Phoenix is an exciting place to be. There are so many fun things to do in the suburbs and surrounding areas. Day trips are a must this time of year, especially when family and friends come to visit! There are so many good options when it comes to taking a road trip that are always fun and interesting for all ages. There are lots of scenic and beautiful views to see as well as rich culture to take in.
If you thought Phoenix is all about flat lands and a sandy desert, you are in for a surprise. There is a desert here but that’s not all. Arizona’s landscape is varied and beautiful. There is so much to see when it comes to day trips outside of Phoenix. From northern Arizona all the way to Bisbee in the south, there is something for everyone. Even those with small children can find fun things to do. Here are some of our highly recommended day trips outside of Phoenix, for those who want to experience a unique sense of adventure.
Under the Mogollon Rim- 240 miles, 4.75 hours
This is an all-day engrossing adventure that takes you through some of the most beautiful views and gorgeous sceneries up to Arizona’s mountain country below the Mogollon Rim. Take the Arizona Highway 87 and return via interstate 17 to avoid the rush hour traffic. Beware that there is only one rest stop on Highway 87. The highway meanders through rugged, rocky terrain and climbs up and down a series of mountains. The Rim overlooks the towns of Pine, Payson and Strawberry. Here are some places to explore:
- Stop at Payson Main Street to see a replica of the Zane Grey Cabin; the original Zane Grey burned in 1990 (note that the cabin is closed on Tuesdays).
- Visit the Pine-Strawberry Museum in Pine.
- Visit the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park to stretch your legs. It is about 10 miles north of Payson. Turn left off highway 87/260 onto Forest Road 583.
You can hike down the Gowan trail underneath the bridge or take shorter trails. There is a park where you can enjoy a nice sandwich or snack. There are plenty of places as well for those who want a quick bite; the small café in the Twin Pines shopping center in Payson is a great place to start. The Randall House on Highway 87 in Pine is another great option. Other places include Strawberry Lodge for desserts and HB’s Place in Pine for a hamburger.
To find your way back to Phoenix, follow Highway 260 west to Camp Verde then take 1-17 south to the city. You will enjoy wonderful views as you approach the city. You might bump into some Pronghorn antelope on the way.
Boyce Thompson Arboretum- 62 miles, I hour
Boyce Thompson Arboretum is the best place to tour for desert flora and fauna. There are a variety of plants that grow here that you can see. The Boyce Thompson Arboretum is located on the east side of Phoenix. The arboretum sits on 320 acres that is crisscrossed with trails that lead to gardens in succulent arid and semi-arid grounds. Here you will find various plants from deserts all over the world. For instance, you will find plants from Sonoran and Chihuahua deserts. The sight of the Boojum tree from Mexico is wonderful to behold. It looks kind of like a candle.
The main trail will lead you around the arboretum past the Ayer Lake, palm grove and a riparian area. You might also like the ‘Australian Walkabout’ which has huge eucalyptus trees. There are lots of birds to see in the arboretum. For instance, the humming-butterfly garden is a major attraction. It has many hummingbird breeds that you can behold. You can buy a sandwich at the visitor’s center or drive to Superior, which is a few miles east on Highway 160 to the Buckboard City Café for a meal. There is also something for hiking lovers; Picket Peak has an energy-sapping four-hour, four-mile hike to the peak. You can consider the Peralta Trail for a moderate 4.4 mile hike. It is at the end of the Peralta Road off U.S Highway 60, around 204 east of Apache Junction.
Casa Grande Ruins
The Casa Grande Ruins are located just south of Phoenix in the town of Coolidge. It is open all year except for Christmas and Thanksgiving. You can visit for free if you are going on a National Park Free entrance day. The ruins hold Great House, ancient Sonoran Farming Community and a small visitor center with lots of artifacts. An entrance fee of $5 is charged per person over the age of 16, all others are free.
Havasu Falls are in Northern Arizona, 5-6 hours from Phoenix. To get there you take on a 65 miles drive North of RT. 66 on Indian Road 18. This may not be the best place if you are taking the road trip with your kids, but great if your kids are out of the house and you need a day trip with your spouse. March through June are the best months for hiking.
Whiskey Row in Prescott- 100 miles, 2 hours
This is the place to visit if you want to get a taste of Arizona’s rich ranching history. Prescott is nestled in the Prescott National Forest in the Bradshaw Mountains. Prescott was founded in 1863 as the capital of Arizona. The Courthouse Plaza is the main attraction of Old Prescott. There are also lots of historic buildings that surround the plaza; a constant reminder of Prescott’s mining and ranching past. There are more than 50 buildings that once stood on the Montezuma Street that have now been replaced by boutiques and art galleries.
The Van Gogh’s Ear and Arts Prescott Cooperative Gallery are the most prominent, both on Montezuma Street. Prescott has more than 600 old buildings listed in the national register of historic places. There are also many museums and cultural events that you can enjoy in Prescott. Make sure you check the online calendar before taking the road trip. Prescott brewery is a great place for lunch and coffee, as well as St. Michael’s Hotel.
Bisbee and Tombstone, 3 hours Southeast of Phoenix
Bisbee is a city perched on a hill overlooking an old mining town. There are many antique shops, gourmet restaurants, bookstores with beautiful neighborhoods resembling Victorian style and European homes. You can visit the Brewing Company and tour the Queen Mine or an old Bisbee Ghost. It neighbors Tombstone, an authentic old western town that has many museums, underground mine tours and gunfights.
Guadalupe, 13 miles, 20 minutes
The nearby town of Guadalupe also known as little Mexico is a great option for a half-day outing. Grab your breakfast at Matt’s Big Breakfast; make sure you get there early for a seat. Guadalupe is a small Native American and Hispanic town that is found between Phoenix and Tempe. Here you can sample some unique Mexican goods without having to travel to Mexico. Make sure you stop at El Tianguis and Guadalupe’s Mercado for some courtyard-like shopping for art, local foods, Mexican pottery and Yaqui Indian art.