South by Southwest
Route 66 nostalgia in northern Arizona
The Route: Perhaps no other stretch of asphalt does better at turning car windows into eye-popping postcards. Starting in Holbrook, roads wind through the pink- and toffee-colored badlands of the Painted Desert before leading into Petrified Forest National Park (nps.gov/pefo), the stony remains of an ancient forest. A short jaunt to the west along Route 66 leads to Meteor Crater, where an asteroid left the desert pockmarked with a gargantuan 570-foot-deep bowl. Expect to get tired of hearing the word “Whoa!” The ride continues west to Flagstaff and onto Highway 89A, which winds south through high-desert forest and terracotta buttes. Next stop: Sedona, famed alien-sighting center. (Don’t tell the kids—or maybe do!) Besides chasing down little green men, there are (easy) treks to Native American ruins and nature walks at Crescent Moon Ranch in the Coconino National Forest (fs.usda.gov/coconino). But the most thrilling way to take in the scenery is on an off-road jeep ride. Pink Jeep Tours (pinkjeeptours.com) can accommodate kids 18 months and up (they supply free car seats). “It’s like a really slow roller coaster,” says Steve Schneider, tour organizer.
Sleep: The jumbo tepees at the Wigwam Motel (galerie-kokopelli.com/wigwam) in Holbrook are a Route 66 institution. Perched on a Sedona hillside, the Hyatt Piñon Pointe (hyattpinonpointe.com) offers ceramics and dream catcher-making classes.
Local Eats: Fluffy pancakes, juicy burgers, and giant banana splits are dished up at the Galaxy Diner (928-774-2466), a retro eatery on Route 66 in Flagstaff.
Right on Key
The Florida Keys: the southernmost fun you can have in the U.S.
The Route: One of the continent’s most dramatic drives begins on Highway 1 in Miami, then skirts Barnes Sound before landing in Key Largo, the first of the Keys. This bustling town is a great base for exploring John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (pennekamppark.com), where you can swim with fish straight out of Finding Nemo.
Read more: Carolina A. Miranda, Parenting