Payson Perfect Base For Exploring Arizona

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Since I host the afternoon show on KMOG five days each week, I confine my travel throughout our state to short segments. I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing the wonders of Arizona during the past few years. I'll mention here just a few places you might enjoy, if not for the first time, at least considering another visit.

Sedona is one of the most magnificent places in our state, and one of my favorites. At an elevation of 4,500 feet, the weather seldom gets too warm or too cold. Here is a place to take in the grandeur of the various hues of red on the rocks and mountains. The art scene is very active throughout the area. If you enjoy hiking, this is a must. Shopping is excellent, especially at Tlaquepaque, which houses quality shops of art, pottery, gifts and more. This unique shopping center also has several fine restaurants.

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The red rock country around Sedona is just a couple of hours away from Payson, but it is an entirely different world from the Mogollon Rim. It has galleries to explore and a variety of restaurants to choose from.

An interesting afternoon can be spent roving the back roads with Pink Jeep Tours. You'll see ancient Indian ruins, panoramic vistas and sights you can't get to in a conventional automobile. Call for reservations by dialing 1-800-873-3662.

Lunch is always good at either L'Auberge de Sedona (in summer, eat riverside) or the Enchantment Resort. These are top-of-the-line hotels if you wish to stay for the night.

On your way into Sedona, stop by the chamber of commerce and they will give you directions to various places of interest and supply a map, which will help you get around. You may want to visit their Web site before going, at sedonachamber.com, or call them at (928) 282-7722.

If you want to spend a little more time in the area, continue out of Sedona on Highway 89A through Oak Creek Canyon to Flagstaff. This is a beautiful drive, with many turns and curves along the creek, but the scenery is well worth the effort. This is the second most-visited area in Arizona.

Flagstaff is most interesting. This is the largest city in the northern part of our state. It is home to Northern Arizona University with some 18,000 students. I always enjoy walking through the downtown area, which has had a renaissance in the last several years. Some interesting shops and restaurants await.

You'll enjoy a visit to the Lowell Observatory, located at 1400 W. Mars Hill Rd. In 1930, Dr. Lowell discovered the planet Pluto from this famous observatory. The observatory is open to the public Friday nights during the summer. The museum is also most interesting and worth some time.

Other interesting stops could include the Arboretum at Flagstaff on Woody Mountain Road. It is the highest botanical garden in the U.S. and houses specially bred plants found in Arizona's high altitude. If you are a home gardener, this will be a fascinating stop for you.

You might also want to include visits to the Lava River Cave, a short distance out of town, along with the Coconino Arts Center and the Museum of Northern Arizona. A visit to the chamber of commerce will supply you with additional sightseeing ideas and a map.

If you're going to stay overnight here, I suggest Little America on Butler Road and I-40. The rooms are comfortable and you'll have several dining options. You can secure reservations by calling 1-800-528-1234.

I recommend your return route to Payson via Highway 87 past Lake Mary, planning a stop at Mormon Lake, which is about 30 miles south of Flagstaff. The road, although only two lanes wide, is very good, with little traffic. The scenery is simply beautiful any time of the year. Plan on taking the 5-mile trip off the highway to the village of Mormon Lake and stop at the Mormon Lake Lodge. You can't miss it. Here you can enjoy lunch in an Old West setting. It's fun.

Another hour and a half brings you back to Payson.

Happy travels!

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