Rained Out? Here Are Some Alternatives In Northern AZ
August 1, 2022
This is the time of year when the monsoons hit with a vengeance, and I can't tell you how many times we've been rained out when we are vacationing in Flagstaff. Since we took the granddaughters there almost every year for a week or so of hiking, there were inevitably days when we had to retreat indoors.
Usually, we were able to get at least one hike in up on the mountain before the storm hit, but not always! Once a huge thunderstorm blew in right while we were riding the ski lift down from Snowbowl – that was exciting (scary)! What's worse is when you're a mile from the trailhead and a thunderstorm rolls in.
My best advice for days that look stormy is to check the weather relentlessly. Those storms can move in fast, and it can get dangerous if you're out on a hike (or on a ski lift!) when it happens. On days when thunderstorms are predicted, try some alternative entertainment.
First off, when I'm making reservations for our week in Flagstaff, I make sure the hotel has an indoor pool. Swimming can keep the kids busy for hours! Tires them out, too. You have to watch out, though – once I booked us at a hotel that said, "indoor pool" and half of it was outdoors – with a plastic curtain between. Very strange.
We always brought games and things like that with us, and unless it rained, we pretty much never used them because we were all tired from a long day outdoors. If you forget to bring something and can't find anything on the tube, see if the hotel has games or movies to borrow. Lots of them do!
John rolls his eyes every time we mention Riordan Mansion because we've been there so many times – but the girls love it! The Riordan Mansion State Park is right outside Northern Arizona University.
It's a huge stone and log mansion and the only way to see the inside is to take a guided tour. The tours start on the hour starting at 10 am. The last one starts at 4 pm and they are open every day except Christmas. On Thanksgiving and Christmas eve they close at 2:00.
Grab A Pamphlet
If you get there early and it isn't raining yet, be sure to grab a pamphlet at the desk and go on a bit of a scavenger hunt outside. The outside of the mansion and the grounds have a bunch of cool things to discover – strange faces, carvings, tiles, etc. The pamphlet tells you where to search, and the girls always loved that!
Inside you get to see all the rooms, fully furnished, and learn about the Riordans and the history of the area. It's a lot of fun, even for kids. It's $12 for ages 14+, $7 for ages 7-13, and kids under 6 are free. You can call and make a reservation (recommended, but we never did) at 928-779-4395. The website is https://azstateparks.com/riordan-mansion/.
Museum Of Northern Arizona
There are all kinds of exhibits here with information on the native peoples, past and present, the geology (volcanos!) and all kinds of interesting things. Last time we were there they had a sand area where kids could use trowels and be archaeologists. They also have a great gift shop.
The museum is open 10-5 Monday and Wednesday – Saturday, Sunday 11-5. They're closed on Tuesday. They are located at 3101 N. Fort Valley Road, and their phone number is 928-774-5213. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for Native Americans 10+, $10 for ages 10-17, and children 9 and under are free. Their website is https://musnaz.org.
Flagstaff Pioneer Museum
You probably noticed this place if you've ever driven to the Snowbowl – there's a big black train engine out front! It's not the one by the Chamber Of Commerce, it's the one at 2340 North Fort Valley Road. Unfortunately, they are closed temporarily, but keep an eye on their website at https://arizonahistoricalsociety.org/museum/pioneer-museum/ and sign up for their newsletter to get info about when they open back up.
The Lowell Observatory is where Pluto was discovered! They're open 10:00 am to 11:00 pm every day, and they're located at 1400 West Mars Hill Road. You can see the dome from a long way away. They offer science halls, historical tours, stargazing, and all kinds of cool stuff.
Tickets are $25 for ages 18+, and $16 for ages 5-17. The tickets are all-day passes with in and out privileges, so you can take off and get some lunch or dinner and come back after dark for some stargazing. Visit their website at https://lowell.edu for information and to buy tickets.
Grand Canyon Railway
It doesn't matter if it's raining when you're riding the train! The Grand Canyon Railway leaves from Williams, which is west from Flagstaff on I-40. The train leaves daily at 9:30 and gets you to the Grand Canyon at 11:45. Then you've got three hours to explore the Canyon and all the historical buildings and exhibits.
The train leaves the Canyon at 3:30 and has you back in Williams at 5:45 pm. Williams has plenty of wonderful places to eat and to stay, so no need to drive back to Flagstaff unless you want to.
Who Doesn't Love Trains?
There are six classes of cars from Pullman Class to the Luxury Parlor. Prices range from $67 for adults and $32 for kids 2-15 for Pullman Class up to $226 for adults 16+ for the Luxury Dome and Luxury parlor, with under 16 not permitted. Children under 2 are not allowed on the Observation Dome either, but they ride free on Pullman, Coach, and First Class.
Who doesn't love trains? This is an all-day adventure that I think is a real bargain, considering the amazing memories you'll make! Plus, you can relax, enjoy the scenery, and take all the photos you want. Go to http://www.thetrain.com to see all the options and buy tickets.
And, If 'Raindrops Keep Falling On Your Head' -
Hopefully, you won't have more than one day rained out, but if you do, you can always drive a bit to Sunset Crater, Wupatki, Meteor Crater, Walnut Canyon, or even Winslow if it's not raining there. We usually do the Snowbowl ski lift first thing (check their website for possible coupons!), then go for a hike if weather permits.
I've written quite a few stories about the hikes on the mountain, so be sure to check those out right here on Arizona Boating and Watersports. and Western Outdoor Times.