Happy Birthday, Parks!
The National Park Service turns 100 this month. Celebrate the Centennial by going wild at these diverse American treasures. Admission to all National Parks is free August 25-28.
The cool, ponderosa-scented North Rim always beckons in summer. But this year, the deal is sweetened with North Rim Native American Heritage Days (August 11-12) and the Centennial Science Speaker Series, featuring archaeologists, authors and more on numerous dates (nps.gov/grca). You can also blow off a little steam the last week in August with a ride on Grand Canyon Railway from Williams to the South Rim, then explore the Amtrak Exhibit Train. Late August to early September, the South Rim rings with jazz, classical and Hopi tunes during the Grand Canyon Music Festival (grandcanyonmusicfest.org).
The only crowds on “North America’s Galapagos” are sea lions, pelicans and Garibaldi fish. Commemorate the Centennial on August 25 with an outdoor showing of a new documentary, West of the West: Tales from California’s Channel Islands, in Ventura’s harbor. Then kayak with Aquasports (islandkayaking.com) through the black, barnacled sea caves of Anacapa or Santa Cruz island.
The world’s first national park is the place to be this Centennial summer, when geysers burst like fireworks and kids can go for gold in the Wildlife Olympics. On August 25, Yellowstone hosts “An Evening at the Arch,” featuring Emmylou Harris, a children’s chorus and a Teddy Roosevelt impersonator. nps.gov/yell
– Keridwen Cornelius
You’ve heard of all-inclusive cruises, all-inclusive diving resorts and all-inclusive Club Med getaways. But all-inclusive fly fishing? That’s the pitch offered by Brazos River Lodge, a luxury resort stashed away in New Mexico’s Carson National Forest near the Colorado border. Up to 10 guests get private access to 5,000 acres of lush, elk-inhabited river country, along with a six-room lodge and private chef. Oh, yes – and all the guided fly-fishing you want. The cost is $6,000 per day with a three-night minimum, so make sure to fill your ice chests. brazosriverlodge.com
– Craig Outhier
• A Desert Education: Even we Sonoran lifers could learn a thing or two about the desert. Come fall, the Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park will launch a series of 31 classes covering everything from “Guided Hikes” to “Art in the Park.” Added bonus for campers: the fabled nighttime skies of Joshua Tree, so crisp you can pick out the faintest nebula. joshuatree.org
• 100% TSA-Free: Personally, we’ve never minded the TSA. Sure, it’s inconvenient, but, you know, bombs. That being said, TSA-fatigue has created an interesting new travel micro-economy: private jet carriers, which use regulatory loopholes at small regional airports to skirt cumbersome TSA screenings. We’ve told you about Jet Purple, which plans to launch regional routes out of Scottsdale later this year. Another solution is JetSmarter, a mobile app that pairs travelers with private concierge carriers. jetsmarter.com
• On the Cheap: According to SmartAsset, an online financial planning service, Metro Phoenix ranks as the eighth most affordable travel destination in the U.S., with an average three-day cost of $2,764 for a family of four. The cheapest: Orlando ($2,439). smartasset.com
Spotlighting the latest and greatest at your favorite Arizona destinations.=
The Weatherford, ACT II. One of Flagstaff’s oldest hotels (est. 1897) reopened in late June after extensive renovations. The lobby retains its original pressed tin ceiling, but has a new grand chandelier and wider staircase. The basement bar and grill, The Gopher Hole, got a full facelift, including a new bar and a wooden floor. All the guest rooms have been updated, but kept their clawfoot bathtubs, and four new rooms were added, along with a spacious king-size suite converted from an office. 23 N. Leroux St., 928-779-1919, weatherfordhotel.com
The Mayor. This hip new diner is like stepping into the 1980s. There are boom boxes, skee-ball machines, an Airstream trailer on the back patio, turquoise Formica tabletops, and orange shag carpet wrapped around the support beams. The music skews “yacht rock” and other ‘80s ilk – Hall & Oates, Wham!, Huey Lewis & the News, etc. And the food? Decent. The menu is mostly sandwiches and burgers – nothing fancy, but it’s a step above standard greasy spoon fare. 409 S. San Francisco St., 928-774-3846, themayorflagstaff.com
Dark Sky Brewing’s creative brews. After little more than a year in operation, this Flagstaff brewery has created more than 100 different beers. They include some adventurous ales, like guava grapefruit, and superb stouts like the Wholly Mole with cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne and Anaheim chiles. The environs are somewhat spartan – with communal seating at large tables– but the craft beer smacks of sophisticated edginess. 117 N. Beaver St., 928-440-5151, darkskybrewing.com
– Niki D’Andrea
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