Arizona Adventures Begging To Be Discovered
It is no secret that Arizona is a mecca for people seeking warmer and drier climates. Balmy year-round temperatures and wide-open urban plains are the perfect settings for spectacular sunsets, exploring multicultural foodie scenes, and traversing paths yet to be discovered.
Arizona is a place where each visit can reveal a new adventure, a new escapade of discovery that is begging to become your next epic travel memory. Let your eyes wander over the ventures below to uncover your next journey.
Tempe, Arizona’s Urban Oasis
Energetic and offbeat, Tempe sits in the heart of Phoenix. This urban oasis exudes charm and charisma from its craft draft ales to its Sonoran Desert trails. Tempe is one of the few cities that can claim a lake as its city center. Tempe Town Lake located smack in the city center is idyllic to enjoying both city nightlife and outdoor adventures in one location. The lake is surrounded by pedestrian and light rail bridges, a marina where you can rent an assortment of boats from motorized to peddle options. We had quite an experience and fun afternoon trying to keep our balance on paddleboards.
After our afternoon on the lake, we headed over to a new hot spot that we heard about for lunch. The Barrio Queen had only been open a couple days. I felt a bit like royalty getting a table at such a new hot spot. BQ serves authentic Mexican cuisine crafted from family recipes. Decorated in bright colors, Sugar Skull art with a modern twist adorned the walls. Personally, I was kinda drawn to the pink barstools.
Lake Havasu City
When most people think of Arizona, they think of deserts and cactus not lakes, lighthouses, and the London Bridge. Yes, THE New London Bridge (there have been several London Bridges since Medieval times) built in 1825 spans a section of Lake Havasu. The bridge was purchased in 1967 by Robert McCoulloch, SR., disassembled brick by brick, numbered, and then reassembled in Lake Havasu City.
Dotting the shores of Lake Havasu are 27 beautiful lighthouses, each one perfectly built to-scale modeled after famous genuine functioning lighthouses and lovingly maintained by the Lake Havasu City Lighthouse Club. The lighthouses on the west side of Lake Havasu are modeled after lighthouses on the West Coast and have a green beacon. Lighthouses on the east side of Lake Havasu are modeled after lighthouses on the East Coast and have a red beacon. Lighthouses around the unnamed island are modeled after lighthouses on the Great Lakes. Some of these enchanting lighthouses are accessible by car or a short hike, or you can see all of them by a boat tour. If seeing famous U.S. lighthouses is a bucket list item for you, then this is the perfect adventure to experience them all in one day.
Are you a science geek? Do you love environmental science? Then Biosphere 2 is a must do item for your Arizona adventure. I have been twice and geeked out each time.
Biosphere 2 is one of the world’s most unique research science facilities. Created in 1987 in part by Texas philanthropist and businessman Ed Bass with two goals in mind. The first was to see if biospheres could be a viable way for us to live on Mars (or other planets) if we were to colonize them. The second was to explore and learn how the Earth’s biospheres interact with each other. There were two missions in which research scientists were sequestered in Biosphere 2 with zero interaction from the outside world. The longest isolation was for a period of two years.
The Biosphere has five distinct biomes within its structure – ocean, tropical, savanna, desert, and mangrove wetlands. The below ground mechanical structuring is extensive and phenomenal. The Biosphere was also equipped with a set of “lungs”, so it is considered a breathing building.
Tours are at specific times during the day and there are a number of stairs that need to be traversed. Consult their website for times and other questions.
Arizona’s Verde Valley Wine Trail
Arizona is experiencing a boom and revitalization in wineries. Wine grapes have been grown and cultivated in Arizona since the Spanish colonials introduced them in the 1500s. But, during Prohibition production stopped and vineyards disappeared. Today, that has changed and now there are over 100 vineyards located throughout Arizona.
Verde Valley, home to Arizona’s three wine trails, is located between the Mingus Mountains to the southwest and Sedona’s red cliffs to the northeast. The Verde Valley Wine Trail has over 20 wineries and tasting rooms to visit. Many of the wineries are small boutiques that offer something unique such as bed and breakfasts, small-batch wines, or American Indian owned. You can tour the wineries on your own (check out the wine trail passport here) or you can take one of the tours that are offered. The Verde Adventure Tour is a water to wine tour and one I would recommend for adventurous souls. Trained guides will escort you on a 2.5 hour tour down the Verde River on kayaks to Alcantara Vineyard for a vineyard tour and tasting.
Located in the Black Hills of Yavapai County is the historic copper mining town, Jerome. Seemingly, almost clinging to the side of Cleopatra Hill overlooking the Verde Valley this once booming mining community nearly disappeared in the 1950s when the mines shut down and the population diminished. Today, Jerome is one of the busiest historic ghost towns I have visited. The sidewalks that scale the side of Cleopatra Hill are lined with eclectic shops filled with locally made artisan gifts, restaurants, and tasting rooms offering locally distilled spirits and wine.
Aside from being a revitalized ghost town (as in an increase in the living population), Jerome also has a paranormal population. Many of the living residents can share stories about “unusual” happenings, such as the ghostly hammer thief of Haunted Hamberger. Jerome residents share the love of their town with visitors by offering tours that delve into the history of America’s largest ghost town from mining to architecture.
Williams and the Grand Canyon Railway
Imagine riding a vintage train as it rocks and sways its way down a nearly 120-year old rail line sounding its horn as it rolls around bends through canyons and over grassy plains. You gaze out the window watching the rolling hills pass while a cowboy sings ballads and tells his tales of cattle drives and time spent around campfires and chuck wagons. You are so enchanted by the tales you don’t notice the train slowing, then, all of a sudden your coach is overcome with masked bandits! Don’t worry, this is all a part of the entertainment when you take the Grand Canyon Railway train from Williams to the historic Grand Canyon Village.
If you have not been to Williams or Grand Canyon Village, they are both worth the trip.
My mom has wanted to take this trip for quite a while but was concerned because she uses a wheelchair. We were both pleased to learn that this would not be an issue. The Railway has cars that are specifically designed to accommodate wheelchairs with wider aisles, restraints that lock the wheelchair in place, and ADA restrooms. They also had a nifty wheelchair lift so she could roll right to her spot. She had a fabulous time and still, to this day, says it was one of her favorite vacations.
Rock Springs Cafe
Located 45-minutes north of Phoenix, just outside of Black Canyon City off highway 17 is Rock Springs Cafe. Founded in 1918 as a stagecoach stop with a tented general store serving travelers and miners, Rock City Cafe is one of Arizona’s hottest sweet treat destinations known for miles around as the pie capital of Arizona. These purveyors of gourmet pies offer choices ranging from Apple Bourbon and Chocolate Cherry Cream to traditional fruit pies selling an average of 350 pies and pie slices a day and have topped 100,00 in a year. That’s a lot of pie.
Rock Springs Cafe is also where to go if you are looking for homecooked meals at reasonable prices. They offer a wide range of breakfast, lunch and dinner menu items.
Arizona Viewed Anew
I found that once I looked past the dry desert sand and prickly cactus, Arizona is a land of uninhibited, and sometimes, intense beauty. It has a deeply diverse history with narratives of Native American life and early settlers rooted in mining and discovery. It is more than a place for Northerners to escape cold winters. It is a place to explore the grit and determination of America mixed with modern-day fascinations.