I’ve been to Arizona 6 times. The first time I went to Arizona I was in Middle School, I immediately fell in love. I love the weather even when its 110 degrees out. The landscape, national parks and residents are all amazing! It was so easy for me to love it all. My most recent trip there was May 2018 for my first wedding anniversary. My husband had never been to Arizona before, and we felt this was the perfect time!
We took a straight through flight from Boston to Phoenix which was about 5 hours. We landed in Phoenix around 1PM and after getting our bags, we went and got our rental car.Travel tip: Make sure you double check where you rented your car from. Even though on Expedia I typed in “Phoenix International Airport” when booking our rental car, it picked up a location 15 minutes off the airport, so we ended up taking an uber to get the rental car.After getting the rental car, we started our drive to Sedona. Sedona is probably my favorite place to go to, so I didn’t want to waste any time! Driving from Phoenix to Sedona is around a 2-hour drive. Depending on what time your flight arrives, you may want to stay overnight in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area (I have done this before.) The drive to Sedona is very easy. Once you get off the highway, you drive for another 20-30 minutes before you reach Sedona. You will know you have reached Sedona once you see the Red Rocks (my favorite!)
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Sedona – Oak Creek for 2 night. It is literally steps away from the Red Rocks and trails, you couldn’t ask for a better location. The hotel has free WIFI and breakfast, always a plus. I have the IHG Rewards Credit Card, which by the way is amazing, so I was able to book both nights with my points. If you are looking for a great hotel credit card, check out the IHG Rewards Credit Card.As soon as we checked in and got to our room, we wasted no time and walked over to the Red Rocks. As I mentioned above, Sedona is my favorite. I could spend weeks out there and not get tired of it. We took a beautiful hike at Bell Rock Trailhead. Amazing views of the Red Rocks and so peaceful. Once we got back from our hike, we were pretty hungry. We drove over to Wildflower (similar to Panera Bread.) Wildflower is in the center of Sedona and very easy to get to. We grabbed our food and enjoyed dinner on the outdoor patio which has breathtaking views of the Red Rocks.
We scheduled a Pink Jeep Tour for 10AM. Pink Jeep Tours has a variety of tours, depending on your level of comfort. We took the Scenic Rim 2 hour tour. Once we checked in, we waited outside to be called. You will be split into groups depending on the type of tour you booked. There were 7 of us on the tour plus the tour guide. The drive up to the lookout point is amazing and you get to learn a lot about the area and how the Red Rocks formed. Check out the photos below from the tour. The Pink Jeep Tours is a must!
After our tour ended we went across the street and grabbed lunch at the Silver Saddle at the Cowboy Club. Great food, great views of the Red Rocks, great drinks (try the prickly pear margarita!) After lunch we drove around to check out other viewing spots and trails. We ended up at Courthouse Butte Loop Trail and then back to Bell Rock Trailhead. Traveler tip: Don’t wear shoes that you don’t want to get ruined. I wore black sneakers and they still have a slight discoloration from the red dirt. I don’t mind it because it reminds me of Sedona!
We were told by our Pink Jeep Tour guide to take the East Entrance to the Grand Canyon instead of the South Entrance because the East Entrance is not as busy. I have done the South Entrance in prior trips and the East Entrance was definitely not as busy and it was cool to see a different view. The drive from Sedona to the East Entrance Grand Canyon is 2 hours. The drive from Sedona to the South Entrance Grand Canyon is also 2 hours. Once you get into the park, it’s about another 45 minutes to reach the first lookout point. As soon as we reached the first lookout point, we pulled in immediately and walked right over the rim. I don’t think there are enough words to describe walking up to the Grand Canyon. No matter how many times I’ve seen it, it still amazes me. There is a watchtower that is a must and you can climb to the top. See pictures below of the view!
Once we took in the views, we made our way over to the hotel. Yes, you can stay inside the park! There is a range of hotels you can stay in, but you have to book in advance. We booked about a year out and some of the others hotels were fully booked. We stayed at Maswik Lodge. Maswik Lodge is about a 10/15 minute walk to the rim. This was the first time I have stayed inside the park and I wouldn’t do it any other way in the future. The rooms aren’t anything fancy, but you will barely spend time inside as you are at the Grand Canyon. There are hotels right outside of the park, we have stayed at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Grand Canyon before which does include WIFI and free breakfast. Either option works, but I prefer staying in the park. Pros for staying inside park:
- You can park and leave you car and walk. They have buses that will drop you off at different locations.
- There are restaurants around the park, ranging from buffet, sit down casual, to upscale casual.
- You are steps away from the Grand Canyon!!
- People staying outside of the park start leaving around dinnertime so its not as crowded. We loved this as we felt like we had the Canyon to ourselves.
- Amazing views of the sunset.
Cons for staying inside park:
- The WIFI is pretty bad but it was nice to be able to disconnect.
Once we checked in, we walked back over to the rim and took in the views. There isn’t a bad view of the Canyon. We then ate lunch at the Bright Angel Lodge/Restaurant and was pretty disappointed with the food. After lunch we continued to walk around to the different look out points. Traveler Tip: There is a hiking trail right near Bright Angel Lodge called the Bright Angel Trail. This is known as an easier trail in the park. I did this trail with my mom and sisters a few years back. If you are going to do it, get there for early morning (7AM-8AM) as it is less crowded and not as hot. Bring plenty of water, Band-Aids, snack, hat, etc. Another thing to keep in mind – going down is easy but coming back up is hard and there are no railings.
We had dinner reservations at El Tovar (book in advance) as it was our first wedding anniversary. The lodge and restaurant are gorgeous! We had an amazing meal, amazing drinks and an amazing waiter. I highly recommend eating there. After dinner we grabbed some more prickly pear margaritas (my favorite) and watched the sunset. On our way back from dinner we saw a bunch of elk, literally feet away!
We got up early as we had a 2 ½ hour drive from the Grand Canyon to Page, AZ. If you are not familiar with Page it is north of the Grand Canyon almost on the Utah border (from Page to Utah is about 30 minutes’ drive.) So why make the 2 ½ hour drive to Page? For Lower Antelope Canyon.
I’ve been to Lower Antelope Canyon twice. Both times we used Kens Tours. Keep in mind, Antelope Canyon has Upper and Lower. Lower Antelope you have to walk down into the Canyon, it is pretty steep and they are very strict with phone usage doing up and down the stairs (they will kick you off the tour) but it is for your safety. Upper Antelope you walk right in, there are no stairs. Other things to keep in mind:
- Antelope Canyon is on Navajo Land. Therefore, they are in a different time zone than Page.
- There is a Navajo Park Permit fee of $8 on top of the ticket price.
- If it is raining, your tour will probably be cancelled as they get flash floods.
- Book in advance! Some people showed up and had to wait hours to get on a tour because they didn’t buy their tickets in advance.
As I mentioned, I have done this tour before a few years ago. It is much different because of Instagram. The first time we went, we pretty much had a private tour. It was amazing, there is nothing quite like Lower Antelope Canyon. This time we went, it was PACKED. Had to wait in line to go through the Canyon. Our guide said they see around 2,000 people every day all due to Instagram. Don’t let that stop you though, the lines and waiting is totally worth it. All the tour guides are amazing and know a lot about the Canyons. Other things to see and do near Page:
- Horseshoe Bend – be aware of crowds, again due to Instagram. I also heard they are building a rail.
- Lake Powell
- Glen Canyon Dam
- Drive over the border into Utah
If you are going up to Page, stay overnight. The first time I went to Page was with my mom and sisters and we stayed overnight. This trip my husband and I made it a day trip and I wish we stayed overnight. After the tour we got back in the car and went back to our hotel in the Grand Canyon. We spent the rest of the day walking around the rim! Day 5:This was our last full day in Arizona, so we drove back to Phoenix and stayed in the area before our flight. The drive from the South Entrance Grand Canyon to Phoenix is between 3 ½ to 4 hours. Before we left we took one last walk around the Canyon. I didn’t want to leave!! We grabbed breakfast at RP’s Stage Shop. It’s a great place to grab and go but you can also eat inside. They also have souvenirs which is great for some last minute shopping. We made one last stop before our AirBnb for the night at Montezuma Castle. If you are not familiar with Montezuma Castle it is cliff dwellings were constructed by the indigenous Sinagua Indians during the 1100s. It is pretty amazing to see in person. To enter is $20 so that is something to consider.
Once we finished up there, we drove to In-n-out burger (a must!) and went to our AirBnb for rest of the day as we had an early flight! The AirBnb we stayed out was in a great location and near the airport. Want to try AirBnb? Use my code here and get $40 off your first stay!
I hope you enjoyed my recap and tips for Arizona! Feel free to leave me a comment or message me with any questions!