Oasis in the Desert – Arizona

After 3 days, 7 states (if you count Georgia) and 2 countries, we finally arrived in Phoenix, Arizona! One of the most surprising things we saw when we arrived at our Groupon hotel (Hotel 502): there are citrus trees (filled with lemons, tangerines, oranges and grapefruit) everywhere! Fun fact: Arizona is one of only four citrus-producing states in the nation with Texas, Florida and southern California being the others (in the 1800s, citrus fruit were in high demand in the west by miners wishing to combat scurvy, which led to citrus tress being planted in Arizona).

Once we checked in with our wedding client and checked out the venue, we settled in at the hotel for the night… and were treated to a breathtaking sunset.

We were greatly satisfied with Hotel 502 during our 3 night stay. With a complimentary continental breakfast, heated outdoor pool, modern decor and spacious rooms, we couldn’t find anything to complain about. The staff was very helpful with their suggestions for local restaurants & activities (definitely make sure to grab a meal at the Clever Koi and Country Boys Restaurant) and the hotel was within a 20 minute drive of downtown. Plus, if you plan on taking public transit instead, Hotel 502 on the Valley Metro public transit line! You can’t go wrong with choosing this hotel (especially with the free parking and countless orange trees in the parking lot).

After a full Saturday of wedding photography, we spent Sunday exploring the area and trying to see a staple of desert life: a real cactus! And not one of the tiny ones we saw near Van Horn, we wanted to see a cactus reminiscent of the Looney Tunes cartoons from our childhood… and we were not disappointed! At the Barry Goldwater Memorial in the town of Paradise Valley, we were inundated with cacti of every size, shape and height. We were able to truly enjoy the park since it was January and the temperature was in the 70s. However, if you plan on visiting in the summer – when temperatures can easily reach 110°+ Fahrenheit – make sure to bring plenty of water, stay hydrated and limit your time in the sun.

It looks like the cactus is surprised…or wants to give us a hug!

After hugging the cacti and grabbing lunch with the bridal party, we started the 3 day drive back to Atlanta, but we made sure to make a few stops along the way. As we passed through Tuscon, we checked out the Pima Air & Space Museum. Since we both come from military families, it was interesting to see the 300+ planes and the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame. We even got to see a decommissioned Air Force One on the 127 acre site!

Once we got our heads out of the clouds, we continued heading east bound and down on the way back to Georgia. However, before we reached the peach state, Joel made sure to capture dusk over Mexico (as it was my favorite shade of blue), we grabbed another delicious meal in Van Horn, TX (where apparently they knew it was us as we arrived because “no one in Van Horn drives a Prius”) and we stopped in Putnam one more time to see if we could see any people the second time around… we didn’t.

It was a super successful trip and a great precursor to our next Groupon trip: Japan!

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