Ah, Arizona! Check Out These Other Diamonds during Spring Training

If you’re in Arizona for spring training, you’re missing out on other cool sights. Check out these other diamonds across the state.

Cactus League Spring Training, a seasonal rite in Greater Phoenix, roars to life every March with the iconic sounds of cracking bats, snapping mitts, and happy fans.

For baseball lovers, it doesn’t get much better than this: sunny weather, affordable tickets, and unparalleled proximity to the best players in the game.

Baseball may have lured you here, and odds are good that your days and nights are planned around the sport. Good for you. But you’re missing out on diamonds of another kind. We’re here to help with some of Arizona’s can’t-miss destinations, and what you can do there in just a day.

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Odds are high you’ve never been this close to America’s greatest natural wonder. You’ll have 81 chances this year to see the Cubs play in Chicago, or Brewers in Milwaukee, or … you get it. But this could be your best shot to see a marvel a billion years in the making.

Must see: Stroll along and stare at the canyon for 30 minutes or so before visiting the historic Kolb Studio. This 1905 Victorian house seems to defy gravity from its perch on the South Rim. The story of photographer brothers Emery and Ellsworth Kolb, who explored the canyon with cameras in tow, is a stunning as the views.

The Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Cliched tourist experience actually worth doing: Head down the Bright Angel Trail for the customary below-the-rim experience. Just keep in mind it will take you twice as long to hike up as it did to walk down. 

The Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Insider tip: Buy a Grand Canyon pass online ($20), then park in Tusayan outside the front gate and take the free shuttle to the visitor center. Grand Canyon is busy during spring break, and the shuttle bypasses the long line of cars waiting to get in and searching for a parking spot.

How much time to allot: Eleven or 12 hours. The round-trip drive will take about eight hours, giving you three or four hours to enjoy the views.


Hiking Cathedral Rock at Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

With buttes, towers, and spires sculpted of rock in countless shades of red, Sedona occupies the perfect setting for a mythical city. And in a way Sedona is just that, if you believe healing energy whirls from spiritual vortexes. (Be sure to pick up a $5 daily Red Rock Pass; many sites require it for visits).

Must see: The Chapel of the Holy Cross protrudes from the red cliffs less than 4 miles south of Sedona’s “Y” intersection. The main stained glass window is held together by a giant cross and overlooks the Verde Valley.

Oak Creek at Red Rock Crossing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Cliched tourist experience actually worth doing: Take a jeep tour. Excursions rumble you across suspension-challenging terrain to breathtaking views. Costs roughly range from $75-$150 for 90-minute to 2-hour tours.

Insider tip: If skies are clear and you have the time, stay for sunset when rocks glow as if illuminated from within. Airport Mesa is the most convenient (and popular) overlook. For a quieter, more intimate experience, head to Red Rock Crossing and watch the dying light set Cathedral Rock on fire.

Red Rock Country near Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

How much time to allot: At least eight hours (10 if you add a jeep tour). The round trip from Phoenix is four hours, giving you four (or six) hours to explore. If you’re going on a Saturday, you might want to build in another hour for traffic.

Worth Pondering…

Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal.
—George Will