Do take a weekend to drive to Camp Verde/Cottonwood/Clarkdale and explore the downtown, vineyards and Verde Canyon Railroad. Don’t book a first class ticket with a toddler.
Why? Because a 2-year-old will not function well with no nap, at noon, for a 4 hour train ride. He will dump your champagne on the ground, try to climb over the railing of the moving train, kick, scream and be disruptive to the entire train car of passengers who paid a decent chunk of change to enjoy the lesser-seen parts of the Verde Valley. You will feel bad he was so loud and disruptive, but thankful the car was filled with several senior citizens who seemed to understand, and reminded you that they’ve been there before too.
My father-in-law treated us to the first class car of the Verde Canyon Railroad during his summertime visit. It was in the 90s, but with the train moving, I actually spent quite a bit of time out on the viewing car, taking in the canyons, cliff dwellings and Verde River as it meandered alongside the railroad tracks. Large plumes of thunderheads loomed to the north, but never actually dumped on us (much to our dismay) as we wriggled along the tracks. First class was excellent because you have a comfy couch, champagne toast and lunch provided. Being disconnected and learning the history of the railroad was incredibly relaxing… minus our toddler.
Someday we’ll look back and laugh. See his face? That’s the face of a kid ready to wreak some havoc.