10 Best Roadtrip Stops: Phoenix, AZ Edition

This series of posts is presented to you with the help of Cooper Tires. Four of our writers set off to find the best road trip stops in their cities. This post is a result of at least 100 minutes of road trip song singing, destination exploring, photo taking, video capturing and smooth riding on new tires, courtesy of Cooper Tires. If you and your family love road tripping and are looking for some fun spots 100 minutes from your hometown, check out all the posts in our series and Roadtrippers 100 Minutes from Home for other destinations. Read on to enjoy a recap of one of our road trips and our thoughts on Cooper tires.

Remember being a kid and taking a family road trip vacation? The car trip was often more exciting than the actual destination! Your parent(s) would plan out some neat, out of the way places for you to visit and the fun would be traveling to them and seeing these interesting sites. Maybe you saw the “World’s Biggest Ball of Twine” or a petrified forest or an old covered bridge- no matter what it was, following along on the map and making stop after stop was all the fun that you needed.  Well, times have changed and most parents think that they need to do more and more and more- the grander the vacation the better. We all know that those vacations are amazing, but with today’s tighter budgets, sometimes just a smaller family vacation is just what the doctor ordered. When you are thinking a smaller vacation is in order you should consider taking a staycation/roadtrip! Finding a wonderful family friendly hotel closer to home can be cheaper and easier for the family to travel. And, when you’re doing the actual traveling, why not make that part of your vacation as well!? This post will be one in a small series of posts of best off the grid and interesting road trip stops that you can include into your next family vacation. This time we are traveling around the heart of sunny Arizona- Phoenix and its suburbs. Come travel with us following less than 100 miles around the city to see 10 unique stops that you may ordinarily miss. These sites cover some known attractions, historical landmarks, interesting architecture, and also hole-in-the-wall restaurants that you’ll wonder why you never stopped at before!

Ready to travel? Buckle up, here we go!

Tovrea Castle // Tempe, AZ

Tovrea Castle is a historic structure and landmark in Phoenix, Arizona. Originally intended as a centerpiece for a resort and later a private residence, the castle is now part of the Phoenix parks system and is on the registry of historical places. The castle resembles a wedding cake of sorts in the middle of the desert and is quite a site! Guided tours are available during certain times of the year. It’s interesting to look at and your kids will enjoy imagining what royalty lives there.

Upside Down Pyramid // Tempe, AZ

The Upside Down Pyramid is actually the Tempe Municipal Building and is located in the heart of downtown Tempe right by Arizona State University. This building is really neat to look at and leaves your kids wondering how on earth did they build that?!

Mill Avenue Shops // Tempe, AZ

Located right by Arizona State University, The Mill Avenue District has over 100 restaurants, clubs, and retail shops for you to choose from. It has some neat architecture and buildings and plenty to see and do. Whether you are looking for a bite to eat or just want to shop, the Mill Avenue District has you covered.

Desert Botanical Gardens // Phoenix, AZ

In the middle of Phoenix lies the beautiful Desert Botanical Gardens which, for more than 70 years, has been teaching and inspiring visitors, providing research, exhibits and more designed to help us understand, protect and preserve the desert’s natural beauty. Today, the Garden features over 140 acres of beautiful desert plant life and has many programs that are perfect for their youngest visitors, including tours, hands-on classes and activities based on Arizona’s educational standards.

Hall of Flame Fire Fighters Museum // Phoenix, AZ

Calling all fire truck lovers! The Hall of Flame Fire Museum and the National Firefighting Hall of Heroes has almost an acre of fire history exhibits with over 90 fully restored pieces of fire equipment on display including some pieces over 200 years old! There are pieces from all over the world and will delight fire truck lovers both young and old.

Mac Alpine’s Soda Fountain // Phoenix, AZ

Take a step back in time and stop in Mac Alpine’s Soda Fountain! This 50’s styled diner has all the classic favorites such as malts and flavored sodas. They’ve been scooping ice cream since 1929 and it has all the charm you’d expect from a place like this. Your kids will love the hand churned milk shakes or sundaes and will really enjoy sitting right up at the soda bar on the old fashioned stools. It’s truly a can’t miss destination.

Phoenix Zoo // Phoenix, AZ

The biggest zoo in the state, the Phoenix Zoo, hosts over 1400 different animals including 30 endangered species. The zoo is huge and completely caters to young kids. Kids of all ages will love viewing the monkeys, lions, giraffes and the local animals including the coyote and desert tortoise. The park even boasts a water play area which is great for cooling off on a hot Arizona day.

HandleBar J’s // Scottsdale, AZ

Located in Scottsdale, this western bar and restaurant has been family owned and operated since 1966 and is truly one of the last authentic western style steak houses and saloons around. This country restaurant offers amazing food and western entertainment and is decorated with the hats of cowboys past. This historical landmark and local favorite is the perfect place to grab a nice meal on your road trip.

Children’s Museum of Phoenix // Phoenix, AZ

The Children’s Museum of Phoenix is any child’s dream come true, with over 48,000 square feet of play space and over 300 play experiences for kids to explore, learn and touch in. It has been voted one of the top 10 children’s museums in the country and when you visit you’ll know why! Kids will flip over the art areas, reading lofts, fort building areas, and enormous play structures both inside and out. They offer many classes and there’s even an area designed just for babies. Every child will find something they can’t stop playing with!

Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park // Phoenix, AZ

The Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park is a pre-Columbian archaeological site and ruins, which are located in central Phoenix. It dates back to 450 BC and was inhabited by the prehistoric Hohokam culture and includes a historic platform mound, irrigation canals, many dwellings and ball courts. The museum is passionate about preserving this historic site and offers tours and also a look inside at some interesting relics.

So the next time your family is looking for a small getaway on a tighter budget, consider taking a good old fashioned road trip with your kids and discover some interesting places in your own backyard!

Note from the Writer: Taking a road trip with three kids can be stressful! So much time and energy is put into planning activities, snacks, movies and entertainment for them to keep them busy on the trip- but how much energy is actually put into the safety factor? Honestly, before I had kids, I didn’t take car safety too seriously, but once our oldest was born, we became very vigilant into ensuring our car was in tip-top shape, and that all starts with the tires. Your tires are the only that connects your car to the ground and it is imperative that your car has the right tires for it, your environment and that they are being maintained effectively. Living in Arizona, summer temps can reach well over 100 degrees, which means the ground is even hotter. When you drive on the freeway, it’s often littered with the remnants of blown out tires, often due to the extreme heat, which can be a scary site. After driving around on our new Cooper Discoverer tires we are most impressed. They really gripped the road, much better than our older ones, not only in normal driving conditions, but also on the freeway at higher speeds, through a Monsoon storm, and additionally on some unpaved roads we encountered in a recent trip to the White Mountains. I feel so much more secure knowing we have these high-quality tires on our car, and truly believe their motto is true: all traction…all terrain…all the time!

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Be prepared for your next road trip with these travel tips:
10 Tips for Traveling with a Toddler 
Baby’s First Roadtrip Fun Travel Games for Kids

Photo Credits: Our Three Peas, Bo Nash (cc) modified, Tovrea Castle, Tempe City Hall, Mill Ave. ShopsDesert Botanical GardensHall of Flame MuseumRoadtrippersPhoenix Zoo, HandleBarJ’s, Children’s Museum of Phoenix, Pueblo Grande Auxiliary Museum

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Michelle; full time mama, part time blogger, wife extraordinaire. This busy mama to three “peas” is a lover of all things running, crafting and baking. A New England native and current desert dweller, she is the brains and wit behind the blog Our Three Peas, where she writes about the hilarious reality that is motherhood. She strives to live a green and natural life and swears that most motherhood-related dramas can be solved by having a nice glass of wine at the end of the evening.

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