Adventures for two in and around Phoenix
The excitement of nightlife and the slow pace of desert exploration go hand in hand
Desert Botanical Garden
Papago Park in central Phoenix hosts one of the world’s most beautiful collections of desert plants in the Desert Botanical Garden. For more than 70 years, the Desert Botanical Garden has been teaching and inspiring visitors from around the world with an engaging environment designed to promote the importance of preserving the desert’s natural beauty.
The 50-acre park boasts incredible outdoor exhibits including those featuring 139 rare, threatened and endangered plant species from around the world. Begin at the Ottosen Entry Garden, where visitor amenities and dramatic displays of cacti and succulents set the stage for your desert garden experience. Connect to the Desert Discovery Loop, the main trail that explores hundreds of varieties of desert plants that create an incredible mosaic of form, texture and colour. Take in any number of specialty exhibits along the way including the Berlin Agave Yucca Forest or the Sonoran Desert Nature Loop. The Harriet K. Maxwell Desert Wildflower Loop Trail also begins at the entry garden and is a fascinating tour of the beauty and resilience of desert flowers.
Watch for special events throughout the year like the autumn Chiles and Chocolate festival offering sweet, savory and spicy samples and indulgent gourmet flavour combinations, all to the rhythm of zesty Latin beats.
Scottsdale Art Walk
Stroll hand-in-hand through some of Scottsdale’s 100-plus art galleries, or join an ArtWalk, held every Thursday evening year round from 7 to 9 p.m. The ArtWalk is a 30- year tradition. Every week, the Scottsdale Gallery Association features special exhibits, art receptions and informal open houses throughout the Arts District.
Wander the galleries featuring western traditional to ultra contemporary styles and southwest landscape to Russian impressionism at your own pace. Linger in a quaint area featuring dramatic statues, tree-covered courtyards and bubbling fountains where horse-drawn carriage and trolley rides are available most times of the year.
The mood is casual and eclectic and it is the perfect opportunity to visit and appreciate local artists of all styles and flavours and learn about their work. Several times each year the Gallery Association hosts Special Event ArtWalks—exciting, themed art displays accompanied by live street music.
The ambiance of downtown Scottsdale is warm, inviting and creative, and visitors often cap
off the evening with drinks, dining or a live theatre event.
Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot
It’s a bit of a drive, but Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot are two national monuments that should be part of any trip to Phoenix. Travel about an hour and a half north to Montezuma Castle—an 800-year-old, well-preserved limestone cliff dwelling that tells the story of the Sinagua culture. Gaze through the window of this 45- to 50-room pueblo ruin that was excavated in 1933, revealing a treasure trove of artifacts that enhanced contemporary understanding of the culture that inhabited the region more than 400 years ago.
Tuzigoot ancient pueblo crowns a desert hilltop near Montezuma. The 110-room structure, including second and third story structures, was also constructed by the Sinagua people, who left the area around 1400. The first of these buildings was constructed in AD 1000. Take the 1/3-mile loop trail around and through the national monument to learn more about the culture and take in majestic views of the Verde River and Tavasci Marsh. Another half-mile round trip takes visitors to a contemporary lookout over Tavasci Marsh.
Drive Apache Trail
Beautiful and scenic, but not for the faint of heart, is the Apache Trail—likely one of the most memorable drives you will ever take.
The 48-mile route begins at Apache Junction, 25 miles east of downtown Phoenix, and snakes along a chain of manmade lakes including the three largest—Canyon Lake, Apache Lake and Roosevelt Lake. Stop along the way at any number of historical attractions including Goldfield Ghost Town, where you can pan for gold, tour the abandoned mine, take a narrow-gauge train ride or witness an Old West gun fight.
Come next to Lost Dutchman State Park and the Superstition Mountains, where visitors are drawn in search of lost gold and recreational fun. Canyon Lake offers the rebuilt town of Tortilla (the original was lost in a fire in 1987) where the Superstition Saloon serves up Old West Burgers and homestyle chili, and the Old Fashioned Candy and Ice Cream Store made prickly pear cactus ice cream famous. A rest stop five miles later offers a beautiful view and a good place to turn around for the faint of heart.
The more adventurous can continue on to Fish Creek, Geronimo Head and several other national monuments. There are points of interest and historical sites along this leg of the Apache Trail and the scenery is breathtaking, but so is the drive. With hairpin corners and narrow roads, nervous drivers or passengers may want to sit this portion out.
Ride a hot air balloon over the Sonoran Desert
Things are different in the desert: the sky is bigger, the stars are brighter and the land seems to stretch out forever. The Sonoran Desert is one of the world’s most beautiful desertscapes by land, and by air it’s even better.
Experience the silent majesty and scenic views of the rugged desert landscape by hot air balloon for an exhilarating perspective of the world. Take flight during the day or visit at dusk or dawn as the sun paints a brilliant splash of pink, purple and red across the morning or evening sky.
Watch jack rabbits, quail, coyotes, mule deer, javelina and other wildlife traverse the landscape and see the terrain of the region up close. Get close to incredible mountains or float low over unique flora and fauna.
Hot Air Expeditions offer includes a post-flight balloonist ceremony, a sit-down breakfast in the desert and a commemorative flight certificate. Apex Balloons, a smaller company, promises personalized tours from varied locations and an array of flight experiences.
See visitphoenix.com for more choices.