I had never been to Arizona…until this past Labor Day weekend. My husband, Nathan and I decided to check out the state dubbed the “Grand Canyon State” and “Sunset State”. Ever since I moved from Vermont to Oregon five years ago, residing on the West Coast has provided me the opportunity to check out other cities that are more easily accessible via a short plane ride or short drive than they were on the east coast.
September is an extremely hot time of year to be in Arizona. Temperatures during our stay hovered around 106 degrees. While this was very hot, we were able to get a great deal on our trip as this was the “off-season” in Arizona.
Below is a fun itinerary if you only have just 3 days to spend in Arizona.
11:30am – Arrived at Phoenix Sky Harbor International airport. We had a car rental reservation for our stay, and the Phoenix airport provided a free shuttle from the airport to the hub of rental cars, which was about 10 minutes down the road. It very easy to get from the airport to the rental car.
12:00pm – We drove in to Old Town Scottsdale for lunch at Montauk. Montauk is themed after the town Montauk in New York which is situated on the very east end of Long Island. The interior was ocean themed. A set of canoe oars greeting greeted us as we entered the front door to talk with the host to be seated. Seating is comfortable and causal yet sophisticated at the same time. The restaurant is airy with its white shiplap exposed walls and open concept. From any seat in the restaurant you can see clear across the other side. Young mom’s with babies in tow ate at one table, while a business lunch occurred at another. All the while MLS soccer and a rerun of preseason NFL football aired from the TV’s hung in the opposite corners of the restaurant. Nathan and I both ordered waters as we felt it would be best to stay as hydrated as possible in this desert town.
I ordered the fish tacos with a side of caesar salad and my Nathan got the warm lobster roll with a caesar salad. I stole a bite of his lobster roll as neither of us had ever had that before, which occurred ironic to both of us that the first time we had a lobster roll was in Scottsdale, AZ and not Portland, Maine…the ocean front city known for its lobster which we had visited years earlier when we lived in New England. In any case it proved to be the star of the lunch hour, and if I were to go back I would most certainly order the lobster roll.
1:30pm – We strolled around Old Town Scottsdale and walked past it’s may art galleries and souvenir shops before getting into our car and driving 2 miles from the center of downtown to check in at the Courtyard by Marriott Salt River Hotel. We chose to stay outside of Old Town Scottsdale as we thought it would be quieter than some of the hotels in the downtown area that hosted DJ pool parties. If that is your scene you might like The Saguaro or The W Scottsdale Hotel which are very nice hotels that feature fun pool parties. They are also in great locations for walking to all of the shops and restaurants that Old Town Scottsdale has to offer.
2:30pm – We decided to cool off in the hotel’s pool, (which looked much bigger in the online photos). We shared the small pool space with a few vacationing families cooling off with their young ones.
5:30pm – We drove back to Old Town Scottsdale and decided to walk around until we saw a restaurant that looked intriguing. We landed at Kelly’s at Southbridge. It was very hot outside and I found it really interesting to see that many of the restaurants including Kelly’s at Southbridge had misting water on their patios to cool off diners as they ate so they would not sweat to death outside. Even with the misty water on the patio we saw no one eating outside. We walked in to see if we could get a table for two and were surprised by how loud and rowdy it was. The hostess asked us if we wanted to eat at the bar or dining room. We said dining room, as we thought that would be quieter. We followed our hostess to our table and we noticed no difference in the rowdiness of the dining experience between the bar and dining room. The hostess turned to us as she sat us down and said that she apologized for how loud it was. We said no problem, as we are pretty easy going and decided to stay. Our waitress came by momentarily and explained that it was happy hour for another 30 minutes and pointed out the specials. Soon it all made sense as to why this seemingly low key nice restaurant was so loud and rowdy…happy hour! There were large groups of what looked like bachelorette parties with bottles of champagne and wine on ice, we saw groups of guys watching sports games and then just friends having a few drinks and taking advantage of half priced beer and flat bread.
For dinner I got the Pan Roasted Salmon, broccoli, red potatoes, fresh lemon, mustard seed and capers while Nathan ordered the roasted chicken, seasonal vegetables, potatoes and mustard jus. Our food was excellent, although it was overshadowed by the rowdiness of some dinners close by. If it had not been happy hour I think this would have been a better dining experience.
7:30pm – Before heading back to the hotel we decided to stop off at a nearby Walgreens for some nuts, chips and bottled water snacks for our hotel room.
8:00am – We depart our hotel early and drive north 2 hours to Sedona, AZ. We got Starbucks coffees from our hotel and hit the road! I enjoyed the road trip to Sedona and watching the landscape change from a forest of saguaro cacti to beautiful rich red rock formations of Sedona. If we hadn’t made the day trip north we never would have seen this beautiful place.
10:00am – We arrive in Sedona, and find free parking very easily. This is a touristy town for sure. But we didn’t mind…as we were tourist ourselves. The town of Sedona can be described best as Woodstock, New York meets outdoor REI enthusiasts. It’s a new age themed town advertising guided hikes to spiritual vortexes, as well as guaranteed alien sightings while stargazing -“or your money back” and of course some rugged outdoor fun with the various jeep tours that take you into the desert terrain.
10:45am – We found a Starbucks on the main drag of shops and restaurants and sat inside to cool off with a few iced teas and discussed what we wanted to do for lunch.
12:00pm – We ate lunch at The Cowboy Club as we had walked by earlier and thought it looked interesting and read a few reviews on our phones online about how John Wayne had filmed western movies in Sedona and had even dinned here. We thought it would be fun. The food was sub-par. Nathan went for the platter of chicken, ribs, beans and coleslaw, while I got a garden salad and fish and chips. The overall quality of the food was not great, but we have had worse. At The Cowboy Club you are paying for an experience more than the food.
1:30pm – We took a walk from away from the main hustle and bustle about 15 minutes south to another touristy spot called Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village. This was a really cute spot with art galleries, a few restaurants and a coffee shop that looked as if you were transported to an old Mexican village.
2:30pm – We browsed through some of the souvenir shops and I purchased a cute purple Sedona tank top and my Nathan got a nice baseball cap. We also got some postcards to send home to our families. Had we had more time in town we would have opted for one of the jeep tours. One popular company is the Pink Jeep Tours which also has tours in Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. Some of the tours last about 2.5 hours, so it’s well work the cost. We did go to the connecting café Pink Java Café that the pink jeep tours owns and operates and got a few fruit smoothies for our drive back to Sedona.
4:00pm – We say goodbye to Sedona and make our way 2 hours south back to Scottsdale and of course we stop for a caffeine fix at a Starbucks part way through our journey south.
6:00pm – We decide to have dinner at Barrio Queen in downtown Scottsdale. This was such a fun restaurant with great quality Mexican food. The free salsa and chips on the table was a bonus! I would have wanted to order these even if they had not been a complimentary. The chips were crispy and warm and the salsa was delicious. It was not super spicy yet still held a lot of flavor. My husband and I both ordered a variety of tacos for dinner as there was a whole page of the menu devoted to tacos, and boy did they have great tacos! I ordered a few vegetarian options: El Taco Verduro- a mushroom based taco and Nopalitos- a cactus centered taco. My husband got a variety of chicken and pork tacos, Camaron and Pollo Desherbado. We also shared a plate of pork nachos which could have been the only dish we got and still would have filled us up.
7:30pm – We head back to the hotel and each get a beer from the hotel bar and drink it in the lobby and reminisce about our great day.
8:00am – We get coffees from the Starbucks in the hotel lobby and then take a morning dip in the pool. It was fun to have the pool to ourselves in the morning so we could actually swim all the way across without worrying about getting in someone’s space.
10:00- We get ready for the day, pack up our luggage and check out of our hotel and head to downtown Scottsdale.
10:15am – We stroll through Old Town Scottsdale a bit more before eating an early lunch.
11:00am- We go back at Barrio Queen. We ordered more tacos and took in the sights of Old Town as we ate. Another good option for lunch that we considered going to was Olive & Ivy. The location is on the river in Old Town and serves high quality Mediterranean food. If you want to go for dinner be sure to get a reservation, as they fill up very fast.
12:15pm – After lunch we decide to stroll the mall at Fashion Square Scottsdale as it had A/C and provided a nice retreat from the hot sun. We got iced coffees from where else…Starbucks and browsed the three levels of shops.
1:30pm – We get into our hot Toyota Yaris rental car and plug in the address of the car rental return into the GPS. Returning the car was as simple as it was getting it initially. We did not even have to wait 5 minutes before the airport shuttle came by and took us to the Phoenix airport.