Already a member? Please login below for an enhanced experience. Not a member? Join today

Such fine sights to seeSuch fine sights to see

Winslow, ArizonaWinslow, Arizona

Many pilots fly to Winslow-Lindbergh Regional Airport in central Arizona just for the enchiladas at E and O Kitchen, the family-run Sonoran/Chihuahua-style Mexican restaurant next door to Wiseman Aviation. You also might attend the High Desert Fly-In, for airplanes, history, music, dancing, and food. But “slow down and take a look,” stay a while, and see what wonders Winslow has to offer.

  • In 1972, Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey wrote a song about the open road, women, and redemption that became the first hit for a new rock/country band—the Eagles. You know the line: “Well I’m a-standin’ on a corner in Winslow Arizona and it’s such a fine sight to see…it’s a girl my lord in a flat-bed Ford slowin’ down to take a look at me...” In the late 1990s, city leaders chose a corner on the eastbound side of Route 66 as the corner and now some 100,000 visitors stop by each year. Photo courtesy Winslow Chamber of Commerce.
  • In 1999, city leaders created Standin’ on the Corner Park on a corner of Route 66 in Winslow, Arizona. They put a bronze statue of a 70s-era troubadour with his guitar, leaning against a light pole with a sign overhead that reads “Standin’ on the Corner,” and put the word out to the public to “Slow down and take a look.” The bronze, named “Easy” stands in front with the flat-bed Ford. Ground-set donor bricks are inscribed; each tells a story of the donor’s fondness for Winslow. Photo courtesy Visit Arizona.
  • La Posada's Ballroom with a roaring fire and handmade Mexican tin sconces designed by Master Tinsmith Verne Lucero. Back in the era of cross-country train travel, tourists flocked to Winslow, Arizona, lured by this magnificent Fred Harvey property, which opened in 1930. Here, ladies and gentlemen were catered to by the now-legendary Harvey Girls—an entire corps of bright, adventurous, and independent young working women. But in the 1950s, Americans turned to the automobile and inexpensive “motor hotels,” or motels, and La Posada closed. Then in 1997 an idealistic quartet of artists with no hotel experience decided to buy and restore La Posada, doing most of the work themselves. Now La Posada, with its Turquoise Room restaurant, is better than ever. Photo courtesy Daniel Lutzick.
  • Each of La Posada’s 37 guest rooms is unique and named for a famous person. Many feature handmade ponderosa beds designed by hotel partner Keith Mion. Some have the original mosaic tile and 6-foot cast iron tubs; others sport new Talavera custom tile baths and whirlpool tubs. Further adornments can include Zapotec rugs, fireplaces, and tin and tile mirrors. Photo courtesy Daniel Lutzick.
  • Nowadays, the La Posada sculpture court showcases work by Dan Lutzick. Originally opened in 1930, La Posada was designed by Mary Colter, the great Southwest architect also responsible for the Bright Angel Lodge at the Grand Canyon and La Fonda in Santa Fe. When the hotel closed in 1957 Colter, 89, sadly remarked, “It is possible to live too long.” In 1992 BNSF offered the hotel to the city for $1; it was rejected. Finally, when the National Trust for Historic Preservation broadcast a plea to save the hotel, Allen Affeldt, a California grad student, scraped up enough cash to tap a matching grant to buy it. His wife, artist Tina Mion, her brother Keith, and their friend, sculptor Dan Lutzick, made up the remainder of the restoration team, all with zero experience. On April 1, 1997 they moved into the derelict hotel and started work. That summer the quartet opened five guest rooms while also doing all the demolition, remodeling, housekeeping, landscaping, and reception work. Today, La Posada also serves as a gallery for artist Tina Mion’s eccentric paintings. Photo courtesy Dan Lutzick.
  • Sunflowers, corn, and amaranth reach for the summer sky in the La Posada gardens. Because the hotel opened at the start of the Great Depression, architect Mary Colter’s original and extensive garden plans went unrealized; the plans were subsequently lost. After the city declined to buy the hotel for $1 in 1992, BNSF stopped watering, but “Gardening Angels” kept the grounds alive. After the hotel restoration began in 1997, a BNSF employee found the original garden plans on microfilm, but that would have to wait. By 2005, the hotel was financially stable enough to secure another grant and build out Colter’s gardens. Now you can stroll down to the secluded sunken garden, where koi live in a petrified wood fountain. Photo courtesy Dan Lutzick.
  • The La Posada gift shop features a vast array of Native America art and jewelry, along with traditional Mexican folk art, including these beautiful, hand-cut tin luminarias. Photo courtesy Dan Lutzick.
  • La Posada’s Turquoise Room opened in 2000 under the direction of Chef John Sharpe, nominated for the 2011 James Beard Award. They source local produce, including herbs from their own garden. Traditional items fill the breakfast menu, but try the baked egg dishes, popular during the Fred Harvey era. Yummy sandwiches and salads crowd the lunch menu, along with entrées like churro lamb posole. Dinner items include elegant game, Harris Ranch beef, lamb, and Southwest specialties like crispy pork carnitas and mango salsa over black beans and red chile, with creamy polenta and fresh vegetables. Photo courtesy Dan Lutzick.
  • La Posada Reproduction Mimbrenoware. La Posada's Architect Mary Colter designed Mimbrenoware for use in Santa Fe dining cars. Photo courtesy Daniel Lutzick.
  • Walk out to La Posada’s wrought-iron gates and relax by the historic train tracks. Winslow exists because of the trains, and back in the era of cross-country train travel, tourists were lured to Winslow by the magnificent Fred Harvey property, La Posada, “the last of the great railroad hotels.” But after WWII, Americans began exploring their country in their own new cars via the new highway system. Fancy was out; inexpensive “motor hotels,” or motels, were in. Railroad travel faded, and in 1957 La Posada went bankrupt and became a railroad office. Tourists came to Winslow on Route 66, “the Mother Road.” But in the 1970s, the new Interstate 40 sidestepped Winslow, taking the tourists with it. Except for passing reference in a pair of hit songs, “Get Your Kicks on Route 66” and “Take It Easy,” it seemed that Winslow had died. That is, until the railroad wanted to unload La Posada, and an idealistic quartet with no experience decided to buy and restore the derelict hotel. Many say La Posada rivals that other Harvey-era hotel that was recently renovated, Santa Fe’s La Fonda, as the Southwest’s finest—and costs less, too. Photo courtesy Daniel Lutzick.
  • The passenger waiting area of the old Santa Fe Depot is currently being converted into the Route 66 Art Museum by the Winslow Arts Trust (WAT), a foundation created by La Posada’s owners. The world’s largest single-loom Navajo rug, which measures 26 x 36 feet and weighs over 300 pounds, will be displayed in the museum, scheduled to open in late 2018. The rug, completed in 1932, was originally commissioned by Lorenzo Hubbell for display in his trading post and woven over three years by Sam and Julia Joe. La Posada co-owner Alan Affeldt found the rug in storage, purchased it, and donated it to the WAT. This photo, taken in 2012, shows the unveiling of the rug for the first time in 50 years. Emma Joe (in wheelchair) as a child carded wool for two years to help make the rug. Photo courtesy Daniel Lutzick.
  • Snowdrift Art Space is a gallery/studio/loft space on Historic Route 66 in downtown Winslow that features the work of sculptor Dan Lutzick. Dan lives there with his wife Ann-Mary, director of the Old Trails Museum, and their dogs. Free tours are available by appointment; the studio also hosts the occasional open house, party, or art show. Photo courtesy Daniel Lutzick.
  • Head just north of town to Homolovi State Park, where you can walk the trails around archaeological sites and ponder the petroglyphs of the Hopi ancestors that lived in the region until AD 1400. “Homolovi” is Hopi for “Place of the Little Hills” — the traditional name for Winslow, Arizona. Photo courtesy Arizona State Parks.
  • The “Crystal Forest” area of Petrified Forest National Park, a one-hour drive east of Winslow. During the railroad-tourist era, trains stopped at the “petrified forest” so passengers could disembark and scoop up pieces as souvenirs. To stop the looting of ancient man-made artifacts by “pot hunters” and preserve special natural areas, Congress passed the Antiquities Act, signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt on June 8, 1906. Later that year, Roosevelt established Petrified Forest National Monument. Congress upgraded its status to a national park in 1962. A large forest grew here along rivers during the Late Triassic period, about 211–218 million years ago. Downed trees accumulated in river channels and were buried by sediment that contained volcanic ash. Water dissolved silica from the ash and carried it into the logs, where it formed quartz crystals that gradually replaced the organic matter. Traces of iron oxide and other minerals combined with the silica to create the color spectrum you see in many of the logs. Photo courtesy NPS.
  • Meteor Crater: About 50,000 years ago, a huge fireball traveling 26,000 miles an hour set off immense shock waves as it tore through Earth’s atmosphere. The meteorite, a chunk of nickel and iron about 150 feet across, weighed 300,000 tons and slammed into the ground near what is now Winslow. The blast was about 150 times the force of the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. Most of the meteorite was instantly atomized and spread across the landscape as a molten mist, along with the millions of tons of limestone and sandstone that were ejected from the ground. The surrounding forest, filled with Pleistocene-era giant mammals, was leveled. The crater eventually filled with water, which evaporated after the climate dried out. The crater is owned by descendants of Daniel Barringer, successful lawyer and erstwhile hunting companion of Theodore Roosevelt. Reasoning incorrectly that most of the giant iron meteorite lay underground, he formed Standard Iron Company, secured mining patents on the land, and began drilling operations. For years, Barringer tried to locate the giant metal meteorite, but his jackpot never materialized. Barringer died in 1929, his fortune gone. Photo courtesy USGS.

Who can resist “standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona” just like the Eagles sang in the mega-hit Take It Easy? About 100,000 people do it every year, so you never know who you’ll meet. If you ask me, the bronze statue of a 1970s-era troubadour with his guitar at Standin’ on the Corner Park bears a certain resemblance to Jackson Browne, who wrote the song with Glenn Frey. The “flat-bed Ford” is there too.

The other Winslow “have to” is La Posada, architect Mary Colter’s masterpiece and the last-built of the great Fred Harvey railroad hotels. Once in danger of demolition, La Posada has been lovingly restored to its former glory, and then some. Voted one of the Best Hotels in the World for 2017 by Conde Nast Traveler magazine, its Turquoise Room is heralded as one of the Southwest’s finest restaurants. My favorite hotel gift shop ever is filled with Native American art and jewelry, Southwestern folk art, and a book collection I could lose myself in for a week. Read more about the hotel and restaurant in the photo captions.

Dating to 1949, the Jack Rabbit Trading Post is a Route 66 icon. The store’s original owner placed billboards up and down US 66, culminating in this one in front of the store. The sign was even parodied in the 2006 film “Cars.” Today the store sells mostly typical Route 66 souvenirs with a few gems mixed in. The most fun items are all the Route 66 memorabilia on display. It’s about 16 miles east of Winslow and not far from Rock Art Ranch; take Exit 269 off I-40 toward Jackrabbit Road. Photo by Carol Highsmith courtesy

La Posada’s new ownership also ignited a burgeoning art scene that’s helping transform Winslow into a hip, edgy cultural center. Iconic L.A. artist Ed Ruscha is a regular visitor who cites Winslow as one of his top 10 American towns. Somehow during all the renovation work at La Posada, Dan Lutzick, a sculptor and partner in the hotel, found time to buy and transform the old Babbitt Brothers department store into the Snowdrift Art Space. Dan lives there with his wife Ann-Mary, director of the Old Trails Museum, and their dogs. Many of Lutzick’s sculptures are made of layers of cut-out wood and remind me of kachinas, with a Day-of-the-Dead twist to them; free guided tours are by appointment. The Old Trails Museum is filled with artifacts and fossils from the local area. The Winslow Arizona Chamber of Commerce occupies the former Lorenzo Hubbell Trading Post. It’s almost like a museum, with all the historic elements left intact.

A visitor admires Native American petroglyphs at Rock Art Ranch. Some of the petroglyphs discovered here are highly unusual. Photo courtesy Rock Art Ranch.

Hiking enthusiasts will want to head just north of town to Homolovi State Park, where you can walk the trails around archaeological sites and ponder the petroglyphs of the Hopi ancestors that lived in the region until AD 1400. Petrified Forest National Park is an easy, one-day loop trip from Winslow. Giant logs lie as though they had just fallen. They look like wood, but are now stone, mostly fossilized specimens of Araucarioxylon arizonicum, massive extinct conifers that grew here along rivers during the Late Triassic period, about 211–218 million years ago. My favorite secret in this area is Rock Art Ranch, off I-40 between Winslow and Holbrook, which contains some of the Southwest’s most extensive petroglyph sites. Brantley Baird, a 75-ish cowboy who still raises cattle and bison, will share secret spots and museum-quality ancient pottery he’s found on his property. Rock art covers the cliffs of Chevelon Canyon; pottery shards are strewn across the ground near unexcavated Native American pit houses; tours by reservation only.

Hopefully you’ll overfly Meteor Crater, 20 miles west of Winslow—the world’s best-preserved meteor impact site and almost a mile across. But you can visit on foot as well to view the crater, where Apollo astronauts trained and Starman was filmed. You’ll also see an Apollo test command module and a 1,406-pound meteorite found nearby, plus smaller, touchable meteorites. A theater shows a film that depicts the impact that occurred about 50,000 years ago. When you need to take it easy, fly in to Winslow. Pull up a chair and watch the trains pass as you relax with a margarita. Tune in to Winslow’s new art scene and turn on to the Turquoise Room’s fine Southwest cuisine. Soon you’ll be runnin’ down the road again, but you can always come back.

Sunset in the Painted Desert, as seen from an overlook in the northern portion of Petrified Forest National Park. Be sure to stop by the Painted Desert Inn, a National Historic Landmark (open daylight hours only), to see the extraordinary, one-of-a-kind mountain lion petroglyph, found at Blue Mesa, as well as several priceless Hopi murals. CCC workers not only rebuilt the inn during the late 1930s, but also hand-painted the translucent glass skylight tiles with pottery designs, and hand-crafted the tin lamps. Photo courtesy NPS.

Share your favorite destination in the AOPA Hangar: Places to fly, things to do, where to eat!

Crista Worthy

Crista V. Worthy

Crista V. Worthy has been flying around the United States with her pilot-husband Fred and their children since 1995, and writing about fun places to fly since 2006. She has single-engine land and sea ratings. Her favorite places to explore are the backcountry strips of Idaho and Utah's red rock country. She currently lives in Idaho and serves as editor of The Flyline, the monthly publication of the Idaho Aviation Association.
Topics: US Travel

Related Articles