Despite the fact I have lived in California for all 33 years of my life, I had never made my way across its southeast border to Arizona. So when the opportunity arose to take a quick flight to Phoenix and explore the state in GMC’s 2018 Acadia, I was all in. My husband, a passionate photographer and adventurer, was even more eager to check out the sites and enjoy some outdoor experiences. After a long weekend in the sunny state, I am convinced it’s the ideal road trip destination. Here’s why.
1. Sedona’s Art Community
When we first arrived at the airport, we hopped in our shiny new SUV and headed straight north for Sedona. Mention the city to anyone who has been there and they will tell you what a treasure it is. After seeing it firsthand, I totally get it. The town famously has only 4 fast food restaurants and 42 psychics—a hippie spirit with an upscale facade. All the buildings have a coordinating Southwestern design set to a backdrop of Red Rock Park’s mesmerizing sandstone hills. It’s a beauty, and our stay at the Amara Resort—in the heart of the town’s shops and galleries—could not be beat.
2. The Food
Not only are the restaurants in Sedona enormous and beautiful (brides-to-be take note!), the food is painfully good. And I say painfully, because you simply cannot resist stuffing your face with Mariposa’s flourless chocolate cake or finishing The Hudson’s 16 oz steak. It hurt so good.
3. The Stars
There is no light pollution in Sedona, which makes for epic star gazing. After dinner, we enjoyed cocktails by the fire while taking in the nighttime view. I may not be a camper, but that sky could convince anyone to make a drive into the middle of nowhere for a night.
4. ATV Riding
Our first adventure was ATV riding through the rocky dessert. Since I apparently don’t know myself at all, I thought this would be fun and easy for me. It was not. While the other ladies fearlessly took to the road in their vehicles, my test drive convinced me (and my instructor) I should enjoy the journey from the back of my husband’s four-wheeler. Pathetic. But, despite being equally caked in dust, the ride was a million times more enjoyable in the back seat. It was a fast and easy way to see the nearby sites.
While we were riding through the rocky hills, others in our group opted to go hiking instead. The trails offered spectacular views while still being family friendly and easy enough for the little ones on the trip.
Our second adventure of choice was kayaking down Oak Creek Canyon river. As opposed to the dusty canyon driving, we got soaked—but all in good fun. We had the peaceful river to ourselves, paddling for two hours while coming across small rapids that would make the kids in the group scream with joy.
7. Mountain Biking
Probably the only thing that would have terrified me more than ATV driving would have been mountain biking—which I thankfully passed on for kayaking. Still, the toughest in our group braved the rocky mountains and got a killer workout for doing so.
8. The Varied Terrain
When I pictured Arizona I envisioned flat dessert, cactus, and more dessert. And while there was definitely some of that, I was blown away by the variety of landscape we saw—forests, mountains, canyons, sculptural rocks, lakes, rivers. The scenery on our drives were vast and delivered jaw-dropping sunsets.
9. The Grand Canyon
On our last day, we drove north a few hours to see one of the greatest wonders of the world: the Grand Canyon. You may expect the Grand Canyon to be pretty freaking big, but you will have no idea its scale until you are there in person. Photos just can’t do it justice. It is immense—and breathtaking.
10. The Drive
Though they’ve always intrigued me, I have never taken any adventurous road trips. I get motion sick easily and, like many, don’t typically enjoy sitting in a car for extensive periods of time. But, apparently, the vehicle you’re in can make all the difference. The Acadia was an incredibly quiet and smooth drive, there was no nauseating body roll or highway noise, making for a super zen ride despite our route’s winding roads and climbs. The cushy leather seats, double sunroofs and onboard navigation didn’t hurt one bit, either. My husband was a particularly big fan of the spacious interior (leg room for days!), how easy it was to fold down the back seats for loading (no need to remove the headrests, hallelujah), and the selective two-wheel to four-wheel drive (gas efficiency for the win).
I took the opportunity to unplug from the internet for the weekend so I could simply soak in the sites and embrace whatever adventure awaited us. We were grateful for the action-packed yet rejuvenating getaway. It was absolutely the right way to experience Arizona, and after 33 years it was about time.