Roadschooling at Arizona’s Meteor Crater

Meteor Crater in Arizona - Val in Real LIfe

As you know, we here at Val in Real Life like to learn when we’re traveling. Fred and George don’t travel with me as often these days but when they do, I still like to sneak in some learning that doesn’t feel like education.

So when George asked if we could stop at Meteor Crater on our way through Arizona this summer, of course the answer was yes. We first visited in 2009 and, since he was only six-years-old then, I knew his experience would be much different this time. Fred, being in full-on teenager mode these days, wasn’t interested at all but he humored our stop.

Meteor Crater in Arizona - Val in Real Life
George put in a special request to revisit Meteor Crater. Roadschooling for the win!

Exploring Meteor Crater…

Unlike many “roadside” attractions, especially along Route 66, Meteor Crater offers more than a curious spectacle. For those interested in having a better understanding of the world around them, Meteor Crater is a unique look at some of the incredible forces that have shaped our planet.

The exhibits address the history of the discovery and exploration of the crater as well as the technical aspects of its formation. Displays, interactive stations, and a movie bring the story together in different ways. There are many hands-on activities to keep all ages engaged, from designing your own crater impact to looking at rocks under a magnifying scope. Let’s face it, we adults love to fiddle, touch, and play as much as kids and you’ll get the opportunity at Meteor Crater.

Outside the walls of the visitor center, you’ll find the expanse of the crater. Today it is 550 feet deep and over 4,000 feet wide. As impressive as it is in size, more impressive are the forces that created it. A meteorite 150 feet across, weighing several hundred thousand pounds, and traveling at 26,000 miles per hour hit the earth with the force of more than 20 million tons of TNT. The quietness that surrounds the crater now belies the chaos that took place here of 50,000 years ago.

Meteor Crater in Arizona - Val in Real Life
George checking out the details of Meteor Crater using a spotting scope.
Meteor Crater in Arizona - Val in Real Life
Viewing rocks under a magnifying scope.
Meteor Crater in Arizona - Val in Real Life
A look at various levels of rock metamorphosis as a result of the pressure of impacts.
Meteor Crater in Arizona - Val in Real Life
Design your own meteor impact.
Meteor Crater in Arizona - Val in Real Life
A peek into meteor history in the U.S.
Meteor Crater in Arizona - Val in Real Life
A much littler Fred checking out the crater in 2009.
Meteor Crater in Arizona - Val in Real Life
Spotting scopes dedicated to showing features of Meteor Crater like geologic formations and drilling tools used in the initial explorations of the crater.

More Details…

  • Meteor Crater is privately owned and hours vary slightly by season.
  • It is easily accessed off of I-40, just west of Winslow, Arizona.
  • Allow one to two hours to fully enjoy the exhibits and movie. With an additional hour, you can take part in a guided tour of the rim, weather permitting.
  • There is a gift shop and Subway restaurant within the visitor center.

For current information, hours, and admission prices, head over to the Meteor Crater site. And they have a great list of online resources in their science section to get you started on discovering more about astronomy.

Meteor Crater - Val in Real Life
From the overlook window at the visitor center, you can view the expanse of the Arizona desert that surrounds Meteor Crater.
Meteor Crater in Arizona - Val in Real Life
Spotting scopes help even little visitors get a better look at the crater.
Meteor Crater in Arizona - Val in Real Life
Geocachers can grab smilies at Meteor Crater, including an Earthcache.

And now for your moment of green…

Meteor Crater in Arizona - Val in Real Life
In infrared, Meteor Crater looks like a moonscape. 🙂

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