Northern Arizona is known for such national treasures as The Grand Canyon and the Painted Desert that make it a great spot for an affordable family vacation. The small community of Williams, which offers several free family vacation activities, lies on historic Route 66 and the Southwest Chief Amtrak train route.
It is also located on the Southern Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, and is therefore a regular stop for visitors exploring the region.
The climate of Northern Arizona is generally warm, sunny, and dry. Attractions which draw visitors to the area – including several of the free options below – center around natural wonders and Native American history.
1. Country Cruise-In. The town of Williams hosts northern Arizona’s biggest car show with hundreds of classic and vintage cars on display. Also included is the Route 66 Festival, a celebration of the historic highway’s history, legends and lore. The festival includes a burger burn, poker run, cruise the loop, dances, contests, and live music.
2. Lava Tubes – The town of Williams sits on a volcano field which features lava tubes. They are located off Interstate 40 at the Bellemont exit, No. 185. Take the frontage west to FR171 and follow the signs.
3. Small Town 4th of July – Williams celebrated 100 years of 4th of July parades in 2009. A vintage photo shot from the second floor of the historic Grand Canyon Hotel, serving guests since 1891, captured the Main Street parade in 1909. The annual “Old time 4th of July” events spill out into the community and include a local Rotary BBQ, a traditional ice cream social at the Methodist Church, free family swim at the beautiful indoor Williams Aquatic Center, and other family activities.
4. Navajo Nation Zoological & Botanical Park The only tribally owned zoo in the country that has exhibited indigenous wild animals since 1962. The animals reside in natural habitats surrounded by native vegetation and rock scenery. Most animals here are native to the Navajo Nation and a part of the zoo’s dedication to exhibit animals and plants important to the history and culture of the Navajo people. Free admission Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., closed Sundays and holidays.
5. Canyon de Chelly National Monument Reflecting one of the longest continuously inhabited landscapes of North America. The cultural resources of Canyon de Chelly include distinctive architecture, artifacts, and rock imagery. Canyon de Chelly also sustains a living community of Navajo people, who are connected to a landscape of great historical and spiritual significance. Visitor Center open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m., closed Christmas. North & South Rim Drives and White House Trail remain open year round.
6. Window Rock Monument & Navajo Veteran’s Memorial Park. This park near the Navajo Nation Administration Center features the redstone arch for which the capital is named. The Navajo Nation headquarters and other government offices were built in close proximity to this rock formation. More recently, the Navajo Nation has built a Veterans Memorial at the base of Window Rock to honor the many Navajos who served in the U. S. military. Many Navajo soldiers are recognized in the annals of history for their role as Code Talkers, whereby they used the Navajo language to create a code that was never broken by the enemy. Historians credit the Navajo Code Talkers for helping to win World War II. Open daily.
7. Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site. The oldest continuously operating trading post on the Navajo Nation. Purchased by John Lorenzo Hubbell in 1878, this historic spot on Navajo Nation supplied new things to the Navajo years ago. Now operated by Western National Parks Association, the trading business continues. Open in the summer 8 a.m.-6 p.m. daily and in the winter 8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day.
8. Old Trails Museum – Learn about Winslow’s history through the exhibits at the Old Trails Museum. Visitors can view displays about the Santa Fe Railroad, Ranching, trading Posts and Route 66. Collections of prehistoric Native American artifacts, fossils, historic medical, dental, optometrist, and mortuary instruments are included among the exhibits.
9. McHood Park/Clear Creek Reservoir. Provides a place for visitors to swim, boat, fish, hike, picnic, camp, bird watch, and more.. Open year round.
10. “Standin’ on a Corner in Winslow Arizona” – A bronze statue and large mural depict the lyrics (“standin on a corner in Winslow Arizona, such a fine sight to see”) from the popular song “Take It Easy” performed by the Eagles. The Annual Standin’ on the Corner Festival takes place every year in late September.