Spring Break with kids can be expensive! I try to get creative and plan things that my children will enjoy, but also something that can be secretly educational…shhh! Yuma Arizona might not seem like a popular vacation destination, but you would be very pleasantly surprised! Adventure and history can be found where you least expect it. This is a budget friendly trip with memories that will last a lifetime. Bring your curiosity and a camera!
Why on earth would you want to go to Yuma?? Read on and find out!
What to Do in Yuma, Arizona
Just as you arrive into the town of Yuma, There is a historical prison and bridge that you may have driven by several times and never known. Yuma Territorial Prison opened in 1875 and housed men AND women for various crimes ranging from petty theft to murder. My expectations were blown away! The fee is 6.00 for adults and 3.00 for children. You are then free to explore at your leisure. So much history! But seriously who wouldn’t want to investigate old prison cells and explore solitary confinement?! Our kids loved every minute of it!
This prison opened in 1875 and closed in 1909. It housed men and women (over 3000). The prison became overcrowded and was closed down and moved to a different location.
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The visitors center had photos of all of the inmates and the information regarding their crimes. Inmate weapons and historical photos were on display as well as a short informative movie about the workings of the facility. There was also a spot to put on prisoner garb and take you own mug shot “selfie”. We took our time and ended our tour on top of the guard look out tower. It was pretty incredible to see where the water of the Colorado River used to fill the entire valley at one time.
What to Bring
Spring is a great time to head to the desert. It was 88 degrees, dry and bearable. BUT, bring WATER!
- Pack a lunch! The view is too good to waste. Take advantage of the look out points and shaded picnic tables…and save some money!
- Go to the gift shop! I’m not too thrilled about cheap souvenirs but “scary prison” souvenirs were just too cool to pass up.
- Wear tennis shoes! Of course the area is maintained, but some areas have uneven footing, bricks and concrete. As you can see, we didn’t wear tennis shoes and wish we would have!
Castle Dome Ghost Town
Just about 30 minutes outside of Yuma on your way to the Colorado River hot spots is an incredibly restored silver mining town from the 1860’s along with historical mines and mining equipment! I mean “knock you socks off,” “holy cow,” “how did I not know about this” incredible.
You have to see it to believe it!
Things to Remember
- There is no wifi and our GPS did not work. A long dirt road had us a bit worried but when you start to feel like you are completely lost, you’re almost there. It’s all part of the adventure right?!
- Have a full tank of gas. There are no gas stations in the vicinity and peace of mind is priceless.
- When you pull in, the ghost town is to your left and the mines are to your right. All buildings have been restored and recreated. (bank, jail, blacksmith, Inn, church, etc) You are free to explore EVERYTHING!
- Any child older than 2 years of age will be in heaven!!
- Do not let your children wear good clothes. There is so much to touch and explore that your kids will be DIRTY…notice the white shirt my daughter is wearing.
We had a blast snooping around and tinkering with authentic tools, equipment and kitchen items. They even had a dress shop where you could try on shawls and hats etc. All of this exploring and not one complaint from the kids about meandering around in the desert heat.
After investigating the town, we took a short walk to see the actual mine shafts. These holes were 400 feet deep. Men were lowered into this abyss, squished two at a time inside iron buckets, descending into complete darkness! There is also a graveyard adjacent to the mine shafts.
Yuma Territorial prison – $6.00 for adults
$3.00 for youth (7-11)
6 and under are free
Castle Dome Mining Museum -$10.00 for adults
$5.00 for kids (7-11)
6 and under are free
This was history and exploration overload…which gave us non stop car conversation for the 3 hour drive home. If you are in the Colorado River area for vacation, GO HERE!! It is fun for the entire family and secretly educational. You will not be disappointed.