My parents believed that few things are more American than taking a road trip in an RV. I couldn’t agree more. During a recent RV trip through the Southwest with my girlfriends, we got to experience a remote part of the country and bond (with each other). We also toured in comfort and style; the vehicles have improved a lot since the days of my childhood, and they now have amenities such as color television and WiFi. But what really made my latest trip special were the adventures along the way. Pretty much the whole way from Las Vegas to Page, Arizona, my girlfriends and I met creative and fun people, visited historic sites, and learned a lot about the glory days of the new frontier. Here are some of the highlights from our adventure.
Part of the Las Vegas experience are the shows. My girlfriends and I decided to get glammed up at the Dollhouse Blowout and dress up in vintage 1960s style before our night at Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino for The Rat Pack is Back show. It just so happened that we were seated front-and-center with our big hair, red lipstick, and fashionable attire, enough to capture the attention of one of The Rat Pack members (it was the actor who played Dean Martin, ICYW). It was so Vegas.
When in Yuma, it’s not enough to go to a restaurant and eat Southwestern dishes. I also recommend a cooking class at Tina’s Cocina, led by Tina Clark, a chef, archeologist, and historian. The theme on the night of our visit was whiskey, and all of our dishes incorporated whiskey in some way. We ate baked almonds soaked in whiskey and coated in sugar, and acorn and butternut squash soup with a touch of whiskey. To drink, we enjoyed whiskey margaritas with a touch of lime juice and prickly pear syrup. Tina calls her cocina a “dream come true,” and her joy for cooking shines through in all of her dishes. Good local food with a serving of cultural history in a traditional Southwestern kitchen? It doesn’t get better than that.
In Prescott, take a stroll down Whiskey Row, a historic block in South Montezuma, a neighborhood that once was home to more than 40 saloons. Most of these pubs were destroyed during a massive fire in 1900. Now the area is occupied by restaurants, shops, and bars that serve plenty of whiskey.
One of the best of these bars is The Palace. This joint first opened its doors in 1877 and served the likes of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday. The bar itself, carved in the 1880s, was salvaged from that 1900 fire and is still in use today. Be sure to look out for the cowboys and cowgirls that tend to frequent the bar; in our experience, they are more than happy to pose for a picture. This frontier saloon isn’t just a hotspot for visitors; the drinks, entertainment, and food are what has kept it a local favorite over the years.
Viewfinder Tip: Complement the Grand Canyon experience with hiking through the canyon and whitewater rafting on the Colorado River.
Gallup, New Mexico
Grand Canyon National Park was the highlight of our drive through Gallup. Our road trip was my very first visit to the area, and I couldn’t get over how beautiful it all is. I know people say it all the time, but there’s really nothing like being there.
Be sure to schedule a night at El Rancho Hotel on Route 66 in Gallup. This was the hotel of choice for movie stars such as Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracey, John Wayne, and others who visited the area while filming on location. The ornate lobby walls are covered in signed photographs from all of the high-profile celebrities and guests who have passed through.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
I always have said that the colors of Santa Fe are heaven for painters and photographers. To be honest, I lose my breath a little each time I visit. The Georgia O’Keeffe museum is an absolute must. During my visit, the museum featured an Ansel Adams exhibit which made my heart flutter with excitement.
Elsewhere in Santa Fe, there are two great places for drinks and entertainment: the Cowgirl BBQ, which offers crazy (and delicious) drink concoctions like Horny Toad (a mix of Sauza Hornitos with Cointreau and fresh lime and lemon juice), and Mezcalita (smoky Chichicapa mezcal with a splash of Gran Gala liqueur); and La Fonda Hotel, which has some of the best margaritas in town. Everything you drink at La Fonda is made even better by the picturesque sunset views from the rooftop bar.
Taos, New Mexico
Art lovers will delight in a visit to Taos. Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a great destination for shopping, and features Native American jewelry and art. Take time to admire the 1,000-year-old adobe houses, many of which are still inhabited by tribal families.
If you visit Taos in the fall, make sure to take part in the High Road Art Tour, where artists open their studios and galleries for visitors for two consecutive weekends in September.
Watching the sunset over Lake Powell in Page, Arizona, was a great way to end our journey and a nice reminder of how much more beauty there was left to explore. We’ll be back!
What are your favorite road trip destinations?