In preparation for our trip, we had done extensive research on the places we wanted to visit and the route we wanted to take. We had also made reservations for accommodations, car rental, and all the activities we wanted to do. With our plan in mind and excited to start our journey, we got up early the next day and set out to explore Arizona and its wonders. Our first stop was the Grand Canyon, which we had been looking forward to seeing. We made sure to take the time to appreciate all its beauty, and then we would proceed to our next destination, Sedona.
The impetus for our selection of Phoenix as a launching point was the availability of cost-effective flights from Dallas, in addition to the potential to explore the Grand Canyon via Sedona. Our flight was scheduled for the late evening on a Friday, though we gained two hours as Arizona is two hours behind Texas, arriving in Phoenix quite late according to our internal clocks. After picking up our rental car, we headed toward the closest Econo Lodge to the airport to get some rest for the night.
Upon awakening the following morning, we were met with a bright and balmy climate. We opted for Vovomeena, which we had discovered on Yelp, for breakfast. As we made our way to the eatery, the looming cacti created a vivid introduction to the geography of Arizona. The restaurant we chose was a quaint cafe with a relatively short line, and the service was prompt. We were pleased with the quality of the meal, and I can confidently recommend it to anyone with a penchant for American-style breakfast. After finishing our meal, we headed to the Desert Botanical Garden in Papago Park, the largest park in Phoenix. This location is a must-see for anyone visiting the city, particularly if one is interested in desert flora, cacti, and succulents. The park is quite expansive, and it takes about two hours to traverse if one is walking–especially if traveling with children, as we were. At the garden, one can get a taste of the desert environment, stroll amongst the towering cacti, and observe a plethora of animals, such as lizards, birds, squirrels, and mice.
After spending about 2 hours in the park, we made our food, drink, and petrol reinforcements that we would need along the way and set off for Sedona. The journey was quite enjoyable as beautiful scenery accompanied a long part of this road, which is approximately 2.5 hours. The part of the route that starts when approaching Sedona and ends up to Flagstaff is known as the ‘scenic byway’. The rocky area made up of reddish sandstones around Sedona is called the Red Rocks. It is believed that this region has a special energy and people come here to find peace and spend some time taking walks. After walking a short route, we drove into the town with our car. Sedona is a small town, but it is very cute. There are various shops in the town, from fortune tellers to reiki, from those who sell crystals and semi-precious stones to those who sell Indian handicrafts. You can take a lunch break, drink tea, coffee or eat ice cream in the town. If you pass Sedona and continue towards Oak Creek, you will see a park entrance on your left where you can go down to the creek. For a small park entrance fee, you can park your car and walk to the creek. The riverside, surrounded by forests and cliffs, is a peaceful place where you can take short walks or just dip your feet in cold water and rest for a while. After spending some time here, as we were continuing towards Tusayan via Flagstaff, the Double Eagle trading company, which we saw by chance near Valle, caught our attention with its Indian tents in front of it. A place worth taking a short break, especially with children.
After a short break, we continued to Red Feather Lodge, located in Tusayan, Arizona, where we stayed for two nights. Unfortunately, due to our late arrival, we were unable to secure a reservation in a hotel located within the boundaries of the Grand Canyon National Park. Though the drive from Tusayan to the park was only 15 minutes, we would have preferred to stay closer to the edge of the Canyon in order to experience the sunrise and sunset. Upon arriving at Red Feather Lodge, it was nearly sunset and we were exhausted, so we checked in and headed over to Plaza Bonita, a small Mexican restaurant located adjacent to the hotel. Despite receiving mixed reviews on Yelp, our hunger overshadowed any reservations we had about the quality of the food. The next morning, although the light, icy rain outside made us feel somewhat dreary, we set off and stopped at a nearby market before continuing our journey.We stocked up on snacks and drinks to sustain us on our travels, as we knew temperatures in the Grand Canyon could vary drastically between night and day. We made sure that everyone had adequate layers and warm clothing, regardless of the season. To explore the Grand Canyon, we decided to take the western route known as the red line. This route could only be traveled by the free buses provided in the park and had numerous stops. At each stop, we got off the bus to marvel at the views and then continued our journey with the next bus. We hiked from Maricopa Point to Hopi Point for about 1.5 km, although the views were magnificent, the weather was cloudy and occasionally rainy, which obscured the views somewhat. We returned to the red line’s starting point, got into our car and drove to the historical El Tovar hotel in the Grand Canyon Village. After lunch at the hotel, we resumed our journey, stopping at a nearby market to stock up on snacks and drinks. As we ventured further into the park, we were amazed by the incredible beauty of the landscape, which varied drastically from deep canyons to towering plateaus and rocky mountains. We could never have imagined the incredible sights that we would see in the Grand Canyon and we were left in awe of the sheer magnitude and grandeur of the place.
We took a long lunch break and both warmed up and rested. After the meal, the clouds cleared and the weather got a little warmer, and we decided to walk the ‘Trail of Time’, which starts in front of the hotel and ends at Yavapai Point. It’s approximately 6 km long, with the outbound trip being 3km and the return trip being 3km. Along the way, we were able to see many of the beautiful sights that the Grand Canyon has to offer. We had the opportunity to observe the different types of vegetation, observe wildlife, and take in the breathtaking views of the canyon. When we made it back to the hotel, we were exhausted and decided to reward ourselves with a nice ice cream from the nearby Bright Angel Lodge. We were not the only ones with this idea, as the ice cream shop was crowded with many people looking for a sweet treat after their day of exploring. We arrived at Mather Point at the perfect time of day for viewing the sunset. As we watched, the sunlight slowly moved over the canyon, creating a beautiful orange hue throughout the sky. The changing colors of the canyon walls were fascinating, with warm oranges and reds in the foreground, and cooler blues and purples in the distance. The clouds played along too, adding to the beauty of the scene. As the sun slowly set, the shadows of the rocks and trees slowly crept across the landscape. Many people flock to the Grand Canyon around sunset, so it is wise to arrive earlier in the day to avoid the crowds and potential parking problems. After the sun has set, you may be tired and want to rest, so consider having a light dinner in your hotel rather than going out. You can explore the canyon by taking a bus tour, or go on foot, but be aware that it is not possible to take young children down the narrow and steep paths into the valley. An alternative is to get a mule and go down to the valley in the morning. If you plan on traveling the whole valley from south to north, you will need to camp overnight in the valley.
The next morning, we woke up early and grabbed a quick breakfast at the cafe in the market next to Maswik Lodge in the Grand Canyon National Park. We jumped in the car and made our way to Page, Arizona, about 1.5 hours away. Along the way, we stopped at the Grand View Point and the Desert View Point, both with stunning views of the canyon, and the Colorado River. After about 1.5 hours we arrived at HorseShoe Bend, a unique bend in the Colorado River that looks like a horseshoe from above. It is a must-see, but be warned it takes about 15-20 minutes of walking on a desert-like road to get there. Our main destination was Antelope Canyon, located on the Navajo Indian Reservation. Access to the canyon requires purchasing a tour in advance, and there are three companies that offer them. We opted for the 1.5-hour tour, but there are also longer, 2.5-3 hour tours for photographers. The canyon is a narrow tunnel, formed by wind and rain over many years. The tour was truly fascinating, and the time flew by. We were glad to have been able to experience the beautiful scenery of the Grand Canyon National Park and the unique Antelope Canyon.
Our original plan for the day was to spend the night in Page, Arizona, but after our tour of the area concluded, we decided to push on and continue our journey. At 16.00, we stopped off at the Big John’s Texas BBQ garden where we enjoyed burgers and ice cream before setting off again. We booked a room at the Best Western near the eastern entrance of Zion National Park, which meant we could cancel our hotel reservation in Page and plan to stay there the following day. As we drove out of Page, we were treated to the breathtaking sight of the westernmost end of Lake Powell off to the right of the road. We stopped to take in the view, which was especially beautiful during the evening hours, before continuing along our journey for another 1.5 hours until we reached our hotel. After grabbing a bite to eat in the restaurant, we settled down for the night, ready to make the most of our visit to Zion National Park the following day.
On the morning of our fourth day, the sky was clear and the sun shone brightly. After having a hearty breakfast at the hotel restaurant, we set off on the Mt. Carmel Scenic Byway which leads into Zion National Park. After a thirty minute drive, we arrived at the tunnel that had been carved into the mountain and emerged among the grand, towering rocks. We had to leave our car in front of the Zion Human History Museum and take the bus so as to explore the park. Our first stop was at Zion Lodge and from there, we took the Emerald Pools route which is ideal for families with kids. We took a break at the stream that ran alongside the path, dipping our feet into the cool water and enjoying a picnic.
We got on the bus and headed to different scenic spots. At the last stop, we chose to take a longer walk and explore the Temple of Sinawava. We walked for 45 minutes and returned, stopping to rest and enjoy the views along the way. The next part of the journey involved a 2.5-hour drive to our final destination, Las Vegas. Along the way, we were surrounded by stunning desert landscapes, including cacti and Joshua trees. Upon arrival in Las Vegas in the evening, we felt a bit overwhelmed. We hadn’t done much research for this part of the trip. We decided to take our car to get around since most hotels provide free valet service. This saved us time from having to park the car ourselves and find the exit in the huge hotels. We only had one night in Las Vegas so we wanted to make sure we used our time wisely.
We arrived at the Venetian Hotel, a stunningly detailed recreation of Venice, complete with canals, gondolas, and even Venetian-style architecture. We walked along the canal, admiring the intricate details of the buildings and watching the gondolas go by. We then moved on to the Circus Circus hotel, which we thought would be the highlight of the trip for the kids. Unfortunately, the atmosphere was rather dull, with only a few coin games to keep them occupied. We decided to move on and headed to the Bellagio hotel. We watched the fantastic pool show which captivated us all. We then took a break at the cafe before heading to our hotel for the night. Since we were traveling with children, we were unable to explore the many casinos that Las Vegas has to offer. We decided to forgo any shows as our time was limited. We did, however, take a ride on the giant Ferris wheel located near our hotel. The wheel seemed to be barely moving, though, so we decided against it and carried on. On the morning of our last day, we had breakfast at the famous Mon Ami Gabi cafe in the Paris Vegas hotel. We enjoyed the atmosphere and felt a sense of Parisian style. With our 5-day trip now complete, we flew home to Dallas with happy memories of our time in Las Vegas.