Have you ever seen a cactus? Well, you probably have, but we hadn't and let me start off this post by saying WHAT! Some of those guys are 20+ feet tall! When we landed in Phoenix, Arizona we were excited to explore a new place and a climate so incredibly different from our home in Toronto (especially in February!) and we couldn't wait to see everything AZ has to offer. For those of you looking for a local and fun time in Arizona with lots of chances for stunning photos, keep reading to find out what we did =)
If you're flying in to Arizona, chances are you'll end up in Phoenix at some point! PHX isn't laid out like most major cities. There is no "downtown strip' or area that promotes people walking around. Everything is very spread out, even on one city block! You really do need a car to get around here or you'll end up spending a ton of time and money on transit and cabs. Our favorite thing to do there was check out some Vintage stores! We tend to meet interesting and artistic people and ask for suggestions for other places to check out so that is usually our go-to first stop in a new city. We fell in love with Antique Sugar and while we went there to shop, we ended up meeting some lovely people and taking some photos inside the store because it was just so beautiful! It is also right next to our favorite place to eat/drink/work there, the Phoenix Public Market Cafe. We are business owners so work never stops, and we always need a place to stop and get some emails answered, upload/edit some photos, etc. Its not always easy to find a place outside of Starbucks but we really loved the atmosphere, food, WiFi speed, and decor here.
Another must-see closeby was a really interesting area called the Lost Dutchman State Park! It's about 45 minutes outside of Phoenix in the Apache Junction. There is a huge "ghost town" called The Goldfield Ghost Town that looks like an old school Western Movie set, surrounded by beautiful desert state park. It is definitely more touristy, but amazing for photos, and a great experience! We bought a couple pieces of pottery and jewelry from local crafters there as well.
If you're looking for a city with a 'downtown' area to walk and explore, overall Phoenix probably isn't what you're looking for. However, its a great jumping point to go to a lot of places. Vegas and LA are within 5 hours away, and the North and South of Arizona are both accessible within a couple of hours for day trips!
Page, AZ / Northern Arizona
You can't visit Arizona without seeing the Canyons! This was one of the highlights of our trip and definitely a must-see for photographers. We found a super inexpensive and clean motel in Page and booked a tour through the Lower Antelope Canyons with Kens Tours. It was about $50/person and you have to book in advance! We were informed by a local that the best time to go for photography is 11am, and it was very true! The light is peeking through perfectly and every dip and swirl is a beautiful photo waiting to happen. Just a heads up, no backpacks or purses are allowed on the tour, so make sure you have a neck or body strap for your camera! There are some steep steps, and you will definitely need both hands on the railings. Also, the tour is quite long! We were rushing to get photos right out of the gate because we didn't know how long it was going to be and there wasn't any needs. You will have lots of time to get great photos along the way.
The Grand Canyon is only a 1.5 hour drive from there, and if you have never seen it before it may be something you want to check off your list! We didn't do the full loop, but got to see one portion of it and it truly makes for some beautiful photos. Take note: it costs about $30 to enter the Grand Canyon National Park with your car! We weren't aware and thankfully had cash on us but it would suck to have driven the whole way and not had it.
Tucson was a last minute decision to explore, and it ended up being our favorite part of the trip! Only 1.5 hours from Phoenix and full of character and history. We stumbled our way to North 4th Ave and were in heaven!! Beautiful vintage stores, an amazing recycled arts and crafts store called PopCycle that is a must see (and must shop!) filled with re-imagined items and the most unique souvenirs we have ever seen. Across the street is a gorgeous cafe/brunch/music spot called Cafe Passe that we enjoyed a great meal, coffee and some fast wifi at (the decor is gorgeous and you'll be Instagraming non-stop).
We hopped over to Saguaro National Park and took the scenic 7km drive through the gorgeous landscape at sunset, and finished off our day with a pair of Arizona inspired tattoos at 1972 Barber & Tattoo where we chatted with the staff and left super sad to be leaving.
Overall Arizona wowed us with it's freezing cold nights and super warm sunny days. The friendly people, the great food (in HUGE portions!), the biggest and clearest moon sightings every night, and of course, our cactus friends. Have you ever been to Arizona?