Arizona in the winter means golf, desert explorations, and enough sunshine to help you forget all about shoveling the snow out of your driveway back home. Sure, you can go to the Grand Canyon (and even avoid the crowds), but it will be very cold, and snow often makes the area's roads impassable. So think of this as an escape from the cold up north, not just as a once-in-a-lifetime trip to see the Grand Canyon. Although I have written this itinerary with the emphasis on Phoenix, you could just as easily spend the bulk of your week in Tucson. You'd just have a longer drive north to Sedona.

Days 1, 2 & 3: Phoenix

I know I've said it before, but when I get to the sunshine and warmth of the desert, I always make the resort pool my very first stop. Order a froufrou cocktail, grab a lounge chair, and say, "Aaaahhh." Repeat when necessary for the next 3 days. Once you've relaxed for a bit, it's time to get to know this city, and the best way I can think of is a bit strenuous but, for anyone in good shape, exhilarating. What I'm talking about is a little peak bagging. If you've got lots of energy, hike up Camelback Mountain or Piestewa Peak for incomparable views of the valley. While you're up here with all the other buff hikers, get your bearings. After a shower (you'll need it), head to Scottsdale for dinner and check out some of the great nightlife. On your second day, play a round of golf or some tennis in the morning, or, if you're more interested in culture, visit the Heard Museum and the Phoenix Art Museum. In the afternoon, get in another swim, and then, around sunset, visit the Desert Botanical Garden. Phoenix is a huge metropolitan area, so to see what the desert is really like, drive the Apache Trail, east of the city, on Day 3. This drive will take all day, so get an early start.

Days 4 & 5: Sedona

Maybe you've never heard of Sedona before, but once you see the red-rock cliffs, buttes, and mesas that frame this wealthy community, you'll probably start scheming ways to move here. Sedona quite simply has the most beautiful setting of any town in the West. On your way north from Phoenix, be sure to stop at Montezuma Castle National Monument. Once in Sedona, your best introduction to the area is a jeep tour. Just make sure that by sunset you're atop Airport Mesa to take in the natural light show. The next day, in the morning, visit the V Bar V Heritage Site, which is one of the most impressive petroglyph sites in the state and is at its photogenic best before the sun hits the rocks in the early afternoon. After you've marveled at these ancient symbols, do some hiking or mountain biking. Sedona is surrounded by national forest, and there are dozens of miles of easily accessed trails. I recommend any of the trails to the west of the city. Hiking the Boynton Canyon Trail or the Vultee Arch Trail will put you close to Palatki Heritage Site, a small Sinagua cliff dwelling. You'll also end the day not far from Crescent Moon Picnic Area, where you can watch the sunset light up Cathedral Rock as the waters of Oak Creek flow by in the foreground. If you're a golfer, be sure to get in a round amid the red rocks while you're in town.

Day 6: Grand Canyon

This is a tough one; if you plan this day in advance, you may be disappointed. The road to the Grand Canyon is sometimes closed by snow in winter, though usually only for a short time. Still, you came to Arizona to get away from snow, right? So, who wants to head back into subfreezing temperatures? But as long as you're this close, you might as well try to see the canyon, so if the weather is good, make a mad dash up to the canyon and snap some photos before your fingers freeze. Either spend the night at the canyon or drive back to Sedona the same day. Your best route for this quick visit is to drive north to Flagstaff and then take U.S. 89 north to Ariz. 64, which leads west to the east entrance of Grand Canyon National Park. Return via U.S. 180 to Flagstaff.


Day 7: Phoenix

Head back to Phoenix by way of Jerome, a former mining town that is now an artists' community. Peruse the galleries and tour the ghost town and mine on the edge of town. If you have time, schedule a ride on the Verde Canyon Railroad. Try to get in one last swim when you get back to your resort in Phoenix.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.