An Other Worldly Experience: Meteor Crater National Landmark (Winslow, AZ)
Meteor Crater National Landmark, also known as the Barringer Crater, sits in northern Arizona, a remote location a short distance outside of Winslow, AZ. Created by impact with a meteorite over 50,000 years ago, the crater sits today almost exactly as it was created and is known as the world’s best preserved meteor site.
The crater is easily accessible today and can be viewed from outdoor and indoor observation decks. If you have kids who are outer space fanatics, Meteor Crater National Landmark is the perfect destination for a fun and educational experience. The crater can easily be viewed from the visitor’s center and a museum and film about the creation of the crater help make the visit to the crater complete.
About the Crater
Meteor Crater was created by an impact over 50,000 years ago with a iron-nickel meteorite. The meteorite measured 150 feet wide and weighed several thousand tons. The resultant crater was 750 ft. deep and almost a mile wide.
Prior to the meteor impact the area surrounding was made up of a forest that was home to various animal species. The impact occurred during the last ice age when Arizona’s landscape was quite different than it is today. When the meteor struck, the forest was leveled and the wildlife in the area killed.
Over time a lake formed at the bottom of the crater, sediment built up, and the crater was now at only 550 ft. deep. Further changes occurred with the ending of the ice age as Arizona became drier and similar to what it is today. The change of the landscape to a desert helped preserve the crater and allows it to be seen similar to what it was when the impact occurred.
Meteor Crater is located about 25 miles outside of Winslow, AZ (about a half hour drive).
***Tip: the location is quite remote, so except to have no cell phone service***
Meteor Crater is open daily from 8am to 5pm.
Fees: Tickets are $22 for ages 12+ and $13 for ages 6-12. Discounts are available for pre-purchasing tickets online, but advanced tickets are not required for Meteor Crater National Landmark.
(Accurate at the time of this writing, be sure to check with Meteor Crater National Landmark before your visit)
How to View the Crater
There are three different options for viewing the crater, each offering amazing views of the crater!
An indoor viewing area
Inside the Discovery Center & Museum you will find an indoor viewing area where you can get great views of the crater while escaping the heat (and the wind!) and enjoying the AC.
An outdoor observation deck/ Self Guide Tour
On our visit we opted to explore the outdoor observation decks. There are several steps going in both the upward and downward direction to give you different viewpoints for the crater, but nothing extensive that even the little legs in your group can’t handle. In fact, on our visit the kids loved running up and down the stairs!
The upper observation level has some telescopes for better viewing and one of the lower observation decks have multiple fixed telescopes that are labeled and point to specific details within the crater. Directly behind the visitor center you will also find an area with some benches for you to sit down and relax.
A Guided Rim Tour
Guided rim tours are available with a knowledgeable tour guide for those looking to learn more about the history of the crater. The best part about it: it is included with admission! Guided rim tours last 45-60 minutes. Because it takes you close to the edge of the crater this may not be the best option for young kids!
Impact! The Mystery of Meteor Crater
Impact! The Mystery of Meteor Crater is a short 15 minute film that gives you an overview of the history and creation of the meteor. It also reviews how meteors are formed and how they go off course, ultimately colliding with Earth. Admission to the film is included with admission to the crater, so you can’t go wrong! It is also a nice way to escape the Arizona heat for a little while and relax in the air conditioned theater.
Discovery Center and Space Museum
The Discovery Center and Space Museum features indoor exhibits that explore the history of the crater and space exploration. With its hands on exhibits, the discovery center ranked as one of the top attractions at Meteor Crater for the kids. My daughter enjoyed playing the video and playing with the microscope. One of the most fascinating exhibit was the small piece of the meteor that sits on display.
The Blasted Bistro & Gift Shop
The Blasted Bistro is a small café found without the visitors center featuring pizza, sandwiches, salads, soups, and a kids menu! The café also has a selection of desserts, including cookies, brownies, and ice cream. The pricing was reasonable as well, making it the perfect stop for a quick lunch during a busy day of exploring.
The gift shop is located beside the Blasted Bistro and has a great selection of souvenirs, as well as plenty of toys for the kiddos to choose from. Outside the gift shop you will find a small sitting area with a statue of an alien and an Apollo 13 Space Capsule.
Is Meteor Crater Worth the Visit?
If visiting the area, we have to agree that the answer is yes! Although some may classify it as just another “hole in the ground,” it was fascinating to see and learn about the history of it. The kids also enjoyed visiting, and the lack of hiking required to reach the crater makes it a great family friendly attraction!
A trip to Meteor Crater can take anywhere from an hour to 3-4 hours to view the crater and explore the other exhibits, depending on what you want to do. I would recommend combining a visit to Meteor Crater with a visit to other nearby attractions, such as a visit to the small city of Winslow, AZ, Little Painted Desert, or nearby Flagstaff, AZ.
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