How to make the most of a very brief trip to Arizona
September 2, 2008 6:55 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for advice about places to stay and things to do on a trip through Phoenix, Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon and Sedona. My mom is going to be in Phoenix for a conference soon and since neither of us have spent much time out west we decided to make a little vacation out of it. Help us make the most of it!

After two days on my own in Phoenix, on Sunday afternoon/evening we are going to drive to Flagstaff. Monday we will drive to the Grand Canyon for the day and then return to the same hotel in Flagstaff. On Tuesday we want to see Sedona on our way back to Phoenix. Tuesday night we will sleep somewhere in Phoenix (probably just close to the airport) and then Wednesday morning we will both fly home.

As these are the biggest areas where I lack knowledge, can anyone help us out with…

1) More than anything else, we are looking for suggestions for what to do in Sedona. With only one day, what would you do? I have read suggestions in previous threads but most of those askers had more time! We are mostly looking to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors. Walking and light hiking would generally be our preferred activity.

2) Any suggestions on places to stay and things to do in Flagstaff and Phoenix? As it’ll be largely unused, we’d rather not spend much on our room, but we’re flexible on cost. Are any of the museums worthwhile? Any cool coffee shops or unique shopping districts? What about solo excursions, as I’ll have two days on my own while my mom is at her conference?

3) My mom injured her knee recently and while she is fine for all normal activity and even moderate hiking we certainly won’t be trying to make the trek down into the Grand Canyon. How can we make the most of our trip while mostly staying along the rim?

4) Also, as a bonus, my mom is a pescetarian and I rarely eat meat, so any suggestions for good vegetarian food in any of these locations will be greatly appreciated.
posted by horses, of courses to Travel & Transportation around Arizona (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Visit Arcosanti on the way to Sedona from Phoenix! I was there a few years ago and found it very inspiring.
posted by Xazeru at 7:17 PM on September 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: More than anything else, we are looking for suggestions for what to do in Sedona.

Hike Boynton Canyon. An easy, mostly level hike that gives you great views of the red rocks, as well as an Energy Vortex if you're into the new-agey stuff.
posted by Daily Alice at 7:39 PM on September 2, 2008

Oak Creek Canyon is one of my favorite places *ever*. It's really so pretty. We used to go there on fishing vacations a lot when I was a kid. Unfortunately, the cabins we always stayed in are closed now, so I've got no specific recommendations though. If I recall, hiking around Oak Creek isn't strenuous, the creek isn't that far from the road.

In Sedona I've gotten good massages at Los Abrigados. There are a lot of nice spas there, actually. And if you really want someone to bend you ear, ask one of the locals to tell you about the vortexes. There are a lot of new age-y people who move there solely because they're kinda obsessed with the unique cosmic energy that allegedly emits from the ground. No, I'm not kidding. Just ask around.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:04 PM on September 2, 2008

There is a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Scottsdale.

If your willing to drive south of Tucson there is the Titan Missile Museum.
posted by gog at 9:26 PM on September 2, 2008

4) The food available at the Grand Canyon is uniformly vile, so I would suggest bringing along all the meals you plan to eat there. There's a health food store or two in Flagstaff where you could stock up.
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:01 AM on September 3, 2008

Best answer: For Sedona:
Seconding Oak Creek Canyon. The "Oak Canyon Scenic drive" is a very pretty drive, which you could come down through on your way from Flagstaff. Red Rock State Park is very pretty as well. There's at least one spectacular Red Rock view near the creek that is fabulous, plus it's an excellent place to stop for a picnic lunch. The Boynton Canyon Vista trail is pretty short and brings you up close to one of Sedona's energy vortexes (vortices? hrm). The last 200 feet or so is a bit steep. We didn't do the full trail, only the Vista section.

This review for Sedona Hikes has some pretty good advice for general hiking in the Sedona area that might be helpful for you. We had that book when we went and it was very useful, but I'm not sure you need it for a single day passthrough. The information in the review itself may be more useful.

And of course, if you like new age stuff of any sort, there are all kinds of cool little shops and things in town in Sedona. Hopefully they've got most of the road construction done by now; when I went last October, the main strip into Sedona from the south was being widened, which made for some "interesting" traffic.

For the Grand Canyon, all we did was drive east along the south rim and stop at most of the overlooks. We stopped at the Yavapai Observation Tower, Mather Point, Grandview Point, and a few other smaller ones, plus Desert View on the eastern end. Very little hiking, absolutely incredible views, and a few little information centers along the way. Bring your own food and drinks in a cooler if you can, the food there was not especially healthy or inexpensive.

At the far east end, the Desert View stop was probably my favorite overlook. There's a neat stone tower near the edge of the canyon, with some Native American artwork painted on the walls inside. You can see just a little bit of the edge of the Painted Desert off to the far east. There are restrooms and a couple of small gift shops there as well. The first 30 or so photos in this set are from Desert View, if you want an idea of what it's like.
posted by ashirys at 8:05 AM on September 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: While driving through Flagstaff recently, my friends and I stopped by Macy's European Coffeehouse, Bakery, & Vegetarian Restaurant for breakfast. It was the best café we visited during our entire road trip! If only I didn't live several thousand miles from it...
posted by pluckemin at 8:40 AM on September 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Near Flagstaff there's Sunset Crater and Meteor Crater.
posted by euphorb at 9:09 AM on September 3, 2008

If you find yourself with a little time on the way back to Phoenix, Jerome is a fun side trip for lunch/shopping.

*Also, seconding the neatness of Arcosanti.
posted by faunafrailty at 9:16 AM on September 3, 2008

The grand canyon is a thrill but as others have said, there's not much to do, eat or enjoy there other than the canyon itself. There's also not a whole lot on the drive to and from, but I think it's worth the trip.

My favorite spots in sedona are oak creek canyon and tlaquepaque, which is a sprawling complex of unique artists' shops and other fun stuff. Don't bother with the main drag in town, it's too crowded and there's not much to see.

Flagstaff has the riordan mansion, lowell observatory, and the historic downtown which are all cool. Also sunset crater, meteor crater and the lava tubes are within easy driving distance. I like the beaver street brewery, but most of their fare isn't vegetarian.

Phoenix's downtown is not much like downtowns you probably know: it's not walkable in any sense of the word, but neither is parking readily available. While I wish I could say otherwise, I would avoid downtown if I were you. Hit the art museums since it's still pretty warm outside, or try the botanical gardens if you're feeling hardcore.
posted by Chris4d at 4:21 PM on September 6, 2008

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