Growing up in Arizona, I’ve taken my share of day trips to see the all that the state has to offer. The more I learn and discover, the more I’m surprised by the state’s sheer beauty. Phoenix, where I’m from, is central to almost everywhere I’d want to go. And even though Phoenix is hotter than hot in the summertime, you can drive for just a few hours and be surrounded by pine trees, crisp air, clouds and cooler weather. If you’re a fan of day trips, Arizona is a place you won’t want to miss!
Though Flagstaff isn’t a tiny town (as of 2012, there were almost 70,000 residents), it has a small-town vibe and offers a wide array of things to do for the day (or even the weekend). You can head downtown and enjoy shopping and dining (our favorite is Charly’s Pub and Grill in the Weatherford Hotel), learn about astronomy and see the stars at Lowell Observatory, fish and ski at Lake Mary or visit the Arizona Snowbowl in the winter for some skiing or snowboarding. At the very least, it’s a great way to escape the heat of Phoenix and enjoy fresh air and a cool breeze.
Sedona is the home of beautiful red rocks, canyons and mountains galore. The town is more than 100 years old and has a population of just more than 10,000. If you have kids, you’ll want to check out Slide Rock State Park, where visitors slide down a natural water chute that leads to a creek. Love hiking? Check out Devil’s Bridge Hike, where you can actually hike across the gorgeous natural arch. Afterward, head to the shops and restaurants along Sedona’s main road for good eats, cold drinks and fresh, homemade fudge for dessert!
Jerome is a 100-year-old mining town featuring unique museums such as Douglas Mansion, Jerome Historical Society Mine Museum and Gold King Mine and Ghost Town. All are full of old photographs, mining equipment and antiques to give you a feel for what it was like to live in the mining era. Feeling brave? Supposedly, the town is haunted by victims of mining accidents, as well as gamblers and outlaws. Take a haunted tour of the town to see for yourself!
Strawberry is a quaint town with a population of just more than 1,000. The main reason people go is to visit the well-known Fossil Creek—a wild and scenic river where you can sunbathe, hike, swim or simply relax. Drive down the mountain and hike about a mile to the river or start closer to the top and hike four miles down and four miles back up. Driving into the town, you’ll come across homemade honey stands, jelly stands, beef jerky stands, ice cream parlors and small-town cafes. You’ll leave Strawberry feeling more relaxed than ever and ready to tackle your duties back at home.
Flagstaff, Sedona, Jerome and Strawberry are all within three hours of Phoenix. The drives are relatively easy and provide wonderful views of the desert. If you’re road-tripping on a budget, all four locations are great, since most activities take place outdoors and are free.