We often gift a family vacation rather than Christmas gifts to our kids. Sometimes the trips happen right away. Other times they are delayed. On Christmas morning 2020, we wrapped a few clue gifts for our kids to unwrap. We wrapped a cactus, a small toy airplane, and other small hints. Eventually they guessed we were headed to Arizona.
We spent Christmas Day packing to fly out the next morning. Our main goals on this trip were golfing and hiking.
Day 1: Fly to Phoenix, stop at In and Out for burgers, and climb Camelback Mountain to burn off the burgers. Ok Camelback was no joke. It was HARD! I was thinking it would be a hike, but it was definitely a climb. Reaching the top felt like such an accomplishment though.
Next we headed to our Airbnb in Cave Creek, which was just north of Phoenix. This rental was fabulous situated on acreage in the desert with a pool and beautiful views. I loved that you could walk right out of the house onto desert walking trails. I don’t have many pictures, but check out the listing pictures. It was gorgeous!
Cave Creek was such a fun spot to stay. It’s a true Western town. The town was super cute and fun, filled with neat shops and restaurants. I also liked staying just outside of Phoenix surrounded by the desert. Arizona in December was lovely.
We’d walk out of our rental and encounter coyotes and javelinas.
Day 2: Day trip to Sedona, AZ. This was a slightly last minute decision after talking to a friend who lives in Arizona. She convinced me that we would regret leaving AZ without spending time in Sedona. She was absolutely right! It was worth the 2 hour drive north.
We started after breakfast and went straight for a hike. We did the West Fork Oak Creek Trail, recommended by my friend. My boys love hikes with some sort of challenge, adventure, or risk. Otherwise, they call it a walk in the woods. This hike had beautiful views, but what they really enjoyed were the multiple water crossings which took quite a bit of concentration.
After the hike, we explored the charming town of Sedona.
Lunch was at the Hideaway House with the most amazing view from our table.
Day 3: We had a hot air balloon ride booked. However, due to windy conditions, our trip was cancelled. They had no availability to rebook us, which was disappointing. We spent the morning exploring Old Town Scottsdale followed by a late afternoon round of golf at Starfire Golf Club.
This picture is one of my favorites. It was completely unposed, but each person’s expression captures their golf personalities.
It was hard not to take pictures at every hole because the views were simply stunning no matter where you turned.
We chose Starfire because it is a Youth On Course club. With a Youth On Course membership, kids play for $5 a round at golf clubs around the country. It’s truly incredible. At the time, all 3 of our boys were under 19 years old and had memberships, which only cost $20 a year. So playing golf was a very inexpensive vacation activity. To this day our boys say playing golf in Arizona is one of their top travel experiences. Having this membership has allowed us to play golf on several of our vacations.
Day 4: Hiking in Cave Creek. Hiking in the desert is a completely different hiking experience. When we arrived at the trailhead, we met the nicest couple working the gate area. They equipped us with trail maps and suggestions, even pointing out things for us to look out for along the hike that we wouldn’t know otherwise.
We learned about the Teddy Bear Cactus. I wrote an entire post about it here.
After our morning hike and lunch, we headed to Rancho Mañana Golf Club. This course was spectacular. After golf we ate at Tonto’s Bar and Grille at the course. It was the coolest atmosphere, incredible service, and delicious food. The perfect end to a fabulous 4 day hike/golf Arizona trip.
Typically our vacations are 7 to 10 days. It was a nice change of pace to plan for a shorter trip. We can’t wait to go back to Arizona again!