Help me make the best of two days in Arizona
September 28, 2006 8:52 AM   Subscribe

I'll be in Tempe, AZ for a week on business in late October and I get the weekend to myself. What would you see if you had two days and two nights to yourself in the area?

I've been before several years ago and saw Sedona and Flagstaff. I plan to pass through Sedona again and also visit the canyon which I missed last time. I'm nerdy and enjoy nature and American history, if that helps.

Since I plan on going to the canyon I'm thinking about visiting southern Utah (specifically Zion National Park), is it worth it?

Any restaurant suggestions are also appreciated. Thanks!
posted by saraswati to Travel & Transportation around Tempe, AZ (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Taliesin West (Frank Lloyd Wright) is a short drive to Scottsdale.
posted by Gungho at 9:01 AM on September 28, 2006

Zion is so, so worth it. Really, any of the parks in Utah. We were just in the area and camped overnight in the Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction and it was lovely there.
posted by jvilter at 9:12 AM on September 28, 2006

Best answer: Well, if you get lonely, you should make the short drive out to Apache Junction and have dinner at my dad's house. He will grill you a steak, get you sauced on hilbilly cocktails (which mysteriously refill when your back is turned), and challenge you to darts or cards. ZZ Top will blare out of the house across the desert. Ultimately you will probably succumb to his pressure to buy a fancy knife or a firearm (he is a licensed gun dealer). Believe only about half of the stories he tells you. I must caution you against eating any brownie that he offers you if you have plans the next day. No doubt the evening will end with a relaxing dip in the hot tub on the back patio, from where one can glimpse all varieties of desert critters as they come to graze on the scraps that dad chucks into the yard each day.

He loves meeting out-of-towners, is a natural-born host, and is available on short notice.

Considering the weather at that time of year, I also recommend spending a day at the Phoenix Zoo.
posted by hermitosis at 9:35 AM on September 28, 2006

Best answer: Zion is DEFINITELY worth it. We took a day trip to there from Vegas a few years back. There are a ton of different trails with varying levels of difficulty. We did a rather strenuous hike up to the highest point, that took up most of the day. If I went again I'd maybe do a couple of different low-impact trails and/or just drive around some of the scenic roads in the park. We never left the main area where Angel's Peak is. Bryce Canyon is also supposed to be awesome (south Utah) but we didn't make it there.

And of course, glad to see you're hitting the Grand Canyon - it can't be missed.

We also stayed in Flagstaff and used it as a base to see things in different directions. The canyon is an hour north. Since you're into history and nature, here's a few other things we did in that general area of the state:

-Montezuma's Castle indian ruins. I believe this is near (south of?) Sedona
-Walnut Canyon Nat'l Monument This is minutes away from Flagstaff. More indian dwellings, they lived in the sides of cliffs. You can walk right up to these cliff dwellings. Pretty interesting how they lived. FYI to get to the walkway requires going down (and back up) quite a few stairs.
-Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater - These are two parks in one, also just outside Flagstaff. Depending on how you go to the Grand Canyon, you may even pass it. You can enter at either end. Wupatki Nat'l Monument is a series of abandoned pueblo buildings you can walk up to and inside of. This is pretty much in the middle of the desert. If you continue along the paved 'scenic road', you eventually wind up in the mountains and can see Sunset Crater, a volcano that erupted about 1000 years ago. Both areas have staffed facilities where you can learn about the history, view displays, etc. It's only a few dollars per car.. we thought it was worth it.
-Finally, and I won't bother to link to it, is Meteor Crater. It's east of Flagstaff, maybe an hour or so. It too is in the middle of nowhere, and while it's cool to view, it was overpriced.. I want to say it was like 15 dollars a person to be able to walk up to the side of the crater and look in. There are displays inside as well, but we got the impression it was very much turned into a tourist trap. Still cool to say you've seen it, but I'm not sure it's even worth the trip in that direction unless there are other things out that way you want to see. (Painted desert and petrified forest are a bit further out that direction but we didn't make it that far.)

Good luck! I love Arizona. :-)
posted by MarkLark at 11:15 AM on September 28, 2006

Sedona. Without a doubt. Make the drive up 17 (I think). Go for a hike, take some photos. Feel at peace.
posted by FlamingBore at 11:31 AM on September 28, 2006

Just a heads-up about Zion - it's gorgeous, but it's about an 8 hour drive from Tempe. If you only have two free days, getting there and back eats up most of it. Definitely hit the Canyon, though, and if you have the inclination to drive 90 min south instead of 8 hours north, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and Saguaro National Park, both outside Tucson, are both pretty amazing too.
posted by pdb at 11:33 AM on September 28, 2006

Best answer: Come to Tucson and drive around the Saguaro National Parks, visit Kitt Peak observatory and get the Presidential platter at Mi Nidito. Also, the San Xavier mission and the DeGrazia Gallery provide unusual ways to experience the Indian/Mexican cultural influences in the area. Finally, you could go for a hike on one of the many trailheads of the Santa Catalina Mountains or walk among the students, musicians, and hippies on 4th Avenue.

The weather's great, so whatever you do, make sure you do it outside.

Disclosure: I'm a Tucson resident.
posted by parilous at 11:42 AM on September 28, 2006

Between Prescott and Flagstaff is Jerome which is a cute small town. It used to be a huge copper mining town with a large population and lots of prostitutes! Now the population is small and it's filled with artists. There are lots of nice art galleries and restaurants. We ate at the Red Rooster Cafe and would recommend it.

Seeing Jerome and/or Montezuma's Castle can happen driving to or from Sedona (we did one on the way to Sedona and one on the way back to Phoenix). Have fun. The weather is so nice right now, I was there last week.
posted by jdl at 12:03 PM on September 28, 2006

Damn, I may just have to travel to Tempe to visit hermitosis' Dad.
posted by NationalKato at 12:17 PM on September 28, 2006

Best answer: Go to the Titan Missile Museum! You get to go down inside a missile silo. It's about 25 miles south of Tucson.
posted by gokart4xmas at 12:25 PM on September 28, 2006

Party at hermitosis' dad's house!
Reading this thread because I'm in the process of moving to Arizona. Looks like they'll be plenty to do.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 12:28 PM on September 28, 2006

Since you appear to be pretty well covered on where to go I'll suggest you have a meal at Oregano's. It really is fantastic.
posted by geekyguy at 2:36 PM on September 28, 2006

Best answer: I'll throw out some restaurant suggestions.

Interested in Mexican food? For cheap and fast, but authentic, I like Pro's Ranch Market. It's a big Mexican grocery store, but they have a food court that serves hot food. You can get a meal of three tacos (choice of chicken, carnitas or carne asada), rice and beans for under $5. And their fish tacos are the best in town, IMO. And you'll want to take home some of their molcajete salsa--it's awesome. I go to the location at 16th St & Roosevelt in Phoenix.

For more "upscale" Mexican, Los Sombreros in Scottsdale is good. However, two of my favorites are actually "New Mexican" style. Richardson's in Phoenix, which is open pretty late too, and Los Dos Molinos in south Phoenix. Los Dos is a little out of the way, but it has some excellent spicy food and the best margaritas around. If you go on the weekends, there will be a long wait but they serve margaritas in their big courtyard. I've never had so much fun in a restaurant as the time I waited 3 hours for a table there.

I hear Barrio Cafe is also a great Mexican restaurant, but I haven't made it there yet.

If you're only going to be in AZ for two days, I'd just take in as much Mexican good as possible. But, if that's not your thing...I really like My Florist Cafe in Phoenix--funky place with great salads and sandwiches, plus they make their own bread. Pizzeria Bianco is becoming legendary--but the wait is absurd. For high-end dining, T. Cook's at the Royal Palms Resort is great. But my favorite restaurant of all is Mastro's--a decadent steakhouse in North Scottsdale.

I see you're staying in Tempe--but Tempe, Phoenix and Scottsdale all share borders and none of the places I mentioned are too far out of the way (well, except maybe Mastro's). My favorite place in Tempe is Four Peaks Brewery--a pretty good local brewery with great bar food (the beef or chicken beer bread is awesome) and a cool patio setup. As for geekyguy's recommendation of Oregano's--I'm not a huge fan of their food or the ridiculous wait at the Tempe location, but their "pizza cookie" desert is fucking awesome.

Though, hermitosis' dad may be the best recommendation of all.

Feel free to email me with any questions.
posted by mullacc at 3:24 PM on September 28, 2006

If you get really bored and need company, you can always shoot me an email. I live in Tempe and am often doing nothing more than sitting around, watching pirated cartoons.
Good places to eat? Pita Jungle is rad. Haji Babas too. They're both on Apache and Mcclintock. I like Ichi Ban (if your into sushi) on University.
posted by Bageena at 7:58 PM on September 28, 2006

Los Dos is sooooo good. Yeah, if you don't mind drinkin' before dinner while you wait for a table, it's awesome. Great way to pass a warm Arizona evening...

I'm pretty much in agreement with mullacc about Oregano's, though. I like their pizza but the wait is always way too long. It's great for takeout if you live near there. Lately, I've been digging Grimaldi's and Nello's over in Oldtown Scottsdale.

'Course, while in Tempe, don't miss our artificial lake at the end of Mill Ave. You can also spot all kinds of random places around town that were in Bill 'n' Ted's excellent adventure.

If that doesn't fulfill your quota of American history, you should check out the little museum of Tempe History (soon to be expanded!) in the Tempe Library complex at Rural and Southern... There's also the Heard Museum in Phoenix, a great Native American history and cultural museum.

Anyway, one final suggestion -- you don't really have to go very far to get in a good hike. Camelback Mountain is just north of Tempe, and is lovely this time of year, now that it's (finally) starting to cool down.
posted by ph00dz at 8:27 PM on September 28, 2006

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