Writer Shannon Severson
Photos by Sergio and Kelly Photography
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]rizona is a desirable destination for visitors from around the world who travel to live their dreams of seeing the beauty of the Southwest: red rocks, desert landscapes, snowy peaks and pine forests.
At the end of a long day of exploration, there are plenty of perfectly adequate, even luxurious places to rest one’s head. However, travelers are increasingly looking for more than just a comfortable bed; they’re seeking an experience.
Quaint and sometimes quirky alternatives to standard overnight accommodations exist up and down our state, from south to north, inspiring visitors to fall in love with Arizona and helping residents feel like they are on vacation despite home being just a two-hour drive away.
The Shady Dell Vintage
The Shady Dell Vintage Trailer Court has been a traveler’s haven since 1927 when it was a place for motorists along Highway 80 to pitch a tent or park their camper. Today, the spot lets visitors travel back in time with accommodations provided in the form of carefully restored vintage trailers from the 1940s and 1950s, a 1947 “Tiki Bus” and even a 1947 38’ Christ Craft Yacht.
Each trailer is a time capsule with decor true to its era, complete with radios streaming the oldies, black and white TVs, phonographs accompanied by a library of 45s to spin, a coffee percolator and vintage dishes. Most sleep two adults (minimum age to stay at The Shady Dell Vintage Trailer Court is 15 years old) and have their own toilet and sink, though full-size bathroom and shower facilities are also available.
Visitors can fire up dinner on the outdoor grills. On weekends, the charming Dot’s Diner serves up breakfast and lunch from a restored trailer of its own.
These funky accommodations, which often book up six months out, are surrounded by several one-of-a-kind local landmarks. The city of Bisbee is nearby with its Copper Queen mine tour, ghost tours and historic town center. The award-winning Sonoita Vineyards — Arizona’s oldest commercial vineyard and winery — is also just a short drive away in Elgin.
The Shady Dell Vintage Trailer Court
1 Old Douglas Road, Bisbee
If you’ve ever watched one of those cable shows about people who live in tiny homes and wondered, “Could I live in a tiny house? What would it be like?” then here’s your chance to try on the experience for size.
TinyCamp is a pet-friendly cluster of five custom tiny homes that sleep one to four guests and are a great summer option with Sedona’s cooler temperatures at an elevation of 5,000 feet.
“We created a unique glamping experience with luxury, sustainable tiny homes in beautiful Oak Creek Canyon,” says Darin Dinsmore, founder and CEO of TinyCamp. “Our elevated tiny homes with large decks create a tree house experience and our guests love the cool breezes, creek sounds and evenings by the fire for their summer retreat in Sedona.”
Dinsmore’s award-winning property has received rave reviews, prompting him to expand with two additional TinyCamp options — one in West Sedona and another, called Gather by TinyCamp, in the Verde Valley wine-growing region near Jerome.
For those who love to hike, West Fork and North Wilson Trails are nearby. The resort also provides visitors with Vortex information and maps. Vacation packages include romance and local wine tasting or yoga and wellness retreats for groups. In the evenings, the area’s dark skies presents stargazing opportunities as visitors soak in a private saltwater hot tub.
1331 Thompson Road, Sedona
The Strawberry Inn
The Strawberry Inn may only be 100 miles from Phoenix but it feels like it is a world away. The Dutch-inspired inn and cottages, nestled among the pines, has multiple accommodation styles fit for two or the whole crew.
Owners Amber and Carson Eilers started their real estate careers flipping homes in the Valley and eventually began operating vacation rentals. They purchased The Strawberry Inn in 2016 and embarked on an ambitious summer renovation project for a fall launch. Over the years, they’ve added tiny cottages and cabins; they’ll soon add Airstream trailers as well.
The vibe is casual. Yard games and porch swings mix with modern design and plush bedding. Meanwhile, coffee drinks and snacks can be enjoyed at the cute on-site Windmill Coffee shop that brews Press Coffee — a Valley favorite.
Each room has its own unique design with soothing colors and luxurious touches. Couples on a romantic getaway may opt for a room in the main building while families or groups will have more elbow room in The Creek Cabin, The Bunkhouse, The Bungalow, The Guest House or one of the tiny cottages that sleep up to six.
Several of the rooms are dog-friendly and have full kitchens. The property operates like a vacation rental, but has a local property manager if the need arises.
Nearby are natural water springs, hiking trails and local shops and restaurants. In the summer, Strawberry boasts cooler temperatures than Phoenix. In the winter, visitors may even enjoy a solid dusting of snow.
The Strawberry Inn
5073 Arizona Hwy 87, Strawberry
Under Canvas Grand Canyon
When you imagine a luxurious, high-end glamping experience, Under Canvas Grand Canyon is probably exactly what you have in mind. This spot is one of a series of luxurious glamping resorts that began in 2012 near Yellowstone National Park and has since expanded throughout the United States — mostly in the West — and has since been named one of the top 25 resorts in the US – Midwest and West.
Located 25 minutes from Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim entrance, this 160-acre resort is surrounded by piñon and juniper forest. There are various types of tents to choose from, some with private baths. With current camp dates available through Oct. 25, Under Canvas Grand Canyon is known for its safari-style stargazer tent option — which has built-in windows that allow you to lie in bed and look up at the stars.
The tents are beautifully furnished and the brand is known for its many activity options. Complimentary on-site programs include yoga, live acoustic music, guided hikes, movie nights, arts and crafts, scavenger hunts, bingo and campfire s’mores. Guests can pre-book a variety of adventure packages — such as Jeep safaris, driving tours and hikes — or concierges can help them decide from the long list of possibilities upon arrival.
On the culinary front, breakfast, dinner and snacks are offered with an emphasis on local and seasonal ingredients. There’s even a kids’ menu, as the spot is both family- and pet-friendly.
Even with all this action, the camp strives to keep a minimal environmental footprint, maintains undisturbed green spaces and even keeps guests more in tune with nature by very purposefully not offering WiFi. The emphasis is on enjoying nature and the people around you.
Under Canvas Grand Canyon
979 Airpark Lane, Valle
Cane Beds Corral
Randy and Tammy Paul built Cane Beds Corral In the far northern canyonlands of Arizona, just south of the Utah border.
Randy spent many years as an architect, creating themed environments for many of the biggest hotel names on the Las Vegas Strip. Now, he and Tammy offer an intimate vacation destination under the bright lights of our state’s starry nighttime skies.
“We were inspired by the endless creative possibilities that came with the emergence of glamping as an industry,” Randy says. “It really excited my imagination and reminded me of some crazy places where I had spent nights earlier in my life. I felt that with my skillset and imagination, I also could create unique and desirable experiences for others.”
The Pauls began hosting guests in early 2020 with just two lodging options: The Little Rock Cabin and the Explorer’s Escape tent. Both were a labor of love, hand-built by Randy — including the furniture. Other furnishings were antiqued or refurbished by Tammy. The cabin sleeps up to four and has all the comforts of home. The Explorer’s Tent, which sleeps two, has an elevated front porch and an attached bathroom with a completely private outdoor shower and tub.
Two more tents were added this past spring: the Honeymoon Hideout — which is 100% solar-powered — and Pancho’s Villa, decorated in a style they characterize as “Mexi-Boho” that’s colorful and classy. These tents have use of the custom-built bathhouse. Each is assigned its own private bathroom facilities, including showers built to feel as though you’re showering inside a red rock slot canyon.
With a full-service grocery store located just a seven-minute drive away, the resort boasts a covered outdoor grilling and dining area. After dinner, guests can step down into a protected gas-powered firepit area surrounded by red-rock seating that’s a perfect perch for roasting s’mores.
The Pauls’ commitment to land stewardship and sustainability means they don’t have plans to expand much more. However, they are in the process of converting everything to run on solar power and creating areas for groups to gather.
At its fullest, Cane Beds Corral hosts ten people at a time and the accommodations are well-spaced on the seven-acre property. They also aim to keep the price point low so that it’s an affordable vacation spot for families. WiFi is available and some guests have found it a welcome haven for working remotely.
Cane Beds Corral is adjacent to Zion, Bryce and Grand Canyon national parks and Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park as well as the Grand Staircase and Vermillion Cliffs national monuments. The Pauls even offer maps and recommendations for the many nearby outdoor adventures and restaurants in the town of Colorado City, which is just a short drive down the road.
Cane Beds Corral
Exact location provided after booking