Traveling Arizona: Phoenix, Prescott, & Sedona By Land and By Air

Recently, Mike’s job took him to Arizona for a meeting of the minds and, since I was on Spring Break during that week, I tagged along to get some sun while Rhode Island got hit by its FOURTH Nor’Easter in a row. If you’ve never been to Arizona, I highly recommend this state for domestic travel. This was my 4th or 5th time there, and it’s still one of my favorite states to visit. The weather is always beautiful, the people are so nice, and the landscapes CANNOT be beat.

This trip, I had this pleasure of going to three cities, with some surprises in each! Mike’s meeting was in Prescott, but due to weather, he flew out early and stayed in Phoenix, where the weather was the complete opposite (80’s and sunny). Prescott is 2 hours north, and the weather was still in the 30’s, so I decided to stay in Phoenix an extra day before meeting Mike at night after his meetings the next day. Our original plan was to head to the Grand Canyon, but we decided to head back to Phoenix after the conference, since northern Arizona had forecasted snow, the sole reason I had left Rhode Island in the first place!  Here’s a look at some of the great experiences we had in the West.

Phoenix

I arrived in Phoenix on a Tuesday night, narrowly missing Winter Storm Toby, and was so excited to get to some actual warmth! The very first thing we did when I arrived was run up to the top of the buttes at our hotel, the Marriott Tempe at the Buttes, to check out the sunset. This was just the perfect start to the trip. I love a good hike, and this one was a short (but steep!) intro to the week ahead of me. The view was beautiful! You could see all of downtown Phoenix, and the colors were perfect.

 

That night, we had dinner at the hotel restaurant, Top of the Rock. Some of the best food I’ve had in ages, definitely since moving home from New York. I couldn’t stop eating even though I was full!

Read Dominique M.‘s review of Top of the Rock Restaurant on Yelp

I spent the next day at the pool, studying for midterms and getting some much needed sun. The staff at the pool and at the hotel overall were so accommodating and nice, and I was sad to leave. That said, l hopped on the Arizona Shuttle for Prescott that evening to meet Mike.

Prescott

If were being honest, I had no idea what to expect of Prescott. Being from the Northeast, I had no idea what Prescott even was, or that it existed, until this trip. When I got there, it was dark and Mike was still at work, so I had to do a bit of exploring myself. the city seemed so friendly and safe, and I walked over to a local restaurant for dinner and a drink.

The next day, while Mike worked, I spent the day studying in a local cafe, the Wild Iris. It was such a great place to spend a rainy day working. The space was huge but still cozy, and I ate both breakfast and lunch there while I wrote flash cards and chatted with the staff.

The weather cleared up a bit, and I snapped this picture of their city hall – it was just so quaint in their downtown area and this building really stood out to me.

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The highlight of Prescott, however, was Superstition Meadery. This place was AWESOME. I was browsing a precious gift shop near our hotel and saw an arrow pointing downstairs for mead. Having had no idea what mead was, I strolled down. I honestly felt like I was in a New York lounge, but instead I found myself drinking small batch honey wine in one of the top meaderies in the country. It was so cool!! I tried the Jucius Caesar.

Sedona

After work that night, around 4:30, Mike had a brilliant idea. Let’s drive to Sedona and catch the sunset! he said. Sedona was close to an hour and a half away, but we jumped in the truck and drove out there!

 

What an awesome idea this was!!! We arrived at Little Horse Trail with about 40 minutes until sunset, jumped out, and started hiking (actually, running) up the red rocks. We made it just in time! We got such a cool view of the sunset. Plus, I had never seen red rocks like this, and the landscape absolutely blew me away. Camping trip in Sedona now added to the bucket list!

 

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That night after the hike, we drove back to Phoenix for the last day of our trip. Remember – we were supposed to have gone to the Grand Canyon, but the snow stopped us, so instead… we booked  HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE in Phoenix for early the next morning!!

Phoenix

Hot air ballooning has always been really high on my bucket list. I am so glad that we had this experience! We took our trip through Float Balloon Tours, and I couldn’t have felt more safe. There were close to 20 people in our balloon, and the pilot was great about floating us close to the tops of the hills and bringing us high over the city.

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At the end of the ride, which started at around 5 am, we landed in the middle of the desert, where the balloon crew made us a delicious breakfast that they served with champagne. The crew was so nice and I couldn’t have had a better time with the group on the flight. Highly, highly recommend!

This was such a nice trip and I’m so glad we were able to see so much of this beautiful state. Have you ever been to AZ? How has your experience been?

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Stonington Vineyards – Surprise Party on a Budget

Wine and cheese plates are sort of my family’s “thing.” In a time when other families packed tuna sandwiches and PBJ’s, my parents were packing entire charcuterie boards in the picnic cooler, with multiple types of cheese, crackers, grapes and meats.

That’s why this year, when my mom turned 60 (sorry mom!), we decided to throw her a surprise bash at Stonington Vineyards, a local winery that receives nothing but rave reviews.

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Picture from Stonington Vineyards site

It was a perfect day – 80 degrees and not a cloud in the sky, the quintessential Rhode Island Indian Summer. Mom had no idea, either…. she thought that just our immediate family was going out to eat somewhere outdoors, and wasn’t expecting a party of 10 waiting for her around the corner!

The winery was so accommodating. We had initially booked a tasting, thinking the event would take place outside — all of the wineries I have been to (on Long Island) did outdoor tastings, so I didn’t think about it when I booked the reservation! When we found out the event would be indoors, we decided to skip at the last minute in favor of sitting with our huge wine and “nosh” spread on the porch. Cancelling so last minute wasn’t a problem at all, and we went ahead and got a big sampling of their full range of wines.

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It was a rose kind of day, but by far the favorite was the Seaport White, a reasonably priced white blend that even the non-wine-drinkers enjoyed.

I didn’t get the chance to snap a photo, but here’s what I included in my spread… a massive, high quality charcuterie spread for 11 people that cost me less than $100!

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A Day on Block Island

Like I mentioned in my post about the day trip we recently took to Newport, August was absolutely amazing in Rhode Island this year. We couldn’t have asked for better weather! So when a close friend from high school planned a visit back to her home state (all the way from Washington State!), we knew we had to take advantage of the opportunity to bring her husband to one of our favorite places – Block Island.

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If you’ve never heard of Block Island, I wouldn’t be surprised. Surrounded by more famed summer sites – Newport, Montauk, and Fisher’s Island – the Block is an undervalued beach vacation site in the Sound. In fact, the Nature Conservancy placed Block Island on its list of “The Last Great Places,” alongside only 11 other beautiful spots in the Western Hemisphere.

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Upper deck seats on the Block Island Ferry

The usual (and cheapest) way to get to Block Island is by ferry.  The ride takes off in Point Judith, with a traditional ferry ride taking an hour and a high-speed ride cutting that time in half. Having done it so many times in my life, I often take for granted the sights around me. I usually spend my time perched up on the top deck, taking in the morning sun while we cross the Sound.

Most people who arrive by ferry instead of personal boat stay in Old Harbor – a quaint area of this 9 square mile island with shops, lighthouses, and a massive beach bar called Ballard’s (otherwise known as Vegas on the Block). My friend had wanted to rent mopeds to see the rest of the island, but when we got the chance to rent this convertible PT Cruiser instead, we had to take it. To our surprise, it was more wallet-friendly than the mopeds and we got to chat along the ride.

We did, however, learn the hard way that the Block Island Police don’t love the idea of young women snapping selfies on the back of a moving convertible. Woops!

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Once we showed our friends the historic Southeast Light and hiked down the Mohegan Bluffs to see the ocean, we launched our “Mudslide Tour” of New Harbor, the opposite side of the island. We started out at Champlin’s Marina, one of the largest marinas in the entire Northeast, and a great spot to people watch and hear some 1980’s party music.

Once we checked Champlin’s off the list, we scooted over to The Oar, Mike’s and my favorite place on the Island. They have the best mudslies around, and their sushi is hard to beat and handrolled right inside the restaurant. There’s not a blank space on the walls inside the building – instead they’re covered in painted oars given to the restaurant over the past 50 years. It’s got so much character, and the huge piece of land allows for sightseeing over the Great Salt Pond or lawn games, which they provide for you.

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Our final stop brought us back to Ballard’s, where we all caught some sun for the last 2 hours of the day – except Mike, who spent his time hiding under this baby tent my mom gave him for protection. Relaxing on the beach and watching the parties going on around us was a great way to end a long day of island touring.

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Since we were gone the whole day, Mike and I had left Reese Witherspoon the Dog at my parent’s house, in Westerly. Logistically, it would have been a pain to ferry an hour back to Point Judith, drive 30 minutes south to pick her up, and then back 50 minutes north to our house to meet other friends for a cookout.

We took this as our opportunity to check something off both of our bucket lists – flying Block Island Airlines, which actually only flies between Westerly and Block Island. The flight was so fun! I’d never been in a plane that small before, and everyone was so friendly.

All in all, this was the perfect trip and a great time to reunite with one of my closest friends. Have you ever been to the Block? What are your favorite sights?

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Newport Lobster Shack

This August in Rhode Island has been an absolute beauty. We’ve been blessed with the kind of sunny skies, calm waters, and hot weather that makes you want to take advantage of every moment outdoors you can.

One of the nice things about living on the coast is our easy access to incredible seafood. Last weekend, we had a beautiful, calm day and Mike and I decided to take a short boat ride with his dad out to Newport, RI. If you’ve never been to Newport, it’s best known for its Victorian Mansions and pristine beaches. To the locals, Newport is also a great spot for dockside eats.

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We’re all big lobster fans, and it was about lunchtime, so Mike’s dad took us to a lobster spot I’ve never been to before – the Newport Lobster Shack. I didn’t know this until after we ate there, but the Shack is owned by local Newport fisherman, many of whom have been fishing off of Aquidneck Island since childhood – and the Shack’s profits help fund the fare, which is fresh caught right off the coast.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect when we pulled up to the dock, but this is a great operation! A small picnic area serving great seafood out of their food truck, and a market where you can also buy fresh catches and Shack gear.

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Mike and his dad picked up lobster rolls, which looked amazing, and I indulged in the best lobster bisque I’ve ever eaten.

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We enjoyed our lunch while we cruised through Newport Harbor, looking at the massive yachts and sailboats at the docks. Soon after, we headed home towards the famous Pell Bridge, one of Rhode Island’s most recognizable landmarks.

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This quick trip was such a nice way to spend 2-3 hours in the afternoon. I’d highly recommend the Shack for anyone looking for an amazingly fresh lobster this summer!

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