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I live in Gilbert, AZ.

Tucson is not warmer. They are at a higher elevation, and are reliably about 5F cooler than Phoenix.

"Day trips" to the Canyon, or Petrified Forest, or many other places from Phoenix is not really practical. Arizona is deceptively large. It's about 4hrs from Phoenix to the South Rim, for example. And likely longer for Petrified Forest. It's most of the day to Monument Valley (and days are short in the winter).

Those are excellent places, but you might want to stage yourself closer to them. northern Arizona it will be cold. There may even be snow (which, in the case of the Canyon, is time to go there is when there is snow; it is beyond gorgeous). There are times when they require chains or a 4WD, so plan ahead.

Probably your best bet for the South Rim is to stage yourself in Tusayan. Drive up, spend the night, then spend all day along the South Rim. Spend the night again, drive-out.

Monument Valley is way-the-heck on the Utah border, and pretty much isn't on the way to anywhere else. You may want to stage in Kayenta.

An example trip would be to drive to Tusayan as I described, then scoot over to Kayenta, spend the night, do Monument Valley**, another night, drive-out.

Phoenix does have some fine dining***, there is the art museum, and one of the finest museums of its kind on the planet is the Heard Museum (dedicated to native American history and artifacts). If you're into that (not everyone is).

Tucson is a college town (where I went to grad school). The University has a planetarium, and the Center for Creative Photography. Kitt Peak is a bit over an hour to the south, and they have tours assuming the road is passable (it snows at Kitt Peak). Same with the Whipple Observatory (where I worked). You would want to call ahead for either.

Sedona can be a day trip from Phoenix if you start early. It's only about 2 hours, but the days are shorter in the winter. It also will get cold there, and it can sometimes snow. But usually it is clear. Though I think Sedona is overrated, especially with all the development they have allowed there. But some people love it.

Oodles of native ruins around, if you know where to look (and are inclined towards such). Montezuma's Castle, Wupatki, Tuzigoot, Canyon de Chelly, and others.


**Monument Valley is on the reservation. If you want to do anything other than following the single road they have, you'll have to hire a native guide. There is not shortage of them when you get there, but just be aware.

***If you want authentic Mexican food, you can find it in Phoenix or Tucson.
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