In Arizona, you can see a bit of everything. Phoenix offers fine dining and big-city comforts. Flagstaff has cool snowy getaways. Wickenburg brims with true cowboy adventure. Sonoita pours fine wine. And the back roads in between beckon with romance-kindling adventure.
Sunrise in Wickenburg
Wickenburg is a quick and painless drive from the Phoenix area — jump on U.S. 60 and head northwest. Really, it is a perfect destination for an early-morning sunrise hike. I suggest the Hassayampa River Preserve, which is a lush stream-side oasis. I also have enjoyed hiking Vulture Peak trail. It is well maintained and a relatively easy hike. The trail is filled with interesting rock formations, plus Saguaro, Cholla, Palo Verde, Mesquite, Ocotillo, and Jojoba. Sunrise should be gorgeous from either location.
After your sunrise hike, get breakfast at one of the many cafes in downtown Wickenburg. Just pick one — I haven’t stumbled on a bad one yet. From here, amble over to the Desert Caballeros Museum or a dude ranch like Rancho de Los Caballeros. Wickenburg has more dude ranches than any other city in the U.S.
Arizona Jeep Tours
This stretches the idea of a day trip. Technically, it’s a tour, but the best type of day trip is one where neither of you have to drive. Instead, you can snuggle up in the backseat and let Arizona Jeep Tours’ Fred Amator do the hard work. Spend a day learning about Arizona history, geology, and desert wildlife. Pick from five different trips — personally, I took the Castle Hot Springs trip and learned much about the area. The two of you will have a new appreciation for Arizona, and neither has to worry about arguments over who will drive or why you got lost. Leave the maps and the GPS to Fred. All trips are spun with the good-old-boy charm of a real Arizona native. You can arrange a meeting with Fred on his side of town or yours.
Sledding and a Snowball Fight
It may seem strange to my friends on the East Coast, but sometimes, you just want to feel cold, which is why we have Northern Arizona just a short trip away. Much like Northern California is wholly different from Southern California, so is true in Arizona. There have been years on record where Flagstaff was the snowiest city in the country. Yes, a city in Arizona was the snowiest! Wing Mountain Snow Play Area is an easy spot to find and filled with good sledding. You can rent a sled at almost any general store on the way there. Truth be told, if you head toward Snow Bowl Ski Resort from downtown Flagstaff, there are plenty of good spots to stop, have a snowball fight, then build a snowman.
Picnic in Arizona’s Little Tuscany
The rolling grassy hills of Elgin and Sonoita are something to behold and decidedly un-Arizona. You’re rolling down the I-10 in Creosote Desert, but when you exit for Sonoita, suddenly everything changes. I smile and feel a bit like I’ve been transported to Tuscany every time I take that exit. Speaking of Italy, grab a bottle at Lightning Ridge Cellars. They specialize in Italian-style wines and craft earthy reds that scream out for good food, particularly the Montepulciano. Next, head to one of Arizona’s original wine makers, Sonoita Vineyards, for a picnic. Resting atop a beautiful hill, it’d be a great place to pop the big question or even stage your own wedding. In the meantime, they sell picnic food, or you can bring your own. Throw out a blanket or use one of their tables.
Horses, Hiking, and Hohokam
Simply said, chicks dig horses. So a day of riding at White Tanks Riding Stables is an easy way to keep the woman in the relationship happy. But let’s pretend that maybe one of you is allergic to horses (sorry about that). Well, the White Tank Mountains offer a variety of trails and excellent wildlife viewing. Enjoy Arizona’s mild winter, and feel fit. Keep a lookout for rattlesnakes, deer, coyotes, mountain lions, Gila monsters, and more. Also, the White Tank regional library offers plenty of books on the Southwest. The library has huge windows and a view of the entire valley. It would be a great spot to hit up on a rare rainy day. Just find a corner seat and snuggle up with a good book on the Hohokam or Arizona’s native cacti.