What makes for a perfect weekend getaway?
I spent Labor Day Weekend in Pine, AZ with some of my favorite people. My friend Stacey was kind enough to invite us to her beautiful cabin, which is tucked away in the quiet little town of Pine, situated just a few minutes north of Payson, AZ. It was just a small group of us, but we had an absolutely wonderful time.
Pine is about a two-hour drive north of Phoenix, but given the 5,000+ ft. elevation, temperatures usually stay in the high 70s-80s during the summer, and drop as low as the 50s in the evenings. For those of you who live in Phoenix, where every single summer day is over 100 degrees, this is heavenly!
I was thinking about what made this trip so special (besides the great accommodations and hospitality) and I created a list of qualities that always make for an unforgettable vacation:
- Losing track of time
- Forgetting entirely about the daily grind, i.e., work, office, other obligations, etc.
- Laughing until you cry, or can’t breathe, or your stomach hurts, or all of the above
- Eating and/or drinking whatever you want
Needless to say, this weekend checked off all of these boxes!!
This was only my third time to Pine, but here are my favorite things about Pine, AZ:
Disclaimer: I am not the biggest beer fan in general, but there’s something about drinking beer with friends on a chilly mountain night that’s appealing. THAT Brewery is a definitely a hole-in-the-wall little bar with lots of character. They have two locations: Pine and Cottonwood. This was my first visit, but it came highly recommended. The bartenders were awesome, this one little lady talked with us as if she’d known us forever. I tried just about every type of beer they offer, but my friend Christy and I decided THAT Strawberry Blonde was our favorite. Apparently, the IPAs were on point, but I can’t do the hoppy and bitter beers. Next time you are anywhere near Pine, stop by and have a cold one. The ambiance is great, and the bartender will keep you laughing. We didn’t eat any food, but this is also known as a foodie place, so y’all let me know if you order anything delicious! Can’t wait to wear my THAT Brewery t-shirt!
The Randall House has a long history in Pine, and is a staple in the community. They have excellent, high-quality baked goods, coffee & espresso, unique gifts, and great home-cooked food. The restaurant itself is inside the main house, and given the beautiful weather, they have both indoor and outdoor seating. Keeping her mother’s tradition alive, owner and chef Barbara O’Connor, prepares all the meals in the little house kitchen using farm-fresh local ingredients. Everything is cooked to order, so it doesn’t feel like a restaurant; but rather, like you are a guest having a special home-cooked meal prepared just for you!
Know before you visit: because everything is cooked to order dining can be a very, very slow process. We arrived about 9:30am on a Sunday, and there was a one-hour wait. However, it gives you an opportunity to enjoy a latte and a life-changing fresh-baked scone while you wait. I’m not joking about the scone – it was everything a scone should be: crusty on the outside with a flaky, buttery interior. I had the cranberry walnut scone and a large latte and it did not disappoint! The staff is friendly and helpful, but don’t be in a rush when you stop by. Be patient… the food is worth the wait.
3.It’s So Laid-Back and Chill!!
In some parts of Phoenix, particularly Scottsdale, there’s a reputation for snobbery and general pretentiousness, but it’s the polar opposite in Pine. There seems to be a very relaxed, laid-back, and super casual feel to this gem of a small town. To put it in perspective, we went “out on the town” in flannel and workout gear, and were borderline overdressed = awesome. The people in town are super friendly, but this isn’t surprising for a town whose small economy is based largely on tourism. Either way, it’s a win-win.
Even though we visited during a busy Labor Day Weekend, nobody seemed to be rushed or in a hurry. Everyone just enjoys the beautiful weather and views. There was a pretty cool Labor Day Arts & Crafts Festival in town, which was a great opportunity to check out local artists, try some Indian fry bread, and stroll down main street. After our mammoth brunch, we needed the exercise!
4. The Woods!
Many folks may not realize this, but Arizona is not entirely desert. In fact, most of Northern Arizona consists of lush forests, Ponderosa pine trees, and green mountaintops! Arizona is an extremely diverse state, and within a couple hours drive from Phoenix, you can easily reach snow covered mountain tops and much cooler temperatures!
Everyday, we saw moose, deer, and all sorts of critters roaming around the woods right by the cabin. The woods are right on the edge of Stacey & John’s cabin, so we could see the wildlife close up – but there was just enough distance not feel as though our lives were threatened!
One of the best parts about nights in Pine are the stars. There is no light pollution in Pine, so you can see all the stars in the sky, which isn’t really possible in Phoenix. There really is something special about those cool mountain evenings. The air is so crisp and clean, and who doesn’t love hoodie weather? It certainly made for perfect circumstances to enjoy some adult beverages while playing games outside on the porch. A beautiful night sky full of stars creates quite the ambiance.
Pine is a small town with big character, and I highly recommend you spend some time there! Go ahead, get into the woods with some great friends – lose track of time, drink and eat till your heart’s content, laugh out loud till you have tears in your eyes, and make some memories.