There’s not much by the way of autumn in Phoenix (it’s usually still boasting 90’s temps in October!), but 2-3 hours north can bring all the fall colors and crisp air that your heart can desire.
Sedona and Flagstaff are both great options for weekend trips, and this year we opted for our favorite location, Flagstaff. There’s more foliage to enjoy in the city and, of course, always the option to drive further north to the epic Grand Canyon. We left around 4pm on a Friday afternoon, and returned by 8pm on Sunday. Our children are currently 5 and almost 2, so while we had some thoughts to visit places like Bearizona, near Williams, AZ, their high energy was better suited for more parks and hiking instead of driving.
Here are some highlights from our family weekend. Maybe they will spark some ideas for your adventure next fall! Keep in mind that the second or third weekend in October is usually the peak of colors, but always check the city of Flagstaff website for the best info.
– We again stayed at Drury Inn and Suites. The location is within walking distance to downtown Flagstaff, and has a fabulous staff with comfortable rooms. Bonuses include a pool and hot tub, happy hour for adults with complimentary hot food for dinner (think chili, Mac n cheese, salad, pasta, etc), and a complimentary hot breakfast.
– Biking is popular among the many trails and we brought our personal bikes and Burley bike trailer to explore. There are plenty of options for renting bikes as well! Our favorite trails were the Karen Cooper Trail, which starts near downtown, and also onto Mars Hill Trail. Further north a bit is Buffalo Park, with some flat land trails that may even give you some up close views of tarantulas! (This trail is also good for strollers.) Both of these are part of the extensive Flagstaff Urban Trail System.
– Last year we hiked around the Arizona Snowbowl, and took the chair lift up into the clouds! This year we kept to the ground and enjoyed a family walk on the Rio de Flag trail (another good stroller path). Plus you can’t beat downtown walking and shopping, it’s really picturesque!
– Some favorite kid friendly stops: Cultured has coffee, frozen yogurt, snacks and a cute play area under the stairs! Barefoot Cowgirl Books has a nice selection of adult and children’s books, as well as children’s toys, especially Melissa and Doug items. Also try the local library on Aspen Street for storytime, and open playtime.
– Parks! It’s free, it’s outdoors, its active, it’s a great place to picnic. We always visit Thorpe Park, and also loved the duck pond at Frances Short Pond (also has a nearby playground). Sawmill Park is another option for little ones, which conveniently connects with the Rio de Flag trail.
– Consider taking the drive home via Sedona. Highway 89A runs parallel to I17 but boasts amazing views and it’s own fall brilliance as it winds down the canyon. There are numerous options for hiking, such as Slide Rock State Park — and don’t forget to pick up some freshly pressed apple cider near Oak Creek.
– One other note while in Sedona: we had a great lunch at Sedona Pizza Company and, as always, enjoyed the shopping and red rock views. Keep an eye out for musical instruments (we found two locations, there may be more!), that have xylophones, chimes and more for any age to make music. There’s also a free reptile exhibit tucked away amid the shops.
Check out this Sedona Day Trip Itinerary.