Denver Firefighters Museum Review: Blazing Through History

The Denver Firefighters Museum brilliantly showcases the heritage of Denver’s firefighting legacy.

From vintage fire trucks that once roared through the city’s streets to the historic living quarters, this museum immerses visitors in the world of firefighting.

In this article, I’ll give you an idea of what to expect when you visit the Denver Firefighters Museum.

What is the Denver Firefighters Museum?

The Denver Firefighters Museum pays homage to the rich history and heroic efforts of firefighters in Denver, Colorado. Located in a historic brick firehouse, known as “Fire Station No. 1,” the museum tells the story of the evolution of firefighting and offers visitors a unique glimpse into the lives of some of the city’s earliest fire fighters.

Denver Firefighters Museum

Where is the Denver Firefighters Museum?

The Denver Firefighters Museum is located at 1326 Tremont Place, Denver, Colorado, 80204. It is situated in downtown Denver, near the Civic Center Park and the Colorado State Capitol.

The Denver Firefighters Museum does not have its own parking lot, but there are several paid parking options nearby. There are metered street parking spots available and they are usually around $2.00 per hour with a two hour maximum

Several paid parking lots or garages are also located within a few blocks of the museum, including a lot directly across from the museum.

Admission prices as of May 2023 are the following:

  • Adult:  $9.00
  • Senior/Military/Firefighter: $8.00
  • Children 3-12:  $7.00
  • Children Under 3:  FREE
  • Member:  FREE  

Related: Four Mile Historic Park Review: Denver’s Pioneer Legacy Comes Alive

Denver Firefighters Museum parking

The Denver Firefighters Museum experience

The museum is situated inside an authentic historic firehouse, Fire Station No. 1, constructed in 1909 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

After buying your tickets at the front and learning what you can and can’t touch, you can follow the footsteps through the museum taking your time at each exhibit.

Inside the museum, you’ll find a wide array of firefighter memorabilia and equipment used throughout the decades.

Start off marveling at the old communications equipment as it’s a great opportunity to gain some insight into the unique “alarm box” communications and Gamewell Fire Alarm Telegraph dispatch methods dating back to the 1800s.

While you’re there, take the opportunity to delve into the beginnings of “9-1-1” and visit the “watch desk,” also known as the central hub of the fire station, where personnel diligently monitored all fire-related incidents throughout the city.

It was truly fascinating to discover the array of sophisticated techniques they had developed and refined over the years.

Denver Firefighters Museum

You’ll soon be drawn to the impressive collection of vehicles used by the fire department over the years, which showcase the evolution of firefighting technology since the 1800s.

Check out the 1867 Gleason and Bailey hand-drawn pumper, the first pumping machine of any kind in Denver. And don’t miss the horse-drawn steamer on loan from the New York City Fire Museum.

These steamers represent a time when firefighters relied on steam-powered pumps to deliver high-pressure water streams to extinguish fires. Eventually these were made obsolete by things like motorized fire engines and hydraulic pumps, but these vehicles are beautifully preserved.

Denver Firefighters Museum
Denver Firefighters Museum

Another classic not to be missed is the 1953 Seagrave engine, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Seagrave Corporation of Columbus, Ohio. With its classic look, it truly captures the essence of firefighting in the mid-20th century and evokes a sense of nostalgia. Other classic vehicles can also be admired.

Denver Firefighters Museum

Get up close to a life net which where are those trampoline looking things you probably have seen in cartoons. These were actually used to help save lives from people trapped high up in buildings, although they came with their own risks.

Denver Firefighters Museum

Uniforms worn by firefighters from different eras are on display, showcasing the evolution of their protective gear and the changing styles over time. You’ll see the special “turnout gear,” which includes a protective jacket, pants, boots, and helmet used and a collection of historical firefighter uniforms. Learn about the color-coded helmets and all of the little details related to this equipment.

Denver Firefighters Museum

Tools and equipment used by firefighters, such as axes, hoses, and breathing apparatus, give you a glimpse into their daily lives and the challenges they faced in their line of duty. See how they broke through doors, windows, and walls and survived smoke-filled environments while saving lives.

Denver Firefighters Museum

Be sure to make your way up the creaky steps to the second floor, where you can explore the old living quarters. You can check out the family dining room where firefighters would gather with their families for dinner and see how the officers lived in some of the rooms, as well as the dormitory space. Some of the rooms were nice and spacious with their own bathrooms while others were more on the modest side.

Denver Firefighters Museum

It’s pretty interesting to see all of the different ways they were optimized to respond to calls, doing whatever they could to ensure that firefighters could shave off as much time as possible when heading out on “runs.” Every precious second held significance.

Regrettably, some of these measures came at a price. Injuries involving the sliding poles were not uncommon and you could imagine some of the accidents that took place. Luckily, there are covers on these now to prevent you from accidentally taking the express elevator to the first floor.

Denver Firefighters Museum slide pole

It’s all really cool to see and make sure you don’t skip the vintage bathroom!

Upstairs, you’ll also find a number of other interesting things to see including a small exhibit area dedicated to 9/11. There’s a piece of one of the steel beams on display at the exhibit which remembers the 343 FDNY firefighters who were killed in the terrorist attacks.

Denver Firefighters Museum 9/11

This being a fire station museum, it’s no surprise that it’s a great place to bring kids. Upstairs there is something called Little Squirts Square where children can learn about fire safety through hands-on activities and educational displays. Kids will also have the opportunity to try on firefighting gear and role-play as firefighters down stairs.

Denver Firefighters Museum squirts square kids area

As you wrap up your visit, there is a small gift shops section of the museum. You find different T-shirts, souvenirs, and gift of all sizes and prices, including play sets and fire trucks.

Denver Firefighters Museum gift shop

The Denver Firefighters Museum also offers educational programs and guided tours for school groups and other visitors. These programs focus on fire safety, firefighting history, and the importance of emergency preparedness.

Through informative presentations, hands-on demonstrations, and engaging discussions, visitors of all ages have the opportunity to learn from experienced firefighters and gain valuable knowledge about fire prevention and safety measures.

In addition to its permanent exhibits, the museum hosts temporary exhibitions that highlight specific themes or aspects of firefighting. From showcasing the contributions of women in firefighting to displaying the latest advancements in firefighting technology, these rotating displays keep the museum experience fresh and engaging for returning visitors.

Throughout the year, the museum organizes various events and special programs. You can attend fundraisers, lectures, workshops, and demonstrations that offer opportunities to engage with firefighting professionals.

Final word

Stepping inside the Denver Firefighters Museum is not just a journey through history, but also a chance to appreciate the dedication and bravery of firefighters. From vintage fire trucks to fascinating communications exhibits, this museum offers a comprehensive and engaging experience for visitors of all ages.

Meow Wolf Denver Convergence Station Review [2023]

There’s a good chance you’ve heard the name Meow Wolf before.

If you’ve recently taken a trip to Las Vegas, Denver, or Santa Fe, it may have came up in your research or you may have just seen people sharing some of the most trippy Meow Wolf visuals online.

But what exactly is Meow Wolf? And what is the experience like?

In this review article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about and try to give you a sense of what to expect if you choose to experience Meow Wolf.

What is Meow Wolf?

Meow Wolf is a large art exhibit with a labyrinthine of immersive and interactive art installations that offer visitors a unique psychedelic encounter in a place that is truly a playground for the senses.

You’ll explore countless installations, rooms, and portals with intricately created artwork designed to inspire your own boundless creativity.

Meow Wolf Denver

Where are the Meow Wolf locations?

This article sets its sights on the enigmatic Meow Wolf Denver (Convergence Station), a permanent addition to the roster of mind-bending installations that have sprouted like technicolor mushrooms across the United States since 2016.

There are currently other permanent Meow Wolf locations in Las Vegas (Omega Mart) and Santa Fe (House of Eternal Return) where the psychedelic roots of Meow Wolf first took hold.

Very shortly there will be one opening up in the Dallas area and there seem to be plans to open up other facilities, including a Meow Wolf hotel in Phoenix.

Each location has a different story and its own unique dimensions which is why people often try out all of the different locations.

Meow Wolf Denver Convergence Station

What to know before you visit

It’s a bit of sensory overload

Prepare to have your perception shattered as you step into the psychedelic wonderland that is Meow Wolf. It’s not just the mind-bending visuals and auditory kaleidoscopes that assault your senses — it’s the absolute psychedelic frenzy of your surroundings that will leave your brain somersaulting.

Imagine, venturing from one room to the next, where logic takes a vacation and the sheer absurdity of it all jolts your synapses in ways you never imagined.

My advice: embrace the weirdness, let your curiosity take the reins, and go in with at least a little bit of knowledge about what to expect with respect to the puzzles and interactive wonders that await you (I’ll show you how to do that below.)

Walking into Meow Wolf without any idea of what’s going on is like walking into a room full of cats throwing a surprise birthday party for a dog. Baffled? Intrigued? Yes, you grasp the essence of the experience already.

Meow Wolf Denver Convergence Station

It can get crowded

Although the Denver Convergence Station is a huge facility and is largely accessible with open paths, it can get a bit crowded with the ebb and flow of the visiting masses. We found this to especially be the case when especially when swarmed by a gaggle of kids on a field trip.

The chaparones don’t want their kids getting lost so they often herd them in large groups which means that you could be walking into a small room filled with 20 high school students.

There is a once-a-month soirée known as the adults’ night you can look into but other times you may just want to visit during the weekday and cross your fingers that there will not be an onslaught of field trips.


There are bathrooms on three different levels of this sprawling art sanctuary. The main bathroom is on the ground level right behind the information desk but there are also bathrooms on floors three and five.

You have a refill station on the inside so you can bring an empty water bottle through security. You might be surprised how you quickly quantum travel can awaken your thirst so consider bringing a bottle that can be refilled.


There is parking available adjacent to the facility’s main entrance (1338 1st St, Denver, CO 80204) but it’s not always available. If there is a Broncos (the local NFL team) game going on, you won’t have any of that parking available. In fact, if there is a Broncos game going down I would recommend NOT heading to Meow Wolf on that day.

Assuming you find parking in that lot, you can head to the front area where you will enter your license plate and pay for your parking which at the time of our visit was $15.

You can also park at a nearby parking garage which is located at: 650 Walnut St, Denver, CO 80204.

Meow Wolf Denver Convergence Station parking


Upon arriving at Meow Wolf Denver, you might be greeted by the sight of a couple of lengthy lines. But don’t worry those queues shall dissipate like smoke in the wind.

To ensure a seamless entry, Meow Wolf Denver organizes separate lines for different crowd times, which ensures a smooth flow of visitors, allowing you to step into the transit station of Meow Wolf right on schedule.

When you go through security you need to remove items from your pocket and go to the walk-through metal detector. Keep in mind that they don’t allow bags so you need to leave that behind.

Meow Wolf Denver Convergence Station security

The Meow Wolf experience

When it comes to embarking on your first adventure at Meow Wolf, you have two intriguing paths to choose from, each offering a distinct approach to this immersive wonderland.

The first approach is to dive headfirst into the experience. Embrace the organic nature of discovery and let your senses guide you. This type of unscripted journey, much like the one we undertook, offers its own unique charm. However, it can present some challenges when it comes to comprehending the full picture of the narrative within Meow Wolf Denver.

If you want to go this first route then I suggest you stop scrolling because I have a lot of photos and info below (but no spoilers)!

The second way to visit would be to prepare for the experience. You don’t need to go overboard but getting some of the basics down will go a long way. This is the path I would recommend for most visitors, as it strikes a harmonious balance between discovery and comprehension.

Now let’s talk about the experience.

Once you enter the lobby, you’ll surely be impressed by the beautiful ceiling.

Meow Wolf Denver Convergence Station entrance

If you want to go for the second approach, you should head straight to the information desk and purchase a “QDOT,” (Quantum Department of Transportation) QPASS card for $3.

They don’t really advertise these when you enter and they are not necessary for the experience, but I think it’s a must to pick up one of these whenever you begin.

These QPASS cards act like a conduit for unlocking the mysteries of this artistic realm, taking you deeper into the narrative and helping you to discover interesting hidden features. You only need one per small group/couple.

Meow Wolf Denver Convergence Station qpass card

Speaking of storyline, here’s the gist: you’re arriving at Convergence Station, the first multiversal transit station serving Earth.

QDOT allows you to travel on a quantum level utilizing the TRAMS (elevators) or the quantum stairwells (stairs), so you can safely enjoy multiversal travel.

This is all a big deal because of the convergence — an event where four alien worlds (Eemia, Ossuary, Numina, and the Immensity) from different regions of the multiverse instantaneously fused together.

Normally, such occurrences would swiftly revert back to their original states. But this time something peculiar happened. The fused worlds remained intertwined, creating a new realm aptly named “Convergence.”

There’s a “rift echo” from Denver to Convergence that QDOT utilized to build the TRAM Line, which is how you’re able to arrive at these fused worlds in an instant.

This cosmic event (“the convergence”) is also the name of the new fused world (Convergence) that you will be exploring just to be 100% clear.

As you explore, you’ll “Boop” (scan) your QPASS card at MEMports — the glowing, swirling portals that beckon you to interact. It’s at these stations, where you’ll collect fragments of memories, which are called MEMs.

Meow Wolf Denver Convergence Station

These MEMs have been lost by citizens due to “memory storms,” which, due to the instability in these fused worlds, unexpectedly cause people to lose their memories or have other people’s memories stored within them. MEMs are like a currency in the entangled realm of Convergence. The more you have, the better.  

You can also Boop your QPASS at any “Memory ATM” to review your memory inventory and all the info you’ve found on your journey thus far. It’s sort of a way to keep tabs on everything and access information that will help you weave together the nebulous strands of the overarching story.

Meow Wolf Denver Convergence Station ATM
Checking out a Memory ATM.

Most importantly for some, collecting MEMs will get you closer to unraveling of the main storyline of Convergence. By safeguarding memories from the peril of being wiped away, you play a vital role in preserving the essence of this whimsical realm.

MEMs can also serve as the catalysts for unlocking extraordinary secret puzzles, such as the awe-inspiring “Opening the Sky.”

After you get your QPASS card, you can head up to any level that you’d like although they recommend that you head up to the “neon metropolis” of C Street, where you can jam out in a rocket car.

Meow Wolf Denver Convergence Station C Street rocket car

Just keep in mind that as you go through this entire installation, this is very much a nonlinear experience.

On your first visit to this this sprawling four-floor, 90,000-square-feet creation, getting turned around or momentarily lost is virtually inevitable—and dare I say, part of the enchantment.

Although sometimes it feels like you’re going through seemingly endless portals to other wondrous rooms, you never venture too deep to where you’re without a clue of where to go next. Trusty green exit signs will also point out how to get out at any given moment (just watch out for the mirror room).

Meow Wolf Denver Convergence Station mirrors

So what is it actually like to wander through Meow Wolf?

It’s not easy to put into words the kaleidoscope of emotions and experiences that await you as you venture into Meow Wolf.

Within this enigmatic domain, the familiar boundaries of reality dissipate, giving rise to a mesmerizing fusion of a funhouse’s whimsy, an arcade’s exhilaration, an escape room’s puzzles, a sci-fi movie set’s grandeur, and a horror museums’ chilling intrigue. The result? A singularly psychedelic experience that defies categorization and transports you to realms beyond imagination.

You just have to experience it.

Meow Wolf Denver Convergence Station

But back to the practical for a second, here’s something else you need to know about booping: You don’t have to boop a new station every time to acquire new MEMs.

But you can’t just boop the same station over and over, as you’ll eventually need to head to a different one and then come back later. (This can be really handy when you are trying to arrive at the end of the story but are pushing it with time.)

Meow Wolf Denver Convergence Station

If you don’t want to go the QPASS route, you can still just admire the amazing visuals and try to learn as much about the storyline as you can through some of the exhibits.

You’ll stumble upon a treasure trove of text and media that transcends the conventional boundaries of storytelling. Books allure with secret-filled pages, while computer files reveal documents and data that lead you on never ending rabbit trails.

Let your eyes wander across the vivid imagery that adorns the exhibits, noticing each fragment of the narrative and attempting to decode its enigmatic messages.

Meow Wolf Denver Convergence Station

It’ll be up to you to make sense of it all, which isn’t always so easy especially with all of the clamoring and crowds swarming about. It’s best to just roll with it, although finding a quieter place to watch some of the memories will be helpful.

Meow Wolf Denver Convergence Station

Even if you don’t consider yourself an avid enthusiast of art, it is nearly impossible not to marvel at the sheer intricacy and attention to detail found within the exhibits of Meow Wolf. Each piece, meticulously crafted to the finest degree, holds a testament to the immense dedication and passion of the artists involved.

As you wander through the exhibits, take a moment to truly appreciate the artistry that surrounds you and contemplate the countless hours invested in perfecting even the tiniest details.

Behind this extraordinary artistic endeavor lies the collective effort of over 300 creatives, among them, more than 110 Colorado-based artists.

Meow Wolf Denver Convergence Station

Some of the larger areas like the Kaleidogothic Cathedral in the Ice Cities of Eemia and are pretty amazing to see and a a testament to the boundless imagination and artistic prowess that defines Meow Wolf. The scale of the architecture and the intricate details of the surroundings will leave you spellbound.

Meow Wolf Denver Convergence Station
Kaleidogothic Cathedral in the Ice Cities of Eemia.
Meow Wolf Denver Convergence Station

To truly immerse yourself in the wonders of Meow Wolf, embrace your curiosity wholeheartedly. Leave no door unopened and let your inquisitive spirit guide you. Be prepared to encounter hidden passageways in unexpected places and ready for things to not make sense.

Experiment with the interactive features and technology at your disposal throughout this psychedelic world, for they hold the key to unlocking a multitude of experiences. From the intriguing puzzles like Speaking Into The Ears and the Cathedral Organ to other interactive elements, each one offers a unique opportunity to delve deeper into the narrative. Some may require a card, while others allow you to engage freely.

Don’t be afraid to approach some of the residents when you get stumped or have questions about what to do next. When in doubt, just Boop a MEMport.

Tip: Bring a couple of quarters with you in case you don’t find them on the ground.

Meow Wolf Denver Convergence Station

You can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that there won’t be much twisting, turning, or climbing involved—at least until you encounter the corkscrew staircase.

Meow Wolf Denver Convergence Station

Consider taking a break at some point and heading to the HELLOFOOD Café. They have an array of grab and go meals and snacks along with lots of different types of drinks.

We tried out the mac & cheese along with the carnitas tacos and both were really good — probably much higher quality than you would anticipate.

Meow Wolf Denver Convergence Station food tacos

After you take a well-deserved break from the mind-bending stimulation, you can dive back into the kaleidoscopic realm of Meow Wolf.

After returning and exploring some more, we reached the culmination of the storyline we had been tracing, a climactic moment that some fellow travelers unwittingly shared with us who had just embarked on their own adventure.

It’s worth noting that an alternate ending is possible, offering a twist of unpredictability that adds to the intrigue.

If you find yourself lost or confused about the storyline, you can always check your memory inventory later on by scanning the QR code on the back of your card. Delve into the depths of your accumulated memories, connecting the fragments of the narrative to weave together a more comprehensive understanding.

Meow Wolf Denver Convergence Station

As you near what seems to be the culmination of your journey, I’d recommend you to embark on one final adventure before bidding farewell to Meow Wolf. Head to the stairwell and allow it to transport you to each floor one last time, as if granted a second chance to uncover hidden gems and hidden rooms that may have eluded your initial exploration.

We did this and ended up finding several little rooms that we had failed to notice on our first take.

And finally at the end of your visit, you can also check out the gift shop which is quite large and worth at least a quick stroll to check out some of the unique items like the $80 intricately designed coffee mugs.

Meow Wolf Denver Convergence Station gift shop

Is Meow Wolf Denver worth it?

Because tickets can range from $40 to $50, you’ll no doubt be thinking about whether or not the experience is worth it.

For me, this was my first ever truly immersive art exhibit and so it was going to be worth it just for trying out such a novel experience.

I’m also a fan of museums and have dabbled in the psychedelic world so it was sort of a no-brainer to go ahead and try out something like this.

You just have to go into it with the mindset that you’re going to be overwhelmed when you first begin. Whether that is because of the sights and sounds or just being overloaded with storyline information that doesn’t make sense, it’s probably going to happen so try not to write off the experience.

Once we settled in after about 20 minutes, the immersive narrative began to unfold and I found myself becoming more at ease and more captivated by the sights and sounds.

So, is it worth it? Absolutely.

However, it is essential to approach this adventure with an open mind, fully embracing the storyline and granting yourself the luxury of time to immerse yourself in the experience.

As you surrender to the enigma that awaits, you will discover a world that transcends conventional boundaries—a world where imagination reigns supreme and every corner holds the potential for awe-inspiring revelation.

Meow Wolf Denver Convergence Station

Meow Wolf Denver FAQ

How much time do you need to visit Meow Wolf Denver?

We spent about three hours and 15 minutes visiting which included a short time taking a break at the café. If you’re planning on trying to solve some of the mystery and savor your time, I think three hours is a good allocation of time.

However, some people are known to spend even more time especially if they want to try out all of the different puzzles and side shows. You could spend a full day.

Personally, if you’re going to be in the Denver area longer it may be better to just plan a second visit once you get the feel of the layout because you’ll probably be able to unlock more secrets.

Is it overwhelming for people sensitive to sounds and sensory overload?

I tend to get sensory overload quite often with attractions like this and it definitely was a bit overwhelming.

With that said, there are some areas that are pretty calm and could give you a respite from all of the craziness. And like I mentioned, if you give yourself some time to settle in, you can get a lot more comfortable.

Meow Wolf Denver Convergence Station

Is there something satanic about Meow Wolf?

There are some art pieces that have a satanic vibe to them but I would not describe the experience as something “satanic.”

It’s more that when you have so much art, especially art psychedelic in nature, you’re going to see some of the dark side. At any rate, you can always just avoid that area.

Should you take edibles before going to Meow Wolf?

I personally would not get high before experiencing Meow Wolf for the first time. That’s because there is so much going on and it could make it harder for you to try to follow along with the story or work through some of the puzzles.

With that said, everybody has their own tolerance and if you’re really just there for the visuals and sensory intake, you may find it enhances the experience. Be safe and obey the law.

Meow Wolf Denver Convergence Station

Do they allow cameras?

I’ve seen mixed reports about cameras being allowed. I saw some people with smaller DSLR cameras but I did see some reports about those not being allowed. Definitely contact them ahead of time if you are wondering if your camera will be allowed.

Final word

At the end of the day Meow Wolf is about immersing yourself in a labyrinthine of interactive installations, each pulsating with vibrant colors and mind-bending creativity. Allow yourself to let go and be swept away by the surreal narratives that unfold before you as you discover your own artistic side and you’ll come out appreciating the venue a lot more.

White Rock Overlook: A Mini Grand Canyon in New Mexico

Northern New Mexico is filled with hidden gems. One of these is a beautiful overlook of the Rio Grande that’s easily accessible by all. It’s called the White Rock Overlook and in this article, I’ll tell you everything I need to know about giving it a good visit.

What is the White Rock Overlook?

The White Rock Overlook is a beautiful overlook located near Los Alamos, New Mexico that offers brilliant views of the Rio Grande and surrounding mountains.

The White Rock Overlook overview

The entire landscape is volcanic in nature and began its formation millions of years ago. As lava from these volcanoes erupted and cooled down it formed land made of different kinds of rocks, like basalt and andesite.

Over time, the Rio Grande and its tributaries cut its way through this region and formed the magnificent canyon walls of Mortandad Canyon that you can admire from the overlook.

It’s quite an impressive sight because of the sweeping 270 degree view you have of the area, which includes the Jemez Mountains that offer a picturesque backdrop to the Rio Grande Valley.

White Rock Overlook view

How to visit the White Rock Overlook

Looking to check out the White Rock Overlook? No problemo!

It’s a breeze to swing by and it’s the perfect add-on if you happen to be in the area checking out the Manhattan Project sites in Los Alamos or exploring the ancient cliff dwellings at Bandelier National Monument.

If you’re coming from Los Alamos, just hop in your ride and it’s only a 15 minute drive to get there. And if you’re staying in White Rock, you’ll be just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the overlook at any given moment.

The viewpoint is located at the end of the Overlook Rd which runs through a number of different recreation sites like baseball fields, softball fields, a dog park, and a playground.

You’ll continue on the main road through all of these facilities until you arrive at the small parking lot for the viewpoint. It’s then just a very short and paved “trail” to the viewing platform.

White Rock Overlook view
White Rock Overlook view
White Rock Overlook view

Once you’re there, you can wander off the trail and explore the cliffs but obviously you want to be careful not to lose your balance or have an accident with loose rocks. It’s a long way down!

We were not aware that there were petroglyphs in the area where we visited but apparently you can find them on the rocks! I’m not exactly sure if they are on the rocks at the viewpoint or down below so keep those eagle eyes peeled and maybe you’ll spot some.

Another hidden treasure of this site is a beautiful waterfall that drops from the canyon on the west. We visited in April when the snow was melting and it had a good flow rate and so they had a pretty good showing at the waterfalls.

Oh, and here’s a little insider tip: there’s a trail near the parking lot that’ll take you up close and personal with that glorious waterfall and its charming creek.

If you want to hike all the way down to the Rio Grande you can do the Blue Dot Trail. You could do the full loop which is a pretty strenuous hike or you can opt to just go down for a closer view of the Rio Grande.

Final word

The White Rock Overlook is worth visiting. It’s free, beautiful, and incredibly convenient to access. We visited close to sunset but this might actually be a better spot for the sunrise considering where the sun will be rising from. And, assuming that the overlook remains open at night, this could be a really good place for stargazing because I doubt there is much light pollution in the nearby area.

Los Alamos, NM: Where to Stay (Tips and Recommendations)

When planning a trip to Los Alamos, New Mexico, there are several options for where to stay with varying levels of convenience and comfort.

You can choose to stay right in the heart of Los Alamos for the ultimate exploration convenience or you can book a stay in White Rock, which provides a quiet and convenient base for exploring both Los Alamos and Bandelier National Monument.

And finally, there is the vibrant city of Santa Fe, known for its art scene and adobe-style architecture, which offers the largest selection of hotels and endless opportunities for cultural and natural exploration.

Below, I’ll break down some of the different considerations you’ll want to think about when booking your stay for your trip to Los Alamos.

How long do you need to visit Los Alamos?

When trying to plan out where to stay, a major consideration is always going to be: how long do you need to stay.

Los Alamos is a perfect day trip destination meaning that you can pretty much see everything in one day.

The exception would be if you’re planning on doing lots of the guided tours or getting special access to the laboratory (behind the fence). In those cases, you’d likely want a couple of days to see it all.

If you plan on seeing some of the surrounding attractions like Bandelier National Monument or venturing into some of the trails surrounding Los Alamos then it makes more sense to spend an additional night or two in the Los Alamos vicinity.

But for the most part, one or two days will be plenty of time to have a memorable experience in Los Alamos.

Related: 16 Things to Do in Los Alamos (+ Tips For Your Visit)

Overview of places to stay

If you plan on visiting Los Alamos, you have a few different places to choose from. Basically, you can narrow down your options to the following cities:

  • Los Alamos
  • White Rock 
  • Santa Fe

Los Alamos

The most convenient option is obviously staying in Los Alamos. It’s such a small city (population 12,978) that pretty much anywhere you stay will be a great location for exploring the city. At worst, you’ll maybe be a few minutes’ drive away.

If you’re looking for a national chain hotel, you can consider staying at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Los Alamos Entrada Park (~$160) or Comfort Inn & Suites (~$160).

The Holiday Inn Express is a little bit more on the outskirts of the town, but again, you’re still super close to everything if you have a vehicle.

Meanwhile, if you stay at the Comfort Inn & Suites — which is probably the most conveniently located hotel for exploring Los Alamos’s Manhattan project sites — you can begin a historical walking tour from the parking lot of your hotel.

Another benefit of staying in Los Alamos is the food!

You’ll find lots of good Mexican restaurants like El Rigobertos Taco Shop and Muy Salsas. For American eats, you can hit up the Blue Window Bistro. They also have one of the best dumpling spots in the region, Yuan’s Dumpling and Noodle House.

White Rock 

My preferred place to stay when visiting Los Alamos would be White Rock.

White Rock, New Mexico, is a charming little community situated atop the picturesque cliffs of the Rio Grande. With a population of only 5,845, this quaint community offers a tranquil escape and serves as an ideal base for exploring nearby attractions like Los Alamos, just a short 13-minute drive away.

We stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites Los Alamos White Rock (~$200/night), which I really enjoyed. They serve up a pretty good hotel breakfast and always have tempting chocolate chip cookies available in the afternoon for those guests with a sweet tooth.

It’s also right next door to some pretty amazing Mexican food and another highly rated restaurant called Pig and Fig Cafe. But if you value having a lot of convenient dining options, you’ll find Los Alamos more suitable for your palate.

The main reason why I suggest staying in White Rock is that it is located between Los Alamos and Bandelier National Monument.

This unique location allows for easy exploration of both sites, with just a short 10 to 15-minute drive to either destination. Imagine embarking on an early morning adventure at the awe-inspiring Bandelier National Monument, surrounded by ancient cliff ruins and picturesque trails. Afterward, return to your White Rock retreat, rejuvenate, and set off for an exciting day in Los Alamos.

Don’t miss the chance to experience the mesmerizing overlook of the Rio Grande cliffs that White Rock proudly boasts. As the sun begins to dip below the canyon walls, indulge in a moment of serenity, basking in the orange glow of a perfect Southwest sunset. It’s an ideal experience after a day of hiking and immersing yourself in the captivating history of Los Alamos.

Santa Fe

The largest town near Los Alamos, New Mexico, is vibrant Santa Fe (the “City Different”) known for its art scene and adobe-style architecture.

It’s about 34 miles from Santa Fe to Los Alamos, and it will take you about 40 minutes to drive from one to the other. That’s definitely a very reasonable driving distance, making Santa Fe a relatively convenient and dynamic home base during your exploration of the area.

Because of the size of Santa Fe, it will have by far the biggest selection of hotels, which means it’ll be easier to find accommodations for budgets of all sizes. For example, you can find a number of two star hotels for under $80 per night.

Contrast that with the above options where you have a limited number of hotels that may not fall into lower budgets. If you want to stay in a national chain hotel in Los Alamos or nearby White Rock, it would likely cost you somewhere between $150 to $180+ per night.

Also, if you’re looking to stay in high-end properties, Santa Fe will provide you with plenty of options where luxury and comfort intertwine to create an unforgettable experience.

Uncover exquisite properties like the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe (~$1,000+/night), situated on 57 acres of high desert terrain and offering luxurious adobe-style casitas for those looking for a sense of both seclusion and tranquility.

Or if you want to be closer to downtown and looking for something more affordable, consider La Posada de Santa Fe, a former 19th century mansion that’s been carefully preserved and transformed into a luxurious boutique hotel.

Other properties to look into include: Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi and The Inn of the Five Graces,

Beyond its proximity to Los Alamos, Santa Fe entices visitors with a myriad of attractions. Spend hours exploring its renowned art galleries and museums, or time your visit to experience the vibrant energy of annual art markets such as the world-famous Santa Fe Indian Market.

Furthermore, nature enthusiasts will find endless opportunities to explore and connect with the stunning landscapes that surround the city.

If you don’t want to venture all the way to Santa Fe, you could look into the town of Cuyamungue. It’s about 24 minutes from Los Alamos so it’s more convenient than Santa Fe. The hotel options will be extremely limited but you can find national chain hotels like Hilton Homewood Suites Santa Fe-North.

Final word

Overall, when planning your stay in Los Alamos, New Mexico, you have a range of options to consider.

You can choose to stay right in the heart of Los Alamos for the highest level of travel convenience, opt for White Rock with its proximity to both Los Alamos and Bandelier National Monument, or immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of Santa Fe while dealing with a longer drive.

Ultimately, the duration of your trip, your budget, and your preferences for dining and activities will all play a role in determining the best choice for you.

16 Things to Do in Los Alamos (+ Tips For Your Visit)

If you have a fascination for the history of the nuclear era, then a visit to Los Alamos is an absolute must. Nestled among stunning mesas and canyons, this town served as a nuclear epicenter where monumental decisions were made, forever shaping the course of human civilization.

Whether you’re planning a quick day trip or plan on hanging around for a few days, Los Alamos offers a compact and captivating experience, with many key sites conveniently located close together.

In this article, I will provide you with everything you need to know about visiting Los Alamos, including valuable tips to ensure you make the most out of your visit.

Prepare to immerse yourself in the rich historical tapestry of this unassuming town and uncover the secrets and stories that define its pivotal role in shaping our nuclear legacy.

Los Alamos sign

What to know about visiting these sites

Many of the key sites mentioned below are conveniently located in close proximity to one another, making it possible to enjoy a historic walk and visit most, if not all, of these sites.

There are lots of public parking lots available, so finding a parking spot should not be an issue. During our visit, we opted to park near Ashley Pond, which proved to be a common starting point for the historical walk.

Be aware that some of these sites are closed on Sundays, and even when they are open, they tend to have limited operating hours with some closing around 3 to 4 PM. Additionally, keep in mind that much of the town shuts down on weekends (including some of the best places to eat), so think twice about visiting on a Sunday.

The last thing to consider is that Los Alamos sits at a high elevation of 7,300 feet. This means that it can be pretty cool in the summer and simply amazing in the fall and spring. But wear extra sunscreen and hats because higher elevation sunlight can be extra harsh on your skin. Also, watch out for signs of altitude sickness if you’re not accustomed to higher elevations.

While some of these sites are private residences, access to them is restricted so be sure to avoid trespassing on private property. Other sites may not be open to the public, but you can still appreciate their significance from a distance.

With all of that out-of-the-way, let’s get into the sites!

Los Alamos statues

Manhattan Project National Historical Park

Manhattan Project National Historical Park is a collection of different historical buildings and grounds clustered together in the heart of Los Alamos. You can visit the Manhattan Project National Historical Park visitor center to get your day started and plot out your next moves.

It’s a very compact visitor center but there are some helpful rangers in there and you can always get your National Park Passport stamp!

Make sure you check out the Oppenheimer and Groves sculpture located just a little bit outside of the visitor center.

Manhattan Project National Historical Park visitor center

Bradbury Science Museum

The Bradbury Science Museum is a must-visit in Los Alamos. With over 60 interactive exhibits, it showcases the history and achievements of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and has a few key highlights you don’t want to miss like:

  • 15-minute film on the history of the Manhattan project
  • Trinitite display
  • Photography/film artifacts from the Trinity Site
  • Oppenheimer’s chair (just imagine the decisions made from that seat!)

They also have a lot of exhibits that go well beyond the Manhattan Project and explore a lot of the scientific discoveries and efforts that take place at the laboratory. The best part of this museum is that it’s free!

Tip: If you want to visit the Los Alamos National Laboratory, look into behind the fence tours. These are only offered a few times a year and will take you to a lot of the historical sites that are not typically open to the public. These are sites like: the Pond Cabin, the battleship bunker, and the Slotin Building.

Bradbury Science Museum

Los Alamos Historical Museum

Another museum that should be on your list is the Los Alamos Historical Museum. Built in 1918, this structure holds the distinction of being the oldest continually occupied building in town.

At this museum, you will have the opportunity to delve into the stories of the scientists, engineers, and everyday individuals who played crucial roles in the Manhattan Project.

The exhibits provide a comprehensive narrative, spanning from ancient times to the present day. I personally thought the letter from the US government to the ranch school, notifying them of the government’s intention to take over the school, was interesting. The fact that they allowed them to finish up a school term was pretty considerate considering the dire need to get things set up in Los Alamos!

As you explore the museum’s creaking wooden floors, immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of history — remember this very building was once the preferred lodging spot for General Leslie Groves.

While there is a nominal entry fee of five dollars, the experience is well worth it.

Additionally, for a more in-depth understanding, consider booking a walking tour (reservations recommended).

Los Alamos Historical Museum

Fuller Lodge

Originally built in 1928 as the dining hall for the Los Alamos Ranch School, the Fuller Lodge is a magnificent historic building meticulously crafted using 771 pine logs that were personally selected by architect John Gaw Meem and Ranch School director A.J. Connell. This structure carries a rich history, representing the early days of Los Alamos.

Today, the Fuller Lodge has been transformed into a vibrant cultural center that offers a versatile space for social gatherings, meetings, and housing various offices, including the Fuller Lodge Art Center and the Los Alamos Arts Council.

Visitors have the opportunity to explore this iconic log structure and delve into its heritage, witnessing firsthand the architectural beauty and historical significance it holds.

Fuller Lodge

Ashley Pond Park

One of the main attractions in the city of Los Alamos is Ashley Pond Park. The pond was very fittingly named after the founder of the Los Alamos Ranch School, Ashley Pond Jr. Back in the day, students used the pond for summer and winter sports.

During Project Y, the pond was surrounded by technical area laboratories but these structures were removed by the mid-1960s.

Today, it’s used as a public park and a hub for community events and it’s just a really beautiful place to go for a picnic or stroll. As mentioned above, it’s also a good place to begin your historical walking tour.

Ashley Pond Park

Ice House Memorial

The Ice House Memorial sits on the site of the old Ranch School Ice House where the students once stored blocks of ice cut from Ashley Pond during the freeing winters.

During Project Y, scientists used the icehouse to assemble the nuclear core of “Gadget,” the prototype atomic bomb that was later transported to the Trinity Site. As we had recently explored the Trinity Site open house and saw where the bomb was assembled (the McDonald Ranch House), it was really cool to see this site.

Today, you can check out the Ice House Memorial that contains original stone from the Ranch School Ice House!

Ice House Memorial

Bathtub Row

Bathtub Row is is an actual street name with historic homes that were originally built for the Los Alamos Ranch School and then adapted during the Manhattan project to be used by scientists.

Back during the WWII days, these homes were the only ones with bathtubs which is how the street got its name!

Several of the homes are private residences so don’t trespass but from a nearby sidewalk you can let their unique architecture take you back in time.

Bathtub Row

Hans Bethe House

The Hans Bethe House is a unique residence situated on Bathtub Row. This house was once the home of chemist Edwin McMillan and physicist Hans Bethe, both of whom were Nobel Prize laureates.

It’s also a beautiful historic building showcasing a blend of modernist and adobe-style elements with a strong Pueblo Revival influence. (I couldn’t get enough of the architecture here.)

If you have an interest in the Cold War and the significance of Los Alamos during that period, this is a must-visit destination for you since it houses the Harold Agnew Cold War Gallery. Plus, you can view Frederick Reine’s 1995 Nobel Prize in Physics!

Hans Bethe House

Robert Oppenheimer House

Robert Oppenheimer, known to some as the “father of the atomic bomb,” was the director of the Manhattan Project and a visionary scientist. While initially some thought he would be an unlikely candidate for such an important leadership position, in the end he proved to be the perfect man for the job.

You can visit the Robert Oppenheimer House where Oppenheimer, his wife Kitty, daughter Toni, and son Peter lived from 1943 to 1945. It’s said that Oppenheimer was known for throwing parties at his house and that invitations to these parties were in high demand among the scientists working at Project Y.

Built in 1929, the house is nearly 100 years old and it’s said that it’s going to be undergoing renovations soon and will at some point open up to the public as one of the main attractions to visit. I will certainly be back for that!

Robert Oppenheimer House

Stone power house

This structure was built back in 1933 to house the ranch school’s electrical generator. But later on in 1944, it was remodeled and explosives expert George Kistiakowsky lived here.

Designed by architect John Gaw Meem, the building showcases more Pueblo Revival architectural style and stands as a historic remnant of the Ranch School era.

Stone power house

Civilian Women’s Dormitory

Another historic structure in the area that is easy to miss is the Civilian Women’s Dormitory. This building housed non-military staff working for the Manhattan Project, since military personnel were typically accommodated in barracks in the military section of Los Alamos.

These civilian dormitories called “Priority Dorms,” were heavily sought out by civilians because they were so comfortable and came with amenities like maid service, laundry, and room cleaning. For 1940s Los Alamos standards, this was essentially the Ritz Carlton for civilians!

Civilian Women’s Dormitory

WWII cafeteria

On the corner of 15th St. and Nectar Street you can find the old World War II cafeteria. This was once a favorite mess hall for the military members working on the Manhattan Project. And now it serves as the location for the Los Alamos Performing Arts Center.

WWII cafeteria

The pueblo ruins

Another intriguing site to explore is the pueblo ruins. Dating back to approximately 1225 CE, this location once served as the habitation of a Tewa-speaking community who are ancestors of the present-day Pueblo people.

The structures at this site were constructed using blocks of volcanic tuff and were utilized for various purposes, including cooking and sleeping quarters. It’s an interesting sight as you typically don’t see ancient ruins lying around a small-town neighborhood, just feet from a sidewalk.

The Romero Cabin

The Romero Cabin is right next to the pueblo ruins and it gives you a good sense of what the homesteading culture looked like on the Pajarito Plateau in the late 1800s.

This particular cabin was built by the Romero family back in 1913 but was eventually acquired by the US government. It was built on a nearby mesa and relocated to this spot in 1984. It’s a cool little spot to walk inside of and you really get a sense of the cozy quarters that some of the early inhabitants of this region lived in.

Right next-door is the Ranch School fire cache, which stored fire lighting equipment. And across the street from the Romero Cabin, you can see the site of the original main building for the Los Alamos Ranch School.

The Romero Cabin

Main Gate Park

All of the workers during the Manhattan project had to pass through a main security gate to access Los Alamos and there is a re-creation of the gate just outside of the main area of town.

Workers would arrive here after first meeting Dorothy McKibbin, “the gatekeeper of Los Alamos,” who oversaw things like housing, greetings, and issued the all important IDs needed by Project Y workers.  While security measures were stringent at Los Alamos, a few spies managed to infiltrate the area.

If you’re leaving town, the re-created gate is found just past the airport near a landscaping store — you should easily see signs for it.

Main Gate Park

The historic post office

This post office opened in 1948 on the site of the Ranch School Trading Post and is now listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. It still serves as the main post office for Los Alamos County.

Did you know? During the time of the Manhattan project, almost sent to Los Alamos was addressed to “P.O. Box 1663, Santa Fe, New Mexico”

Other sites to explore

If you’re in this area then you really owe it to yourself to check out Bandelier National Monument. It’s a gorgeous national monument with ancient cliff dwellings and a valley floor blanketed with tall pine trees.

Before heading to Los Alamos, we started off our day with a hike to the Alcove House which takes you up a couple hundred feet via stone steps and wooden ladders. It’s a great way to get up close to the historical Pueblo ruins and enjoy a good view but if you have a serious fear of heights you may want to pass on the ladders.

Our hotel was located in nearby White Rock which also made it easy for us to explore the beautiful White Rock Overlook which is a great place to be at sunrise or sunset. This entire region is truly a beautiful place to explore!

White Rock Overlook

Final word

Los Alamos is a fun and easy place to explore. All of the main attractions are within walking distance and because of the high elevation, the weather can be amazing as you stroll around outdoors. It’s really interesting to see how some of the old buildings have been preserved and others repurposed. It’s really easy to feel the history of this place, which probably doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

Arizona Timezones Explained: It’s a Prickly Situation

Traveling to Arizona soon?

You might want to get a little familiar with the time zones in Arizona because they can be a bit confusing, especially for tourists trying to book activities in the northeast region of the state.

In this article, I’ll break down what time zone Arizona is in and make sure that when you visit you’re not just a tourist, but a true Arizonian time wizard!

So grab some cactus juice and let’s get started!

What time zone is Arizona in?

Arizona remains in mountain standard time (MST) throughout the entire year. It does not acknowledge daylight savings time which creates some oddities and confusion for outsiders.

This is basically how it works in simple terms.

During the winter (from early November to mid March), Arizona will be on mountain standard time (MST) which means that it will have the same time zone as neighboring states like New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, etc.

However, whenever daylight savings time takes place, Arizona does not convert to mountain daylight time (MDT) and remains on MST. Therefore the time rebels in Arizona do not change their clocks.

The result is that all of the mountain states mentioned above become one hour ahead of Arizona. So effectively Arizona (MST) gets on Pacific time with states like California.

If you need an easy way to remember this think:

  • Winter = visiting snowy mountains (mountain time)
  • Summer = visiting California beaches on Pacific ocean (Pacific time)

So that might be relatively straightforward but it does get a little bit more confusing because one of the reservations located in Arizona does acknowledge daylight savings time.

Navajo and Hopi reservations

In the northeast region of Arizona you can find the Navajo and Hopi reservations.

It’s a vast area that is located just east of Flagstaff and Page and that occupies the entire corner of the state, while also making up a portion of southern Utah and western New Mexico. It’s actually the largest reservation in the US and home to over 300,000 people.

Arizona Navajo nation hopi reservation map
Map via BLM.

But here is where things get interesting.

The Navajo Nation observes daylight savings time but the Hopi reservation does not. This means that in the summer, the Navajo Nation will be one hour ahead of the rest of Arizona. This can be really important for travelers to know.

That’s because a lot of tours in the stunning slot canyons and other places take place on the Navajo Nation. You might have a tour scheduled at 10 AM and when you arrive you may find out that it’s actually 11 AM on the reservation and be really confused.

To make things easier for tourists, some of the tour operators schedule the time of the tours based on MST. So even if your tour is technically at 11 AM local time, they will schedule it at 10 AM MST.

That could be helpful for some but for those who are factoring in the time differences between MST and MDT, it could throw them off!

Antelope Canyon

The way to avoid confusion or missing tours is to always confirm with your tour operator what time the tour begins.

Specifically, I would recommend confirming the time in two different time zones. Basically, ask what time does the tour begin in MST (the time zone that most of Arizona is on) and in local reservation time.

Remember, the largest cities in Arizona will always be on MST. These include:

  • Phoenix
  • Tucson
  • Flagstaff
  • Prescott
  • Sedona
  • Grand Canyon
  • Yuma
  • Page

So let’s say you were doing a tour in Antelope Canyon and you were leaving a hotel in Page, AZ. You could confirm with the tour operator the time of your tour in local reservation time and in the city you are staying in (Page, AZ).

You will just have to remember that whenever you pass through the boundary of the reservation or even get close to it, your clock may go forward an hour so don’t let that throw you off.

Arizona Navajo nation hopi reservation map Time zones
Image via Wiki (creative commons).

Six time zone changes in 100 miles?

One of the biggest quirks of Arizona’s time zones can be found along Highway 264. This highway branches off from 169 near Tuba City and runs through the Navajo and Hopi reservations.

The boundaries of the Hopi reservations are not continuous in this region and because they are located inside the Navajo Reservation, this creates a very interesting effect on the time zones.

Basically, there is a 100 mile stretch along Highway 264 that will take you through six time zone changes during the summer because of the odd boundaries and time zones!

It’s like time traveling, but without the DeLorean.

Why doesn’t Arizona acknowledge daylight savings time?

The main reason why Arizona does not acknowledge daylight savings time is it’s just not needed in a place that gets so much sunshine and heat.

For one, the additional hour of daylight would cause energy consumption to soar because homes would have to crank the AC up to make up for that extra hour of heat.

People in Arizona like to venture out as temperatures begin to cool in the evening and so it’s not in their favor to extend the heat of the day out into the evening.

Lots of hikers and other people enjoying the outdoors would have to finish up an hour later which would be particularly inconvenient if they had to get up early the next day for work.

This may not be an issue in places like Flagstaff or some of the higher elevations around the state but for people living in cities like Phoenix or Yuma, they certainly can use all of the cool temperatures they can get.

At the same time, the Navajo Nation does not acknowledge daylight savings time because it has boundaries that extend into states like Utah and New Mexico where daylight savings time is acknowledged.

This makes it easier for them to conduct business in those regions but comes out the cost of confusion when it comes to dealing in Arizona.

Final word

Because Arizona is one of the only states that does not acknowledge daylight savings time, confusion can often creep in when scheduling things such as tours or activities.

It helps if you can just remember that during the summer or from March to November, Arizona will essentially be on the Pacific time zone since MST aligns with the time zone on the West Coast.

But during the winter, Arizona will be in the same time zone as the mountain states such as Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico.

And if you are heading to the Navajo Nation, remember that they do acknowledge daylight savings time so they could be one hour ahead of Arizona (although tour operators will likely be operating on MST).

And if you ever find yourself driving on Highway 264 during the summer, be sure to watch out for your clock as it makes a number of time zone changes in only a short stretch of 100 miles!

Arizona Airports Guide: Which Airport Should You Use?

When it comes to flying into and out of Arizona, you have quite a few options.

While the state is pretty large (6th largest overall), the airports are clustered mostly in the middle of the state which makes it practical for a lot of people to have different airport options to choose from.

In this guide, we will break down the major airports in Arizona and give you some insight into which airport might be best for you based on where you need to go and how you’d like to get there.

List of major airports in Arizona (w/map)

First, here’s a list of the major airports in Arizona.

  1. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX): Located in Phoenix, this is the largest and busiest airport in Arizona.
  2. Tucson International Airport (TUS): Tucson International Airport is located in Tucson and is the second-largest airport in Arizona.
  3. Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (AZA): Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport is a smaller airport located in Mesa, just east of Phoenix.
  4. Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG): Flagstaff Pulliam Airport is located in Flagstaff, in northern Arizona.
  5. Yuma International Airport (YUM): Yuma International Airport is located in Yuma, in southwestern Arizona.
  6. Prescott Regional Airport (PRC): Prescott Regional Airport is located in Prescott, in north-central Arizona.
American Airlines taking off at PHX.

Who should use PHX

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) is by far the busiest and most equipped airport in Arizona.

The great thing about Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) is that it is centrally located among the major cities in Arizona.

It’s right in the heart of Phoenix but also roughly in the middle of Tucson, Sedona, Flagstaff, and Prescott. Basically, you can get to all of the popular cities within about two hours.

This is why flying into PHX can make exploring Arizona so easy.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) is one of the top 10 largest airports in the US and the only airport in Arizona that offers an extensive selection of airport lounges.

They have a Delta Sky Club, Amex Centurion Lounge, Escape Lounges, Admirals Clubs, and quite a few others. So if you want that premium airport experience when heading out of Arizona, you likely will want to fly out of PHX.

PHX is an American Airlines hub so you can expect to have lots of options when flying American Airlines or American Eagle. Southwest Airlines also has a pretty large presence here along with Frontier Airlines, so you do have some budget options out of Phoenix.

Popular destinations out of PHX include: Denver, Colorado; Las Vegas, Nevada; Seattle/Tacoma, Washington; Chicago–O’Hare, Illinois; Los Angeles, California; Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas; San Diego, California; and Minneapolis/Saint Paul, Minnesota.

If you want to fly to Hawaii (HNL), you’ll have a few different options from PHX with nonstop flights on Southwest, American, and Hawaiian Airlines, including their lie-flat product.

They also have a nonstop flight to Anchorage, Alaska.

You’ll have different options for heading to Canada and Mexico including some of the vacation hotspots like Cabo and Cancun. You can also hop across the pond on a nonstop flight to London with British Airways or American Airlines.

However, if you’re trying to get to lots of different international cities in Europe or Asia or elsewhere, you will likely have to connect to a larger gateway airport on the West Coast or East Coast (or in London).

While PHX is one of the busiest airports in the US, it doesn’t have the same level of international reach that other airports in the top 10 do. (Geography probably plays a large role in this.)

Scottsdale, near Phoenix, does have an airport called “Scottsdale Airport.” This is a small municipal airport located 9 miles north of downtown Scottsdale. While small, it’s a very busy single-runway airport serving lots of smaller jets and also has US Customs available during certain hours so that international visitors can come through.

Who should use TUS

Tucson International Airport (TUS) is much smaller and less busy than Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX). In fact, PHX serves about 14 times the amount of traffic!

This makes TUS ideal for people who prefer a simpler and less hectic airport experience. You can quickly get in and out of this airport which makes it ideal for short and easy trips for those living in or visiting the Tucson/Pima County area.

This airport is served largely by American Airlines but also by a lot of the hubs of all the legacy carriers. This means that you usually should not have much trouble finding at least one nonstop flight from the hub cities for United, American, and Delta.

However, if you are trying to fly to a non-hub city, you’ll likely have to work with at least one connection. Southwest also serves a lot of destinations out of Tucson.

Tucson International Airport (TUS) entrance

This airport does not have airport lounges like PHX. If you have a Priority Pass membership that comes with restaurant access, you can enjoy a free meal at one of the airport restaurants but for now the actual lounges (other than the Military Liaison Office) are nonexistent.

The international flights out of TUS are limited. Because of that, you will have to connect to a larger airport in order to fly on long-haul flights across the Pacific or Atlantic or to get down to places like Hawaii, Alaska, or South America.

So you can go about scheduling your longer flights in a few different ways.

One way is for you book a connecting flight through a neighboring airport like PHX or LAX. With LAX offering so many more international flights than PHX and being such a short hop from TUS, it’s often easy to utilize that airport as your gateway for long-hauls.

Another option is to simply drive to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) when they serve your destination. Depending on which side of Tucson you’re coming from, this drive could be as quick as one hour and 30 minutes. (An Uber ride would cost you about $130 to $150 for a basic vehicle from Tucson to PHX.)

It’s a pretty scenic drive with mountains to admire along the way and is particularly beautiful to do around sunrise or sunset so it’s not a bad drive. Traffic between Tucson and Phoenix is not usually an issue along I-10, unless there’s a major accident.

You can find lots of airport hotels nearby PHX which makes it easy to take advantage of some of those cheaper, early morning flights.

Tucson International Airport (TUS) flight tower

Who should use AZA

Phoenix–Mesa Gateway Airport (AZA) is located in Mesa, Arizona, 20 miles (17 nmi; 32 km) southeast of Phoenix. This means that it is in prime location for those who live in Phoenix but also for those willing to drive a couple of hours to get to the airport from places like Tucson or Flagstaff.

If you want to utilize ultra low cost carrier Allegiant Air to get around the US then AZA could be a good option.

Typically, you would be hopping between smaller cities and airports like Idaho Falls, Idaho (IDA), Knoxville, Tennessee (TYS), Laredo, Texas (LRD), McAllen, Texas (MFE) Medford, Oregon (MFR), etc. However, occasionally Allegiant Air will serve a large airport such as MSP.

If you can fly without a carry-on bag on Allegiant Air, then you can take advantage of some super cheap rates to get around the US from Phoenix–Mesa Gateway Airport. For example, you could get to Houston for $44 or to Minneapolis for $59. So Phoenix–Mesa Gateway Airport (AZA) could be one of the cheapest airports in Arizona.

For most of your international flights, you likely would want to head to PHX or a different airport as discussed above. However, you can find routes from AZA to certain Canadian destinations with airlines such as WestJet and Lynx Air.

Who should use FLG

Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG) is located a couple of hours north of Phoenix in the city of Flagstaff.

It offers significantly fewer options for flights compared to all of the options above.

At the time of this writing, you only have nonstop flights to Phoenix and DFW via American Airlines. You can book connecting flights to/from lots of other airports (flying on American Airlines most likely) but the prices may be pretty high compared to just flying in/out of Phoenix.

If you can deal with the higher prices and possibly a couple of connections, the convenience of flying into Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG) can be worth it for some. It will save you a two hour drive from Phoenix and it also puts you only about 1.5 hours from Grand Canyon National Park.

It’s worth noting that if you’re headed to the Grand Canyon, you might be tempted to fly into Grand Canyon National Park Airport, located in Tusayan, which is the closest airport to Grand Canyon National Park. This is largely an airport used for air taxis, tours, and charter flights, though. It has extremely limited commercial flights, so don’t expect a legacy carrier to get you there.

Flying into Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG) can also make it easier to explore other areas of northern Arizona. For example, if you wanted to visit Page (Antelope Canyon), Monument Valley, Petrified Forest National Park, and other similar spots it could make sense to fly into FLG.

Bottom line: If you are pressed for time and want to explore these areas then heading into FLG could be better than dealing with the extra drive time (and possibly traffic) to and from PHX.

Related: Review: El Tovar Hotel, Amazing Grand Canyon Lodge!

Flagstaff pine tree woods

Who should use YUM

Yuma International Airport (YUM) is similar to Flagstaff in that it is a very tiny airport that only has extremely limited nonstop flights (Dallas/Fort Worth and Phoenix–Sky Harbor), so you’ll likely be connecting from those places on American Eagle.

One difference though is that YUM is a joint use airport (civilian and military flights) operated in conjunction with the U.S. Marine Corps.

It’s about a 3 hour drive from Yuma to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), so it’s definitely within driving distance for some but not exactly a quick little road trip.

Some people might consider driving to San Diego International Airport (SAN) for longer flights since that airport is a little bit closer than PHX.

Yuma Arizona

Who should use PRC

The smallest airport on this list, Prescott Regional Airport (PRC) is home to lots of training flights from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Guidance Aviation and North-Aire. While the flights are very limited here at PRC, it does offer nonstop service with United Airlines to Denver and Los Angeles.

This allows people to travel with minimal connections to far-flung destinations when going with United Airlines and their partners. For example, you could fly from Prescott to Tokyo with only one short connecting flight to LAX. Not bad for such a tiny airport.

LAX airport

Arizona airport codes

If you’re looking for a list of the major airports in Arizona with their corresponding IATA and ICAO codes, here you go:

  1. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX/KPHX)
  2. Tucson International Airport (TUS/KTUS)
  3. Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (AZA/KIWA)
  4. Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG/KFLG)
  5. Yuma International Airport (YUM/KYUM)
  6. Prescott Municipal Airport (PRC/KPRC)
  7. Grand Canyon National Park Airport (GCN/KGCN)
  8. Kingman Airport (IGM/KIGM)
  9. Show Low Regional Airport (SOW/KSOW)
  10. Lake Havasu City Airport (HII/KHII)


What is the closest airport to Sedona, Arizona?

Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG) is the closest commercially served airport to Sedona but Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) offers many more flights and will be more convenient for those willing to drive a little farther.

How many many airports are in Arizona?

Arizona has a handful of main airports which include:

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX/KPHX)
Tucson International Airport (TUS/KTUS)
Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (AZA/KIWA)
Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG/KFLG)
Yuma International Airport (YUM/KYUM)
Prescott Municipal Airport (PRC/KPRC)

Is there an airport in Scottsdale, Arizona?

Yes, there is an airport in Scottsdale (SCF) but it is not used by commercial airlines.

What airport is closest to Scottsdale, Arizona?

The closest large airport to Scottsdale is Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX).

Final word

For the most part, when you travel to or from Arizona, you will be utilizing Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) or Tucson International Airport (TUS). Because these airports are relatively close to each other, you may want to opt for one over the other depending on your destination and travel preferences.

The outlier airports can also come in handy when flying low cost carriers or when shaving driving time but they can require more connections and other times be more expensive.

Does It Snow in Tucson Arizona? Your Guide to a White Tucson

Tucson has a reputation for being warm and sunny as it is a city located in the arid Sonoran Desert.

But does this city located in one of the hottest areas of the country ever receive snow?

In this article, we will talk about when this town becomes a winter wonderland and some of the best ways to go about exploring the area!

Does it snow in Tucson, Arizona?

Yes, it does occasionally snow in Tucson but it is not very common.

During the years that I lived just outside of Tucson, we would usually get a snow shower one to three times a year. Usually, the snow melts very quickly but on occasion it can hang around for a while.

The good news is that Tucson is surrounded by high elevation mountains which means that you can regularly find snow in these places every winter. But more on that below!

Related: Does It Snow in Hawaii? Where & When Can You See It?

Cactus with snow

Where can you expect snow?

While the downtown area of Tucson has an elevation of around 2,389 feet (728 meters), it is surrounded by mountains on every side.

Some of these mountains rise to over 9,000 feet such as those found in the Santa Catalina Mountains and in the Santa Rita Mountains.

During the winter, you can expect to see snow up on these mountains even weeks after a snow storm has blown through.

Santa Catalina Mountains with snow
Mt Lemmon summit covered in snow.

Sometimes a winter storm blows through and snow falls on the mid elevations surrounding Tucson.

I’ve seen several times where the snow stops at about 4,000 to 5,000 feet. This is not going up to actually fall on the city of Tucson or on the neighboring cities like Vail, but it does provide a beautiful snowy backdrop on the foothills and lower mountains.

Finally, it is sometimes possible to get snow in the city of Tucson proper.

According to the National Weather Service, the average snowfall in Tucson is less than 0.5 inches per year. Often the snow is going to consist of small flurries or trace amounts of snow that may not even be measurable.

But that doesn’t mean that big snow storms can’t come through.

In 1967, 6.8 inches of snowfall came down on December 8th/9th according to measurements at the Tucson International Airport. That’s a lot of snow for Tucson!

More recently, on February 22, 2019, the Tucson International Airport recorded 1.3 inches of snow, which was one of the last major snow events for the city.

Tucson backyard with snow
Backyard near Tucson with snow.

What happens when it snows in Tucson?

One of the challenges of exploring Tucson’s surrounding mountains and parks whenever it snows is that you may have to deal with road closures to areas that receive substantial snowfall.

The most popular place people like to head to when it snows is Mount Lemmon, which actually has a ski resort. They have quite a few cabins, Airbnb’s, and a little town up there called Summerhaven, which is a fun place to stay for a night or two.

However, the road up to Mount Lemmon is often closed during and after a snowstorm and only open to select individuals such as those who live up on the mountain. This could last several days making winter tourism up on the mountain a challenge or even impossible at times.

Another area that builds up with snow is the Wrightson Wilderness/Madera Canyon area but again road closures can make it difficult to access this area coming off of a fresh snow fall. Traffic can also be an issue to these spots shortly after the snow blows through.

Santa Rita mountains with snow
Wrightson Wilderness/Madera Canyon with snow.

So the more practical places to visit when it snows would be the lower elevations like going to Saguaro National Park. But even then, if there is a good amount of snow they could close off the roads until it melts.

Saguaro national park with snow

Sabino Canyon is probably an easier place to get to when it’s snowing on the lower elevations because you should be able to walk into the park and to get to trails easier than you would be able to at Saguaro National Park.

Seeing saguaro cactuses covered in snow is such a unique site and one of the coolest things to see you with your own eyes – I highly recommend it!

In the days and weeks following a snowstorm, it’s one of the best times to explore the Tucson area.

The mountains and canyons surrounding the city are full of running creeks and waterfalls that come alive whenever the snow begins to melt. In fact, sometimes water levels can be raging during this time which can be both a fascinating and dangerous time to visit.

The good thing is that unlike in the late summer when monsoon season happens, you don’t have to worry about flash floods as much. That’s because the spring runoff is more consistent versus the monsoon rains which can cause an unexpected downpour in a hurry.

Another great thing about this desert area is that if it receive a lot of snow, the desert blooms go into full effect!

creek flowing

Final word

It does occasionally snow in Tucson but it is usually a very small amount. However, every year the mountains surrounding Tucson receive a fair amount of snow. It can be a little difficult to explore these places when it snows because of road closures but if you can wait a while for the roads to open up, you’ll have your own winter wonderland in the desert to enjoy.

Is Hawaii Overrated? An Honest Look At Visiting The Aloha State

Hawaii is often thought of as the ultimate vacation destination that everyone instantly falls in love with. And how couldn’t you with all of the breathtaking scenery, warm weather, clear water, etc.

But is Hawaii actually an overrated tourist destination?

In this article, I’ll take a look at some of the different aspects of visiting Hawaii and I’ll answer the question of whether or not Hawaii is overrated based largely on my own personal experiences but also on what others have said.

The insane prices and high fees

Let’s kick off this discussion talking about the prices in Hawaii, which is one of the biggest complaints of visiting Hawaii.

Hawaii is one of the most expensive places to visit.

Nice resorts on islands like Maui and the Big Island are very expensive. For example, at the time of publishing the cheapest room (a Resort View 2 Queen Bed) at the Hilton Waikoloa Village was running for $640 per night.

You can find cheaper lodging if you really look especially around Honolulu but some of the more affordable hotels can be quite dated, have tiny rooms, etc.

The prices can also affect a lot more than lodging.

One area is the food.

I give islands like Hawaii a pass to a certain extent because they have to import so many things, which naturally drives higher prices.

But sometimes the price is just sooo out of line with the quality of your food that it’s mildly infuriating.

For example, take a look at this piece of pizza below. We paid $14 for two small slices of this pizza (which we thought were much bigger because of the packaging).

For lunch, one of our hotels on the Big Island was charging $37 for a bacon cheeseburger and fries and this was not some fancy restaurant by any means.

pice of pizza

Getting hit with exorbitant prices gets old very quickly especially whenever you feel like the value you receive is not anywhere close to what you’re paying for.

It’s one thing to pay $40 for a cheeseburger when it’s amazing and quite another to pay that much when it’s barely mediocre.

If you have visited other beautiful tropical locations that are much cheaper it’s hard not to feel like you’re just constantly getting hosed.

The fees in Hawaii can also quickly add up.

Resort fees are very common and they can be pretty high (~$45 per night), parking can cost you $50 a day, and some hotels will even slap on a $15+ delivery fee for each room service request.

If you try to go about a visit to Hawaii like you would in a “normal” location, it can feel like you’re just blowing money left and right as you navigate a minefield of fees and high prices.

And another thing that makes the additional expenses that much more of an issue is that Hawaii is so far from the mainland.

This usually prevents you from taking shorter trips which means more days spent trying to avoid spending a lot of dough! After a long 10-day vacation you may feel fatigued — not just from your beach days and adventures — but from feeling the constant sting in your wallet.

Related: How Many Days Are Needed to Visit Hawaii?

The crowds, tourists, and over commercialization

One thing that can get old with Hawaii is dealing with crowds and the over commercialization.

We’ve tried to visit beaches before where all of the parking was filled up by mid morning and gates were closed off to other visitors. I’ve seen crazy long lines for pretty unremarkable attractions (e.g., the train ride at the Dole Plantation) and mandatory reservations are becoming much more common.

I often feel like if I’m visiting a place with even mild popularity (like a nice waterfall), I have to get going as early as possible or I’ll be stuck dealing with heavy crowds (or possibly no parking).

You also have a fair amount of inconsiderate tourists like the ones we had to deal with on top of Mauna Kea who were flying a loud drone (illegally) during a beautiful sunrise.

To be fair, crowds are not always an issue in some places especially whenever you get outside of spots like Waikiki.

We’ve gone on hikes in Kauai where we were able to escape the crowds but not always the commercialization.

For example, we did an amazing hike in the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” with beautiful canyon views.

But unlike the real Grand Canyon which offers hikers solace when off the rim, we had to contend with the recurring buzzing of helicopters flying overhead.

So at times, it can feel like a real challenge to escape the far-reaching impact of tourism even when you’re venturing miles out from the main areas.

waimea canyon

Bad experiences with locals

Another major negative aspect of visiting Hawaii could be bad experiences with the locals.

Personally, I haven’t had any negative experiences with locals on my visits to Oahu, the Big Island, and Kauai. In fact, I would say my engagements have been overwhelmingly positive.

But I have heard many reports of locals being rude, overly defensive, racist, etc.

Now, I get it that some locals probably have their reasons for feeling a certain type of way towards tourists or mainlanders. For example, they could’ve had prior experiences with inconsiderate or entitled tourists who don’t respect the land or history of the islands. It probably happens way too often.

But there are broader, deep-seated racial tensions in the state that impact the way some locals interact with mainlanders, which is not always so nice.

As an American from the mainland, when I visit locations outside of the main tourist spots, I sometimes feel like there is this unsettled status of Hawaii as the 50th state.

You’ll see special discounts called “Kamaʻāina rates” for native Hawaiians (those with local IDs) at places like restaurants, hotels, and other tourist attractions.

That type of thing doesn’t bother me (Hawaii is not the only state to offer discounts or perks to residents).

But those type of things, along with a complicated and grievous history, language differences, and a vocal minority pushing for sovereignty, often give me this feeling that I’m visiting a foreign place rather than one of the 50 states in the US.

It’s odd to have that “other” experience when in your own country and I think that is one reason why some people feel less comfortable in Hawaii.

It’s like visiting a political hybrid zone where you don’t quite know how exactly you fit in.

Customer service woes

In my experience, the customer service in Hawaii can be very hit or miss.

I’ve had some tremendous service at the resorts we’ve stayed at but when it comes to the tour operators it’s been a different story.

To me, it feels like some of the tour operators are so accustomed to herding hundreds of tourists through their experiences each day that they don’t give attention to where it’s needed when things go wrong.

For example, I’ve called ahead to schedule tours and get verification about certain aspects of the tour before arriving. The reps were quick and happy to make a guarantees when it was time for payment but when we went through with the tours, it failed to deliver what was promised.

(This is a much bigger deal for a travel blogger like myself who carefully plans out content because it means a missed content opportunity.)

My complaints in these cases were largely dismissed even though some of them were borderline deceptive trade practices. Sometimes it feels like they view complaints as just another “unhappy mainlander” complaining and they blow it off.

Because you are flying so far and paying so much money, when the customer service is subpar and you have a real complaint it makes the infraction that much worse.

The beauty overrated?

Okay so this is one thing that I’m not quite on board with but some people do feel that Hawaii is not quite as beautiful as it’s made out to be.

It’s true, there are a lot of beautiful places out there that could compete with Hawaii and everyone has their own personal tastes and preferences.

Personally, I am more swept away by the wild and rugged landscapes of Alaska but Hawaii is a close contender for most beautiful US state.

In terms of international comparisons, other countries like New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Bora Bora, Fiji, the Seychelles, and some countries in the Caribbean could certainly hold their own when compared to Hawaii.

But I really struggle to get on board with the idea that Hawaii’s beauty is overrated. There are just so many idyllic beaches, mountains, hiking trails, views, etc. in Hawaii that it’s hard for me not to consider Hawaii as a top tier destination when it comes to overall beauty.

So I guess it’s possible you could be let down by the beauty of Hawaii but I really don’t see how you could be.

Final word

No destination is ever going to be perfect — you can always find areas where some place can be improved.

I don’t think that I would ever call Hawaii “overrated” because I really love visiting, but I would agree that the drawbacks to Hawaii don’t get as much attention as they probably should.

With that said, I think it’s always worth visiting at least one time to see what it’s like for yourself.

How Many Days Are Needed to Visit Hawaii?

Are you trying to figure out how many days you need for a great visit to Hawaii?

There’s a lot that goes into planning a trip to Hawaii but there are a few key considerations you want to think about when planning the minimum amount of days needed for your trip.

Below, I’ve broken down some of the big things you want to think about and provided some tips to help you better estimate how much time you may need.

Travel days versus vacation days

When thinking about how much time you need for Hawaii, it’s helpful to think about the days in terms of travel days versus vacation days.

We will talk more about island hopping below but at a minimum you are going to have two travel days when you visit Hawaii (assuming you come back home of course).

Depending on your flight schedule and level of exhaustion, you may not be able to really do any kind of vacation activities (or relaxing) on these travel days so it’s often helpful to just remove them from your trip day count.

As a general rule of thumb, I would try to give myself at least five vacation days when visiting a single island on Hawaii. But let’s explore how some other factors affect this.

Where are you coming from?

Where you are coming from can make a big impact on how long you should stay.

Consider that in Hawaii, it’s a six hour time difference from the East Coast and three hour time difference from the West Coast.

When traveling from east to west, it’s expected that you will need one day for each one and a half time zones crossed. When heading back east, you may need one day for each time zone.

That would mean when traveling from the East Coast to Hawaii you would need about three to four days to completely get over jet lag.

Of course, you can still get out and enjoy yourself when dealing with some jet lag (and everybody’s different) but it’s good to think about this when planning the length of your stay.

In particular, you want to be careful about those first 24 to 48 hours. It’s often recommended to avoid certain activities like scuba diving during the first 24 hours of jet lag.

Also, it’s not always about jet lag.

If you’re not someone who can sleep on a flight, a long flight can tire you out and make you borderline useless for a good 24 hours or so.

The nonstop flight from New York to Honolulu is around 11 hours so think about the effect that a flight like that might have on you. And then just imagine what a connecting flight or two would do to you.

Lots of times, because you are so pumped about visiting Hawaii, it may be difficult to get good sleep before your trip. So your sleepless time can add up really quickly and before you know it, you’ve gone 36 hours with virtually no sleep.

If traveling from the East Coast to Hawaii, I would recommend planning for at least eight vacation days. That way, at least half of your vacation days should be free of jet lag.

Because the jump over from the West Coast is only a three hour time zone difference and flights can get you there in under six hours, taking short trips of a few days makes a lot more sense. I know quite a few people who take three day weekend trips from the West Coast to Hawaii like it’s nothing.

Of course, one of the ways that you can enhance the comfort of your flight and hopefully get more rest is by flying first class. Check out our guide on flying first class on Hawaiian Airlines for more details on how we did it for very cheap.

Odds of going back?

Another question to ask yourself is what are the odds of you going back anytime soon? For some people, Hawaii is literally a once in a lifetime trip.

If you think it’s highly unlikely that you will be going back anytime soon, I’d strive for a 10 days of vacation. I’d also probably try to split time between two islands: Oahu and Kauai/Maui/or the Big Island.

Just don’t try to do too much island hopping which I’ll talk about below.

Are you going to be island hopping?

One of the biggest factors that will impact how much time you need is whether or not you plan on island hopping.

A common temptation is to want to island hop to two or even three different islands on your first trip to Hawaii.

And I get it. Each island has its own unique beauty with plenty of bucket list things to see and inter-island flights are very cheap.

This temptation is made worse by folks throwing out how “it’s only a 35 minute plane ride” to get to “X” island.

But you have to consider all of the true travel time involved with island hopping.

Even though the flights between the islands can be very short and easily under one hour, you still have to think about the time spent packing up, getting to the airport, waiting for your flight, arriving, checking in a rental car, getting to your hotel, etc.

And don’t forget about unexpected issues.

We just experienced this on our last trip to Hawaii where one of our flights had apparently been refunded without us even realizing it! That ended up eating a few more hours out of our day.

So island hopping can easily burn up the bulk of one day unless you’re flying out pretty early.

But aside from time, it can also tire you out which is the opposite of what a lot of people visiting Hawaii want.

If you plan on visiting a second island, I would recommend staying at least 10 total days and even that’s on the lower side.

That’s because if you stayed for 10 days, three of those days will be travel days so that really only leaves you seven vacation days to explore two islands.

Most likely that would mean something like three days on one island and four days on the other. That’s pretty doable but again that’s still on the short side if you ask me. Giving yourself at least three to four vacation days on every island you visit is probably ideal when island hopping.

In a lot of cases, it could just make more sense to split your time up on one island which brings me to the next point.

Related: Flying Southwest Inter-island in Hawaii? Here’s What to Expect

Staying in multiple cities on one island

Another thing to think about is whether or not you plan on moving around to other places on the same island. Lots of the islands have two or three main hotspots where people like to stay and these different spots can offer a vastly different experience.

For example, Kona on the Big Island is extremely different from Hilo, which is on the wetter side of the island. Going from one to the other is almost like going to a different island.

By staying in vastly different places on the same island (which is often “dry” side vs “wet” side), you can get the feel of experiencing two different islands. But it has the added bonus of giving you more time to explore rather than waiting around in airports.

It’s also nice because Hawaii is one of those places where there is seemingly something interesting to check out at every corner. So there will be more than enough to see on one island.

While switching hotels does not take up as much time as island hopping, it still can eat up a good amount of time, so you don’t want to go too crazy with it.

On an island like the Big Island it can take you one to three hours to get to where you need to be depending on the route and traffic.

Even on a small island like Kauai, it can still take you two hours to get from one side of the island to the other.

Also, if you’re staying at some of the huge resorts in Hawaii, just getting in and out of those can eat up more time. The check-in lines can be a lot longer, getting to and from your room can be a small hike, etc.

They also don’t tend to offer early check-in so if you arrive early, you’ll find yourself waiting around for your room to get ready (and hoping that it’s ready on time).

So if you plan on staying on one island and bouncing around two different spots, I think at least six vacation days would be a good length of stay.

What do you plan on doing?

Another big consideration is what do you plan on doing?

If you plan on doing weather dependent things like a helicopter ride in Kauai or visiting the top of Mauna Kea, you want to have extra time in case the weather disrupts your plans.

Hawaii gets a lot of rain and sometimes it’s a bit unpredictable so having some alternate dates available can be key.

Each time we have visited Hawaii, we have ended up flipping around different itinerary items because the weather has impacted our plans.

A lot of interesting activities can also eat up a large portion of your day.

Some of the coolest places like the Green Sand Beach on the Big Island or the Jurassic Park gates filming location, take a lot of time to access. Plenty of other amazing waterfalls or beaches also require a good hike to get there and back.

Some places like Pearl Harbor can be a full day event if you really want to see everything and soak it all in.

Another really great thing about giving yourself extra days is that you can get an early start for different locations which will help you to avoid the crowds not to mention hotter temperatures.

If you have limited days that means you’ll be hitting more of the hotspots right in the middle of the afternoon when crowds can be really bad. This can quickly take a toll on your enjoyment.

Can your budget handle the expense?

While there are many reasons to go with a longer trip, the fact is not every budget allows for that.

While you can find some affordable hotels in Hawaii, it’s one of the most expensive places you can visit, especially islands like Maui.

If you find yourself on the lower end of some of the recommendations above, don’t worry. You can still have an amazing time in Hawaii.

In those cases, I’d recommend to strive for a minimum of four vacation days on a single island. Unless you’re coming from the western US, anything shorter than that may not be worth it.

Final word

Because of how remote Hawaii is, you want to give yourself enough time to enjoy these tropical islands before heading back home.

Exactly how much time that will require will depend on where you’re coming from, how much bouncing around you plan on doing, and the type of activities you’re interested in.

My general advice would be to give yourself at least five vacation days on a single island or at least four vacation days on each island when island hopping.

For people coming from the western US, they can probably shave a day or two off of those recommendations.

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