There’s nothing quite like getting into a car and taking off for a road trip. With a rented Jetta, we packed our suitcases into its trunk and set off for two weeks of adventures through the Grand Canyon State. Our first stop was Phoenix, where we checked in for three nights at the Kimpton Palomar. I’ve become a fast fan of the Kimpton, having stayed at the Kimpton Monaco in Portland, Oregon last year.
Through the (nearly) triple-digit temperatures, we navigated on foot to explore the downtown area, checking out the landmark Hotel San Carlos lobby, showing off its wild history with photographs and news clippings from the 1920’s. The hotel is reportedly haunted.
A hot spot for breakfast is Matt’s Big Breakfast, a place we were recommended right off our plane. They’ve recently added a second larger location to handle the crowds. We were lucky to have scored a seat right away; local news carrier Channel 3 had just wrapped up a session with Matt’s owner as we arrived. By 11 am, there was already a line out the door for lunch.
Local products, excellent dishes, and ‘scratch cooking’ make it a fun stop on your way out of town. Scottsdale was our next destination, a suburb filled with art galleries, tourist shops, and plenty of dining. We spent an afternoon wandering the streets before heading to the air-conditioned relief of Scottsdale Fashion Square. In fact, we did the same thing in Tucson, and let me say this: it’s a great solution for taking the edge off the continual desert heat for a couple of hours! Iced coffees in hand, we wandered the shops for some retail therapy. Tucson Mall is even nicer and has an In-N-Out Burger just outside.
The Arrogant Butcher served up some tasty oysters and entrées for our last night in town. Just next door to the Kimpton, it’s part of the Fox Restaurant Company, with other dining establishments in Newport Beach, San Diego, Santa Monica, Denver, Las Vegas, Tucson, Austin, and Leawood, Kansas.
In Sedona, we buckled up for a wild ride with Arizona Helicopter Adventures. This was definitely a book, then breathe kind of moment, knowing we’d be flying in a helicopter without its doors on!
Once our pilot Jonathon had us secured in our seats (it’s a four-seater; my husband and I nearly had a private tour if not for another passenger from LA), the 25 minutes sped by as I grabbed my camera at every turn and watched the Red Rocks unfold in the morning sunshine.
There’s nothing allowed on the flights; any camera or smart phone must have a strap or you won’t be permitted to take it.
A perfect, windless morning gave us lasting memories of this trip, one we’d highly recommend booking if you’re in the area.
And for a real treat, the Adobe Grand Villas are a wonderful way to relax while in Sedona. The B&B’s 14 deluxe villas are located in West Sedona, just off 89A, tucked off the main road and away from the touristy part of town at the other end.
While in Sedona, try local craft brewery Oak Creek and put your name in at Elote Café, one of Sedona’s must-dine options. Expect a one hour wait from their 5 pm opening right through to closing (dinner only).
Red Rock country is impressive at any time of the day and it’s especially nice to simply drive along the road and look around at all the formations, many given names such as Cathedral Rock, Snoopy Rock, Coffee Pot Rock, Courthouse Butte, etc.
Third time’s the charm. After two earlier visits to Arizona over the years, I finally got my wish: to see the Grand Canyon. Booking into the rim hotels is an exercise in futility, as many are booked nearly a year in advance, particularly the cool kid on the ‘block’, El Tovar. This hotel is not only right near the South Rim, where sunrise and sunset are just a walk out the door, but it’s a registered national historic landmark. Have a walk through the hotel, or better yet, try your luck at at the restaurant for a last-minute cancellation.
Famous guests include Theodore Roosevelt and Albert Einstein. Staying in nearby Tusayan offered us the chance to check out Sophie’s, a great little Mexican cantina with excellent sangrias by the pitcher. We spent three days in the area, did several rim hikes and enjoyed scenery from Desert View in the east out to Hermit’s Rest.
This feature continues with part two next week. View my Arizona photo collection on Flickr.