Tuesday, August 26

8 Days Of Vacation

Day 23: Williams, AZ

Our family has vacationed here more than anywhere else in the last 20 years. I think it's because the town is located in the largest ponderosa pine forest in the country. Or maybe it's because there so much to see in the surrounding area. The fact that one of the best preserved sections of old Route 66 forms the main street of town doesn't hurt.

Williams is named after mountain man Bill Williams. Why, I don't know; you would expect to see this sort of history in ranges farther north. However it came to be named, the town touts itself as the Gateway to the Grand Canyon, about an hour's drive north. This is the big kahuna attraction, but you could easily spend a week here without seeing it.

The town has a quite a bit to offer for an afternoon's walk. Souvenir shops sell turquoise jewelry and Arizona souvenirs. Retro 1950's joints sell soda and ice cream, plus the obligatory Elvis and Marilyn memorabilia. There are a number of good coffee shop/diner/have a seat at the counter places with rib sticking vacation food. Don't miss dinner at
Rod's Steakhouse, a Williams institution. Visit ol' Bill Williams' statue at the tiny park. Sling back a cold one, or a strong one, with the local cowboys at the Sultana bar. Just try not to be afraid of the resident mountain lion and bear. Keep an eye out for all the great vintage signs, neon or painted on brick walls. Stay at the Red Garter B&B. Hope the ghosts of frontier town bordello patrons don't keep you awake.

If the adventurer in you comes here without any idea of what to do, stop by the Visitor Center. You'll leave with more stuff to do than you can cram in a week. The train leaves daily for Grand Canyon. I've never
done it, but it looks fun. To the west is Seligman, a tiny little town that was the inspiration for Radiator Springs in the Pixar film Cars. To the east is Flagstaff, a fun town with a strange cultural mix of western, bohemian, native, college, and sportsman. Lowell Observatory, where the planet(oid) Pluto was discovered, is a sure fire hit, as is the ski lift ride up the San Francisco peaks. From there I'm pretty sure you can see all the way to Argentina. Farther west is the tiny Route 66 desert leftover of Holbrook, the Painted Desert, and Petrified Forest. To the south is Sedona, a town know for its art, spas, New Age wingnuts, and stunning red rock views. John McCain maintains one of his seven residences near there.

It doesn't matter where you stay. A reasonable motel room, a campground, a house rented for a week: all are excellent bases for exploration. You might wonder how
Arizona Highways magazine could be around for eight decades concentrating on just one state. With one visit to Williams and its environs you won't wonder any more.

Teasers on this trip: deer farm, meteor crater, lava tube, elk

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