It's December and it's that time of year when the air is frigid, meaning winter escapes are a must. Living in Chicago comes with below freezing temps and what better way to escape them than to take a quick trip to...the desert. As we continue to navigate life in a global pandemic, a brief change of scenery can help break the cabin fever. There are still many safe ways to vacation with social distancing in mind. Many people are booking stays at resorts or Airbnbs with amenities to enjoy, without having to leave the property for food or entertainment. My boyfriend and I wanted to get away for the weekend and Arizona was at the top of the list for its moderate daytime weather and impeccable scenery. We booked a stay at the Hilton Phoenix Resort at the Peak located in Phoenix, Arizona. We flew into the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and the first night in Phoenix was actually spent at the Hilton Garden Inn Phoenix Airport North. We initially booked our stay the resort for two nights only (Friday and Saturday), but we wanted to fly in a night early, so we opted for a stay at a partner hotel for one night. On Thursday night, we arrived in Phoenix and checked into our hotel. The hotel was renovated and decorated with modern décor; we noticed how clean the hotel was upon entry. The great customer service was evident on the phone prior to arriving at the hotel; we spoke with the hotel manager to arrange pickup from the airport.
Travel Tip: It is best to contact the hotel you're staying at prior to arrival in the city to inquire about airport transfer. Most hotels have a complimentary shuttle that will transport you to and from the airport and they typically run often, but it's best to call them to arrange your pickup to avoid long wait times.
Bundle up or bring a jacket, because you'll need it in Arizona. The temperatures drop at night, so pack a jacket or sweatshirt for your late night desert strolls or walks in downtown Phoenix. I appreciated the calmness of the night in Arizona and of course the amazingly large cacti all around. You cannot visit Arizona and not get a picture with a cactus twice your size...so here's mine:
Exploring in Phoenix led to finding good eats in the city. Check out some of my recommendations for dining options in Phoenix, AZ:
Flavorz Fish & Chicken - Perfect for your soul food cravings, the catfish filet was delicious.
Speedy Street Tacos - Street Tacos, open 24 hours, AND pineapple upside down cake for dessert...What's not to love?
Rosati's Pizza - Went for pizza, came out with pasta and lots of it, they have really good sandwiches too.
After a relaxing first night of good food and great drinks, on Friday we checked out of the first hotel to head to the resort. We rented a car from NU Car Rentals, an affordable car rental service with locations in Arizona, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. The rental car location is situated close to the airport and many of the hotels are in close proximity to the airport. We opted to rent a car to make it easier to get around during our stay in Phoenix and especially for our plans to drive to Sedona.
Hilton Phoenix Resort at the Peak is a beautiful resort with a waterpark, miniature golf course, tennis courts, basketball courts, swimming pools, and hot tubs. It is the ideal place to stay if you are looking for a getaway that is safe, comfortable, with plenty to do for the whole family. The check-in process was smooth and I appreciated the availability of hand sanitizer for hotel guests throughout the facility. The room was spacious; it was suite style with a living room and a door to close off the bedroom if needed. The rooms are all equipped with a balcony or porch area and room service is readily available. We played miniature golf at the resort and it was so much fun. We enjoyed the experience and appreciated the precautions that Hilton Phoenix Resort at the Peak took to ensure the healthy and safety of the guests. Each of the handles on the mini golf clubs were pre-wrapped in plastic and the golf balls were brand new. We got to enjoy some nice views during our game of mini golf:
Saturday was spent road tripping to Sedona, Arizona. While all of Sedona is considered to be a vortex, there are specific locations in Sedona that are considered to have some of the most sacred and powerful energies. According to Google: "vortexes are believed to be spiritual locations where the energy is right to facilitate prayer, meditation, and healing. Vortex sites are believed to be locations having energy flow that exists on multiple dimensions." I'd agree that the energy out in Sedona was nothing short of pure and positive. Let's take a moment to just appreciate the glorious views Sedona has to offer:
Best vortexes to visit in Sedona:
Hiking is a must if you decide to plan a trip to Sedona. There are so many different hiking trails with different levels of difficulty to choose from. Be sure to pack some good hiking shoes and take plenty of water with you on your hikes. Even if you don't decide to get out and hike, the scenic drive from Phoenix to Sedona is breathtaking. The drive is two hours long, so you'll have plenty of time to look at all the views of the desert canyons and take it all in. From Interstate 17 to Highway 179, you'll enjoy a red carpet rolled out in front of you with nothing but red rocks to guide the way. The Red Rock Scenic Byway is voted a must-do activity if you're in Sedona by Thrillist.com.
There are small shops and boutiques along the drive through Sedona if you want to stop and purchase souvenirs, or look around at the antique finds. We stopped at a cute little shop called Son Silver West Gallery, which features Southwestern décor, antique gifts, and hardware. There were plenty of cool antique signs and displays that made for neat photo ops and they have a broad selection of souvenirs and gifts.
Travel Tip: Consider investing in a tripod for all of your picture-taking moments. This especially comes in handy when you visit places like Sedona, with picturesque views you'll want to capture completely without the hassle of finding a stranger to take a photo of you. Seriously, you'll thank me later.
Overall if I had to rate Sedona, I'd give it a 9/10. It has the views, the landscapes, the hiking trails, the bike trails, and pure zen. For what it's worth, this is not your typical shopping day trip or city escape. Instead, this is a different kind of vibe, one with plenty of red rocks and desert sand that go on for miles. If you're like me and you like to plan out your trips with an intinerary, Sedona is not necessarily the trip for that. It's more of a "go with the flow" and let the road less traveled lead you to all of the beauty that Sedona has to offer. There are coffee shops, restaurants, and gift shops that sell things like crystals and healing stones along the scenic drive. The Chapel of the Holy Cross is another must-see landmark in Sedona. Built in 1956, this Chapel is one of the top attractions to visit in Sedona today. It is currently open for tours, but masks are required and guests must practice social distancing. Although we didn't go inside for a tour, entry is free. Next time I'm back in Sedona, I'm definitely going inside. Just look at it:
I felt a unique sense of peace and calmness out in Arizona; all of the hustle and bustle of the city life was missing, and I appreciated that. I couldn't help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for all of the open space around me while adventuring and exploring.
December is a great time of year to visit Arizona, because you'll get enjoy some cool weather instead of the extreme desert heat of the summer months. As with any travel plans during the pandemic, be sure to check for all the latest travel advisories before planning any getaways or vacations. Happy Holidays and happy traveling!