grand canyon railway credit Xanterra Travel Collection

National Plan for Vacation Day: Arizona Awaits

Sometimes it’s tough to say goodbye to the joy and gift-giving of the holiday season once the calendar turns to January, but National Plan for Vacation Day provides a perfect opportunity to give yourself, or your family and friends, a gift to kick off the new year.

Celebrated each year on the last Tuesday of January, National Plan for Vacation Day encourages people everywhere to plan for vacations early in the year, which delivers the benefits of increased mental, physical and spiritual well-being. Planning now also means you’ll be much more likely to use your well-deserved but too often unused vacation days.

“Looking forward to an upcoming vacation is almost as fun as taking the trip itself,” says Lisa Urias, CEO/EDD of the Arizona Office of Tourism. “We’re all incredibly busy and time goes by fast, so I always try to get at least one vacation planned in January. National Plan for Vacation Day is a great reminder!”

Here are a few amazing Arizona destinations to inspire you to gift yourself a planned – and then eagerly anticipated – Grand Canyon State vacation!

Hacienda Del Sol Resort

Destination: Tucson

Tucson is rich in biodiversity, unique geological features, and educational institutions dedicated to the natural world.

The understated and elegant Hacienda Del Sol Resort is dripping with historic charm. A former school for girls built in 1929, it’s since been converted into a guest ranch with sumptuous casitas and suites with fireplaces. Hike and horseback ride, and revel in the Spanish Colonial architecture framed by the picturesque mountains and desert landscape. For a retro-inspired experience from a completely different era, The Tuxon Hotel, constructed in 1969, pays tribute to mid-century road culture.

Explore San Xavier del Bac, a beautifully preserved Spanish Catholic mission. Or get acquainted with each of Tucson’s idiosyncratic neighborhoods on a historic bike tour. Hike Tumamoc Hill for panoramic city views and keep your eyes peeled for javelina. Saguaro National Park showcases the iconic saguaro cactus against the backdrop of the Sonoran Desert, one of the most biologically diverse deserts worldwide and the only place saguaros grow. And at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum—part zoo, botanical garden, and natural history museum—you’ll encounter desert wildlife and be able to appreciate the region’s flora.

Grand Canyon

Destination: Grand Canyon & Surrounding Area

Grand Canyon Railway Hotel near Downtown Williams can easily accommodate your whole clan and provide an experience you’ll be hard-pressed to forget. Conveniently located next to the train depot (featured image, credit Xanterra Travel Collection), you can ride the rails to the South Rim on real, restored locomotives as musicians roam the vintage cars playing Western tunes. For kids more enthusiastic about enormous indoor and outdoor pools than trains, the charming Squire Resort at the Grand Canyon, seven miles from the South Rim, is the hands-down winner. The resort also boasts a bowling alley, an arcade and an array of dining options.

Cruise the Hermit Road Tour with Bright Angel Bicycles, a 5.5-mile vehicle-free path along the canyon rim with spectacular Colorado River views. Climb the Desert View Watchtower and peek through the reflector scopes, instruments that enhance the canyon’s colors. This National Historic Landmark was constructed in 1932 and modeled after ancestral Puebloan architecture. Shop for gifts and books on the very edge of the canyon at Kolb Studio, which was once the photography studio and lodging for the Kolb brothers, pioneering photographers and filmmakers. Young visitors can earn a Junior Ranger badge by participating in the Junior Ranger Program, which includes educational activities and ranger-led talks.

Royal Palms Resort and Spa

Destination: Phoenix and Scottsdale

Phoenix and Scottsdale are technically distinct cities, but their downtowns are only about a 20-minute drive from one another. They share a border—but more importantly, a culture of high-quality yet unpretentious cuisine.

An experience at the enchanting Royal Palms Resort and Spa is intimate and tranquil. Built in 1929, the Spanish Mediterranean mansion houses 119 casitas, estate rooms, and villas, and an on-site restaurant and bar, Mix Up Bar & Lounge, where you can take a complimentary mixology class. Another of the property’s restaurants, T. Cook’s has a Mediterranean menu that rotates seasonally—recent items include glazed duck leg with gnocchi and foraged mushrooms and short rib with polenta and chimichurri.

Once the private vacation escape of artist Lon Megargee in the 1930’s, The Hermosa Inn now hosts visitors of all stripes across its 43 guest rooms and casitas. You’ll be well pleased if you have a penchant for age-old cooking traditions. The on-site restaurant, Lon’s, heavily favors roasting, smoking, and wood-grilling in its dishes—like bison tenderloin with mesquite syrup and seared tuna with vinegary radish escabeche.

Support the McDowell Sonoran Preserve by enjoying its more than 195 miles of trails; see thousands of global species of cactus, trees and flowers across 55 acres at Desert Botanical Garden; tour Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and a UNESCO World Heritage site meant to mirror the surrounding landscape. Wander along Roosevelt Row, Phoenix’s walkable downtown arts district. It glitters with street art, shopping, galleries, and many restaurants and bars.

Hikers in Flagstaff Photo Credit Discover Flagstaff
Photo credit: Discover Flagstaff

Destination: Flagstaff

Amid the mountains, canyons and forests of northern Arizona, Flagstaff is a mountain town where seclusion and serenity define a luxe vibe.

Fly high over the Grand Canyon’s stunning South Rim with a Maverick Helicopters Tour. Explore ancestral pueblos—ancient Hopi and Zuni people settlements—at Wupatki National Monument. Dare to make the first tracks at Arizona Snowbowl while taking in the panoramic views, then après at Agassiz Lodge. In warmer months, take the gondola up to the top of the mountain for spectacular vistas, or for a laidback day, hit the links at Continental Golf Club’s 18-hole championship course.

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