This Thanksgiving my family and I visited Arizona. We thought, “Where would be open on Thanksgiving? Ah, the Grand Canyon!” 😉 We flew into Tucson, drove north to Sedona, then to the Grand Canyon, and back south to Phoenix.

In Tucson we stayed in a beautiful airbnb that was formerly a bakery! We visited Saguaro National Park (West), ate delicious vegan meals, and traveled to Kitt Peak National Observatory for a special guided telescope program! I highly recommend the program, called Dark Sky Discovery.

In Sedona we stayed in an airbnb casita at the foot of Sugarloaf Mountain. The vistas were beautiful; like nothing I’d seen before. We went on a trolley tour to Boynton Canyon, then visited the Airport vortex. ChocolaTree is a vegan restaurant and shop that has a beautiful outdoor patio oasis where you can enjoy your meal.

We got an early start at the Grand Canyon, arriving at about 8:30am. We partook of some guided programs including a fossil walk and a history tour. We walked along the rim trail in the perfect weather, and we didn’t have to push our way through any crowds! It was an ideal time for a visit. We were tired and ready to head out by about 4pm, so we caught an IMAX showing of “Grand Canyon” at the National Geographic museum in Tusayan, followed by Thanksgiving dinner and a margarita pitcher at a Mexican restaurant. If we’d had the opportunity to spread out our time in the park, I would have loved to see the sun set at the canyon. Next time!

Off to Phoenix! We had a delightful brunch at Coronado, then hopped across the street to the Heard Museum of American Indian art. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip, and a welcomed surprise! The artifacts, art, and exhibits were so engaging, I found myself soaking up every word on the placards. I could have easily spent another day exploring. The descriptions of tight-knit tribes made me nostalgic for a culture i’ve never known, where the well-being of the whole is valued over that of the individual. Humans have a need for a strong social support system, a sense of cultural identity and initiation, and deep roots within their extended family. While reading about many of the tribal cultures, I saw a reverence for family, tribe, and the Earth itself. What have Americans given up by breaking away from the whole and glorifying the detached individual?

Another wonderful surprise was Las Noches de las Luminarias at the Desert Botanical Garden. After a tasty vegan Chinese dinner at Veggie Village, we arrived at the Gardens. The place is huge, and candle luminarias lit the pathways. There were different musical and performance acts along the walking loops, including Mexican folk dancers, jazzy Christmas bands, a handbell ensemble, an Indian storyteller and flute player, and an Irish Traveler band. There were drink bars set up where we sipped hot cider and Tuaca, and the crescent moon was shining on the cacti. It was a magical night!