On our first day at Petrified Forest National Park, we drove in the south entrance because it is the closest to downtown Holbrook where we were staying. We visited the Rainbow Forest Visitor Center, walked the Giant Logs Trail and Crystal Forest Trail, stopped at the Jasper Forest Overlook and the Route 66 Monument, and checked out Newspaper Rock and Agate Bridge. We made it about halfway through the park, so on our second day, we decided to enter the park from the north entrance near the Painted Desert Visitor Center and Painted Desert Inn.
On our way to the northern entrance, we passed a couple roadside Indian rock shops. I wanted to stop in and check them out, but Petrified Forest National Park is the only National Park that closes — and it’s only open until 5:00 pm! We wanted to make sure we had time for all the things to do in the park, so we decided to come back on our way back to Holbrook at the end of the day.
After stopping at all eight Painted Desert scenic overlooks — Tiponi Point, Tawa Point, Kachina Point, Chinde Point, Pintado Point, Nizhoni Point, Whipple Point, and Lacey Point, visiting the Puerco Pueblo Ruins, driving Blue Mesa Road and hiking Blue Mesa Trail, and hiking the Long Logs and Agate House Trails, we made our way back out of the park the way we came to check out those gift shops.
We had to get a closer look at the human mannequin hanging out of an odd-looking dinosaur’s mouth, so that was our first stop. It was Stewart’s Petrified Wood and that place was creepy as hell. No joke.
Old beater cars are parked out front, dirty mannequins are strewn about, junk is everywhere, hand-painted warning signs abound, and the dinosaurs are weird and gross and nothing like the cartoonish, fun dinosaurs found around Holbrook. The shop looked deserted and had a total chop-you-up-in-pieces serial killer vibe. It was the sort of the place where if you went in, you might not ever come back out.
I got out and poked around, but Brian refused to let the kids get out, so we turned around and headed across the highway to the Painted Desert Indian Center.
The Painted Desert Indian Center is sparkling clean and bright, the staff is super friendly, they have a huge selection of gifts and souvenirs, and there are awesome dinosaurs you can get photos with and teepees kids can play in.
Near the north entrance of Petrified Forest National Park, the Painted Desert Indian Center is definitely the place to go if you’re looking for a fun, kitsch tourist stop that’s family-friendly. You’ll also find an Old Indian Weather Rock and other outdoor interactive displays.
Inside the store is big, well-lit, and very organized. They have Native American Kachina dolls, pottery, rugs, paintings, crafts, and jewelry, as well as fossils, rocks, petrified wood, and a variety of gifts, toys, and souvenirs. Just make sure that if you want something authentic, you’re not actually buying an item sourced from China.
While we did buy a couple pieces of petrified wood, we spent most of our time at this Arizona roadside attraction outside playing in the teepees and taking pictures with the dinosaurs! This is the only place that had one dinosaur attacking or eating another dinosaur and Brian and the kids were enthralled!
Know Before You Go
- The Painted Desert Indian Center is located on the south side of I-40 at 9345 Old Route 66, Holbrook, Arizona 86025 in Apache County.
- The restrooms are big and sparkling clean.
- The Painted Desert Indian Center dinosaurs came from the now defunct International Dinosaur Park and Museum of the Americas.
- You can get up close with the dinosaurs for great photo ops and kids can play in the teepees.