Casa Grande Ruins, Canyon de Chelly, Montezuma's Castle: Travel ideas for you, family

PHOENIX - If you're looking for a memorable trip with family, consider visiting ancient ruins throughout Arizona.

AAA Arizona lays out some of the options for you:

CASA GRANDE RUINS

The Casa Grande was one of the largest prehistoric structures ever built in North America and its purpose remains a mystery even today. Archeologists have discovered evidence that the ancient Sonoran Desert people who built the Casa Grande also developed wide-scale irrigation farming and extensive trade connections which lasted over a thousand years.

President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Casa Grande Ruins to be a National Monument in 1918. Continuing research, ruins repairs, interpretive programs, and visitor center remodeling are all part of the continuing effort so that current and future generations can enjoy the many wonders of Casa Grande Ruins National Monument.

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument is open every day of the year from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. The entrance fee is $5 for adults, 16 years and older. Children 15 and younger are free. The park is in Coolidge, which is an hour-long drive from either Phoenix or Tucson.

CANYON DE CHELLY

The Ancient Puebloans found Canyon de Chelly an ideal place to plant crops and raise families because its natural water sources and rich soil provided a variety of resources, including plants and animals that sustained their families for thousands of years.

The first settlers built pit houses that were then replaced with more sophisticated homes as more families migrated to the area. More homes were built in alcoves to take advantage of the sunlight and natural protection. People thrived until the mid-1300s when the Puebloans left the canyons to seek better farmlands.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument was authorized in 1931 by President Herbert Hoover. The monument encompasses approximately 84,000 acres of lands located entirely on the Navajo Nation with roughly 40 families residing within the park boundaries.

There is no fee for park entrance; however, the park does appreciate donations. There is a donation box inside the visitor center. Canyon de Chelly is in Northeast Arizona, about seven hours from Phoenix. 

MONTEZUMA'S CASTLE AND WELL

The Sinagua people built and lived at Montezuma Castle for over 300 years. In 1906, Montezuma Castle was protected by passage of the Antiquities Act by President Theodore Roosevelt. The President identified it as a place "of the greatest ethnological value and scientific interest." Although very few original artifacts remained in the structure due to intensive looting of the site, Roosevelt's decision assured the continued protection of one of the best preserved prehistoric cliff dwellings in North America.

Approximately 350,000 people a year gaze through the windows of the past during a visit to Montezuma Castle. Even 600 years after their departure, the legacy of the Sinagua people continues to inspire the imaginations of this and future generations.

While visiting Montezuma Castle, take a short detour to Montezuma Well. Formed long ago by the collapse of a limestone cavern, more than a million gallons of water a day flows continuously into the Well. This constant supply of warm, fresh water provides an aquatic habitat like no other in the world, and has served as an oasis for wildlife and humans for thousands of years.

The park is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.  The entrance fee is $5 for adults, 16 years and older. Children 15 and younger are free. Montezuma's Castle is located 90 minutes north of Phoenix.

To plan your perfect trip to see Native American ruins, call a AAA Travel professional toll-free 1-877-934-6222 or stop by your local AAA office.

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