packing much food of our own. I'm also especially eager to find some decent out-in-the-boonies attractions to break up the insanely long drives between the bigger destinations. Thanks in advance.
posted by abcde to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I stayed in a terrific little place right by Garden of the Gods called Town n Country Cottages which had small cabin-type places a little off the beaten path for very cheap, nice people too. I also really enjoyed Canyon de Chelly, lots of petroglyphs, not as many people, a little more intimate than the Grand Canyon Experience.
posted by jessamyn at 10:39 AM on July 16, 2009

The Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction is pretty cool. It's been a few years since I was there, but Dolce Vita was a great and pretty cheap Italian restaurant on Main Street in Grand Junction. There was a brewpub a few doors up the road that had good food too.
posted by IanMorr at 10:41 AM on July 16, 2009

Best answer: If you like the Rose Center, you should certainly see the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, where Pluto was discovered. As for food, there'll be lots of good Az-Mex and New-Mex on your route -- I like Chowhound for up-to-date recommendations. In fact, I'd post your itinerary there to get good eats for the whole trip.
posted by escabeche at 10:43 AM on July 16, 2009

Jerome is a really cool old mining town in Arizona that's been repopulated by earthy hippie types, with some nifty cafes and such.
posted by mattholomew at 10:49 AM on July 16, 2009

Best answer: Your map indicates that you'll be passing through Salina, Kansas. If you're there during a mealtime, get a sack of Cozy Inn Hamburgers.
posted by amyms at 10:50 AM on July 16, 2009

I'd also recommend the Beaver Street Brewery for lunch or dinner if you're in Flagstaff.
posted by mattholomew at 10:51 AM on July 16, 2009

Response by poster: D'oh--I should have added that I'm a vegetarian, which definitely narrows things down in this territory. My friend, by contrast, lives on a strict beef-and-milkshake diet, so suggestions of really good burger places and so on are still welcome too--I can always have the fries.
posted by abcde at 10:57 AM on July 16, 2009

Chama Microbar in Albuquerque is a pretty cool little joint to grab a beer in, and the Anodine is a nice pool-and-suds sort of place, too. Chaco Canyon is a bit out of your way, but is a pretty cool place to hike around near Albuquerque.
posted by Pecinpah at 11:12 AM on July 16, 2009

Best answer: Sand Island, just west of Bluff, Utah, is a fun place to stretch your legs and look at some petroglyphs. Bluff itself has a little trading post where you can look around if you like American Indian jewlery (mainly Navajo, though they have some Hopi things).

Edge of the Cedars State Park in Blanding, Utah has an old Anasazi Ruin and museum you can check out. There's also a dinosaur museum there, but I like Edge of the Cedars so much more.

The Moab Brewery is a great place to eat in Moab, Utah. I like their burgers.

Glenwood Springs, Colorado has a hot springs pool (two of them, actually), where you can stop for a morning or afternoon to relax. There's even a water slide!

Vail, Colorado is beautiful in the summer and might also be good for a driving break.

Unfortunately, since you bypassing Denver, you're missing on your only chances for "big" museums (the Denver Museum of Nature and Science is right by the zoo!). You're going to see a lot of nothing on your trip with some fun stops in between.
posted by Aleen at 11:21 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Meteor Crater is on or near your route.
posted by Danf at 11:25 AM on July 16, 2009

You might want to overnight in Cortez, CO and check out Mesa Verde National Park. That will consume at least 3 hours but I really dug it.
posted by @troy at 11:26 AM on July 16, 2009

The 66 Diner in Albuquerque has a delicious vegetarian sandwich called the "Meatless Tuesday", and they have great shakes as well. One of the historic WigWam hotels is in Holbrook, AZ, and it's a fun place to stay the night. The interiors are cute (and round!). Also, I really love the Tower Museum, in Genoa, CO. It's hard to explain: a cross between a cabinet of curiosities and a junk store, but it is vastly many-roomed and odd, and you can climb up to the top of the tower and see 6 U.S. states(?).
posted by unknowncommand at 11:27 AM on July 16, 2009

Garden of the Gods will underwhelm you after everything else.

North of Monument Valley, in Mexican Hat, is the Mexican Hat Lodge. Stay there, eat there. Swingin' steaks...or tofu, if that's your thing. Instead of heading to Blanding directly, take the Moqui Gap, check out the Natural Bridges, then continue on to Blanding and Moab.

I'd detour to Page, AZ and check out Antelope Canyon. YOu won't be disappointed.

I'd swing down from Grand Junction in to the Black Canyon, maybe swing around to Aspen...the summer wilflowers will be nuts! If you do decide to go over Vail Pass, though, you can camp near Minturn. Head south from 70 on 24, you'll see a sign for "tigiwon" camp ground. Pretty sweet place to wake up.
posted by notsnot at 11:55 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sounds like you're sticking close to Route 66. Why not drive some of it? You'll find delights both small and large along the way. And you'll go right through Winslow, Arizona, as made famous by the Eagles, as you near Flagstaff and Meteor Crater.
posted by Work to Live at 11:57 AM on July 16, 2009

If you're hungry around Exit 254 on I-70 in Colorado, you should stop by a little place called Guido's Pizza (how original, I know). I ate there for 15 years of my young life, and nobody west of the Mississipi makes a better New York-style pie. Also, nobody employs as many stoned and/or drunk teenagers.
posted by martens at 11:59 AM on July 16, 2009

Oh, and there's a sweet Buffalo Herd off that same exit. Those guys a pretty cool.
posted by martens at 12:01 PM on July 16, 2009

Regarding Winslow: if not for an overnight stay, stop for lunch at the La Posada Hotel. Rhett Butler and Carole Lombard honeymooned there!
posted by Tufa at 12:15 PM on July 16, 2009

- colorado nat'l monument is just more rocks and not worth a stop IMO.
- beaver street brewery in flagstaff is great.
- I think antelope canyon is difficult to get in to (permit-wise) but I could be wrong.
- I remember lowell observatory and meteor crater being pretty cool.
- moab has pretty rocks but not much else if I remember. could go mountain biking?
- the 89->160->163->191 route has lots of small towns and lots of small-town cops. pay attention to the speed limit.
- dinosaur national monument is along that route somewhere (they're rocks now, but they weren't always...)
- culture-wise, denver is your best bet. Art museum, the first chipotle, nat'l history... good stuff.
- the riordan mansion in flagstaff has some cool history.
- if you like architecture, the NAU campus has some of the greenest new buildings in the country.
- ditto denver for the liebskind art museum, among other things.
- you might want to detour to boulder. it's just such a cool town. there are also a lot of breweries in the region (fort collins, golden, etc)

I'm sure I'm forgetting stuff but I hope that helps.
posted by Chris4d at 12:21 PM on July 16, 2009

As you pass by the southwest corner of Denver, check out the parks along W Deer Creek Canyon Rd. There are trails that only take an hour or two to walk, but have really curious rock formations.

A bit further north, Dinosaur Ridge and Red Rocks are cool and pretty much along your way.
posted by Cogito at 12:36 PM on July 16, 2009

Ooo! Ooo! Seconding Cortez - there's a great brewpub there (Main Street Brewery), run by a German immigrant, he makes excellent beer. Also not to be missed is Pippo's Coffee Bar, the diner where the local ranchers, farm hands, ranch hands, and assorted others all eat. Great huevos rancheros (get the green chile on 'em).
Also want to recommend another great out of the way place in NM, El Morro Nat'l monument. Only seven campsites, an interesting ruin at the top of the bluff, and a pool of the only fresh water in ab't a 150 mile radius - with petroglyphs pecked into it for the last couple thousand years.
posted by dbmcd at 1:12 PM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

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