Thursday night, we returned from 11 practically perfect days in Arizona. We decided to take a family vacation out to see where Brad's office is and explore all that the area has to offer. Before we left, we only booked hotel rooms, a trip via train to the Grand Canyon, and a rental car. We left everything else wide open, which gave us an amazing amount of freedom. It was bliss to plan our days without prearranged schedules or a check list of things we had to see. When we checked into the hotel, we raided the tourist brochure stand and just planned one day at a time.
We flew in on Monday, and stopped by Daddy's office to meet all of his colleagues. They are all lovely people, and it is so nice to have faces to put with names! We then checked into the Residence Inn:
Tuesday, Daddy had to work, and the kids and I headed out to hike in Watson Woods:
Tuesday afternoon, we headed back to the pool:
Tuesday afternoon, we picked Daddy up from work and headed out to explore downtown Prescott. It is such a cute little town:
These little gnomes guard the new grass, which I find tremendously entertaining:
We also found a great homemade ice cream shop:
Wednesday, Daddy was able to take the day off to hang out with us! We spent the morning at Heritage Park Animal Sanctuary, which is right there in Prescott. All of their animals have been rescued, and we were there to see this big bear eat his breakfast:
We also saw everything from eagles to raccoon, from lizards to mule deer. But the highlight was Cassie:
Wednesday afternoon was spent swimming and enjoy the hotels barbecue dinner. By Wednesday night we headed out to Prescott's rodeo, which is the oldest continuously running rodeo in the world:
Thursday morning, we packed up bright and early and headed north:
We thought there was no better way to spend the Fourth of July than at the Grand Canyon, and the Grand Canyon Railway was the perfect way to get there! Before we boarded the train, we went to a Wild West show at the end of the platform, and to our great delight Daddy was the one to get roped into the show!
Soon, we boarded our train for the ride home. These pictures capture some of the little silly moments I loved about our week. Evan and Daddy teasing each other:
Just when we all thought it couldn't get any better, the gang from the morning managed to get on board:
Did I mention Williams is an incredibly small town? The MC owns the local music store, and apparently he knows every one in town. Brad and I were cracking up as he announced the floats. Not only did he mention what organization sponsored the float but he greeted every person on board by name. Our particular favorites were when he apologized to one driver for missing lunch and confirmed a lunch date for later in the week with another. We also decided at least half of the town is his neighbor. It was priceless, and the kids loved the small town feel and the pockets full of candy they brought home.
Arizona is too dry for fireworks, but the kids did learn who Smokey the Bear is:
We left there to explore a volcano that is in Flagstaff. We thought we were headed to the park, but the GPS actually took us to the foot of the volcano via some dirt roads. It wasn't the trek we planned, but it was so fun--except for the couple of times we wondered whether the Impala would make it. It was gorgeous and another happy accident.
From Flagstaff, we headed further south to the Blazing M Ranch. It used to be a working ranch, and now they host cowboy dinners and a music show. The brochure over-sold the pre-dinner activities, but the kids were amused to put Daddy in jail:
Saturday night we headed back to Prescott, and spent Sunday recovering a bit from all the adventure. We went to a local breakfast place that used to be a train depot for a great brunch, and then we went to see How to Train Your Dragon II in a theater that may have ruined all theaters forever. Imagine leather recliners and a ticket and concession price half of what we are used to. Brad has announced he will be seeing many more movies in Prescott. That evening, one of Brad's coworkers invited us out to his house for dinner, and we had a lovely evening. Their home looks out over Thumb Butte, and it was a beautiful place to enjoy a meal.
Monday morning, Daddy headed to work and the kids and I set out exploring. We started our morning at Granite Creek:
There were plenty of stones for skipping. We then went to the Sharlot Hall Museum, where my children proceeded to astound me and every docent we met. The museum is a series of historic buildings from Arizona's territorial days, and when we walked in, each kiddo was given a scavenger hunt of questions to answer. The lady explained we should expect to spend 45 minutes to an hour to see the whole museum. We started in an exhibit about prehistoric life in Arizona, which was really interesting, and I stood back while Issa read to Evan and I answered the occassional question. We had the museum to ourselves, which meant they could wander and explore to their hearts content. We were able to see the first governor's mansion, which is a log cabin, and the docent there was incredible. She started by explaining that the cabin had been build when Lincoln was president. When she asked if they knew who that was, Issa responded, "He was president during the Civil War," and Evan chimed in, "He freed the slaves." Well then. Even I was a little surprised, but she ratcheted her talk up a bit and we learned a ton about the time period and how the cabin was built. We also saw an exhibit about the early days of the territory including the railroad, homesteaders, ranching, and Whiskey Row. We ended our tour in the fifth governor's mansion, which was a beautiful Victorian home. All said, we were there two hours. They were just little sponges! When we turned in our scavenger hunt, they each received a piece of candy, but I also said they could pick something out from the gift shop. Evan chose a set of lincoln logs, and Issa chose a set of marbles. Much of the rest of the week was spent like this:
After swimming, we picked Daddy up from work and went to eat dinner at the Palace, which is on Whiskey Row. It's the most historic restaurant, and the kids had learned about how it had been saved from fire multiple times, including an incident in which a bunch of cowboys carried the bar out when it looked like the building might burn. The kids loved looking at the museum cases that were set up inside, and Daddy was pretty impressed with all they had learned.
Tuesday, we dropped Daddy off at work and then headed to the Smoki Museum:
Wednesday, Daddy worked a half day while the kids and I spent a little more time exploring downtown Prescott. After lunch, we headed to Phoenix since we had an early flight Thursday. We stayed near Arizona State, and Daddy used his Food Network ap to find an amazing pizza place. Life changing, wood fired pizza that was featured on "The Best Thing I Ever Ate." The waiter almost fell over as the kiddos split the market salad, which was watermelon and fennel, with their pizza.
And when in the West, we realized we needed some Western wear, which deserves to be featured. I found a hat on day one:
Evan needed six shooters:
Issa found a beautiful Yavapi butterfly barrette:
She found it in Sedona, but Mr. Bruce explained it would be worn during the butterfly dance in the spring.
To put it simply, this trip was perfect. It was the right blend of adventure and rest, learning and playing. We laughed together and made so many memories, and we can't wait to go back next year.