Take your seat, fasten your belt and please keep your hands and arms in the vehicle at all times – our annual rollercoaster tour of Arizona’s best weekend travel destinations is about to leave the gate. New this year: souvenir suggestions for every trip!
New Year’s Camping Adventure
Shake off the malaise and general ickiness that consumed 2017 by taking a healthy respite in nature to kick off the new year. Bog Springs Campground, south of Tucson, is one of the most picturesque and secluded campgrounds in all of Arizona. Tucked into Madera Canyon, this oasis is marked by thick oak woodlands, juniper trees and sycamores. It’s also popular with migratory birds, so bring binoculars. Friends of Madera Canyon, a Southern Arizona birding organization, offers a complete list of which birds travel through during each season (friendsofmaderacanyon.org.) The campground itself is family-friendly, thanks to stone foundations, picnic tables and bathrooms, and when nighttime temps hit near freezing, you’ll be grateful for the on-site fire pits.
Special Souvenir: A pic of the colorful – and rarely seen – trogon, a Central American bird that transits through Madera Canyon during winter.
Fees: $10 per night to camp.
If You Go: Head south from Tucson on I-19 to Continental Road/Madera Canyon exit, turn east and follow Madera Canyon signs 12.5 miles. 520-281-2296, fs.usda.gov
Digital Extra: Get a behind-the-scenes peek at our road trip to Madera Canyon with photographer Jason Grubb of Camerawerks, models Alicia and Randy Slack, and art director Mirelle Inglefield in this exclusive video at phoenixmag.com/web-extras.
Old Theater, Modern Shows
You’ve probably heard of The Rialto Theatre. But have you attended a concert there? Not only does the Tucson theater boast a storied past (previously serving as a silent film house, an all-Spanish cinema and a pornographic movie theater) and historical architecture, it’s also frequently named among the best live-music venues in the country. It opened as a vaudeville theater in the ‘20s and now hosts a packed calendar of music performances, from indie to classic rock. For your social media documentation, upcoming shows are painted on a mural on the side of the building. Mark your 2018 calendar for adult-contempo legend Al Stewart on January 19 and jazz group Spyro Gyra on January 20.
Special Souvenir: A concert tee, of course.
Fees: Ticket prices vary.
If You Go: 318 E. Congress St., 520-740-1000, rialtotheatre.com
Ride the Rails
You don’t have to be a birder to enjoy the Verde Canyon Railroad’s “eagle watch” train rides. However, the comfy seats and snacks on the four-hour rumble through the beautiful (possibly snow-frosted) Verde Canyon may make a birder out of you yet. The “how” is easy: Scan the wilderness for a sighting of majestic bald eagles that make their winter habitat along Arizona’s rivers. Nesting season features lots of activity as birds angle for mates and locations. Most of the access points to the canyon are closed to the public during breeding season (December-May), with the exception being the Verde Canyon Railroad.
Special Souvenir: A miniature copper sculpture of an eagle in flight, $35 in the railroad’s gift shop.
Fees: From $65 per person.
If You Go: 300 N. Broadway, Clarkdale, 800-582-7245, verdecanyonrr.com
Bring your coziest sweaters, raunchiest board games and a bottle – or three – of wine. Open only for group rentals, this 1920s-era lodge offers the kind of snowbound (let’s hope!) group getaway that you’ll be missing sorely come July. Located at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, just steps from the park’s signature travertine bridge, the three-story, 10-bedroom hideaway comes furnished and includes a dining area, fireplace, large kitchen and sprawling outdoor veranda.
Special Souvenir: At the park’s gift shop, buy a cool-looking walking stick.
Fees: $7 to access Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. Call for pricing and reservations for the lodge.
If You Go: 10 miles north of Payson on Highway 87, 928-476-4202, azstateparks.com
Get Romantic at a Dude Ranch
Forget heart-shaped chocolates and dinner for two. Celebrate Valentine’s Day Old West style, with horseback riding, cookouts and cozying up by a crackling fire. M Diamond Ranch is an operating cattle ranch, the only one in the Verde Valley open to the public. You and your honey can experience what it’s like to be an authentic cowboy or cowgirl, and because the ranch offers only one guesthouse (ideal for two, but with room enough for six), you’ll be the only visitors. This means private lodging, exclusive access to activities and that most old-fashioned of luxuries: peace and quiet. It also means you should book your stay in advance.
Special Souvenir: The ranch’s homemade chocolate chip cookies – they make for the perfect road trip snack on the way home.
Fees: From $275 per night.
If You Go: Off I-17 North, take exit 298, turn right, away from Sedona. Continue on Forest Road 618 (NF 618) for seven miles until you reach the destination. 928-300-6466, mdiamondranch.com
Hear Cowboys Wax Poetic
Escape modernity and soak up the Old West charm Arizona is famous for at the 26th annual Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering (February 2-4, 2018). Artists and attendees travel from all over North America, descending upon the small town of Sierra Vista in Southern Arizona to celebrate cowboy culture. Get ready for three days of stage performances, readings and concerts, including an honest-to-goodness barn dance. Or as we in Arizona like to call it: “Western swing.”
Special Souvenir: Bolo tie with the event’s logo emblazoned on the pin. Awesome and surprisingly on trend again, thanks to hipsters. Pick up one at the souvenir booth.
Fees: $20 for each evening’s headline performance; $10 for daytime poetry readings; $5 for barn dance.
If You Go: Buena Performing Arts Center, 5225 Buena School Blvd., 520-508-9359, cowboypoets.com
Play Farmer for a Day (Or Just Eat Like One)
The Arizona Agritourism Experience coordinates with farms all over the state to offer city slickers the chance to work on a real farm. Use the website’s “u-pick” farm map to find where and when to get your hands dirty. If you’d rather support our agricultural industry in a less hands-on way (no judgment!), head to Yuma and jump on the Savor Yuma Culinary Tour, which operates January through March, and shuttles you to restaurants that showcase in-season ingredients from Yuma’s farms.
Special Souvenir: A bag of fresh produce, from lemons and lettuce to dates and olives.
Fees: Costs vary from farm to farm, so after selecting one from the u-pick map online, call ahead for info; $55 per person for Savor Yuma tours.
If You Go: Arizona Agritourism Experience, arizonaexperience.org/live-maps/u-pick-farm-map; Savor Yuma Culinary Tours, 180 W. 1st St., 800-293-0071, visityuma.com/visit-yuma-tours.html
KNOCK ONE BACK IN THE SMALLEST BAR IN ARIZONA
Just off the second-floor lobby of the Silver King Hotel hides Room 4 – the smallest watering hole in Arizona. Only three stools sit at the bar, with a tiny table for two in the corner. Year-round twinkle lights lend a warm ambiance and the drinks are excellent (read: stiff). Speaking of Bisbee bars with caché, don’t miss St. Elmo’s, notable as the grand dame (aka longest-running) of Arizona saloons. It’s been in operation since 1902.
Special Souvenir: At St. Elmo’s, make a play for one of the X-rated curios in the claw machine by the door.
Fees: Beer, wine and cocktail costs vary.
If You Go: Room 4 is located at 43 Brewery Ave., 520-432-3723, silverkinghotel-bisbee.com; St. Elmo’s is located at 36 Brewery Ave., 520-432-5578, facebook.com/bisbeestelmo
Meet the Flintstones
“Roast” a pterodactyl, visit a cave lady beauty salon and slide down a brontosaurus’ tail at Flintstones Bedrock City, a park inspired by everyone’s favorite prehistoric family. If you think you couldn’t possibly spend a full day here, think again. Start by watching a Flintstone cartoon in a movie theater built out of rocks, then visit the homes of Fred and Wilma and Barney and Betty, and let the kids ride a train around the park. Dinner is at Fred’s Diner, where you can eat a Bronto Burger. Oh, and did we mention you can camp here, too? Yabba dabba doo!
Special Souvenir: Kitschy Flintstones memorabilia, such as giant, cookie-jar-size ceramic figurines ($30-$60) or fun, vintage-y fridge magnets for $1.50.
Fees: $5 park admission; $12 per person for camping.
If You Go: Located at 101 S. Hwy. 180, 928-635-2600, bedrockaz.com
Farm-to-Table food resort
“It’s tentative, but spring for sure,” is how visionary Valley chef James Porter (Petite Maison) handicapped the debut of TERRA Farm + Manor when we spoke to him late last fall. A custom-built, 11-room chateau and guesthouse tucked into a remote, high-desert valley west of Prescott, TFM will function simultaneously as a resort, cooking school, winery, spiritual retreat and working 9-acre farm, catering to groups, couples and individuals who crave a transformative, food-focused getaway. By necessity, the staff of eight to 12 will be epic multi-taskers. “I have a concierge who also teaches yoga and forages,” Porter says. Handy with a tractor, the chef also installed an airstrip. Color us intrigued – and hungry.
Special Souvenir: Ultimately, Porter envisions running blending classes with the estate wine, and sending students home with baby kegs.
Fees: To be determined.
If You Go: terrafarmandmanor.com
See John Dillinger’s Used Chewing Gum
The History of Pharmacy Museum might just be the oddest attraction in the state. And let it be known, the term “museum” is used loosely here, as the exhibits are displayed throughout the University of Arizona’s School of Pharmacy building. But the collection, curated by Stephen Hall (pictured, left) is fascinating. Things you’ll see: apothecary jars dating from the early 1900s, Prohibition-era prescriptions for booze, and a container of John Dillinger’s chewing gum, collected from under the counter of the Tucson pharmacy he frequented. Jesse Hurlburt, a former Tucson pharmacist, curated the thousands of items for the museum, which opened in 1966.
Special Souvenir: The museum’s booklet – given to you upon embarking on the self-guided tour – is packed with photos and interesting factoids.
Fees: Admission is free.
If You Go: Start the tour in room 344 of the Skaggs Pharmaceutical Sciences Center (1703 E. Mabel St.), at the College of Pharmacy Complex, University of Arizona. 520-626-1427, pharmacy.arizona.edu
MOST REMOTE GETAWAY
Aravaipa Farms Orchard and Inn
At Aravaipa, near the base of the Galiuro Mountains, it’s easy to pretend you’re a writer secreting away to pen the Great American Novel. This five-casita inn is perhaps the most remote B&B in the state. It sits in Aravaipa Canyon along Aravaipa Creek, a 17-mile perennial waterway, and offers modern amenities (chef-crafted cuisine, for one), along with unspoiled scenic beauty and plenty of hiking trails on which to wonder and ponder. “Since we’re only three miles from the Aravaipa Canyon Preserve trailhead, the casitas are popular with hikers who want a glamping experience,” says owner Kevin Madden. Glamping indeed: Each morning, homemade yogurt, fresh fruit and granola appear in your fridge.
Special Souvenir: The original owner’s arts and crafts are still for sale: birdhouses, painted ceramic dishes and framed artwork.
Fees: From $195 per night.
If You Go: 89395 E. Aravaipa Rd., 520-261-7373, aravaipafarms.com
Delve into Ancient Mysteries
You’ve likely seen pictures of the stark wonder that is Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park – images of rock spires jutting up from the vast desert, an enchanting realm of unrivaled beauty. Lesser known, and impossible to see from land or even air, is Mystery Valley. Physically challenging and accessible only with a Diné guide (whom you can hire at the visitor center), Mystery Valley is an open vista of red rocks on the southern portion of the park. Here, you’ll see Anasazi ruins, graceful rock archways and impressive formations birthed from millions of years of wind and rain erosion.
Special Souvenir: Within 90 minutes, you can be in Tuba City, which has a trading post stocked with authentic Navajo arts and crafts, including intricately woven baskets priced from $60 to thousands of dollars.
Fees: $20 admission per vehicle, up to four people; $10 per hiker or cyclist.
If You Go: navajonationparks.org/navajo-tribal-parks
Kayak a Hidden Lake
Though not as dramatic as Crater Lake, the 55-acre Lynx Lake is our own little version of that famous Oregonian body of water, with its pine trees, green underbrush and gently sloped, encircling mountains. The high elevation offers respite from the heat, and a no-engine-boat policy keeps the setting tranquil. Bring your fishing pole and canoe or kayak, or rent a boat from the Lynx Lake Store, which also houses a charming café.
Special Souvenir: Pan for gold near the Salida Gulch Trailhead. What’s a better take-home gift than a nugget of precious metal?
Fees: $5 per vehicle; to rent a kayak, it’s $20 for the first hour, $16 every hour after.
If You Go: From I-17, go west on AZ 69 toward Prescott. Turn left on Walker Road and follow the signs to Lynx Lake. 928-778-0720, fs.usda.gov/recarea/prescott/recarea/?recid=75178
Soak in a Hot Mineral Spring
It’s been said that a dip in hot mineral springs offers an array of healing properties. A soak can cleanse the body of toxins, rejuvenate the skin and ease tired muscles, all thanks to higher than usual amounts of minerals in the water, such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron, to name a few. At Essence of Tranquility, a bare-bones, no-frills spa in Eastern Arizona, you can soak in super-hot tubs fed by the area’s natural mineral water, then bed down in a tent or casita.
Special Souvenir: An artsy greeting card from the gift shop.
Fees: For tubs, the cost is $8 per person per hour or $15 per person for day use. Bring cash and exact change; nearest ATMs are in the town of Safford, about six miles north.
If You Go: Located at 6074 S. Lebanon Loop Rd., 928-428-9312, azhotmineralspring.com
ARIZONA’S MOST REMOTE BREWERY
Barnstar Brewing Company
It’s not easy to find, and it’s only open on the weekends, but Barnstar is the bomb. Ten beers on tap and take-home growlers, plus Adirondack chairs to soak up the mountain views and house-braised pulled pork to soak up the suds – it’s everything you’d want in a brewery on the edge of the world. Located about 15 minutes outside of Prescott, Barnstar welcomes the whole family, even the four-legged members. Ask for a tour of the brewery’s library: a bookworm’s dream of floor-to-ceiling shelves stacked with first editions and signed copies.
Special Souvenir: A 32-ounce official Barnstar growler.
Fees: Depends on how much you drink. (Be safe and have a designated driver.)
If You Go: 4050 N. Tonto Rd., 928-442-2337, barnstarbrew.com
See a Rock Festival in A Freaky Art Colony
Believe it or not, Arizona boasts its own Burning Man-esque counterculture campout – and it’s just a half-hour drive from the Valley. Now in its fifth year, the FORM Festival has hosted performances by James Blake, Skrillex, Future Islands, Solange Knowles and Father John Misty, and drawn the attention of The New York Times and Billboard. In fact, Pitchfork recently called it “the festival of the future.” Held at Arcosanti, the late architect Paolo Soleri’s experimental art commune in the Verde Valley, FORM is about more than just music – yoga, eco talks, astronomy, tech innovation and dance parties go down for three days under the starry sky.
Special Souvenir: The ticket stub – proof for all of those non-believers that you actually attended.
Fees: Ticket prices range from $389 to $2,500 for a luxury camping experience for two people.
If You Go: experienceform.com
Q&A with FORM founder Zach Tetreault
FORM originated in 2013 as an album release party for the L.A.-based indie rock band Hundred Waters. The event was such a hit, they made it a regular thing, says drummer/founder Tetreault.
Why stage it at arcosanti?
We’d known about [Arcosanti] for a long time… It’s spectacular and unlike anything else, and speaks to the ethos of alternative creating – creating things that cause you to question and reinterpret how you’re living and how humans are treating the planet.
How long does the festival take to set up?
About a week to do the build-out. After [five years], we’ve got our flow down. There’s more infrastructure than ever before… more experimental design and programs. Red Bull has been a partner for a couple years and is doing its music academy. It’s exciting.
How big do you envision the fest becoming?
We’ve reached an equilibrium that feels good… around 1,500 people. We could easily sell 10,000-20,000 tickets. The site would accommodate that, but it would change the community and the interaction. We want it to be a special journey.
Be a Gearhead for a Day
Seligman to Topock
At the 31st annual Route 66 Fun Run, you won’t have to feign interest in cars. Your astonishment will be genuine when you witness more than 800 classic, custom and antique vehicles making the 140-mile trek along historic Route 66. As the only rally on the country’s longest stretch of the Mother Road, the fun run is a big deal. Events kick off on May 4 in Seligman with live music and a parade, and the run concludes on May 6 in Topock. Entertainment, food and more round out the festivities at stops along the way.
Special Souvenir: If you don’t have one already, you need a Route 66 road sign. We like the ones at Angel & Vilma’s Original Route 66 Gift Shop in Seligman.
Fees: No cost to spectators.
If You Go: 928-753-5001, gokingman.com/event-66FunRun
Hike the Grand Canyon by Moonlight
The overly Instagrammed Havasu Falls stun, to be sure. And the 10-mile hike into Supai Village in the Grand Canyon from Hualapai Hilltop is strenuous enough to make the sweet sight of the aquamarine falls a worthy payoff. But for the return trip, blow those Instagram “influencers” out of the water: Take it next level and hike out of the canyon by the light of a full moon. Wear your headlamp and have a flashlight handy, but we bet you won’t need them. The moon’s luminescence slides over the rock walls and brightens the path with an eerie glow, while the hush that falls over the canyon at that hour brings a reverence not possible during the light of day. A practical perk of hiking out at moonlight is that your fellow campers won’t launch until sunrise, affording you a blissfully crowd-free hike. Tuesday, May 29, is your date, so a weekend trip before or after should give you enough light. The next full moon is on June 28.
Special Souvenir: A night you’ll never forget.
Fees: $50 per person; advance reservations and permit are required.
If You Go: 928-448-2121, theofficialhavasupaitribe.com
Memorial Day pool party? Been there, done that. An isolated and rustic peaked-roof cabin in the middle of the woods? Yes, please! This three-bedroom log house is owned and operated by the Coconino National Forest Service, and in a past life, existed as a U.S. Forest Service guard station to house firefighters during wildfire season. Breezy day hikes abound on the trails in the nearby Sycamore Canyon, or you can simply stay put to grill and toast the long weekend.
Special Souvenir: In Flagstaff, stop by Matador Coffee to pick up two bags of its delicious Casa Blend: one for the cabin and one to take home.
Fees: Depends on the season, but nightly rates average $125.
If You Go: Located 22 miles south of Flagstaff on Forest Road 231, 928-526-0866, recreation.gov, fs.usda.gov
Float Down the Colorado River
When it’s hot outside, you want to be near water. Especially in June, when life in Phoenix is about as dry as it can get, post-spring and pre-monsoon. Skip the dirty, drunken revelry of the Salt River and instead head to the mighty Colorado for a float down our state’s most magnificent waterway. Sign up with Glen Canyon Rafting Hospitality; you’ll meet at their headquarters in Page, then take off for a guided adventure that includes views of Glen Canyon Dam, sandstone cliffs and plenty of wildlife, plus stories about the Native cultures that once inhabited the area and the petroglyphs they left behind.
Special Souvenir: The River’s End Café offers killer espresso. Get a cup to go.
Fees: From $85 per person for a half-day trip.
If You Go: 928-608-6200, nps.gov/glca
Get the High-Country Blues
In June, Northern AZ becomes the unrivaled blues hotspot of the Southwest. See the likes of slow-hand stars Victor Wainright and Chubby Carrier at Flagstaff Blues & Brews (June 9) or a mix of rootsy styles down the highway at Alpine Country Blues Festival (June 15-16). Both have everything you want in a summer event: blankets spread on a lawn, cold beers, bare feet and toe-tapping tunes. Both are also celebrating their sixth seasons – cage match, anyone?
Special Souvenir: At the Peruvian Outpost Alpaca Boutique, buy an alpaca shawl for the cool nights. Prices range from $80 to $150.
Fees: FBB, check website; ACBF, $30 for a weekend pass.
If You Go: FBB, 928-606-5601, flagstaffblues.com; ACBF, 928-245-1143, alpineazmusicfest.com
StarGaze Like a Pro
In 2016, the Grand Canyon became the 12th national park to earn an official seal of approval from the International Dark-Sky Association, confirming what we already knew – the Grand Canyon is a damn fine place for observing the night sky. Maximizing the canyon’s Dark-Sky designation, the National Parks Service offers an annual Grand Canyon Sky Party (June 9-16). For eight days, visitors can enjoy free nightly astronomy programs and telescope viewing on the Grand Canyon’s South and North rims. You’ll see planets, star clusters, distant galaxies and maybe a recurrence of the flying “V” from the Phoenix Lights conspiracy. We recommend a disco nap.
Special Souvenir: At the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, buy a coffee table book about Arizona’s dark skies.
Fees: No cost to attend the party; $25 per vehicle admission to Grand Canyon National Park.
If You Go: General info can be found at nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/grand-canyon-star-party.htm. To sign up for the South Rim party, RSVP via firstname.lastname@example.org or 520-546-2961; for the North Rim party, RSVP via email@example.com or 602-390-0118.
VISIT ARIZONA’S BEST UP-AND-COMING WINERY
James Callahan makes some of the best wines in the state, and the tasting room for Rune is among the most rustic. Set amid rolling grasslands, it’s just 27 acres, an Airstream trailer (home of the winemaker) and a sorta-covered outdoor bar for wine tastings. Oh, yes – and little to no signage. But your reward for making the trek is a glass of exquisitely crafted, single-varietal Arizona wine in near solitude, surrounded by astonishing vistas. Hurry – Callahan has plans to build a real tasting room and winery, with a roof and everything.
Special Souvenir: A long-stemmed wine glass etched with the Rune logo. Free with a tasting!
Fees: $15 for a tasting of six wines.
If You Go: 3969 Hwy. 82, between mile markers 39 and 40, 520-338-8823, runewines.com
Cool Off in a Waterfall
A well-maintained, 8-mile roundtrip trail in the Santa Catalina Mountains leads to a cascading, gasp-inducing waterfall: Seven Falls. Access it at the Sabino Canyon trailhead and be prepared for a beautifully diverse ecosystem of saguaros, sycamores, cholla and cottonwoods. This time of year, you might be graced with the sight of wildflowers, too. Hike it or run it, but no matter how you arrive at the falls, bring a bathing suit. Frolicking in the water is a must.
Special Souvenir: Who uses maps anymore? You do! Buy one of Sabino Canyon at the Visitors Center, and frame it for a cool wall hanging.
Fees: $5 admission.
If You Go: From the Sabino Canyon Visitors Center parking lot, follow the trail east to the Bear Canyon tram road. Take the road to the trailhead, and once on the trail, you’ll cross the creek seven times before arriving at the falls. 520-749-2861, sabinocanyon.com
Fry an Egg on a Sidewalk
The phrase “it’s so hot outside you could fry an egg” becomes a reality in this tiny town where temperatures hit 115 degrees during the summer. The annual Oatman Sidewalk Egg Fry happens every July 4 at high noon. How it works: Contestants crack their eggs – either directly on the pavement or on a frying pan set on the pavement – when the clock strikes noon. After 15 minutes, a judge declares a winner for the best-looking egg. Book lodging along nearby Route 66 to continue your iconic Arizona weekend – don’t worry, all the motels have AC.
Special Souvenir: A cholla candle – wax is poured into a dried-out cholla cactus and molded into a candle. Available for $26 at Oatman’s Main Street Emporium.
Fees: Free admission.
If You Go: 928-768-6222, oatmangoldroad.org
Find the Best Swimming Hole in the State
Like any good swimming hole, getting to this one takes effort. Near Camp Verde, at the base of the Mogollon Rim, stretches the lush West Clear Creek Wilderness. At the Calloway trailhead, head off on Trail 33. The trek can be warm in July, so bring plenty of water and wear sunscreen. Also, the terrain is steep and rocky, so wear sturdy boots. But it’s all worth it when you descend the 700 feet into the canyon’s creek and cool, shimmering swimming hole. Large, flat rocks surround the water and occasionally jut up from the pool, seemingly made for sunning yourself. Because of the steep climb down, this spot isn’t heavily trafficked. We’re not telling you to skinny-dip… but there’s a chance you’ll have the place all to yourself.
Special Souvenir: In nearby Camp Verde, stop at Crystal Lattice for a 50-cent chocolate almond meltaway or a rock hounding kit.
Fees: Free admission.
If You Go: Turn east on Forest Road (FR) 144 about 2.5 miles north of the junction of SR 87 and 260. Take 144 to FR 149. Left on FR 149, and left again on FR 142. Follow FR 142 for 4 miles to FR 142B. Follow FR 142B to trailhead. 928-527-3600, fs.usda.gov
Tubac Secret Garden Inn
Peaceful and secluded, with average summer temperatures of about 80 degrees, Tubac is a summertime balm for Phoenicians. So, too, is Tubac Secret Garden Inn: three acres of bliss. Each of the five rooms has a kitchenette, and one has a balcony overlooking the Coronado National Forest. No wonder it was named an Airbnb Superhost in 2016. When you’re not sipping sweet tea on your veranda, keep your eyes peeled for random works of art hidden in surprising places. Our favorite: a stone mermaid in a sea of flowers.
Special Souvenir: At nearby Untamed Confections, get a few Desert Tortoises, i.e. pecans and cashews covered in honey, caramel and chocolate. untamedconfections.com
Fees: Rates range from $110 to $415 per night.
If You Go: 13 Placita de Anza, 520-403-6271, tubacsecretgarden.org
Try Your Hand at Fly Fishing
Lees Ferry on the Colorado River has been characterized as the world’s largest spring creek thanks to a series of parallel waterways with characteristics of spring-like waters. It’s also known as a fantastic spot for fly fishing, specifically for rainbow trout. If the graceful art of fly fishing seems impossible to master, look to Lees Ferry Anglers. Not only do they provide guided rainbow trout fishing tours, perfect for an experienced fly fisher, they also offer lessons and guidance to the uninitiated. Fly fishing is a sport of rhythm and art, a meditative series of movements – arm up and out, arm back and down, over and over. This, coupled with the exhilaration of being on the impressive Colorado River, will make you a convert to the sport.
Special Souvenir: Get yourself an official Lees Ferry Anglers cap or your own pair of waders.
Fees: Rates depend on number of people in your party; prices range from $425 to $625 for a full day of guided fishing.
If You Go: 928-355-2261, leesferry.com
Attend the World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo
Not to be confused with Prescott Frontier Days, the world’s oldest rodeo. Nope, August Doin’s is the world’s oldest continuous rodeo, in operation for the past 134 years, and always held the third weekend of August. If you’ve never been to a rodeo, this is the one to start with, cowpokes. Some of the West’s greatest professional cowboys and cowgirls compete for prize money, showing off their skills in events like bull riding, steer wrestling and horseback riding. You’ll find plenty of lodging and dining in Payson or any of the surrounding mountain areas.
Special Souvenir: Any of the odd-but-beautiful finds at The Carpenter’s Wife shop will perfectly commemorate your Payson weekend.
Fees: $18 per person, purchased in advance; $20 per person at the gate.
If You Go: Payson Rodeo Grounds, 928-474-9440, paysonprorodeo.com
Eat A Lot of Prickly Pear
We Phoenicians are sometimes guilty of reducing the humble prickly pear fruit to kitsch – for example, making it into the too-sweet candy Midwesterners buy as a last-minute souvenir at the airport. It’s time to change that. At the Prickly Pear Festival, generally held on the third Saturday in August, not only can you eat pancakes drizzled with prickly pear syrup and sip margaritas mixed with prickly pear juice, you can also shop a marketplace offering soaps, lotions, homeopathic goods and more, all with the hardy magenta fruit harvested from spindly cactus pads as the star ingredient. Don’t miss the food demos and the big event: the prickly pear cook-off.
Special Souvenir: Prickly pear soap or prickly-pear-inspired jewelry.
Fees: Admission is free.
If You Go: 520-689-0200, superiorarizonachamber.org
HIGH ELEVATION TOGA PARTY
In mid August, the mountain town of Crown King hosts an annual toga party at the local saloon. Maybe it’s the elevation (Crown King sits atop Bradshaw Mountain) or maybe it’s the isolation (the only access is a single winding road of hairpin turns), but this feels bucket list-y, no? If you can, book your lodging at the Bradshaw Mountain Bed & Breakfast: cabins, suites with a view, even a bunkhouse.
Special Souvenir: A beat-up coaster from the Crown King Saloon. It’ll be your badge of honor.
Fees: Free admission.
If You Go: 7219 Main St., 928-632-7053, crownkingsaloon.com/events
Stay Overnight in a Navajo Hogan
It’s not exactly glamping – actually, it’s not even close to glamping – but you won’t find a more authentic, singular stay on the Navajo Nation reservation. At Spider Rock Campground near the spectacular Canyon de Chelly National Monument, you can rent a cozy fork hogan. This walled and roofed structure (pronounced HO-yun) is attributed to the Navajo people, who inhabited this land 5,000 years ago and who still live and farm in the canyon. Howard Smith, the Navajo-born owner of Spider Rock, built the hogans by hand using logs, mud, branches and leaves. Each hogan includes a wood-burning stove; small hogans sleep one to two people, while large hogans sleep up to six. Make time to explore Canyon de Chelly, a true natural wonder.
Special Souvenir: The Canyon de Chelly Visitors Center is a treasure trove of gifts not found at other parks, from Navajo silver and turquoise jewelry to a Canyon de Chelly badge for kids in the Junior Ranger program.
Fees: Call for rates.
If You Go: 928-781-2016, spiderrockcampground.com
Celebrate Arizona’s Most Famous Condiment
Who doesn’t love a food festival, especially one centered on the most versatile – and perfect, some would say – condiment in the world? The 12th annual SalsaFest will take place September 21-22 in downtown Safford in Graham County – the de facto salsa capital of Arizona by virtue of the Arizona Salsa Trail, a receiving line of nine mom-and-pop Mexican restaurants that snakes through town. It features salsa-making contests, a marketplace, music, food demonstrations and salsa-eating competitions. If that’s not enough, you get to sample the fare from Mexican restaurants, a tortilla factory and a chile farm.
Special Souvenir: It’s a no-brainer: a jar of salsa verde from Casa Mañana.
Fees: Free admission.
If You Go: Events take place near the Graham County Chamber of Commerce, 1111 W. Thatcher Blvd., 888-837-1841, salsatrail.com
Tackle an Obstacle Course in the Trees
Billed as Arizona’s only adventure course, Flagstaff Extreme Adventure is not for the faint of heart. It is, in fact, heart-racing. The course is an elevated obstacle adventure suspended among ponderosa pines with bridges, swings, slides, nets, ziplines, even an aerial surfboard. There are no beginner or advanced levels; the course starts off easy and gradually increases in challenge (and height) level. You are free to drop off at any point if you get spooked or tired. A cold beer at Flagstaff Brewing Company afterward makes it all worth it.
Special Souvenir: Plunk down two bucks for a Flagstaff Extreme bumper sticker. Bragging rights for course completion: free.
Fees: $52 per person.
If You Go: Fort Tuthill Loop, 888-259-0125, flagstaffextreme.com
BUILD YOUR OWN SELF-GUIDED FOOD TOUR
We love Arizona Restaurant Week as much as the next Valley foodie, but the branding isn’t entirely accurate – ARW is open to all Arizona restaurants, but only a few outside Phoenix participate. That’s why we decided to create an unofficial Restaurant Week guide to another town: Flagstaff. This mountain city’s culinary scene is up and coming in a big way (see our Escape to Foodie Mountain feature in the January 2018 issue of PHOENIX). Some places to explore on a weekend eating expedition: Shift Kitchen & Bar (order the tasting menu), Coppa Café (slow-cooked cod with tomatillos), Pizzicletta (kale, gorgonzola and almond pizza).
Special Souvenir: A black and gray trucker hat from Pizzicletta.
Fees: Prices vary per restaurant.
If You Go: General info about Arizona Restaurant Week can be found at arizonarestaurantweek.com; Flagstaff info can be found at flagstaff.com.
Live the Seafaring Life
Lake Powell isn’t exactly the Pacific, but it’s a big body of water, and when you rent a houseboat from Antelope Point Marina, you’ll feel like you’re setting sail on the open sea, far from land and its terrestrial responsibilities. These aren’t your average houseboats, either. Choose from eight models, all with private bedrooms, most with wet bars (no pun intended) and some with hot tubs. A minimum of two days is required for a rental, but you can stay out for as long as seven. Just enough time to get your sea legs.
Special Souvenir: A few bucks for a Lake Powell beer koozie? Sold. This baby is essential for keeping your brew cool on the water. Available at the marina’s Marketplace Store (along with beer, too).
Fees: Costs vary depending on model and rental duration.
If You Go: 100 Antelope Ave., 928-645-5900, antelopepointlakepowell.com
Have an Art Attack in Red Rock Country
Since its inception nearly 30 years ago, the Sedona Arts Festival has grown into one of the most impressive fine arts events in the country, showcasing the work of 125 regional and national artists in a dozen mediums. The event kicks things up a notch with a newly launched and very exclusive Fine Art Gallery. What it is: Attendees get a chance to peruse – and purchase – works by a small number of artists who rarely participate in the festival circuit, such as sculpture artist Hugh Blanding and painter Cheryl Waale. Located on the event grounds, this gallery displays highly coveted pieces by 50 artists.
Special Souvenir: You can’t leave without a piece of art. Aim for something hard-to-find, such as a metal sculpture or fiber art.
Fees: $12 per person.
If You Go: 995 Upper Red Rock Loop Rd., 928-204-9456, sedonaartsfestival.org
Attend One of the Continent’s Best Wine Festivals
Fodor’s Travel named the Willcox Wine Country Fall Festival among the top 10 of its kind in North America in 2013, and the event drew 3,000 people last fall to toast Southern Arizona wine. Held on the third weekend of October, the festival showcases the work of beloved Arizona brands like Keeling Schaefer Vineyards and Page Springs Cellars with vino tastings, along with gourmet eats, artist booths, live music and a chance to hang out under the canopy of shady trees in downtown Willcox’s historic Railroad Park. It doesn’t get any more small-town festive than this, even though Willcox recently earned its federal AVA (American Viticultural Area) designation – just the second growing region in Arizona to do so.
Special Souvenir: Seems like a bottle of Arizona wine would be the obvious answer, but no. Instead get a bag of locally grown pistachios from Robbs Family Farm.
Fees: Free admission, $25 for tastings.
If You Go: Railroad Avenue Park, 520-384-2272, willcoxwinecountry.org
GET YOUR WILD WEST ON
Tombstone’s most devilish annual event, Helldorado Days, celebrates its 88th year in 2018. Head south for a whirlwind ode to everything Old West (October 19-21). From thrilling gunfight re-enactment shows and raucous street entertainment to fashion shows and a carnival (not the creepy, meth-y kind; this one’s family-friendly), there’s something to satisfy everyone’s inner Doc Holliday or Big Nose Kate.
Special Souvenir: An antique pocket watch from T. Miller Mercantile & Hotel, or a mustache from the Tombstone Mustachery.
Fees: Free admission.
If You Go: Allen Street, 888-457-3929, tombstonehelldoradodays.com
GO TO JAIL. DO NOT PASS GO.
Globe, Jerome, Yuma
Given Arizona’s Wild West roots – with its lore, legends and six-shooting villains – a visit to a territorial prison is rife with adventure.
In Globe, the 1910 Gila County Courthouse and Jail is believed to be haunted by spirits of dead prisoners. See for yourself on a ghost tour, offered on weekends in October.
Like all buildings in Jerome, the Sliding Jail sits precariously on a cliff. A 1930s mining explosion thrust the tiny jail off its original foundation, causing it to slide into the street. The town redirected the road around the jail, and now the structure rests on the east side of Hull Avenue.
Perhaps the most famous of Arizona’s jails is Yuma Territorial Prison, now a state historic site. Construction started in 1876, with many of the prisoners forced to build their own cells. Not only did the Yuma prison hold plenty of baddies, including stagecoach robber Pearl Hart, but later, the building was home to a high school and a hospital.
Special Souvenir: A pair of fake handcuffs from the Yuma Territorial Prison’s gift shop.
Fees: Globe: $16 for a ghost tour. Jerome: Free. Yuma: $8 admission.
If You Go: Globe: 149 E. Oak St., globehauntedjail.com; Jerome: Hull Avenue, 928-634-2900, jeromechamber.com/businesses/chamber-of-commerce-visitors-center; Yuma: 220 N. Prison Hill Rd., 928-783-4771, azstateparks.com/yuma-territorial
Go on a carb odyssey
Barrio Bread makes loaves so good the bakery has been lauded by The New York Times for its artisanal slow-fermentation process and use of Sonora wheat, one of the oldest varieties in North America. Barrio is owned and operated by Don Guerra, a baker as passionate about heritage grains as he is about personally greeting every one of his customers as they walk through the door. Step inside the small but mighty bakery and you’ll see a giant oven where loaves slowly rise and shelves are lined with freshly baked bread – from super seed whole wheat and cranberry walnut to classic baguettes. If driving two hours for sourdough isn’t your thing, make a day of it with sammies on Barrio buns and a guided bike ride of Old Tucson with Tucson Bike Tours.
Special Souvenir: A loaf of the Desert Durum with a saguaro cactus stencil imprinted on the side. It’s almost too pretty to eat.
Fees: Loaf prices vary.
If You Go: 18 S. Eastbourne Ave., 520-327-1292, barriobread.com
You don’t have to go to New Mexico to witness the mesmerizing beauty of dozens of hot air balloons as they drift across a desert landscape. At the Page Lake Powell Balloon Regatta (November TBD), you can experience this event against the stunning backdrop of Lake Powell and the Vermilion Cliffs. Insider tip: Arrive early to watch the pilots inflate the balloons, a process that takes 30 minutes and is almost as breathtaking as watching the balloons lift off silently into the sky. This three-day event also includes an evening balloon glow along the main drag, a light and music spectacle conducted by the balloon pilots.
Special Souvenir: Take home a painted gourd from a booth at the event’s vendor fair.
Fees: Free admission.
If You Go: 928-645-2741, lakepowellballoonregatta.com
Join the Pecan Party
Need to stock up on nuts for your Thanksgiving pecan pie? Head to the Sahuarita Pecan Festival (November TBD), a nutty event for the whole family. Now in its 10th year, this festival is a Southern Arizona tradition that attracts more than 20,000 attendees. Sign up for the Pecan Classic Nut Run (a 3.3-mile race through a pecan orchard), catch live bands on the main stage, cheer on contestants in the pecan pie eating competition, enjoy wagon rides and let the kids run free in the children’s play area.
Special Souvenir: Um, pecans? If you place in the top three for the Pecan Classic, you win a nut-themed gift basket from the Pecan Store.
Fees: $25 race entrance fee; no cost to attend the festival.
If You Go: 1625 E. Sahuarita Rd., 520-329-5790, sahuaritapecanfestival.com
The Bisbee Grand
While the hotel itself is worth a visit thanks to its mining town charm and downstairs bar, the big draw here is the Old Western Suite. Why? It’s your chance to sleep in a covered wagon. Built to accommodate a queen bed, the entire thing was dismantled and rebuilt inside the hotel room. Bonus: The suite offers a gigantic hot tub. Double bonus: Time your stay to coincide with Bisbee’s Sidepony Express Music Festival, held in early November. Think three days, 18 venues, 85 bands,
Special Souvenir: At Tumbleweed Gypsy, a shop down the street from the hotel, get a leather-bound journal embossed with a title like Pieced Together Recollections from Drunken Escapades.
Fees: Nightly rates range from $94 to $175.
If You Go: 61 Main St., 800-421-1909, bisbeegrandhotel.com
Kick Off the Holiday Season
Arizona’s original capital city knows how to ring in the holidays. Every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Prescott hosts the Christmas Parade & Courthouse Lighting. This festive (and free!) event invites visitors to help decorate the town Christmas tree, watch the light parade as it weaves its way through town to the courthouse, listen to carolers and warm up with cider and homemade cookies by a roaring fire in the Sharlot Hall Museum. Duh, it’s not called Christmas City for nothing.
Special Souvenir: Handmade ornaments from any of the on-site vendors. Get one for yourself and one for a Secret Santa gift.
Fees: Free admission.
If You Go: Courthouse Plaza, 11 W. Gurley St., 928-445-2000, prescottdowntown.com/holiday-light-parade
Visit the Studio of “Arizona’s Picasso”
Italian artist Ettore “Ted” DeGrazia immigrated to Tucson in the early 1900s, eventually purchasing 10 acres in the foothills of the city. It was here that he created his masterpiece: DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun. This Spanish-style compound of gallery and living spaces includes an adobe mission dedicated to Padre Kino, which suffered damage in a recent fire. Considered to be one of the most quintessentially Southwestern destinations, DeGrazia Gallery In the Sun is a protected historic site open to the public, preserving dozens of DeGrazia’s paintings, art, frescoes and murals.
Special Souvenir: Full-color reproduction prints of DeGrazia’s famous paintings are available in the gift shop.
Fees: $8 admission for a self-guided tour.
If You Go: 6300 N. Swan, 520-299-9191, degrazia.org
Snow-Tube Down a Mountain
Since the 1960s, Elk Ridge Ski and Outdoor Recreation Area has catered to bunny-slopers and sledders – a tidy little wintertime redoubt perfect for families and ski novices. Following its purchase by the group that owns and operates Snowbowl in Flagstaff, the half-century-old property went on hiatus for the 2017-2018 season, but looks to roar back this winter like Alberto Tomba in the Albertville Olympics. Offering 37 acres of terrain on a north-facing slope of Bill Williams Mountain, Elk Ridge offers snowbound fun that’s easier on the knees, including tubing – similar to sledding, except you’re sitting in an inner tube. The circular shape of the tube means it’s slightly harder to control and maneuver, but that’s part of the fun, right? Elk Ridge offers runs specifically for tubing, with slopes and barriers to help slow the tubes and safely guide them down the hill.
Special Souvenir: A vintage postcard.
If You Go: 6160 Donald Nelson Ave., 928-814-5038, elkridgeski.com
TASTE THE TAMALE
Somerton Tamale Festival
Homemade tamales during the holidays are something special. The complicated process of making these stuffed masa pockets? Not so fun. Let the experts do the heavy lifting at the 12th annual Somerton Tamale Festival (December 15) just south of Yuma. 30,000 people will attend and 80,000 tamales will be consumed, from traditional beef and chicken to turkey, spinach, peach and strawberry. All proceeds benefit Arizona State University scholarships for local students in Somerton.
Special Souvenir: Bring back a batch of pineapple-stuffed tamales for friends and neighbors.
Fees: Free admission.
If You Go: On Main Street, between Union and Somerton avenues, 928-388-4837, somertontamalefestival.com
Zion National Park
With thinner off-season crowds, a winter escape to Zion National Park is a virtual crowd-cutting fun pass. From December through late March, you can access the park’s many historic landmarks and trailheads in your private vehicle, forgoing the usual high-season shuttle lines. Our must-visit pick: Angel’s Landing, that daredevil’s darling of a trail. With 1,000-foot drop-offs and a slender profile, it can be a bit unnerving during the summer, when the traffic is heavy. But on an early February morn, one has a good chance of a quiet, satisfying soar to an uncontested view of the park and ancient stone formations below. Zion also includes hikes for all abilities including the wheelchair-accessible Riverside Walk. Permits required for some areas.
Special Souvenir: A hiking stick for your journey through a water-wading trail called The Narrows. You can buy one at the gift shop at Zion Lodge.
Fees: $25 per vehicle for a 7-day pass.
If You Go: 1 Zion Park Blvd., Springdale, Utah, nps.gov/zion
Book a cabin at the only lodging inside the park, Zion Lodge (zionlodge.com) and wake up to the endearing sight of does grazing. Grab coffee and a quick breakfast at Red Rock Grill and hit the trails early.
Craft beer and craft milkshakes under one roof is a beautiful thing. When you add gourmet burgers from a Michelin-starred chef? Blindingly beautiful. You’ll find it all at Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer – the latest addition to the formidable fleet of dining options gathered at The Venetian Resort & Spa (3355 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, 866-659-9643, venetian.com). Originally an 18-seat micro-pub in SoHo, Black Tap immediately becomes one of the top three destinations for craft beer lovers on the Strip, where pricey cocktails and big-box beers traditionally rule. For ice cream lovers, the shake station is a sight to behold, with jars of lollipops, Fruity Pebbles and other confectionary esoterica to boost your shake game. Rounding out the audience-friendly culinary art are chef-owner Joe Isidori’s burger patties, which achieve a crisp-succulent balance via his seasoning and grilling techniques. It’s a summer pleaser.
Special Souvenir: With any luck, some casino winnings.
Thousands of families in Napa and Sonoma lost their homes in the October wildfires that ripped through the region. One not-so-small mercy: The hillside fires, stymied by the vineyards themselves, largely spared winemaking communities like St. Helena and Oakville within the Napa Valley. “Most visitors we’ve had since October are happy to see the valley exactly as they remember it,” Rudd Oakville Estate managing director Oscar Henquet says. “With the recent rains we’ve had, the valley looks lush and green.” Sounds like an ideal spring getaway to us (see above).
Special Souvenir: Visit the home studio of Napa ceramicist Amanda Wright and pick up one of her handsomely domineering handcrafted pottery pieces. Thank you, ma’am. May we have another?
3 NAPA WINERY TOURS YOU WON’T FORGET
Rudd Oakville Estate
With its own wine workshop, lake and network of underground caves, this family-owned winery and vineyard (pictured) is an oenophile’s dream writ real. After the visit concludes, you get to taste the hand-crafted wares in the boat house. This exclusive experience is by appointment only. ruddwines.com
If you remember it as a cheap big-box wine from the ’80s, you’re in for a surprise. The Inglenook Experience tour ($50) explores the illustrious history of the winery and its renaissance under new owner Francis Ford Coppola, with a tour of and tasting. inglenook.com
Round Pond Estate
Disarmingly informative and hands-on, the Il Pranzo experience at this family-owned winery includes a tour of its sensory garden and winemaking facility, a farm-to-table lunch and a tasting of RP’s estate olive oils ($125). roundpond.com
Come autumn, New Mexico’s City of Enchantment launches into a nonstop, three-month binge of arts and revelry. Build your trip around these annual festivals.
Fiesta de Santa Fe: Santa Fe commemorates the peaceful reconquest of the capital by General Don Diego de Vargas in 1692 with a weekend of ceremony and celebration (Sept. 7-9). Events include historical re-enactments, arts and crafts booths, entertainment and food. santafefiesta.org
Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta: Remember, it’s “chile,” not “chili.” Expect regional Southwestern cuisine coupled with pours from up to 90 national wineries (Sept. 26-29). santafewineandchile.org
Santa Fe Independent Film Festival: First-run indie films and a robust menu of international and art house movies anchor New Mexico’s top film event (Oct. 17-21). santafeindependentfilmfestival.com
Special Souvenir: Get a ristra – a vertical garland of dried red chiles – at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market (santafefarmersmarket.com)