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Guidance needed for late December trip to Arizona

Guidance needed for late December trip to Arizona

Old Nov 19th, 2021, 12:55 PM
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cdc
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Guidance needed for late December trip to Arizona

Hello,
I am taking my 13 yo daughter away for some mom-daughter quality alone time. We settled on going to Arizona because we were looking for slightly warmer weather than the Northeast, a direct flight and a mix of activities. Plus its a state that she has not visited before. Our schedules only allow us to go the week between Christmas and New Years - which means it will be colder than I would like, but still warmer than where we are now.

She loves the outdoors, hiking, and swimming - which make the Sedona area attractive. She would love to go horse back riding while we are away. She is interested in science/ astronomy and I heard between the UFO tours, the observatory and NASA connections - there are fun things to do along those lines. She is also interested in history and American Indian culture.

The plan was to stay in Sedona because it checks off so many items on our list. We could do hiking trips for a few hours, go on a horseback riding tour, do a trip to Flagstaff? and do a full day trip to the Grand Canyon (self guided, but open to suggestions). Mixed in with excursions, we were looking for a hotel with a heated pool, hot tub and outdoor hang out space where we could just relax and hang out today. We would consider doing a spa trip while there - but not necessary and likely only if the weather prevented us from doing other things.

We are only there four full days so we are not trying to do too much. The purpose of the trip is not so much sight seeing - more hanging out together without distractions (aka siblings, work, etc.).

I am looking for affirmation that Sedona is fine to visit in December - 50s and 60s degree weather is good for us. I am also looking for ideas for great mini-excursions, self- guided tours, or really great gems that may be off the beaten path. We don't have a hotel booked yet - so I am open to suggestions on that front as well - something above budget, but more reasonably priced than luxury.

Thanks in advance!
C.
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Old Nov 19th, 2021, 05:58 PM
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I have been to Sedona in November and it was quite chilly except in the middle of the day. I would think staying at a lower elevation, like Phoenix or Tucson, would make more sense.

If the outdoors is key there are resorts/hotels near either the north or south mountains right in the Phoenix area. Both areas are convenient to the airport.

Careful with snow at either Flagstaff or the GC, they are both over 7000 ft.
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Old Nov 19th, 2021, 06:20 PM
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Originally Posted by tom_mn View Post
I have been to Sedona in November and it was quite chilly except in the middle of the day. I would think staying at a lower elevation, like Phoenix or Tucson, would make more sense.

If the outdoors is key there are resorts/hotels near either the north or south mountains right in the Phoenix area. Both areas are convenient to the airport.

Careful with snow at either Flagstaff or the GC, they are both over 7000 ft.

I agree Tucson would likely be a better fit for your check list. Late December Sedona would average low 50's highs and mid 30's lows, so definitely warmer than the NE. But Tucson would normally average 10+ warmer.
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Old Nov 20th, 2021, 06:29 AM
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See if you can book a tour at the Kitt Peak Observatory about an hour out of Tucson.
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Old Nov 20th, 2021, 07:03 AM
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Tucson Would Be Better

As mentioned, Tucson would be warmer. Things your daughter might want to do are the exploring the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, Saguaro National Park (two units), Mission San Xavier del Bac (within the San Xavier Indian Reservation)=medium, and Madera Canyon (some of the best birding in the US), viewing the Tucson Botanical Gardens, and hiking in Abino Canyon.
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Old Nov 20th, 2021, 07:25 AM
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If the weather is good (no snow), visit Flagstaff and see the Riordon mansion and the Lowell Observatory. My wife and I stayed in Flagstaff in November 2019. We visited the south rim of the Grand Canyon, Desert View (east end of GCNP), Sedona and Winslow AZ. There are 2 statues of Glen Frey "standin' on the corner" in Winslow. Yes there is even a flat bed Ford parked there too.
The Lowell Observatory is on Mars Hill in the outskirts of Flagstaff. Percival Lowell's mausoleum is a few feet from one of the telescope domes that he used. They have both daytime and evening programs there.
The Riordon brothers (twins) founded the Arizona Lumber and Timber Company. Their two wing mansion with a common area in between is on the campus of the university that grew out of their small school. It is a part of the Arizona State Park system. Usually tours begin on the hour.
Lodging in Flagstaff is generally cheaper than in Sedona. If the weather is cold you may not want to drive up the narrow windy road up out of Sedona to Flagstaff.
If you are looking for a place with great German food, stop in the small town of Cornville to eat at the Manzanita restaurant.
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Old Nov 20th, 2021, 07:44 AM
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Kitt Peak Observatory
I have done this and I wasn't a big fan. It's a lot of money for what you get. There are a few people selected for larger telescopes (for our trip it appeared that some kind of in-clique pre-selection had happened) but most of the telescopes for the tour are rather small despite the large dome surrounding them. The lights from Tucson have a profound and negative impact on the experience so frankly it's not a good place at all anymore to look at the sky. Every telescope except the solar telescope is old and serious astronomers go to Chile or Hawaii-- that's where the new and powerful telescopes are.

If you go note that Customs and Border Patrol will impact your trip. The temporary canopy of the CBP that stops and interviews everyone coming from the Kitt Peak tour in the middle of the night that we experienced about 8 years ago has now been replaced by an enormous permanent structure. If you stop by this area (the Tohono O'odham Reservation) during the day you can see plenty of evidence of migrants, handmade slippers made out of shag carpeting that don't leave footprints are strewn along the highway, as are black plastic bottles used for carrying water. Clear plastic bottles are not used because there is ongoing aerial surveillance monitoring for the flash of the sun off clear plastic and the CPD will be dispatched if a reflection is detected. You may even have a migrant come up to you and beg for water as happened to me last June.

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Old Nov 21st, 2021, 12:20 PM
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We have been to Sedona when there snow storms so be prepared.
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Old Nov 21st, 2021, 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by tom_mn View Post
I have done this and I wasn't a big fan. It's a lot of money for what you get. There are a few people selected for larger telescopes (for our trip it appeared that some kind of in-clique pre-selection had happened) but most of the telescopes for the tour are rather small despite the large dome surrounding them. The lights from Tucson have a profound and negative impact on the experience so frankly it's not a good place at all anymore to look at the sky. Every telescope except the solar telescope is old and serious astronomers go to Chile or Hawaii-- that's where the new and powerful telescopes are.

If you go note that Customs and Border Patrol will impact your trip. The temporary canopy of the CBP that stops and interviews everyone coming from the Kitt Peak tour in the middle of the night that we experienced about 8 years ago has now been replaced by an enormous permanent structure. If you stop by this area (the Tohono O'odham Reservation) during the day you can see plenty of evidence of migrants, handmade slippers made out of shag carpeting that don't leave footprints are strewn along the highway, as are black plastic bottles used for carrying water. Clear plastic bottles are not used because there is ongoing aerial surveillance monitoring for the flash of the sun off clear plastic and the CPD will be dispatched if a reflection is detected. You may even have a migrant come up to you and beg for water as happened to me last June.
You can't visit Kitt Peak at the moment anyways, due to COVID.

https://visitkittpeak.org/

Also, there is a new instrument installed and (finally) operating on the 4-meter Mayall Telescope at Kitt Peak. Size isn't everything.

https://www.desi.lbl.gov/

Last edited by mlgb; Nov 21st, 2021 at 01:30 PM.
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Old Dec 1st, 2021, 10:13 AM
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Thanks for the tips. Will post a follow up when we return.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2022, 06:26 PM
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Trip Report

Here is the promised follow up - We had an AMAZING trip. It was postponed from December to January but worked out great (and far less crowded and far less expensive after the new year and the holidays). We went to Sedona and stayed there the whole time - using it as our base. Normally we would do a lot of hiking and outdoor activities... but this trip we were recovering from a difficult holiday and I didn't think we would have the energy to do some of our usual stuff.

We stayed at the Arabella in Sedona. It had a heated pool (and an unheated pool - freezing!) as well as two hot tubs. The rooms were large, and had plenty of storage. Every room seemed to have a balcony or a patio and the views from the hotel were really awesome. They offered a grab and go breakfast - simple, but really nice to have a bite on the patio before heading out for the day. We were really happy with the location.

Things we did:
Pink Jeep tour - I thought it was pricey but a few friends recommended it so we did it. My 13 yo daughter thought it was the highlight of the trip. It really appeals to everyone. Not only was it fun - the tour guide was entertaining! It also was nice to see some of the cool sights without having to hike. I felt bad not hiking more - but was really happy to be able to walk around the red rocks and see them up close.

Hot Air Balloon - our first time. Absolutely breath taking!!!

Horseback Riding - this was a bust. It was the one thing my daughter really wanted to do and it was so boring. The ranch we went to was not really in Sedona, so the views were blah, and we just went in a big circle.

Food - We didn't go out, because of long waits and we wanted to have more time to chill. There is an amazing "food truck" next to the Hudson and OMallys restaurant. We got food from there a few nights and ate by the fire pits at our hotel. We also did take away from one of the yummy places on the main drag in Sedona and at it at one of the picnic tables at a trail head. That worked out great - just need to remember to take your trash with you - no trash cans as the rule is you take what you bring.

Grand Canyon - we did a day trip to the Grand Canyon. It was a long drive to go there and back in a day but so worth it! We didn't get to stop in Flagstaff but did stop at Red mountain? a volcano that blew out sideways. You have to take a more 'challenging' road to the GC to see it, so we did it in the morning on the way there. They have short hike to the base - but be advised you drive down a dirt road to get there.

At the Grand Caynon we did the rim walk and a tour. So much history. So many amazing views. It really is beyond words.

We did go for an enlightenment consultation at the New Age enlightenment center in Sedona. It was recommended to us - and we enjoyed it. It's not for everyone - To each their own - we are glad we did it.

Cottonwood and Jerome - older historic towns, with some cool shopping. Jerome was a 'ghost town' for a while. There is a ghost town attraction (we were underwhelmed). We should have done the ghost tour. Had amazing ice cream, and shopped in the fancy kaliediscope store. The drive from Sedona there is beautiful, but a lot for a drive used to flat and straight.

Ruins - we did Tuzigoot and Montezuma's Well. Both cool and manageable. My daughter is into those types of places, but I can see why some reviews are a little blah.

hiking - we only did small hikes on our own. We were going to doing something with Trail Lovers Excursions, but got rained out. They were so easy to work with - and if we go back we would use them.

Back in PHX, we went to the Frank Llyod Wright house... no tickets left, but got to sneak a peak at the Chuilly exhibit from outside.

We lucked out with weather - only a bit of rain on our last day. All the tours and activities we booked and the hotel were super accommodating about all the changes we had to make to move our trip out.

We really loved Sedona. It had a lot of everything we wanted, fun, outdoor stuff, as well as time to chill. I had not expected the driving to be so draining - and it is so dark! I am used to street lights on the road... there really are none! Better to see the stars, but tiring on the drivers' eyes.

Thanks again for all the tips!
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Old Jan 23rd, 2022, 07:31 PM
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Glad it all worked out. The Dark Sky policy protects the many telescopes in AZ from light pollution.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2022, 09:10 PM
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Thanks for reporting back!
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Old Jan 24th, 2022, 04:47 AM
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Nice that you got some daughter time in a beautiful place. Thanks for reporting back.
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