The Old West was first explored by conquistadors, then later by pioneers and frontiersmen. These adventurous souls found their motivation in the promise of excitement and enrichment. But the new West makes that same promise, as you’ll be in position to discover on your next vacation to Phoenix, Arizona. You can plan any number of day trips that enable you to explore a land of grandeur, history and discovery. We have too many suggestions to make all at once, but here are a few that certainly stand to leave a lasting impression.
Two hours to the north of Phoenix, Sedona is a popular hangout for everyone from visiting celebrities and wealthy tourists to nature-lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Sedona is popular among sightseers for breathtaking landscapes that encompass its famous red rock formations. Not only that, but you’ll also find some “Oh, I got this in Sedona” shopping that’s sure to impress when you return home. And though Sedona is a day-trip destination in itself, it’s also an ideal place to take a leisurely, extended break if your principal destination is the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, another two hours north.
Another memorable trip leads you about three hours south to a little town by the name of Tombstone. This intimate and still-bustling locality is the epitome of the Wild West and site of maybe the signature event in frontier history, the 1881 gunfight at the O.K. Corral involving the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday (the lawmen) and the Clantons (the outlaws). There’s so much to see that day trips often turn into overnight stays. If you do decide to bunk up for the night, invest in a guided tour through Tombstone’s allegedly haunted streets, or perhaps visit the Wild West-themed amusement park, Helldorado Town.
Golf in Scottsdale
A much shorter drive is Scottsdale, a golfer’s paradise—home to almost 50 stunning desert courses. Among those worth investigating are Troon North, which offers two cactus-dotted public layouts in the shadow of Pinnacle Peak; and We-K0-Pa Golf Club, which likewise consists of two courses, one that forgives tee errors and another that requires more accuracy as it wends through canyons and over sharp elevation changes. But golf isn’t the only explanation for 7 million annual visitors. Downtown Scottsdale lures celebrities and average tourists alike with high-end shopping, restaurants and galleries as well as hearty festivals.
Just north of Phoenix is Lake Pleasant, the largest lake in the area and home to year-round water sports and recreation including fall fishing and, of course, night fishing. You can rent gear and watercraft of all sorts. For information on boat rentals and the marina check out their website at scorpionbayboatrentals.com or call 928.501.2628 or 928.501.7368.
The Phoenix area itself offers experiences and adventures in exploration without requiring a road trip. A hot air balloon ride over the West Valley will surely make your day, for example. But if you’re more inclined to stay on the ground, we recommend a guided horseback tour.
The Bluegreen Vacations resort in Peoria minutes north of Phoenix feels even more accommodating after a long day in the car, inside the gondola, or on horseback. Cibola Vista Resort and Spa has an overall soothing feel conducive to unwinding after your day on the go. The villas are warm, generously appointed and comfortable. Inspirational courtyards with gardens, fountains, Kivas, and reflecting pools, all connected by walkways, are ideal for easy starlight strolls. If you want to lay low the next day on a pool deck, there are segregated family and adults-only options—the larger family pool includes a three-story, coiled water slide—in addition to a unique third option, an oversize community hot tub.
Interestingly, the resort’s very name is based on a legend that sent a Spanish conquistador on one of the most epic “sightseeing” expeditions in North American history. In 1540, Francisco Coronado and 1,000 men were assigned to cross the desert from Mexico in search of las siete ciudades cibola, “the Seven Cities of Cibola,” reported by earlier adventurers to be cities of endless gold and treasures. Coronado searched through what today are Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and even Kansas, and lost 900 men along the way, but returned found nothing.
Unlike Coronado, guests at modern-day Cibola Vista can recharge after a long road trip by scheduling a treatment at the resort’s full-service spa. Guests can select from a menu that ranges from standard Swedish massages and facial treatments to toxin cleanses. The private rooms are posh and tranquil. Attendants can provide complementary general nutritional counseling if requested.
Coronado never found his treasure but saw collected remarkable memories on his journey through great desert. So did the frontiersmen two centuries later. And so can you as you explore Arizona on your next vacation, one day trip at a time.