Exploring Arizona on a Long Weekend: 4 Day Itinerary

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 πŸ™‚ 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.

Arizona road trip map for a perfect long weekend getaway

Spending the four perfect days in Arizona on this route. We love maps!

Day 1

  • 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.
In Sedona stop by at Red Rock State Park

Exploring Red Rock State Park in Sedona.

Route 66 passing by Flagstaff Arizona

The only restaurant, Majerle’s Sports Grill, that was open on the eve of Thanksgiving. It is located right on the famous Route 66 in Flagstaff.

Day 2

  • 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.
A family getaway in Grand Canyon during Thanksgiving

There are multiple vista points that the shuttle buses stop at, pick and choose which ones you want to stop at. After a point, they will all look the same.

Use this map to explore the south rim of Grand Canyon

NPS map of South Rim at Grand Canyon, click on the map to go to NPS website.

Photographing sunset at Grand Canyon Mohave Point during Thanksgiving

We saw sunset at Mohave Point on the red bus route, can you spot me in this photo? Keep in mind that 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.

Day 3

  • 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. 
Watching the sunrise at Grand Canyon is a must do in Arizona

Watching the sunrise at Grand Canyon cannot be missed, neither can be having some fun. We saw sunrise at Yavapai Point, in this photo you can see Vishnu Peak in the top left.

Hiking Horseshoe Bend is a magnificent sight not to be missed

Horseshoe Bend is an easy hike to the top of the mountain which overlooks the bend on Colorado River.

Day 4

  • 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.
How to photograph Antelope Canyons - beautiful layers formed on rocks due to erosion

Beautiful strokes of brushes that mother nature has marked on the soft red rocks in Antelope Canyons. These marks are due to millions of years of flooding water passing through the slot canyons.

Read more about visiting Antelope Canyons in our detailed post 

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.

Shuttle buses in Grand Canyon to see the park

Shuttle buses are colored based on their routes.

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

We are not affiliated with any of these properties directly but if you book through our affiliate links mentioned below, it will help us maintain this website. So thank-you! πŸ™‚

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.

An ultimate guide to spending a long weekend in Arizona

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 πŸ™‚

Happy Traveling!

 

 

 

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44 comments on “Exploring Arizona on a Long Weekend: 4 Day Itinerary

  1. I got to see a few of the spots you mentioned when I was last in Arizona (Antelope Canyon was incredible), and totally agree with their spot on your itinerary! Such a beautiful state. I’ll have to visit the spots I didn’t make it to on my next visit.

    • Thanks Sarah!! I have a list of spots I still need to see in Arizona too .. lol That would make for another long weekend trip πŸ˜‰

  2. I have been dying to visit the Grand Canyon with the kids- it looks gorgeous! Love your photos! Thanks for sharing the handy tips about the buses. Is it easier using them as opposed to driving yourself?

    • Thanks Sally!! πŸ™‚ I’d say the bus is definitely easier to use since you are not allowed to drive the red route anyway (which is the most famous route) at South Rim. So why not take the blue shuttle from visitor center anyway till red route starting point. Although I must add since most people tend to use the shuttles in peak season you might find long lines of people wanting to get on the buses at each vista point. I should add this tidbit to the blog too, ha! πŸ™‚

  3. Wow, amazing what you can do and see in only a couple of days! Seems like an amazing itinerary. I’ve been to Arizona for over two weeks and didn’t even see the Antelope Canyon!! I would love to go back to see more and of it!

    • I agree, I took notes of a few hikes that I would want to do next time I visit Grand Canyon. Definitely can spend a lot of time in this area. πŸ™‚

  4. These are my favorite places in USA and what makes Arizona my favorite State due to its amazing national parks. And oh I love the sunrise shot in Grand Canyon! I wish I have done an early trip there.

    • Thanks a lot!! Yeah you think you are the only one who wants to see the sunrise and then there are a hundred other people with their cameras having the same idea… haha. But I would do it again, sunrise and sunset both at GC were phenomenal! πŸ˜€

    • Yes you are right! It doesn’t look real at all!! Do me a favor and go to horseshoe at sunset… the orange light cast on the rocks is actually surreal. I kept asking my family, do you see what I see or is it just my camera adding the effect.. haha πŸ˜‰

  5. Love this!! I went to Arizona years ago as a kid with my family but I’d love to go back and explore it myself! Gorgeous photos.

  6. Another Holiday Inn Express fan πŸ™‚ We stay at a lot as they are dog-friendly and their rewards program makes it easy to get free nights! Next time, you’ll have to include Tucson in your itinerary – I just moved here and can’t believe all the fun things to do!

    • Thanks Leigh!! Yes Tuscon it has to be on my next AZ trip πŸ˜€ And a Holiday Inn is a no-brainer when I don’t want to sit and research hotels .. Love ’em!

  7. What an amazing way to spend Thanksgiving! It looks like you and your family had a blast. Definitely pinning this itinerary to refer to for my trip to Arizona! πŸ™‚

  8. Ok you’ve inspired me that I need to get back to Arizona ASAP! I have been to the Grand Canyon, but would love to explore Sedona, Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon! Thanks for the details and recommendations! Your pictures are lovely too!

    • If you want to skip Grand Canyon on your next trip then you can possibly do Monument Valley instead along with the rest (I hear that is stunning too). There is so much awesomeness all so close by in this region! πŸ™‚ Thanks a lot girl for appreciating our photos!

  9. Grand Canyon images have always fascinated me. I missed visiting them when briefly lived in Houston. Never realised the trip to Grand Canyon is so organised.

  10. OMG! Grand Canyon! The view is stunning. How I wish that these places in Arizona is reachable by Filipinos. Haha I envy you girl! At least, it seems that I have been to Grand Canyon as well.

  11. Oh my oh my. It’s so cool that you could do this with your family. I’ve seen so many photos of The horseshoe over the past 4 months via Instagram that I have put it on my bucketlist, next to Grand Canyon. Great photos dear and thanks for the tips. I am definitely pinning this!!

    • I know right!! Thanks girl πŸ˜€ Instagram introduced me to Horseshoe Bend too.. LOL But seriously it’s so closeby you cannot miss.

    • Thanks Kristi! Red Rock was great just don’t go on a holiday, it closes early.. so check the timings before you go. πŸ™‚

  12. Arizona turned out beautiful! I have no idea at all until I searched places of interest beside Grand Canyon. We went there 4 summers ago and spent a couple of nights in Grand Canyon. We also went to Page but didn’t have time to stop in Flagstaff. But we will be back. There are so much to see and do there.

    • Yeah most people just come to Arizona for Grand Canyon only but it has so much more to offer πŸ™‚ Nothing much to do in Flagstaff actually, most people use it as a base for Grand Canyon if they don’t get lodging closer to the park. I would suggest you check out Sedona next time, even we still have to see more of Sedona besides the state park we went to.

  13. Thanks for sharing this guide I actually as thinking of going around November this year but the timing didn’t work out. That’s a great point about just picking one or two vistas since they all could look the same! How early did you guys have to get up for the sun rise?! The photos you took turned out amazing. Definitely saving for next year!

    • Yeah after a while we couldn’t tell which photo we took where.. lol Thanks a lot Hanna!!
      Since sunrise in Nov is not super early, I think we reached this vista point at around 6.15am maybe (sunrise must have been a little before 7am). We like to get there early to set up our camera etc. PS: We weren’t alone, there were a dozen or more people already out there waiting for the sunrise.

  14. What an awesome itinerary! I’m so impressed by how much you packed into a long weekend. I’ve never been to Arizona before but I’m having major National Park envy after seeing your photos. Your post inspired me to start planning an Arizona adventure!

    • Thanks a lot Agness!! πŸ™‚ Really appreciate your kind words on our photography. Since we didn’t do any major hikes on this trip so yes a weekend was absolutely enough to explore these places in AZ. All these places are within a couple of hours of drive. (We went on Thanksgiving long weekend actually where we got 4 days of off)

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