How To Spend 4 Days Adventuring Through Arizona

With its picturesque canyons, winding rivers, impressive peaks, desert landscapes, and national forests, there is a lot of diverse ground to cover in Arizona, which makes it a great road trip destination. I’ve put together a sample itinerary for how to spend 4 days exploring the Valentine State (AZ became a state on Feb 14, 1912) by car, which you can watch on the vlog here. I’ve also included a cost breakdown at the end.

Day 1: Fly into Phoenix Airport and grab your rental car. Prepare for your longest drive of the trip–318 miles to Monument Valley (~5 hrs). To break up the journey, stop in Sedona for pizza with a view at Hideaway House. Continue onto Goulding’s Lodge just across the border in Utah for your first night. It’s about 10 minutes outside of Monument Valley but half the cost of staying at the hotel on the reservation. Get a good night’s rest because the next 2 days are full of exploration.

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Day 2: Wake up before the sun to tour Monument Valley with Navajo Spirit Tours. Take in the sights and learn about the Navajo way of life from your local guide. I recommend paying for a tour if you want access to the restricted sections of MV and if you’re interested in talking to a native.  Learning about the Navajo culture added a lot of depth to my visit and was definitely worth the cost. Our guide could trace his ancestors back 18 generations (~500 years), and we saw ruins that were about 3,000 years old! Give yourself approximately 3 hours for this part of the day.

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Next, make the 2 hour drive to Page, AZ to see Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. Both these sights are better to photograph when the sun is higher in the sky, so definitely keep that in mind. My friend and I went in February when the sun doesn’t get high enough to cause the famous sun beam in Upper AC, so we opted to tour Lower Antelope Canyon instead. Give yourself an hour and a half total for AC and at least an hour for HS Bend. After an exhilarating but exhausting day of sightseeing, check into your hotel to prepare for day 3! I stayed at Holiday Inn Express Lake Powell.

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Day 3: It’s time to head to the Grand Canyon, which will take about 2.5 hours. I recommend stopping by the visitors center upon arrival to chat with the park rangers. They can help you decide on the best plan for you based on your interests. My friend and I were all about the views, so we spent most of the day admiring the canyon from the various lookouts. We did make some time to learn a little bit about the fascinating geology to help us comprehend what we were seeing. I’ve posted my Grand Canyon photos and review here.  We stayed in the park at Yavapai Lodge which was nice but not necessary if you have a car.

Day 4: Before heading back to Phoenix, catch a final glimpse of the Grand Canyon at sunrise. Then you have 3.5 hours to reflect on the awesomeness of Arizona as you drive back to the airport to fly home. Unless you’ve decided you’re never going home 😉

Cost Breakdown (we went in late February): Accommodation = $126 each, Rental Car = $180 each, MV Tour = $95 each, AC Tour = $26 each, Gas = $18 each, Souvenirs = $30, Navajo Entrance Fee = $20 per vehicle up to four people, Grand Canyon Entrance Fee = $30 per vehicle, and I spent $76 on food.

Where else would you add on to this Arizona road trip??

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Southern USA Road Trip: New Orleans via Chicago

Here are my suggestions and photos after spending 2 weeks heading south from Chicago and back! Having never been to any of these cities before (besides Indianapolis), it was a great route and introduction to the American South, an area full of character and history.

Cities we hit: West Lafayette (Purdue), Louisville, Nashville, Memphis, Natchez, New Orleans, Tuscaloosa, Indianapolis.

It’s also possible to loop back north a different way if you have more time, making stops along the way in Atlanta and Chattanooga or the Carolinas. So many options!

Purdue to Louisville: 3 hours

We stayed at the Galt House, which I would highly recommend, and then checked out the waterfront and 4th Street Live. Ironically we couldn’t find a KFC but managed to get our hands on some local Kentucky-fried chicken which was delicious!

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Louisville to Nashville: 2.5 hours

We stayed in an Airbnb which was great. We enjoyed all the bars and live music on Broadway Street. Despite being toursity, we had a lot of fun! We also rented bikes and explored Vanderbilt and the cute area our Airbnb was in. We definitely fell in love with Nashville and its charm.

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Nashville to Memphis: 3 hours

We stayed at the Holiday Inn near downtown, which I remember having the best pillows and comfiest bed! I always say Memphis is a place I’m glad I experienced once, but I don’t feel an urge to go back. There is so much history in the area from Martin Luther King, Jr. and Elvis, and exploring all that was one of the highlights of the whole trip for me. We also ate some really good barbecue-Central BBQ is where its at!

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Memphis to Natchez: 4 hours 45 min (longest drive of our route but prettiest by far!)

We stayed at Hampton Inn and Suites and couldn’t have been happier with our decision. Not only was there a free happy hour, but they also had a free shuttle to and from the bar/restaurant area. Natchez is full of old plantation homes, which you can go in and wander around and also hear the spiel from the tour guide about the history of the home. We chose to go into 3 homes, which took us about half a day. It was the perfect amount in my opinion because you are able to get in depth with a few places and see enough variety without overdoing it. I enjoyed seeing the beautiful homes and hearing the stories behind them. However, I was disappointed by the lack of information the guides were willing to share about slavery. Clearly these plantation homes were maintained by slaves, yet they would not acknowledge it and almost even tried to deny it when asked. That definitely rubbed me the wrong way and was eye-opening. (Like I said though, we only toured 3 of the many homes so I can’t say that would be the case at all of them.)

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Natchez to the Myrtles Plantation home in Louisiana: 1 hour

Visiting the Myrtles Plantation home was not originally in our plans but we decided to add it in to cut up the drive since it was on our way to New Orleans. Any haunted house lovers out there should definitely check this place out and see if you have any paranormal experiences! It was a spooky and fun couple of hours and made for great conversation the rest of the trip. The grounds were also spooky and beautiful.

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Myrtles Plantation to New Orleans: 1 hour 45 min

New  Orleans, what a party! I also feel like it’s the most European city in the U.S. Must do’s include checking out the French Quarter, eating gumbo and Po boys, listening to live music on Frenchman Street, day drinking on Bourbon Street, and taking in the city from the water aboard the Natchez Steamboat. We stayed in Airbnbs the whole time, which I would recommend.

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New Orleans to Tuscaloosa: 4 hours 20 min

Any college football fans out there might be interested in stopping in Tuscaloosa to visit the University of Alabama for a day. It’s not something I would recommend otherwise.

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Tuscaloosa to Nashville: 3.5 hours

We liked Nashville so much we decided to stop there again on our way home! This time we saw a show at the Grand Ole Opry which I would highly recommend. We partied some more on Broadway and even saw a hockey game at Bridgestone Arena. Nashville is always a good time!

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Nashville to Indianapolis: 4.5 hours

(Stop along the way at the Loveless Cafe for some of the best made-from-scratch food you’ll ever have!)

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I tried to keep this post short and simple, but if you want any more in depth information feel free to leave a comment and I’ll be happy to help!

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