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I’ve always wanted to be one of those “carefree travelers” who breezes along with the perfect suitcase.

Having been full-time travelers since 2011 we know what makes the best 4 wheeled suitcase. We show you what to look for–and what to avoid when choosing spinner carry on luggage and more.

We literally live out of our suitcases. My husband and I have been full-time travelers since 2011, so luggage plays an important role in our lives. I’ve learned to be efficient in my packing, using luggage that’s functional, sturdy and not too big. And that comes in handy when taking an Arizona Road Trip. (Or any other road trip for that matter 😉)

Here are some guidelines to help you do the same:

Which is better: a 2 or 4 Wheeled Suitcase?

For several years we used 2-wheeled suitcases (some people call these “Rollaboard” suitcases, a brand name trademarked by TravelPro.) Two-wheeled suitcases work well, but you must “tilt and pull” them along behind you. This is fine for short spurts, but eventually that motion was wrenching on our shoulders. Additionally, adding an extra bag (such as a tote or computer bag) was cumbersome. Stacking it on top of the main bag changed the ergonomics (trust me on this one), making it super-heavy to pull. Using an “add-a-bag” strap made pulling the bags along easier, but the bags were out of balance when standing still and had a tendency to fall over.

blue and black 4 wheeled suitcase side by side in front of an adobe wall

When it came time to upgrade (after a particularly shoulder-wrenching sprint through an airport to catch a connecting flight, we investigated 4-wheeled models. We ultimately opted to upgrade to these 4 wheeled suitcases, also known as “spinners.” The name “spinners” comes from the fact that the suitcase can spin around on its wheels. The transition has been much easier on our joints. Spinners are terrific on smooth surfaces, such as airport floors and parking lots; even densely packed bags glide along with very little effort.

Note that spinners can get difficult to maneuver on carpeting or rough surfaces, such as cobblestones. During these instances it’s best to tilt the bag so it works like a 2-wheeled suitcase. Shop for spinners whose rear wheels rotate smoothly and are sturdy enough to handle this conversion. Otherwise you’ll be dragging along a bag that behaves like a reluctant shopping cart (no fun at all!).

All that being said, all 4 wheeled suitcases are NOT alike. Following are points to consider when choosing a 4 wheeled suitcase:

Size and Weight of 4 Wheeled Suitcases

Most people have a tendency to overpack. A good rule is to bring along less (or smaller) luggage than you think you need. Overly large suitcases encourage packing unnecessary extras, which adds weight that you’ll have to heft around. Even if your cruise or tour includes luggage transfers, you still have to hoist your baggage to the airport and in your hotel or stateroom. These are the awkward moments when backs get wrenched.

Size limits for carry on bags vary by geographic location. If not checking your bags is important to you, be sure to check with the airline you’re flying regarding their carry on size limitations. For example, United Airlines carry on policy allows for a bag as high as 22″ to fit in the overhead bin. Whereas your Southwest Airlines carry on can be up to 24″.

Overall weight is also an important consideration. You might think, “but these things are on wheels, isn’t that the point?” Then answer to that is “yes, BUT . . . ” Even though you’ll be breezing through airports and down hotel corridors using the wheels, you still have to lift your 4 wheeled suitcase into overhead bins. If you’re taking a Route 66 road trip in Arizona you’ll likely be taking your bags in and out of your car every few days.

There’s no sense starting with a heavy bag, then packing it with even more weight. Look for luggage brands that offer a “lightweight” line and purchase the lightest bag possible—without sacrificing sturdiness. My main suitcase is a 21-inch model that weighs just under 6 pounds. It’s small enough to fit in most overhead bins, yet large enough to hold what I need.

Spinner suitcases: External Features

Hard Shell vs. Soft-Sided

There are two distinct schools of thought when it comes to exterior materials: hard shell vs. soft sided (fabric). Both come in lightweight versions. I prefer the soft-side fabric exterior as it has a little extra “give” in case I need to cram in a few more items (also known by the highly technical term, the “squishy factor” 😉).

Soft-sided luggage is also more forgiving for the inevitable times when your luggage bangs into your shins. Fabric 4 wheeled suitcases also offer exterior zip pockets that are handy for stowing tickets or often-used accessories.

Some people prefer the hard shell version of a 4 wheeled suitcase. The hard shell case is more resistant to moisture (if you spend a lot of time traveling in rainy climates this might be a consideration) Many of them come with built-in locks, a handy feature if security is an issue.

Both hard shell and soft sided varieties are available with zippered expansion panels, allowing you to add a few cubic inches of packing space without moving up to a larger size bag. This feature comes in handy for any souvenirs that are picked up along the way.

When shopping for soft-sided luggage, look for rip-stop fabric, which resists punctures and minimizes tearing. Cheap luggage is often made of basic canvas fabric, this allows tears to “bloom” along the width of the suitcase. If you prefer hard-shell cases, look for lightweight material that is flexible (think of that old TV ad with the gorilla stomping on luggage); bags that are too stiff are prone to dent or, worse yet, crack.

Handles on 4 Wheeled Suitcases

Examine the handles carefully. Quality luggage will have sturdy telescoping handles that adjust to different heights. Inexpensive pieces have flimsy handles (usually just a single metal tube) that aren’t height adjustable. Some (good quality) 4 wheeled suitcases have handles that are a single central bar that telescopes up. They are sturdy, but we’ve don’t like them because they make stacking tote bags on top of the luggage difficult. A traditional dual pull-up handle acts as a brace for any smaller back you might like to stack on top. It also serves as a more secure anchor if your totebag has a trolley strap.


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Interior Features of a 4 Wheeled Suitcase

Open Suitcase: single compartment or half & half?

Think of where a suitcase will be placed when it’s opened—likely on a luggage rack in a hotel room, on a bed, or on a floor. A single large interior compartment works best for maximum storage. A single zip compartment in the suitcase lid is useful for separating accessories or dirty clothes; look for models where the zippered side faces upward when the open case is propped up against the wall. This allows you to access items in this pocket without them slithering onto the floor.

Most hard shell luggage opens “half-and-half” style, where the zipper that opens the luggage basically slices the luggage in half, leaving you two equal compartments on the top and bottom. Some people like natural organizational ability of this half-and-half configuration. However, the tradeoff is that, when opened, this type of 4 wheeled suitcase will be too large to fit on a luggage rack. (And one half will be too heavy to prop up against the wall). In most cases you’ll need to keep the suitcase open on a hotel room floor.

4 Wheeled Luggage: Price Range

We prefer moderately-priced suitcases, generally $125-$250, depending on size and brand; all the features described above can be found in this price range. Avoid those cheap “4 bags for $100” sets sold in discount stores. They are poorly made and unlikely to withstand the rigors of travel. Expensive designer bags may look stylish, but they scream “expensive items are packed inside” and are a magnet to would-be thieves.

Once you’ve chosen a suitcase, test pack it at home and put it through its’ paces. If it’s too heavy or some feature doesn’t work, exchange it. There are plenty of variables when traveling. Your suitcase shouldn’t be one of them.

Our Choice for a 4 Wheeled Suitcase?

Based on all the features discussed above, we like the Travelpro Maxlite soft-sided series. We’ve had them for a few years now, and can attest to both their functionality and durability. We like the 21″ carry-on version, (more about packing that in a future post!), which is also sturdy enough to withstand being checked. This series also comes in 25″ and 29″ checked baggage versions, if you really insist on packing a lot. I purchased my suitcase on Amazon.

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Pizza is a special treat for me, so when I “go for it,” I want it to be special.

Ask someone about their favorite pizza and you’re likely to end up in a heated discussion. Some prefer New York, others Chicago’s deep-dish while New Haven white clam pizza often gets a nod.

For years I’ve been reading that Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, Arizona makes the best pizza in America. That’s a pretty bold statement. Since I’m a bit obsessed with pizza I scurried to Phoenix, with my somewhat jaded eyes wide open, to test the claims made about Pizzeria Bianco. (Phoenix also boasts another one of our fave eateries: Ted’s Hot Dogs.)

holding a margherita pizza outside pizzeria bianco
A Margherita pizza outside the original Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix

History of Pizzeria Bianco

First a little background. Pizza chef Chris Bianco is a native New Yorker who moved to Phoenix in the 1980s. When Chris Bianco started Pizzeria Bianco in the back corner of a Phoenix grocery store in 1988, he had no idea that he would become a driving force in the artisanal pizza movement. All he knew was that his food would reflect the respect and sincere intention that he brings to each of his recipes, as the result of his relationships with farmers, local producers, customers, and staff. He had a gift for making pizza which he honed during a two-year stint in Italy.

When he returned to America in 1994 he opened Pizzeria Bianco and became a pioneer making artisanal pizza in the U.S. In 2003 Bianco won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Southwest in 2003. He was the first pizza maker (“pizzaiolo” in Italian) to be honored with this award. Accolades as “the best pizza in America” followed from the likes of the New York Times and Rachael Ray.

The wood burning oven is a key requirement for a Bianco pizza

Bianco Pizzas: Fresh, Simple, Delicious

Bianco’s pizzas start out with high-protein flour, San Marzano tomatoes and house-made mozzarella. The pizzas are baked for three minutes at 800 degrees in a wood-fired brick oven and arrive at the table with the crust still crackling. Bianco’s devotion to fresh ingredients and locally sourced products is legendary.

Margherita pizza topped with fresh mozzarella and fresh basil at pizzeria bianco
The classic Margherita, fresh out of the wood-burning oven at Pizzeria Bianco

The menu at Pizzeria Bianco is refreshingly simple: a few appetizers, salads and six pizzas. We went with the classic, a Margherita with just tomato sauce, mozzarella and fresh basil. Oh, and a side order of house-made crispy Italian bread and olive oil; you can never have too many carbs.

When the pizza arrived it looked like something out of a magazine on “What pizza should look like.” The crust had reacted properly to the extreme heat of the oven and was buckled with charred air bubbles, just how I like it. The basil was torn into big enough chunks so you still knew it was basil and the melted cheese made itself one with the bright red sauce. Underneath the crust was just how I like it; charred in bits from the brick floor of the oven.

The feel of the pizza was just right. I grew up in New York so I’m a pizza folder and each slice folded nicely. There was enough spring in the crispy crust that it didn’t crack. The crust had just the right blend of crispy and chewy.

perfectly charred bottom of crust at pizzeria bianco
Pizzeria Bianco crust: just the right combination of crispy and chewy

The sauce gave a full tomato feel but Larissa thought it could have used some more seasoning, if there were onions in it we didn’t pick it up. Fresh mozzarella is usually more bland than regular so she also ended up sprinkling a little salt on her slice. I’m not as into salt so I went without.

At $17, the 12″ pizza was not cheap but with the bread dish we were able to fill up on a single pie at lunch. One pie probably wouldn’t be enough for dinner for two people but I couldn’t see spending $34 on two pizzas.

Is Pizzeria Bianco the Best Pizza in America?

But back to the original question, is Pizzeria Bianco the best pizza in America? It certainly ranks as one of our top pies and we’re glad we made it to Phoenix to check out what all the fuss was about. But “the best”? That’s such a tough questions to answer. Can there really be a “best” or a “best anything” for that matter? It goes back to personal taste, and just what type of pizza (or hot dogs, or ice cream or whatever) you like.

pizza peels outside wood burning oven at pizzeria bianco
Pizza peels outside the wood burning brick oven at Pizzeria Bianco-serious stuff

What important to note is that Pizzeria Bianco puts out a top-notch pizza, even 30 years after Chris Bianco first started tossing dough in the air. But it’s really not fair to make it live up to “best pizza in America” status.

If there were an “artisanal pizza family tree” in America, Chris Bianco would be at the roots. Today there are wood burning pizza ovens across America. Hundreds–if not thousands–of independent restaurants are serving up outstanding artisanal pizza on a daily basis. And that’s all because of Chris Bianco. He redefined what we think of as great pizza. And for that 1 reason alone, Pizzeria Bianco deserves the title of “the best.”


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Where to find Pizzeria Bianco and other Chris Bianco Restaurants

Chris Bianco has five eateries in and around Phoenix: two focus on pizza, one is a casual sandwich/salad spot, one is a more traditional Italian restaurant, and the last is a bar that serves nibbles in addition to drinks. Following is a listing of the Chris Bianco Restaurants, along with addresses and opening times.

  • Pizzeria Bianco Heritage Square: This is the original location in downtown Phoenix, which serves mostly pizzas and has the same menu all day. Address is 623 E. Adams St. Phoenix, AZ 85004; phone (602) 258-8300. Hours: Tue-Sat 11am-9pm, Sun 12-8pm. Closed Mon. NOTE: Seating is first-come, first-served, so be prepared to wait during busy times.
  • Pizzeria Bianco Town & Country: The second pizzeria serves an expanded menu, including some larger entrees (“secondi”), with slightly different lunch and dinner menus. Address is 4743 N 20th St. Phoenix, AZ 85016; phone (602) 368-3273. Hours: Daily, 11am to 9pm. Reservations accepted.
  • Pane Bianco: Started as a takeout sandwich shop, this is now a full service casual restaurant offering sandwiches, salads and the Roman-style pizza al taglio (more like a foccacia). Address: 4404 N Central Ave. Phoenix, AZ 85012; phone (602) 234-2100. Hours: Monday – Saturday: 11am – 3pm. No reservations.
  • Tratto: This newest restaurant in the Bianco family, recently opened. Unlike the pizzerias, the focus at this dinner-only spot is on antipasti, hand-made pastas and big plates. Address: 1505 E Van Buren, Phoenix, AZ 85006; phone (602) 296-7761. Hours: Wed, Thurs, Sun: 5-9pm; Fri & Sat: 5-10pm. Reservations accepted.
  • Bar Bianco Heritage Square: Located next door to the original Pizzeria Bianco, this is the spot to enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine with some house-made bar snacks while you’re waiting for your table at the pizzeria. Address: 623 E. Adams St. Phoenix, AZ 85004. Hours: Fri & Sat: 4-9pm.

PRO TIP: The original Pizzeria Bianco (at Heritage Square) does not accept reservations, and there can be a long wait for a table. If you don’t like to wait, make a reservation at the Town & Country location.

Get Chris Bianco’s Cookbook!

Can’t make it to Phoenix, or just want to try whipping up some pizza of your own? Pick up Chris Bianco’s cookbook, Bianco: Pizza, Pasta, and Other Food I Like. Packed with tons of full-color photos and step by step instructions, this book is as much fun to read as it is to cook from! Purchase at Amazon.

Are you hungry for some more pizza? Check out this story about tasting pizza on six continents to seek the best pizza in the world.

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As summer days began to fade I was craving some autumn atmosphere.

Want to find a pumpkin patch in Arizona? We’ll help you out. There’s something just so autumnal about a pumpkin patch. . . the bright orange color, the rustling of leaves and yellowing corn stalks in the neighboring fields beckon on a crisp fall afternoon. You can choose a big ol’ “punkin” or just indulge in little festive fall fun (such as family-friendly games and corn mazes). Whether you’re an Arizona local or visiting on vacation, a stop at an AZ pumpkin patch is sure to brighten your day. It’s as classic a fall event as exploring Apples in Arizona.

PRO TIP: Most pumpkin patches and fall festivals have Covid-19 safety precautions in place. Please check individual sites for more information

Pumpkin Patch in Arizona: Northern Arizona

FLAGSTAFF PUMPKIN PATCH

This Flagstaff pumpkin patch has been serving up autumn fun since 2001. Located at the Viola’s Flower Garden nursery, you’ll have fun picking out pumpkins in this country setting tucked into the pines. Choose from 25 (!) different pumpkin varieties, scattered among hay bales with tons of scarecrows and photo ops.

Photo courtesy Flagstaff Pumpkin Patch

PRO TIP: Continue a few miles south of Flagstaff on 89A to see the foliage at Oak Creek Canyon, one of the fun things to do in Sedona in the Fall.

THE WILLIS FARM (SNOWFLAKE, AZ)

Plenty of fall fun on this farm in northeastern Arizona (not far from Petrified Forest National Park). Pick your pumpkin from a patch out in the field, or select gourds and “Indian” corn. Try your luck navigating the corn maze, or simply take a train ride around the property.

There’s also a game zone for little ones and paint ball & laser tag for older kids.For those who like a scary thrill, Willis Farm hosts “Haunt Nights” every Saturday in October–tickets are timed, be sure to order online ahead of your arrival.

Photo courtesy Willis Farm
  • Location: 381 S. 1st E. Street Snowflake, AZ 85937
  • Dates: September 25 through October 30 (note: Closed on Sundays)
  • Website: Willis Farm & Ranch

Where to find an AZ pumpkin patch near Phoenix

FAIRMONT SCOTTSDALE PRINCESS (SCOTTSDALE, AZ)

Those looking to add a little “glam” to their fall pumpkin experience need look no further than the Pumpkin Fest at this luxury hotel. Fall-themed treats abound for young and old alike, including (sort-of spooky) kiddie rides, toasted marshmallows, skeleton storytellers, and–new for 2021–a Cider Orchard offering both both hard and soft versions of the fall favorite. Visit for just the day, or can cap off the event with specially-priced hotel and spa packages.

JUSTICE BROTHERS U-PICK FARM (WADDELL, AZ)

Head out to the western fringes of Phoenix to farm and orange grove country to find this u-pick pumpkin patch. Pay for your pumpkin, then stop at the free decorating station to jazz it up. There are plenty of photo ops in this Arizona pumpkin patch, and you can even make your own scarecrow!

Photo courtesy Justice Bros.
  • Location: 14629 W. Peoria Avenue, Waddell AZ 85355
  • Dates: October 1 through 31 (note: Open Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon; closed Tue, Wed, Thur)
  • Website: Justice Brothers Ranch & U-Pick

MACDONALD’S RANCH (SCOTTSDALE, AZ)

At MacDonald’s ranch, there are pumpkins, and a whole lot more. Admission to this Arizona pumpkin patch gives you access to a petting zoo, panning for gold, hay bale maze, kids’ pedal car track, lawn games and plenty of photo areas. Purchase pumpkins, and optional pony rides.

Photo courtesy MacDonalds Ranch
  • Location: 26540 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85255
  • Dates: October 1 through 31 (note: closed Tuesdays)
  • Website: MacDonald’s Ranch


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MORTIMER FARMS (DEWEY, AZ)

There’s something for everyone at the Mortimer Farms Pumpkin Fest and Corn Maze. There are games, hayrides, ziplines and more. Oh yeah, you can pick a pumpkin, too! Add in some farm to table food, and you’ve got a great fall day! NOTE: Purchase tickets in advance online.

YouTube video

MOTHER NATURE’S FARM (GILBERT, AZ)

At this Arizona pumpkin patch you can pick out pumpkins grown right at the farm in any size: from 1 ounce to 500 pounds! For the price of admission you can take a hayride, visit the OZ pumpkin, or do a spider crawl. Unlike many other pumpkin patches, Mother Nature’s Farm lets you bring your own picnic (although they have a concession stand as well).

  • Location: 1663 E. Baseline Road Gilbert, AZ 85233
  • Dates: September 25 – October 31
  • Website: Mother Nature’s Farm

SCHNEPF FARMS (QUEEN CREEK, AZ)

With an event known as a “Pumpkin and Chili Party” you know you’re in for a great time. This fall extravaganza includes kiddie carnival rides, corn mazes, ziplines, a petting zoo and a slew of other games for all ages. In addition to chili, there are food tents offering chicken, burgers, pizza and (because . . . fall) succotash. Reserve tickets online.

YouTube video
Note: Filmed prior to COVID-precautions are now in place

PRO TIP: For a fall getaway break, book a spot at Schnepf Farms’ adjacent glamping resort, The Cozy Peach. Stay in one of 9 fully refurbished vintage trailers!


TOLMACHOFF FARMS (GLENDALE, AZ)

This 4-generation family farm kicks off their “Pumpkin Days and Corn Maze” event on October 1. This AZ pumpkin patch has something for the whole family: Great big pumpkin patch and 3(!) corn mazes: a 6-acre family corn maze, a mini corn maze for little ones & a haunted corn maze (ideal for jaded teenagers 🙄.) Other activities include a petting zoo, train ride, hay pyramid, corn box, adult/child pedal cart track, jumping pillow and much more.

  • Location: 5726 N. 75th Ave. Glendale, AZ 85303
  • Dates: October 1 – 31 (Note: Closed Mon, Tue)
  • Website: Tolmachoff Farms

VERTUCCIO FARMS (MESA, AZ)

Celebrate “Cooler Days in the Corn Maze” at Vertuccio Farms’ Arizona pumpkin patch in Mesa. In addition to the maze there’s a train ride around the farm, a petting zoo and games galore, including a giant tube slide and the ever-popular pumpkin bowling (sign us up!)

Photo courtesy Vertuccio Farms

  • Location: 4011 S. Power Rd., Mesa, AZ 85212
  • Dates: October 1 through 31, 7 days/week
  • Website: Vertuccio Farms

Arizona pumpkin patches in Southern AZ

APPLE ANNIE’S (WILLCOX, AZ)

Grab a wheelbarrow and head out to the field to pick your ideal pumpkin. Or better yet, get a ticket for a hayride out to the pumpkin patch, in a wagon pulled by one of Apple Annie’s tractors. Set aside some time for the corn maze; the average visit is 2 hours! And if you come on a weekend, be sure to walk through the Sunflower Spectacular, with fields of 12 varieties of sunflowers on display-gorgeous! (Spoiler alert: they have apples, too. But you probably already figured that out 🙂 .)


MARANA PUMPKIN PATCH (MARANA, AZ)

With 50 acres of freshly grown pumpkins you’re sure to find the perfect specimen at the Marana Pumpkin Patch and Fall Festival. Admission includes a wagon ride out to the patch (pumpkins priced separately, by the pound), along with access to the corn maze, swings and games, a petting zoo and a ride on the 1/4-scale diesel train (perfect for the train geek in your group! 🚂 )

Photo courtesy Marana Pumpkin Patch
  • Location: 14950 N Trico Rd, Marana, AZ 85653
  • Dates: October 2-31 (closed Mon, Tues, Wed)
  • Website: Marana Pumpkin Patch

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The yellowing of leaves put me in the mood for apple pie. And supermarket apples just weren’t going to cut it.

Want to know where find local apples in Arizona during the fall? Here are six ways to experience Arizona’s apple-growing heritage. We’re including u-pick farms, markets, a guest ranch in a orchard and one trek that’s, erm, a little out there, but we wanted to offer all sorts of options . . .

a crate full of freshly picked apples in a field

Go Arizona Apple Picking at Apple Annie’s

Apple picking is about as wholesome as it gets-it’s the ultimate family-friendly event. Although most orchards are now wholesale only, Apple Annie’s Orchard in Willcox is one Arizona apple orchard where picking is encouraged. Harvest season is late August through October; you pay for what you pick. It’s a fun day’s activity, but best of all you get to go home with a basket of fresh, crisp apples! Don’t feel like picking your own? No problem, you can buy an already-picked batch at the Country Store on site.

During weekends throughout the fall there are festive events most weekends, including pancake breakfasts with hot cider syrup and apple topping, apple cider donuts (our favorite!), lunch at the Orchard Grill (which features burgers cooked over apple wood) and pies, pies and more pies.

  • Location: 2081 W Hardy Rd. Willcox, AZ 85643
  • Phone: (520) 384-2084
  • Website: Apple Annie’s
  • Hours: Fruit orchard open daily, 8am to 5pm July-September; 9am to 5:30pm in October. Country Store open daily 8am to 5pm year round. (Closed Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas).

PRO TIP: Apple Annie’s also has a terrific Arizona Pumpkin Patch, and a beautiful sunflower display.

Spend the night in an Arizona apple orchard

The Beatty’s dog, Red, out in the orchard in Miller Canyon, photo courtesy Beatty’s Guest Ranch

If you really want to immerse yourself in the orchard experience there’s no better way than to sleep among the apple trees. In this case we mean a cabin in the orchard, not literally sleeping under the trees (more about that later . . . ). Here at Beatty’s Guest Ranch, cabins are tucked into the orchard, which itself is tucked into Miller Canyon in the Huachuca Mountains of southeastern Arizona. Spend a few nights in this cozy setting; at 5,800 feet in altitude, you can be sure of cool fall evenings.

Whip up breakfast in your cabin using some of Beatty’s farm-fresh eggs accompanied by apples and other goodies grown at the ranch. All foods grown at the ranch are available for purchase in their on site store. The ranch is adjacent to several Miller Canyon trails, and only a few miles from the Coronado National Memorial, part of the National Park System. This area is also birding country; warblers pass through during their fall migration. In summer the apples aren’t yet ripe, but you might just see a hummingbird or two–or twelve. The ranch holds the record for the most species (14) ever spotted in one day!

A cabin in the orchard, photo courtesy Beatty’s Guest Ranch

PRO TIP: Miller Canyon is prime birding territory; in addition to apples, during a stay at Beatty’s Ranch you may “harvest” a few hummingbird and warbler sightings, depending on when you visit


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Explore Sedona’s heritage of apples in Arizona

image of apple sorting equipment-apples in arizona

It’s hard to imagine now, but 100 years ago Sedona was the place to go to find an Arizona apple orchard. Nearby Oak Creek provided ready access to water, and Sedona farmers developed irrigation systems to supply their orchards. The Sedona Heritage Museum at Jordan Historical Park is housed at a former apple processing facilty. The museum’s logo is even the signature red rocks superimposed on an apple!

The orchard acreage was sold off in the 1970s, but the remaining buildings of the Jordan family farmstead remain to illuminate Sedona’s fruit-filled history. View vintage farm equipment and apple sorting machinery, and see a 1940s one-room farmhouse, where apples took pride of place. (While there, be sure to explore the exhibit on Sedona’s history in western movies.) This is one of the cool things to do during the Fall in Sedona.

  • Location: 735 Jordan Road, Sedona, Arizona
  • Phone: (928) 282-7038
  • Website: Sedona Heritage Museum
  • Hours: Open daily 11 am to 3 pm. Closed Major Holidays.
historic photo of orchards near Sedona
Photo courtesy Sedona Heritage Museum

Visit a historic Arizona apple orchard & homestead

historic, rusty farm equipment in front of Pendley orchards at slide rock state park
Historic farm equipment on display in front of the historic Pendley apple orchard at Slide Rock State Park

What is now Slide Rock State Park in Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona was once the Pendley apple orchard and homestead. Summertime visitors love to sluice down the water slide of the creek, but in the fall visitors come to see the beautiful colors . . . and the apples. The orchard, farm machinery, packing shed, old cabins and farmhouse at the site of the old Pendley homestead are all available to visit.

Frank Pendley planted his first apple orchard in 1912 after acquiring the site two years earlier under the Homestead Act. Park staff still farm the orchard, using Pendley’s original irrigation system. Be sure to visit in September and October, when the 13 varieties of apples grown on site are harvested and available for sale.

  • Location: 6871 N. Highway 89A, Sedona, AZ 86336
  • Phone: (928) 282-3034
  • Website: Slide Rock State Park
  • Hours: Open daily, 8am to 6pm, Feb through November; 9am to 5pm Dec, Jan. Closed Christmas.
apples in a wooden box

Trek to a forgotten apple orchard in the mountains

wild apples out in an untended orchard-apples in arizona
Imagine finding these after a 10-mile hike through desert landscape!

Earlier I mentioned an apple experience in Arizona that was a little “out there.” This is it . . . literally and figuratively. In the late 1800s a quirky character named Elisha Reavis established a farm and in a remote valley in the otherwise dry, forbidding Superstition Mountains in eastern Arizona. Many rumors circulated about Reavis: some called him the “Hermit of the Superstition Mountains,” other say he scrapped with the Apaches. No one really knows for sure, but an apple orchard on the site planted after his death is a lasting legacy.

Today, what remains of this Arizona apple orchard continues to flourish (in a wild sort of way) in this tucked-away corner of the Tonto National Forest. Those intrepid enough to find Reavis Ranch can enjoy all the apples their belly can hold–after a 10-mile hike to reach it! Plan to make this an overnight trek, camping at the orchard before making the 10-mile trek back. For some, it’s an annual pilgrimage:

YouTube video
  • Location: Trailhead is located at Reavis Trailhead Rd, Apache Junction, AZ 85119 (off state route 88)
  • Hours: Open all year; apple trees bloom in the spring, and are likely bearing fruit in September and October.

Pick up fresh Arizona apples at a Farmer’s Market

apples lined up in wooden bins at a farmers market apples in arizona

There are places in Arizona that produce apples, but are not open to the public. Most, however make their products available at local farmers’ markets throughout the state. So if you find yourself craving the the delicious fruit from an Arizona apple orchard, but aren’t in the mood to pick your own (or go on a 20-mile hike), download this Arizona Farmers Markets Directory to find one near you.

CLICK ON THE IMAGE AT RIGHT TO DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE COPY OF A GUIDE TO ARIZONA’S FARMERS’ MARKETS!

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I wanted to love our weekend in Sedona. But I had no idea where to begin.

Fall in Sedona is a magical time: the heat of summer has begun to fade, and the foliage turns shades of crimson, orange and yellow, complimenting those famous red rocks. The cooler weather makes enjoying the outdoors–and Sedona’s spectacular scenery–especially pleasant. Here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy Sedona in the fall.

NOTE: Some facilities might have modified hours due to COVID-19 restrictions. Be sure to check before visiting.

Ogle the Foliage at Oak Creek Canyon

One of the great joys of fall in Sedona is the magnificent display of colorful foliage. The best place to see this is via a drive through Oak Creek Canyon. A series of switchbacks along Arizona Highway 89A just north of Sedona will have you winding through spectacular scenery that is especially resplendent in autumn.

Creek with fall foliage in background fall in sedona

Be sure to stop at Oak Creek Vista, near the canyon’s northern end. As the title implies, it will give you a tremendous view-and a perfect photo op. There are also Native American craftsmen who display there wares here, if you’d like to do a little shopping.

PRO TIP: Just north of Oak Creek Canyon, near Flagstaff, stop in at an Arizona Pumpkin Patch for some additional Fall Fun!

Visit a Historic Apple Farm

No fruit says “fall” more than apples! The Pendley Homestead is a 43-acre historic apple farm located in Oak Creek Canyon. The farm was established by Frank L. Pendley, who acquired the land in 1910 as part of the Homestead Act, and began his apple orchard in 1912. The state of Arizona acquired the homestead in 1985 and opened it as Slide Rock State Park in 1987.

Red apples on tree branches

There are still 300 fruit-producing trees in the orchard, along with the historic homestead buildings and farm equipment on display. When visiting Sedona in the fall, be sure to stop by the park to pick up some fresh Pendley Homestead apples!

Chill Out at the Sedona Stupa

Stupa in Sedona in the fall, with banners coming from peak

Sedona is a must-visit place for spiritual seekers the world over. The Sedona Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park offers a rare opportunity for solace at a form of sacred architecture that is typically found in Asia. Stupas date back over 2,500 years, to the time of Buddha. The structure represents the Mind of Enlightenment, and is considered to be living presence of the Buddha.

This sacred place is a soothing spot to visit during the fall in Sedona. It’s tucked into a clearing among pinion and juniper pines, under the watchful eye of Cathedral Rock. Take a short trek up winding trails for prayer, meditation, healing, and peace. The Amitabha Stupa (and the smaller Tara Stupa) is open every day from dawn until dusk. Like all places of worship, it is free to visit, but donations are accepted.

Hike the Red Rocks near Sedona in the Fall

Fall in Sedona is the perfect time to explore the area on foot. There are a myriad of trails for all abilities winding through the red rocks, valleys and Canyons. Southwest of Sedona, Red Rock State Park offers a collection of relatively short hikes (0.2-0.5 miles each) that can be combined to create longer treks. There is a small admission fee to the park.

For a broader range of hikes throughout the region, be sure to stop into the Red Rock Ranger District Visitor Center of the Coconino National Forest, located on AZ Route 179 just north of Interstate 17. There you’ll find an excellent selection of trail maps, with knowledgeable park rangers who can make suggestions based on your interests.

PRO TIP: Hiking is free in the Coconino National Forest, but parking areas at most of the trailheads require a fee. Pick up a Red Rock Pass at the Visitor Center, or purchase online ahead of your visit.

Taste Wines in the Verde Valley

Yellowing Grape vines in Verde Valley in the fall with a "syrah" sign

The fertile lands along the Verde River have been an agricultural hub for Arizona inhabitants for centuries, and is now home to the Verde Valley Wine Region. Wine tasting is a perfect activity to do in Sedona in the fall! The vines are ready to yield the season’s bounty and the the new vintages are making their way through the fermentation process.

Over 20 wineries and tasting rooms are clustered around the town of Cottonwood, just a few miles east of Sedona. For those that like to turn tasting into a quest, download a passport to the Verde Valley Wine Trail, and check ’em off as you go! (If you’d like to have a designated driver, consider this wine tour with transportation.)

Hunt for ghosts in nearby Jerome

Front entrance Jerome Grand Hotel at night

Perched on the side of a mountain about 30 miles west of Sedona, the former mining town of Jerome is reputed to have its fair share of ghosts. Front and center is the Jerome Grand Hotel, which was repurposed from a former hospital. Some say the hotel is “the most haunted place in Arizona.” When visiting Sedona in the fall, all that vortex energy, coupled with Halloween, has got to raise a spirit or two. Right?

Oh, and did I mention the hotel restaurant is called “The Asylum”? That’s not TOO spooky!

Browse the shops and galleries of Tlaquepaque

Many destinations have shopping areas and galleries, but it takes a place as special as Sedona to have Tlaquepaque Arts and Craft Village. Far more than a simple “shopping center,” Tlaquepaque was actually built to resemble a traditional village of the same name in Mexico. Although it was constructed in the early 1970s, it has a feeling of being around for centuries–the buildings themselves feel like a work of art.

Tlaquepaque artist village in sedona-buildings with mexican-style fountain in front

Originally conceived as an artist community, Tlaquepaque today has over 50 specialty shops and art galleries, many of which contain artists working on-site. As you stroll around trickling fountains under the shade of a giant sycamore, you’re bound to be tempted by ceramics, architectural decor pieces and contemporary jewelry along with fine art paintings and more.

Attend an Arts Festival

Sedona in Fall-hands of ceramic artist shaping pottery on a wheel

Browse unique works of art while helping to support future artists and artisans. Established in 1989, the Sedona Arts Festival is the oldest and largest arts festival in the community. Every fall in Sedona this festival exhibits the work of more than 125 artists in a variety of artistic mediums. Explore creations in ceramics, photography, sculpture, drawing, fiber art and more during the two-day festival, which is held outdoors with the magnificent red rocks as a backdrop.

Attend knowing you’ll be supporting art programs at schools, parks, camps and more. The festival has funded nearly $300,000 of programs during its history. And if all that browsing has worked up an appetite, be sure to check out the Gourmet Gallery for tasty locally-sourced treats.


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Observe (or participate in) Art en Plein Air

hands of artist painting a watercolor outdoors

The dry sunny climate of Sedona in the fall is perfect for creating art outdoors, or “en plein air,” as the French dubbed it. Each year the Sedona Arts Center holds a week-long festival to celebrate this unique artistic experience. The Sedona Plein Air Festival consists of master artists painting, along with workshops, lectures and free events, all amid the magical scenery of Sedona.

The Sedona Arts Center originated over 60 years ago, when the region was just becoming known as an “art colony.” Sign up for one of the workshops and maybe you, too, will one day be one of the master artists!

Go back in time at the Sedona Heritage Museum

Nothing says “autumn” like shiny red apples, and in the early-mid 20th century, apples were big business in and around Sedona. So it seems only fitting that a museum celebrating Sedona’s past should be located on a former apple farmstead. To learn more about this history a visit to Sedona in the fall should include a stop at the Sedona Heritage Museum, located at Jordan Historical Park in Upper Sedona.

The farmstead buildings have been preserved and repurposed into exhibit halls, where visitors can learn about various periods in the region’s history, including Early Settlers, Ranching & Cowboys, the Orchard Industry, movies made in Sedona. There’s even a display about Sedona Schnebly, the woman for whom the town was named.

Ride the leaf-peeping Rails

Fall foliage in Arizona is at its most resplendent near rivers and streams, when the summer greenery changes to vivid reds and yellows. Along the Verde River northwest of Sedona much of this magnificent foliage is unavailable to view–unless you go by rail. A ride on the historic Verde Canyon Railroad will take you through canyons you’d otherwise be unable to see–and it’s especially beautiful during fall in Sedona.

Aerial shot of Verde Canyon Railroad going through canyon along a river with trees displaying fall foliage-near Sedona in fall
The Verde Canyon railroad snakes through gorgeous fall foliage. Photo by Tom Johnson via Flickr

The 40-mile, 4-hour ride takes you on a lazy ride through the canyons along the Verde River. Plenty of windows–and outdoor viewing platforms–give you plenty of terrific photo ops. The train departs from Clarkdale, about 25 miles west of Sedona. Refreshments can be purchased on board, and there are also special event rides, such as the Grape Train Escape Wine Tasting train ride (now there’s a way to multi-task!).

Take a Yoga Hike

In a destination where inner peace and hiking are both so important, a yoga hike is a natural combination. For those who like multi-tasking, yet really need to relax, this is a perfect solution. Spend 3 hours communing with nature as you reach within yourself. All out in the splendid scenery of Sedona in the fall.

There are so many ways to enjoy Sedona in the fall . . . which ones will you choose?

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There are days when a char-grilled hot dog is my idea of a gourmet meal. And I found just the spot (no lighter fluid required).

Ted’s Hot Dogs in Phoenix (well, technically Tempe) is the lone western outpost of a legendary Buffalo, New York hot dog empire. We’re big fans, so when we learned there was a Ted’s in Arizona we just had to give it a try. Could the classic Buffalo dog make the journey to the southwest?

Wait, what? Hot dogs in Buffalo? What about Phoenix?

(We’ll get to the hot dogs in Phoenix in a bit, bear with us. ) Most people think of chicken wings when they think of Buffalo. But the city on lake Erie may also be the hot dog capital of America. One of the things that makes Buffalo hot dogs special is that they are chargrilled over real hardwood charcoal to give them a crisp smoky taste. Imagine being able to get that awesome 4th-of-July-backyard-barbecue flavor whenever you want . . . sign us up! When we mention to Buffalonians how lucky they are to get chargrilled hot dogs all over town they just shrug their shoulders: that’s how they’ve always eaten their hot dogs.

Hot dogs on a tray at Ted's Hot Dogs in Phoenix (Tempe), Arizona

A little context: the history of Buffalo hot dogs

One of the most popular spots for hot dogs in Buffalo is Ted’s Hot Dogs. Founded in 1927 by Greek immigrant Theodore Spiro Liaros, the restaurant was an upgrade from the cart he had used to sell his dogs. It wasn’t until 1948 that Ted’s opened their second location in the Buffalo area and have now expanded to nine locations in Western New York.

The menu is a simple one consisting of chargrilled hot dogs, burgers, chicken and sausage. Sides include french fries and onion rings with a range of sauces including Ted’s cheddar, chipotle ranch and creamy horseradish. If you have room for it, you can add a milkshake made with real ice cream, not a mix like other fast food joints. Although all the food is good, we really come for the chargrilled hot dogs.

Another thing we like about Buffalo hot dogs is that you can have it how you want it. We were once almost kicked out of a dog house in Chicago when we dared ask for ketchup (a big NO-NO on a Chicago dawg). Buffalonians have a more “live and let live attitude” with how you decorate your dog. Some people put the fries or onion rings directly on top, while others are more content with a squirt of ketchup and mustard with a bit of relish. You might try adding Ted’s signature Hot Sauce, which appears to be a sweet-spicy ketchup-based red relish mixed with a secret blend of spices

PRO TIP: If you like a nice crispy hot dog, (like us!) be sure to ask for it “well done”! (Just sayin’)

A bit of hot dog “science”

A few years ago we wrote about Buffalo hot dogs for USA Today 10Best. We learned one of the tricks is using only Sahlen’s hot dogs, lovingly made (natch) in Buffalo, NY. Sahlen’s hot dogs are a combination of pork and beef that are produced by the 5th generation of the Sahlen family. But wait . . . there’s more! It turns out it’s not just the brand that makes the difference.

Sahlen’s produces both natural casing and skinless hot dogs. According to company spokesperson Jeff Vance, hot dogs that are grilled over charcoal should have a natural casing, which is better for the high heat of an open flame grill. The natural casing hot dog will split as it cooks, heating up the interior while still providing a signature bubbly browned exterior, that many people, including us crave. Vance says, “Skinless franks are wasted on a charcoal grill – they don’t split and just turn black.” (On the other hand, Sonoran Hot Dogs in Tucson are cooked on a flat-top griddle; skinless is best in that case.)

A Sahlen’s hot dog in perfect chargrilled crispiness (from Sahlen’s website).

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Hot dogs in Phoenix: Why did Ted’s open there?

With such a loyal fan base in Buffalo, how did this lone outpost of Ted’s Hot Dogs end up in the Phoenix area? Well, have you ever been to Buffalo in the winter? It’s freezing and the lake effect snow wafting off of frigid Lake Erie can build up tall enough to cover an NBA center (Seriously. Buffalo gets an average of 7 feet of snow per year.) It turns out many Buffalonian snowbirds make their way to Arizona for the winter and what they really miss is a taste of home. Which is why in the 80s Ted’s opened their Arizona location in Tempe.

(This is a similar story of how Chris Bianco, founder of the famous Pizzeria Bianco, came to Phoenix . . . only he came to escape the humidity (and cold) of New York City.)

Hot dogs in Phoenix: Does Ted’s measure up?

We’re happy to say that it does. We were nervous before we got there. Would they stick with their signature hardwood charcoal, or simplify the process, making hot dogs in Phoenix on a flat-top griddle? Nope. The signature aroma of burning charcoal that met us told us we were about to have the real thing.

Fortunately, Ted’s is not a one-trick pony; the side of onion rings along with a loganberry milk shake (another Buffalo local flavor) lived up to the quality of the hot dog. The food is also reasonably priced for what you are getting. It’s wonderful to see that a Buffalo New York legend has made the transition to Arizona. New generations will get to savor hot dogs in Phoenix as they were meant to be, grilled over hardwood charcoal with a smoky flavor redolent of backyard cookouts of my youth.

Native Buffalonians can savor a true taste of home in Phoenix. And that taste is char-grilled hot dogs, not chicken wings. Let’s face it, you can find wings anywhere.

How to find Ted’s Hot Dogs in Arizona

  • Address: 1755 E. Broadway, Tempe, AZ 85282
  • Hours: Monday- Saturday 10am -10pm, Sunday 10:30am- 10pm
  • Phone: 480-968-6678
Map showing location of Teds hot dogs in phoenix (tempe)

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The Grand Canyon is great, but aren’t there some off-the-beaten-path historic sites and parks?

Visiting Arizona National Monuments is a terrific way to see the beauty of the state, often with only a fraction of the visitors at Arizona National Parks. National Monuments in Arizona range from areas with unusual geological formations to sights of historic (and prehistoric!) significance. In total there are 18 Arizona National Monuments, more than any other state. Most of these sites are managed by the National Park Service and have services such as interpretive centers, ranger-guided programs and restrooms. Visiting National Monuments in Arizona provides an opportunity to explore the state’s unique scenery and culture without the crowds that can clog up the more well-known National Parks.

To help you understand the many options available to you while traveling in Arizona, we’ve outlined some of the guidelines that distinguish Arizona National Parks from Arizona National Monuments, as outlined by the National Park Service. We’ve also listed all 18 designated National Monuments in Arizona, with the services available at each. Be sure to include a visit to these magnificent sites on your next trip–you won’t be disappointed!

PRO TIP: A road trip is a great way to see Arizona National Monuments. Check out our 11 favorite Arizona road trips for some ideas and inspiration!

Fast facts about Arizona National Monuments

What IS a National Monument?

National monuments are areas reserved by the Federal Government because they contain objects of historic, prehistoric, or scientific interest. Among National Monuments in Arizona you’ll find ancient cliff dwellings, archeological ruins and natural areas with unusual landscapes and rock formations.

What is the difference between a National Park and a National Monument?

National parks are areas set apart by Congress for the use of the people of the United States generally, because of some outstanding scenic feature or natural phenomena (hello, Grand Canyon!). National monuments are generally smaller than National Parks, focusing on a single unique feature. Although some Arizona National Monuments are quite large; Organ Pipe Cactus NM is over 500 square miles.

How many National Monuments in Arizona are there?

Arizona has 18 sites designated as National Monuments, more than any other state.

Who manages Arizona National Monuments?

Most National Monuments in Arizona are managed by the National Park Service. A few sites are managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Occasionally sites will be managed by local authorities, either alone or in conjunction with a federal agency.

Complete list of National Monuments in Arizona

PRO TIP: Opening times and certain park services may be limited due to COVID-19 restrictions. Be sure to check with each park prior to visiting.

Agua Fria National Monument

A large area of preserved mesa and canyon along the Agua Fria River. Varying altitudes provide a wide range of desert vegetation, and there are some petroglyphs among the rocky canyon.

  • Location: Central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Natural Landscape, Ancient Culture
  • Services: None-Bring in and take out all supplies
  • Special Considerations: 4-wheel drive not necessary, but advised
petroglyphs of animals on rock, with canyon in the distance
Photo courtesy Bureau of Land Management

Canyon De Chelly National Monument

A fantastic place to observe dramatic scenery with over 5,000 years of continuous habitation. Some descendants still live on the site (a rarity among national sites). Scenic drives provide magnificent vistas, up-close views of the cliff dwellings are with local guides.

  • Location: Northeastern Arizona
  • Type of Site: Ancient Culture with cliff dwellings
  • Services: Visitor Center, Guided tours, Accessible paths
  • Special Considerations: Located on Navajo Nation lands, which observe Mountain Time Zone schedules

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Ruins of a large structure dating back to the 1400s from a Sonoran Desert agricultural society. Its exact purpose is unknown, but the scale of the remains attest to the sophistication of the community.

  • Location: Central Arizona (between Phoenix & Tucson)
  • Type of Site: Ancient cultural ruins
  • Services: Guided tours, gift shop, picnic grounds
  • Special Considerations: Accessible pathways

Chiricahua National Monument

Wonky, other-worldly rock formations that go on for miles make great atmosphere for hiking or a scenic drive. Chiricahua is located along a North American flyway and is a good site for birders.

  • Location: Southeastern Arizona
  • Type of Site: Natural Landscape, geological wonder
  • Services: Visitor center with museum, bookstore, restrooms, drinking water
  • Special Considerations: camping at Bonito Canyon, Birding

Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument

Parashant is one of the Arizona National Monuments that is vast, wild and absolutely gorgeous. This million-square-mile area on the northern side of the Grand Canyon is completely “off the grid,” with no services. There’s plenty of room to roam, but you MUST have a 4-wheel drive vehicle, preferably with high clearance.

  • Location: Northern Arizona, along the border with Utah and Nevada
  • Reason to visit: Stunning scenery
  • Facilities & Services: No services within the monument boundaries; there is an information center in St. George, Utah
  • Special Considerations: 4-wheel drive required; although located in Arizona, entrances are from either Nevada or Utah.
Parashant, a national monument of Arizona, with joshua tree in foreground and snow-covered mesa in background

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Hohokam Pima National Monument

Hohokam Pima National Monument celebrates an ancient people that thrived during the first millennium. Excavations of an ancient site are ongoing and closed to the public, however there is much to learn about the community at the Huhugam Heritage Center, which showcases precious ancient artifacts discovered at the archaeological site.

  • Location: Central Arizona, about 20 miles south of Phoenix.
  • Type of Site: Ancient culture, museum & heritage center
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor center/museum, restrooms.
  • Special Considerations: Managed by Gila River Indian Community; hours may be different to other national sites

Ironwood Forest National Monument

A large (129,000 acres) site that offers plenty of wide-open desert spaces for solitude and exploration. There are 3 designated National Historic archaeological sites within the boundaries for the truly intrepid.

  • Location: Central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Natural Landscape, Ancient Culture
  • Services: None-Bring in and take out all supplies
  • Special Considerations: Camping and hunting allowed

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Stunning 600-year-old cliff dwelling that is remarkably intact. The 40-50 room structure is only viewable from a distance to preserve it. There is a smaller dwelling about 10 miles away, known as Montezuma Well, that is also part of the Monument. Although not as grand, it allows for a more up-close view of the structure.

  • Location: Central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Ancient culture; cliff dwellings
  • Services: Montezuma Castle has a Visitor Center, with museum, bookstore and restrooms, along with picnic grounds. Montezuma Well has picnic grounds and pit toilets.
  • Special Considerations: Two sites, about 10 miles apart, comprise the Monument

Navajo National Monument

Spectacular cliff dwellings from the 1300s set in a massive red rock cave. Long-distance views by walkway with limited wheelchair accessibility. Close-up views of the cliff dwellings by guided tour only, rugged terrain.

  • Location: North Central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Ancient culture, cliff dwellings
  • Services: Visitor Center, with museum, bookstore and restrooms, ranger-guided tours of the cliff dwellings, camping
  • Special Considerations: Located on Navajo Nation lands, which observe Mountain Time Zone schedules

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

The unique desert landscape at Organ Pipe has been designated an International Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations. This Arizona National Monument is large and uncrowded: at over 500 square miles it’s over 3 times bigger than Saguaro National Park, yet it receives only 1/4 of the visitors. There are plenty of hikes and scenic drives; Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is well worth a trip to southwestern Arizona.

  • Location: Southwestern Arizona
  • Type of Site: Natural Landscape
  • Services: Visitor center with displays, bookstore, restrooms; scenic drives, hiking trails, RV and tent campsites, backcountry camping
  • Special Considerations: hike to an abandoned mine on monument grounds.

Pipe Spring National Monument

The homestead at Pipe Spring offers a glimpse into the rugged life of Mormon homesteaders in the late 1800s. The fresh water from the Pipe Spring has attracted settlers for centuries; there is an interesting perspective on both Native American and White inhabitants of the area. Not many Arizona National Monuments grow fresh fruits and vegetables–the National Park Service still maintains the gardens (and livestock!) at Pipe Spring.

  • Location: Northwestern Arizona
  • Type of Site: Historic homestead
  • Services: Visitor Center with museum, bookstore, restrooms; historic ranch with animals, fresh heirloom fruits and vegetables (in season)
  • Special Considerations: Accessible pathways

Sonoran Desert National Monument

A great National Monument in Arizona if you want to spend time exploring the Sonoran Desert landscape on your own, at your own pace. Camp out under the stars . . . and even bring your horse if you’d like to ride! This is one of the few national monuments that allows hunting on the grounds.

  • Location: South Central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Natural Landscape
  • Services: Limited restroom facilities
  • Special Considerations: In addition to camping, hunting and horseback riding are allowed

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Visit the cinder cone of an extinct volcano at Sunset Crater. Even a thousand years (!) after it last erupted, the terrain is still barren near the top. You can also hike the area of the former lava floes–an other-worldly experience if there ever was one. Those with mobility issues can view the terrain via scenic drives.

  • Location: North central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Geological wonder
  • Services: Visitor Center, restrooms, picnic grounds, campgrounds
  • Special Considerations: Admission fee also covers access to Wupatki National Monument, 20 miles away.
Arizona National Monuments-sign for Sunset Crater Volcano with cinder cone in background

PRO TIP: Plan to visit Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monuments on the same day. They are only 20 miles apart and the admission fee gets you into both sites!

Tonto National Monument

There are a LOT of cliff dwellings in Arizona; Tonto is special among Arizona National Monuments in that you can walk right up and into the dwellings themselves. There are two sites: the lower dwelling is accessed via a paved path; see the upper dwelling via a ranger-guided tour over rugged terrain. The central Arizona location makes it a nice day trip from Phoenix.

  • Location: Central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Ancient cliff dwellings
  • Services: Visitor Center, museum, restrooms, picnic grounds, guided tours
  • Special Considerations: trail to the lower cliff dwelling is paved, but is steep, with some steps, so might not be suitable for those with accessibility concerns

Tuzigoot National Monument

Tuzigoot is the remains of a 1,000-year-old Sinagua pueblo perched on a ridge overlooking the Verde River. The complex of 100+ rooms illustrates the sophistication of this society–modern-day condos could borrow a few tips from the construction here! This is one of the Arizona National Monuments that is nearby Sedona, making a nice excursion if you’re in the area.

  • Location: Central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Ancient Culture
  • Services: Visitor Center, museum, bookstore, restrooms, picnic grounds
  • Special Considerations: There are paved trails to the base of the pueblo and along the marsh; access inside the upper rooms requires stairs.

Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

Vermilion Cliffs is a great place to go if you like eerie rock formations. This National Monument has no services, so be prepared to rough it. But you’ll be rewarded with solitude and stunning scenery.

  • Location: Northern Arizona
  • Type of Site: Geological Wonders
  • Services: None-bring in and take out everything
  • Special Considerations: 4-wheel drive required
Arizona national monuments-strange rock formations at Vermillion Cliffs

Walnut Canyon National Monument

Walnut Canyon’s cliff dwellings more hidden than those at the other Arizona National Monuments. They are tucked away along a ridge in the forest, largely hidden from view until you are right on top of them. But that’s part of their charm: you can walk right up–and into–them, giving you an ancient’s-eye-view of life in what would become Arizona in about 500 years.

  • Location: North central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Ancient cliff dwellings
  • Services: Visitor Center, museum, bookstore, restrooms
  • Special Considerations: Path to the cliff dwellings involves climbing up and down stairs

Wupatki National Monument

If you like ancient pueblo construction, you get a lot of bang for your buck at Wupatki. The area encompasses six distinct pueblo structures out on an open plain over an area of about 15 miles. Drive from pueblo to pueblo via a loop road, then take short paths to the structures themselves. Among Arizona National Monuments, this is an excellent option for those with mobility issues. Paths to 4 of the 6 pueblos meet accessibility standards, the accessible path to the remaining pueblos is currently under construction.

  • Location: Central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Natural Landscape, Ancient Culture
  • Services: Visitor Center, museum, restrooms
  • Special Considerations: Admission fee also covers access to Sunset Crater National Monument, 20 miles away.
Photo courtesy NPS

Now that you’ve seen the stunning array of choices to visit at Arizona National Monuments, which one will you visit first?

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We love Airbnb but every now and then one of those rentals looks too good to be true . . .

Scams on Airbnb and other vacation rental sites like VRBO and Flipkey are rare, but they DO happen. Learn how to spot the scams on Airbnb and other sites using tips based on our extensive experience. Over the past 10 years we’ve spent more than 2,000 nights at Vacation rentals (We’re not kidding-we live on the road!) After all this time–which includes over 100 Airbnb stays–we’ve figured out how to avoid bogus deals.

ratty old shack in the desert-scams on airbnb
Probably NOT your ideal vacation rental

Vacation rental scams: The Craigslist “scrape”

We were really enjoying our Airbnb rental in Prescott, Az one autumn when there was a knock at the front door. Since we didn’t know anyone in town we assumed it was a salesman. So we were surprised to see a young man on the porch with several pieces of luggage. Um, a long lost friend visiting? Nope. He said, in all earnestness, that he was ready to move in and where should he put his luggage? Well that’s awkward! Fortunately, since we booked the cottage through Airbnb, we were fine; unfortunately for him he hadn’t–he had been scammed.

Our caller had found the cottage on Craigslist at a monthly rate that was half what we were paying. Too good to be true? As it happens, yes.  The listing included the same description and photos as those on the (legitimate) Airbnb listing, but the contact information was different. He had signed a lease and mailed the contact a deposit check for $500.

Fortuantely for us, a quick call to our Airbnb host confirmed that we were fine. The guy on the porch was not. This was a Craigslist rental scam. Our host explained that her Airbnb listing had been “scraped.” Someone had taken her photos and posted a fake ad on Craigslist, lying in wait for an unsuspecting victim. Our Airbnb host also shared that this had happened to her before. She’s tried hard to stop the scammers, but they remove the fake internet listing before the police can take action and then post it again at another time. Though this was not one of the scams on Airbnb, hinky things can still happen on that sight as well.

Woman stranded on the side of a desert road with a suitcase-scams on airbnb
Don’t get left stranded. Make sure your vacation rental is not a scam.

Scams on Airbnb: the fake listing

Also known as the “travel scam,” this is basically the same situation as our Craigslist example above, except that listing is on Airbnb. You might think, “wait! How can this happen? Doesn’t Airbnb have systems to catch fake listings?” The answer to that is YES, they do, and they constantly monitor their site. But according to their own site, Airbnb has nearly 6 million listings (as of September 2020) in over 100,000 cities. With that kind of volume there are bound to be a few bad apples that sneak into the bunch every now and then.

We had firsthand experience with Airbnb scams a few years ago. We requested a reservation at an Airbnb apartment in Rome, Italy. It looked like a nice apartment in a good neighborhood, and the price seemed more reasonable than others nearby. Not “half the price crazy cheap,” that would have set off alarm bells right away. No this one was just about 10-15% cheaper than similar apartments.

But . . . once we put in our request the “owner” contacted us right away suggesting we wire the payment to them directly rather than working through the normal Airbnb channels—something that is specifically outside the company’s guidelines. This set off warning flags—sure enough, we contacted Airbnb, who confirmed it was a false listing and took it down. This was one of the scams on Airbnb that we didn’t get snookered by–we eventually found a terrific, legitimate, listing and spent a fabulous month exploring Rome.

Scams on Airbnb: the advance fee ploy

Here someone offers to pay you (or give you something) if you pay through a service outside of Airbnb. This one is really a variation on the “fake listing” scam we discussed above. It’s just a slightly more elaborate scheme, trying to sweeten the deal for paying outside the system by giving you something in return. There’s definitely a theme to these scams on Airbnb: scammers are trying to get you to pay outside the system. Bad. Idea.

The vacation rental “phishing scam”

When someone sends you an email or link that looks like it’s from Airbnb, but it’s really not. These messages are designed to trick you into providing confidential information such as passwords or other email addresses. How do these “phishers” know to send you an email? They don’t–they’re taking a calculated risk. Phishing isn’t unique to Airbnb; VRBO, FlipKey and others are prone to the same issue.

According to market research firm Statista, the industry is forecasting over 600 million vacation rental users worldwide in 2021 alone. When you think of those kind of numbers, it’s not that far-fetched that an email blast to 10,000 people with the subject line “There’s a problem with your vacation rental reservation” might actually get someone to click on it.


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How to Avoid Scams on Airbnb & other Vacation Rental sites

  1. If a property seems too good to be true, it’s probably not legitimate. Compare the listing to others in the area; anything that looks larger, more luxurious, or cheaper than the going rate should be suspect.
  2. Read property reviews carefully. As we discuss in finding an Airbnb in Arizona, read all the reviews very carefully. Only the stupidest scammers keep up listings that say, “this guy scammed me!” If a property has no reviews at all, or there have been long periods of time between reviews, we proceed with caution.
  3. Review all listing photos with a critical eye. Scammers who post fake listings often scrape photos from another site, which degrades their quality. (Think of a document that’s blurry because it’s been copied and then the copy is re-copied multiple times, or if you took a photo of a hard copy picture with your phone.) Consumer advocate Christopher Elliot provides an excellent example of this in his article about a fake VRBO rental.
  4. Work through legitimate rental companies. When booking a vacation, reputable sites such as Airbnb and VRBO (or established local rental agencies) offer a level of protection should there be an issue.  They all have business reputations to maintain so it’s in their best interest to resolve any disputes to everyone’s satisfaction. A legitimate site will also act as a go-between for payments and resolving any problems.
  5. Stay (and pay) within the system. Booking sites and rental agencies do charge a fee, which many people don’t like paying. But they also provide a valuable service in exchange for this fee, which includes protecting you should anything go amiss with your reservation. Avoid the temptation to save a few dollars by going around them—a trick scammers often use. Be very cautious when someone asks you to pay them directly. Additionally, paying outside the system violates Airbnb’s terms of service, which could cause you to get banned from the site.
  6. Don’t use Craigslist for vacation rentals. Craigslist is a terrific site for buying and selling a lot of stuff, but vacation rentals are not among them. Craigslist is an internet listing site only, there is no “book within the system safety net.” On their own site, they even address how to avoid a Craigslist rental scam: “Do not rent or purchase sight-unseen—that amazing “deal” may not exist.” (Full disclosure: Early in our travels we booked some apartments on Craigslist, back in the day when online rental sites were in their infancy. But we have not done so for years because there is no consumer protection, and therefore would not likely do it again.
  7. Be suspicious of emails regarding reservations that don’t make sense. Never provide any personal information unless you have verified the communication is legitimate. Airbnb has a very helpful guide to decoding suspicious emails, which explains what their links look like, and even lists all the internet domain names they use.
If a vacation rental like this Sedona mansion is available for $25 a night (or even $125 a night),
you might want to verify that listing.

Vacation rentals in Arizona are a fabulous lodging alternative when traveling. However, the Internet makes it very easy for scams on Airbnb and other sites to proliferate, resulting in false listings. Don’t be that guy stuck out on our porch. Always do your due diligence, particularly when the property or price seem too good to be true.


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With so many Airbnb options, it’s a challenge filtering through all the listings. How do you narrow it down?

Before you choose your Airbnb Arizona, check out our list of tips-we’ll help you find the best Airbnb for YOU. We’ve stayed at Airbnb rentals throughout Arizona with generally positive results. In fact, we’ve stayed more than 1,000 nights at Airbnb places around the world. If Airbnb was a country, we’d probably qualify for citizenship.

Among the Airbnb places we’ve stayed in Arizona are a circa 1920s miner’s cottage in downtown Prescott, a mother-in-law suite with a private entrance in Tucson and a spare bedroom on a reservation in Navajo Nation not far from the eastern entrance to the Grand Canyon. (The hosts led us to a delicious place for authentic Indian fry bread.) The choices are varied and plentiful.

Airbnb Arizona cottage with prickly pear cactus out front
Airbnb in Bisbee, Arizona

Tip #1: Airbnb is not a chain

Each property is unique, with a more personal feel than a chain hotel room. Some have nice little touches, like fresh flowers or snacks in the fridge. (But remember, despite the name, breakfast is not usually included. These are not bed-and-breakfasts in the traditional sense.) In a cookie-cutter hotel chain, you might not remember where you are when you wake up because the room in Phoenix looks just like the room in Pittsburgh. Not so at an Airbnb in Arizona, where no two properties look the same.

Because of this uniqueness, it’s important be sure to view the photos of the listing carefully. One cottage may have leather sofas and a 72” TV, while a nearby basement flat sports a couch that should have stayed on the frat house porch. The prices should be reflective of the accommodations, but be sure to look before you book.

Tip #2: Book the “entire place” option if you like privacy

Many people think staying at an Airbnb is simply renting a room in someone’s house. While that is one of three lodging options on the site, we prefer having more privacy if we are are staying for longer than a night or two. For those longer stays we select the “Entire Place” option, which means we have our own fully self-contained living space.

The “entire place” at an Airbnb Arizona can range from an inlaw suite with a microwave and a coffee maker, to a full house, and every combination in-between. Each option works well, depending on your needs, so it’s important to know just what amenities are important to you. Which brings us to . . .

Tip #3: Don’t be afraid to ask questions

The Airbnb site makes it very easy to send questions to the property owner, most of whom respond within a few hours. In fact, that’s a good way to determine out how attentive a particular host may be. If you’re concerned about internet speed (a big one for us) or want to be clear about whether the kitchen has a full stove or just a microwave, just ask. Airbnb hosts want you to be happy with your choice; an unhappy guest is no fun for anyone. If they can’t meet your needs they’ll generally tell you, so you can look elsewhere.

queen size bedroom on tile floor in airbnb yuma arizona
Airbnb Yuma Az

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Tip #4: Know your payment and cancellation options

Airbnb is super-easy to use; all payments are handled through the site. However, payment is typically taken upon reservation (sometimes broken into multiple payments for longer bookings), and cancellation terms can vary from host to host. Again, look before you book. Usually you will not have the same cancellation flexibility as a hotel. Fortunately Airbnb has become a bit more flexible with cancellation policies due to the affect of Covid on travel planning.

Tip #5: Verify the property location

Since the majority of Airbnbs are in private homes, there’s a much broader range of potential locations than typical hotels. In order to protect the privacy of property owners, Airbnb only provides an approximate location via a shaded circle on a map before you book. Once you’ve completed the reservation you’ll get the actual address. The circle is usually accurate enough so you can compare it to Google maps, which will help you determine if you’ll be near sights of interest, or overlooking a railroad track or highway.

Unfortunately, this is not always true. We once rented an Airbnb in California that was between a noisy railroad AND a busy highway. Since we had done our research beforehand we were a bit surprised, and disappointed when we arrived. The landlord’s only explanation was that Airbnb had their location wrong on the map. The moral of the story: if you’re concerned about the location, ask questions of the owner before booking (see Tip #3, above). They may not give you the exact address, but if you ask “how close is the nearest busy road or train?” the owner should respond with enough information to help you make an informed decision.

Desert garden in an Airbnb tucson arizona
Backyard of this colorful Airbnb in Tucson Az is available for guests to use

Tip #6: Verify what areas are available to you

In some Airbnbs you have access only to your own space, while in others you can use outdoor areas like the garden in the Tucson Airbnb above. If that’s important to you, verify ahead of time. It’s no use seeing pretty pictures of things you can’t use.

Tip #7: Read the reviews CAREFULLY

Much like Yelp,TripAdvisor or Booking.com, each listing on Airbnb provides reviews from prior guests. Poorly-maintained properties (or ungracious hosts) are generally easy to spot, and are quickly eliminated. But even once we’ve narrowed down our search to highly-ranked options, we still find some are a bit trickier to decipher. People have no problem leaving one-star reviews for an impersonal name brand hotel, but with Airbnb they’ve developed a relationship with their host and are less likely to say something negative. So you must read reviews more closely for subtle nuances in how the review is written. But even that is no guarantee . . . the properties are all unique and so are the standards of the guests staying in them.

We eliminated one rental in Pennsylvania because the toilet bowl was in the bedroom out in the open. Yet in over 30 positive reviews NO ONE mentioned it. Apparently their idea of “romantic” was different from ours. Ugh!

Comments about one Airbnb Arizona rental we stayed in described the “quiet neighborhood,” yet no one mentioned that the home backed onto a noisy freeway. We were diplomatic—yet honest—in our review, stating “light sleepers might be bothered by the nearby freeway.” More honesty in reviews will help everyone. As mentioned earlier, if you have any concerns, don’t be afraid to ask the host.

Tip #8: Some things can’t be seen in a photo

While pretty photos are nice, they don’t tell you what a place sounds or smells like. If you are particularly sensitive to odors such as cigarette smoke or cats, ask the owner if there’s been a smoker or a cat owner as a prior tenant. That’s where carefully reading reviews may help, but not always.

Also, don’t be shy about requesting that they use fragrance-free detergent to clean the sheets. Our philosophy is the best smell is no smell at all. The best quality hotels smell like . . . just plain clean. It makes for an awful night sleeping when sheets are doused with Febreze, or some other strong fragrance.

front door of a cabin in the woods at an airbnb arizona-flagstaff
An Airbnb in Flagstaff Az

PRO TIP: The lingering effects of Covid have upended the housing market, which has had an effect on Airbnb properties. If you’re concerned about an owner cancelling your reservation, for now be cautious when choosing an Airbnb Arizona that’s a stand-alone property

Tip #9: Be aware your Airbnb Arizona may be sold

One of the unexpected side effects of the Covid pandemic is that the residential real estate market has gone bonkers. Houses are being sold above the listing price, in many cases without the buyer even looking at them. So how does this affect Airbnb Arizona renters? Well, we’ve had several of our Airbnb rentals cancelled in 2021 because the landlord decided to sell the house we were supposed to be renting. We can’t really blame them, but this left us high and dry with no place to rent in an increasingly tight market. So what to do?

Tip #10: Avoid rentals at a freestanding place

Freestanding home are more likely to be properties that the owners fixed up as an investment, which makes selling them in a hot market attractive. Airbnbs that are adjacent to the owner’s home–such as a separate apartment, or in-law suite are a more stable option–at least until the real estate market settles down. They are less like likely to sell that and you are less likely to lose your rental.

Casitas (small guest houses) are very popular at Airbnb Arizona properties.They are located on the owner’s home property and make a great option for a short or long-term stay.

Overall, we highly recommend Airbnb Arizona but recognize that, compared to staying at a chain hotel, it takes a bit more work to find just the right place. That extra effort yields the reward of lodging in places all over Arizona that are well off the crowded tourist path, while providing rewarding friendships and an enriched travel experience.

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Planning a road trip in Arizona can be overwhelming–it’s such a big state & there’s a LOT to see.

There’s something about Arizona’s clear blue skies and wide open spaces that make it perfect for a road trip. But what are the best road trips in Arizona? That really depends on you, and your own personal interests. We’ve driven all over the state–from corner to corner–and have put together 11 different road trips for you to try.

Some of these Arizona road trips are thematic, others are based on geographic areas. Most can be done in 2-3 days, which allows for plenty of time to visit the sights without simply stopping for a photo op. (Of course, you might want to linger for a few days at some magnificent parks and National Monuments!) Any of these Arizona road trip itineraries can be mixed and matched with another (or 2 . . . or 3!), so you can put together your own personalized best road trip in Arizona!

NOTE: Some National Park, State Park, and Navajo Nation sights may be closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Be sure to check prior to visiting.

Road trip in Arizona-Old station wagon with luggage on roof driving in front of Arizona scenery
Photo courtesy Arizona Tourism

PRO TIP: Be sure you have luggage that’s “road trip ready”. See our guide on how to choose the best 4 wheeled suitcase.


Arizona Route 66 Road Trip

For many, driving along old Route 66 would be the best road trip in Arizona. It’s a mixture of the old west with plenty of mid-century kitsch . . . and even a couple of abandoned old sites just withering in the Arizona sun. Old Route 66 parallels (and in some cases overlaps) Interstate 40 across the state, so the route is pretty straightforward.

map of route 66 road trip route in Arizona
Map of Route 66 Arizona road trip

Stops along the way include Petrified Forest National Park, as well as the cool small towns such as Flagstaff, Willams and Winslow (yep, the town from the Eagles’ song Take it Easy! You can stop by and be Standing on the corner Winslow Arizona). See more in our Route 66 in Arizona post.

  • Highlights: Petrified Forest National Park, Old Route 66 towns
  • Total Miles: About 260
  • Days: 2-3
  • Connect with these itineraries: Grand Canyon, North Central, Northeast/Four Corners
  • Where to stay: Any of these retro hotels and motels on Route 66
Two 1950s classic cars parked in front of the Wigwam motel

Arizona Classic Cars Road Trip

Anyone who loves classic cars will love Arizona: the whole state is a virtual outdoor car museum! The dry, sunny climate is perfect for old cars, and there are plenty of places in the state where you’ll be able to see them out there sunning themselves. If you love seeing classic cars in all forms, then this is one of the perfect road trips in Arizona for you.

map of Arizona classic car road trip route
Map of a classic car road trip in Arizona

This road trip through Arizona takes you along Route 66, then turns south, almost to the Mexican border. Spend a day in Tucson, where a unique mid-century marketing idea placed over 50 classic cars around town. Finish your journey in the Arizona small town of Bisbee; a street parked with old cars (and a really cool old bus!) looks like “the land that time forgot.”

  • Highlights: Route 66, Cottonwood, Tucson, Bisbee
  • Total Miles: About 600
  • Days: 4-5
  • Connect with these itineraries: Any other road trip on this list–you’ll be all over the state!
  • Where to stay: Holbrook, Cottonwood, Tucson, Bisbee


Northwestern Arizona Road Trip: Las Vegas to Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is not just a magnificent destination on its own, it also makes a great anchor for road trips in Arizona. Begin (or end) this Arizona Journey at Las Vegas, just a short drive to Hoover Dam, an engineering marvel. Then make your way down to the town of Kingman, which will put you smack-dab in “Route 66” country. Be sure to check out the Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum, and the Arizona Route 66 Museum while you’re there.

map of las vegas to grand canyon road trip route
Map of the Las Vegas to Grand Canyon Arizona road trip

Continue making your way east along Old Route 66–this stretch through Peach Springs and Seligman is said to be the inspiration for the fictitious town of “Radiator Springs” in the Disney movie Cars. Spend some time enjoying the Victorian and mid-century ambiance of Williams before heading north to Grand Canyon National Park.

  • Highlights: Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Old Route 66 towns
  • Total Miles: 297
  • Days: 2-3
  • Connect with these itineraries: Route 66, Flagstaff & North Central AZ, Sedona Loop
  • Where to stay: Kingman, Williams, Tusayan (Grand Canyon Gate)

PRO TIP: If you’d like to avoid the crowds, consider a Grand Canyon November road trip.


North Central Arizona Road Trip: To the North Rim

This Arizona road trip passes through some well-known sites, but then veers off onto the road-less-taken. Begin at the charming town of Flagstaff, with its terrific downtown full of brewpubs and coffee shops. There are some magnificent Arizona National Monuments along this rout. Explore the ancient indigenous dwellings at nearby Walnut Canyon and Waupatki National Monuments, then check out the geologic wonder of Sunset Crater National Monument.

map of north central arizona and grand canyon north rim road trip route
Map of the North Central Arizona road trip that visits the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Head north (be sure to stop at the Cameron Trading Post for some Native American Frybread!) toward the town of Page. From here you can take an excursion to the famous Horseshoe Bend, or go boating on Lake Powell in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Head west, skirting the magnificent Vermillion Cliffs (or off-roading, if you have a 4-wheel-drive vehicle) on your way to the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. Continue on toward Utah and Nevada, stopping to see the historic homestead at Pipe Spring National Monument, which still has a working farm.

  • Highlights: Flagstaff, Horseshoe Bend, North Rim of the Grand Canyon
  • Total Miles: 390
  • Days: 3-4
  • Connect with these itineraries: Route 66, Grand Canyon and Northwest AZ, Sedona & Central AZ, Four Corners and Northeast AZ
  • Where to stay: Flagstaff, Page, Fredonia/Kanab (near North Rim)
native american frybread taco, topped with meat, lettuce, tomato, cheese, onions


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Navajo Country: 4 Corners & Monument Valley Road Trip

This itinerary combines Native American history and culture with some wide-open spaces and some world-class geography geekiness! From Flagstaff, head northeast through the Navajo Nation. Be sure to stop into the Burger King in Kayenta, Arizona . . . not just for a Whopper; this is also the site of a museum commemorating the Navajo “Code Talkers” from World War II. Make your way to Monument Valley, home to incredible rock formations (and a whole passel of John Wayne movies!). From here, geography geeks (like us!) must make the short detour to Four Corners Monument–the only place in American where you can stand in 4 states at once!

map of 4 corners and monument valley road trip route
Map of the 4 Corners & Monument Valley Arizona road trip

As road trips in Arizona go, this one really delves into Native American sites. From Monument Valley, head south through the more of the Navajo Nation. Visit Canyon de Chelly National Monument to see the site of 5,000(!) years of civilization. Stop into the historic Hubbell Trading Post, which has been selling the work of Native American artisans for nearly 150 years. Continue southward to connect up with old Route 66 near Petrified Forest National Park.

Purple heart surrounded by turqouise stones
  • Highlights: Navajo heritage sites, Monument Valley scenery, Four Corners
  • Total Miles: 488
  • Days: 2-3
  • Connect with these itineraries: Route 66, Grand Canyon & Northwest AZ, North Central to North Rim, Mogollon Rim & Eastern AZ
  • Where to stay: Kayenta, Monument Valley, Chinle

PRO TIP: The Navajo Nation observes Daylight Savings Time, the State of Arizona does NOT; be sure to plan your schedule accordingly!


London Calling: Western Az & the Colorado River Road Trip

This is one of the lesser-known road trips in Arizona, but those seeking a to see a different side of the state will be well-rewarded. Head west from Phoenix to the small community of Quartzite, popular with RVers and van-dwellers, made famous in the recent Oscar-winning film Nomadland. From here, head northward, coming alongside the Colorado River. Get in some “beach time” (and camping if you like) along the Colorado at Cattail Cove and Lake Havasu State Parks. Be sure to visit the original London Bridge, which now proudly links the city of Lake Havasu with an island in the Colorado River.

map of western AZ and Colorado river road trip map
Map of the west central Arizona road trip-see the original London Bridge!

This Arizona road trip continues northeast to Kingman, which will intersect with Route 66. Spend some time exploring the museums and memorabilia along Old Route 66 (see the Route 66 itinerary, above). Finally, head back toward Phoenix, stopping in at Wickenburg, an old west town that’s home to several dude ranches and the Desert Caballeros Western Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate.

  • Highlights: London Bridge, Colorado River, Route 66, the town of Wickenburg
  • Total Miles: 392
  • Days: 2-3
  • Connect with these itineraries: Route 66, Grand Canyon & Northwest AZ, Sedona & Central AZ, Yuma & Southwestern AZ
  • Where to stay: Lake Havasu City, Kingman, Wickenburg

Red Rocks & Red Wine: Sedona & North Central Arizona Road Trip

This one of those road trips in Arizona that offers a little bit of everything: history, ancient native dwellings, stunning scenery and wonderful small towns. But first, before you head north out of Phoenix, fill your belly at Bianco Pizzeria or Ted’s Hot Dogs.

Stop at Camp Verde to learn some local history at Fort Verde Historic Park before moving on to Montezuma Castle National Monument (and adjacent Montezuma Well) to see some ancient cliff dwellings. Pick up a map of local hiking trails at the Red Rock Visitor Center outside Sedona. Following a trek through Sedona’s jaw-dropping scenery, browse for crystals & new age goodies in the many shops lining route 89A, or explore the many other ways to enjoy Sedona in the Fall.

map of sedona and north central arizona road trip route
Map of a central Arizona road trip to see charming towns & Sedona’s famous red rocks

Continue on to explore the charming shops, restaurants–and wine tasting rooms–of Old Town Cottonwood. Lovers of ancient culture will enjoy a side trip to the ruins of Tuzigoot National Monument in nearby Clarkdale. Stroll the streets of Jerome, an old mining town clinging to the side of a mountain, before taking the mountain pass (best done in daylight!) southwest to Prescott. While there, stroll the picturesque town square or attend the World’s Oldest Rodeo (really!). Continue the Western theme with a mosey on down to Wickenburg (see the “London Calling” road trip itinerary above).

  • Highlights: Stunning red rock scenery & hiking, great small towns, Verde Valley wine tasting
  • Total Miles: 245
  • Days: 2-3
  • Connect with these itineraries: Route 66, North Central AZ, Western AZ/Colorado River, Southwestern AZ
  • Where to stay: Sedona, Jerome/Cottonwood, Prescott or Wickenburg

Life on the Edge: East Central Arizona & the Mogollon Rim Road Trip

Those craving a little greenery when planning road trips in Arizona should head to the eastern part of the state. Here, the largest ponderosa pine forest in the US sits along the Mogollon Rim, a giant escarpment. At 8,000 feet, the climate is refreshingly cool in summer (and snowy in winter!). Begin by heading east from Phoenix to the town of Globe, with it’s charming courthouse. Explore the Besh Ba Gowah archeological ruins of the ancient Salado people, then head north to Tonto National Monument to see Salado cliff dwellings.

map of east central arizona and mogollon rim road trip route
Map of the east central Arizona road trip amid the state’s greenery

Continue on to Payson, the central point for much of the outdoor activity located amidst the Tonto and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests. From Payson, drive east along the Mogollon Rim (pronounced “mo-Goy-on”) itself as you catch glimpses of magnificent valley views 2,000 feet below. Stop by the Mogollon Rim Visitor Center, which provides interpretive exhibits and a photo op. Emerge from the forest and continue northeast to the Petrified Forest National Park and its Rainbow Forest Museum, which shows the type of “critters” used to live nearby. (Spoiler alert: they were BIGGG!)

  • Highlights: Ponderosa pine forest with views, hiking, camping, fishing, ancient indigenous dwellings
  • Total Miles: 285
  • Days: 2-3
  • Connect with these itineraries: Route 66, Navajo Country & NE Arizona, North Central Arizona
  • Where to stay: Globe, Payson, Holbrook
Horton creek in central Arizona with water lily greens in foreground and small waterfall in background-near Payson

3:10 to Yuma: Southwestern Road Trips in Arizona

On this road trip in Arizona head west from Phoenix via to explore some of the state’s rugged southwest terrain. Rockhounds will love collecting quartz at Crystal Hill in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. Continue to the most southwestern corner of the state, to explore the many sights in the historic border town of Yuma, including its old Territorial Prison.

map of southwest arizona road trip route
Map of the southwestern Arizona road trip

Head back eastward, turning south toward Ajo, a great stopover when visiting Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, where you can hike to the abandoned Victoria Mine amid majestic Organ Pipe cactus. Continue eastward and drive up Kitt Peak for a tour of the National Observatory, which will give you a new appreciation for those starry Arizona skies, before you head onward to Tucson.

  • Highlights: Crystal collecting, historic Yuma, Organ Pipe Cactus NM, Kitt Peak Observatory
  • Total Miles: 576
  • Days: 2-3
  • Connect with these itineraries: Western AZ & Colorado River, South Central Arizona
  • Where to stay: Yuma, Ajo

South Central Arizona Road Trip: History, Art & Underground Wonders

Tucson makes a great starting point for many road trips in Arizona, especially those in the southern part of the state. After feasting on plenty of Sonoran Hot Dogs in Tucson, take a cooling stroll underground viewing the wonders at Kartchner Caverns State Park. Loop back south and west, stopping to sip some of the recent vintages at one of the 17(!) wineries in the Sonoita/Elgin region. Continue south to the funky little village of Patagonia, perhaps spending a few days at the Circle Z, Arizona’s oldest continually operating guest ranch.

map of south central arizona road trip route
Map of the south central Arizona road trip

From here, it’s just a few miles to the town of Nogales, which straddles the Mexican border. It’s fun to park your car on the Arizona side and walk across the border to the Mexican side of Nogales. Browse the streets for Mexican wares, perhaps stopping for lunch at Leo’s Cafe. Turn northward, and allow plenty of time to explore the multiple exhibits at Tumacocori National Historical Park. From here it’s just a short jaunt northward to the artsy community of Tubac (pottery, anyone?). Finish this road trip in Arizona by touring another underground wonder–this one of the man-made variety: the Titan Missile Museum.

  • Highlights: Underground caverns, Mexican border town, wineries
  • Total Miles: 218
  • Days: 2-3 (longer if you stay at Circle Z)
  • Connect with these itineraries: Southeast Arizona, Classic Car Road Trip, Southwestern Arizona
  • Where to stay: Benson, Patagonia, Tubac
Titan II missile in silo at Titan Missile Museum in Arizona

Southeast Arizona Road Trip: Old West Immersion

Howdy, pardner! Feel like seeing a bit of the Old West? Then this might just be your favorite of road trips in Arizona. The southeastern part of the state is home to the town of Tombstone–home of the famous “Shootout at the OK Corral.” From there you head south to Bisbee, and Douglas, which are old mining towns that are now cool and funky in a retro-sort of way.

map of SE arizona road trip route
Map of a southeastern Arizona road trip

Round this Arizona road trip by visiting two Arizona national parks and monuments: Chiracahua and Fort Bowie. At Chiracahua you’ll see stunning ancient rock formations, whereas at Fort Bowie you’ll learn of the stunning (and often grim) clash between the native Chiracahua Apache and the U.S. Army. If you’re into the history of the old west, these destinations are a must-do on a road trip in Arizona.

PRO TIP: Southeastern Arizona is apple country. If visiting in the fall, be sure to explore ways to enjoy Apples in Arizona!

  • Highlights: The towns of Tombstone & Bisbee, Fort Bowie National Historic Site.
  • Total Miles: About 200
  • Days: 2-3
  • Connect with these itineraries: Classic Car road trip, Tucson & South of the Border
  • Where to stay: Tombstone/Bisbee, Willcox
bizarre rock "needles" at chiricahua national monument

There you have it: 11 different road trips in Arizona. They’re like pieces of a puzzle–mix and match ’em up to make up YOUR perfect road trip in Arizona! Where will YOU go???

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COMPLETE LIST OF ARIZONA ROAD TRIPS

  1. Arizona Route 66 Road Trip
  2. Arizona Classic Cars Road Trip
  3. Northwestern Arizona: Las Vegas to Grand Canyon Road Trip
  4. North Central Arizona Road Trip: To the North Rim
  5. Navajo Country: Four Corners & Monument Valley Road Trip
  6. London Calling: West central Arizona & the Colorado River Road Trip
  7. Red Rocks & Red Wine: Sedona & North Central Arizona Road Trip
  8. Life on the Edge: East Central Arizona & the Mogollon Rim Road Trip
  9. 3:10 to Yuma: Southwestern Arizona Road Trip
  10. South Central Arizona Road Trip: History, Art & Underground Wonders
  11. Old West Immersion: Southeastern Arizona Road Trip