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Arizona & New Mexico Road Trip with Son


Oct 3rd, 2012, 05:23 AM
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Arizona & New Mexico Road Trip with Son

Right after Thanksgiving I will be driving from LA to Cleveland with 24-year-old son; a unique opportunity for a little adventure. (We are leaving Sunday, 11/25. We are New Englanders but he lives in Cleveland right now.) We are taking a southern route through Arizona and New Mexico. He has never seen this part of the country and I haven't been there since 1983! I would love help from Fodorites on route and what to do along the way. Keep in mind that we have limited schedule even though we would love to be taking more time. He likes outdoor adventure and a reasonable dose of art. We both are adventurous eaters and would love authentic local food. On a moderate budget. What are temps likely to be that time of year?
Sun: drive from LA to Grand Canyon South Rim. Stay at El Tovar? Enjoy sunset and sunrise.
Mon: after a morning rim walk, drive to Santa Fe. Stop at Petrified Forest? Other short, interesting stops?
Tues: stay in Santa Fe. Day trip to Taos. O'Keeffe museum? Other suggestions? Hotel and dining suggestions? We will be in Santa Fe for 2 nights if we follow this plan.
Wed-Thurs: driving to Cleveland either through St. Louis or Memphis. Yes, long driving days.
cindyj is offline  
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Oct 3rd, 2012, 05:35 AM
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If you don't get the room you want in el Tovar, any of the other rim lodges should be available after T day.

When you leave GC, head east on 64 and stop at the wonderful view points if you haven't on the day before. Then go south on 89 and stop at Wupatki and Sunset Crater.

Just east of Flagstaff very close to I-40 is Walnut Canyon, which has cliff dwellings you can hike into.

Do stop at Petrified Forest/Painted Desert in Arizona and possibly el Morro/Inscription rock in New Mexico, both also a short way south of 40.

An hour east of Santa Fe is Bandelier NM, different dwellings, carved into the rock (hardened volcanic ash).

Get a National Park pass at your first park. If you are over 62, it is only $10 and is good for a lifetime, if you're a youngster it is more and only good for a year, but still a bargain.
emalloy is offline  
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Oct 3rd, 2012, 06:11 AM
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Between GC and Albuquerque and south of Gallup off I-40 is Zuni Pueblo. I visited for the first time recently and felt the couple of hours spent on the drive and pueblo tour were the best of my trip to Santa Fe. Info at zunitourism.com.
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Oct 3rd, 2012, 06:50 AM
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Last week I was with a group of PIT volunteers and Forest Service archeologists. We stayed at the Spring Valley cabin and bunkhouse about 1 hour south of the South Rim.
It can be rented if you can't get reservations at the South Rim
While we were there we heard 3 elk bugling at night.
Try to see the Sunset Crater east of Flagstaff south of I-40.
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Oct 3rd, 2012, 09:53 AM
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A bit out of the way, but another option would be Guadalupe National park and Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
They are only an hour apart, but Guadalupe is in TX and Carlsbad in NM.

Guadalupe is an unknown park and has several good hikes. Maybe do Guadalupe Peak hike, which is the tallest point in Texas.

The wild cave tours are great at Carlsbad. They only allow 8 people each week to visit either tour. One is given on Sunday and the other on Saturday.

I like the Petrified Forest, but it doesn't take but a few hours, unless you really want to get into it.

Order anything with Green Chiles in NM and you'll be happy.

White Sand Dunes is also an interesting stop.
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Oct 3rd, 2012, 10:27 AM
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Carlsbad is more than a bit out of the way, unfortunately; it's at least five hours south of Albuquerque.

It will be cool here in New Mexico - not necessarily snowy, though.

Acoma Pueblo is a few miles south of I-40 between Grants and Albuquerque. The pueblo sits on a mesa and is well worth a stop. http://sccc.acomaskycity.org/

There are a couple of restaurant threads in the New Mexico folder; I believe they both have been updated fairly recently.

Lee Ann
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Oct 3rd, 2012, 03:02 PM
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In Santa Fe, we love staying right on the plaza at the historic and charming La Fonda, but it is pricey. Even if you don't stay at La Fonda, walk through and look around the lobby, or see if there is a band playing in the bar the night you are there. You will see some impressive dancing. They also have really good Mexican food in the bar and restaurant, which share a kitchen. In Santa Fe, so much food, so little time!

To stay near the Santa Fe plaza (the center of the action) for less, try Garrett's Dessert Inn. If you don't mind staying off the plaza, El Rey or Sage Inn on Cerrillos are good options and include breakfast.

There are a lot of good museums in Santa Fe in addition to Georgia O'Keefe, and don't miss the Native Americans selling their hand made jewelry and other items right on the plaza.

There is so much to see in Santa Fe that you might consider skipping Taos just to give yourselves a break before the long drives. Otherwise, you could see Taos Pueblo on your day trip. People still live there and some have shops there as well.
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Oct 3rd, 2012, 03:09 PM
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Are you aware that your first day is an 8 hour drive and the second a 7+ hour drive according to Google map?
Michael is online now  
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Oct 3rd, 2012, 06:04 PM
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Cindy, apologies, it was not Zuni but Acoma I visited a couple of months ago. See ElendilPickle's post above with the correct website which reminded me. A really worthwhile deviation and not far off your route.

I'd also like to point out that Grand Canyon to Santa Fe is quite a long drive and if you also want to plan stops then you might consider a route that will include an overnight. Otherwise, one stop not too far off I-40 (such as Acoma) would be the logical choice.
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Oct 4th, 2012, 08:38 AM
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I agree with emalloy about Wupatki/Sunset Crater. Stop at Cameron and have some fry bread. In Wupatki, stop at a couple of the ruin sites. At the main ruins (Wupatki), go all the way down to the ball court and blow hole (this tip got me free books from Fodor's for 3 years!).

For a short (but steep) hike, take the Lenox trail which is just after Sunset Crater, but before you exit the park. from the NPS site - The Lenox Crater Trail provides an opportunity to climb a cinder cone. This steep trail is 1-mile (1.6km) round trip and requires about 30 minutes up and 15 minutes down!
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Oct 4th, 2012, 09:25 AM
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It's an 8 hour drive from LA to the Grand Canyon, and there are only 10 hours of daylight. Add in the time zone change and you should really plan on leaving before sunrise in LA to make it to Grand Canyon in time to look around a bit before sunset.

Right after Thanksgiving will be close to a full moon so make sure to get out and see the canyon at night as well.

If you want to watch sunrise, do a short rim walk and then make one or more short stops on the way to Santa Fe, there's no way you'll make it there before dark. If it were me, I'd plan on taking a bit more time on this route and doing some of the recommendations that others have already made - there's not much point in skipping over everything just to get to Santa Fe a few hours earlier because really, what will you do when you get there? Check in to a hotel, eat at a restaurant and go to bed? Pretty sure most tourist stuff would be closed by 5pm but I'm just guessing.

You might want to even just drive all the way to Taos that night. Maybe that sounds crazy but if you're already planning on going there the next day, why not just keep driving an extra 1.5 hours and get there instead of staying overnight in Santa Fe. Like I said, it sounds like you won't really have time to do much of anything in Santa Fe except eat and sleep.

And if you stay overnight in Taos and see what you want the next day, then I'd just start driving again and get somewhere else. That might give you a few extra hours to stop somewhere along the rest of your route - google maps shows 26 hours of driving between Santa Fe and Cleveland so you're going to be driving after dark anyway for sure the last 2 days.
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Oct 6th, 2012, 05:54 AM
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Thanks everyone for the help. I was aware of the long driving distances, but didn't consider the short days and time change. Unfortunately, I don't have much wiggle room in this excursion. We will leave LA very early (6:00 am) and get to GC before sunset, I hope. We will kick around in the am and hit the road mid-morning. I planned to stay two nights in Santa Fe, so we will have a whole day to explore. I know that isn't a lot, but it will give us an intro to the area. I didn't realize Taos was 1.5 hours drive away from Santa Fe. We may rethink that. Son is a skier and even if there isn't good skiing I thought he might want to see the mountains. But maybe a short hike closer to town would be goos. More restaurant suggestions, please!
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Oct 6th, 2012, 07:12 AM
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Santa Fe has so many good resturants-- some very, very expensive, which are just not my thing. My more moderate (and delicious) suggestions:

Guadalupe Cafe (near the plaza on Santa Fe Trail)
Tesque Village ( a neat place just a little ways out of town -- a store and hopping resturant in the evenings)
Plaza Cafe (on the plaza)
Pink Adobe (on the expensive side; near the plaza on Santa Fe Trail)
Chicago Pizza (near the plaza on Santa Fe Trail)
Del Charro (a bar with some great inexpenisve food attached to Inn of the Governors Hotel -- just off the plaza area)
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Oct 6th, 2012, 10:47 AM
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Not likely to be able to ski in Taos at that time.
DebitNM is offline  
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Oct 6th, 2012, 12:23 PM
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Correction: It is Upper Crust Pizza in Santa Fe, not Chicago Pizza. Sorry about that.
jayne1973 is offline  
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Oct 6th, 2012, 02:00 PM
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Thanks jayne1973. I was thinking Chicago Pizza was a chain. Either way, we're from New England and will definitely be wanting SW cuisine on this trip...morning, noon, and night. Son is an adventurous eater, up for anything. We especially like "local" places - not fancy, just good food. I will check your other suggestions.
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Oct 6th, 2012, 02:48 PM
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"We will leave LA very early (6:00 am) and get to GC before sunset, I hope."

Possible but not that likely. It does partly depend on where in LA you are leaving from. It is a huge area and one point or another could make an hour's difference.

But say you are leaving from somewhere on the west-ish side - it will take close to 9 hours. Even just one fuel/food stop and you are probably looking at around 9.5 hours.

If you need to get to the GC before sunset, you'll want to leave well before 6AM.
janisj is online now  
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Oct 6th, 2012, 04:22 PM
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All these restaurant suggestions are local places--I am with you on chains. Might as well stay home! haha

And don't forget the restaurant and/or bar in LaFonda hotel. Excellent Mexican/Southwest food in a neat setting.
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Oct 6th, 2012, 06:55 PM
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Nobody has mentioned the possibility of snow that time of year. Make sure you have the right clothes with you, otherwise you will be miserable. Definitely check the weather for that area as I-40 has been shut down plenty of times along that route due to snow and white out conditions.
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Oct 7th, 2012, 04:21 AM
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Yes, we will be prepared for cold weather...we are from Maine, after all. Snow at the GC would be magical! Kayak is showing the following rates: La Fonda-$114; Hotel Chimayo de Santa Fe-$102; Inn of the Governors-$119, includes breakfast. Recent reviews for Hotel Chimayo de Santa Fe were mixed-new owners?

Anyone have thoughts for our 2-night stay? Other suggestions?
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