2015 Southwestern Tour & Balloon Fiesta (Regular Pattern)
Tour Starts: Phoenix, AZ
Tour Ends: Phoenix, AZ
(Tuesday) – Arrive Phoenix, AZ
Your Southwestern tour begins upon your arrival in the Valley of the Sun, and the city of Phoenix. Guests, who have purchased airline tickets from YMT Vacations, will be welcomed in the baggage claim area by a YMT representative who will arrange your transfer to the hotel. (If you made other flight arrangements, please make your own way to the hotel.)
Hotel: Holiday Inn & Suites Phoenix-Mesa/Chandler*
(Wednesday) – Sedona and Flagstaff
Travel north from sprawling Phoenix to the red-rock wonders of Sedona and the Oak Creek Canyon.. Before we arrive in the artist colony of Sedona situated amidst the red Rocks; we will stop at Montezuma’s Castle to get an insight in the Southwestern tribal ancestry of the cliff dwellers. This National Monument is the best preserved cliff dwelling site in North America. You will be in awe when learning about its origin and the story of the native tribe, the Sinagua (those without water), who once resided here. Arid red desert, wind-hewn rocks and deep dramatic canyons surround you as we continue through this region of striking monoliths. Next, enjoy some time to stroll around in uptown Sedona, with its charming shops and welcoming cafes or take an optional Jeep tour into the red canyons. Afterwards we wind Oak Creek Canyon to ascend into the Colorado Plateau to the high-desert community of Flagstaff. A town built around the railroad in the mid 1800’s, Flagstaff is home to a noted university and the Lowell Observatory, as well as an ideal starting point for tours to the Grand Canyon.
Hotel: Little America Hotel Flagstaff*
(Thursday) – Grand Canyon National Park
Today is devoted to exploring the magnificent Grand Canyon - carved millions of years ago by the Colorado River, and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We tour the South Rim, with plenty of time to enjoy panoramic vistas. Enjoy time to relax and soak in the beauty of the canyon, perhaps take a hike along one of the scenic mountain trails or take an optional helicopter ride to see this “Wonder of the World” with a bird’s eye view. We will return to Flagstaff for the night.
Hotel: Little America Hotel Flagstaff*
(Friday) – Petrified Forest, Painted Desert & Gallup to Albuquerque
Enjoy the expansive vistas as we travel east across Arizona. Skirting the Navajo Indian Reservation, we drive through the Petrified Forest National Park – an ancient land with million-year old petrified logs offering unusual scenery. Watch the colors of the Painted Desert change with the daylight shadows as we drive through. We cross into New Mexico and take Route 66 into Gallup, the epicenter of southwestern Native American history, culture and traditions, where we will have a brief stop. This small town has over 100 trading posts, shops and galleries offering a variety of Navajo and Zuni handicrafts. From here we continue through the lands of the Acoma tribe, before we end our day in Albuquerque, the heart of New Mexico.
Hotel: Hotel Cascada *
(Saturday) - Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta & Local Sightseeing
This morning get up early to witness the famed hot air balloon Fiesta’s Mass Ascension. See hundreds of colorful balloons inflate with giant fans then slowly rise to float into the clear blue New Mexico sky. Learn the history of this unique Fiesta, and the simple mechanics of hot air ballooning while witnessing it with your own eyes. As you proceed for some Albuquerque sightseeing, keep an eye peeled for these balloons – as they land in the most unexpected places! Our city tour visits the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center – with its amazing and interactive exhibits on the history and stories of the native Pueblo people. We explore historic Old Town - secluded gardens and patios nestled between winding brick paths full of charming shops, galleries and delicious New Mexican cuisine (meals on own). The Old Town Plaza has been the focal point of the community since 1706. Tonight we return to the balloon launch site for the “After Glow,” when all the balloons fire their burners at the same time, illuminating the night sky. This event is followed by a spectacular fireworks display that you will surely enjoy to watch.
Hotel: Hotel Cascada *
Day 6 - 7
(Sunday - Monday) – Los Alamos and Santa Fe
We will depart Albuquerque in the morning and make our way leisurely to Santa Fe. We will traverse the Santa Fe National Forrest and continue to Bandelier National Monument. Bandelier protects Ancestral Pueblo archeological sites within a wild and beautiful landscape and connects the modern Pueblo people to their past in a monument covering 33,000+ acres and over 70 miles of trail. We continue north to the foothills of the Jemez Mountains, and Los Alamos, a small town and site of the famous Manhattan Project for a brief stop, before we enter Santa Fe. On Day 7 enjoy a leisurely morning in Santa Fe, by doing some sightseeing on your own: Visit the 18th century Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi and/or explore Santa Fe Plaza, a National Historic Landmark, with museums, galleries. Don’t miss out on seeing the famous miracle staircase in the Loretto Chapel! Examine the silver and turquoise wares of the Native American artisans who sell their handicrafts along the open-air square.
Hotel: Doubletree Hotel Santa Fe*
Day 8 - 9
(Tuesday - Wednesday) – Roswell & Carlsbad Caverns
Today we travel along the Santa Fe Trail National Scenic Byway, then through the wide-open spaces and big skies to southwestern New Mexico. We arrive in Roswell and visit the Roswell Museum and Art Center. Established during the depression to support public art, today the museum houses historical artifacts and a fine art collection, including works by New Mexico artist Georgia O’Keeffe. Later, as a nod to Roswell’s pop culture fame, best known for the alleged Roswell UFO sightings, we will pay a short visit to the International UFO Museum & Research Center, with its eclectic collection of space objects and dioramas depicting the story of the purported 1947 UFO crash just outside town. On Day 9 drive south through the Chihuahuan Desert, filled with prickly pears, chollas and agaves to visit incredible Carlsbad Caverns National Park, with 100 of the largest caves in the world. These limestone caverns were formed 250 million years ago - the stalagmite and stalactites that abound in this subterranean world are truly a wonder to explore. We will stay to see the Carlsbad cavern bats at dusk. At night we will return to Roswell once more.
Hotel: Days Inn Roswell*
(Thursday) – Ruidoso and Alamogordo
This morning the tales of outlaws and Buffalo Soldiers seem to come to life as we travel west along the Billy the Kid National Scenic Byway. We stop in Lincoln, with its infamous courthouse jail, and in Capitan to learn about the story of ‘Smokey the Bear.” Next we travel south through Lincoln National Forest to Alamogordo.
Hotel: Best Western Desert Aire*
(Friday) – White Sands National Park & Las Cruces
Today another highlight of the New Mexico landscape awaits: The unusual and beautiful White Sands National Monument! After an orientation at the Visitors Center, we drive through wave-like dunes of gypsum sand – brilliant snow-white dunes whose color changes with the sun and topography. We will stay in Las Cruces for the night.
Hotel: Ramada Las Cruces*
(Saturday) – Tombstone & Tucson
Continuing east, we will cross into southern Arizona. Travel through ranches and towns that claim a colorful history of Apache raids, outlaws and gunfights, stopping in the most famous of them all – Tombstone! Walk the same historic streets as Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday, preserved with their original 1880’s buildings. See the famed OK Corral, the Tombstone Epitaph newspaper office, Crystal Palace and the Boothill Graveyard – the last home to the famous and infamous. We continue through the Sonoran Desert to Tucson.
Hotel: Best Western Inn Suites Tucson*
Day 13 - 14
(Sunday - Monday) – Phoenix
On Day 13, as we depart Tucson, we will tour this “Sunshine City of the Southwest”. Visit the San Xavier del Bac Mission, “the White Dove of the Desert,” considered one of the finest examples of mission architecture in the USA. Continue through downtown, including the Barrio Historico and the University of Arizona. Then we will depart for the Phoenix area, where you will be able to enjoy some R&R for two nights at a beautiful desert resort. En route, we stop to explore the ancient Native American ruins at Casa Grande National Monument, our nation’s first archaeological preserve. On Day 14 a finishing highlight awaits: An optional Sunrise Balloon Flight! Glide in a balloon over the beautifully quiet and just awaking flora and fauna at sunrise, just like you admired it during the Festival in Albuquerque. Here is your chance to experience this amazing way of flying yourself! Otherwise, perhaps partake in an optional visit to Old Town Scottsdale with some opportunities for shopping and browsing the art galleries and a visit to Phoenix’s famed Desert Botanical Garden which showcases the beauty of the desert’s Flora and Fauna. The rest of the evening is at leisure, but you may choose to join your group for a rustic cowboy style dinner (optional).
Hotel: Wekopa Resort & Conference Center*
(Tuesday) – Depart Phoenix for Home
Depart for home with fond memories of new friends and visions of unsurpassed scenery seen on this unique tour.
Note: Some of the sightseeing and visits included in this tour require walking and some periods of standing. Steps, stairs and uneven ground will also be encountered occasionally. This should not pose a challenge to most guests, but please consider this when booking this tour.
Any optional tours mentioned may change without notice and cannot be confirmed until final documents are mailed.
*or similar accommodations