For weeks leading up to our week-long road trip to Arizona, I was buzzing with excitement. “We’re going on VACATION,” I’d gush, sometimes over text, other times right before bed. My husband was excited too, for good reason: it was our first real trip since our honeymoon.
When you’re young and starting out with careers—with student loans and rent and a car payment—vacations can often feel like a luxury that just isn’t appropriate. Luckily for us, I was able to plan a budget-savvy trip to Phoenix, right in the thick of Colorado winter. We were getting stir crazy and overworked, and I knew we needed a week to get away from it all.
So, we headed for Phoenix, Arizona, during the first week in March.
Day 1: The Drive
Our home in New Castle, Colorado is about a 10 hour drive away from Phoenix. I initially chose the Phoenix area because the Colorado Rockies play their spring training games there, so we’d be able to catch a few cheap games.
To break up the drive and diversify the trip (we care about more than baseball, I’m proud to say), we decided to drive from Colorado to Parks, Arizona—about an hour away from the Grand Canyon.
On day one, we were able to stop and see my parents on the way (I hadn’t seen them since before news of Caesar broke, so it was important to give them our love in person, finally) and share a delicious breakfast. We then hit the road, stopping here and there in Utah for gas and views of the gorgeous Monument Valley.
We made it to Flagstaff, Arizona, navigated the crazy busy downtown parking scene, and had a delicious meal at a local brewery, called Lumberyard Brewing Company.
After, we loaded up on a few unhealthy snacks (cheers to vacation!) and made our way to our first Airbnb. It was a small cabin—like a tiny home—with an old-school, rural feel. We watched 1970s-era game shows on TV and fell asleep to crickets outside, exhausted and ready for adventure.
Day 2: The Grandest of all Canyons
The Grand Canyon, baby. Our second day was dedicated to the wonder of this majestic national park, carved by the Colorado River and marked by millions of years of erosion. We visited the South Rim, and after paying our $35 entrance fee, were happy to hop on a shuttle to explore the scenic route to Hermit’s Rest.
Grand Canyon National Park is a well-oiled machine. There are bus lines and lodges and shops and a visitor center that is gorgeous and helpful. They have information on spending a full day at the canyon, half day, or even an hour. The people working are kind and enthusiastic, clearly there because they care about conservation and preserving the magic of our lands.
We loved our time at the Grand Canyon. We walked between scenic stops and drank in all the views we could. It was on the chilly side, but we embraced the colder temps. There were mule deer and elk everywhere, wandering between trees and unafraid of humans pointing their cameras in their direction. Meanwhile, I took photos and videos and white-knuckled the rails that stood between us and a mile-long drop to the bottom of the canyon. Both Chad and I are scared of heights, but that didn’t detract from our experience.
Everyone should go to the Grand Canyon at least once in their lifetime.
After we were able to cram in as many sights as possible, Chad and I hit the road once again, and drove off to Phoenix. By the time we reached our Airbnb—a nice apartment in a central part of Phoenix—we were exhausted. We were actually sharing the apartment with our host, who lived there full time. Upon our arrival, he mentioned that he had some food and invited us to sit and eat with him and one of his friends. We decided to join him and had a blast, and were glad that we didn’t give into our introverted tendencies to go hide and recover.
After our chicken parmesan dinner, Chad and I went to Helton’s, a local brewery down the street. They had a delicious sour beer, and we brought a growler back for our host. Day two left us exhausted and full, ready for bed and a full day of sunshine.
Day 3: Donuts, Baseball, Taco Tuesday
Though it was extremely difficult to get ourselves out of bed, day three was our first spring training day.
On our way to the facilities in Scottsdale, Chad and I stopped at a place called Bosa Donuts near our Airbnb. I had a few strawberry donuts that were d e l i c i o u s. Full stop, probably the best I’ve ever had. Shout out to Chad for finding the place, and making sure we got half a dozen.
When we got to the spring training fields, it was mildly chaotic with other baseball fans filling parking lots and navigating the area. It was easy to get through the lines, though, and we were able to walk around the stadium and check out all the vendors and sights. We were disappointed to see that although spring training tickets are super cheap, their concessions were still outrageously expensive (nowhere near Grand Junction Rockies prices), and we spent $13 on my beer. However, the “treat yo self” rhetoric of vacation chimed in, and we decided to enjoy the experience, expensive hot dogs and all.
We sat on the third-base side, on the first level. And that was probably a mistake. The sun was beating directly on us and our plastic seats, draining our energy by the minute. Cloud coverage came at the very end, though it was too late—we were tired and sweaty and zombies, though the game itself was fun to watch.
After the game, we stopped by the nearby Talking Stick Resort and Casino, and hit up a Taco Tuesday special. We refueled just enough to gamble away $20 on a slot machine and drive home, where we watched a new show on Netflix (a CNN-produced documentary called “The 2000s“) and crashed hard.
Day 3: Breakfast, Baseball, Top Golf, Brewery
Energized from our many hours of rest, we jumped out of bed on day three with a new sense of wisdom. Our first stop was breakfast in Scottsdale, at a restaurant called Butters Pancakes & Cafe. My vanilla latte and bacon scramble were delicious and affordable.
Before heading to the game, Chad and I decided to buy some waters to bring in. This was definitely the best move, since waters at the game were $5 a piece. We also got some seeds, which was also the right call.
The Rockies played an excellent and exciting game against the Angels. There were great plays and catches and many crowd-stirring foul balls. It was dog day too, so many fans brought along their furry pals to the game, much to my enjoyment.
We split one beer and had shade the entire game, which transformed our experience completely. It was amazing, and we had a blast cheering on our team.
After the game, Chad and I went to Top Golf, about a five minute drive away from the baseball facilities. We spent almost two hours hitting golf balls and playing games against each other, which was an amazing time.
Our hands were a little sore and calloused by the time we finished, but we had a ton of fun. (Don’t ask who won every game though, once just by a single point.)
Next, we headed to Mesquite River Brewing Company, where we had a Groupon for two flights of beer. We each had small glasses of delicious proportions, ranging from light to stout. Since becoming more of a coffee drinker, my tastes have expanded, and I could get through the espresso-flavored dark beers with no problem, a happy milestone for the two of us.
We hit up a divey pub with extremely large portion sizes afterward for dinner, and ran home to the comfort of the California King awaiting our arrival.
Day 4: Resort Pass, In-n-Out, Winery Tasting
We wanted to continue the good-feeling success of the previous day, and so decided to try something entirely new on day four.
A Google search asking if we could somehow access hotel pools led us to the discovery of Resort Pass; this service allows users to pick a local resort, pay a fee, and use the grounds as if they were staying at the property. We decided to send it, and signed up to use the Oasis Water Park at the Arizona Grand Resort.
This place was a ton of fun, and not super busy since it was still early March. We had a blast, swimming in large pools, wave pools, playing water basketball, and floating on the lazy river about 10 times. We ordered a pricey drink and side of fries, and enjoyed the partially cloudy day. It was worth the expensive Resort Pass just to experience a little piece of paradise in the city.
Next up was an important stop: In-N-Out Burger. This famous burger joint was a priority for our trip, especially since Chad had never been. Needless to say, it lived up to the hype completely. Along with our burgers and fries, we sipped on a chocolate shake, and felt fuller than we had in ages.
From there, Chad and I used our other Groupon, for a tasting at Su Vino Winery, located in Old Town Scottsdale, only minutes away from our Airbnb. Our two flights and appetizers were delightful, with a selection of infused, fruity wines to choose from. This was one of our highlights, and ended up buying a few bottles to take home with us. We capped the night feeling full and happy from a pampering day.
Day 5: On the Road Again
Our last day was difficult, as it included a straight 10-hour drive home. We stopped at Bosa Donuts again on our way out of town, bright and early at 6 a.m. Chad, my angel husband, let me sleep once we were in the car. He handled the drive like a champ.
We stopped in Moab, Utah for lunch at the Moab Brewery. My pork-and-green-chile burrito was delicious, and Chad’s beer hit the spot. From there I switched to the driver seat, enjoying the comforts of interstate driving and the familiar views of western Colorado, until we made it home several hours later to snow and icy rain.
Our trip to Arizona was a gift. I miss the sunshine and the quality time spent with my husband, and cannot wait for our next sunny escape. Thanks for the adventure, Chad. <3