Close To Home — Weekend In Phoenix

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We travel to far away places for fun, excitement and some relaxation, but why not consider the greater Phoenix area? It’s the fifth largest city in the United States and this time of year usually provides temperatures in the middle 70s.

I would suggest planning at least a three-day visit in order to really experience some of the many interesting places and events in the area.

It’s really an easy city to get around in; all you need is a map or GPS system to ease your way.

I would suggest finding a hotel or resort in Scottsdale. It’s an interesting area and offers so much in the way of day and night action. There are many great resorts here and you may check them out on the Internet before booking a reservation. Keep in mind this is the high season for hotel and resort rates since winter is the best time of year to visit. Why not try a high-end resort for a couple nights so you can feel like you have really been on a vacation. The rates generally tell you how deluxe the resort is.

What to do? It depends on if you like to walk, drive, visit beautiful gardens, art museums and the like, or are more into the outdoors. Perhaps you like to shop for clothing, furniture for your home or just look around at the shops and stores to get some ideas. Don’t forget to give yourself some time to relax and get some sun around a swimming pool.

Ever been to the Heard Museum? It is unique in that it exhibits items and features that most other museums do not. Take for instance the Barry Goldwater collection of Kachina Dolls. There are world famous collections here that you are bound to enjoy. All year there are special events and you can check these out on the Internet.

If you are a baseball fan, Chase Field was the first baseball facility in the world to combine a retractable roof, air conditioning and a natural turf field.

You can have dinner here at Friday’s Front Row Sports Grill. It is located in the left-field corner of the ballpark. It is open seven days per week. Chase Field is located in downtown Phoenix.

At the Desert Botanical Garden you will find one of the world’s finest collections of desert plants. It is one of only 44 botanical gardens accredited by the American Association of Museums. There are 50 acres of beautiful outdoor exhibits. It is home to 139 rare, threatened and endangered plant species from around the world. The garden is located in Papago Park in Central Phoenix.

There is the Scottsdale Art Walk where some 100 art galleries are located. The time for this perhaps is in the late afternoon. Featured artists can be viewed and sometimes there are special themed events taking place.

The Boyce Thompson Arboretum brings together plants from the desert. You will see more than 3,200 different plants here along a one and a half mile trail. More than 250 species of birds have been seen here also.

In the mood to climb a peak or Camelback Mountain? Piestewa Peak, formerly known as Squaw Peak, is part of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. The peak’s elevation is 2,608 feet. You would hike the Summit Trail and not be alone. Many hikers use this trail for exercise. Dogs and bicycles are not permitted on this trail at any time because 4,000 to 10,000 hikers use this each week.

And then there is the Rawhide Western Town and Steakhouse. This is a great place to take the kids. They can experience gunfights, stunt shows, stagecoach rides, desert train rides and enjoy the petting zoo. You can visit a blacksmith shop, a western store, go horseback riding and so much more. There is a small admission fee and often there are themed events and special shows around the holidays.

How about the Phoenix Zoo? It’s a good one and the younger ones will love seeing the animals and getting up close to really examine them. Winter is also the perfect time to visit the zoo since the outside temperatures will not be blazing as they are in summer. Be prepared for a lot of walking here.

While the animal viewing will be limited, the zoo has its great lighting displays up for the holidays, staying open late for everyone to enjoy. Another notable light display can be found at the Glendale Glitters event.

If you are into a car trip, you will enjoy the Apache Trail.

Your adventure will begin in Apache Junction, about 25 miles east of downtown Phoenix. The 46 miles between Apache Junction and Roosevelt Lake provides not only the most scenic part of the trip but also the most challenging driving. Along the way, you’ll pass the Lost Dutchman State Park, Goldfield Ghost Town, Saguaro Lake, the Canyon Lake Recreation Area, the Theodore Roosevelt Dam site, and the Tonto National Monument. This is a great day trip and very photogenic. After, you can relax in your resort’s pool before dinner.

There are more than 200 golf courses in the greater Phoenix area. Try a couple while you are in the area.

There is the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, which focuses on modern and contemporary art, architecture and design. Here you will find five galleries plus an outdoor sculpture garden. The museum offers a variety of educational programs and special events for adults and families. There are also lectures scheduled throughout the year.

South Mountain Park is more than 16,000 acres of preserve and considered the largest municipal park in the country. There are more than 50 miles of trails for horseback riding, hiking, biking or you can simply drive to Dobbins Point to get a fantastic view of the Valley of the Sun. It’s just over five miles from Central Avenue to Dobbins Lookout.

It is always interesting to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Tallesin West located in Scottsdale just off Frank Lloyd Wright Ave. This is a living memorial to a great American architect. It houses the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and School of Architecture. Take at least one of the tours to fully understand what this great man was about. He was one of the founders of modern architecture in America. He also designed the furniture to be placed in his designed homes and office buildings.

In the mood for some great shopping? Try the Scottsdale Fashion Square for a beginning. Many of the high-end shops are to be found here as well as several department stores of note. Even if you do not purchase anything, a visit is fun. There is a food court here for lunch if you like as well as a movie theatre.

If you are bringing the kids, consider the Arizona Museum for Youth. This is a great place for kids and teens. Grownups can also walk the pathway to imagination.

The Arizona Science Center is good for a day of action at their fantastic Planetarium, or in the spectacular, informative IMAX theatre with the five-story screen. We have taken the grandchildren here and they love it. There are enriching exhibits and activities. The young ones will never be bored here and the adults will enjoy it also.

Castles and Coasters is a thrilling sky-high roller coaster and water rides. You’ll find here miniature golf, an old-fashioned carousel and many other features for the younger ones.

Jambo Park is a 28,000-square-foot, climate controlled, indoor amusement park with the young people’s favorite rides — mini roller coaster, carousel, bumper cars, monkey barrels, spinning cups, safari train, and jet airplane ride and add tunnels and slides in the soft play area.

Makutu’s Island is a 20,000-square-foot, multi-level indoor playground in Chandler. It’s great fun for children and adults alike. You will find a roaring waterfall, towering trees and enchanting caves.

What kid doesn’t like trains? The McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park located in the heart of Scottsdale is the most unique park of its kind. There are narrow gage train rides, model train displays and actual rail cars to walk through. Picnic areas are also available.

At the F-1 Race Factory you’ll see high-speed indoor kart racing, rock climbing, billiards, arcade games, and a Trackside Bar and Grill with 40 TV sets.

At the Fiddlesticks Family Fun Park there is entertainment for everyone. There are Go-karts, batting cages, a lighted driving range, miniature golf and much more.

Have a wonderful time in the greater Phoenix area and get some sun!

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