Open an atlas to the state of Arizona and you’ll discover a bounty of exciting-sounding places to visit: Two Guns, Skull Valley and Robbers Roost to name just a few.
Those particular towns offer danger in name only. If you’re looking for some real weekend adventure in the Valley of the Sun, check out these themed road trips from Phoenix, within just a couple hours’ driving distance.
Sedona Vortex and Cococino Volcanoes
Drive Time: About 2 hours from Phoenix
In Sedona, you just might find yourself suddenly calm and at peace with the world. As legend goes, Sedona is host to multiple vortexes, sites where positive spiritual energies converge, according to an article by the Sedona Chamber of Commerce. Just like water or wind can create a cyclone, it’s believed these areas amplify energy and help people connect more strongly to thoughtful powers of prayer, meditation and healing.
Vortexes not your thing? How bout some camping, hiking or fishing in the area’s Coconino National Forest? This forest spans 1.8 million acres, and you can find just about every type of terrain possible within its quarters, including creek beds, rugged mountains, plains and even dormant volcanoes! The Coconino forest is also home to Arizona’s largest natural lake, Mormon Lake.
Lowell Observatory and the Meteor Crater
Drive Time: Just over 2 hours from Phoenix
The Lowell Observatory was founded in 1894 by Percival Lowell. Astronomer Clyde W. Tombaugh made perhaps the most famous discovery at the site in 1930: Pluto. Its discovery was made in February 1930 and Pluto became the ninth planet in the Solar System. Pluto remained a planet until 2006 when astronomers downgraded Pluto to a dwarf planet, according to the Library of Congress.
Scientists and astronomers continue to use the observatory every day to look for signs of life, undiscovered planets and stars and the great unknown. The public is invited to tour the facility, watch presentations about solar discoveries and use the telescopes to look at the skies.
Meteor Crater, about a 30-minute drive east of Flagstaff near the city of Winslow, is often called the “best preserved meteorite crater on Earth.” The nearly mile-wide, 550-foot-deep impact site is privately owned and open to the public daily. At the site, families can learn more about how the crater came to be by viewing it through indoor and outdoor observatory areas, watching a 3-D movie and taking a guided tour.
Drive Time: About 3 hours from Phoenix
The Wild Wild West awaits in the city of Tombstone. You’ll be greeted by character actors who patrol the main thoroughfare of Allen Street.
Tombstone prides itself on its ruggedness and ability to survive. In fact, its nickname is the “Town Too Tough to Die.” A walk along the themed main drag is like walking into another world. Streets are dusty, old men perch along the sides of buildings with a piece of straw hanging from their mouths and 10-gallon hats sit low on their heads.
Here, you can relive the infamous gun fight at the O.K. Corral. The shoot-out, which was believed to have lasted only 30 seconds, is rooted in Old West folklore and involved two of the baddest cowboys of them all, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.
In addition to re-enactments of the gun fight, Tombstone offers family fun such as museums, costume shops, old timey photo studios, Jeep tours and a ghost tour.
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