In my former life as a childless spendthrift, I had a pretty messy festival habit. Rock festivals, food festivals, craft beer festivals, counterculture art confabs in the Nevada desert – I did them all, from California to North Carolina. And on a reporter's salary, no less. Thank you, Chase Visa.
Straddling two states, Lake Tahoe offers slope-carving fun – and then some.
Viewed from its snow-covered shoreline on a winter day, Lake Tahoe is a thing of brooding beauty. The massive lake – which straddles the California-Nevada border and covers 191 square miles, roughly the surface area of Scottsdale – slumbers under a silent curtain of snowfall. Mountains rise up on every side, offering a tantalizing spread of skiing and snowboarding options. It's stunning.
The “work hard, play hard” philosophy is easier to maintain when you can put a healthy distance between the two. From cannon fights and haunted happy hours to woolly mammoth kill sites and wintertime snowball fights, we’ve got a year’s worth of ways to make Arizona your playground – plus over-the-border escapes for every season.
Hunt for treasure in southern Arizona’s quirky mining hamlet.
“You’ll love Bisbee – it’s really funky.” That’s what my friend and I kept hearing as we planned our weekend sojourn to the former mining boom town nestled in the mile-high Mule Mountains, a little more than 200 miles south of Phoenix. That, and: “Watch out for bikers.” A funky little biker haven? We threw on our jackets and set out to discover this jewel for the first time.
While Bisbee’s eccentric reputation is well-earned – where else can you find a hearse-run ghost tour, a playground that used to be a cemetery and a spa that was once a jailhouse? – its edges are not as rough as most think. Instead, its multicolored buildings of time-traveling architectural styles line winding, sloping streets that lend a cozy, European sophistication to the eccentric mishmash of hippie, family, retiree, biker and hipster types populating them. Cross a twee Swiss village with an artist commune, add a sprinkle of Mayberry, and you get Bisbee.
Adventures await – by air, land and lake – at “Arizona’s playground.”
Lake Havasu City’s new slogan, “Play like you mean it,” should include the disclaimer “results may vary.” That’s because the definition of “play” varies so wildly in this still-young river town, where well-heeled winter visitors and relocated retirees split the seasons with craft-beer-swilling spring breakers and boating enthusiasts. The dual-purpose vibe has proven a boon for Havasu, established in 1963 by a chainsaw maker named Robert McCulloch, who bought the London Bridge from the City of London for $2.5 million in 1968, reportedly outbidding actor Red Skelton. The reassembled bridge (now spanning the waters of Lake Havasu) has been a major tourist attraction since opening in 1971, along with the Parker Dam-created Lake Havasu reservoir and its glut of gorgeous coves.
Led by cactus-hugging volunteers, Arizona’s revitalized state park system beckons heat-weary Phoenicians.
They trim the plants, guide the tours and tend the gates. They are the volunteer citizen activists and accidental heroes of Arizona State Parks, the state agency that oversees our 28 parcels of protected wilderness. When the destructive winds of The Great Recession began to shutter park operations, these tenacious volunteer groups rallied to nip the squall. They go by benign names like Friends of Tonto Natural Bridge, Riordan Action Network and Hold the Fort, but make no mistake, they’re fighters – battling to buoy and enrich the park system.
A road trip to three of Utah’s five national parks reveals breathtaking backcountry, hoodoo-filled hikes, and luscious local pies.
After three hours of canyoneering in Zion National Park (nps.gov/zion), our feet look like they’re bleeding through our socks. Thankfully, it’s just pulverized red sandstone flowing between our toes – a sign of a sated adventurer. “If you don’t leave Utah with red sand in your shoes, you didn’t have fun,” says Gerard, one of two guides from Zion Adventure Company (435-772-1001, zionadventures.com) leading our team of six on a hiking, climbing, and rappelling foray into the heavily forested vermilion cliffs of Utah’s most visited national park.