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Five Mistakes Travelers Make When Visiting Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon9

Antelope Canyon is a destination that has exploded in popularity over the past few years – and rightly so. This canyon in Arizona is, despite its rather small size, one of the most remarkable canyons in the entire United States. The increase in popularity and visitors means that more and more travelers are arriving at the canyon unprepared. If you’re planning to visit Antelope Canyon, give this article a read to make sure you don’t make mistakes like…. 
antelope canyon

1 Not booking Antelope Canyon tickets in advance

Antelope Canyon is one of the most popular destinations in the American West. People come from all over the world to see the beautiful slot canyon, and many travelers feel that a trip to Las Vegas or the Grand Canyon is incomplete without a visit to Antelope Canyon. The problem with that is that the number of people that are allowed to enter Antelope Canyon has a daily cap. To ensure that you don’t get shut out on your trip to Antelope Canyon, it is extremely important to book your tickets in advance.  This will guarantee that you get access to the wonder and that you get to see it at the time you desire. We recommend booking your tickets as early as possible, particularly if you are going to visit Antelope Canyon over a holiday or the summer.  It is recommended to book direct with a local tour company, check out this list of Antelope Canyon tour operators.Antelope Canyon rockIf you end up visiting Antelope Canyon during a busy holiday and you didn’t plan ahead, some online travel agents have started listing tickets on their sites, beware as the reviews are mixed for tickets sold via a third party.

 

 

Another option if you are shut out of tickets is to book a tour to Antelope Canyon, and the tour operator will provide the tickets for tours they lead to Antelope Canyon.Antelope Canyon

2 Not wearing the right shoes

Antelope Canyon is a hike—there is no getting around it. There is over a mile’s worth of walking and millions of grains of sand you will encounter along the way. The right shoes are essential for a great tour. Open-toed shoes should be avoided. Wear something that can keep sand out and will help you navigate stairs. Something comfortable and athletic is advised, but full-on hiking boots are not necessary. We like to wear trainers (tennis shoes, athletic shoes, sneakers—whatever you want to call them). These will keep you comfortable, safe, and the majority of the sand will stay in Antelope Canyon and out of your shoes!antelope canyon arizona

3 Not following the rules

Antelope Canyon tours are offered by a local tour operator. These tour operators run tours with permission from the Navajo Nation Parks service. The Navajo Nation Parks service has a set of rules that must be followed while inside Antelope Canyon. It is the job of the local tour company to make sure its guests follow these rules. Without tight control over their guests’ behavior, they risk losing their right to lead tours at Antelope Canyon. For this reason, they can be very strict when it comes to rule enforcement. 

The two rules that guests most often come up against are that there are no bags are allowed, and no photos are allowed on the stairs.Antelope Canyon outside

We have witnessed hundreds of guests make a mad dash from the tour waiting room back to their cars to put their bags away before the tour begins. Slower ones don’t make it back in time and miss their tour. Despite the numerous and clear warnings at multiple stages before the tour starts, there are always a few people who think they will be the ones to get a bag into Antelope Canyon (or, more likely, they just didn’t pay attention to the signs along the way). Don’t risk missing your canyon tour; don’t bring a bag with you.

Another rule that often trips up a visit to Lower Antelope Canyon is the “No Photos on the Stairs” rule. There are a few sets of stairs throughout the canyon, but guests are most likely to break this rule when they first enter. There are four flights of stairs when you first enter the canyon, all of which are a bit steep and require all of your attention and both of your hands.  The problem is that this is the first time guests enter Antelope Canyon, and it is gorgeous! And what is most people’s first reaction when they see something gorgeous? That’s right, they grab their phone to take a photo of it! The problem is: if you’re caught taking photos while you’re on the stairs, they will simply kick you out of the canyon! We tell our guests that it isn’t worth the risk.  Follow the rules, and focus on the stairs.Antelope Canyon Stairs

4 Not paying attention to time differences

Time zones are generally pretty easy to follow within the continental United States. There are four major time zones, and your phone automatically detects them and adjusts accordingly. There is one place where this strategy does not work, and that is northern Arizona. Let’s talk about why cell phones get tripped up on time in the region and what you can do about it.

Warning! The next three bullet points may make your head spin. If you want to know how to get the time right when visiting Antelope Canyon, skip these three bullet points and skip to “An Easy Fix” below.antelope canyon1

  • Arizona is located in the Mountain Time Zone, but unlike almost everywhere else in the United States, Arizona doesn’t observe daylight savings time. That means that while most Americans change their clocks in spring and fall, Arizona does not. Therefore, during the winter months, the time in Arizona is the same as the rest of Mountain Standard Time, Utah included. During the rest of the year, the time in Arizona is the same as the Pacific Standard Time, Nevada included. Visitors who drive from Nevada or Utah can easily get tripped up by this situation. It doesn’t help that some very popular technology also get tripped up by the time zones. Be careful using Google Maps. When driving from Nevada to Arizona in the summertime, it may show your arrival time as one hour later than your actual arrival time.
  • The canyon is located on the Navajo Nation. Unlike the rest of Arizona, the Navajo Nation does observe daylight savings time, meaning for half of the year, the time on the Navajo Nation is different from the rest of Antelope Canyon. Fortunately for visitors, Antelope Canyon doesn’t observe Navajo Nation time, they observe Arizona time. This can still confuse your phone.  See “An Easy Fix” below to remedy this.
  • Antelope Canyon is located fewer than ten miles from the Utah border. When you are visit Antelope Canyon and the surrounding areas, it is not uncommon for your cell phone to ping a tower that is actually in Utah, which will change the time on your phone.

visit Antelope Canyon

An Easy Fix

There is an easy fix for the above problems. When entering Arizona, set your phone for a manual time switch and set the city to Phoenix – that’s it! Do this and you won’t have any time troubles while visiting Antelope Canyon.

5 Expecting to see light beams outside of light beam season

Before visiting Antelope Canyon, the iconic image that everyone thinks of is a beam of light shooting down through the canyon. It is natural that people hope to see this when booking a tour. What many people don’t know is that the light beams aren’t as frequent as photos make it look; you must plan carefully if you want to see them.

To start, light beams are only visible between March and October. Any tour booked outside of these months won’t be able to see the light beams. Additionally, the light beams can only be seen from approximately 11 AM to 1 PM. Finally, the light beams can be seen best at Upper Antelope Canyon, it is important to know the difference between Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. If it is light beams you are looking for, Upper Antelope Canyon is the one you want to choose.rays of light

The biggest mistake people make is showing up in a month like November expecting to see the light beams. This isn’t going to happen, so it is best to be prepared.  The light beams may be overrated; we don’t recommend planning your entire trip to Antelope Canyon based on the chance of seeing a light beam.  The canyon itself is many magnitudes better than the light beams and looks beautiful year-round.antelope canyon entrance and exit

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Arizona – The Road Trip Capital of the World

I-8 in Arizona

Massive in size, covered in incredible scenery and dotted with tiny towns and major cities, the United States is truly a road-trippers dream, and after our experience, we think that everyone should go on an American road trip at least once in their lives.

Every time we visit we try to fit in at least one road trip and have driven thousands of miles driving up and down and across the country. Our last road trip, NYC2NOLA, spanned from New York to New Orleans, and our whole GlobtrotterGirls experience essentially kicked off with a trip up and down the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to San Diego. We followed that up just a month or so later with the mother of all road trip roads, Route 66, complete with its cowboys, the Grand Canyon and riding through the Wild, Wild West.

Monument Valley reflectionFor Dani, driving across America is super inspiring as she has wanted to live in America for over decade. Although she can never experience high school or what it could have been like to be a cheerleader, her dream of living the American Dream doesn’t fade. In fact, she has even entered the annual Green Card Lottery a handful of times, hoping to be one of the 55,000 lucky ones who win a green card ever year.

Route 66 nostalgiaPart of what fascinates Dani and also myself, is the incredible variation of landscapes across the country. Glaciers in Alaska, the Rocky Mountains, the desert. In fact, the state of Arizona incorporates so much of that variation within the borders of that one state. The moonscape of the Painted Desert, the unique boulders and rock formations of Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon, the lesser known but seriously stunning Canyon de Chelly as well as the jaw-dropping Antelope Canyon.
Antelope CanyonWe saw the wild Sonoran desert, visited a ghost mining town and Indian Trading Posts, experienced a rodeo in Prescott, marveled at the red rocks of Sedona, and finally drove along the iconic Route 66 before heading west to Nevada.

Globetrottergirls in SedonaIf you want to follow our route, you can have a look at the over 1,200 miles we drove in Arizona here:Arizona Road Trip Route

This Travel & Leisure article also features the ultimate Arizona road trip itinerary.

A week or longer on the road can be stressful, and we made several ‘rookie mistakes’ on our first big road trip – and because we make mistakes so that you don’t have to, we have put together our five main tips for a successful road trip:

Our Arizona road trip tips:

1. Map out your route before you go

Knowing exactly what was on our agenda for the next day and the day after helped us to stay focused and plan our exact route, which was extremely helpful when booking hotels and motels – which brings us to #2…

Grand Canyon panorama

2. Book your motels and hotels in advance

It seems romantic to just pull up, park and check-in, but accommodation fills up quickly, leaving you with some of the less-desirable options especially in popular spots like Flagstaff, the base for Grand Canyon explorations, where hotels and motels tend to fill up quickly, especially during vacation times. In Chinle, the closest town to Canyon de Chelly, there were only a couple of motels with the next accommodation hundreds of miles away – we ended up overpaying A LOT there because we hadn’t booked in advance. In the towns where we booked prior to arrival, we always got a better deal using hotel comparison websites.

Also, don’t rule out vacation rentals. Whether you’re traveling alone or with a couple of girlfriends, this option can easily rival the price of hotels, but with much more space and amenities. With some of the great available rentals in Arizona, you might even want to pause your road trip for a weekend, just to enjoy all they have to offer. And if you’re planning to go out at night, leave the car at your hotel / Airbnb and use a local taxi service. If you’re taking the trip to celebrate a special occasion, a birthday or a bachelorette party for example, consider living it up and renting a party bus in Mesa AZ for an evening to hit the town in style.

Arizona road trip

3. Plan in an extra couple of hours for each day of driving

Booking some accommodation in advance doesn’t mean you’ll have to rush through places if you plan in extra hours on the road from the start. We found ourselves stopping at scenic lookouts or just on the side of the road in little towns much more often than we had thought, which extended our driving time extensively. We spend some days entirely in the car.

Canyon de Chelly

4. Have your documents on you at all times

This is true especially in border states. In Arizona, it is state law that foreign visitors have to have a valid I.D. on them at all times. Dani didn’t bring her passport on one of our explorations and almost got in trouble with the border immigration control because of it. Expect to be stopped by police several times, particular in the south of Arizona, even 100 miles north of the Mexican border.

Arizona road trip

5. Pack some healthy snacks

We found that on several of the long drives, between Monument Valley and Page for example, or Page and Flagstaff, there was a noticeable absence of restaurant and stores, except for mini marts and fast food chains – not the healthiest food for a road trip. Having enough apples, nuts and water in the car was a lifesaver on several occasions.

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Globetrottergirls quick guide to Tucson, Arizona

Tucson Arizona

We have been to Tucson several times now and spent a month there during each visit. Even though every time we visited, it was during one of the hottest months, June, with temperatures regularly reaching around 110F, we managed to sightsee quite a bit, we took day trips to nearby destination, found restaurants and coffee shops we liked and fell in love with the Sonoran Desert which surrounds Tucson. And we want to share some of our best finds in this Tucson travel guide with you – just know that this guide is by no means complete, because one thing we have discovered is that Tucson is an ever changing city. Every time we visit, there’s a new cool cafe, a new trendy restaurant, a new mural to check out.

If you visit Tucson without a car, we recommend renting a car at least for a day or two, since many of our favorite places can only be reached by car. The center is rather small, and the city is very spread out, and some of the best things we’ve done were actually outside of the city center.

Tucson Travel Guide

Overview: A quick guide to Tucson, Arizona

Tucson is the second largest city in Arizona and sits at an elevation of 2,400. The Sonoran Desert makes for a favorable climate during the winter months, while it can get unbearably hot in the summer. The city itself has a moderate population of 486,700 people, but the entire metropolitan area counts over 1 million people.

Tucson is also known as ‘The Old Pueblo’, built upon a foundation of Native American, Mexican, Spanish and Old West roots. Especially the city’s Spanish and Mexican influences are still visible everywhere on a stroll through town, especially the historic center.

Tucson Travel Guide

The Globetrottergirls Tucson travel guide:

In my Tucson travel guide, you’ll find the best things to do in Tucson, the best places to eat and drink in Tucson, the best day trips from Tucson and where to stay in Tucson.

What to do in Tucson, Arizona

Stroll through the historic downtown

Tucson’s historic downtown is known for its colorful adobe houses which have all been restored and are well maintained by its owners. The Spanish Colonial Revival courthouse with its mosaic dome is one of downtown’s most recognizable buildings. Make sure to also visit the beautiful courtyard. Just a few blocks south you find the Cathedral of Saint Augustine, a beautiful church built in Mexican-baroque form.

Tucson Travel Guide

Old Tucson Studios

The Old Tucson Studios, just outside of town, are a must visit for all fans of old Wild West movies. They were the backdrop for the gun-slinging Old Western heroes such as John Wayne, Clint East Wood and Paul Newman. A visit to the studios is like a journey back in time, with many of the film sets still intact. There are also daily stunt shows and shootouts.

Old Tucson Movie Studios

Desert Museum

The Desert Museum is just around the corner from the Old Tucson Studios and is more like a biosphere than a museum. Part zoo, part botanical garden and part natural history museum, you can learn everything about life in the Sonoran Desert, see many of its inhabitants such as coyotes, scorpions, snakes and tarantulas, and the incredibly diverse flora and fauna.

Desert Museum Tucson

Saguaro National Park

While you are at the Desert Museum, you might consider combining the trip with a visit to the Saguaro National Park, just a few miles down the road. Saguaro National Park should be included in every Tucson travel guide, because the scenery is stunning and so unique. There are hiking paths or a road through the park with several lookouts. It is the most dense forest of Saguaro cacti in the U.S., with over one million Saguaros.

Saguaro national parkThe park is actually separated in two parts, the Tucson Mountain District (West) and the Rincon Mountain District (East), which can be both visited with the $10 vehicle permit which is good for 7 days.

Shop on 4th Avenue

4th Avenue is a popular road with a large number of restaurants, cafes, bars and nightclubs. At the time of our last visit, the historic 4th Avenue tram line was in the process of being restored, and a stroll along this road, which is popular with university students, can be combined with lunch or a coffee in one of the many independent restaurants.

4th Avenue Tucson Arizona

Pima Air & Space Museum

The Pima Air & Space Museum features almost 300 historic air planes and helicopters, some of which are stored in a hanger, and some of which are lined up in a large outside area. It is one of the biggest aircraft museums in the world. Even though we are not huge plane geeks, we thoroughly enjoyed looking at all the historic military planes, drones and helicopters.

Tucson Air & Space Museum

Go on an urban scavenger hunt

This is a truly unique way to explore Tucson: a 3-hour Tucson scavenger hunt! The hunt is played via smartphone, which means you can do it on your own schedule. If you are traveling in a group or as a family, you can play against each other, Amazing Race style. Every team has to solve clues and challenges while learning about the history of downtown Tucson.

 

The Best Day Trips from Tucson

Mount Lemmon

Mount Lemmon is a short drive northeast of the city, and was a welcome cool off from the summer heat for us. On the way up the mountain, you will pass through some of the Sonoran Desert with stunning views over Tucson, and when you finally reach the top, you will find yourself surrounded by pine forests. At 9,157 feet (2,791 m), it is the highest point of the Santa Catalina Mountains, and you can enjoy a hike along one of the many paths or just enjoy the several scenic lookouts along the winding mountain road.

Mount Lemmon Arizona

Sabino Canyon

Sabino Canyon is a desert canyon that is cut into the Santa Catalina Mountains, just north of Tucson. There is a tram with 9 stops which will take visitors into the Canyon, and you can choose on which trailhead to exit. The most popular hike is the Seven Falls Trail. Sabino Canyon can be visited with a National Park Pass ($5 per day.)

Mission San Xavier Del Bac

This gorgeous mission, nicknamed ‘White Dove of the desert’, is a white little mission, set in the middle of the desert, which is one of the best preserved missions in the area. Founded in 1692 when Arizona was still New Spain, the mission is the oldest Catholic church in the United States. The mission combines elements of Spanish, Moorish and baroque styles, and inside you can see a selection of statues and frescoes. If you don’t have time for any other day trips listed in our Tucson travel guide, you should head to Mission San Xavier Del Bac. It’s only a short 20-minute drive south of downtown Tucson, doesn’t require a whole lot of time, and is well worth a visit.

Mission San Xavier Del Bac

Tombstone and Bisbee

A little further away, Tombstone and Bisbee can still be visited in a day trip, and you can easily fit in both towns. The 70 miles from Tucson to Tombstone will take you around 1 hour and 20 minutes, and it takes another 30 minutes to get from Tombstone to Bisbee. Tombstone is known for its old Western image, having been the home of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and many other Wild West heroes. The little Western town still looks like in its heyday 130 years ago, with several saloons, cowboys roaming the town and of course the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral which is re-enacted daily.

Tombstone ArizonaBisbee, a former mining town, has now transformed in a creative community of artists and is a pleasant little town to spend an afternoon in. There are plenty of art galleries, restaurants and cafes, specialty shops and the Copper Mine which can be toured. The charming little town of only 6,200 people is perched on the hillsides of the surrounding mountains and features some beautiful Victorian-style houses and an art-deco courthouse.

Bisbee Arizona

Where to eat in Tucson, Arizona

  • Café Poca Cosa – Café Poca Cosa is famous for its Southwestern and Mexican cuisine. The Plato Poca Cosa comes with three entrees to sample for $20.
  • Cup Café – The Cup Café belongs to the historic Hotel Congress in the center of Tucson, just opposite the train station. It is a great spot to have breakfast at.

Cup Cafe Breakfast Skillet

  • Maynards Market & KitchenMaynards is basically right inside the train station and offers great views over the trains that pass through Tucson while you have lunch. It is a great place for cocktails or drinks, and also has delicious brunch options.
  • Rosa’s Mexican Food – Rosa’s is a small family-owned restaurant, with classic Mexican dishes for little money. All the dishes are made using Rosa’s family recipes and entrees are $7 -$10.
  • Beyond BreadNot only for bread lovers, this bakery and restaurant offers a full lunch menu as well, but you will love the selection of baked goods as well. They have a wide selection of international breakfasts, lunch includes salads, soups and mac’n’cheese in several forms.
  • Epic Café – The Epic Café on 4th Avenue is a little coffee house that serves organic food and is popular with the independent crowd. You can get inexpensive breakfasts, sandwiches and pastries.

tucson epic cafe

  • Mi NiditoThis Mexican restaurant, located in Tucson’s historic Old Pueblo, was made famous by celebrity visits such as Bill Clinton’s or Julio Iglesias. They offer classic Mexican dishes and you can even the President’s Plate, the dish Bill Clinton ate on his visit in 1999.
  • Govinda’s – Govinda’s is an unpretentious Indian restaurant that serves a vegetarian natural foods buffet. The restaurant has a large outdoor area and we enjoyed the selection of Indian dishes, salads and home-made bread. The lunch buffet (Wed – Sat) is $7.95, and dinner is (Tues – Sat) is $9.95, including drinks.
  • Cartel Coffee Lab –This spacious independent coffee shop has three locations in Tucson, offering a selection of specialty coffees. The knowledgeable baristas serve coffee in a brewing technique of your choice and was recently named one of America’s best coffee bars by Food & Wine.

Tucson Cartel Coffee Lab

Where to stay in Tucson, Arizona

You can find every major hotel and motel chain in Tucson, as well as RV parks and camp sites, but in my Tucson travel guide I wanted to highlight some hotels that aren’t chains or if they are, they’re worth a splurge.

Budget:

  • 3 Palms Tucson North Foothills – modern hotel near Sabino Canyon in the northwest of Tucson. Every studio is equipped with a microwave, tea and coffee maker and a fridge. Outdoor pool and sundeck. King studio including breakfast from $66 per night
  • Hotel McCoy – Art, Coffee, Beer, Wine – Artsy 3-star hotel with a funky vibe. Outdoor pool, sauna, fitness center and table tennis. Free bicycle hire. Double room including breakfast from $99 per night.
  • Hotel Congress – If you would like to stay right downtown, the historic Hotel Congress is the perfect place for you. The hotel was the site of John Dillinger’s arrest and still has the old time feel of the Wild West. The rooms have all been renovated and updated, but there is a still a story in every detail, like the colorful murals on the wall or the classic Tap Room Bar. Double rooms range from $89 to 149
  • Adobe Rose Inn – The Inn was built in 1933 and is located in the historic Sam Hughes neighborhood near the UoA. The Inn has an outdoor swimming pool and a sun terrace in a beautiful garden. Many rooms have fireplaces. Fabulous 3-course breakfast included in the room rate. Double rooms start at $122.

Tucson Hotel Congress

Mid-range:

  • El Amador Downtown Luxury Inn: Beautiful boutique hotel with a lovely backyard and garden right in downtown Tucson. Studio from $115, studio with hot tub $130.
  • Desert Dove Bed & Breakfast: Located just outside of Tucson, it is a secluded B&B with scenic mountain views, close to the Saguaro National Park, with trails starting right on the property. The owners Harvey and Betty Ross take pride in maintaining the historic feeling of the house and serve a delightful gourmet breakfast every morning. Price: $130 – $145 including breakfast.
  • El Presidio InnThis historic B&B is set in a fantastic location right in the Old Pueblo in downtown Tucson and has four guest suites. All rooms are filled with antique furnishings and artwork, come with a kitchenette, TV, wifi, fluffy bathrobes and a hot country breakfast. Price: $142 – $149 including breakfast
  • The Downtown Clifton Hotel: Unique 3-star hotel in the center of Tucson, where retro chic meets contemporary design. Beautiful outdoor pool, rooms all have a patio. Double room $149

Splurge:

  • Arizona Inn: Historic boutique hotel in downtown Tucson, with an outdoor pool, fitness center, tennis courts, badminton and three on-site restaurants. Free valet and free bicycle rentals. Double rooms from $219
  • The Westin La Paloma Resort and Spa: Tucson’s Westin sits in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains and is a spacious resort with several swimming pools, 10 tennis courts, five swimming pools, an Elizabeth Arden® day spa, a Jack Nicklaus golf course, and various restaurants. All rooms have either balconies or courtyards from which guests can enjoy the superb mountain vistas. Double rooms from $365.
  • Loews Ventana Canyon Resort: Set right by Sabino Canyon, also in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains, Loews Ventana Canyon Resort is another large resort, complete with two 18-hole golf courses, a health spa, two swimming pools, tennis courts and various waterfall-dotted nature trails. The spacious guest rooms all feature views over Tucson and the Sonoran Desert or the Catalina Mountains and have private patios or balconies. Double rooms start at $429

Tucson Travel GuideHave you been to Tucson? What would you say belongs in a Tucson travel guide?

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The Top 4 Cities To Visit In Arizona

Tucson foothills cactei

Arizona is famous for the stunning scenery of its Monument Valley and Grand Canyon. However, the state offers more than the cinematic view of a bunch of old rocks. The cities in Arizona accommodate terrific restaurants, lively nightlife, and historic sites where you can meet the friendliest and most welcoming people. You can stop by some of Arizona’s most Old West atmospheric saloons as you pass through the famous Route 66 that crosses the entire state. You can also learn all about the Native American culture if you stop by one of the state’s archaeological sites in addition to many other thrilling activities you can participate in when visiting Arizona. If you don’t know where to start, here are the top 4 cities you need to visit in the state of Arizona.

1 Tucson 

Tucson is the second-largest city in Arizona and it holds a beautiful blend of cultures that is portrayed in its tremendous museums, restaurants, and outstanding neighborhoods. The nightlife is different in a vibrant way and the state is home to many electric shops and bars, thanks to the youthful feel from Arizona’s substantial student population. It’s a wonderful place to invite your friends for a round of drinks or pull an all-nighter in one of Tucson’s fantastic bars.

The historic downtown is one of best places to visit in Tucson, however, the city is also surrounded by majestic natural sights that entice visitors. If you’re into nature’s true beauty, you’ll have a lot of fun at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and Saguaro National Park.

tucson historic center

2 Phoenix

The city of Phoenix is spread widely in the Valley of the Sun and is the political, economic, and cultural heart of Arizona. This beautiful desert city is a place of glorious sunshine and warm weather that lasts all year long. Phoenix is a lively city that is full of energy and its prospering cultural scene can be portrayed in the numerous museums and great theaters it has. This includes the notable Musical Instruments Museum with its world’s largest collection of instruments, and the Phoenix Art Museum. 

If you’re into sports, Phoenix’s professional sports team will make you feel more at home. While the deserted scenery surrounding the city is a great escape for outdoor aficionados. The Southwest’s largest city offers fantastic Mexican food in extravagant restaurants, plus lots of other things for you to check out in its lively streets.

Phoenix AZ

3 Tusayan 

Tusayan is the perfect place to go if you’re seeking a little escape from your city’s mundane routine life. This city offers you ultimate relaxation as you get away from noisy traffic, crowded streets, and towering buildings. There are also a lot of outdoor activities that you can participate in along with your family. The best things to do in Tusayan revolve around gathering your family and heading out for some fun nature exploration – most famously, of the seven natural wonders of the world: the Grand Canyon. This city is the perfect place to relax, bond with nature, watch movies with family and friends. You can invite your favorite family members or friends and plan a trip to Tusayan if you want a unique trip that is fun for everyone. Tusayan is every family’s favorite destination, and it’s an experience you don’t want to miss.

Grand Canyon

4 Flagstaff

Flagstaff is a city located alongside Route 66 and is known as a gateway to the Grand Canyon. It’s also a beautiful laid-back small town with many different aspects to enjoy. Travel personality Samantha Brown even calls Flagstaff Arizona’s best-kept secret! The town streets are filled with old architecture dating back to the city’s origins as a prime railroad hub, in addition to many bars and atmospheric coffee shops that cater to the large student population of Flagstaff’s university. The city is also surrounded by plenty of natural attractions that offers great mountain biking, skiing, and hiking opportunities. In addition to the Grand Canyon,  places worth visiting are Mount Elden, the San Francisco Peaks, Walnut Canyon and Sunset Crater Volcano.ArizonaNot many people know about places to visit in Arizona other than the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley. However, many towns and cities in this state offer great tourist attractions and outdoor activities that are worth your time as well. Don’t miss out on Phoenix’s Art Museum or Tusayan’s natural scenery and family activities. Arizona is home to many archaeological sites that can educate you about the Native American culture, so choose the city that accommodates your favorite type of activities, and get ready to learn some unforgettable facts about the history of the US.Arizona

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Polaroid of the Week – Sunset in Tucson, Arizona

polaroidoftheweekphoto11

 

The desert landscape and clear skies make for such beautiful sunsets here in Tucson.  Normally Dani can’t help but stop and get shots with a cactus or little lizard in the background as the sun sets beyond the mountains. This was our sunset from today, and although it might not be spectacular,  we just couldn’t help imagining the views the pilot in the plane making that sweeping streak across the skyline must have had!

 

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Photo essay: Saguaros of Southern Arizona

Tucson foothills cactei

When I visited Arizona for the first time in 2010, I immediately fell in love with the scenery there. I loved the diverse Arizona landscape, from the deep red canyons and pine forests of the north to the rough, other-worldly areas of the west. But my favorite is the desertscape of the southern part of the state. Despite an intense immigration policy (we always get stopped by overly-firm, threatening border control agents without ever crossing a border), I love driving through the incredible Saguaros in Southern Arizona.

saguaros in arizonatucson cactitucson cactus flowerWhen we were asked to return to housesit again in Tucson this past June we didn’t think twice and booked two one-way tickets from India, trading the balmy Asian summer for the scorching desert heat. For the first time we could feel what everyone says about it being a dry heat, with 100+ temperature coming as a relief from the same humid temps in India. Our permanently tanned skin easily took the temperatures as well, such a difference to the first time we came to town pale and pasty after four years of living in England.

jess sunglass reflection saguarossouthern arizona cacteitucson cactus flowers
cactus bush arizonaThe minute we stepped out of the airport though I knew that we had made the right decision, with huge Saguaros right in the parking lot and the mountains in the background.

saguaros southern arizonaThe Sonoran desert surrounding Tucson spans across the South West and into northern Mexico – covering 311,000 square kilometers (120,000 sq mi).

arizona saguaroscactus in southern arizonaIt is fascinating how many plants you actually find within what seems like such a barren place. But there are over 2,000 plant species there, and these plants are hard-core, having adapted to such harsh living conditions.

arizona desert flowerstucson cactus flowersouthern arizona desert flowersThe Sonoran desert is the only place in the world where the Saguaro cactus grows in the wild, and not only few of them but millions! Tucson’s Saguaro National Park alone is home to over 1 million Saguaros that grow to be 20 meters, or 70 feet, tall.

saguaros southern arizonaarizona saguarossaguaros in southern arizonahuge saguaros in arizonaA ‘spear’ is what they are called until they grow an arm. This phase in growth deserves its own name, considering it takes over 75 years to grow that arm! This is only mid-life for Saguaros, though, that reach ages of 150-200 years old.

saguaro cactus sonoran desertIt takes a Saguaro up to 10 years to reach a height of one inch (2.54 cm), 15 years to reach one foot (30.5 cm), and 40 years to reach 10 feet (3 meters).

saguaro cacti in arizonasaguaros southern arizonacactus bush and saguaroWhen it rains, you can actually see how the cactus expands, soaking up all the rain water, and then slowly consuming it over the next few weeks.tucson cactus saguaro cactus armAt the age of 40, they start producing flowers, mainly on top of the cactus. Older saguaros have hundreds of flowers when they blossom in May and June each year.tucson saguaro flowerscactus needles and flowerWe have always been in Arizona at the time when the sweet, ruby-colored fruit matures in June. The fruit is edible, and found in local jams, syrups and candies.cactus fruit arizonaThese big, tall and very stationary plants rely on cross-pollination to reproduce. This is mostly done by bats or gorgeous doves who transport seeds from the fruits from one plant to the next. This is such incredible work; it is a wonder there are so many millions of Saguaros!doves on saguaro cactiIn exchange for the help, many different bird species make themselves at home inside of the spine of the Saguaros.saguaro with holeUnfortunately saguaros are actually endangered due to over-development, wildfires, livestock grazing, and ‘cactus rustlers’ who cut them down and sell them elsewhere.dead saguaro cactus arizonaIn their normal life cycle, Saguaros die from drought or frost. Their skeletons remain intact for years, sometimes even petrifying, while the skin erodes away quickly.dead saguaro close-up arizonadead saguaro cactus close-up arizonaRightfully referred to as ‘skeletons’, the remaining bones often stay proudly standing for many years.dead saguaros arizonaPrickly pear is another cactus that is widely spread across the Sonoran desert, and the big red fruit can be eaten or are used in drinks, most commonly in Mexico. They are pretty cold-resistant and  found in the northern States of the U.S. and even southern Canada.arizona cactiThey are also the main food source for the desert tortoises who live here – they don’t seem to be bothered by the sharp cactus needles!saguaros southern arizonacactus with bite in arizonaThe Sonoran desert south of Tucson is actually the only place in the U.S. where jaguars live, but the only mammals that come out of their dens during the hot summer months are little rabbits.arizona desert rabbit

You can see plenty of colorful lizards!colorful lizard in arizona

Our favorite time of day is usually when the sun starts to set  – the sunsets of  the Sonoran desert never disappoint and the skies change colors in the most amazing ways – from purple to bright orange.tucson sunset skies & cactussaguaros southern arizona

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Polaroid of the week: San Xavier del Bac – a Spanish colonial mission in Southern Arizona

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polaroid of the week usa arizona san xavier del bac missionReturning to Arizona felt as glorious as ever! As usual, I am housesitting here – but this time, for different homeowners. I’m enjoying the company of a different dog and a different pool, but I am in the same neighborhood in the Catalina foothills which I love, and funnily enough it is just as hot as it is when I’m here in May. Tucson is experiencing unseasonably warm weather at the moment, I’ve been told.

I usually come to Arizona for a month of peace and quiet, and to catch up on work projects that I don’t get around to when I’m on the road, but this year, I’ve been busier than usual. I’ve been more social than I was on previous visits, making more of an effort to make new friends here, and have them show me some cool spots around town, because Tucson’s restaurant scene keeps growing. I also got to catch up with old friends over wine and cheese and have been taking advantage of my well equipped and spacious kitchen which almost makes me want to stop traveling and set up a home base. Almost.

The highlight of the week? Katie came to visit me for a few days and I introduced her to some of my favorite spots around here: we hiked in Sabino Canyon and in Saguaro National Park (and after finding a website listing all the hikes around Tucson I think I’ll never get bored here – so many hikes I haven’t done yet!), and we visited the beautiful San Xavier Del Bac Mission, pictured above, which is the oldest European structure in Arizona, filled with striking original 18th century statuary and mural paintings.

Katie and I even made it to the famous western town of Tombstone (Boothill Graveyard visit included, of course!) as well as Bisbee, a former mining town close to the Mexican border that reinvented itself as an artist commune, which I love to visit, not only for the little town itself, but also for what can be best described as ghost town: Lowell, where you find an entire street with empty store fronts and vintage cars parked out front. I wouldn’t have gone all the way down there by myself, so yay for visitors!

And especially fun visitors like Katie, who is up for hiking even when it’s over 90°F (32°C) out, who loves craft beer even more than I do (maaaaybe!) and who insisted we visit a county fair. Both of us not being from the U.S. meant this was our first introduction to deep-fried everything (deep-fried Oreos or cheesecake I might be able to get behind, but deep-fried butter.. really?) and other not-so-healthy fair snacks (funnel cake!), but which also turned out to be a fascinating anthropological study. I didn’t go on any of the rides, but I tried a deep-fried Snickers bar (so not worth $6, if you ask me), and it was a fun way to end our time here in Arizona together.

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Along the border – San Diego to Tucson

I-8 in Arizona

After a quick stop off in San Diego, the last stop in California after driving down the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco, we headed to Tucson, Arizona. We had scored a housesit on Housecarers.com for three weeks in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains and we were ready for a break from “life on the road”. Road tripping is fun, but sleeping in a different bed for weeks on end is exhausting, and we were looking forward to a comfortable bed, a kitchen to prepare our own food, a swimming pool in the backyard, and to a furry companion. All these things are basically why we love housesitting and hope to do more of it as our trip continues.

Now we just had to get to Tucson, about 407 miles from San Diego, mostly on the I-8. The drive would take about six hours, but we were in no hurry. In fact, we were curious to see a part of the U.S. neither of us had been to before, and get a first glimpse of the Sonoran Desert.

As we drove parallel to the Mexican border, we witnessed several extremes from the weather to the landscape to the intense scrutiny of border patrol (without ever having left the country).

This interstate runs through California’s San Jacinto Mountains, then parallel to the U.S./Mexican border and then splits from the border continuing straight east as the border runs southeast once past Yuma in Arizona.

The drive through the Jacinto Mountains was slow, not just thanks to the road construction, but also the relatively rough driving. The road passes through a surreal landscape which feels like the moon. The drive winds around and down and up and through until the intensity bubble bursts and you head out into the great expanse of the desert valley on the other side of the mountains.

Here the heat took over. It filled up the car, relentless in spite of air-conditioning and windows rolled all the way down. We were melting, sweating, laughing and singing.

We didn’t know if we would notice Arizona’s new Immigration Law, which came into force in April of this year. That is, until our first immigration check in California, before even entering Arizona. Interstate 8 literally hugs the border for several miles, you can see the fences, the wires, and the heavy presence of the U.S. Border Patrol, who had set up various check points along the Highway, randomly checking cars for ‘illegal immigrants’.

San Diego to Tucson road tripOur German Globetrotter girl being of legal immigration status, we were relieved when we sped through the border patrol checks, first in California and then again in Arizona. The second time, in Arizona, we had to pull out of line and join the unlucky ones whose belongings were unpacked being sniffed by police dogs.

Having been checked by border patrol twice from within the U.S., plus the growing  tension in the Mexican border cities, we decided to fly into Mexico City after our house sit and Northern Arizona road trip. No need to push our luck at one of the land crossings.

San Diego to TucsonUntil then, we’ll be testing the first real travel&work month, as we both have freelance projects that will keep us busy over the next three weeks – we will see how working remotely goes with a tempting pool and two sun chairs in the backyard…

San Diego to Tucson
The border fence between the U.S. and Mexico



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Polaroid of the week: Vintage car in Bisbee, Arizona

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..polaroid of the week usa arizona bisbee street with vintage car
We are back in Tucson, Arizona! We first housesat here back in May-June 2010, at the start of our travels and we just love being back taking care of the adorable Miss Millie again.

Last weekend we went to Bisbee, a tiny little town 90 miles south of Tucson. Although at first it appears that time has stood still in this incredibly charming little town, it turns out that Bisbee is a very progressive community. We ended up visiting during their annual Pride weekend and found a laid-back but very popular Pride event underway. With a population of less than 6,000, this former mining town might be small, but we took a trip out to see the old copper mine, and it was truly massive. We found it fascinating to imagine the mine in full swing, the thousands of workers it must have taken to create what now looks like a multi-tiered meteor crater.

After the mine closed, Bisbee reinvented itself in the 70s as an artist commune and the creative vibe is tangible everywhere in town. There are art galleries, street art graffiti and murals and the main street is filled with independent little stores and creative coffee shops. If you ever find yourself in Southern Arizona, make sure to take a trip out to Bisbee – we loved it!

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Polaroid of the Week – Mount Lemmon, Arizona

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We decided to take Millie to Mount Lemmon in the Santa Catalina Mountains last week to cool off. It has been 109F /43C almost every day and going up into the mountains was very refreshing for all three of us. Mount Lemmon is 9000ft (2743m) high and the ecosystem changes the higher you go up – from the Sonoran desert with hundreds of cacti on the bottom to one equaling Southern Canada with pine trees on the top.

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