Encircled by haunting desert landscapes, mountains and red rock canyons blooming with brilliant cacti flowers, the city of Phoenix sits among some of the most amazing scenery in the world. Sedona is so dramatic that Native Americans considered it a sacred place. At 277 miles long, the Grand Canyon is the granddaddy of all red rock formations. The unique desert geography which has created a close connection between the land and the people also plays a part in the distinct southwestern lifestyle, much of it with an outdoor focus.
And so it goes with culture in the Southwest. In addition to being heavily influenced by the land, the culture also incorporates Native American aspects, Spanish influence, Mexican influence, European and Western elements all blended together into a cohesive whole. The visual arts especially intermingle these influences into a style and beauty that belongs to the region alone.
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Nearby, the Compass Arizona Grill has the only rooftop-revolving restaurant in town. Located atop the Hyatt Regency, you can get a 360-degree view as you dine 24 stories up. Also in downtown Phoenix, Friday’s Front Row Sports Grill overlooks the interior of Chase Field, home to the Arizona Diamondbacks. A private entrance at Gate L lets you eat here even if you’re not attending a game.
This morning it’s time to get your bearings in Phoenix on a half day City Tour with Detours Arizona. Because the city has grown so quickly during the last century, there is a tremendous diversity of culture, heritage and scenery on display. The tour will take you to South Mountain Park, the largest city park in the world, Camelback Mountain, Old Town Scottsdale and the Scottsdale area, the Arizona State Capital, the Paradise Valley area and the central core of Phoenix. Lunch will be at a unique and authentic Arizona restaurant, such as the Sugar Bowl in Old Town Scottsdale or the Farm at South Mountain, a real working farm dating back to the 1920s where lunch is served under the pecan trees.
Once you’re familiar with Phoenix, you can start your own exploration at the beginning, at Pueblo Grande, the location of the 1,500 year old Hohokam village that preceded Phoenix. The central three-acre portion of the village and the 800 year old platform mound used by the Hohokam for ceremonies was first preserved in 1924. Since then, archeologists have continued to excavate here, revealing a continuing stream of new treasures.
The frontier era of Phoenix heritage will be revealed at Historic Heritage Square, where the Rossen House dates from 1895. This Victorian masterpiece illustrates just how far the city had come in the 15 years since its founding as an agricultural outpost. Other buildings in Heritage Square include the 1881 Forest’s Carriage House, all that is left of the Francis Marion Mognett Ranch, the 1909 neoclassical Thomas House which houses the Bar Bianco next to Pizzera Bianco and the Teeter Carriage House that now houses Artlink.
Distance: 114 miles
Nearly 240 years later, the result of the flawless multi-cultural blending is today’s authentic, integrally melded heritage which celebrates and incorporates elements from each culture into an innovative contemporary city, yet dusted with the touch of a small town. Tucson is large enough to have everything you want and small enough for you to get your arms around it, easily find your way around and understand, enjoy and live it while exploring.
The Sonoran Desert landscape in Tucson may be greener than you anticipate, yet areas of desert punctuated with Saguaro surround the city. The Arizona state symbol stands proudly in a cactus forest in Saguaro National Park. A drive up the Sky Island Scenic Byway takes you through an even larger forest of Saguaros on your way to Mt. Lemmon’s pine treetops. Throughout the Tucson region, dark mountains and bouldered landscapes surround remnants of the Old West intertwined with the New West. Tombstone and Bisbee hark back to the legends of wild west while Texas Canyon appears that it could have come in for a crash landing from the moon. Kitt Peak and the Pima Air Museum feature that cutting edge technology that has allowed man to explore the heavens and beyond. Enjoy it all, Tucson will surprise you.
Before leaving downtown, be sure to have lunch at El Charro. Established in 1922, El Charro Café’ is the oldest Mexican restaurant in continuous operation in the United States. Gourmet Magazine called it a true taste explosion. A visit to the Arizona State Museum will be a great way to learn more of the story of the entire region. The Museum itself is authentic, having been established by the Arizona Territorial Legislature in 1893. The world’s largest collection of whole-vessel Southwest Indian pottery is complemented by 150,000 archaeological artifacts. Alongside, one of the nation’s top Navajo textile collections includes some of the earliest and most rare examples of this type of weaving in existence.
For the best of cactus forests, take the Sky Island National Scenic Byway up to the top of Mount Lemmon.
Distance: 295 miles
Today, Lake Havasu is much more than its famous landmark. With more than 300 days of sunshine per year, Lake Havasu is ideal for water sports, golf, tennis and desert tours. A bit more than 400 miles of stunning coastline delivers exceptional water skiing, kayaking, fishing, and house boating. The lake can also be explored from its beautiful beaches and hiking trails along its perimeter.
The Havasu National Wildlife Refuge protects 30 river miles and 300 miles of shoreline, along the Colorado River from Needles, California, to Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Here you can see bighorn sheep, reptiles, and endangered bird species.
Distance: 313 miles
We encourage you to take advantage of the free shuttle buses that operate throughout the South Rim; they ease congestion and impact on the park and make your visit hassle-free. You can pick up the shuttle at Grand Canyon Village and get off at the South Rim Visitor Center at Canyon View Information Plaza to begin your visit. From there, the canyon rim is only a short stroll away. The eight-mile round-trip on Hermit Road takes you to views of the Colorado River at Hopi, Mohave and Pima Points, as well as to Hermits Rest, a historic landmark with a great view of the river. Desert View Drive, a scenic 25 mile one-way self-drive, delivers sensational views of the Canyon and the Colorado River at Moran Point, Lipan Point, and Desert View.
In addition to the historic Yavapai Observation Station, with its exceptional views, visitor centers on the South Rim include the Desert View Information Center and the Tusayan Museum on Desert View Drive. A visit to the museum provides a glimpse of Pueblo Indian life near the Grand Canyon some 800 years ago. The Kolb Studio, spectacularly located in the Grand Canyon Village Historic District, was the home of the pioneering Kolb brothers who first photographed the Canyon.
The Kolb Studio, located in the Grand Canyon Village Historic District, was the home of the pioneering Kolb brothers who first photographed the Canyon. Verkamp’s Visitor Center has been recently established in another of the canyon’s historic buildings to illustrate the experiences of the people who pioneered settlement in the region and what it was like to work and live on the brink of one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
Consider also, a 30-minute flight that takes you over the South Rim and the North Rim of the Canyon to enjoy the spectacular views. The Park Service has also recently established 2 minute audio tours available from your cell phone a various points of interest on the South Rim.
Distance: 138 miles
The result is a beautiful 186-mile long lake with 1,960 miles of shoreline — longer than the entire west coast of the continental United States! You will, of course, want to get out on the lake. There are 96 major canyons, most of which can only be reached by boat. Boats can be rented in Page and at each of the four marinas on Lake Powell. Or you can select from one of many tour boat cruises that range from one hour up to seven hours.
You can experience 15 miles of one of the most dramatic stretches of river in the Western United States on a smooth water float trip on the Colorado River. Departing from Page, you’ll travel through the Glen Canyon Dam access tunnel and board a pontoon raft for the down stream journey. You’ll soon find yourself immersed in soaring sandstone cliffs surrounded by crystal blue-green water and lots of wildlife. Stretch your legs viewing ancient petroglyphs.
Recreation opportunities are also available in the Glen Canyon Recreation area which stretches for hundreds of miles from Lees Ferry, Arizona to the Orange Cliffs of southern Utah, encompassing scenic vistas, geologic wonders, and a vast panorama of human history. It was established to protect the Colorado Plateau, a vast landscape of colourful buttes, mesas, canyons, and cliffs. Plantsand wildlife have developed unique adaptations to the hot, arid conditions of their environment, contributing to the rich diversity of life in the area. If you do not get onto Lake Powell by boat, go to Antelope Point Marina, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area for a lovely meal on the world’s largest floating restaurant, Ja'di' Tooh.
Distance: 99 miles
The valley is not a valley in the conventional sense, but rather a wide flat, sometimes desolate landscape, interrupted by the crumbling formations rising hundreds of feet into the air, the last remnants of the sandstone layers that once covered the entire region. Sun up and sun down is an incredible time to be in Monument Valley. During your stay here we thoroughly recommend a guided jeep tour of the valley.
Distance: 180 miles
The best way to get acquainted with Sedona is on the Sedona Trolley. A 55-minute tour takes you past all the best places in town, including the famous Chapel of the Holy Cross, a church dedicated to art set picturesquely among the spires and pinnacles sculpted by nature on Little Horse Park Rock. The view is astounding and the chapel, a serene respite from the hustle and bustle of life. A second 55-minute Seven Canyons Tour takes in a scenic route west of Sedona, where you’ll be introduced to red rock country.
It may be hard to pull yourself away from your red rock surrounded accommodations, but we highly recommend getting out and about to explore. Slide Rock State Park, the 1907 homestead of the Pendley family, has a unique irrigation system still used in the park today, which enabled the planting of orchards and ultimately the development of Sedona. The park itself is named after Slide Rock, a stretch of slippery creek bottom where you can slide down a natural water chute or wade along the creek.
Verde Canyon Railroad and Verde Canyon, known as Arizona’s other Grand Canyon, west of Sedona, should not be missed. Nesting bald eagles dot the journey, which passes by a series of cliff dwellings shaped by the Sinagua Indians in the 12th century. Don’t be surprised to see deer or javalinas drinking at the edge of the Verde River as the train passes. After travelling through a 680 -foot tunnel with red rock cliffs at the end, the trip ends at the still working Perkins ranch, where the engine switches from one end to the other for the return journey. You’ll not forget the stunning beauty of the canyon on this 4-1/2 hour trip.
You can also get out into Red Rock country with Pink Jeep Tours’ Ultimate 4x4 Jeep Experience, which gets you get over and on the red rocks surrounded by magnificent canyon walls. Savour the views of Chicken Point and Submarine Rock and the thrilling Road of No Return.
Distance: 115 miles
Call the travel specialists at Bon Voyage to discuss your perfect Arizona Southwestern Desert Adventure