Arizona Family Road Trip
- Where to Go
- The Best of the Valley of the Sun
- Wild West Adventure
- Let Scottsdale Rock Your World
- Finding Water in the Sonoran Desert
- Spring Training
- Arizona Family Road Trip
- Phoenix Points of Pride
- Southwestern Culture and Heritage
- Nocturnal Scottsdale
- Exploring Phoenix’s Architecture
- Unexpected Arizona
- Desert Chic
- Chilly Drinks and Cool Eats in Scottsdale
Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Sedona offer a diverse range of activities for the whole family. Start in the Valley of the Sun and explore downtown Phoenix’s museums and parks. Then, head north to Sedona for a series of outdoor adventures before making your way back to Scottsdale’s resorts and Old West fun.
Fly into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and check into your resort. You’ve got plenty of time to explore the city, so spend the afternoon taking advantage of the resort’s amenities, which range from water parks and tennis courts to game rooms for kids.
There’s no better place to begin your trip to Phoenix than at its ancient foundations, the Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park. Go inside reconstructed pit homes and learn how archaeologists dig for artifacts by getting your own hands dirty. Head to neighboring Tempe Town Lake, where you can rent paddleboats or let the little ones run wild in the water-soaked Splash Playground.
Have lunch at one of Mill Avenue’s many restaurants, such as Bison Witches Bar and Deli. Cross back over the lake to Papago Park to tour the Phoenix Zoo, where you can touch stingrays or duck into the walk-through Monkey Village. In the evening, sample the tacos, chimichangas, and fajitas at Macayo’s Depot Cantina.
Begin your third day in the Valley at Matt’s Big Breakfast, a downtown Phoenix breakfast joint known for its fresh orange juice, hash browns, thick-cut bacon, and scrambled eggs with salami. Afterward, visit the Arizona State Capitol, restored to its original look in 1912, the year of Arizona’s statehood. Nearby, the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum showcases the state’s geological wealth with sparkling gemstones, prehistoric fossils, and enormous excavation equipment. Consider a picnic lunch at Civic Space Park, where kids play in the grass or splash around in the water features, or Encanto Park, home of Enchanted Island Amusement Park.
If it’s a little too cool (or hot), grab a bite at CityBakery at the Arizona Science Center, a delightfully interactive museum in Heritage and Science Park. Younger kids may prefer the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, across 7th Street. Older teens may enjoy a tour of Phoenix’s progressive art and design at the Phoenix Art Museum and the Burton Barr Central Library, which offers brilliant views of the Phoenix skyline.
It’s time to immerse yourself in the Sonoran Desert, with a morning hike in South Mountain Park, the world’s largest municipal park. Hunt for ancient Native American petroglyphs or explore the pristine trails on horseback. Reward your adventurous spirit with a hearty, gourmet meal at the open-air The Farm at South Mountain.
Explore more of South Phoenix at the mountainside Mystery Castle, a private home built from objects found in the desert, or you may want to take the kids to Rawhide Western Town. The 1880s-themed Old West town features dusty streets, stagecoach rides, and old-fashioned carnival games. After lunch, pan for “gold,” visit a territorial jail, and scope out the three-story Dinosaur Mountain at the Arizona Museum of Natural History in Mesa.
Today, discover Arizona’s rich Native American history. Start out at the Heard Museum, an impressive introduction to Arizona’s original inhabitants and culture. Then, head north on I-17 to Montezuma Castle National Monument. The stunning five-story pueblo, perched cliffside near Camp Verde, was once inhabited by the ancient Sinagua people. Just up the interstate, you can witness more of their ingenuity at Montezuma Well, one of Arizona’s unique geological wonders, which is fed by 1.5 million gallons of water every day by underground springs.
From there, take I-17 to Highway 179 and explore the red rocks of Sedona. As you drive into town, admire the monolithic Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte, and Cathedral Rock. Pull over in the Village of Oak Creek to have lunch at the Village Griddle. Fortified, stop in at Chapel of the Holy Cross, an elegant, Modernist church that appears to rise out of the red rocks, offering panoramic views of Sedona. Check into your hotel, and after dinner at Elote Cafe, consider a stargazing adventure with an astronomer who will guide you around Arizona’s nighttime sky.
Have breakfast at Coffee Pot Restaurant and explore one of Sedona’s protected parks, like Red Rock State Park or Crescent Moon Recreation Area, which features postcard views of Oak Creek and Cathedral Rock. Also, you can’t come to Sedona without venturing into the backcountry on one of the ubiquitous Jeep tours. The guided journeys are a fun way to explore out-of-the-way formations and learn about Sedona’s unique geology and wildlife.
After lunch at Oak Creek Brewery and Grill at Tlaquepaque, head north on Highway 89A to the leafy refuge of Oak Creek Canyon. Hike the picturesque forest trails or plunge down the 80-foot-long natural chute at Slide Rock State Park.
Take a side trip to the Old West mining town of Jerome. The hillside community was once called the “Wickedest Town in the West,” and today it’s a National Historic Landmark, welcoming visitors with a host of small cafés, shops, galleries, and saloons. Have lunch at Mile High Grill & Spirits and visit the Mine Museum before driving back to the Valley of the Sun.
Consider a stop at Dead Horse Ranch State Park, a lush stretch of Verde River that offers hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and equestrian areas. Make the 90-minute drive back to Scottsdale, where you check into one of the city’s sprawling resorts.
Reacquaint yourself with the Valley of the Sun at Camelback Mountain. The moderately difficult trails are among the best in the area, although you may want to take the little ones to McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park, where they can ride the popular train or beautifully restored carousel.
After lunch at Chloe’s Corner, head to Frank Lloyd Wright’s desert masterpiece, Taliesin West, for a tour of the architect’s winter home. Then, keep heading north on Scottsdale Road to Frontier Town in Cave Creek. Embrace the Wild West spirit and have dinner at Reata Pass, a cowboy steakhouse that oozes real Western atmosphere.
Today, you want to camp out at your resort to enjoy the pools, tennis courts, and golf courses. However, if you’re looking for a little adventure, float down the Salt or Verde River on a guided rafting tour. Tonight, have dinner at Old Town Tortilla Factory, then explore the hidden nocturnal desert with the aid of night-vision goggles on an outing with Desert Storm Hummer Tours. You’ll never be so excited to see coyotes and scorpions.
On your last day in Scottsdale, dine at The Breakfast Club and Barrista Bar and explore the Western-themed streets of Old Town to pick up last-minute souvenirs and gifts. Hop on and off the free Scottsdale Trolley, which stops in the three arts districts and at Scottsdale Fashion Square. Grab lunch at The Orange Table before you have to catch your flight home.
© Jeff Ficker from Moon Phoenix, Scottsdale & Sedona, 1st edition