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  • A gourmet hot dog wrapped in naan bread at Short Leash Hotdogs in Phoenix, Arizona
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    Phoenix, Arizona: A City of Many Flavors

  • Red rock mountain formations near Sedona, Arizona
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    Sedona, Arizona: A Mystical Dining Experience

  • Riding motorcycles on Route 66 through Flagstaff, Arizona
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    Flagstaff: Classic American Eateries

  • Overlooking the Grand Canyon in Arizona
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    The Grand Canyon: A Geological Wonder

  • Comfort food staples at Eat restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada
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    Las Vegas, Nevada: Go Beyond the Strip

  • Joshua Tree National Park outside Palm Springs, California
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    Palm Springs, California: Lavish Desert Oasis

Overlooking the Hoover Dam outside Las Vegas, Nevada
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Phoenix, Arizona to Palm Springs, California: Foodie Finds in the Desert

By Idoia Gkikas

  • Route distance:
    1,194.00
  • Suggested Time:
    1-2 weeks

Road trip your way to tempting Western tastes in these scenic desert cities.

Exotic wildlife and bold wildflowers. Otherworldly canyons and high-mountain peaks. Busy cities and desolate ghost towns. For newcomers to the deserts of the Western USA, it doesn’t take long to discover how colorful, vibrant and diverse this region is. These mythical landscapes inspire artists of all sorts – including those of the culinary kind. Take this food-lover’s road trip through towns in Arizona, Nevada and California and taste the bounty of the desert.

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A gourmet hot dog wrapped in naan bread at Short Leash Hotdogs in Phoenix, Arizona
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Phoenix, Arizona: A City of Many Flavors

Fly into Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), pick a rental car (maybe a convertible) and direct your wheels to Arizona’s capital, Phoenix. The state’s largest city is brimming with history, culture and undeniable beauty. After you’ve learned about 22 American Indian cultures at the Heard Museum, browsed art galleries on Roosevelt Row and hiked to the top of Camelback Mountain, you’re ready to check out the local dining scene.

Breakfast is at Harlow’s Café for an omelet or blueberry pancakes. Later on, head to Short Leash Hotdogs for lunch. These gourmet hot dogs, with funky toppings like peanut butter or chipotle cream cheese, are wrapped in Indian naan bread. It’s worth the wait for expertly cooked brisket, pulled pork or sausage at Little Miss BBQ. Another delicious option: Rito’s Mexican Food. Order authentic Mexican meals including burritos, enchiladas and chimichangas.

One more fun excursion awaits at Goldfield Ghost Town. This 1890s mining town has underground mine tours, pioneer-style storefronts, re-created gun fights and the only narrow gauge railroad in operation in Arizona. Take the Apache Trail Tour to soak in the scenery of the Superstition Mountains. Stay overnight in Phoenix before driving to Sedona.

187 km
2 hours by car
02
Red rock mountain formations near Sedona, Arizona
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Sedona, Arizona: A Mystical Dining Experience

On your way to Sedona, don’t miss a stop at Montezuma Castle National Monument to see an 800-year-old Sinagua Indian cliff dwelling. It’s considered one of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in North America. Other worthwhile stops near Sedona include The Crack at Wet Beaver Creek for an awesome swimming hole and the breathtaking photo ops at Devil’s Bridge Trail, the largest natural sandstone arch in the area.

Sedona is known for its resident mystics and artists. American Indians that have inhabited the area for centuries consider the land to be sacred. You’ll agree when you see the ancient sandstone formations and star-studded night sky.

You’re here for the food, of course, so start with an enormous cinnamon roll at Red Rock Café. They also serve Mexican breakfast favorites like huevos rancheros – tortillas covered in fried eggs and fresh salsa. For an elegant breakfast with a view, order the truffle brie scrambled eggs or ricotta pancakes at Casa Sedona. For health-conscious sandwiches and gourmet coffee, grab a table on the outdoor patio at Indian Gardens. It’s just an hour to Flagstaff, so you can stay overnight at a relaxing resort or continue on your journey.

48 km
1 hour by car
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Riding motorcycles on Route 66 through Flagstaff, Arizona
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Flagstaff: Classic American Eateries

It’s only an hour north of Sedona, but Flagstaff climbs nearly 800 meters in elevation and brings a notable change of terrain and weather with it. Flagstaff’s four dramatic seasons offer outdoor beauty and recreation year round. In the spring, hikers and bikers can explore the largest ponderosa pine forest in the world. Snow sports enthusiasts hit the slopes during Flagstaff’s winter season. Autumn ushers in stunning fall foliage. Summer heat was made for lounging poolside.

No matter what time of year you visit, Flagstaff has a few must-try restaurants. The top breakfast spot in town is Brandy’s Restaurant & Bakery. The menu is heavy on espresso beverages and gourmet egg dishes like Eggs Brandy – a bagel topped with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. Grab a classic American burger and fries at Bun Huggers, located off Historic Route 66. The interior is filled with quirky garage-sale finds and other nostalgia. Fuel up – a trip to the Grand Canyon is your final stop in Arizona.

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120 km
1.25 hours by car
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Overlooking the Grand Canyon in Arizona
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The Grand Canyon: A Geological Wonder

Travel a desolate yet inspiring landscape from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon. The beauty and vastness of Grand Canyon National Park almost needs no introduction. The giant chasms and colorful rock formations began taking shape about 2 billion years ago. At 466 kilometers long and up to 1.6 kilometers deep, this geological marvel is a bucket-list destination for many world travelers.

On the South Rim (open all year), Grand Canyon Village boasts some of the best scenic overlooks in the park including the sweeping vistas of Yavapai Point. The Arizona Room is a good option for dining with a view. Or, if you plan in advance, you can reserve a table at El Tovar Dining Room, a historic restaurant that has hosted Bill Clinton and Paul McCartney.

From the village, book a helicopter tour over the canyon, take a bus ride along the rim, join a horseback or mule trip, or venture out on any number of scenic hikes. There are plenty of lodging options in the South Rim area, so stay as long as you like before driving to Las Vegas, Nevada.

449 km
4.25 hours by car
05
Comfort food staples at Eat restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada
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Las Vegas, Nevada: Go Beyond the Strip

Long sweeps of open terrain are marked with tiny towns until you reach Las Vegas, Nevada. With 24-hour entertainment, larger-than-life attractions and any amenity you could imagine, Las Vegas is a pleasure-seeker’s kingdom.

After you’ve cruised the Las Vegas Strip and tried the mega buffets, discover some of the locally known restaurants. One block off Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas, Eat serves fresh takes on breakfast and brunch comfort food. Order the huevos motuleños, two poached eggs covered in spicy chilies and black beans. Sample one of the innovative sandwiches at The Goodwich such as egg salad studded with crispy chorizo, or join the hungry locals at The Oyster Bar, a popular 24-hour seafood restaurant.

Forty-five minutes away is the Hoover Dam, a modern engineering marvel that you have to see to believe. Adventurous types can journey deep into the Mojave Desert on an ATV with Vegas Off Road Tours. Not surprisingly, you’ll find plenty of accommodation options in Las Vegas to relax before the drive to Palm Springs, California.

449 km
4 hours by car
06
Joshua Tree National Park outside Palm Springs, California
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Palm Springs, California: Lavish Desert Oasis

Sit back. Take in the sweeping desert views. It’s the last leg of your foodie road trip. Along the way, stop in Pioneerville, California, for some hot barbecue, cold drinks and live music at Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneer Palace. This roadside pit stop was originally constructed in 1946 to be an Old West movie set.

Long a hot spot for the rich and famous, Palm Springs attracts tourists seeking upscale accommodations in its world-famous resorts and outdoors enthusiasts to explore nearby Joshua Tree National Park. Take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, a four-kilometer ascent from the Coachella Valley to Mt. San Jacinto State Park. Bring a sweater – at nearly 2,600 meters altitude, the weather and terrain is vastly different up here!

Mealtime soon beckons hungry visitors to places like Felipe’s, acclaimed as some of the best Mexican food and margaritas in the area. Indulge in giant burgers and fried onion rings at Tony’s Burgers in Cathedral City or Italian classics like saltimbocca and tiramisu at Mimmo’s in Palm Desert. For dessert, head to Shield’s Date Garden, where sweet, date-infused milkshakes are served beneath swaying palm trees. Catch a return flight home out of Palm Springs International (PSP).

 

 

 

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