Native American pueblo ruins sites can involve difficult walking, isolation, and a lot of driving for not a lot to see. But that’s not the case at Wupatki National Monument . If you are traveling with kids and looking for things to do in Flagstaff, Wupatki would be an ideal addition to your vacation in Arizona.
- A bit over 30 miles from Flagstaff, Arizona
- 12 miles north on Highway 89, then an additional 21 miles off the highway to the east
- Near Sunset Crater Volcano
- $5 per person over 16 – good for one week
- Free for kids under 16
- Small Museum and gift shop
- Walking path through ruins
- Interpretive signage
- Self-guided tour booklet
- Seasonal special programs, tours and hikes
What We Liked:
- The path through the ruins is wide and safe. We were not concerned about letting our three year old scamper on ahead of us a bit. The six year old could go off almost anywhere and still be in sight.
- In addition to the ruins themselves, there were other artifacts positioned around the site that brought the rooms to life and increased learning opportunities.
- The blowhole is an unassuming little feature off to one end of the path that turned out to be one of the coolest things we have seen. It is a unique geological feature – a hole just a few inches across connected to a massive underground cavern filled with air. Because of the air pressure difference between the air in the underground passage and the pressure outside, wind blows through the hole. Hard. To the Native Americans, the “breathing earth” at this location lent to the spirituality of the spot and was believed to be associated with the Gods of the wind.
- There are a few spots, including the ball court, where kids can run off some steam. I had never seen ball court ruins. That was another interesting story of Native American life that fascinated us all. It served to humanize the Wupatki in the eyes of our children. They realized that the people who had lived in these ruins generations ago had played sports just like they do. Maybe we aren’t so different.
- The museum was nice but small. It had a few interactive displays for the children. The gift shop was located right in the middle of the displays, so we were able to shop while the kids looked and played. They had a decent selection of books and souvenirs.
- The restrooms were large, clean “flush potties” located outside of the main building. Even after the visitors center was closed, they remained open.
- I recommend visiting near sunset as we did. It was fairly cool, not very many visitors, and the red rock is absolutely stunning in the late afternoon light. You can continue to explore the ruins after the visitors center closes.
- Our children were truly caught up in the magic of the place. There were plenty of twists and turns and a couple of rooms they could go inside. The layout and the ability to move around with relative freedom helped them feel like explorers and take control of their own experience.
What We Didn’t Like
- Understand that after you turn off the highway at the “Wupatki National Monument – Sunset Crater Volcano” junction, you have 20+ miles to go without facilities. Maybe my husband knew that at the time… but I didn’t.
- I did not get the impression that guided tours were offered. We likely wouldn’t have taken one anyway, but I wish the ranger at the desk that day had been pleasant enough to ask! I am confident that she is the exception to the rule and that other rangers at that monument are friendly and informative. Certainly her gruff personality was well worth tolerating for a few minutes for the amazing time we had at this fantastic site.