In late April, T and I took a trip to Arizona. The last time we visited was in 2020. We took Lake along for that trip but this time it was just the two of us. This was my fourth trip to Arizona in five years, so suffice it to say it’s one of my favorite places to visit!
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where we stayed
Hyatt Place Scottsdale/Old Town – We considered a few hotels, but ultimately decided to stay at the Hyatt due to its reasonable price and great location in Old Town Scottsdale. It was also really nice to be able to walk to a lot of restaurants.
what we did
HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE – (Phoenix)
Riding in a hot air balloon has been on my bucket list for awhile now and I finally got to check it off!
I read a lot of reviews on hot air balloon companies in the Phoenix area and ultimately decided to go with Hot Air Expeditions. I have no regrets as we had a great experience!
As you’d expect, hot air balloons are highly dependent on wind/weather. We lucked out and had perfect conditions. There was a couple we met who had attempted to ride three times before, but all were canceled due to weather. The fourth time – this time – finally worked out for them!
We checked in at the Deer Valley Airport in Phoenix at 4:45 a.m. Once checked in, we took a 20 minute van ride to the take-off spot. There, we got to see a beautiful desert sunrise and watch the inflation of all of the hot air balloons.
We opted for a shared flight, which is the most popular option. (They also offer private flights as well.) There were 13 riders aboard, including the captain.
I was a little tense during the ascent because it’s a bit of a trip to essentially be in open air and see how high you’re climbing! But when we got to our max elevation at 4,000 feet above sea level, it felt really calm and peaceful to be floating freely along. The flight was around 45-60 minutes over the Sonoran Desert.
After the flight, we enjoyed a balloonist’s ceremony, breakfast from Vincent’s on Camelback and we all received commemorative flight certificates.
Overall, it was a lot of fun and I’m so glad we got to have the experience!
CAMELBACK MOUNTAIN HIKE – ECHO CANYON TRAIL – (Phoenix)
Now that I’ve been to Phoenix a handful of times in recent years, I can safely say that hiking Camelback is my favorite thing to do in Phoenix.
There are two hiking trails on Camelback – Echo Canyon and Cholla. The Cholla Trail is easier but longer (approximately 1.5 miles one-way) and the Echo Canyon Trail is more difficult but shorter (approximately 1.2 miles one-way). I’ve hiked Cholla before but this was my first time hiking Echo Canyon. The Cholla Trail has been closed for maintenance for awhile now, so Echo Canyon was our only option.
Since we hiked on a Saturday, we made sure to get there early. We arrived at the Echo Canyon parking lot at 5:39 a.m. and were one of the last ones to nab a parking spot (There is no official parking lot for the Cholla Trail).
We started the hike at 5:55 a.m. when it was a very comfortable 61 degrees. (The high was 95 degrees that day).
We were both a little worried because some of the reviews made it seem like we would be climbing Mt. Everest! We both thought hike was challenging but doable. I definitely agree with the reviews that said it’s more of a climb than a hike, as it’s a very steep ascent – especially in comparison to the Cholla Trail.
Beautiful 360 degree views of Phoenix at the top!
Quick Tips For Hiking Camelback MOUNTAIN:
- Check for any trail closures or maintenance before you go
- If you drive, get there early to get a parking spot. The lot isn’t overly large and spots can fill up fast!
- To avoid the hassle of parking, walk, bike or use a car service
- Start your hike early – Sunrise is best to beat both the heat and crowd
- Bring more water than you think you’ll need!!!
- Wear proper footwear – Hiking shoes are best (*See below for hiking shoe and sock recommendations)
- I recommend wearing a backpack so you can have both hands free and not have to worry about carrying your water bottle(s)
- Wear sunscreen and re-apply when needed
- Wear a hat and/or sunglasses
- Bring snacks
- Put your phone on airplane mode to avoid draining the battery and/or bring a portable charger
- I like to be on the cautious side and bring a small first aid kit. You could also bring a whistle, but more often than not there will be other hikers around that you wouldn’t need it. (A whistle can be extremely helpful if you hike in remote areas and find yourself in an emergency situation).
- Take breaks when needed
- On the descent, be cautious of loose rock
- Know that the descent can take more time than the ascent
Shout out to Merrell for making amazing hiking shoes. We both wore the Moab Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots and felt very stable in them. Below are links to the latest models of our shoes and socks. Also, I wore a belt bag and T wore a hiking backpack (similar) and it worked out for great for us.
DEVIL’S BRIDGE TRAIL HIKE – (Sedona)
Like hiking Camelback, I’ve hiked Devil’s Bridge Trail before and I wanted T to be able to experience it as well.
We started the hike at 6:19 a.m. and it was 45 degrees. (The high was 77 degrees that day).
The 1.8 mile trail (one-way) is pretty easy but there are some steep rocky steps as you get closer to the bridge.
Last time when my friend and I were at the bridge, there was a girl doing a handstand on the bridge and it almost gave me a heart attack! For me, watching people on the bridge is much more unnerving than being out on the bridge myself!
The bridge is actually pretty wide (maybe around 10-15 feet?) You also can’t really see over the sides from the middle of the bridge. I’m not saying it’s not a bit of a trip, but photos definitely create an illusion that the bridge is more narrow than it is in reality.
When we arrived at the bridge it was still pretty early, so we didn’t have to wait too long to go out on the bridge. If you arrive during a busy time and want your photo taken on the bridge, you may have to wait in line an hour or more. Also, be careful while waiting in line as some areas are slanted.
BROKEN ARROW JEEP TOUR – (Sedona)
Last time I was in Sedona, I couldn’t help but see lots of pink Jeeps driving around doing tours. T and I are both fans of guided tours so we thought this would a great way for us to explore Sedona.
We opted for the Broken Arrow Tour, which is the company’s most popular Sedona tour. There were seven of us in the big pink Jeep, including the driver. It was definitely an exhilarating off-roading experience as we climbed over and atop red rocks and crawled down super steep descents.
The sights were incredible. It was really cool to be in such beautiful, remote areas with up close and personal views.
STAND UP PADDLE BOARDING – (Tempe)
I absolutely love stand up paddle boarding but it’s something I rarely do. The last time we both went was in 2014 on our honeymoon in St. Lucia, so when I saw it was an activity offered at Tempe Town Lake, I jumped at the chance. We went on a Wednesday, so we pretty much had the whole area of the lake to ourselves which was really nice.
DESERT BOTANICAL GARDEN – (Phoenix)
Situated on 140-acres in Papago Park, the Desert Botanical Garden features cactus, agave and other desert plants of the Sonoran Desert and the world. The garden has more than 50,000 plants displays – 485 of which are rare and endangered.
It was really neat that we got to see the Chihuly in the Desert exhibition. The grand installations were stunning next to all of the unique desert plants.
It was a beautiful garden and I highly recommend checking it out if you’re in the area!
COUPLE’S MASSAGE – (Scottsdale)
We had a wonderful couple’s massage at the Joya Spa which is located in the Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia. We were also able to enjoy some of the various amenities like the rooftop pool, sauna, whirlpool and steam room (<—my favorite!)
SHOPPING – (Scottsdale and Sedona)
What’s vacation without a little shopping?! In Scottsdale, I made sure to go to Fashion Square Mall, which is one of my favorite malls. Then in Sedona I did some thrift shopping at Goodwill and found some adorable dresses for Lake and Etta. (I love thrifting for any and everything but especially for baby/kids clothes.) We got a couple of little things for the girls at the Sedona Kids Company (a super cute toy store) and I picked up some loose leaf tea varieties from The Spice and Tea Exchange.
where we ate
Restaurants are one of my favorite things to research prior to any trip. There’s no shortage of amazing eateries in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, that’s for sure! If you’re wanting to check out any of the places below, I definitely recommend making reservations if you can as some of the places were at full capacity while we were there.
Olive & Ivy – T and I both agree that Olive & Ivy had the best food out of everywhere we ate. We both highly recommend!
Pussycat Gelato (Sedona) – So. Many. Amazing flavors!
Farm & Craft – Very cute patio and what I would call the trendiest place we ate. Also love the ‘ALL I WANT IS FOOD AND AFFECTION’ quote inside.
Zinqué – Loved the Tuna Tartare Tartine.
Flower Child – If Flower Child was in Des Moines, I would want to eat there all the time. Delicious healthy food, especially for the price.
Kodo Sushi – OFC we had to get in some sushi. We’ve eaten here before and it’s solid.
RigaTony’s – A casual Italian restaurant in Tempe. The complimentary salad and bread were just as tasty as our entrees.
In-N-Out – If I’m in a city with In-N-Out it’s a given I’m eating there. I especially love their fries.
Shake Shack – Same as In-N-Out – if I’m in a city with Shake Shack, I’m there. I especially love their cheeseburger.
Sweet Republic – We’ve been here before and love the ice cream so much, we had to go back.
Pinkberry – I feel like Pinkberry is the OG frozen yogurt?? The ‘Original’ flavor is my favorite.
Sprinkles Cupcakes – This was my first time trying a famous Sprinkles cupcake and it was really good. We got ours from the Cupcake ATM, which was so fun!
Nékter Juice Bar – I love acai bowls and one from Nékter is a must when I’m in Arizona!
Coffee Bean Tea & Leaf – It’s been a longgg time since I’ve been to Coffee Bean. When I did my college internship in Pacific Palisades, California I went there all the time. My go-to order is a Pure Chocolate Ice Blended.
Other eateries that I jotted down that we didn’t get to but hopefully will on future trips: Diego Pops, Toca Madera, Maple & Ash, Salad and Go, Original ChopShop, Culinary Dropout, Butters Cafe, Berry Divine, Matcha Grove and Urban Cookies.
And…that’s finally it! I hope you enjoyed seeing photos and reading all about our trip! I think it’s strange that I’ve been to Arizona so many times in recent years but have yet to visit the Grand Canyon. I’ll get there eventually!