For an unforgettable Labor Day weekend, head to Arizona. The first Labor Day celebration took place in 1882 in New York City with a parade and a picnic at the park that included lager beer and an abundance of cigars. Trade the cigars for a grill, and you’ll find that Labor Day celebrations remain much the same throughout the country. From the Sonoran Desert to the Grand Canyon and Phoenix to Lake Powell, there’s something for everyone to see and enjoy in Arizona. Book a stay at one of many Arizona vacation rentals for your upcoming Labor Day weekend trip. Check out the most noteworthy cities and towns in Arizona.
Flagstaff is a welcome respite from the heat as it hosts the annual Coconino County Fair, a free, four-day event that runs from August 31 through September 3. Join the fun at this statewide fair, and celebrate with delicious foods, thrilling rides, live entertainment, and pie- and watermelon-eating contests. Wheeler Park in downtown Flagstaff has a juried arts-and-crafts festival with one-of-a-kind displays, music, and activities for the kids. Begin your day with breakfast at The Northern Pines Restaurant, or end it with a visit to Fat Olives for a spicy pork and sweet onion pizza.
Bisbee is one of Arizona’s smallest towns, but this cultural gem has intriguing antique stores, lots of breweries, and a ghost hunt at the historic Copper Queen Hotel. Brewery Gulch, once home to more than 20 saloons and gambling halls, is alive with fun on Labor Day weekend. Dress up in period costume for a chance to win a prize in the Ol’ Miz Biz contest, then mosey over to Old Bisbee to watch the pet parade, bed races, and belt-sander race, then sample the chili at the cook-off.
The capital of the Arizona territory in 1864, this quaint mountain town has lots of charming Victorian architecture and vast outdoor recreation areas. Kayak or hike at Watson Lake, or explore the expansive park lands at Prescott National Forest. There are 450 miles of trails and sites for fishing and boating. Faire on the Square is a popular event in Wheeler Park where you can keep cool beneath elm trees in historic downtown. If the kids love interacting with animals, take them to Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary for some hands-on fun, especially at the spider exhibit.
4. Sonoita and Elgin
In the heart of Arizona’s wine country, Sonoita and Elgin rest at a cool elevation of 5,000 feet surrounded by towering mountain peaks. Considered high-desert grassland, this area has rolling hills, oak and ash trees, and nary a cactus. The Sonoita Rodeo is the highlight of the weekend with over 700 participants, $40,000 in cash prizes, and belt buckle collectibles. Don’t miss the steak fry and free rodeo dance on Saturday and Sunday nights. Start the day at The Cafe or the Vineyard Cafe Sonoita.
Williams retains much of the rough-and-ready days of yore. The brothels and gambling halls are gone, but there’s still plenty of saloons to keep you hydrated. Located on Historic Route 66, Williams is the hub for the world-famous Grand Canyon Railway. On Labor Day weekend, it fires up old No. 4960, a steam locomotive that carries you to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. If your vacation rental is in Flagstaff or Sedona, Williams is a doable day trip from either location. Visit the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness area if you love to hike or walk.
Relive the excitement of gunfights at the OK Corral when you visit Tombstone, where actors in authentic costumes bring back the Old West style of settling arguments. Retain the ambiance with a visit to the Bird Cage Theater that operated from 1881 to 1889 during the height of the silver boom. There are nightly ghost tours of the combination theater, saloon, and gambling parlor, and no ghost tour is complete without a visit to Boot Hill. The OK Cafe is a great place to start your day, and if you love Mexican or Italian food, stop by Cafe Margarita.
Kids and adults get a kick out of exploring the amazing beauty of the Antelope Canyon. If you want a hike with no climbing, the Upper Canyon is for you. The Lower canyon requires descending into the canyon on very steep stairs and ladders, but it makes an intriguing obstacle course for kids age 4 and up. Guides such as Ken’s Tours know all the best places to explore, but self-guided works too. Photo buffs adore sunsets at Horseshoe Bend, and the best viewpoint is a 15-minute walk up a rolling, sandy hill. The kids can search for wild animals such as rabbits and lizards along the way.
Cool off at the Golfland Sunsplash, where you and the kids can romp from water slides to laser tag to go-carts and the arcade. Riverview Park has a wonderful pond with quacking ducks and climbing apparatus. The Chicago Cubs training facility is here, so Little Leaguers find it intriguing, and the I.d.e.a. Museum has interactive exhibits for the kids. For those who love tubing, Salt River Tubing provides an exciting adventure for the whole family. Stop by Organ Stop Pizza to satisfy your appetite after a busy day.
Surprise is a charming community located 45 minutes from downtown Phoenix. It’s surrounded by mountain park lands where you can hike, fish, or picnic by the lake. Open to the Sonora Desert, Surprise is a golfer’s haven with seven stunning courses, an urban fishing lake, and two public aquatic centers. The cozy Oregano’s Pizza Bistro has fantastic desserts, and if you crave Vietnamese food, try the small plates at Saigon Kitchen.
10. Cave Creek
Enjoy the awesome desert scenery from the top of the 3.5-mile Overton Trail/Go John Trail Loop at Cave Creek Regional Park. The slightly elevated trail is well marked and maintained, and it’s easy to find a picnic spot for lunch. Glide over unforgettable views of Cave Creek in the largest hot-air balloon in the United States. Arizona Balloon Safaris provides a delicious champagne breakfast following your flight. If you love nosing through antique shops, visit The Town Dump where you are sure to find something to love. After, consider a burger and beer at Big Earl’s Greasy Eats, housed in a former gas station.
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