If you have never been to this desert state, then spending a long weekend in Arizona would be a perfect start. And what better than to go here on the longest holiday weekend in the US i.e. Thanksgiving.
Last year we decided to spend four days of Thanksgiving holidays in Arizona. I know you all must be thinking Thanksgiving is all about coming home together as a family. But don’t you worry, we didn’t skip our family reunion. We all just traveled together to a new destination 🙂 We even enjoyed a delicious homestyle meal on Thanksgiving Day “thanks” to the only restaurant that was open in Flagstaff that evening – Majerle’s Sports Grill. Honestly, I am still surprised they were even open.
Arizona Weather in November
As hot as Arizona can be in the summertime, it can get really cold in the winters especially up in the mountains. Mountains would be north of Phoenix i.e. Sedona, Flagstaff, Grand Canyon, and Page. North Rim of Grand Canyon is even closed in the winters. However, South Rim is open and that is where we went. November was actually just the perfect weather you want here. We needed light jackets during the day when the sun was out and only had to bundle up in early mornings and late nights.
Four-day Arizona trip: Daily Itinerary
This itinerary is based on your arrival in Phoenix. If you are coming from Las Vegas or California then you should consider making a stopover at the West Rim of Grand Canyon and the Skywalk. Also, this itinerary does not account for any extreme hiking, if you have a few hikes in mind then consider adding additional time accordingly. You can read more about the hiking trails and other basics on Grand Canyon National Park’s website.
- Fly to Phoenix in the morning and drive to Sedona. It takes about two hours (2:00 hrs) to get to Sedona from Phoenix.
- Visit Red Rock State Park in Sedona.
- Drive to Flagstaff, spend the night here. It is an hour (1 hr) drive from Sedona to Flagstaff. Our accommodation suggestions are mentioned at the end of this post.
- Drive early morning from Flagstaff to Grand Canyon. It takes roughly one and a half hours (1:30 hrs) to get to the visitor center from Flagstaff.
- Explore Grand Canyon‘s Blue and Red bus routes. We will talk about Grand Canyon shuttle buses more in detail in a bit.
- Spend the night in either Grand Canyon Lodges or Tusayan, a small town right outside South Rim entrance.
- Get up super early in the morning to watch the sunrise at Grand Canyon.
- Explore the orange bus route as you exit Grand Canyon from Desert View Station (refer NPS bus map above).
- Drive East towards Page, AZ. It will take you about two and a half hours (2:30 hrs) or more from the visitor center of Grand Canyon South Rim to Horseshoe Bend.
- Hike the Horseshoe Bend to catch the sunset on top.
- Very close to Horseshoe Bend in Page are the Antelope Canyons. Take the guided tour of Antelope Canyons. If you are wondering which ones to visit – Upper or Lower Canyon then you must read our post on Antelope Canyons to find out.
- Visit Lake Powell recreational area.
- Drive back to Phoenix and fly out that night or the next morning. It is about four hours drive (4 hrs) from Page to Phoenix, AZ.
Grand Canyon Shuttle Buses
We would highly advise you to utilize the free shuttle buses that run through the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Especially the red route shuttle bus since private vehicles are not allowed on the red bus route till Hermit’s Rest. You can park your car at Visitor Center and take the blue bus all the way to the starting point of the red route. The buses stop at all the major vista points in Grand Canyon. Pick and choose your hop off and on points wisely since after a while all views will start looking alike. Although we must add that most people tend to use these shuttles in peak season, so you might find long lines of people wanting to get on to buses at stopovers. TIP: Carry bottles of water and snacks to keep you hydrated and energized. Vehicles are allowed on the orange bus route so we would recommend you to drive that part yourself on your way out of the Desert View Station exit. TIP: The shuttle buses end their service soon after sunset so don’t forget to hop on the last shuttle otherwise, it will be a long hike back.
If you are traveling to Grand Canyon with a senior citizen of the US or a senior Green Card holder, then buy them a lifetime pass for National Parks. This one time $10 fee allows them and anyone in their car a free entry to all the National Parks in the US.
Accommodation and Food
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In Flagstaff: The town of Flagstaff is relatively bigger than Tusayan but much smaller than Phoneix. You will find a bunch of eating options here as well as a few superstores. The Holiday Inn Express in Flagstaff and Hilton Garden Inn are a couple of better options to stay than some other places here.
In Grand Canyon: You can either book one of the 3 lodges that are located in Grand Canyon National Park. Although with lodges make sure you book it ahead of time since these lodges are in high demand due to their proximity and they sell out fast. Another great option is to stay in the village of Tusayan. It’s only a 5 minutes drive from the entrance of South Rim. We stayed at Holiday Inn Express in Tusayan which turned out pretty nice. Our other option was The Grand Hotel in Tusayan but even that was sold out for the Thanksgiving weekend. In Tusayan, there are a handful of food options including fast food and everything is within a mile in radius.
In Page Arizona: I would again suggest Holiday Inn Express in Page since there are really very limited options for good stay in this small town. There are a few Asian food options in Page downtown as well as Mexican and American BBQ.
While there are many places to be explored in Arizona, this Grand Canyon circuit we talked about is definitely going to be the highlight of your trip. Hope you guys have a wonderful long weekend in Arizona! Do share it with your friends and family and leave us a comment if you liked this post. Also, don’t forget to pin this post for later. Hover over the photos above to pin it 🙂