Cactus League Spring Training has drawn folks to the Valley since the 1940s. But it’s the daytrips between homeruns that make them want to linger – lazy afternoons spent fishing, wine-sipping in quaint tasting rooms, or the delightful noshing in cheery cafés and hushed wanderings in lush canyons. Yep, all of them merit a brief break from the ballgame – and all lie within a two hours’ drive of the Phoenix area.
For the shopaholic
Make art a destination in downtown Tucson. Start at Old Town Artisans tucked among ramparts of an 18th-century walled presidio (fort). This entrancing cluster of shops offers everything from Native American pottery to Esther Rogoway’s famous horse paintings. Stop next door at the Museum Store in the Tucson Museum of Art, where you’ll find work by top regional artists, such as blown-glass master Tom Philabaum.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, wander across the shaded patio to Café a la C’art for a relaxing outdoor lunch. The menu changes with the seasons, but be sure to get a taste of their signature pastries like the Mixed Berry Buttermilk Cake.
For the wine enthusiast
Cottonwood is a timeless burg – once home to hard-rock miners, it's become a noted hub for fine wine. That emerging rep is due to stellar stops such as the Pillsbury Wine Company and Arizona Stronghold Vineyards. Visit Pillsbury’s tasting room for crisp whites and robust reds – including a terrific petite Syrah. Then stroll across the street to Arizona Stronghold’s tasting room, which also features regional vintages and live music on the weekends.
Later, enjoy lunch at the eclectic Old Town Red Rooster Café on Main Street, which specializes in comfort food with a gourmet flair. Indulge yourself with a turkey Reuben topped by Gruyère cheese, and a decadent slice of six-layer chocolate cake.
For the history buff
Drift into Jerome, a tranquil, high-desert town boasting a colorful mining past. In its opulent heyday, the remote burg produced millions of dollars in copper. Today that lingering ambiance draws visitors to spots such as Jerome State Historic Park, encompassing a luxurious home built in 1916 by mining magnate James Douglas. His stately manse comes complete with a billiards room, wine cellar and marble shower.
Continue your historic foray in a culinary vein at Grapes Restaurant & Bar. Tucked inside a onetime telegraph and Pony Express station, this cheery bistro offers terrific wine flights and the zesty caprese sandwich, with prosciutto, vine-ripened tomatoes and pesto mayonnaise on focaccia.
For the nature lover
Hike beneath the crimson cliffs of Oak Creek’s West Fork, as ancient oaks and maples riff with the sound of songbirds and a gentle stream ripples alongside. Starting from Call O’ the Canyon day-use area, this easy trail meanders for six miles round-trip, a ribbon of green some 2,000 feet below the rim.
When you’ve worked up an appetite, head to REDS Restaurant at the Sedona Rouge Hotel and Spa for a relaxed lunch of grilled endive-spinach salad with candied pecans, and a refreshing strawberry margarita.
For the angler
Upper Lake Mary stretches south of Flagstaff like an emerald dream. Tucked among lush pines, this long, narrow gem offers top-notch lakeshore ramps, perfect for everything from canoes to powerboats. It’s also abundant in game fish such as channel cat, northern pike, crappie and trout.
When your catch is complete, take a short drive into Flagstaff for lunch at Criollo Latin Kitchen. This eatery is known for organic, locally sourced cuisine and a crisp, tony atmosphere. Satiate your angler’s appetite with beer-battered catfish tacos, topped with ancho crema and a jalapeño glaze.
This story was most recently updated January 26, 2018.