Hipster Haven Weekend
Stay: While East Austin’s counterculture scene has overtaken the South Congress area on the hipster-meter, the historic hotels along the SoCo stretch are still a worthwhile destination. The vintage marquee outside the inexpensive, family-owned Austin Motel (1220 S. Congress Ave., 512-441-1157, austinmotel.com) marks it as retro cool, but if you have the dough, the nearby Hotel San Jose (1316 S. Congress Ave., 512-852-2360, sanjosehotel.com) has gorgeous vine-covered concrete bungalows originally built in 1936. As a bonus, four-legged friends are welcome.
Play: Pedal-philes will appreciate the simplicity and leisurely pace of Texas Bike Tours (texasbiketours.com), where cyclists can choose to get acquainted with, court or lovingly romance this laid-back city on two wheels. At night, keep Austin weird by attending a Big Lebowski Quote-along or Totally ’80s Singalong at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (320 E. Sixth St., 512-476-1320, drafthouse.com).
Dine: With coffee, sandwiches, and a beer and wine list longer than the food menu, Spider House Cafe (2908 Fruth St., 512-480-9562, spiderhousecafe.com) is a sweet place to chow down while dissecting the intricacies of cult classic films like A Clockwork Orange. Bonus: The owners of the 1920s bungalow recently opened a multi-stage music venue next door that hosts eclectic bands and touring cirque performers.
Learn to Cook Cactus
The Sonoran desert is home to frightening flora, from deadly nightshades to spiked cacti. Yet Native Americans utilized these plants to make food, medicines and fibers long before modern technology intervened. Loews Ventana Canyon Resort offers a window into ancient desert life with a summer cooking series on gathering and preparing plants grown on-site. In June, Pastry Chef Krista Owens whips up desert desserts made with barrel cactus fruit, while July’s class has Executive Chef Ken Harvey harvesting mesquite pods used in marinades and flour. The series culminates with harvesting opuntia, the magenta fruit of the prickly pear. Chef Harvey will demonstrate how to clean and peel the fruit to avoid giving yourself an unintentional tongue piercing, after which a prickly pear cocktail from the mixologists will definitely be in order. Classes open to non-guests; approximate price $25. 7000 N. Resort Dr., 520-299-2020, loewshotels.com/en/Ventana-Canyon-Resort
Three Cheers for Staycations!
Modern Southwest: A mouthwatering palette of ribbon-candy pink and juicy tangerine sets the stage for a delicious experience at The Saguaro (4000 N. Drinkwater Blvd., Scottsdale, 480-308-1100, thesaguaro.com). From the Latin-inspired spa’s chocolate-chile wrap and prickly pear sugar scrub to a spicy chile relleno at Iron Chef Jose Garces’ Distrito or margaritas delivered to private poolside casitas, there’s plenty of sensory input here.
Regal Romance: Every element of Royal Palms Hotel (5200 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-840-3610, royalpalmshotel.com) looks like something out of a fairy tale, from the grandiose vine-covered façade reminiscent of a Mediterranean villa to sky-high pillow-top beds fit for a princess. Tack the Royal Romance Package onto an overnight stay and you’ll get a heart-shaped rose petal turndown, champagne and an elegant
dinner at T. Cook’s.
Family Fun: With a Western-themed saloon and a 7-acre water park, The Arizona Grand Resort & Spa (8000 S. Arizona Grand Pkwy., Phoenix, 602-438-9000, arizonagrandresort.com) is a godsend for parents. Named one of the Travel Channel’s top water parks, the Oasis boasts three slides and a giant wave pool and is open daily to resort guests in summer. Parents in need of time alone can enroll youth ages 5-12 in a half-day Kids Club (morning or afternoon session) with games, crafts, and outdoor activities.
Scout out Trout
Sedona or Pinetop, AZ
There’s an art to fly-fishing. Anglers have to wade to the perfect spot, get a good cast and drop the fly daintily onto the water’s surface to simulate a landing insect. Sign up for The Hook Up Outfitters’ half- or full-day Sedona Red Rock Trout Adventure or two-day White Mountain Overnight Adventure and learn the tricks of the trout-catching trade. Anglers are outfitted with top-of-the-line Orvis rods and gear, and on the latter tour, breakfast, lunch and one night’s lodging near Pinetop are included. Worried your guide will put your skills to shame? Though he might be a two-time Bassmaster champion or an International Game Fish Association record-holder, rest assured he’ll stand back and watch while you reel in The Big One on your own. Sedona: $375-$495 for up to two people; White Mountains: $1,290 for two people. 888-899-4665, thehookupoutfitters.com
Saddle up, Hoedown
A far cry from primitive dude ranches, Mountain Ranch Resort at Beacon Hill is designed with the urban cowboy (and cowgirl) in mind. Sure, the weathered wood, wagon wheel benches and carved bear mascot scream “rustic.” The tennis courts, swimming pool, smoke-free rooms, on-site bar and high-speed wireless, on the other hand, bring the West into the 21st century. The seasonal resort is just a few miles from Bearizona, Grand Canyon Deer Farm and the Grand Canyon Railway, but guests seeking an idyllic high country experience can mosey down to the adjacent stable and take a one- to two-hour guided ride (starting at $35) through Kaibab National Forest’s ponderosa pines. No riding experience is required, and half-day tours are available if you’re comfortable enough on a nag to sit in the saddle for a longer spell. 6701 E. Mountain Ranch Rd., Williams, 928-635-2693, mountainranchresort.com
Red Rocks Romance
Stay & Play: Far from the stereotypical shabby-chic B&B, Kathy and Larry Jaeckel’s Sedona Cathedral Hideaway Bed & Breakfast (30 Serendipity Trail, 866-973-3662, sedonacathedralhideaway.com) is a modern “green” home with unobstructed mountain views, an on-site spa offering hot oil massages, and a fireplace and two-person whirlpool in each of two private rooms the size of a big-city apartment. Alternately, active types will appreciate the all-inclusive couples retreat at Sedona Rouge Hotel (2250 W. Hwy 89A, 866-312-4111, sedonarouge.com), which includes morning yoga and access to the nautilus fitness center and lap pool. The three-night package features six couples massages/spa services and $200 towards dinner at REDS restaurant (pictured, left), featuring a romantic rooftop patio.
Dine: Sip a tart Napa Valley cabernet with your sweetie while savoring foie gras and listening to the gentle rush of water on the banks of Oak Creek at L’Auberge Restaurant (301 L’Auberge Lane, 928-282-1661, lauberge.com). Executive Chef Rochelle Daniel’s multi-plate dinners encourage couples to nibble the fresh, seasonal fare slowly, while the gorgeous surroundings encourage nibbling of another sort.
Pat and Randy George fell in love with Grand Canyon Deer Farm around the same time they fell for each other. After spending several dates there – and part of their honeymoon – they purchased the 44-year-old farm in 1987. Since then, they’ve added dozens of animals including coatimundi, wallabies, marmosets and reindeer. It’s easy to see why the Georges were so captivated: Walk through the front gate and be nuzzled by free-roaming deer that look like Bambi’s cousins. Hand-feeding is allowed (with approved feed purchased in the gift shop), but be forewarned that Gracie the camel might suck the hat off your head if you get too close. Comedic cockatoo Mozart is one of the Georges’ favorite additions; since cockatoos can live up to 60 years in captivity, the bantering bird will likely be cracking jokes long after the couple retires. $9.95/adults, $8.50/seniors, $5.95/children 3-13, 2 and younger free. 6769 E. Deer Farm Rd., Williams, 928-635-4073, deerfarm.com
Jackson Hole, WY
With awe-inspiring views of the jagged Tetons, it’s no wonder famously flamboyant Washington Times-Herald owner Countess Eleanor “Cissy” Patterson took respite at Flat Creek Ranch. Her antique piano sits in the log cabin lodge, a ghostly reminder of the decadent parties she no doubt threw here. Soak in a claw foot tub or read an Owen Wister cowboy novel on the porch at one of the five cozy cabins, which include one built and named for the Countess of Flat Creek. Saddle up with a friendly nag, fly-fish in a private stretch of Flat Creek, or hike the grueling Poachers’ Trail to the 11,000-foot crest of Sleeping Indian Mountain. Muscles sore? Flat Creek Ranch has a sauna for that. Getting there is an adventure itself, with 15 miles of no man’s land and a bumpy dirt track leading to the government-protected property. Upper Flat Creek Rd., Jackson Hole, 866-522-3344, flatcreekranch.com
Santa Fe, NM
Toss a paintbrush in Santa Fe, and chances are it’ll come down on or near some kind of artwork. The town’s folksy vibe and complainers-be-damned attitude earned it the nickname “City Different,” with early settlers instructing visitors to be true to themselves, even if it meant wearing pleather chaps and tacky turquoise jewelry.
Those colorful Navajo rugs tourists “ooh” and “ahh” over take around 300 hours to weave by hand. And that’s for a small one. Learn to weave like a master at Jason Collingwood’s Intro to Rug Weaving class, July 15-17 at Española Valley Fiber Arts Center (325 Paseo de Onate, Española, 505-747-3577, evfac.org). If words like “selvage” and “weft” make you twitch, the $35 basic rag rug drop-in class is a quick alternative.
While the painted flowers and cow skulls of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (217 Johnson St., 505-946-1000, okeeffemuseum.org) are a must-see for traditionalists, wacky displays of Pez dispensers and walrus masks make the Museum of International Folk Art (706 Camino Lejo, 505-476-1200, internationalfolkart.org) worthy of the City Different moniker. Summer 2013 exhibitions range from dizzying geometric quilts and colorful Japanese kites to a mouthwatering exploration of Hispanic chocolate.
On the Canyon Road Art Walk (canyonroadarts.com), a self-guided stroll through 100-plus local galleries, you might start drooling prickly pear juice after the inundation of cactus-covered landscapes. But it’s worth it for the occasional giant marble fetish or cheeky vintage comic book painting.
Lake Mead, AZ/NV
Created by the damming of the Colorado River near the Arizona/Nevada border, Lake Mead is the country’s original man-made recreation area, receiving about 8 million annual visitors, who hike, canoe, kayak and camp across its expanse. In the summer months when daytime temperatures can climb above 100 degrees, houseboats are the coolest way to enjoy the spectacular lakeside views. At quiet Callville Bay on the Nevada side, lake-lovers can rent luxury houseboats ranging from a comfortable 50-foot Forever model to the 70 x 16-foot Titanium with four private bedrooms, GPS navigation, satellite TV and onboard hot tub. If you have a fishing license, cast your line in search of striped bass or catfish (additional stamp required for trout) to grill on the barbecue. 800-255-5561, callvillebay.com/rentals
Fort Collins, CO
Men may not gossip over a mani-pedi or pop in Love Story for a good cry, but that doesn’t mean dudes don’t need a little bonding time with their bros. Fort Collins’ outdoorsy vibe, combined with its status as the state’s biggest beer producer, makes for one mean mancation.
Stay: Real men don’t need no stinkin’ pillow mints or tiny toiletries. West of Fort Collins, Horsetooth Reservoir offers 1,900 acres of rocky, tree-lined mountains and six-and-a-half miles of open water for guys to spread out in. A pup-tent and flint are all fellas require here – that, and a camping permit from Larimer County (larimercamping.com).
Play: Riding the crest of a hill or trekking rough terrain on a mountain bike is enough to get guys begging for an ice cold brewski. At Colorado’s Beer and Bike Tours (beerandbiketours.com), cyclists can customize a local trek culminating in a refreshing bar stop.
Dine: Even if many members of the macho sex don’t care about locally-sourced ingredients and the availability of gluten-free bread, the view of the brewery through Gravity 1020’s glass walls should be enough to hold interest. Homestyle mac-and-cheese, gravy-smothered French fries, and beer tasting flights make for one satisfied posse. 1020 E. Lincoln Avenue, 970-682-2260, gravity1020.com
More Freefall, Less Fear
A skydive freefall can be an exhilarating 45 seconds. It can also be a time to contemplate the possibility of landing on a saguaro. Get the rush without the regret at SkyVenture Arizona Indoor Skydiving, where guests suit up sans chute and stand under four 400-hp fans that mimic the air speed of an outdoor skydive. Besides the obvious bonus of avoiding the blistering summer heat, SkyVenture participants score at least two minutes of freefall flight time – twice that of a traditional dive. First-timers receive two hours of instruction on body positions, communication signals and flight techniques, plus a souvenir T-shirt, while experienced flyers can book a tunnel for up to an hour. An inaugural flight will set you back $50-$80. 4900 N. Taylor Rd., Eloy, 520-466-4640, skyventureaz.com
Jacuzzis in the Forest
Pat and Dick Bruneau’s 10-acre property is a quiet escape – and that’s the way they want to keep it. Words like “solitude” and “secluded” are treasured in Greer, which hosts weekly potluck Sundays and bills itself as a village, not a town. At Snowy Mountain Inn, eight log cabins offer country charm combined with city amenities like satellite TV and private barbecue grills. While nearby Squirrel Springs and Butler Canyon are worthy hikes, there’s enough going on at Snowy Mountain that you’ll never want to leave. Grab a bite from the on-site deli, catch and release fish in the pond, or view sculpture and paintings at their new Artisans on the Pond event every Saturday and Sunday this summer. Best of all, nearly every cabin comes with a private outdoor Jacuzzi for the perfect relaxing end to a busy day of seclusion and serenity. 38721 Route 373, Greer, 928-735-7576, snowymountaininn.com
Get into the Spirits
The spirits of Jerome are alive and well at the Connor Hotel, a funky second-story brick lodge originally built in 1897. In its early years, the Connor building suffered from several catastrophic fires, including one that burned it to the ground. So it’s little surprise the rebuilt hotel is haunted. Glasses inexplicably crash to the floor. Electronics turn on and off without cause. A mysterious Lady in Red has been sighted so often that owner Anne Conlin actually keeps a ghost journal. The remodeled 12-room hotel – now equipped with sprinklers and a fire escape – is relatively quiet otherwise, save for the electric guitar riffs and drum beats of bands like Los Guys and Cadillac Angels reverberating off the copper ceiling of The Spirit Room below. Rumor has it the artist who painted the bar’s mural added The Lady in Red after seeing her in a dream – though how he thought up the adjacent saloon girls in drag, we don’t want to know. 164 Main St., Jerome, 928-634-5006, connorhotel.com, spiritroom.com
Cozy up with Cactus Wrens
In Southeastern Arizona’s Huachuca Mountains, Tony and Julie Battiste’s Battiste Bed, Breakfast and Birds is a haven for ravens, hawks, cactus wrens and more. Guests don’t have to venture far to spot Lucy’s Warbler or a gorgeous turquoise and yellow Lazuli Bunting, two popular summer visitors that are among the 150-plus species that have been spotted from the B&B. A two-person blind on the property allows for subtle riparian reconnaissance, while the secluded location offers the best chance to hear faint bird calls. Basic but homey lodgings include a private casita with a spectacular view of Miller’s Peak and a kitchenette suite named after a pair of Elf Owls that return to roost at Battiste yearly. 4700 E. Robert Smith Lane, Hereford, 520-803-6908, battistebedandbirds.com
Nature Lover’s Paradise
Mt. Rainier, WA
With 13 national parks and more than 30 natural lakes, Washington beckons outdoor recreationists like a moth to a campfire. The only bona fide “fourteener” (i.e. a mountain more than 14,000 feet in elevation) in the state, Mt. Rainier is a challenge issued by Mother Nature – one that many visitors are happy to accept.
Stay: Nestled 50 feet off the ground in a 200-year-old Red Cedar in nearby Ashford, Cedar Creek Treehouse (360-569-2991, cedarcreektreehouse.com) is a rentable private retreat with an adjacent observatory offering once-in-a-lifetime views of the summit.
Play: Free-roaming moose, goats and elk get nose to nose with spectators at NW Trek Wildlife Park (11610 Trek Dr. East, Eatonville, 360-832-6117, nwtrek.org), which includes a 50-minute tram ride and a walking tour of the more dangerous enclosed habitats.
Hike: Though an eruption 5,600 years ago collapsed part of Mt. Rainier (nps.gov/mora), the peak is still a sight to behold – and a tempting treat for mountaineers looking to check off another fourteener. In summer, fields of brilliant red, purple and yellow wildflowers dot open meadows, making for a magical ramble up the active volcano.
Heart Rate-Raising Spa
Cal-a-Vie takes its “health spa” label seriously. With nutritional demos, mind/body/spirit activities, epic fitness facilities and a full-service spa with Ayurvedic massage, their goal is to send you back to the real world relaxed, toned and ready to live a healthful life. The spa hosts more than 100 fitness classes, from hula hoop and Zumba to hardcore sweat-inducers like pole pilates, cardio kickboxing, spinning and triathlon water training. Find your Zen through the slow, focused breathing of meditation and Tai Chi, or stroll the candlelit outdoor labyrinth while inhaling the scent of fresh lavender carried on balmy 75-degree breezes. Hikes through the pastoral countryside and golf at neighboring Vista Valley course are alternatives outside of the French-inspired resort’s gorgeous villas – though with luxurious suites, private sundecks overlooking the lush grounds, and farm-fresh meals, we’re not sure why you’d leave. 29402 Spa Havens Way, Vista, 760-945-2055, cal-a-vie.com
Originally dubbed “skurfing” by a bunch of innovative Aussies, wakeboarding is a boon to water sport enthusiasts who appreciate the control of a boat-led rig and the smooth, natural feel of surfing. With no motor size limit, Flagstaff’s Upper Lake Mary is the perfect place to rent a big ol’ MasterCraft and try casing the wake. Invert Sports – an Arizona-based outfit that rents jet skis, paddle boards and wakeskating gear – also offers lessons ($295 per day). Once you’re paying more attention to the feel of the spray on your face than the bend of your knees or the position of your feet, instructors will coach you through basic inverts (board-flips) and maybe even the impressive air raley, a popular maneuver that mimics Superman’s flight. Try it too soon, though, and you’re liable to re-enact Louie Anderson’s painful belly flop in the celebrity diving show Splash. 888-205-7119, invertsports.com
Choose a Cheese Course
The folks at Black Mesa Ranch aren’t kidding when they say their goats are world-class: Six of their goats were lauded by the American Dairy Goat Association in 2012 for their superior genetics. For urban farmers who want to add goat milk and cheese to their homestead, Black Mesa’s farmers will teach you everything you want to know. A three-day cheese-making workshop scheduled on request starts at dawn with cleaning and milking. Participants learn hands-on about pasteurization and cultures, plus bottle-feeding, tending and caring for the goats. At $1,000 per person with a two-person minimum, these workshops aren’t cheap. But where else can you learn how to massage an udder and strain chevre in the same day? 928-536-7759, blackmesaranchonline.com
Go with the Lava Flow
It’s not the longest underground hike in Arizona, but it might be the scariest. About 14 miles north of Flagstaff, you’ll find Lava River Cave, a lava tube formed more than 650,000 years ago by flow from a nearby volcanic vent. Walk through a hole in the boulders and you’ll instantly feel a bone-chilling drop in temperature. Soon, everything goes dark. The rounded walls and stalactites testify to the raw power of nature that carved the 3,820-foot path. Bring extra clothing layers, gloves, water and two flashlights (in case one goes out). While the trek isn’t lengthy, rocky terrain and pitch-black conditions make for slow going. Families with kids in tow may want to attach a childproof leash and pin a few glow sticks to the child’s clothing, since you can’t exactly call a Code Adam in a cave. 928-526-0866, fs.usda.gov
If you’re new to off-roading or want to hone your skills, Barlow Jeep School offers half- and full-day courses that will help prepare you for Sedona’s roughly-graded trails and slickrock canyons. Bring your own vehicle or rent one of the outfit’s late-model Jeep Wranglers. Classes cater to the participant, so advanced riders can tackle boulder outcroppings and steep terrain while newbies can soak in the scenery on a level trail and follow owner Nena Barlow’s advice for first-timers: “Stop to take five and go slow. It’s an intense ride.” 928-282-8700, barlowjeepschool.com
Kid-centric Grand Canyon
Stay: While the six in-park hotels welcome tykes of all ages, families with younger children may be more comfortable at low-key Thunderbird Lodge or in a rented RV at Trailer Village (888-297-2757, grandcanyonlodges.com), which offers parking for $35/night. Off-site, a four-person Family Package at nearby Caverns Inn includes a basic room, underground spelunking tour, horseback riding and games (Mile 115, Route 66, 928-422-3223, gccaverns.com).
Play: Kids who complete a training booklet and attend a ranger-led lecture are sworn in as Grand Canyon National Park Junior Rangers (nps.gov/grca) tasked with helping to keep the park clean and safe. June through August, aspiring rangers can earn their badges through adventure hikes or nature-oriented story times and borrow a Discovery Pack with field guide, binoculars and hand lens. Children 4 and older can join their parents on a Smoothwater Rafting Tour of the Colorado River (888-297-2757, grandcanyonlodges.com/rafting-tours-2222.html), with stops to view ancient petroglyphs.
Train with the CIA
San Antonio, TX
Do you watch Hell’s Kitchen and scream along with Chef Gordon Ramsay? Are your cupcakes a gazillion times tastier than a Cupcake Wars entry? If you have the brains for baking or the culinary chops for grilling, the CIA – Culinary Institute of America, that is – wants you. Their Boot Camp, offered at three locations in the U.S. including San Antonio, is an intense two- to five-day “culinary vacation” that focuses on a particular cuisine or technique. Forget about a restful vacay. At the crack o’ doom, participants don provided chef’s whites and endure a grueling full-day schedule of lectures, classes, recipe coursework and demos. Summer 2013 courses in the Lone Star State include American Regional Cooking, French Cooking, and a two-day BBQ and Grilling Boot Camp just in time for the Fourth of July. 312 Pearl Pkwy., San Antonio, 800-888-7850, enthusiasts.ciachef.edu
Spanking New Wine Trail
“You’re growing grapes… where?” When winemakers started planting vineyards in the Southeastern Arizona hamlet of Willcox, Napa Valley viticulturists scoffed. Soon, the founders of Keeling-Schaefer Vineyards were waving Wine Spectator scores in the “good” and “very good” ranges in their NoCal neighbor’s faces. The pressed tin ceiling and wood plank floors at Keeling-Schaefer’s tasting room (154 N. Railroad Ave., 520-766-0600, keelingschaefervineyards.com) are a throwback to the glory days of the 1917 Willcox Bank and Trust building it sits in. Browse local art while imbibing $7 current release samples ($5 with a glass from one of three other Willcox wineries). Coronado Vineyards (2909 E. Country Club Dr., 520-384-2993, coronadovineyards.com) and the newly minted Sand Reckoner (130 S. Haskell Ave., 303-931-8472, sand-reckoner.com) trounced out-of-towners at the 2012 Arizona Republic Wine Competition, winning bronze and silver medals, respectively, for their dessert wines. While Sand Reckoner offers vineyard tours by appointment only, Coronado’s Tuscan-inspired tasting room encourages guests to lounge and chit-chat in European fashion. In May, idiosyncratic New Zealand filmmaker Sam Pillsbury unveiled a new Pillsbury Wine Tasting Room (pillsburywine.com) in a former rental house at his 100-acre Willcox vineyard.
Las Vegas, NV
Stay: The sexy, stylish decor at RUMOR Las Vegas (455 E. Harmon Ave., 877-997-8667, rumorvegas.com) is man-repellent to the non-metrosexual crowd. Think hot pink damask with chandeliers and smoky quartz bedrooms – the kind of bordello-meets-boudoir look that inspires late-night toenail painting sessions.
Play: The striated red rock walls and monsoon rain shower of Sahra Spa at the Cosmopolitan (3708 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 702-698-7000 cosmopolitanlasvegas.com) make Arizonans feel right at home. The signature treatment is the hammam experience, a Turkish-inspired ritual that can include steam bath, herbal body scrub and a relaxing detox on a stone slab. A beefcake feast can be found at the choreographed Men of Sapphire show (3025 Industrial Rd., 702-869-0003, menofsapphire.com), where gal pals score lap dances from scantily-dressed male models and past Playgirl centerfolds.
Dine: Julian Serrano (3730 S. Las Vegas Blvd., 702-590-8520, arialasvegas.com), the celebrity chef’s eponymous tapas restaurant at ARIA, boasts a formidable selection of small plates, from traditional ceviche and albigondas to earthy mushroom risotto and stuffed Iberian pork. A combo package with complimentary sangria and tickets to Cirque du Soleil’s Zarkana is worth the splurge.
Go all Nat Geo exploring an ocean, a galaxy, and a subterrestrial wonderland – in one trip. In January, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (2021 N. Kinney Rd., Tucson, 520-883-2702, desertmuseum.org) opened an aquarium. Oxymoronic? Au contraire: In addition to rivers, the Sonoran Desert encompasses 100,000 square miles of ocean and 900 islands. See seahorses and 6-foot minnows, plus pet a sand star and a turbo snail. Fifty-six miles southwest of Tucson – and 6,875 feet high – is Kitt Peak National Observatory (520-318-8000, noao.edu/kpno), home to the world’s largest collection of research telescopes. Get there soon (they’re closed July 15 to September 1) to join the Nightly Observing Program. Take your stargazing to the next orbit on the Advanced Observing Program. You’ll overnight at the observatory, use primo equipment and learn to take astronomical data and process a high-res picture of a galactic vista ($525 for up to two people, plus $75 per person, double occupancy, for room and three meals). Round out your getaway underground in 72-degree, stalactite-ceilinged Kartchner Caverns (520-586-2283, azstateparks.com/parks/kaca; reserve ahead), near Benson.
Paddle among Ponderosas
With summertime temperatures in the 70s, visitors to Lynx Lake in the Bradshaw Mountains southeast of Prescott don’t mind working up a modest sweat. Canoeing and kayaking are popular on the placid 55-acre waterway, though the tranquility is sometimes shattered by the whir of a motorboat. The man-made lake is well stocked with rainbow trout, and you can cook up any catch at juniper-canopied picnic tables along the sandy beaches. On weekends during the summer season, canoe and kayak rentals are available at Lynx Lake Café and Marina. Hourly prices start at $15; however, it’s well worth the $55 full-day rental fee to avoid the worry of having to paddle back to shore right away. 4505 E. Forest Service Rd., Prescott, 928-778-0720, lynxlakerestaurantprescottaz.com
Yoga in Utah
May 30-June 3
Pretzeling your body into the Bird of Paradise or back-bending Little Thunderbolt is a deeply spiritual experience, but just imagine the high you’ll achieve doing the Downward-Facing Dog overlooking Anasazi ruins in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park. Seven-year veteran Alex Smith has taught yoga in the most unusual of places, from surfing beaches to craggy mountains. This summer, with Wilderness River Adventures, Smith will take practitioners on a rollicking ride through Cataract Canyon, a 46-mile-long gorge that plunges into Lake Powell. Smith’s calming poses, taught on breaks during the five-day adventure, might help you weather the intensity of Class 4 rapids. $990 per person. The company also offers numerous other trips in Cataract Canyon and Grand Canyon throughout summer. 800-992-8022, riveradventures.com
Galaxy Gaze at Grand Canyon
Ancient Egyptians used celestial calendars to track the flooding of the Nile and aligned their pyramids at Giza with Orion’s belt. Though modern culture is more attuned to Hollywood superstars than astral objects, more than a hundred amateur astronomers from Tucson Amateur Astronomy Club, Saguaro Astronomy Club of Phoenix and other stargazing groups are expected at this year’s free Grand Canyon Star Party on the North and South rims. View Saturn through a telescope or learn to spot star clusters with the naked eye on guided tours (9, 9:30 and 10 p.m.) on the South Rim. Most stargazers pack up around 11 p.m., but diehards are welcome to stay until Egyptian sun god Ra appears at dawn. nps.gov/grca
To Be or Not to Be in Boulder
June 8-August 11
In William Shakespeare’s day, plays were performed on outdoor stages beneath the stars – a great way to ensure adequate lighting in an age when electricity wasn’t even a twinkle in Ben Franklin’s great-grandfather’s eye. So the tree-shaded courtyard of UC Boulder’s Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre is an appropriately atavistic setting for the Bard’s eternal works. Founded in 1958, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival presents shows year-round, with a special summer season incorporating Will’s most beloved classics. The Rippon will be transformed into an enchanted realm of fairies and mischievous satyrs for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, June 8-August 11, with the murderous mayhem of Macbeth opening on June 29. Productions inside the University Theatre include the hysterical spoof The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) and Women of Will: An Overview, Tina Packer and Nigel Gore’s side-splitting examination of Shakespeare’s feminine side. The University of Colorado – Boulder, 2055 Regent Dr., Boulder, 303-492-8008, coloradoshakes.org
Take the Tequila Train to Jerome
Legend has it that Arizona Biltmore bartender Gene Sulit invented the Tequila Sunrise cocktail in the 1930s, but no one seems to know the origin of its brandy-infused cousin, the Tequila Sunset. No doubt the drink will be popular aboard the Verde Canyon Railroad’s Tequila Sunset Limited, a four-hour train trek through the scenic wilderness of Verde Canyon. Offered as an upgrade to the Verde Canyon Railroad’s Saturday evening starlight tours, the ride includes three premium tequila samples and Mexican munchies served in the plush first-class cabin. Sip a cucumber mojito or a prickly pear margarita from the cash bar as the locomotive winds around rocky hills and valleys. The tequila train departs at 5:30 p.m. on June 8 and 22, July 20, August 17, and September 7 and 21, returning to the sight of Jerome’s lights after dark. $99.95 per person. 300 N. Broadway, Clarkdale, 800-582-7245, verdecanyonrr.com
See Pyrotechnics in Prescott
Tsunamis are a force to be reckoned with, a fact not lost on the founders of Prescott’s annual alternative arts festival, Tsunami on the Square, which drowns the masses in a sensory overload of dance, music and theatrical performances in an event that’s part Burning Man, part Cirque du Soleil. Stilt-walking troupes from Columbia and San Francisco march into town alongside South American music and poetry group AZ Hojarasca, New Mexican family circus Clan Tynker, and Cedar Creek Apache Crown Dancers. Tempe’s Axé Capoeira will show off some head-spinning moves, while Pyroklectic Fire Tribe sets the final night ablaze. Sadly, adults are relegated to spectator status, but kids ages 6-14 can learn to juggle, stilt-walk, make masks and more (no fire-spinning, we promise) at Circus Camp, June 10-14. Free admission for most events. Circus camp $25/day or $85/full camp. 928-925-6830, tsunamionthesquare.org
Sip Like a Cicerone in Flag
Beer is seeing a renaissance among educated drinkers, and it’s about time: Historians speculate man created beer before farming or baking bread. It was served to Egyptian royalty in golden chalices and used to pay taxes and debts during the Middle Ages. Flagstaff’s annual Made in the Shade Beerfest puts beer on a pedestal, with selections from more than 75 craft breweries at this year’s event, which pours it on from 1-5 p.m. June 22 at Fort Tuthill County Fairgrounds. Local favorites Beaver Street Brewing, Lumberyard and Mother Road will attend, alongside craft beer giants New Belgium and Stone Brewing Co. Advance tickets cost $10-$25 for designated drivers; designated drinkers pay $40-$80. 928-779-1775, azbeer.com
Get the Blues in Portland
Whoever said blues is dead hasn’t picked up a Keb’ Mo’ album.
John Mayer, Adele, Jack White and dozens of other modern artists draw inspiration from classic blues, and many return to their roots as they mature. Case in point: Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant, who headlines this year’s Waterfront Blues Festival at Portland, Oregon’s Waterfront Park. It’s the second-largest event of its kind in the U.S., crammed with 150-plus acts including Taj Mahal, Mavis Staples and Seattle-based blues wunderkind Allen Stone. Daily admission costs $10 plus two cans of food for Oregon Food Bank, but there’s a catch: Plant and his Sensational Space Shifters bring the festival home after a swing dance jive contest with vintage honey Nikki Hill, and you’ll have to spring $60 for a four-day pass to get guaranteed Sunday admission. waterfrontbluesfest.com
Pursue Hopi-ness in Flagstaff
The oldest of three annual Native American cultural events at the Museum of Northern Arizona, the Hopi Festival of Art & Culture celebrates Native contributions from intricate silver overlay jewelry to seasonal rain dances. It’s the closest you’ll get to an authentic Hopi experience short of visiting the Three Mesas. More than 60 artists are expected to make the trek to Flagstaff for this year’s event July 6-7, with wares including rugs, pottery and katsina (kachina) dolls. There’s even a contest for the best katsina, with hefty cash prizes for the winners. Pop a squat and listen to the legend of Spider Woman and the four creations, or sample hot baked piki, a thin, blue-gray rolled bread made with cornmeal and ash – either way, you get a taste of ancient Hopi life. Museum of Northern Arizona, 3101 N. Fort Valley Rd., Flagstaff, 928-774-5213, musnaz.org
Fly a Kite in Cali
The annual Berkeley Kite Festival has a way of bringing out the kid in everyone. Drive along I-80 between 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and see drivers craning their necks to watch what looks like a miniature Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in the sky, with colorful puppies, dragons, and a pod of 100-foot-long octopi kites flying in formation. The event draws some of the world’s most accomplished flyers, including the Berkeley Kite Wranglers, Japan’s Sode Cho Kite Team and individual entrants in the West Coast Kite Championship. It’s not all Tao of Pooh here: The Rokkake Battles are like an aerial version of Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots, with participants trying to knock each others’ Japanese bowed kites out of the sky. Kites are sold on-site, and free lessons are offered if you’re worried about looking like Charlie Brown under his kite-eating tree. Free admission; $10 parking. Cesar E. Chavez Park at the Berkeley Marina, 11 Spinnaker Way, Berkeley, 510-235-5483, highlinekites.com
Dodge a Gunfight in Tombstone
It’s not unusual to see a dead man lying in the streets of Tombstone. In addition to Boot Hill Cemetery, OK Corral and the disreputable Bird Cage Theatre, the former mining hub is home to the Tombstone Vigilantes, a group of history re-enactors who start their mornings with a stout cuppa cowboy coffee and a shootout. August 9-11, the group kicks off their 65th annual Vigilante Days with a chili cook-off and 10K run. The event is a bit tamer than October’s Helldorado Days but offers the same opportunity for all-day gunfights, saloon hall dances and performances by roaming cowboy poets. tombstonevigilantes.com
Go Wild West in Payson
Stay: Arizona’s Rim Country may have modernized since the days of novelist Zane Grey, but remnants of the Old West remain in Payson’s Main Street, rodeos, and historic lodging. Situated on land that was once the setting of a bloody 10-year feud between the Graham and Tewksbury ranching families, Ken and Diana Chaffee’s Mountain Meadows Cabins (1075 E. Ranch Rd., 928-478-4415, rimcountry.com/mtnmdw.html) combine quaint country living with modern perks. Each of the six cabins nestled among ponderosa pines boasts knotty pine walls, rocking chairs and free Wi-Fi.
Play: Payson’s claim to fame is the world’s oldest continuously operating rodeo, the 129-year-old August Doins (paysonrimcountry.com/augustdoins), held the third weekend in August. There will be plenty of buckin’ broncs, raging bulls and even a Breast Cancer support day, when riders and horses don pink for the cause.
Dine: After working up a hearty appetite wrasslin’ steer or hiking along Christopher Creek, head to Buffalo Bar & Grill (311 S. Beeline Hwy., 928-474-3900) for the three B’s: barbecue, burgers and beer. With weathered wood rails and mounted animal heads on the walls, the place is as authentically country as it gets in these here parts.
View Vortexes in Sedona
Sedona’s metaphysical scene may seem hokey to some, but there is something innately soothing about the town’s red rock vistas. With more than 30 years of experience teaching workshops on the Native American tradition of seclusion-in-nature vision quests, Crossing Worlds Journeys and Retreats instructor Sandra Cosentino understands it doesn’t always take peyote or a sweat lodge to connect with the Divine. “Given even a brief encounter with a coyote’s bold yellow wild eyes… or seeing the stars out away from city lights, wonder can erupt,” she explains. “It is never too late.” Cosentino’s Mystic Vision Weekend starts with a Native American-inspired drum ceremony, followed by nature walks and a trip to Cathedral Rock, site of a vortex – one of Sedona’s many spiritual and inspirational hotspots. Whether you reach the depths of your soul or not, a weekend without cell phones, deadlines and housecleaning is bound to be good medicine. Crossing Worlds also leads several other tours, from equinox ceremonies to Hopi- and Navajo-themed journeys. $400-800, depending on group size. 800-350-2693, crossingworlds.com
2015 Summer Getaways
It’s a snap to have fun on a summertime trip. What’s not so easy: having fun and discovering a new, lifelong hobby. Or improving your health. Or rekindling your love affair with our great state. Dive into our annual roundup of superb summ...
Locals’ Las Vegas
Eat, drink and play like a native in the rehabilitated heart of Nevada’s most notorious city. When hacking through the human jungle that is the Las Vegas Strip, one encounters the expected nightlife wildlife: Gamblers, gam-flashing girls, and ...
Once a B&B black hole, the Verde Valley wine hotspot becomes a stay-and-play destination. After spending a few hours exploring its verdant river valley and chalky desert hills, visitors inevitably remark on the same odd quirk about Cornville: a ...
Great Arizona Campsites and Cabins
From cowboy-chic cabins and high-altitude campsites to recreation-rich mountain retreats and old fire guard stations, we've mined the Copper State for gems of nature loving lodging. Lodging under the stars in Arizona's high country forests doesn't h...
The heart of Sonoma wine country beckons with salubrious – and scrumptious – activities. “Seventy miles north of San Francisco,” the Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau brochure says. “A million miles f...