Weekend Away in Williams With Kids
Arizona is full of hidden treasures in the form of old towns that are just asking to be explored. One small town that has started to become a fall tradition for my family to visit is Williams. I miss the autumn season from back east, and getting away from the lingering late fall heat of Phoenix is so refreshing. We’ve been back two years in a row now, and this October will make it three years running.
The town of Williams is approximately three hours from Phoenix, but from the East Valley closer to four. This isn’t a bad road trip, but to make it more fun and manageable for little kids, there is an excellent stop right on the way. Out of Africa Wildlife Park is located in Camp Verde, Arizona, on route 260. Much more than just a quick stop over, this attraction offers close encounters with a variety of animals from the African savanna, opportunities to feed and interact with them, and an exciting safari ride! There is an extensive zipline for the grownups, animal meet and greets with educational displays, and large enclosures to explore and observe the animals. Their website offers free downloadable coloring pages, and a game!
Several shows are offered throughout the day, including an exciting tiger splash. My kids loved the reptile show which we stumbled upon by accident. I didn’t love it so much because I kept imagining the huge snake gobbling down my kids in one bite, but in the end, no one became lunch. Check the website for current shows and times. Tickets are $38.95 for adults and $23.95 for children. Senior and military discounts are offered. Give your family at least four hours to enjoy the unique and fun wildlife park. Operating hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., however admission stops at 4 p.m.
When you’re done exploring Out of Africa, hop back in your car and enjoy the rest of a scenic and easy hour and a half drive to Williams.
There are several nice hotels located right in town on Route 66, or enjoy a more interesting old west themed room in Wild West Junction at Drover’s Inn. The Drover’s Inn rooms were a lot of fun, and Wild West Junction is the perfect place to get into the weekend away spirit. We stayed in the Hacienda suite, and had plenty of room for us and our three kids. With this room you also get the advantage of a small, private balcony where you can watch the trains heading off to the Grand Canyon.
Whether you stay at the Inn or not, this small town is so much fun to explore! There’s a delicious steakhouse called the Branding Iron Restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. We had two meals there and the food was always good. There is also a saloon that I’m pretty sure is just called, The Saloon. Go inside and find out the story behind all those crazy dollar bills.
Enjoy the live music in the square outside while you eat, and be on the lookout for the resident bar cat, Tuffy. He is a real sweetheart, especially if you happen to have some half and half to share. He let me pet him one morning while he was basking in the sunlight on a windowsill. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day at 7 p.m., be ready for trouble! The Cataract Creek Gang get into a rowdy gun fight on the street, with some funny story telling to go along.
This year my family is planning on doing something new. The Grand Canyon is just over an hour from Williams, so we’re going to spend a day exploring the rim with our kids. This will be their first time seeing the Grand Canyon, and I can’t wait to see the looks on their faces. We’re just going to drive up on this trip. However for a different traveling adventure, try the Grand Canyon Railway, and let us know how it goes!
The main draw for my kids to Williams is the fantastic wildlife park, Bearizona. We’ve written about Bearizona in another article, so keep exploring Phoenix With Kids to find out more about this wonderful family place.
The Grand Canyon Deer Farm is a sweet and fun way to spend a morning. Buy the cups of deer food in the gift shop before you go in, then hold them up high over your head and prepare to be swarmed! The deer know that people coming in through the gate have food, and they are very friendly and insistent. Walking into the enclosure was almost overwhelming with the deer coming up and pushing their sweet snuffly noses into your hands and arms. But it was also hilarious! My tiny little kids were almost out of sight through the deer, and having the time of their lives. Slowly meandering along the walkways here will take about an hour.
In downtown Williams, just down the street from Wild West Junction, is a playground connected to a community center, called the Williams Recreational Park.. For kids, there is nothing more fun than the freedom to run and play. This playground is colorful and unique, and we stayed for almost two hours. A big plus is there is a public bathroom in the community center. Just down the street and across route 66 is a Safeway with a Starbucks in it. So grab some caffeine before heading to the playground, and enjoy sitting and watching your kids play against the backdrop of the Grand Canyon Railway train.
Since Williams is only 30 minutes from Flagstaff, take a quick road trip one afternoon and go see the Lowell Observatory. We found that our kiddos are too young to appreciate the programs offered there, but we still enjoyed driving up the mountain and stopping at scenic overlooks along the way. Near the base of the mountain leading down from the observatory is a great play area called Thorpe Park. We were running between raindrops, but even though it was wet, my kids had a blast here. We got some great family pictures here of the leaves changing colors behind my kids on the swings.
To top things off, my husband found one of his favorite eateries, the Sizzler. We walked in just a downpour started, and got to enjoy our steak while watching the storm pass.
I’m looking forward to exploring more of Williams and the Grand Canyon with my family this October. Can anyone tell me any more hidden gems in this town we should experience? What do you love about Williams? Let us know in the comments!