The Best Road Trips is a weekly summer series highlighting our favorite getaways from major cities all over the United States.
Nicknamed Valley of the Sun, Phoenix is known for its sub-tropical desert climate, where temperatures can skyrocket beyond 100° Fahrenheit in the summer. With a host of museums and galleries, top-notch Tex-Mex cuisine, and cactus-dotted landscape, Arizona’s state capital is one of the most unique metropolises in the country. But the city’s 4.2 million residents need to venture out every once in a while and take advantage of myriad vacations spots within (somewhat-reasonable) driving distance. So pack your bags, crank the A.C., and hop in the car — we’ve got some miles to cover.
Road Trip #1: Phoenix to Sedona, AZ
- Total Driving Time: 2 hours, 6 minutes
- Distance Covered: 117 miles
- Take This Trip If: You need a spiritual re-awakening.
With its iconic Red Rock landscape and spiritually-charged environment, Sedona is an other-worldly paradise for earthbound explorers. The city is practically ensconced by endless hiking trails, and has four vortexes — natural energy fields said to possess mystical powers. But Sedona is also a blossoming cultural center, filled with eclectic local galleries, Native American craft shops, and indie boutiques. For a truly indulgent experience, check out the Sedona Rouge Hotel and Spa. The property boasts incredible vistas of the Rocks from the fire pit on the observation deck, as well as from the private, in-room balconies. But the hotel’s real draw is the lavish spa, with treatments inspired by the vortexes and daily outdoor yoga classes. For a no-frills yet family-friendly stay, the Bell Rock Inn is a great budget option that still has the scenery and amenities necessary for a proper Sedona stay. The inn has two heated pools, a BBQ and picnic area, and an outdoor playground for kids, all with the same magnificent views of the rocks.
- Top Driving Tip: Jerome, a 30-mile detour on the trip to Sedona, is about 45 miles outside of your final destination. Past the Old West ruins, this legendary ghost town is actually home to a thriving winery owned and operated by the frontman for the heavy metal band Tool.
Road Trip #2: Phoenix to Tucson, AZ
- Total Driving Time: 2 hours, 2 minutes
- Distance Covered: 116 miles
- Take This Trip If: You want to indulge in some serious spa treatments.
Regarded as one of the top spa destinations in the U.S., Tucson is filled with luxury retreats for all budgets and tastes. Located beneath the Sonoran Desert, the city also has its fair share of golf courses and shopping centers, perfect for those seeking a little retail therapy (or link therapy, as it were) in between spa appointments. Tuscon’s most renowned spa is Canyon Ranch, an all-inclusive, seriously luxurious retreat designed for those with fat wallets and high style. Thanks to fitness and nutrition classes, sleep labs, and a fully-staffed “Life Management” team, Canyon Ranch bests just about every other spa hotel. For a still-lavish retreat at recession-friendly prices, opt for a stay at the Hacienda del Sol, which offers comparable amenities at — wait, get ready for this — a sixth of the price. The hotel has a bunch of awesome amenities including an intimate, full-service spa, a mountainside pool and hot tub, and horseback riding stables nearby for the everyday equestrian to enjoy. With its charming Southwestern decor and scenic locale amidst the Santa Catalina Mountains, Hacienda Del Sol has the feel of a posh resort at a modest price.
Road Trip #3: Phoenix to Las Vegas
- Total Driving Time: 5 hours, 28 minutes
- Distance Covered: 298 miles
- Take This Trip If: You’ve got some sinning to do.
Arizona may have its fair share of casinos and nightlife, but the crème de la crème of adult playground is just 50 miles over the border to Las Vegas. Spas and New Age cleansing rituals may help some people recharge, but others prefer the 24-hour party approach for rejuvenation, and where better to do that than Sin City? For a Hangover-inspired vacation, post up at the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino. The gigantic megaresort, located on the heart of the Strip, has boat-loads of amenities including gondola rides [Ed note: Get it?!?], its own Canyon Ranch spa, dozens of notable on-site restaurants, and, most importantly, a wealth of nightclubs, lounges, and casino gaming areas, making it a veritable adults-only Magic Kingdom. But not all big Vegas getaways have to come at a big price. Bally’s Las Vegas also has an on-site casino, several dining options, spacious rooms, and a lavish Sunday brunch to help soak up the alcohol consumed over a weekend.
- Top Driving Tip: The trip to Las Vegas is pretty direct along US-93. The drive, however, does offer some of the most breathtaking detours in the country, including the Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, and the Sunset Crater Volcano, so don’t be afraid to veer off the path a few times en route to Sin City.