Minimooning in Sedona, the Grand Canyon, and Las Vegas

So I know I’ve been a super inconsistent blogger, but I’ve had a lot going on! I got married about 6 weeks ago and we’ve been in the process of buying a house. Forgive me!!! I will try to do better. Please accept this post on our Southwestern Minimoon trip as my apology.

Two days after our wedding, we flew out of Baltimore at the ass crack of dawn and flew into Phoenix. After a quick stop at a highly rated restaurant (AKA In n’ Out Burger), we hit the road for Sedona. I’ll be honest. I was a TOTAL nerd about all the cacti lining the highway. For some reason I thought they barely existed in real life, and kept asking my husband (!) cactus-related questions that he has absolutely no reason to know the answers to.

After a couple of hours, we finally spied some of the famous red rocks in the distance. Sometimes nature is just really wild. I wish I had something more inspired to say about it, but truly, I was just amazed that those configurations were borne of the earth.

Here’s the biggest negative about Sedona: Parking downtown suuuuuucks, and there are about 800 traffic circles, so traffic is always slow. If you’re in a rush to get somewhere, no you’re not. Leave yourself plenty of time. It’s very obvious that Sedona was not meant to be a tourist destination, because the infrastructure is not built for it, but nevertheless, we endure.

The view from outside the Shorebird Restaurant

We stayed at the Junipine Resort just outside Sedona proper. Junipine is located right on Oak Creek, and is home to the truly spectacular restaurant The Table. We only ate lunch there, but everything we had was INCREDIBLE and incredibly creative. The menu changes with some regularity, so keep an eye on it. We ate dinner the first night at the Shorebird, which I chose as an homage to my husband’s favorite minor league baseball team. The double fried chicken wings were 100/10 delicious.

We got an early start on our first full day in Sedona because we had reservations for a Red Rock Balloons sunrise hot air balloon ride. I’ve always been intrigued by hot air balloon rides, but 1) they’re pricey and 2) flying 4,000 feet above the earth in an open basket sounded borderline psychopathic. But what better time than a honeymoon to let your psychopath flag fly!? Both Husband and I are so glad we did it. It was truly one of the coolest experiences we’ve ever had. The craziest part about it is that you feel almost no motion whatsoever. It’s SO smooth and easy because the balloons move with the wind (duh, Kate. That’s how balloons work.)

All in all, the hot air balloon experience lasted about 5 hours. We met up around 5:30am at the storefront, loaded into three vans with trailers, and drove over to the launch site. Watching the employees unload and set up the balloons was like watching a well-choreographed dance — everything was done in a carefully practiced order with confident deliberateness. After about 20 minutes, all three balloons flying that day were inflated and ready for passengers. Despite how they are colloquially portrayed, the baskets are huge. We had about 16 passengers and a pilot in our balloon alone. The pilot could pivot the balloon so everyone got a 360 degree view of the landscape. He pointed out landmarks, rock formations, and educated us on the practice of piloting hot air balloons. After about 90 minutes in the air, we landed in a field and the balloons were deflated. We enjoyed a champagne toast with our fellow passengers, and then were returned to the storefront. If you ever have the opportunity to take a hot air balloon, do it. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

Following our morning of high-flying adventure, we took it a little easier and visited the Tlaquepaque Arts Village. This village is filled with specialty shops and restaurants with merchandise made by Native Americans. The art and architecture of Tlaquepaque alone is worth a visit. I also loved looking at the handmade quilts, Navajo rugs, and traditional pottery. We ate lunch on the patio at 89Agave Cantina with a great view of the red rocks, and a great vantage point for people watching. I highly recommend trying the nachos.

We opted for a casual dinner at the Sedona location of Pisa Lisa, one of Food Network star Lisa Dahl’s several Sedona restaurants. The woodfired pizza joint was busy, but does not take reservations, so be prepared for a little bit of a wait. The pies are unique combinations, and the ambiance is boisterous but cozy. I only wish I hadn’t been too full for a cannoli.

The next morning we drove a couple hours to the Grand Canyon, which neither one of us had ever visited before. Our accommodations were at the Maswik Lodge, one of several lodges within a stones throw of the rim. After settling in a little, we decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and hike a few miles around the rim starting near Bright Angel Trail. It’s amazing how much the scenery and views change at each viewpoint, and ever more amazing to watch the brave souls hiking down into the Canyon. I had to yell at Husband a few times because he was getting perilously close to the edge.

On our second day, we decided to drive to the scenic viewpoints on the East Rim because Husband was not feeling great. I had a grand plan to stop and get gas during this journey, but failed to plan out exactly where. So that, my friends, is how we ended up about 30 miles into Navajo Nation land. It’s okay though because we saw the Little Colorado River Gorge, picked up some handmade Navajo jewelry, and time traveled! (Navajo Nation doesn’t recognize daylight savings time so the clock in our rental car kept changing and confusing us. We’re old and feeble, so it doesn’t take much.)

After a restorative afternoon nap, we took a Sunset bus tour out to the Mohave Point overlook. It was a cool way to get a prime location for sunset pictures, but it was COLD and windy. We were there at the end of March, and it actually snowed that night, but even in the warmer months, be prepared for some dramatic shifts in temperature.

We left the Grand Canyon the next morning and started our road trip to our final destination: Las Vegas! Our first stop was in Williams Arizona for some Route 66 content. We ate breakfast at Pine Country Restaurant, where the service was quick, the portions were big, and 10am pie is perfectly acceptable.

After our Route 66 detour, we headed towards what Husband was actually most excited for — the Hoover Dam. While he didn’t get to live out his Clark Griswold dreams of taking a Dam Tour (our rental car was due back in a couple hours), we still got to walk across the Dam, make a whole lot of Dam jokes, and get t shirts that read “This is my Dam Shirt.” So I’d say we killed it.

Last but obviously not least, we arrived in Fabulous Las Vegas. I was almost immediately wildly over-stimulated. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that Vegas would be like one giant Times Square, but it became obvious very, very quickly. After a little pit stop at our hotel to get gussied up, we headed out for dinner at the Nomad Library. This place, which is located in the Nomad Hotel in the MGM Grand complex, was everything. The decor is absolute library porn — dark wood shelving, spiral staircases, many leather bound books, and velvet banquettes. Everything we had there, food and drink, was stellar. It’s pricy, but I think everything in Vegas is. If you’re going to splash out on a dinner, I highly recommend doing it there.

After dinner we ventured over to the Bellagio for a performance of Cirque du Soleil’s “O”. Honestly, I have no idea what happened during that 90 minutes of my life, but I enjoyed it. The mechanics of the stage/pool nearly broke my brain. If you, like me, have never experienced a Cirque show, O is a great one to start with. I did nearly have to amputate my foot afterward for a poor shoe choice, though. But they were pretty shoes.

On our last day, we had breakfast at the impeccably named Eggslut at the Cosmopolitan Hotel before meandering out onto the Strip. We stopped into Caesar’s Palace (home of the Caesar Salad), and wasted some money placing sports bets on the Orioles and playing slots. We also grabbed some White Castle in a White Castle/Walgreens/Denny’s/Casino mashup that seems like both the best and worst place on the universe, simultaneously. We rounded out our adventures on the Strip by getting accidental free entry into Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in an attempt to find a pressed penny machine.

Overall, I very much enjoyed our Southwestern adventure. I wish we had spent a little more time in Sedona to explore more of the hiking trails, but we can always head back there. The Grand Canyon was, indeed, grand, and I’m glad I finally got to see it. All other canyons shall henceforth pale in comparison. And Vegas was an experience. I would go back to see more shows and eat more food, but I have a strict 48 hour expiration date.

This isn’t the end of the wedding celebrations, though, friends. This was just the Minimoon. Stay tuned for the Actual Honeymoon™, coming this December.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: