Officially, summer ends on September 22. But in Phoenix, the thermometer tells a different story, with hot weather pushing well into October. Beat the Valley’s faux fall by indulging in one last aspirational weekender, from tooling down California’s Central Coast to a wine-tasting trip in West Texas.
By Niki D’Andrea, Matt Johnson, Leah LeMoine, Craig Outhier, Madison Rutherford & Johann Warnholtz
Going Coastal in Monterey County
A favorite of Beat poets and media barons, Big Sur makes for otherworldly away time.
Big Sur, the 71-mile section of California State Route 1 that hugs the Western Seaboard from Carmel to San Simeon, possesses a mythical prominence. The surreal stretch of coastline has served as a muse for writers, artists and musicians for decades. In the late ’50s, Jack Kerouac spent time along the sparsely populated coast, which has remained relatively untouched thanks to the Big Sur Local Coastal Plan, a development ordinance that aims to preserve the pristine region and the wildlife that inhabits it.
Kerouac chronicled the region’s winding roads and rugged cliffs in his 1962 novel Big Sur. Not much has changed since he cruised the Pacific Coast Highway at the height of the Beat movement. A canopy of redwoods and cypress trees still usher motorists along the meandering two-lane highway. Here’s how to get the most out of the road less traveled.
Pit Stop No. 1: Carmel Valley Ranch
This rustic, 500-acre retreat (carmelvalleyranch.com) resides in the foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains about 10 miles southeast of SR-1. Though the resort serves as a convenient home base for adventures of all kinds, it’s a worthy destination in its own right, boasting an award-winning restaurant and bar, three pools, a Pete Dye-designed golf course, farmstead, vineyard and apiary. Each of its 179 suites resembles a lavish treehouse with high wood ceilings, plenty of natural light and balconies that abut the forests beyond. New luxury suites feature two bedrooms, living rooms and expansive outdoor decks with fire pits.
Imagine a year-round summer camp where guests of all ages are encouraged to embrace their inner child. While Carmel Valley Ranch is decidedly family-friendly, the property’s hands-on ranch experiences are designed for both the young and young at heart, including s’mores stations, falconry, beekeeping and four oversize tree swings, suspended from a towering oak among the lavender fields or hanging from a Sycamore at River Ranch, the resort’s activities hub. This notion of all-ages fun is emphasized through the ranch’s Swing Wines, which features an illustration of Carmel Valley Ranch’s tree swings on each label of its Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and rosé.
Enjoy a glass while strolling through the 4-acre vineyard or overlooking it at on-site restaurant Valley Kitchen, which incorporates honey, herbs, cheese, eggs, fruit and vegetables from the property’s farm. Standout menu items include crispy Brussels sprouts gilded with a fried egg, sea scallops doused in pea and cilantro purée, and burrata bolstered with seasonal stone fruits and house-made sea salt and olive oil. For dessert, strawberry cheesecake crémeux with fresh strawberries and meringue challenges the sugary status quo. In fact, the cheesecake is a sweet metaphor for the ranch itself – a reminder to lean into to your playful side and indulge in life’s little pleasures.
Pit Stop No. 2: Carmel-by-the-Sea
Keep the sugar rush going at Cottage of Sweets (cottageofsweets.com) in nearby Carmel-by-the-Sea. The confectionary offers a dizzying selection of desserts, including fudge, truffles and caramel made in a quaint house plucked straight from a Thomas Kinkade painting. Many of Carmel’s shops, restaurants and art galleries are housed in whimsical, fairytale-style cottages. Kinkade’s Studio in the Garden – the first gallery he opened to the public – lies just a block away and sells limited-edition works by the late artist.
Get another glimpse into Carmel’s illustrious past – and grab a bite to eat – at Hog’s Breath Inn (hogsbreathinn.net). The restaurant was formerly owned by Clint Eastwood, who also served as Carmel’s mayor in the 1980s. Black-and-white photographs of the prolific actor and director freckle the wood-paneled walls, and the menu boasts Californian delicacies like sautéed sanddabs drenched in lemon-caper-butter sauce.
Pit Stop No. 3: Big Sur Village
From Carmel, take the Pacific Coast Highway 37 miles south to the heart of the Big Sur region. At Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (parks.ca.gov), a cash-only $10 entrance fee, limited parking and a short trek give way to a scenic overlook suspended above McWay Falls, an 80-foot waterfall surrounded by craggy cliffs and cerulean waves serenely lapping at the shore.
Several small outposts are scattered among the trees along the Big Sur byway. Stop for photos and sustenance at Big Sur River Inn (bigsurriverinn.com), which has been providing solace to weary travelers for more than a century. The property’s restaurant serves Californian cuisine with a south-of-the-border slant – think creamy avocado and crab timbale, shrimp ceviche and catfish tacos. The outdoor patio overlooks a tranquil sliver of the Big Sur River, which extends nearly 16 miles parallel to the Pacific Ocean.
Continue about 10 miles up the coast to Bixby Bridge, often described as “the gateway to Big Sur.” Towering more than 250 feet above a steep canyon, the bridge is one of the most photographed places along this storied coastal expanse.
Planes, Trains & Automobiles
American Airlines (aa.com) offers direct flights from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to Monterey Regional Airport, where you can rent a car to start your Central Coast road trip. For a more leisurely and scenic route, fly into Los Angeles and take the Coast Starlight train (amtrak.com), which travels along the coast to Monterey County.
Pounding the Pavement in Pasadena
Nestled at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains, this historical L.A. community has a lot more to offer than little old ladies and rose parades.
Famed for the Rose Bowl and name-checked in a certain Beach Boys song, Pasadena makes for a ridiculously easy fly-in jaunt for Phoenicians. Nonstop flights from Phoenix Sky Harbor to Hollywood Burbank Airport run a brisk 80 minutes. From there, it’s a 10-minute drive to this handsome, hillside city of 135,000.
So, why go? To put succinctly: It’s Los Angeles with less Los Angeles. Less congestion, less pretense and fewer things that go bump in the night, but with abundant culinary and cultural endowments, and a general flavor of gentility that settles warmly over its Craftsman architecture and sundry college campuses. All that, and some great hiking.
Abutting the iconic Spanish Colonial dome and plazas of City Hall, the Westin Pasadena (marriott.com) is uniquely well-equipped as a home base for your City of Roses sojourn. For starters, it’s located within walking distance of both Pasadena’s modern business district and historical downtown. Also great: The mezzanine pool deck, which has commanding sunset-facing views of Old Pasadena. Finally, the on-site Ventanas Restaurant & Bar is one of the city’s most scenic places to have breakfast, splayed on a tiered, terra cotta patio outside the hotel.
Speaking of A.M. dining, you’ll find three first-rate caffeination stations within strolling distance of the hotel: Republik Coffee Lounge (republikcoffee.com) in Pasadena’s pleasantly bustling business district (it’s also a great lunch spot, with bread-borne beauties like truffle mushroom-Brie toast served until 5 p.m. on its sidewalk patio); Amara Coffee and Chocolate (amaracafe.com), which, contrary to what the name might suggest, specializes in hearty, South American fare like arepas and Venezuelan pancakes; and Magnolia House (themaghouse.com), a classic “boozy brunch” haunt in the Chelsea’s Kitchen mold, with craft cocktails and aspirational waffle dishes.
As a culinary entity, Pasadena offers an intriguing cocktail of immigrant-influenced cuisine (it boasts several Armenian restaurants, for instance), classic Americana (purportedly, a 1920s-era Pasadena food stand called The Rite Spot was the birthplace of the cheeseburger) and modern fusion fare. Packed with happy diners even on weekday nights, Union in Old Pasadena (unionpasadena.com) fits snugly in the modern fusion category, beloved for painting classic Northern Italian cooking with subtle swipes of California cuisine (case in point: ribeye with black garlic saba and poblano chimichurri).
One other must-visit: Bone Kettle (bonekettle.com), a modern Indonesian restaurant from Wolfgang Puck-trained chef Erwin Tjahyadi, conceived primarily around the wafting, aromatic delights of house-made bone broth, which is poured tableside out of stainless-steel pitchers into bowls of chewy ramen noodles and sprigs of herbs. Served alongside an energetically seasoned selection of small plates and sambal-spiced entrées, the broth is a goldmine of richness and murk that makes for a singular dining experience. It’s also a vaguely painful reminder of the great Indonesian restaurants we don’t have
After all the eating, you’ll want to burn a few calories. The gym at the Westin is terrific, but the most popular form of exercise in Pasadena, hands down, is the historical walking tour.
Conveniently itemized on the City of Pasadena website (cityofpasadena.net) are several tours centered around the city’s rich architectural history, including Craftsman Bungalow walking tours, a Colonial Revival mansion walking tour of the Pegfair Estates area and a Victorian Era Grandeur walking tour. For generalists, there’s also a City of Roses tour of the Old Town area, led by a knowledgeable docent who can answer any question about Pasadena’s origins as a resort town for well-heeled Angelenos, and modern revival as a seat of academic institutions like Cal Tech and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Other ways to get a Pasadena workout: Go to one of the yearly music festivals staged at the Rose Bowl (see sidebar) or head for the hills, literally. With the San Gabriel Mountains nearby, north Pasadena offers numerous nature excursions, including Eaton Canyon Falls (parks.lacounty.gov), a beginner-friendly, 3.8-mile round trip trek to a shaded 40-foot waterfall.
So, to recap: Walking tours, Indonesian food and waterfalls. What more convincing should a summer-weary Phoenician need?
— Craig Outhier
More than 50 breweries and untold acreage of lederhosen are scheduled to descend on the Rose Bowl for Craftoberfest. Prost! Dates TBD. craftoberfestlosangeles.com
Days of Rock & Roses
Surrounded by grassy golf fairways, the Rose Bowl has become a choice rock festival staging ground in Greater Los Angeles.
’80s post-punk and goth-pop rule at this spring festival. 2023 acts included Iggy Pop, Billy Idol and Love and Rockets. Held in May. cruelworldfest.com
Just Like Heaven
Also held in May, this millennial-focused fest leans hard into the indie rock stars of the aughts – MGMT, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Empire of the Sun all played in 2023. justlikeheavenfest.com
Ain’t No Picnic
A star-studded 2022 indie rock lineup (LCD Soundsystem, The Strokes, Phoebe Bridgers) couldn’t rescue this Goldenvoice-produced event from a 2023 cancellation. If they resurrect it in 2024, look for a late August date. thisaintnopicnic.com
Numerous carriers have daily nonstop routes to Hollywood Burbank Airport (hollywoodburbankairport.com).
Riverside-Orange County Road Trip
Leave the driving to yourself with this pop-in/pop-out SoCal weekender.
Though summer is the region’s official “high season,” true connoisseurs of Southern California beach culture prize the fall months of September and October above all others. That’s when the balmy Santa Ana winds start doing their thing, cooling the days and warming the evenings. Meanwhile, the mighty Pacific stubbornly clings to summer, with tepid, not-yet-chilly water temperatures friendly to all-day water play. This California autumn dream can be yours with an easy Phoenix-to-O.C. road trip.
Leg No. 1: Phoenix to Riverside
Veteran commuters sometimes boast they can make the Arizona-to-beach drive in a brisk five hours, traffic permitting. Even so: Why not break the trip up a bit with a layover in Riverside, seat of California’s Inland Empire? A one-time citrus capital with the nation’s highest per-capita income (circa 1895), the city is anchored historically by the Mission Inn (missioninn.com), a magnificent hacienda-like property that holds the distinction of being the largest Mission Revival building in the United States. Combining Old World style (the five-story rotunda is a show-stopper) with modern appointments (including swank steakhouse Duane’s, along with two other on-site restaurants), it’s basically the Inland Empire’s version of the Arizona Biltmore, with the long list of luminary guests (including 10 presidents) to prove it.
Located in the heart of historical downtown Riverside, the inn is also within walking distance of numerous sights and cultural diversions, including the Riverside Art Museum (riversideartmuseum.org) and a variety of street fairs (riversideca.gov/calendar).
Leg No. 2: Riverside to Newport Beach
Whether or not you choose to make it your final OC destination, Newport Beach beckons. Riding in on the Costa Mesa Freeway (SR 55), you’d do well to grab lunch at Taco Mesa (tacomesa.com), a Modern Mexican fast-casual set in a former Taco Bell that has been hooking OCers on the delights of cheesy carnitas quesadillas and blackened calamari tacos for more than 30 years.
A wise second move: Rent an open-air electric vehicle at Newport Beach MOKE (newportbeachmoke.com) to conduct a proper exploration of Newport, which is less a “beach” than a handsome, sun-swept labyrinth of small islands, bays, estuaries and peninsulas, all connected by bridges and narrow roads. Your delightful, easily parkable MOKE will be the perfect companion.
Finally, if you choose to pitch your tent in Newport, book a room at Lido House (lidohousehotel.com), part of Marriott’s Autograph collection and the jewel of modern Newport’s hospitality scene. Done in Cape Cod-style wainscoting with a maritime theme throughout, it offers much to keep you entertained, including all-day flagship restaurant The Mayor’s Table, helmed by chef Riley Huddleston. Don’t leave without diving nose-first into the terrific breakfast menu, featuring chilaquiles with tender, tangy chicken tinga and avocado toast with confit spring onions.
Leg No. 3: Newport Beach to Dana Point
Banking south on Pacific Coast Highway, you’ll glide pass the Gold Coast towns of Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach en route to Dana Point. Sitting atop OC’s picturesque, low-key South Coast region, the enclave of 35,000 has come a long way, hospitality-wise, since its humble surfer-town origins – a transformation best exemplified by the Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort & Club (waldorfastoriamonarchbeach.com). Unveiled in the early 2000s, the Monarch Beach is one of the most enticingly insular resorts on the West Coast, with jackpot views of the ocean afforded by its protected positioning on a lush, tree-covered coastal bluff. Fancy a workout and rubdown? The fitness center and spa is massive and impeccably appointed. Feel like a dinner splurge? The resort boasts arguably the glitziest restaurant in the South County in Bourbon Steak, where the culinary acolytes of celebrity chef Michael Mina do pitch-perfect renditions of his beloved caviar parfait and roasted bone marrow steak tartare, a faintingly delicious small plate served with a sheath of crunchy crostini.
There’s even a complimentary shuttle cart to whisk you off the bluff into the sunny embrace of Salt Creek Beach below, a tidy, well-groomed beach playground sheltered from the crowds by a rocky escarpment. In short, the Monarch Beach is the kind of place you want to crawl into like a cocoon and not bother to leave. Until that five-hour drive beckons, anyway.
— Craig Outhier
Created in 2022 by an endowment from comedy legend Cheech Marin, this one-of-a-kind super-exhibit occupies an entire wing of the Riverside Art Museum and is rightly regarded as the most lavish and engaging collection of Chicano art in the world. Keep an eye peeled for several pieces with Arizona origins. riversideartmuseum.org
Head north on the Pacific Coast Highway to rowdy Huntington Beach for Oktoberfest at the Biergarten at Old World Huntington Beach. September 17 through November 5. oldworldhb.com
You’ve heard of the Interstate 10? Drive west on it… and don’t forget to take the SR-60 shortcut to bypass San Bernardino into Orange County.
Lo-Do Bike Blitz
Denver’s lower downtown district is a manna for culture vultures and pedal-heads.
Contrary to popular perception, America’s “Mile High City” is not a particularly mountainous or forested place. “It’s called the Queen City of the Plains, not the Queen City of the Rockies, for a reason,” tour guide Jared Ozga says while maneuvering his all-electric eTuk cart through the city’s theater district. “It’s pretty flat here, and not a whole lot of trees.”
For visitors who crave an alpine experience, that means driving about an hour west into the Colorado Rocky Mountains and its legendary harem of ski towns. But for weekenders with more citified aspirations – chef-driven restaurants and a bikeable smorgasbord of arts and events, all in the cradle of Denver’s deliciously mild fall weather – it means staying blessedly, carlessly put.
Day 1: Plane, Train & 5-Speed
When it comes to Denver’s lower downtown area, known by its catchy portmanteau, Lo-Do, the “going carless” concept isn’t just lip service – it truly is the best way to visit the place. After flying into Denver International Airport, located about 20 miles from central Denver, you’ll take a quick walk to a rail depot located near the baggage carousels and board the “A train” to Lo-Do’s Union Station. Minutes later, the train spits you out into the heart of downtown. So, so easy.
At this point, you’re within steps of several appealing hotels that have sprung up around Union Station over the past 25 years as the once-blighted area has been reborn as a business and entertainment hub. If you’re serious about exploring Lo-Do on bike, you’ll hardly do better than Limelight Hotel, a terrifically stylish boutique stay-over that lends five-speed city bikes free to guests (limelighthotels.com/denver). Among the hotel’s many attributes: Citizen Rail, its on-site, chef-driven gastropub, which excels both with small culinary touches (e.g. the house-made orgeat and rose syrup in its craft cocktails) and grand gastronomy gestures (e.g. delectable steelhead trout, poached and served on its own crispy skin with a wardrobe of oyster-Champagne cream and smoked salmon roe).
To work off dinner, take a post-prandial stroll to Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies, located less than 1 mile from the hotel.
Day 2: Arts & Weed Worship
For phase one of your Denver bike excursion, it pays to pedal south. Heading down 16th Street from Lo-Do, it’s about 2 miles to Civic Center Park, home of the impressive neo-classical Denver City Hall, the Colorado State Capitol and a nearby welter of big-ticket cultural attractions, including the Denver Art Museum. Respected for its cache of America Western and 19th-century Impressionist art, the museum recently added an entirely new, four-level wing. Photo op: Gustave Doré’s “Les Saltimbanques” (1874), a tortuously profound painting depicting destitute Parisian street acrobats mourning the death of their child.
Bike a couple miles farther south and you’ll stumble on a true Denver original, the International Church of Cannabis (elevationists.org). Set in a converted, early 20th-century Lutheran church, it’s a shrine to all things THC (read: plenty of video game consoles, motivation-sapping plush couches and The Simpsons black light posters) and the gathering place of local parishioners that call themselves Elevationists. Be warned: The four-times-daily public gathering ($20) in the main chapel is essentially a Pink Floyd light show with some sententious stoner voice-over, but what do you expect from THC devotees? Sit back and enjoy.
After returning to Lo-Do, nearby dinner options are plentiful, but none more captivating than Mercantile (mercantiledenver.com), arguably the city’s leading farm-to-table restaurant. Sourcing from his own produce grow-op, Fruition Farms, chef Alex Seidel turns dishes like bucatini with caramelized leeks and burrata salad strewn with heirloom pole beans into feats of culinary holism. For the entrée, get whatever iteration of Seidel’s pan-roasted duck breast happens to be on the seasonal menu – and that goes double if it’s the one that’s lightly brined with maple leaf and served with sunchokes and cherries. Absolutely, insanely good.
Day 3: Meow Wolf & Riverside Cruise
Peddling north on 15th Street, you’ll leave Lo-Do for the hilly Lower Highland neighborhood, where local brunch enthusiasts have found a valued ally in Fox and The Hen (foxandthehen.com), a new all-day concept from Top Chef alum Carrie Baird. Known for its creative menu of A.M.-friendly cocktails, the restaurant also serves terrific breakfast tacos and a Bobbly-Flay-beating huevos rancheros: two sunny-side-up eggs served chilaquiles-style on a crispy corn tortilla over a tangy bath of chunky tomatillo salsa and black beans.
Gliding down Zuni Street from the restaurant, you’ll bank westward and pass Mile High Stadium on a pleasant bike lane that joins with the South Platte River Trail and takes you in short order to Meow Wolf Convergence Station (meowwolf.com/visit/denver) – an arena-size labyrinth of family-friendly psychedelia that’s difficult to describe and harder to resist. This is the newest and largest of the three extant locations of Meow Wolf, a New Mexico-based artist collective that’s been described as the “Disney of the experience economy.” Essentially, it’s a PG-rated indoor Burning Man, with jaw-dropping set pieces (e.g. a three-story, tree-like “super organism” that you can climb through) and an endless arsenal of clever, interactive curios that will whisk you away from reality and keep you entertained for hours.
After getting your fill of Meow Wolf, a bike cruise of the South Platte River Trail is the perfect afternoon-capper. Stretching roughly 12 miles along South Platte River – a sizeable tributary to the Rio Grande that cuts through the middle of downtown – the trail is studded with breweries, landmarks and lovely views of the Rockies (denver.org/things-to-do/sports-recreation/bike-trails/#platte). Get your fill – it’s still hot back home.
— Craig Outhier
Bike Alternative: eTuk
Not up for the quad workout? Take a guided 90-minute tour of downtown in an all-electric, three-wheel eTuk cart, piloted by knowledgeable locals with a yen for all things Denver. etukride.com/denver
A staple two-weekend festival in downtown Denver since 1969, Denver Oktoberfest offers everything from keg bowling to stein hoisting, live music and more. September 22 and 29. thedenveroktoberfest.com
Southwest, United, American and Frontier Airlines all fly nonstop from Phoenix to Denver.
3 Reasons to Visit Lubbock
For a well-rounded fall or late-summer sojourn, go east… to West Texas.
Dubbed the “Hub City” of West Texas thanks to its historical nexus of highways and railroad lines, Lubbock has evolved into a hub for health care, agriculture and education. And wineries. And public art. Just a few reasons to brave the mighty South Plains winds for a fall visit.
No. 1: It’s retro fun.
Students of rock ’n’ roll history know Lubbock as the birthplace of Buddy Holly. Its most beloved native son lives on all over town: in murals in the Depot District, at the Buddy Holly Center museum and art galleries (buddyhollycenter.org), in sculpture form at The West Texas Walk of Fame (civiclubbock.org/walk-of-fame) and at the new The Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences (buddyhollyhall.com), where you can take in a touring Broadway show or see the Lubbock Symphony perform. His omnipresence gives the city a 1950s sheen.
There’s also a retro-cool vibe at Dirk’s (dirkslbk.com), a throwback to old-school West Texas diners devoted to Southern cuisine: fried chicken, steak fingers, gumbo and grits. It’s wallpapered in midcentury cartoons by Dirk West, a Lubbock journalist and political cartoonist who served as mayor from 1978-1980. Lubbock restaurateur Cameron West (The West Table Kitchen and Bar) opened the eatery in 2020 to honor his late grandfather, whose “Raider Red” mascot he created for Texas Tech University graces a mural on the side of the building. It makes for a fun photo op – heed TTU’s slogan and put your “Guns up!” for a souvenir pic.
Take it even further back in time with a visit to the National Ranching Heritage Center (ranchingheritage.org), a 27-acre museum and “outdoor historical park” that tells the story of ranchers in America through authentic historical ranch buildings that pepper the property. Docents are available for trolley tours (Thursday mornings at 10:30 a.m., $5 per person) and fans of Yellowstone can walk through a barn from the real 6666 Ranch on which the series is filmed, plus see costumes from it and its prequel, 1883.
No. 2: There’s great wine – and lots of it.
Like Arizona, Texas has a thriving, yet tragically underappreciated, wine industry. Though most of the Lone Star State’s roughly 400 wineries are clustered in the Hill Country near Austin, the bulk of the state’s grapes (around 90 percent) are grown in the High Plains in and around Lubbock. Llano Estacado Winery (llanowine.com) is the vino pioneer – it’s been in operation since 1976 and is the largest producer in the state. Sip a bold and fruity Marsanne or a dark and smoky Aglianico in its tasting room on the outskirts of town. In the downtown area, McPherson Cellars (mcphersoncellars.com) is set in a 1930s building that for decades housed a Coca-Cola bottling plant. Try the Carignan, an aromatic elixir redolent of raspberry and leather.
You’ll also find Texas wine at The Nicolett (nicolettrestaurant.com), which was named one of Bon Appétit’s Best New Restaurants in America in 2022. Chef-owner Finn Walter is a native Lubbockite who left home to cook in restaurants in Paris and Napa Valley. When he returned, he melded his classic French training with West Texas ingredients and approaches: caviar piled atop a plank of yucca; Wagyu flanken ribs with juniper and chiles; brisket-style lamb neck with Texas olive oil and nopales. Walter’s Lubbock love is working – he was a James Beard Foundation award semifinalist in 2022.
No. 3: The public art scene is top-notch.
Lubbock is definitely a college town – Texas Tech dominates the city culturally, economically and geographically. Sprawling more than 1,900 acres, it’s the second-largest contiguous college campus in the U.S. Dotted throughout it are more than 150 artworks in the Texas Tech University System Public Art Collection (ttuspublicart.com), which range from sculptures to digital work by artists from around the world. The university has a neat “1 percent” rule, wherein 1 percent of the budget for every new building on campus goes toward commissioning a public art piece for said building. Pro tip: Book an Art Cart trolley tour (suggested donation: $10 per person) to save your feet.
Lubbock artist Charles Adams wanted to invest in local working artists, so he started the Charles Adams Studio Project (CASP) in 2009 (casp-arts.org), helping artists secure living, studio and exhibition spaces in exchange for showing their work. Nearby Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts (LHUCA) is another driving force, with galleries, a theater, a clay studio and an outdoor plaza with a stage for performances (lhuca.org). LHUCA and CASP anchor the First Friday Art Trail, a self-guided studio tour/outdoor market/concert series that rivals First Fridays on Roosevelt Row – not too shabby for a city with a population of about 261,000.
— Leah LeMoine
Where to Stay
West Texas’ cotton industry permeates the Cotton Court Hotel (cottoncourthotel.com), a boutique hostelry designed to look like a cotton warehouse meets a revamped motor court. Botanical drawings of the staple fiber and bouquets of dried cotton stems hang on the walls alongside Buddy Holly quotes stitched on canvases. A huge courtyard boasts a fire pit, pool and bar, where you can order Lubbock’s signature cocktail, the Chilton – vodka, lemon juice and club soda with a salted rim – or its pan-Texan cousin, ranch water (tequila, lime and sparkling water).
American Airlines (aa.com) offers nonstop flights from Phoenix to Lubbock. It’s a roughly two-hour flight.
Cruise the Alaskan Riviera
Thematically, this water-borne bonanza of coastal wildlife and glacial ice is as far as you’ll get from Arizona without leaving the West.
Known as America’s “last frontier,” Alaska might also represent your last, best shot for a heat-beating getaway – in the form of a late-summer cruise. Cruise lines fill Alaska’s ports of call throughout the summer and into September, including Celebrity Cruises (celebritycruises.com). The line’s seven-night “Alaska Dawes Glacier” cruise departs from Seattle and makes four stops.
Port of Call No. 1: Ketchikan
Surrounded by the Tongass National Forest – the largest U.S. National Forest at 16.7 million acres – Ketchikan is also known as “Alaska’s first city” because of its position at the tip of the state’s southern archipelago, known as the Inside Passage. It also boasts the world’s largest collection of standing totem poles.
Take a leisurely stroll through Tongass (fs.usda.gov/tongass) with a nature guide, who can explain things like what the green fuzz is covering all the trees (it’s lichen, which only grows in environments with pristine air) and why you should not eat the skunk cabbage plant (unless you’re into laxatives). Hemlock, Sitka spruce and Alaska yellow cedar trees create a kaleidoscopic canopy. Emerge from your rainforest hike at Totem Bight State Historical Park, a 33-acre park packed with totem poles carved by Native Alaskan peoples.
What to Eat/Drink
Since Ketchikan is known as “The Salmon Capital of the World,” you might want to check out local favorites Alaska Fish House (exclusivealaska.com/fish-house), which prides itself on its ginger salmon cakes, or Annabelle’s Famous Keg and Chowder House (annabellesketchikan.com), where the thyme-spiked smoked salmon chowder inspires rave reviews.
Port of Call No. 2: Juneau
Juneau is one of only two state capitals not connected to North America by road. (Can you guess the other? It rhymes with “Ponolulu.”) Because of the jagged and rough terrain that surrounds it, Juneau is not even connected to the rest of Alaska by road, making it accessible only by plane or boat.
In addition to wonderful whale-watching, Juneau offers explorations of Mendenhall Glacier, a 13-mile-long glacier featuring hiking trails, waterfalls, snow caves and a visitor’s center. Alaska Shore Excursions (alaskashoreexcursions.com/juneau) offers numerous adventures, including tours by canoe and helicopter and a hands-on dogsledding tour with exclusive access to a musher’s camp.
What to Eat/Drink
Craft beer is a big deal in this city of 32,000. Spruce brews rule the scene at Alaska Brewing Co. (alaskanbeer.com) with seven kinds of spruce hard seltzer, Barnaby Brewing Co. (barnabybrew.com) and its Goods from the Woods Spruce Tip Pale Ale and Forbidden Peak Brewery (forbiddenpeak.com) with its Red Spruce Ale. Devil’s Club Brewing Co. (devilsclubbrewing.com) opts for even more earthy favors, like lagers open-fermented in oak and tea-inspired milkshake IPAs.
Port of Call No. 3: Skagway
Skagway was an important port during the Klondike Gold Rush, and it has a history of drunken brawls and prospering brothels. Skagway’s population of roughly 1,200 doubles every summer in order to accommodate the more than 1 million tourists who visit the rustic town.
A popular attraction is the White Pass Scenic Railway (wpyr.com), which takes visitors high into the mountains, past Bennett, British Columbia, and into the Yukon before turning around. Back in town, historic brothel tours are also popular. The Ghosts & Goodtime Girls Walking Tour (skagway.com/listing/red-onion-tours/203) is a crowd-pleaser across cruise lines. Tour guides dress in lacy black and red dresses and use pseudonyms like “Betty Sheets” and “Enya Dreams.” The two-hour walking tour includes stops at several “houses of negotiable affection” from Skagway’s gold rush days and concludes at the historic Red Onion Saloon (redonion1898.com) with a Champagne toast.
What to Eat/Drink
For a small town, Skagway has a lot of eateries (more than two dozen). Several can be found along Broadway, offering everything from pizza at Skagway Pizza Parlor (skagwaypizzaparlor.com) to breakfast at Bites On Broadway (facebook.com/bitesonbroadway) and seafood at Skagway Fish Company (facebook.com/skagwayfishco).
Final Port of Call: Victoria, British Columbia
Victoria is known as “The Garden City,” and no stop here would be complete without a visit to The Butchart Gardens (butchartgardens.com), a 55-acre floral fantasia featuring seasonal displays. In the fall, look for Japanese maple trees, coneflower, dahlias and chrysanthemums. Then take a stroll through Beacon Hill Park (victoria.ca/EN/main/residents/parks/beacon-hill.html) to see an ecosystem of Garry oak trees, which shed their leaves in autumn, revealing labyrinthine branches covered in moss.
If you’re into architecture, take a shore excursion to Craigdarroch Castle (thecastle.ca). This four-story Romanesque mansion was constructed in 1890 for a coal baron and showcases luxury furniture from the period, intricate woodwork and 32 of the original stained-glass art windows.
What to Eat/Drink
Throw a slab of Canadian bacon, and you’re likely to hit a brunch place in Victoria, deemed “The Brunch Capital of Canada.” Hot nosh spots include Nourish Kitchen & Cafe (nourishkitchen.ca), Blue Fox Café (thebluefoxcafe.com) and Jam Café (jamcafes.com).
— Niki D’Andrea
Dawes Glacier Deets
Located in the Endicott Arm fjord 50 miles southeast of Juneau, Dawes Glacier’s face spans hundreds of feet high and provides a breeding ground for harbor seals. It’s named after Massachusetts politician Henry Laurens Dawes and makes for gourmet eye-candy.
Alaska Wildlife Roll call
Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary
Located 8 miles from Ketchikan in Herring Cove, this 40-acre rainforest sanctuary is home to black bears, owls, falcons, bald eagles and salmon, which spawn in the streams of Eagle Creek. kawanti.com
Alaska Galore Tours
Operating out of Juneau, Alaska Galore offers whale-watching tours on small boats that give passengers intimate glimpses of orcas, humpbacks and sea lions. alaska-galore-juneau-whale-watching.com
White Pass Scenic Railway
Take the 1898 White Pass & Yukon Route railroad on a 40-mile round-trip journey from Skagway into the Yukon for chances to see wolverines, mountain goats and otters. wpyr.com
One-Brewery Arizona Towns
Want to get to know a place? Drink its craft beer. That’s the philosophy behind this roundup of remote Arizona towns and the suds-slinging unicorns therein.
Copper Brothel Brewery in Sonoita
Many have asked, but there are no upstairs rooms despite the word “brothel” on the sign. Family-owned and female-brewed, Copper Brothel Brewery – located on the hilly, wind-swept grasslands of Southern Arizona wine country – opened in 2018 by leaning into Arizona’s Wild West history and the world’s oldest profession.
“The Copper Brothel name comes from the Marty Robbins song El Paso, where it mentions a girl from Rosa’s Cantina and falling in love with her” co-owner Garrett Jesser says. “Brothels were the cornerstone of mining towns in Arizona, and this is our homage to women and those roles in the Wild West.”
Saddle up to the bar inside the cozy, industrial ranch-style brewpub, and you’ll notice the beer names go along with the all-female theme, e.g., Felina Oatmeal Stout and Maggie Mae Pale Ale. Six flagship beers – including an American wheat, a blonde ale and a Mexican cream ale – are always on tap, along with several seasonals, all the creative work of self-taught head brewer Samantha Jesser. The Mexican cream ale pairs well with the battered-to-order fish and chips, one of roughly two dozen dishes available from the scratch kitchen menu.
“We did everything we could to make this a true destination,” Jesser says. “If you’re going to commit to a three-hour drive, we’ll make it worth your while.”
— Matt Johnson
Copper Brothel Brewery
3112 AZ-83, Sonoita
Tirrito Farm in Willcox
The Brewery at Tirrito Farm needs no introduction to the craft beer community in Southern Arizona. Head brewer Andrew Walter’s reputation does the talking. “The first time we went to sell our beer in stores, they saw who brewed it and didn’t even need to taste it,” recalls owner Yuri Tirrito. “They said, ‘If he brewed it, we know it’s good.’”
Walter, a former assistant brewer at Tombstone Brewing Company, was hand-picked by Yuri and her husband, Dr. Sal Tirrito, to create a microbrewery in an area where wine thrives and beer was lacking – namely, Willcox, an agrarian community about 90 miles east of Tucson. “I’ve been homebrewing beer for a long time; I don’t like wine,” Sal says. “We didn’t want to compete with other vineyards in the Willcox area. We wanted to build a place where people can enjoy our beer.”
Tirrito Farm has now built itself into a craft beer travel destination, winning converts with its light and crisp Helles Lager and the citrusy, white-wine flavors of its West Coast Pilsner. (If you catch it in season, the Barrel-Aged Doppelbock is also a must-try.) But beer is hardly the sum of this unique foodie playground, which also features an on-site restaurant, simply called The Kitchen, plus a wine tasting room, event space, dairy, retail shop, farm tours, paintball arena and three guest suites for an overnight stay.
— Matt Johnson
The Brewery at Tirrito Farm
6150 S. Kansas
Settlement Rd., Willcox, 520-200-7270, tirritofarm.com
This fall, craft beer lovers are invited to make the trek to Willcox for Oktoberfiesta at Tirrito Farm, its first ever Oktoberfest beer festival on Saturday, September 30, from noon-5 p.m. Tickets range from $10-$30 on eventbrite.com.
Insurgent Brewing Co. in Chino Valley
Tucked away in Chino Valley, about 15 miles north of Prescott, is Insurgent Brewing Co., a 7-year-old craft beer hideaway in the high desert. From classic styles like Barefoot German Blonde, Redneck City Ale and Pronghorn Pale Ale to more unique brews like the Bad Buddha Chai Tea Spiced Ale or the Limes & Punishment key lime milkshake IPA, head brewer and owner Rob Valenzuela likes to stretch the operational limits of his three-barrel system, supplying his 17 taps with a diverse and expressive lineup.
The brewery has made a fetching addition to the town of 14,000, which is also a known commodity in the wine world, with two estate wineries – Granite Creek Vineyards and Del Rio Springs Vineyard – located in town.
Attracing loyal locals as well as road-trippers passing through from Prescott en route to the I-40, Insurgent is worth the trip, especially to enjoy the singular Bad Buddha Chai Tea Spiced Ale, a 9-percent ABV hammer that features chai, juniper berries, orange peel, ginger and other spices. It’s akin to an old Finnish style of farmhouse ale called a sahti, and is a true one-of-a-kind in Arizona.
— Johann Warnholtz
Insurgent Brewing Co.
990 Hwy. 89, Chino Valley, 928-636-9077, insurgentbrewingco.com
Knock out your fall-color watching and Oktoberfest drinking in one fell swoop with the Verde Canyon Railroad’s Ales on Rails tour. Enjoy four samples from a wide variety of Arizona brewing while beholding the arboreal beauty of the four-hour, 20-mile ride from Clarksville to Perkinsville in the Verde Valley. Daily trips September 12-October 31. verdecanyonrr.com