Arizona adventures: 10 awesome day trips from Phoenix

(Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

So, you’ve been bitten by the travel bug, but long-term trips and global jaunts are, for whatever reason, not an option. Don’t despair because there are plenty of amazing things to see in Arizona. You know what’s even better? Some of these sites require little more than a full tank of gas and a free day to explore. (Check out the map at the bottom of this story.)

Some destinations, of course, are farther than others. It all depends on how much time you want to spend in the car and how much stamina you have.


Last year, April Warnecke and her family spent the day at Lynx Lake, which is about 10 minutes outside of Prescott. It’s about a 90-minute drive.

They enjoyed a day of kayaking, enjoyed some relaxed time – and ice cream -- at Granite Creek Vineyards, played football on the lawn of the Prescott Courthouse, and then embarked on a sunset hike around the lake where they saw a bald eagle.

Talk about a day full of fun!

Photo for app users

Lake Pleasant

A little closer to home – about an hour’s drive – is Lake Pleasant. In addition to all kinds of water fun – fishing, cruising, wakeboarding, jet skiing, paddle boarding and even hydro-flying -- you have to check out

Wild Horse West

, which is one of Scott Pasmore’s favorite burger joints.

Make sure you leave some time to check out the Desert Outdoor Center at Lake Pleasant. It’s recognized as one of the top environmental education centers in the state and well worth the visit.

[RELATED: 5 things you might not know about Lake Pleasant]

Photo for app users


If you’re looking for a trip back in time, look no farther than Jerome.

While it was at one time a booming copper mining town, Jerome is far from a ghost town. It’s is very much alive with writers, artists, artisans, musicians, historians and families. They form a peaceful, colorful, thriving community built on a rich foundation of history and lore.

[RELATED: Jerome 101]

Photo for app users

Titan Missile Museum

Speaking of bygone eras, the Titan Missile Museum is a must-visit for any history buff. I've been there and I can tell you it's completely fascinating.

Nestled underground about 30 minutes outside of Tucson, it’s the only facility of its kind in the country and one of two in the world. It's the only remaining Titan II site open to the public, a stark reminder of a time when the threat of nuclear war between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union was all too real.

One visitor described the museum as a "Smithsonian-worthy piece of history."

Photo for app users

Kartchner Caverns State Park

No list of day trips could be complete without a mention of Kartchner Caverns. After all, USA Today readers did recently name it Arizona’s best attraction.

Located outside Benson, the drive from Phoenix is about 2.5 hours. Now I’ve never been there myself, but it is absolutely on my Arizona adventure must list.

Photo for app users


Only three hours from the Valley (and 30 degrees cooler), Javier Soto insists that Summerhaven is one of Arizona's hidden gems.

Summerhaven, which is located on Mt. Lemmon in the Santa Catalina Mountains about 30 miles north of Tucson, is the perfect escape from the summer heat. It's a place for all seasons, though, and the winter skiing is hard to beat.

Photo for app users

Montezuma Castle National Monument

If you're driving to Cottonwood from Phoenix, you'll pass

Montezuma Castle

about 19 miles before you hit Cottonwood.

It's a cliff dwelling that was discovered in 1933, but the 20-room high-rise apartment structure is more than 600 years old.

Photo for app users


Sedona is always a winner when it comes to day trips.

Photo for app users

Bearizona Wildlife Park


is another one of my must-do Arizona adventures. This place has been a hit with families since it opened near Williams, which is about 30 minutes west of Flagstaff, several years ago.

Two words: Bear. Cubs.

But if that's not enough, I don't know what to tell you.

Seriously though, not only can you drive through a 3-mile trail (a gravel road) and see animals in their natural habitats -- keep your windows up and doors closed -- but there also is a 20-acre walk-through area that is more like a traditional zoo.

Bearizona says the animals tend to be more active in the morning and then the late afternoon hours during the summer. But you won't miss out if you choose to visit in the winter. Park officials say most of the bears "remain active throughout the winter and are easily viewed."

Fun fact: A jaguar at Bearizona saved the life of one of her brethren at Tucson's Reid Park Zoo in December.

Photo for app users

Verde Canyon Railroad


Verde Canyon Railroad

has been a popular attraction since 1990, and has carried more than 2 million passengers since then.

It's a four-hour journey that takes you through 100 years of Arizona history.

Photo for app users

[MORE: Cool escapes from the Phoenix summer heat]

[WHAT'S IN A NAME? How some Arizona locations got their names]

[PLANNING A LONGER TRIP? 20 things to do at home before leaving for vacation]

Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app

.Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

Digital producer

Recommended for you