It can be argued that Winslow, Ariz., was saved by a song and a boarded-up hotel slated for demolition.
For years, Winslow was the celebrated heart of northern Arizona. Beginning in 1917, it was home to a Hubble Trading Post warehouse, part of a vast trading empire of Native American wares. It served as headquarters for the Santa Fe Railway. It was home to the finest Harvey Hotel in the Southwest, La Posada, which opened in 1929 to the tune of $40 million in today’s dollars. And Route 66 ran right through downtown.
But people stopped traveling by train, La Posada shut its doors in 1957 and Route 66 was decommissioned in 1985 and replaced by I-40 that bypassed Winslow. And contrary to the 1972 Eagles hit song Take It Easy that put Winslow on the pop culture map, there was nothing easy about these changes.
Today, Winslow is undergoing a renaissance, having revived some of its most iconic attractions. Take for instance the song, Take It Easy, that put Winslow on the pop culture map. It’s a tune that’s hard to get out of your head once you hear it. And the same goes for Winslow, a hardscrabble Route 66 town where you can experience some of the Southwest’s best hidden gems.
Pull over to visit Standin’ on the Corner Park featuring a bronze sculpture of a man standing on a corner and a vibrant trompe l’oeill-style mural of a girl in a flatbed Ford. You’ll hear classic rock tunes from speakers in the park. The whole scene makes it easy to understand why the park received the 2021 Travelers’ Choice Award from TripAdvisor, ranking among the world’s top 10 attractions.
Surrounding the park, you’ll stroll back in time, discovering Route 66 souvenir shops, a brewery and a classic soda foundation and ice cream shop. Across from the park, explore Old Trails Museum, which tells the history of WinslowWinslow’s stretch of Route 66 still has the original concrete roadway on 2nd and 3rd Streets.
“It really means something for people to stand on the original Route 66 roadway,” says Bob Hall, CEO of Winslow Chamber of Commerce.
You also can dine or sleep in the stunning 54-room La Posada Hotel restored by Allan Affeldt, his wife, artist Tina Mion, and hotel general manager, Daniel Lutzick. It was Affeldt who read about La Posada 23 years ago when it appeared on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s endangered list. He traveled from Laguna Beach, Calif., to see the hotel designed by visionary architect Mary Jane Colter and instantly fell in love.When it was built by Fred Harvey Co., in 1929, it was thought to be the grandest hotel in the Southwest, attracting guests like Pres. Harry Truman, Albert Einstein and Amelia Earhart. The total budget was a whopping $2 million, which Affeldt has said is about $40 million in today’s dollars.
After it closed in 1957, it languished for years as the Santa Fe Railway offices. Slated for demolition, Affeldt convinced the railway to sell it to him. In the hotel, you’ll find the award-winning Turquoise Room restaurant that was run by James Beard-nominated chef John Sharpe until 2020 when he and his wife Patricia retired. Sharpe’s right hand man for 30 years, Jesus Nunez, has taken the reins to lead the restaurant.
Across from the hotel, you’ll find a beautiful little courtyard that’s home to the world’s smallest church. Before it was a peaceful courtyard, it was a longtime bar called the Skylark. When new owners bought the building, they removed the roof and locals like to joke it became the town’s first topless bar. All kidding aside, it’s a wonderful place to get some shade, sit on its pastel-colored wooden seats and read the outdoor exhibit panels there that tell the history of the town.
Get Wet at McHood Park at Clear Creek Reservoir
Then head to McHood Park at Clear Creek Reservoir just five miles from downtown where you can kayak or stand-up paddleboard on the reservoir or along Clear Creek itself. Rent your equipment at Clear Creek Rentals in town. If you order your equipment ahead of time, staff will bring the gear up to the park and will pick it up for you when you’re done. You can go 2.5 miles upstream on the creek.
For those on land, there are ramadas for shade, a playground with slides and swings and horseshoe pits. Plus, there’s a small campground. Each site has a picnic table, paved area for a trailer and a fire pit.
Back in town, there are also 12 art galleries and a 9/11 Remembrance Garden where beams from 9/11 wreckage stand. At the 9/11 Memorial Park, two pieces of wreckage—mangled steel girders— from the towers remind visitors of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.
“We were the only city in the U.S. for a while that had any of (the pieces of wreckage from the Twin Towers},” says Bob Hall, CEO of the Winslow Chamber of Commerce. “We promised New York we’d never forget and we have not.”
Visit Homolovi State Park near Winslow, Ariz.
Just three miles from Winslow, Ariz., lies Homolovi State Park where you can stretch your legs, tour ancient ruins and spend the night in the campground under dark night skies. The uncrowded park has great trails, sweeping views of the eastern part of the state, petroglyphs and walls of old Hopi residences.
Homolovi, pronounced “Hum-all-of-vee” is Hopi for “Place of the Little Hills,” which was the original name for present-day Winslow. The Hopi lived in the area from 1260 to 1400, and today researchers work with the Hopi to piece together the history of the area. Archaeologists estimate 2,000 people lived in a cluster of seven pueblos dotting a 20-mile stretch of the Little Colorado River during a 150-year period. They have found evidence that indicates the inhabitants grew cotton, along with corn and beans.
Because it’s far from any metro area, the park offers fantastic stargazing, including a new observatory, and star parties with rangers who share their knowledge of the night skies with travelers.
Visit Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park is a national park featuring petrified wood, the Painted Desert, Puerco Pueblo, a a hundred room pueblo, and more. While you can drive through it, the best way to experience it is on foot.
The park stretches north and south between Interstate 40 and Highway 180. There are two entrances into the park.
If you are heading west, travelers driving on I-40 should take exit 311. From the exit, drive 28 miles through the park and connect with hwy. 180 at the south end. You can travel 19 miles on Hwy. 180 north to get back to I-40 via Holbrook, Ariz.
If you are traveling east on I-40, take exit 285 at Holbrook, Ariz., and then drive 9 miles on Hwy. 180 south to the park’s South Entrance. Drive the 28 miles north through the park to get back on to I-40.
For more information:
Winslow Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center
1917 Hubbell Trading Post Warehouse
523 W. 2nd Street, Winslow, AZ 86047
Find out more by downloading Winslow’s free app in the app store.