AAA Offers ‘Off the Beaten Path’ Stops at Top Fall Break Destinations


In the coming weeks, schools will be dismissed for fall break, presenting parents the perfect opportunity to take a quick getaway. To help inspire road trip creativity, AAA Travel experts are suggesting some less-frequented spots that can’t be missed at popular road trip destinations.


“Southern California and Northern Arizona consistently top Arizonan’s fall travel lists because they’re close and beautiful places to visit,” said Amy Moreno, director of travel for AAA Arizona. “To help discover new things to see and do in these familiar places, we’ve compiled a list of unique attractions that will help travelers create new memories near these destinations.”


To change up your travel routine to Northern Arizona or Southern California, AAA Travel experts recommend seeing the following sights this fall:


Northern Arizona

  • Flagstaff - Lava Tube. The largest lava cave in Arizona is just 45 minutes northwest of Flagstaff. The Flagstaff Lava Tube is a volcanic cave said to have been formed more than 700,000 years ago. Hike into the tube, but be sure to pack a headlamp, flashlight and a sweater, as the mile-deep cave is dark and chilly, averaging about 40 degrees year-round.


AAA trip info: The Flagstaff Lava Tube is 330 miles round trip from Phoenix. Fuel costs in a 20-gallon, for a mid-size SUV would be about $72. This is a free attraction.


  • Flagstaff - Red Mountain Volcano. Located just 25 miles northwest of Flagstaff, Red Mountain is a 1,000-foot-tall volcanic cinder cone. This easy-to-moderate hike is about 2.5 miles round trip and provides the perfect opportunity to explore Flagstaff’s volcanic past. The cone has a large, natural amphitheater which is decorated by erosional pillars called “hoodoos,” that create a landscape that looks like something out of this world.


AAA trip info: The Red Mountain Volcano is about 350 miles round trip from Phoenix. Fuel costs in a 20-gallon, mid-size SUV would be about $76. Admission is free.


  • Cornville - Page Springs Cellars. Tucked away near Oak Creek, this award-winning, family owned winery is located just south of Sedona. Take a tour of the winery, enjoy tastings in the tasting room or even get a massage.  


AAA trip info: Page Springs Cellars is a 215-mile round-trip drive from Phoenix. The fuel costs for this trip in a 20-gallon, mid-size SUV would be about $49. Tours are $15 for adults and kids 12 and under are free.


Southern California

  • Julian, Calif. Just an hour east of San Diego nestled in the Cuyamaca Mountains is the historic mining town of Julian, which is also home to more than 10 apple orchards. Several orchards offer “U Pick” days, where for about $10 you can “pick a peck” of your own apples and take them with you to enjoy. Julian offers several other activities from art galleries, horseback riding, panning for gold, hiking and shopping.

AAA trip info:  Julian is about 630 miles round-trip from Phoenix. Fuel costs in a 20-gallon, mid-size SUV would be about $144, according to AAA’s Fuel Cost Calculator.

  • Coronado, Calif. Gondola Ride. Venture over the Coronado Bridge to the picture-perfect island of Coronado. One activity you don’t want to miss is a gondola ride through the canals of the Coronado Cays. The Gondola Company provides private, 50-minute rides. Guests may bring their own beverage and will receive a complimentary appetizer or dessert plate.

AAA trip info: Coronado is about 740 miles round trip from Phoenix. Fuel costs in a 20-gallon mid-size SUV would be about $166. One-hour gondola rides for two start around $95.


  • Temecula, Calif. – Scenic Drive. The Pines to Palms scenic drive takes you 130 miles winding through the desert connecting the charming California towns of Idyllwild, Julian and Temecula. The route takes you through animal habitat areas, ranging from desert oasis to snow-capped mountains, and parts of the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument and San Bernardino National Forest.

AAA trip info: The start of the route in Palm Springs is about 270 miles round trip from Phoenix. The complete Pines to Palms route is about 130 miles, which combined would total about $180 in gas for a 20-gallon mid-size SUV.


Fuel costs were based off of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Trip Calculator.


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AAA Arizona, the Arizona affiliate of AAA, provides automotive, insurance and travel services to more than 825,000 Arizona members. Annually, AAA’s Roadside Assistance responds to more than 450,000 calls for help on Arizona roadways. The auto club also provides insurance, travel, auto repair, discounts and financial services to AAA members. Since its founding in 1927, AAA Arizona has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.