A good friend of mine from home is a huge traveler. Michaella doesn’t even work in aviation and her list of “Where I’ve been” puts mine to serious shame. We have so much fun when we get together at home and are always exchanging travel tips, but somehow in all the years we’ve been friends, we had never taken a trip together. So we determined 2018 was the year, and President’s Day weekend was the perfect excuse for a long weekend girls’ getaway. We decided to head west to hike in the desert sun and escape Boston’s bitter cold and snowy winter. Here’s how our Arizona girls’ weekend went.
Note: Almost all of the restaurants, hiking trails and tours listed in this post are currently CLOSED due to COVID-19. Check back in the coming weeks for updates on open dates.
We picked Scottsdale for fun and Sedona for scenery, although we ended up finding both in each place. I’ve divided this post up into separate sections for Scottsdale and Sedona for ease of use. Hope you enjoy!
We started off our first trip together as we would continue to begin future trips together: Michaella showing up early to the airport, me strolling through security just before boarding starts, and a few “Where the heck are you?!” texts in between.
One of the best perks of being a flight attendant is getting to help out my friends with cheaper tickets. On our trip, Michaella traveled to Arizona on my ‘buddy pass’—a standby ticket that costs a fraction of what a regular fare would be. And although our normally 5-hour flight to Phoenix took a full SEVEN hours, we had a great time anyway, catching up, making strange friends, and sipping a few champagnes. We were celebrating, after all.
Between my free and her super-cheap airfare, the budget hotel deals we found, taking advantage of free nature activities, and doing a discounted day-tour through Groupon, this trip ended up being super affordable. Which is always a plus in my book.
Where to stay in Scottsdale
Hotels in Scottsdale were hard to come by and quite pricey because of the holiday weekend. If you’re looking to party and are on a tight budget, the Aloft Scottsdale on North Civic Center Plaza is a great option. It was actually a bit overwhelming hearing beats bumping from the bars down the street while trying to check in to the hotel after a seven hour delayed flight. We almost thought we were too close to the party and, after a quick walk to scope out the area, almost thought we were too old to hang in Scottsdale.
Once famous for golf courses and relaxing spas, Scottsdale now caters to a younger, hipper, wilder crowd. It’s become a hot spot for bachelor and bachelorette parties and the way people were dressed made me wonder if I had somehow mistakenly ended up in Vegas. A tiny, less glamorous version, that is.
Of course, in the light of morning and with sleep under our belts, everything changed. It ended up being a good homebased for the first portion of our Arizona girls’ weekend.
Before setting off for our hike of the day, we stopped to fuel up at the Original Chopshop, an adorable little spot boasting healthy breakfast and lunch options at affordable prices. Michaella went for a green smoothie of some sort with avocado toast and I picked the sunrise wrap and cold brew coffee. It’s little surprise the line stretched out the door by the time we left, and we liked it so much we ended up stopping in again the next morning!
Hiking in Scottsdale
We hiked Sunrise Peak Trail, near Fountain Hills. (I had done Camelback the last time I layed over in Phoenix, so I knew I didn’t want to hike the same trail again.) We were looking for a moderate hike—enough to break a sweat and not feel guilty about all the tacos and beer we’d be consuming later that night—and a nice view at the top. Sunrise Peak fit the bill. It’s a great mid-level hike with enough steep inclines so you felt like you really were getting a workout and enough look out areas to stop for little breaks to catch your breath and pretend you’re just admiring the scenery. It’s always fun checking out a landscape so vastly different than the one you live in. Being a Bostonian, and a clumsy one at that, I’m always a bit paranoid about falling into cacti during dessert hikes. Lucky for us there were no mishaps, just dry desert air and views for days.
Some exploration of the local nightlife in Scottsdale.
Playing with Cacti on Sunrise Peak Trail, Scottsdale.
More Food and Drink
We were hoping to be able to lay out by the pool, but it was chilly while we were there. So we got margaritas instead. We lunched at Barrio Queen and sampled their margaritas, guacamole and tacos. HOLY MOLY their guacamole is good! Made fresh at your table, they can make it as spicy or wimpy as you like, and with out-of-the-ordinary add-ins like pomegranate seeds, this guac is seriously next level.
I can’t possibly recount all the bars and restaurants we hit up later in the evening, but we drank and danced and pretended we were 22 (randomly meeting a whole gaggle of Bostonians along the way). We particularly enjoyed a bar called Gringos because of the tire-swing seats surrounding the bar, but also spent some time bar-hopping in the Entertainment District, just down the street from our hotel.
It was a quick visit, and then we were off, breakfast burritos in hand, to the beautiful red rocks of Sedona.
Red rocks and blue skies.
Best Sedona Accomodation
When looking for accommodation in Sedona, we ended up finding a great last-minute deal and pounced. We stayed at the Arabella Hotel Sedona, and it was the perfect accommodation for us. In fact, we considered extending our trip just so that we could stay here another day. At only $120 a night this place was an absolute STEAL!
We had booked a room with two beds and were disappointed to find out upon arrival that, due to a burst pipe, our original room type was not available. But the bed in our new room was so big that we hardly even noticed we were sharing. AND we had direct access through a sliding door out to the pool and hot tub. The property has two pools, which are heated in the winter, and two spas. Nothing beats a glass of wine in a hot tub after a long day chilling (literally—it was cold AF) outdoors.
There was a lookout spot on the property for sunset and sunrise watching, complete with gas fire pit and chairs. It’s a super romantic setting to sit and watch with a significant other; at least that’s what all the couples huddled around the space must have figured. Offered up are stunning views of the red rocks being painted pink and orange, shadows shifting with the sun. I ventured out for sunrise in the morning, but it was cloudy and gray that day and I couldn’t see much. The Arabella also offers complimentary hot breakfast, a great way to save a few bucks and get ready for a full day of hiking. This hotel is perfect for a short Sedona stay.
A bit too romantic for us, but maybe you'll visit Sedona with a lover.
Ain't no party like a hot-tub party.
Views from the Arabella Hotel were pretty decent.
Best things to do in Sedona
Off-roading and wine?
Could a girls’ weekend be complete without it?
We took a jeep tour with A Day in The West that included two hours of off-roading in the desert followed by a wine tasting at Page Springs Cellars. Our tour guide pointed out major rock formations including Snoopy rock, Coffee-pot rock, and Marge and Bart Simpson rock. I don’t know how much these rock formations actually look like the nicknames they’ve been given, but maybe my imagination wasn’t at 100. Hearing about the local wildlife and issues of public vs. private land in Red Rocks park while bouncing around in the back of a jeep was pretty sweet. The ride wasn’t rough the whole time, but there are a few bumps and hills along the way that will lift you out of your seat, even with a seatbelt. We did the Red Rocks tour portion of the excursion first and then sat at the winery, which apparently is the opposite of how it is normally structured. It was nice being able to sit and relax after the bumpy ride, a blanket on our laps, heat lamps around the table, some tasty snacks and five different local wine samples. We didn’t order additional drinks after the set tasting menu. I can imagine, though, that a bumpy jeep ride after multiple glasses of wine may not be the best idea.
A Day in the West has other tour options including combinations of horseback riding, ziplining, photography tours, and wineries. The tour we chose is $124 per adult, but we ended up finding a Groupon and paid $145 for the two of us. If you are going to try to go this route (And I highly recommend it—Groupon had lots of great tour discounts for the region!) be sure to call the company before you buy to ensure that they can accommodate you on the dates you will be there.
Things to Note: I have to mention the jeeps are open and to be mindful of the weather. We were layered up and still needed blankets on the ride home. We were there in February, and of course, in warmer months you could easily have the opposite problem of roasting in the sun. Be sure to pack the sunblock and something to cover your skin if this is the case. Also, it was a long excursion. About four hours total and we were quite ready to be back at the hotel by the end. Overall, I would recommend this tour. We would have enjoyed it a lot more if we weren’t freezing and hungover from our wild night in Scottsdale.
Michaella enjoying our post-jeep wine tasting.
Our Jeep tour with A Day in the West was a blast.
Hiking in Sedona
We decided to do a quintessential Sedona hike and opted for Devil’s Bridge. There are multiple entry points and we took the shorter route, which was still lovely and a couple hours worth of hiking. It started out flat and stayed so for quite a ways. Once you get closer to the bridge, the inclines, stairs, boulders begin and your blood really starts pumping. There are some beautiful views along the way, but nothing compares to actually seeing the rock formation for which the trail is named. It is truly a natural wonder.
Things to note: The Devil’s Bridge trail is closed due to COVID-19. When it opens: Devil’s Bridge is one of the most photographed spots in Sedona. (You can see why!) Because of this there does tend to be a lot of other people on the trail, looking to have their photo taken on the death-defying ledge. Proper travel etiquette is super important in this particular spot. We were impressed to see people giving each other space and waiting their turn to take a photo on the bridge. This could probably be annoying on a very crowded day, which is why I’m glad we were there when it was chilly and not at all packed. But I promise if you wait your turn like everyone else, you’ll walk away with a ridiculously cool photo—like ours!—to take with you.
Also, be cognoscente of changing weather. We got stuck in a little hail storm on the way back to the car. luckily the ice pieces were tiny and didn’t hurt!
Devil's Bridge, Sedona, AZ
Post-hike we dined at Mariposa and waited for our bones to dry. Mariposa is a latin-inspired restaurant with stunning views of the red rock mountains. Honestly I have no idea what we ate but I do remember having hot tea. Mariposa is one of the top-rated restaurants in Sedona according to Tripadvisor. Unfortunately, food was not one of the main attractions to our Sedona stay and I can’t think of a single meal I’d go back for. Of course the scenery more than makes up for it.
We wanted to get into the woo-woo and check out some of the vortex sites for which Sedona is famous. Beyond the beauty of the red rocks, Sedona is also known as a site for healing and spiritual properties. It is said to have “vortexes”—sites of high energetic frequency, good for healing, recharging and self-exploration. Out of the four most famous vortex sites, we visited the Airport Mesa vortex. Unfortunately, the whipping wind was so cruel and unyielding that we did not last long enough to feel any vortex-ual healing. I cannot confirm nor deny the reality of the vortex. But I would certainly try again the next time I visit Sedona. Why not?
Aren't girls' trips the BEST?!
And that wrapped up our girls’ weekend trip to Arizona. Two days in Scottsdale, hiking and hitting the town, and two days in Sedona, relaxing and taking in the great outdoors. Looking back on this trip—with much fondness, I might add—I don’t think we’d do a thing differently. We laughed, we explored, and we found that, happily, we are not only good friends, but great travel buddies. (No, this is not always the case with friends, as in note in a previous post.) This trip set the stage for us to begin planning travel together more often, and in the same year we took three more trips—to Costa Rica, Washington D.C. and Barbados.
There is still so much of Arizona I’d like to see and experience. Antelope Canyon, camping in the Grand Canyon, Havasu Falls are my top three. But this quick girls’ weekend in Arizona was a perfect getaway and intro to AZ.
Been to Havasu? Visited Antelope Canyon? Have you hiked or camped in the Grand Canyon? Let me know your best Arizona travel tips in the comments below. I’d also love to hear your girls’ weekend trip recommendations. We will be traveling again someday, after all, and by the time it happens I’ll be ready to jump on a plane and get started.
Thanks for stopping by. Until next time!