My nephew got married and it was the first wedding I had attended since the world has been battling a pandemic. It was such a sweet celebration. Much smaller due to obvious reasons, but joyous all the same. We decided to not just go for a couple of days for the actual wedding, but to extend a few days and have some little outside adventures. We made our way north from the Phoenix area and stayed in an AirBnb in Sedona. From there we not only explored that immediate area, but branched off to find some really fun places. And on the way home we swung by the Grand Canyon. I'm convinced that winter is the best time to travel to these places and here is why....
Sedona is a small community in the Verde Valley about 2 hours north of the Phoenix area. It is known for its red rock formations. It is stunning! The town is charming with lots of darling shops and restaurants. Even in the winter the temperatures are decent (55-65 degrees) and we only had light jackets.
Bell Rock in Sedona
Sedona is also home to the only McDonalds in the world to have blue arches instead of the iconic yellow. Kind of a fun fact :)
We didn't eat there, but instead ate at Cafe José which was next door. It was amazing and I recommend it!
While we were there, we did a hike to Devil's bridge. It was an easy 2 mile hike. At the end of the hike, if you want to get really close to the actual arch, you do have to climb rocks a bit, but it wasn't too bad. You can walk out onto the bridge too! We did and it is a lot wider than it looks.
The hike is a super popular one so I would avoid it on the weekends. The parking lots will fill up fast and you will have to park along the road way farther down and walk up to an additional mile to get to the trail head. The perk about going in the winter time is that there are less people and it is not as hot. I got hot and had to take off my jacket at the beginning of the hike and it was only 55 that day. I can't imagine doing it on a 80+ degree day!
I knew my boys would eat up anything to do with American Indian history. Since my boys are very into bushcraft and learning survival skills (if you follow me on instagram you have seen the cabin my son built with only things he found in nature) they have such an appreciation of the Indians' way of life and history.
Because of time, we were not able to go to all of the sites in the area, but we did get to see Montezuma Castle, Montezuma Well, and Tuzigoot. I really wanted to see Wupatki and Palatki so I am hoping we can go again sometime. There are SO MANY good hiking trails too that we had to skip due to not having enough time.
The Montezuma Well location is a short drive from the castle. There are some ruins there as well. It was super interesting to hear about the formation and history of the well.
There was virtually no one there at the different sites. In fact, at Tuzigoot, we were the only ones visiting during the time we were there. They have a museum inside that visitor's center that was amazing! It was full of items they found at the site. My boys could have stayed there all day.
Going in the off season meant that we got the full attention of the guides. We learned so much from them! It was nice to feel like we were getting the VIP treatment.
The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon has always been on my bucket list. I have seen Moab with its arches, Zions National Park, Bryce Canyon (which is sometimes called a mini Grand Canyon) so I was a little worried I would be underwhelmed. But it was spectacular!
I can only imagine how many visitors are there during peak times. The parking lots are ginormous! While we were far from the only people at this attraction, the visitors were sparse. We walked around a large chunk of the rim and maybe saw 100 people the whole day. It was easy to social distance and you didn't have to wait for your turn to get to the edge to see the views up-close.
Only the South Rim is open during the winter. I would like to go back and see the North Rim at some point.
I highly recommend staying until sunset! Holy moly. Those Arizona sunsets are pretty impressive anyway, but over the Grand Canyon it was quite the site to behold! The photos on my phone do not do it justice. It was worth the sudden drop in temperatures.
My boys said it was one of their favorite trips we have ever taken. I was glad we were able to end the year with a little vacation since 2020 had been kind of strange and limiting.
My sister lives in Arizona so we occasionally go to visit. I would love to hear about your favorite things to do there! Please share in the comments below :)
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