Las Vegas may not be the first destination you think of for a family trip, which is unfortunate. While known as hotspot for gambling and debauchery, there are plenty of things to do with the family. There are numerous museums like the Discovery Children's Museum and theLas Vegas Natural History Museum. There are also museums with a uniquely Las Vegas flavor like The Neon Museum. There are a number of amusement rides and activities like the High Roller Ferris Wheel or indoor go-karts at the Pole Position Raceway.
Hershey's Chocolate World is a two-story candy store the whole family will enjoy. Many of the hotels or casinos have great family-friendly attractions like the gondola rides at the Venetian or the Dancing Fountains at the Bellagio. The Thousand Trails Las Vegas RV Resort is close to downtown and offers great rates and recently updated sites
When you have had your fill of excitement it is time to head east to Amarillo. The trip is an easy drive and begins with heading out of town on I-515. Take I-515 to I-11 which will take you past our first point of interest, the Hoover Dam. After the dam, continue on RT-93 to I-40 east. I-40 will take you all the way to Amarillo and will be the base highway for a side trip to other points of interest.
The Hoover Dam is one of the great engineering feats of mankind. It was constructed on the Colorado River during the Great Depression with completion occurring in 1935. On the upstream side of the dam lies Lake Mead, which is the largest reservoir in the US and a great source of recreation for visitors to the area. The water from Lake Mead flows through the dam and is used to generate electricity for the local region.
There are several ways to tour the dam. The most basic option is to purchase a visitor center pass and go through the self guided visitor center tour. To get into the belly of the beast, you'll want to upgrade to the Guided Power Plant Tour which will take through the power generation portions of the dam. To get the full treatment, go for the Guided Dam Tour. This tour includes the Guided Power Plant Tour as well as a guided tour of some of the historic tunnels and elevators within the dam. Of these, only the Guided Power Plant Tour can be booked in advance. All the other options must be purchased on site on a first come first served basis.
Be aware that you cannot drive across the dam so for the purposes of this road trip you'll want to stay on the south side of the lake and arrive by I-11. The best RV Park in the area is Lake Mead RV Village which is located just a couple miles from the dam.
Of the points of interest on this trip, the Grand Canyon is the most out of the way. But, it's the Grand Canyon and you can't just drive by it without that little extra effort to see it. This spectacular place is well worth it.
You'll want to take exit 165 off of I-40 in Williams, AZ and head north on Rt 64. This will take you directly to Tusayan, the gateway town to the park. Go into the park and head to the visitors center to get all the park info you need. From there, hop on the free Village Route Bus that takes you to the Hermit's Rest Route Bus. The bus to Hermit's Rest will take you along the south rim with several places where you can get off (or back on) the bus to see the sights. There is a hiking path running along the road so you can hike along the rim from bus stop to bus stop while checking out the amazing views of the canyon.
The best place to stay is in Tusayan and there is a free loop bus that takes you to the visitor center in the park (you need a park pass to ride) which skips the entrance line. There are hotels in town and the Grand Canyon Camper Village for RVs.
Meteor Crater National Landmark is located about seven miles south of I-40 exit 233 near Winslow, AZ. This fascinating site was created about 50,000 years ago when a meteor slammed into the desert, creating a crater nearly a mile wide and 550 feet deep. To this day, it is one of the best-preserved meteor impacts sites in the world.
There is an entrance fee that gets you access to the activities here including the observation decks, a looping movie detailing the impact, an excellent museum section covering the site and science behind it, and access to guided rim tours. There is even a large piece of the actual meteorite on display which you can walk up to and touch. There is ample parking and one of the lots has several spaces dedicated to RVs.
This is also a great place to check out the night sky where the meteor came from. To see it for yourself, plan on staying the night at the RV park located on Meteor Crater Road just off the I-40 exit.
Petrified Forest National Park is split into two sections, a North and South Unit by I-40. The easiest access to the park is via exit 311 off I-40. Take the exit, turn left and go over the bridge and you are now on the park road. It's a short distance to the visitor center which you can access without going through the park gates.
If you choose to go into the park, you'll enter it in the Painted Desert area. On a sunny day, this area offers beautiful views. A couple of miles from the entrance station is the Painted Desert Inn. This historical building allows self-guided tours and is worth the stop. Most of the petrified wood and other historical sites are further down the park road, which takes about two hours to drive.
The ABQ Biopark consists of several facilities in two locations. The ABQ Biopark Botanical Gardens actually houses three great facilities: the botanical gardens, an aquarium, and an insectarium. The gardens themselves cover a large area with several different garden areas including a children's garden, an indoor tropical garden, a desert garden, a Japanese garden and a farm garden complete with farmhouse, barn, and animals. It makes for a great stroll on a warm sunny afternoon.
The aquarium and insectarium are excellent as well, with a broad range of live critters to look at. The Zoo is located next door and is also a great place to spend a day walking and watching animals. Tickets can be purchased for the Aquarium, Gardens/Insectarium, and Zoo separately or as package deals. On most days, there is even a small steam train which shuttles visitor back and forth between the zoo and garden complexes.
Old Town Albuquerque is a historic district in downtown Albuquerque covering several blocks which houses numerous shops, bars, restaurants, and more in old-style buildings. This area is best visited on foot. There are two nearby public parking lots, one on RT 66 (GPS 35.0950283, -106.6700892) and the other on the corner of Old Town Road NW and 19th Street NW (GPS 35.09640983, -106.6677859) where you can leave the car behind and walk right into the Old Town area.
Once in town be sure to stop by the Rattlesnake Museum, where you can see and learn about numerous venomous snakes. At the other end of town, you'll find the Candy Lady which offers a great assortment of hand made candy and fudge including their famous “Breaking Bad Candy” which looks like the blue ice made famous by the Breaking Bad TV series which was shot in Albuquerque.
Petroglyph National Monument is a park covering over 7000 acres on the Northwest side of Albuquerque. The park has a visitor center and several hiking trails. The main attraction here is the 25,000+ petroglyphs carved into the rocks by the ancestors of the Pueblo people. To see them you can embark on a self-guided tour or participate in one of the many ranger-led tours and programs within the park.
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is the largest festival of its kind in the US. Hundreds of balloonists and balloon enthusiasts float into Albuquerque for this marvelous event each year during the first week of October. There are many ballon related festivities, live music, entertainment, and much more.
The popularity of the festival means it can be difficult to nail down a place to stay with many spots being booked out a year in advance. If you can get in, the American RV Resort is a great place to stay. It's conveniently located right off I-40, has excellent amenities and is gated for security.
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Heading east on I-40, Amarillo seems to suddenly spring from the vast flat plains and wind farms that surround it. This place is a uniquely Texas city with a great variety of things to do. The best place to stay is the Oasis RV Resort. This outstanding campground is located just off I-40 on the west side of town. In addition to level paved RV sites, they also have numerous brand new cottages for those traveling without an RV.
There are many great family-friendly activities in Amarillo. Spend some time exploring the gorgeous Palo Duro Canyon State Park, catch a show at the Amarillo Little Theater, visit the Don Harrington Discovery Center and Space Theater, or visit the Amarillo Zoo. Two must dos while you are here are a visit to Cadillac Ranch and to eat at the Big Texan Steak Ranch & Brewery. Cadillac Ranch is an art exhibit located just a mile from the Oasis RV resort. There you'll find 10 old Cadillacs buried nose down in a farm field. Make sure you bring some cans of spray paint as it is a tradition for visitors to leave their marks on the cars. The Big Texan is a kitschy steakhouse restaurant made famous by their 72 oz steak-eating challenge. This place just screams Texas, has great food and makes for a great dinner out with friends or family.