Welcome to Exit 2 of our Great American Road Trip with Kids (and on a budget) recap, where we’ll be talking the Petroglyph and Aztec Ruins National Monuments.
For the next few few weeks I’ll be recapping our entire 2019 vacation that took us to nine national parks, two old West towns, all in 11 days – and one minivan.
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Oh, and it’s not just be a recap of our vacation, so don’t tune out yet!
No, it’ll be an informational guide for anyone – especially families – that are interested in visiting these places.
We’re giving you our recommendations and non-recommendations (or highlights and lowlight), for a Great American Road Trip with kids (and on a budget). This will include tips and tricks, what there is to do, how kid friendly each place is, how you can do it on a family-friendly budget, and what you’ll need for that portion of the trip.
As a reminder … if you plan on doing a National Parks vacation then do it with your fourth grader. Why? See Exit 1 for more details!
Great American Road Trip: Exit 2 – Petroglyph and Aztec Ruins National Monuments
After an overnight stay, and a free breakfast at the Quality Inn & Suites Albuquerque West, we headed out early for the Petroglyph National Monument, an easy 10-minute drive from the hotel.
NOTE: I was a late bloomer Breaking Bad fan. I did have the car wash, Walt’s house and Los Pollos Hermanos on my itinerary, but alas the storm that we rode into Albuquerque on slowed us down and, really my wife nor kids were that excited about seeing filming locations. Which leads me to this …
Johnson Five Traveling Tip: I love having an itinerary, and like I said in the last post, I feel I did a pretty good job on creating the perfect one for this trip, but sometimes there are places that can be skipped over for the sake of timing and tiredness. Hit the places you want to see, or think you might not be back for. Breaking Bad was unfortunately on the if-we-can-GREAT list.
It was early, and the New Mexico sun was already warm, but not too warm for a hike to look at some old Native American rock drawings. There’s a trail up the hill you will have to climb, some that might be more difficult or rigorous for lil’ ones. Our trio had no real issues climbing the hill, but we did decide to skip the longer desert trail hike as we had an agenda to keep.
The drawings were cool (seem surreal that they were drawn hundreds of years ago, like they’re done over in chalk the night before) and the view from the top of the hill overlooking north Albuquerque was impressive.
According to the National Park Service site, “Petroglyphs are rock carvings made by pecking directly on the rock surface using a stone chisel and a hammerstone. Archeologists have estimated there may be over 25,000 petroglyph images along the 17 miles within the monument boundary.”
It’s a 3-hour trek to the Aztec Ruins National Monument, so the perfect time to toss a movie on in the van. I had planned the trip so that we didn’t have lengthy drives in the car, both to help break up the monotony of the drive, and to discourage hours of screen time while on vacation. There isn’t much to see in these parts of the country, but the terrain is beautiful.
Stay tuned for Exit 4B, when we discuss age appropriate movies to bring on a road trip, and the 10 that our kids watched and loved. (See that, that’s a teaser … makes you want to come back and read right? *fingers crossed*)
The Aztec Ruins National Monument is a half-mile trail through … you guessed it, Aztec Ruins. (Though it was the Pueblo, not the Aztecs that lived here.) You’ll explore a 900-year old ancestral Pueblo Great House, see the original brick, mortar and timbers that these Native Americans built, and then bailed on when they decided it was time to move on. Definitely a stop I’m glad we made.
After Aztec Ruins National Monument we made our final climb to Morefield Campground at Mesa Verde National Park (but not without at pit stop at Wendy’s for a 50-cent Frosty), and our two-night stay at Mesa Verde National Park, which we’ll discuss on Exit 3.
Petroglyph National Monument Rating (3 out of 5):
Aztec Ruins National Monument Rating (3.5 out of 5):
Age: Over 5 for the Petroglyph National Monument and any age for the Aztec Ruins National Monument
Cost: $1 on weekdays/$2 on weekends for Petroglyph National Monument. Aztec Ruins National Monument was no charge.
Badges Earned: Junior Ranger Aztec Ruins National Monument
Mom’s Frugal Five Tip of the Day: We planned this trip about eight months in advance, so we knew the area where we’d be staying. We also set a budget for ourselves of less than $80 for night one. We knew it was going to be a just-sleep stay. We were fortunate to find the Quality Inn & Suites Albuquerque for $65. It wasn’t a memorable stay but we’ll give it a give it a 4-out-5 for doing what we wanted it to do. Indoor pool, and we love us some free hotel breakfast, the kids especially love rotating the waffle maker. Yum!
Word of the Day:
Kiva (noun) – a chamber, built wholly or partly underground, used by Pueblo Indians for religious rites.
The Johnson Five Recommends: The parents’ rating of the Aztec Ruins National Monument was actually a 4.5. As the wife said, “It was neat to see the structure they made using no technology, and how it was built with hand. Very precise.” Sure your teens and/or tweens might not like the long walks to see Native American dwellings, but they’ll thank you later.
The Johnson Five Doesn’t Recommend: Trying to parkour up the Petroglyph National Monument. Our youngest (8) tripped going a little too fast up the hill. No real damage, no tears, but still … BE CAREFUL! Also, you’ll get to the top of the hill, which, as mentioned, is a great view … but a long way down so don’t get too close to the edge.
What You’ll Need – Get Them Here!: