Whether you’re a Scottsdale native or a tourist who can’t get enough of the Valley of the Sun, you’ve probably seen the quintessential Arizona landmarks like Sedona and the Grand Canyon. While we’d book a return trip to these fabulous places in a heartbeat, nothing is more exciting than discovering a new place you didn’t even know existed. Fall in love with Arizona all over again and take a day trip to any of these seven spectacular destinations when you’re in the mood to try something new.
Who needs California vineyards when you can enjoy fine wine right here in the Valley? Located in Cornville, an hour-and-forty-five-minute drive from Scottsdale, Page Springs Cellars is a perfect staycation spot to leave your worries behind. Patrons can purchase a flight of wine for only $12 in the Tasting Room and enjoy fresh appetizers with expert recommendations from staff. The Bistro serves larger meals great for picnics on the property overlooking Oak Creek. Wine enthusiasts can take a behind-the-scenes tour of the grounds to see the winemaking process. Play a game of cornhole outside, get a massage, take a yoga class, or enjoy the live music and art galleries. If you’re looking for a picturesque picnic spot, Page Springs Cellars will supply the wine and ambiance.
One of the most underrated sites in Arizona, Kartchner Caverns contains some of the rarest cave formations in the country. This hidden gem has a fascinating history. Two men searched for a cave which no one had ever found and discovered the caverns in 1974. But the property owners concealed the caverns from the public until 1988 in order to develop a sustainable tourism plan. Today, visitors can travel into the caverns and view the incredible formations for themselves. Each guided tour is roughly an hour and a half, and you should plan a month ahead if you want to guarantee a reservation. However, the park reserves 100 same-day reservations each day, so if you’re the spontaneous type, you might be in luck. Make the two-and-a-half hour drive into Benson, just outside of Tucson to see this unique state wonder.
The massive, breathtaking waterfall at Fossil Creek in Camp Verde is one of two National Wild and Scenic rivers in all of Arizona. Only two hours away, Fossil Creek is the secret retreat people come to when they want to cool down on a hot summer day with friends. The view speaks for itself, and it’s easy to see why this is such a popular, fun hangout spot from spring to fall. If you’re in the mood to hike, there are multiple longer trails to choose from. You’ll need to get a permit in order to access the Waterfall Trailhead if you’re visiting from April to October. If you haven’t glimpsed Fossil Creek, you’re missing out on a good time.
Instead of driving to Flagstaff, Prescott, or Payson when you want to get away, make the three-hour drive to Bisbee to see the charming attractions of this historic mining town. Bisbee used to be one of the largest Southwestern cities back in its heyday as a mining hub, and now tourists can get a bird’s-eye view of the sprawling old mine pits for themselves. Descend into Copper Queen Mine for a tour from a former miner, or grab a meal from the Copper Queen Hotel where famous historical figures such as Theodore Roosevelt once stayed. Bisbee’s Main Street has a wealth of art galleries, restaurants, and boutiques, and Lavender jeep tours are also available. One thing is for sure, you won’t be bored if you spend the day in Bisbee.
People around the world travel to Sedona to view the famous red rock country, but a stop at Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village is also a must while you’re in the area. Once you make the two-hour drive out to Sedona, the village is in the heart of town. The village has countless restaurants, shops, and art galleries with stunning local artwork and handcrafted gifts. Stop for a delicious lunch or dinner, buy the perfect souvenir, and enjoy the multitude of live performances in one of the courtyards. With its authentic architecture, sculptures, and art, Tlaquepaque is a great place to get a taste of the culture of Sedona.
Did you know that Oracle, Arizona is home to the largest closed ecological system ever created in the United States? Constructed in the 1980s, Biosphere 2 was designed to determine if humans could live inside a closed ecosystem on a planet in outer space. Scientists built five different biomes encased in glass: the rainforest, the ocean with a coral reef, the mangrove wetlands, the savannah grassland, and the fog desert. Eight people volunteered to lock themselves inside the biosphere for two years from 1991 to 1993. While the experiment ultimately failed, visitors can tour the three-acre facility and step inside the biomes still thriving today. Learn the history of the groundbreaking biosphere on a two-hour guided tour for $21 and grab lunch at the cafe afterwards. Whether you’re a science fanatic or just a curious mind, you’re going to want to see the largest closed system in the country.
This breathtaking canyon in Page, AZ is a site taken straight from the pages of National Geographic. The smooth slot canyon with its famous red sandstone shaped by wind and water is indescribable in its beauty. Though it is a four-and-a-half-hour drive from Scottsdale, you won’t regret making the trek. Take an hour-and-a-half guided tour for $60 to get up close and personal to these extraordinary rock structures and take as many pictures as your heart desires. But even though the canyon is a nature photographer’s dream, pictures of Antelope Canyon don’t do it justice. You’re going to want to see this incomparable natural wonder for yourself.
The next time you’re planning a weekend adventure or hoping to impress your friends from out of town with a uniquely Arizona experience, consider any of these seven destinations off the beaten path.