Last September, my sister and I took a Labor Day vacay to Phoenix. Why Phoenix? Why not? While super hot and not totally glamorous, it is the sixth largest city in the U.S. and is totally drivable from San Diego.
There is something about the beauty of the desert that makes a drive like this relaxing. A long and straight highway lets driver and passenger focus on the scenery in a way that’s a bit more difficult on a windy mountainous road. Everyone should drive through the desert once in their life, whether it’s to see saguaro cactus like we did, or to see the painted desert closer to the north part of Arizona and New Mexico.
We stayed at a really cute Airbnb that did nothing but exacerbate my dreams of owning a home with a casita out back to host my own out of towners. The decoration was feminine and cute while still managing to be desert-y. Small touches like a pastel colored Mexican blanket and drinking glasses with a desert motif helped remind us where we were.
The first evening we got there, we headed to the Desert Botanical Garden, but balked at the price ($22!) since we only had a few moments left of daylight. There were a bunch of kids arriving with flashlights and headlamps for a night guided tour—how fun! If I were visiting for longer, I’d definitely carve out a half-day to see the whole garden. The following day we ate our way through the city. We started with donuts and coffee, moved on to lunch with my old coworker and friend and then did a bit of thrift store and antique shopping.
The heat was surprisingly draining (remember, this was September). We spent a disproportionate amount of time just recuperating in our air-conditioned airbnb. This makes sense though—while we were out and about I was struck by how empty the streets were. One of the main design things I noticed about Phoenix is that keeping the sun (and thereby the heat) out of homes, restaurants, etc was of paramount importance—even more important than making the outside of places terribly attractive. However, I did see it done in some unique and beautiful ways, particularly in the Coronado Historic neighborhood where we stayed.
On the way to Phoenix, I noticed a road sign that pointed out Native American petroglyphs. On the way back, I insisted on going to see them, even though I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was fairly out of way way—11 miles off the freeway—but I think it was worth it. Seeing artwork created by ancient people, thousands of years ago, really left me speechless. The desert is such a hostile and inhospitable place, it is mind-boggling to think of humans roaming the area in such a primitive time.
Before the trip, my co-worker and Arizona native told me that while making the drive we had to stop outside of Gila Bend and get one of Dateland’s famous date shakes. I’d never really heard of a date shake before but I was diligent to take her up on the recommendation. The date shakes were so delicious, Steph and I were sure to get them again on the way back to California!
Sometimes getting away for even just a couple of days can be really refreshing for a couple of reasons. Checking out a new city can be so energizing—but getting home to familiar settings and routines can be comforting in a way.
Where is your go-to escape for a three day weekend? Let me know in the comments.
This post originally appeared on My Friend Staci. All photos by Staci Jackson.