NonStop: Phoenix

There is plenty to explore in San Jose and the Bay Area, but one of the best features is actually the super-hip, newly-remodeled airport that acts as a gateway to exploring the rest of the country and the world. There is no need to drive for an hour because this international airport is just 20 minutes from anywhere in the South Bay—and boy, does it look cool. With the “Hands” blanketing the parking garage and colorful night lighting framing the modern, sleek building, Mineta San Jose International Airport rivals many of the world’s most state-of-the-art airports.

Here’s a take on one of the many non-stop destinations served Mineta San Jose International Airport: Phoenix, Arizona.

Flight Time

SJC to Phoenix is under two hours, and flights are offered daily.

Ordinary

Golf, spa, pool, eat, and shop.

Exceptional

Start the day with Matt’s Big Breakfast, lunch at Pizzeria Bianco, and end it with dinner at Tuck Shop. With all that deliciousness, visitors will need a hike. The summit of Camelback Mountain, rising out of central Phoenix, may only be 2.5 miles round trip, but the elevation gain is nearly 1,300 feet—and it is the desert, after all. To get a feel for Phoenix like the locals do, consult the city’s own magazine.

Extraordinary

Sure, visitors could arrive in Phoenix and drive directly to their swanky Scottsdale lodging to begin vacationing by the pool, playing golf, and enduring spa treatments. But if extraordinary adventure sounds appealing, they should beeline it out of town and head north, away from the heat to the high desert instead.

Crank up the AC, plug in some favorite tunes, and head north on Highway 17 toward Flagstaff, an admirable destination in itself. But don’t forget that Sedona, with its ancient red rock and new-age glory, is just off to the left. Visitors who spend some time in the Oak Creek Canyon will see why Sedona is a favorite of artists and metaphysical practitioners of every ilk. Oh, and they should be sure to experience an energy vortex and take a jeep tour—both are signature Sedona attractions.

Situated at almost 7,000 feet, Flagstaff is a welcome break from Arizona’s sweltering temperatures. Pine forests with plenty of hiking, biking, and even snow skiing in the winter make Flagstaff (known to locals as Flag) a place to unpack bags for a few days. The downtown area is quaint with not one but two historic hotels. The Hotel Monte Vista was built in 1926 and sports a vintage rooftop neon sign perched high above Route 66, which barrels through town just one block away. The Weatherford, staking a claim on 1897, is also located in the downtown area and is loaded with historic charm. While old hotels are appealing to some and a warning to others, drive-up motels are a dime a dozen in Flag. So, for those who prefer a more generic chain hotel, they’ll have plenty to choose from.

Follow the traffic—and the tourists—west from Flagstaff toward the south rim of the Grand Canyon. No one can go wrong with a stay in Williams, just an hour from the Grand Canyon. Park the car and ride the Grand Canyon Railway, or visit “Bearizona”—the area’s own drive-thru wildlife park. Native American arts and crafts and national park pride are alive and well in Williams. Stay at The Lodge on Route 66, and enjoy a spacious room—each named after a city on the famed route from Chicago to LA.

If serenity beckons, head east on Route 66 (now Route 40) toward Winslow, skirting the colorful splendor of the Painted Desert. A stop in Winslow wouldn’t be satisfactory without a visit to the “Standin’ on the Corner Park” complete with “a girl, my Lord, in a flat bed Ford.” When the photos have been taken and the t-shirts purchased, continue down 2nd Street to La Posada, a renovated Harvey House Hotel across from the Winslow Amtrak station. La Posada opened its doors in 1930, the masterpiece of architect Mary Jane Colter and Fred Harvey, the man who “civilized the West.” As developer and owner of all the hotels along the Santa Fe Railway, Harvey brought sophistication to railroad travel, and his hotel played host to the likes of President Franklin Roosevelt, Clark Gable, and Amelia Earhart, to name just a few.

La Posada is the place to settle in, spend a few nights, and explore the surrounding areas. Read a book in the garden, pad around on the handcrafted tile floors, admire the modern artwork, and allow Chef John Sharpe of The Turquoise Room to wine and dine everyone with thoughtful, locally sourced southwestern cuisine. La Posada’s renovation began in 1997 and continues today due to the efforts of a dedicated team of preservationists and artists. The current focus is on the restoration of twelve acres of gardens featuring native, sustainable desert plants. Scattered throughout the grounds are shade, sun, relaxing spaces, a comprehensive gift-shop, and social areas tailor-made for a strong margarita and a bowl of house-made guacamole.

From Winslow, the surrounding area is ripe for exploration. The kitschy charm of Route 66 is thick near Winslow, with Gallup, New Mexico on one side and “don’t forget Winona” on the other. Just a stone’s throw from Winslow are The Petrified Forest, Navajo and Hopi country, and Meteor Crater with gift shops that sell everything from rabbit’s foot key chains to authentic Native American jewelry. Returning to La Posada after a day on the dusty trail feels like a true oasis.

The quickest way back to Phoenix is to backtrack, but for more exploration, head south out of Holbrook toward the Pinetop-Lakeside area, where Phoenicians go to beat the heat. The drive will be longer, but the elevations are higher and the temperature is cooler, with a July average of 77 degrees.

Places to Visit in Phoenix


Written by Mary Matlack
Photography by Daniel Garcia

Article originally appeared in Issue 4.4 Education (Print SOLD OUT)
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