Driving around Arizona, the sixth largest state in the US, it’s easy to feel like you’ve been transported into the middle of nowhere, or even onto another planet—in one moment you’re surrounded by rocky red buttes, the next saguaro-speckled desertscapes and then, verdant valleys. While one could spend weeks upon weeks exploring the majestic region, we spent a weekend there and paved out a road trip that combines time in Phoenix, Sedona, Jerome and a few spots along the way—from natural wonders to contemporary cuisine, architecture and even a ghost town.
The Normal Restaurant
Before heading out, stop at The Normal Restaurant (located inside the Graduate Hotel) for dishes with Mexican influences and plenty of comfort food staples. We suggest fueling up for the day with a grain salad—made with freekah, feta, radishes, arugula and more—or the pancakes (gluten-free option available). Reservations are available, but there’s also a pick-up window at this sunlit venue.
Phoenix Art Museum
It’s difficult to visit a city and not swing by a museum within. The Phoenix Art Museum is an impressive institution that’s worth the time. Currently showing Yayoi Kusama’s enchanting You Who Are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies (on until 6 October), there are many other reasons to visit this museum—including the contemporary collection which includes work by Anish Kapoor, Sol LeWitt and others. Upon departing Phoenix, be sure to select a route that takes you past Janet Echelman’s glorious Her Secret Is Patience installation (best viewed at night) on N Central Ave.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West
Known as Frank Lloyd Wright‘s “desert laboratory,” Taliesin West is located at the foothills of the McDowell Mountains—making for a delightful contrast between nature and his late-1930s design. The house was Wright’s winter home, where his Taliesin Fellowship apprentices would work and stay, and it’s still the main campus for the School of Architecture at Taliesin—the private, graduate school Wright founded. Guided tours are offered to the public (entry is only allowed via these tours) and plenty of specific aspects can be explored, depending on which type of visit guests desire.
L’Auberge de Sedona, a Destination Hotel
After a day of driving, hiking and exploring, arriving at a place like L’Auberge de Sedona is truly magical. While it’s located in the center of town, it also feels incredibly isolated—sat right next to lush gardens and a stream. Creekside cottages offer lots of room, with especially spacious bathrooms and a charming outdoor shower. There’s plenty of privacy and the views from the private verandah are lush, green and tranquil. At the end of the day, take a seat beside the creek on an Adirondack chair with a drink, or post up at one of the many outdoor tables at the enchanting restaurant, illuminated by string lights.
Gold King Mine
The tiny town of Jerome—between the Haunted Hamburger and the biggest kaleidoscope store in the world—is surprisingly buzzing. And just a five-minute drive from the center of town, it’s buzzing with ghosts at the Gold King Mine. This abandoned truck graveyard and mine features a working sawmill and blacksmith shop, plenty of animals and more wholesome treats. But it’s the 180+ cars, buses, trucks and motorcycles that will delight fans of classic vehicles—visitors will spot everything from Studebakers to farming tractors. Each year in September, they also play host to the Jerome Jamboree—which sees a display of vintage Volkswagens.
Slide Rock Swimming Hole
Heading back toward Sedona and overshooting the town by just 15 minutes will offer up an entirely different landscape where luscious trees line Arizona State Route 89A. Slide Rock State Park provides 43 hectares to explore, all encased by red rock formations, but if you’ve been driving or hiking all day, we recommend a dip in the restorative swimming hole. With a 30-foot-long natural waterslide, this is the perfect way to end a day of stomping around the red rocks of Arizona.