Desert Oasis Wonderland. Nevada, Utah and Arizona.

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So for our summer trip this year (2018), our family decided that it was time to explore the southwest United States. AND we did just that! It took quite a bit of planning, researching and mapping to pull this one off. Where, When, How….and How Long. As with all vacations I always first look to other bloggers. Did a quick Pinterest search for “Southwest Road Trips” and a plethora of information was at my fingertips.

The best way for me to organize myself for this type of trip is to print out maps and day itinerary’s. With this I start mapping out our drive/days and determining how long truly we would need in each stop. Destinations set!

Las Vegas, NV —–> Springdale, UT ——> Page, AZ——> Scottsdale, AZ

STOP 1 (Friday Aug 3-Sunday Aug 5)

We decided to start our journey in Las Vegas. Flying out to this region is tricky from South Florida. Thankfully with proper planning and early booking we were able to score FIRST CLASS seats. Let me start by saying that this was a treat we normally do not get, however when you are taking a 5 hour flight AND changing time zones, I highly recommend that you plan/save accordingly. Why? Comfort, food….. and you will likely catch some needed zzzzzzz’s.

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Our hotel of choice was the Cosmopolitan. Centrally located on the strip…loaded with restaurants… 2 pools….. AND now part of the Marriott brand, enough said.  Please read my full review of the Cosmo here The Cosmopolitan…Las Vegas with a youthful flair

Since we were bringing our son along, I needed to design our days/nights ala kid friendly. We ALL know Vegas is more of an “adult playground”. Days were easily spent at the hotel’s pool and walking thru all the neat hotels. Night time was going to be challenging…  Several months before the trip we started looking into shows. We found the PERFECT one to suit our family… Pen and Teller. Sadly though about 2 months prior to the trip the show was cancelled. No reason given. Booooooooo. So in lieu of a show we opted to check out the Bellagio Fountains AND eat at Hell’s Kitchen! **Full review on this experience here Top 2 eats of Sin City…** Since we were still getting used to west coast time getting in bed early was pretty much guaranteed each of the 2 nights we were there!

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On our last morning we hit Hash House A Go before checking out the Las Vegas sign before packing up and hitting the road!

STOP 2 (Sunday Aug 5- Tuesday Aug 7)

UTAH here we come! Sadly though due to the recent fires out west the views from the car were rather hazy. I will say this though, coming from flat Florida, hazy or not THESE VIEWS WERE GORGEOUS!

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About half way to our destination we stopped at In and Out Burger. In reading blogs this was a “MUST” for many… Yes, we ordered from the secret menu…. 

As we approached Springdale, Utah our mouths were agape. Springdale is a very small town located directly outside the entrance of Zion National Park. Breathtaking is an understatement.

Our hotel of choice… another Marriot brand… Springhill Suites. Views STUNNING, Free breakfast DELICIOUS. **Full hotel review to follow on a future blog post.**

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After we checked into the hotel, and filled our canteens, we decided to head towards ZION and knock out our first hike of the trip. <SAVINGS TIP~ Buy an annual pass for the National Parks. They are $80 for a family and are good an entire year. Had we not have had the pass the TOTAL entrance fees for this vacation alone would have been $135.00>. Our first hike was Canyon Overlook, and wow it did not disappoint. Took about 2 hours and the views were breathtaking. Owning hiking shoes is a must for this type of hike. The gravel is loose and you can lose your footing easily without the proper grips. After the hike we hit Zion Brewing and picked up a growler of their Jamaican Lager, to have while relaxing poolside. For dinner the first night we opted for a local favorite “Oscar’s Café”. Mexican food and hamburgers are their specialty.

Early rise the next morning to tackle THE NARROWS! If you have read anything about Zion  you have certainly heard about this hike. 90% of the hike is in the Virgin River. I must say this hike was a highlight of this trip. It will be forever embedded in my memory bank as well as my family’s. You will read that you need to rent gear… if you are doing this in the summer it’s really not necessary. Wear your hiking shoes or some old running shoes you don’t care about. Our family each own a pair of Solomon trail running shoes and they were PERFECT. They were dry by the morning and not a blister or chaff to be found on any of our feet.

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After 6 miles of water hiking we were STARVING. We opted to return to the local Brewery “Zion Brew Pub”, which is conveniently located directly outside the walk-in entrance to Zion. Food was great! Took a growler to go again…. and then back to the pool!

Dinner this night was at “Jack’s Switchback Grille”… I would NOT recommend eating here. The server was super nice, however the food was barely eatable. After dinner we packed the car up to get ready for an early start Tuesday…

STOP 3 (Tuesday Aug 7- Thursday Aug 9) 

Just north of Zion National Park is another amazing National Park, Bryce Canyon. HOODOOS!!!!! We headed up on Mount Carmel Highway, amazing, this is one of the most beautiful roads our country has to offer. Just look at how amazing! This picture was taken just off the side of the road as we stopped to explore a bit.

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On your route to Bryce you will pass through Dixie National Forest, please watch for deer, sadly on our way out we saw 2 that had been hit by vehicles.

We reached Bryce at about 10am. I had read that if you are in Bryce for just a short while to drive thru to one of the end sights and work your way back. We opted for the Natural Bridge, gorgeous right?

IMG_1180From there we worked our way to Sunset/Sunrise Point and opted for the “Navajo Loop” hike. HOLY SWITCHBACKS…. this hike is not for the faint heart. The journey down is much easier than the hike back up. We did it though! In close to 100 degree heat! Once this hike was done we had to hit the road to venture towards our 3rd stop. After all that hiking we of course were starving, thankfully we saw a Subway right outside the park entrance. After that fuel up we hit the road and headed towards Page.

The route to Page is not a sight for four eyes either. You literally drive thru The Grand Staircase at Escalante National Monument. Side note, why on Earth would our current administration event think to want to shrink this protected land. Makes ZERO sense, I digress. A few hours later AND several degrees higher we were in Page.

After checking into the hotel, Courtyard by Marriott, we decided to knock out a bucket list item of mine HORSESHOE BEND!

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The pull of for this sight is about 10 minutes from town. After you park you will have about a 30 minute walk thru the desert to get to the bend. YOU MUST BRING WATER. I cannot stress this enough. It was 103 degrees when we went. The sun is no joke. Do yourself a favor and enjoy this, stay hydrated. In the evening we had dinner at a local favorite BBQ joint. Delicious.

The next morning we found a local diner to have breakfast prior to heading to Antelope Canyon. (Important note: You can only access Antelope Canyon with a Navajo guide. There are a few companies for both upper and lower canyon. You MUST book this in advance. There is no showing up and getting on a tour as visitor counts are limited to keep the tour size enjoyable.) After doing plenty of research we opted for Dixie Ellis Lower Antelope Tour. I was SO happy we did. Our guide Justin was incredible.**Full tour review to follow on a future blog post.**

After the tour was complete we opted for Jack’s Old Fashion Hamburger fast food chain…  My son is a fish out of water, as you will see in our travels he always has to get wet! A local spot to go swimming in the area of course was Lake Powell. Few Pinterest searches and low and behold “Lone Rock Beach” was found. The water was a good temperature and my son was super pleased and cooled off. I have to say my one regret was not going in myself!

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STOP 4 (Thursday Aug 9- Sunday Aug 12) 

Early rise to head off to our final stop. This would be the longest in mile range. The Grand Canyon is pretty much a bucket list for any American and with it falling pretty much in between Page and Scottsdale we HAD to pass through.

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It’s no wonder that this is the one of the most visited National Parks in the USA. Unfortunately for us there were several wild fires between California and Arizona. Due to this the canyon was rather hazy, however it was still amazing to see in person.

For our last and final hotel in this journey we chose the JW Camelback Inn Resort, yes Marriott of course.**Full tour review to follow on a future blog post.**  We were actually referred to this resort by another loyal Marriott rewards member, my husband and I refer to him as Platinum David. We met him in Maui on our summer vacation last year.

This was our FAVORITE hotel of this trip. we will definitely return for sure. Even if for only a weekend. From the cute “casita” hotel rooms, to the immaculately groomed landscaping, it’s no wonder this resort received such high remarks on all reviews given on all the sites I checked. The resort itself is nestled in the prestige community within Scottsdale, Paradise Valley. Surrounded by million dollar mountainside homes and a lush golf course I might add.

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Scottsdale as a whole was beautiful. Great dining options along with plenty of familiar food chains to eat at. Of course we had to hit another fast food joint and Whataburger it was….

In the end we drove over 1006 miles, visited 3 states, hiked 48 miles, biked 9.5 miles, and made COUNTLESS memories. I hope I mapped out this trip clearly enough so that you could use a a base for your trip to the southwest. As always any questions or additional recommendations on dining along this route drop a comment or reach out to me via tweet @liznuminous .

xoxo, Liz

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