Top-10 Day Trips from the Golden Corridor
by Robin Layton
When you live in Arizona, you don’t need to worry about taking a long and costly vacation. Our state offers a wide variety of unique towns, national parks and stunning natural formations to keep you day-tripping for a few years. You can find the perfect day’s fun for your family inside the many museums, shops and restaurants or outside on trails, lakes and Jeep tours. Whether you crave the snow of Northern Arizona or the warmth of the desert, there is a day trip for you.
- Jerome (160 miles) This historic copper mining town caters to the ghost hunter, art lover, wine or beer connoisseur and history lover. After each member of your family finds something entertaining to do in the more than two dozen galleries and eclectic shops, you can meet up on the hill at the Haunted Hamburger for your choice of nine burgers or many options on the “Not The Burgers” menu.
- Wickenburg (114 miles) Thick with the atmosphere of the Old West, Wickenburg is set along side the Hassayampa River. Its quaint downtown offers shopping and a variety of restaurants including Anita’s Cocina, where you can get authentic Mexican food. You can bring your inner cowboy and let him play on the many guest ranches or soak in some Western culture at the Desert Caballeros Western Museum.
- Benson (113 miles) Home of Kartchner Caverns State Park, Benson will feed your love of nature. After your cave tour and visit to the museum, you can take one of the many trails around the state park. Voted the “Best Arizona Attraction” by USA Today, it is recommended you make online tour reservations before your day trip. The cave is home to the tallest and most massive column in the state. Downtown Benson pays tribute to its railroad heritage with a traditional depot. The kids will love the new train simulator at the visitor’s center! The town is also known for the Holy Trinity Monastery. No longer an active monastery, visitors are welcome to enjoy the solitude and take sometime for reflection.
- Sedona (164 miles) Outdoor lovers flock to the Red Rocks of Sedona for mountain biking and hiking. Enjoy the cool waters of Slide Rock State Park or the majestic natural wonders in Red Rock StatePark. Many New Age shops will give you the information for visiting Sedona’s famous vortexes or you can take the official Vortex Tour from the several Jeep tour groups. If unique shopping venues are your thing, visit Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village, as well as the main street shopping district.
- Tombstone (137 miles) If there is one town in Arizona that offers visitors a taste of the authentic Wild West, it is this cowboy-haven. From the Boot Hill Graveyard to the Crystal Palace Saloon and Bird Cage Theatre, you can immerse yourself in our country’s early history. Multiple museums and daily gunslinger shows will keep you busy. The Crystal Palace will fill you up with choices of Wild Westwings, their signature pork ribs and cool, thick milkshakes. Keep an eye on tombstone.org for the town’s many special events, which include Wyatt Earp Days, Showdown in Tombstone, Wyatt Earp’s Vendetta Ride and more.
- Montezuma’s Castle, Camp Verde (140 miles) Spend the day with the family learning about the cliff-dwelling Sinagua culture at this national monument.Tours offer insights into the local reptiles and medicinal plants. After your day outside, head into the cool air of the Cliff Castle Casino Hotel to pick from several restaurant choices, including the Mountain Springs Buffet.
- Bisbee (165 miles) When the last copper mine closed, this town transformed itself into an Arizona tourism mecca. Whether ghost-hunting, mine history or arts and crafts are your thing, you can find them all – and more – in Bisbee. Check out the Bisbee Seance Room for a fun-filled evening full of paranormal entertainment. Jump on the mine train for a trip into the famous Queen.
- Payson (128 miles) “The Heart of Arizona” brings it all together with rodeos, swimming, hiking, fishing and camping. The historic downtown offers dining and shopping.Visit the Zane Grey Museum and seethe Rim Country through the famous author’s eyes. Swing by WesternVillage Art Antique Coral for some unique finds. Tonto Natural Bridge offers hiking trails, the natural bridge and the park’s cavern. Fossil hunting andIndian ruins will keep the history buff enthralled. The area is also a popular destination for “rock hounds” looking for geodes and “Arizona diamonds”(gemstone-quality quartz crystals). After a full day of Payson touring, the Buffalo Bar and Grill will set your toes to tapping with the band and the petite dance floor will call your name.
- Pine (139 miles) Cruise into Pine and feel your temperature drop under the tall trees. Saunter through the quaint downtown area to visit an art gallery or two and small specialty shops. Don’t forget the Honey Stand or the Trident Winery. Ready for dinner? Swing into THAT Brewery & Pub and kick back on the patio to enjoy some delicious food and one of their in-house hand-crafted micro-brewed beer selections.
- Prescott (148 miles) Come up to 5,300 feet and you’ll cool off instantly. Enjoy a stroll around the historic CourthousePlaza and duck into one of dozens of the unusual stores and restaurants. Immerse yourself in Western art and history at the Phippen, Smoki, Fort Whipple and Sharlot Hall museums. Outside adventures await for mountain bikers, climbers, hikers and kayakers with hundreds of miles of trails and several lakes. Throw in the Heritage Park Zoo and the Highlands Center for Natural History, and your day is full! Make sure you save sometime for a stroll down the famous Whiskey Row before you head out of town.
Mileage calculated from Casa Grande as departing point.