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Spring Training 
Vacation in Arizona

Grand Canyon Credit_ Justin Bartels_edited.jpg
White Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi C

The White Sox and Cubs travel to Arizona each year for spring training. The two Chicago clubs join 13 other Major League Baseball teams in the Cactus League, the Arizona-based spring training league created in 1947. The action officially begins on Feb. 23, ahead of the regular season opener on Mar. 20 between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres in Seoul, South Korea.

The Chicago Cubs will celebrate the 10th anniversary of Sloan Park in Mesa, while the White Sox will prep at Glendale’s Camelback Ranch, which opened in 2009. The two teams meet for the first time this year on Feb. 23.

Spring training marks the perfect opportunity to take a winter break to the desert. While you could fill your days soaking up the baseball action from the stands, why not explore more of what the Grand Canyon State offers? Arizona is the nation’s sixth-largest state (by size) and 14th-most populous state. It is a delightful blend of dramatic desert landscapes, historic gold rush towns, modern cities, and one of the world’s seven natural wonders. 

Where to Stay

Castle Hot Springs in the Sonoran Desert promises the ultimate detox from all the beer and hot dogs consumed at spring training. Arizona’s first wellness resort, guests in the 1800s traveled to the natural hot springs by stagecoach. By the early 20th century, the resort had become a popular escape for wealthy families such as the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Astors, and President Theodore Roosevelt, who stayed for the opening of the Hoover Dam.


These days, stays at Castle Hot Springs involve farm-to-table daily meals, chef-curated tasting dinners, and outdoor activities, including guided hikes, archery, paddle boarding, and mindfulness exercises. More adventurous guests can ride horses, experience a UTV tour, or explore Crater Canyon. Along with a full menu of spa treatments, the resort invites visitors to indulge in natural hot springs, outdoor soaking tubs, hammocks, and cold plunge pools. Accommodations vary, and options include cabins equipped with telescopes for stargazing, creekside spring bungalows, and an opulent three-bedroom cottage.


The awe-inspiring red rocks of Sedona can be enjoyed from the luxury of the L’Auberge de Sedona, a creekside hotel featuring 62 luxury cottages, 21 lodge-style cabins, and a five-bedroom creekhouse. The accommodations are replete with roaring fireplaces, four-poster beds, oversized tubs, and decks with a view. Fitting with Sedona’s zen-like art community vibe, the hotel offers metaphysically immersive classes and curated art experiences such as sunrise chakra yoga, stargazing, holographic alchemy sounds and self-empowerment activities. After growing spiritually, unwind in the L’Apothecary Spa, located on the hotel’s grounds. All treatments incorporate the natural surroundings. For culinary pleasure, the hotel’s Cress on Oak Creek offers outdoor dining beside a bubbling river, serving French-inspired dishes made from local ingredients.

Wildflower Spotting

While Arizona’s summer landscape can be dry and sparse, springtime is an explosion of color as Sonoran Desert wildflowers fully bloom from late February to mid-May. There are over 20 varieties of wildflowers in Arizona, including poppies, brittlebush, chuparosa, and marigolds. There are abundant areas to experience the flowering season within an easy drive of Phoenix, including hiking trails so you can immerse yourself in the bloom (but be sure not to pick, trample, or destroy any plants).

The Phoenix Sonoran Preserve is a popular spot during wildflower season — with the Apache Wash Trailhead becoming ablaze with bright hues of red-orange globemallow and marigold petals — and the preserve’s Desert Tortoise and Desert Vista trails are also abundant in color. Piestewa Peak, accessible from the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, has many trails through the spring blooms, while the Dreamy Draw Recreation Area is guaranteed to offer a beautiful display of wildflowers. The Lost Dog Wash trail leading from the McDowell Sonoran Preserve is renowned for its poppies, as is Superstitious Mountain in Lost Dutchman State Park, where you will also find jojoba and Mormon tea. For more vigorous hiking trails to accompany your flower spotting, check out the Elephant Mountain Loop in the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area or the Treasure Loop Trail at Lost Dutchman.

Saguaro Cactus Bloom 

Another aspect of Arizona plant life popular with out-of-state visitors is the saguaro cactus due to its distinct shape, which refers to the imagery of classic Western movies. Saguaros can only be found in the Sonoran Desert or across the border in Sonora, Mexico, and they are thought of so highly that damaging or uprooting them is illegal (a special permit is needed to relocate a saguaro for construction reasons). Saguaros produce bright red fruit and flowers in springtime, and their blossom is the official state flower of Arizona. With their fiery spears and arms, the towering cacti make for an impressive view when driving through the desert during the spring. 

Phantom Ranch Cabin, Grand Canyon Nation
Grand Canyon Mule Rides Credit_ StudioBa

What to Do

Grand Canyon Mule Rides

You can’t visit the Grand Canyon State without witnessing its namesake. The average temperature at the rim of the Grand Canyon in February and March is 60 to 66 degrees Fahrenheit, making spring the ideal time of year for outdoor activities before the summer heat kicks in.

There are various ways to experience the national park, from hiking to helicopter tours, but our favorite mode of transport is mules. Many mule trips leave from the North or South rims, ranging from one-hour scenic rides to half-day or inner canyon trips. However, book at least a year in advance, as spots are filled quickly.

Phantom Ranch hosts overnight mule rides with guests sleeping in hiker beds, with bookings available through a lottery system opening on the 15th of every month. More experienced riders can embark on a Winter Pastures equestrian vacation, which takes you far below the North Rim, descending a series of benches into the canyon’s least frequented drainage areas. This rigorous horse ride along rugged trails often requires dismounting to lead a horse through particularly narrow areas, so only competent equestrians can apply. Sleeping conditions are basic, as the five-night trek involves staying in tents out in the elements. 

L’Auberge Vista Suite Deck Credit_ L’Aub
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