I am a native of Arizona and I recently moved back to the Phoenix area after living in the Dallas-Fort Worth, TX area for the last 22 years.  I realized that even though I grew up in Arizona, I really hadn't experienced much of the state until my return. At least I'd been to the Grand Canyon (albeit once). So I decided to set a personal goal to see as much of Arizona as possible. My husband and I made a plan to set aside one weekend per month to explore the great state of Arizona until we exhaust every square mile of it! This is a tale of how we spent our first weekend getaway.

     We left Mesa around 6:00 a.m., our first stop being the Gold Canyon Golf Resort for breakfast. The view from the patio was beautiful, the music relaxing and the perfect setting for an early morning breakfast.  After reviewing the menu, we decided on the breakfast buffet.  I’m not usually a big fan of buffets, but the omelet station was nothing short of impressive.

South Through Saguaro Nat’l Park to Tubac

 Once we finished our hearty breakfasts, we hopped on Interstate 60 to begin our adventure. Next, we were traveling at the base of the Catalina Foothills and Saguaro National Park. It really is a forest of saguaros—spectacular!  We had no idea that this wonder of nature even existed! 

     san xavier del bac - edited.jpgWe then proceeded south to Mission San Xavier del Bac.  It was an awesome sight to behold, one I'll never forget. The sheer size of the mission against a blue sky made San Xavier Mission an amazing sight (I couldn't believe my eyes!). The interior artistry was mesmerizing. 

     After taking in the beauty of the mission, we headed toward our next destination — lunch at Elvira’s in Tubac. The restaurant's decor really makes this place fabulous! Not to mention the food is delicious! My husband claims to be the “Connoisseur of Enchiladas,” so he ordered the green chicken and exclaimed these were by far the best! I had the grilled flounder- Mango Caribe style that was perfectly seasoned with a decadent sweet and spicy aftertaste.     

    The Tubac Golf Resort and Spa was our final destination for the day.  The room was clean, spacious and cozy.  We enjoyed some wine on our patio and then decided to go for a swim in the pool. Once we arrived at the pool we realized we were not the only ones that had come up with this fabulous idea!  It was everything it was promised - friends, families and lots of loud laughter. My wonderful husband had a great idea; he quickly called the spa to see if we could access the hot tub and spa facilities.  The answer was a big giant "YES!" So we threw on our flip-flops and headed over to the spa to take a relaxing soak in the hot tub. Relaxation was achieved!

     Now what?  Well, dinner at the Stables Ranch and Grill, that’s what!  Impeccable service, food cooked to perfection with a wine selection to match.  We enjoyed ourselves for hours on the patio, before turning in for the evening. 

     The next morning we took a long walk around the resort and met a few cows. Yes, cows!  Their golf course has free roaming cattle, though the sort of cattle that don't seem to mind golfers. After breakfast and check out, we loaded up the car and headed east to Patagonia.

East for Bird Watching in Patagonia

    Patagonia is a small town filled with western charm, but what I didn’t know, was that this town is an international bird watching destination. Known for attracting thousands of birds in migration, this corner of Arizona is known on an international scale. 

    hummingbird- single- edited.jpgHummingbirds have a migratory path that conveniently cuts through this region of Arizona. These friendly birds have been visiting the Paton’s Backyard feeders for over a decade, and continue to make the pit stop year after year. Naturally we chose this as a destination to satisfy our craving for all things one-of-a-kind. Although Marion and Wally Paton have both passed away, local volunteers honor their legacy by maintaining the feeders and welcoming visitors from all over the world. Bring a camera because no one will believe you when you tell them about this hummingbird haven!

     Making our way back to Phoenix we had one last stop in Tucson to have lunch at the El Charro Café, one word: “YUM”!  Established in 1922, the restaurant is the nation's oldest Mexican restaurant in continuous operation by the same family.  The slogan states: "We are not the best because we are the oldest.  We are the oldest because WE ARE THE BEST!" Isn't that the truth! The food was delicious and the staff was very friendly.

     While our trip may sound like a lot to do in 36 hours, we never felt rushed at all. We returned home relaxed and rejuvenated and with a newfound respect for our home state. I am now counting the days until my next 36-hour Arizona road trip!

Stacey Vance is a native to Arizona she loves to get out and rediscover her home state with loved ones and friends.