The pandemic restrictions are lifting, and now we’re ready to travel.
We’ve compiled 10 fun weekend getaways that won’t break the bank or your PTO.
With pleasant weather year-round, beautiful beaches, and a thriving dining and art scene, San Diego is a premier Southern California destination.
Hotel del Coronado is an iconic hotel that has welcomed guests since 1888 and offers the ultimate seaside escape with Victorian architecture and modern luxuries. Fairmont Grand Del Mar is a luxury property that offers an award-winning golf course, five-star spa, and unique dining experiences including the Michelin-starred Addison. The Monsaraz San Diego, Tapestry Collection by Hilton is one of San Diego’s newest hotels and features a modern setting with Portuguese-influenced midcentury design, sustainable amenities and Cali-Aussie cuisine.
One of San Diego’s most famous attractions, SeaWorld San Diego is known for world-class animal shows, presentations and exhibits that educate and entertain people of all ages. The San Diego Zoo and more than 16 museums are in Balboa Park, among them the San Diego Air & Space Museum, San Diego Automotive Museum, San Diego Natural History Museum and the San Diego Museum of Art.
The USS Midway Museum, which is located at the Navy Pier in Downtown San Diego and has an extensive aircraft collection, offers a variety of activities and fun onboard. Go for a stroll around the historic Gaslamp Quarter, which has many great restaurants, bars, theaters, concert venues, boutiques and more. Catch a baseball game at Petco Park or enjoy the scenery at Seaport Village, which offers stunning views of the Big Bay and Coronado Bridge, has more than 50 shops, multiple restaurants and an 1895 Loof Carousel with more than 30 beautifully hand-carved animals.
For a memorable dining experience, Corvette Diner is a 1950s-themed restaurant with waitresses in poodle skirts serving burgers and milkshakes. Gaslamp Breakfast Company offers a unique take on waffles that range from s’mores and buttermilk cornmeal to mashed potatoes. Addison is San Diego’s first Michelin-starred restaurant that celebrates regional ingredients and showcases the beauty and allure of California gastronomy. SEA180 features stunning ocean views paired with an innovative and diverse seafood menu including grilled Spanish octopus, salmon and scallops. The Lion’s Share serves exotic meats ranging from wild boar to bison in an eclectic setting, while Juniper & Ivy delivers a chef-driven menu that changes often based on ingredients brought in by local farmers and fishermen. Info: sandiego.org
Nicknamed “Everybody’s Hometown” for its enticing small-town charm, Prescott is the ideal summer road trip destination. Less than a two-hour drive from the Valley, the mile-high city is home to a rising foodie scene thanks to gourmet taqueria La Planchada and the hip yet cozy The County Seat as well as emerging craft beer hotspots Superstition Meadery, Ad Astra Brewing Company and Founding Fathers Collective, which is Arizona’s largest self-serve beer taproom.
There are also more than 400 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails within Prescott National Forest along with the picturesque Watson Lake, which is perfect for kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, and even hiking with llamas.
If traveling with kids, don’t miss the Prescott Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary, which offers up-close experience with animals, or the Prescott Heritage Trail and History Hunt Adventure, which is available at the Visitor’s Center and offers self-guided immersive activities while going on a historical walking tour of Downtown Prescott. It is a great way to enjoy historical landmarks and cultural attractions, all in less than two hours.
The best part?
Thanks to Talking Rock Ranch’s new Discovery Experience, there is now a way to do it in epic style. Nestled between Prescott and Coconino National Forest, Talking Rock Ranch is a private Prescott golf community dually inspired by the ruggedly beautiful high desert landscape and the luxuries of a well-appointed resort. Earlier this summer, the community completed a fully furnished club cabin to allow residents additional space to host their visiting friends and family as well as to welcome guests unfamiliar with Talking Rock to immerse themselves in its wide-open spaces.
The cabin has four bedrooms, four and a half baths, a full kitchen, a working fireplace, dining and living areas, and multiple outdoor spaces. Once booked, one’s group is connected to a Talking Rock concierge who will curate a custom two-night, three-day experience on property, as well as optional activities off property, including fly fishing, wine tasting and off-road adventures. The concierge will also offer grocery services and handle all tee times, wellness and spa appointments, and dinner reservations for the group.
The package starts at $1,100 (based on a two-person stay) and includes two-night accommodations as well as access to all public areas, including the Barn, hiking and biking trails, sport courts, pools and lounges. Also included is one complimentary fine dining experience at either the Ranch House or in one’s cottage, one spa treatment per guest, daily breakfast and a round of golf.
There are also several hotels in the area from which to choose, notably the nearly 100-year-old Hassayampa Inn. Info: visit-prescott.com
—Alison Bailin Batz
In June, Fat Ox executive chef Rochelle Daniel — a Food Network “Chopped” favorite and 2017 Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame inductee — said she was temporarily relocating up north to concept and open her dream restaurant, Atria, in Downtown Flagstaff. Set to open in August, it will boast housemade pastas, fresh fish and premium steaks, plus playful daily features and an eclectic cocktail menu.
Daniel is not alone in choosing the Ponderosa Pine-covered city to make a big culinary statement. Similarly, Scottsdale native George Murkowicz, a veteran of Zinc Bistro, T. Cook’s and L’Auberge de Sedona, ventured up north a few years ago to open Shift Kitchen + Bar, a chic yet laidback spot that marries mountain food with gourmand greatness at the highest level, featuring tasting and a la carte menus that change regularly based on the seasonality of ingredients.
With them, plus THAT Place Projects — owners and operators of the award-wining Tinderbox Kitchen, Annex Cocktail Lounge, Tourist Home Café, Teatro, Butcher & Bottle and Corn & Flour — as well as Pizzicletta, MartAnne’s, Brix and Josephine’s, Flagstaff may soon have to change its name to Foodstaff! But whether it does or not (OK, it won’t), there is no better time than the summer to visit to indulge in the culinary creativity as well as to eat up the scenery and outdoors.
Flagstaff is usually at least 20 degrees cooler than anywhere in the Valley, often more than that.
A self-guided tour is also a must, and there are several on the Discover Flagstaff website available to download for free. One of our favorites is the selfie tour, which features an interactive map with directions to the one-of-a-kind backdrops tailor-made for your Instagram feed. There is also a ghost-themed walking tour that details all of the ladies of the night, outlaws, and good guys and baddies who may very well be haunting the region today.
Flagstaff also boasts a wide variety of cultural, historic and scientific attractions, including Lowell Observatory, the Museum of Northern Arizona, Riordan Mansion State Historic Park, The Arboretum at Flagstaff, and authentic Route 66 nostalgia.
As for accommodations, the Little America Hotel is always a great bet, as well as the SpringHill Suites and Courtyard by Marriott hotels at the southern tip of town. Pine Canyon is a best bet for those seeking something a little fancier, and as with Talking Rock in Prescott, they offer a discovery tour in one of several cabins to sample the region if interested in perhaps buying one day. Info: visit-prescott.com
—Alison Bailin Batz
It takes four hours to drive to Puerto Peñasco, also known as Rocky Point. Located in Sonora on the Sea of Cortez, Rocky Point features waterfront resorts, crystal blue water and miles of sandy beaches. The area has become so popular, in fact, by year’s end it will even become a cruise port.
When that happens, it means Valley residents’ secluded spot south of the border will be on the national radar. So there is no better time than now to go down and enjoy what has, for many years, been Arizona’s unofficial beach.
Drivers need only take the I-10 West to AZ-85 toward San Diego. Stay on the AZ-85 and ensure you head south for three hours to the border. The crossing into Sonora is quick and easy, usually just a wave to the guards or a quick check of one’s passport (yes, bring your passport, as it is needed to re-enter). Then it is about 30 minutes along the road from land to sea. There is a regulated Safety Corridor that runs from the border crossing at Lukeville/Sonoyta in Arizona directly to Rocky Point that is regularly cleaned, maintained and monitored to ensure peace of mind.
Once in Rocky Point, there are several resorts along the water, each offering its own activities, pools, bars and beach space. Among favorite places for Phoenicians is Las Palomas Beach & Golf Resort, which offers rental condos ranging in size from a few hundred feet to more than 3,000 square feet. The resort boasts two full-service restaurants, a gym, room service and two epic beach bars. The entire property offers complimentary Wi-Fi for all guests, and all rooms have flat-screen televisions and expansive bath suites. Most also have kitchenettes as well as patios or balconies for entertaining. Las Palomas also has an 18-hole championship golf course and a pool pavilion that rivals those in Scottsdale.
Though many folks live for the resort’s pool and bars, as well as the activities offered right on the beach, ranging from parasailing and kayaking to eco tours and snorkeling, there are copious entertainment and dining options nearby. For breakfast and casual lunch, don’t miss Candy Cake, Max’s Restaurant, Bandito’s, Bryan’s Sports Bar and Pollo Lucas. For finer dining, opt for Mare Blu Ristorante, The Laughing Dolphin, Chef Mickeys or Moo Steak House. Finally, for cocktails and often live music, Wrecked at the Reef, Boo Bar, Manny’s and JJ’s Cantina are spots well worth the short drive. Info: rockypointonline.net and laspalomasresort.net.
—Alison Bailin Batz
Lauded as among the most sacred and spiritually powerful destinations in the world, Sedona and its Village of Oak Creek are among the top spots nationwide to find oneself while getting lost in relaxation, adventure, epicurean exploration and healing energy. And, of course, there are all those red rocks.
Several of the most picturesque hiking and mountain bike trails in the region are the Cathedral Rock Tail, Bell Rock Trail and Courthouse Butte Loop Trail. These trails are just off the main State Route 89A, making for an easy day trip or outdoorsy start to an extended stay. If staying overnight or longer, nestled into the Village is the Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock. A recent property-wide update included the launch of a new restaurant concept called ShadowRock Tap + Table, the addition of both an on-site hiking concierge and an adventure concierge, and a one-of-a-kind red sand boot camp playground called the Warrior Pit. In addition, each of the resort’s 219 rooms and pool spaces has been redesigned.
A bit deeper into the main drag of Sedona — just steps from much of the shopping and nightlife — is Amara Resort and Spa. Nestled along the banks of Oak Creek, offering both Red Rock views and direct access to the duck-filled creek, Amara is in the midst of a multimillion-dollar renovation that will bring a new and sophisticated “tree lodge” aesthetic to all 100 guest rooms and public spaces on property in phases, without closing its doors to guests. Taking inspiration from the surrounding red rocks, metaphysical energy and fabled vortexes for which the small resort town has become famous, the renovations at Amara will bring the outdoors in by encompassing all five of the natural elements surrounding the resort. Amara’s signature restaurant, SaltRock Southwest Kitchen, and the award-winning Amara Spa are also getting a facelift, with everything set to be done before Labor Day weekend.
Beyond staying and playing, dining is a delicious adventure to be had in the area. Most conversations about food in the area start with those from James Beard House-featured chef Lisa Dahl, who leads five venues in the area: Cucina Rustica, a Tucson grill; Mariposa, a Latin-inspired restaurant with some of the best sunset views in the city; Dahl & DeLuca, a top higher-end Italian spot; Pisa Lisa, a pizzeria; and Butterfly Burger, a sexy cocktail bar and elevated take on all things burgers. There is also Elote Café from James Beard finalist Jeff Smedstad, which offers big, bold cuisine featuring authentic regional ingredients and traditional Mexican recipes. Info: visitsedona.com
—Alison Bailin Batz
From age-old stories to modern conveniences, Lake Havasu has plenty to do.
Simply put: It’s hot in Havasu. Historically, it has recorded some of the hottest temperatures in Arizona, but don’t let that be frightening, as there are so many activities to do, food to eat and cool places to stay.
One of the most famous attractions is the London Bridge. This bridge, yes, was built in London.
In 1967, it was sold to Robert McCulloch, who dismantled the bridge, stone for stone, and he rebuilt it over the Colorado River in Lake Havasu.
Take a trip down to this historic sight to catch some stunning views and experience some 12th century history. In concert with the bridge is the beach. Take a stroll down to the London Bridge beach, which is perfect for parties, barbecues and picnics.
Other activities include hang gliding, frisbee golf, museums, state parks and boat tours.
Depending on your appetite, Havasu’s got a place for it. The Desert Bar is a “hot” topic in Havasu. It is a bar powered entirely by solar panels, which can also be used for shade in the hot summers. The bar features many unique aspects, including doors made from refrigerator doors and seats made from other unique materials. Juicy’s The Place with the Great Food is another staple for Havasu. This is the go-to spot for Havasu travelers. Juicy’s serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, each with vegetarian friendly options. Combine that with a fantastic atmosphere and great prices, and it is a must-have.
Lodging options are aplenty. The Travelodge by Wyndham, the Island Suites Hotel and the Rodeway Inn & Suites are great places to stay.
They are all within a close distance to the London Bridge, the beach and activities. Info: golakehavasu.com
After a year of its entertainment economy being decimated by COVID-19, the cities of Laughlin and Las Vegas are ready to welcome visitors.
Magicians like Penn & Teller, Criss Angel, David Copperfield and Matt Franco have brought their famous acts back to some of the Las Vegas Strip’s theaters and hotels. Their shows aim to amaze and entertain audiences of all ages.
The Blue Man Group, Jabbawockeez and tribute acts headline the stages at some of the strip’s famous hotels. Each of these shows provides audiences with an exhilarating performance that can only be found on Las Vegas Boulevard for the time being.
Guests can live out their speed fantasies in exotic cars as they get to drive or ride shotgun in some of the world’s fastest cars at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Exotic racing has a fleet of over 50 cars from some of the world’s premier manufacturers, like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche and Audi.
Located at The Mirage Hotel and Casino, Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat is a unique experience unlike anything else on the strip. Viewers can see six exhibits of white tigers, lions and leopards in addition to a 2.1-million-gallon dolphin aquarium.
After a long day of walking, shopping and sightseeing, take a visit to one of Gordan Ramsay’s world-famous restaurants. Have a three-course dinner at his world-famous Hell’s Kitchen or, for more casual dining, Gordon Ramsay’s burger, steak, fish and chips, or pub and grill diners will always be treated to a delicious meal.
Take in the sights of Laughlin with the only dinner cruise available on the Colorado River. There are two to three tours offered a day that serve food freshly prepared aboard the boat and a full-service bar. Info: visitlasvegas.com
Only a seven-hour drive or hourlong flight from Phoenix, Santa Fe is an underrated place to explore for an affordable weekend getaway.
The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is the city’s biggest claim to fame and a must-see for anyone visiting New Mexico’s capital.
The museum boasts more than a thousand paintings from the illustrious artist, but plan ahead, as tickets must be purchased in advance.
Santa Fe has no shortage of art. Canyon Road holds more than 100 art galleries for tourists to pop in and out of. It has almost every form of art you can think of, including everything from jewelry to paintings. It is free to walk down Canyon Road, soaking in the unbelievable art and history that runs deep in the city’s veins.
The Santa Fe Plaza is considered a National Historic Landmark and provides visitors with a cultural experience they would be hard pressed to find anywhere else. Whether there is a parade or market going on the day you are there is unknown, but rest assured, this place is known for having something fun to do. Was it mentioned it is totally free to visit here?
If you find yourself at the Santa Fe Plaza, you must eat at the Plaza Café. One of Santa Fe’s oldest restaurants, it provides classic New Mexico dishes and flavors to enjoy. Open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekends, grabbing a blue corn piñon pancake for breakfast then heading out to enjoy the plaza is an ideal way to start your weekend trip.
A trip to Santa Fe wouldn’t be complete without going on a beautiful hike. Sporting some of the best hiking trails in the country, there is no deficiency of options in Santa Fe. From the Grasshopper Canyon Trail to the Picacho Peak Trail and the Deception Peak, there are all sorts of hikes for all skill levels. Info: santafe.org
Roughly two hours northeast of Phoenix, Strawberry and Pine are in the northwest corner of Gila County. Both towns offer a slew of lodging accommodations, restaurants, and things to see and do.
The boutique Strawberry Inn houses private cabins designed for road trippers, adventure seekers and nature lovers. Rent a single room for a romantic getaway or the entire property for a family vacation. The inn and cabins operate like a vacation rental, where all reservations and check-ins are completed online or through email.
Rooms come suited with luxury linens, a breakfast bar, a mini fridge and internet and are conveniently located near hiking trails, natural water springs and local shopping.
Nearby restaurant options include Mamajoes’ Italian Grill, The Weekender and PIEbar AZ. Sightseeing locations include the Strawberry School House that was originally built in 1884 and the Bearfoot Trailhead.
A short drive into Pine and several more accommodations and sights to see await.
On the top of the list to visit should be Pine’s one and only brewery, literally named “THAT Brewery.” Created with beer enthusiasts and foodies in mind, owners Tamara and Steve Morken converted their Rimside Grill & Cabins into their own brewery.
The brewery and pub offer a select list of THAT brews including THAT Knotty Nut Brown Ale, Arizona Trail Ale and THAT Strawberry Blonde. On the pub side, it offers an array of appetizers, wings, burgers, smoked brisket, sides and salads — not to mention the molten lava cake for dessert.
Other places to visit while in Pine include the Pine Creek Canyon Lavender Farm, The Pine-Strawberry Museum that opened in 1979, and a plethora of antique shops to find new décor and knickknacks.
Lodging in Pine can be found at Beeline Guest House, The Randall House or Cabins on Strawberry Hill.
When it comes to dining, Pine has the Pinewood Tavern, dubbed the neighborhood kitchen and bar, according to its website; The Early Bird Cafe for breakfast and brunch; and Old Country Inn that serves up wood fired pizzas daily. Info: explorepine.com
Located in California’s Santa Ynez Valley, Solvang is a quaint themed town known as the “Danish Capital of America” that is home to numerous wineries, shops, restaurants, festivals and buildings that showcase the city’s Danish heritage. Hotel Corque is the city’s newest luxury boutique hotel, with 122 rooms, featuring elegant yet rustic décor that complements Solvang’s surrounding wine country. Located in the heart of Solvang, Mirabelle Inn is a European-style hotel that offers an intimate experience with 12 guest rooms, a Michelin Plate-designated on-site restaurant and walking tours of Coquelicot Estate, the owner’s organic vineyard. The Landsby is a 51-room contemporary hotel influenced by traditional Scandinavian aesthetic, with bright guest rooms and its signature restaurant, Mad & Vin, which specializes in wine country-inspired cuisine.
Go for a ride with Solvang Trolley & Carriage Company, which offers narrated tours of the village in 1915 replica trolleys pulled by Belgian draft horses. Spend an afternoon shopping for antiques, gift items and Danish souvenirs in more than 150 one-of-a-kind shops, including Jule Hus, which specializes in Old European Christmas ornaments; The Book Loft; Renaissance Antiques; Rasmussen’s and Solvang Toyland. Solvang is also home to numerous museums, including the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum, the Solvang Amber Museum, the museum at Old Mission Santa Ynes, and the Hans Christian Andersen Museum.
Wine tasting is one of the most popular activities in Solvang, which has numerous wineries and tasting rooms, including Sanger Wines Tasting Room, Royal Oaks Winery Tasting Room and the Sevtap Winery Tasting Room, among others. The city also hosts numerous festivals, including Solvang Danish Days, an annual celebration in September that honors the city’s heritage with dancing, music, parades, food, live entertainment and family-friendly activities, as well as Julefest, an annual monthlong celebration during the holidays that features candlelight tours, after-hours shopping and dining, elf tracking and more.
Solvang’s restaurant scene includes a wide variety of cuisine ranging from old-fashioned burgers to traditional Danish dishes. The Belgian Café serves breakfast and lunch in a cheery European as atmosphere and is known for its famous crispy Belgian waffles and crepes served all day long. Brekkies by Chomp puts its own spin on many traditional American and Mexican breakfast dishes and even serves a breakfast stout beer. Enjoy a classic burger and malt at Big Bopper, a 1950s-style drive-in; fresh baked goods at Danish Mill Bakery; family-made salami on charcuterie plates in an outdoor beer garden setting at Copenhagen Sausage Garden; and rustic Italian cuisine, including handmade fresh pasta and Neopolitan-inspired, thin crust pizzas at Cecco Ristorante. Info: solvangusa.com
—By Kamala Kirk