Wild West Attractions

The beautiful Southwest is also home to some amazing history about the Wild West days of yore. If you’re interested in learning more about Arizona’s storied past, here are some places worth paying a visit . . .

Cave Creek Cowboy photoFor a kid-friendly attraction that’s also a perfect destination to share with your out-of-town visitors, consider checking out Rawhide. This theme park is styled after a real Wild West frontier town, complete with a general store, a saloon, a blacksmith, and a photo emporium. There are also attractions such as a petting zoo, hay rides, gold panning, a shooting gallery and live-action stunt shows. While entering Rawhide is free, there is a price per attraction (or you can buy an all-inclusive wristband). Rawhide closes for the summer, but is now open during the fall, winter and spring seasons. History buffs will enjoy Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. This well-curated museum is known for its art and memorabilia which showcases Arizona’s Wild West history. The exhibitions are regularly changed, making for a fresh viewpoint each visit. The museum also is home to a theater, sculpture courtyard as well as docent-led tours.

A fantastic day trip for those who reside in the Valley of the Sun is a few hours south to Tombstone. Known as “the town too tough to die”, this historical town is centered around the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park. This two-story museum is a treasure trove of historical documents and memorabilia which describe the O.K. Corral gunfight between Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp and the cowboy fugitives. The museum also is home to a reproduction of the sheriff’s office, courtroom and gallows. Also in Tombstone are the Bird Cage Theatre and the Boothill Cemetery (with its humorous headstones). Every second, fourth and fifth Sunday of the month, the Tombstone Vigilantes re-enact gunfights on Allen Street, and on the fourth Saturday of the month, shops stay open late for Tombstone at Twilight. En route back to the Valley of the Sun, consider stopping at Old Tucson Studios. This 320-acre Western town/movie set and theme park recreates the Wild West as seen in more than 300 TV shows and movies, including 3 John Wayne westerns. You’ll have your choice of performances and stunt shows, you can pan for gold, take a trail ride around the property or watch living-history presentations. Old Tucson Studios is open only on the weekends from October 1 through September 5 (closing for the month of September).

Be sure to check out groupon.com and livingsocial.com for coupons and deals for the above attractions.

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Adrenaline Rushes in the Valley of the Sun

hot air balloon photoAs we are immersed in the triple-digit days of summer, many residents here in the Valley of the Sun start looking for exciting ways to stave off boredom.  Here are a few places to consider paying a visit, to help you beat the heat AND help you achieve that oh-so-cool adrenaline rush:

  1. Located in Scottsdale just west of the 101 freeway, Octane Raceway features a 1/3 mile indoor/outdoor track where you can race one of 32 electric Sodi RTX racing karts from Europe.  These karts have 10,000 RPM for maximum torque and a top speed of 45 MPH. Minimum height requirements are 54 inches, so even those under the age of 16 can join in the high octane fun!
  2. Another go kart option can be found at K1 Speed, centrally located near the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.  The 20HP electric carts reach speeds up to 45 mph and racers will enjoy the large track.  Junior racers must be at least 48 inches tall.
  3. For a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience some REAL speed, check out the Bondurant High Performance Racing School.   Located in Chandler, AZ, Bondurant features a 1.6-mile, 15 turn multi-configuration race track on a 60-acre facility, designed by world champion driver Bob Bondurant.  Known as “The Fastest 60 Acres in America”, Bondurant also has access to the 3 racing tracks at Firebird International Raceway.  Drivers have access to over 200 cars equipped for racing on the tracks, and will receive full instruction and safety training before beginning one of multiple programs and passes available.  Bondurant also has a SuperKart Track for go karts, perfect for group outings, corporate kart leagues, for anyone at any skill level.
  4. Located in Eloy, is SkyDive Arizona, which is one of the largest sky diving facilities in the world.  You can try tandem jumping, attend ground school to learn how to skydive solo, or for those who aren’t quite as daring, enjoy indoor skydiving in the vertical wind tunnel, where every minute in the tunnel is equal to a minute of free-fall skydiving time.

Be sure to check out www.groupon.com and www.livingsocial.com for coupons and deals for the above attractions.

Hiking in the Valley of the Sun

Pinnacle Peak hiking trail photo

Current residents, visitors, snowbirds and future residents enjoy the temperate weather and beautiful surroundings here in the Valley of the Sun. Exploring the beautiful Sonoran Desert by way of hiking its many trails is a fantastic way to enjoy Arizona’s weather, maintain physical fitness and reduce stress. There are hundreds of hiking trails in the Valley of the Sun, but there are a few that are more popular for good reasons.
First, located in northeast Scottsdale, the McDowell Sonoran Preserve features many different trails for all skill levels. One popular option for beginner and intermediate hikers is the Gateway Loop Trail which is about 4.4 miles and offers breathtaking scenery. More advanced hikers can join the Windgate Pass Trail from the Gateway Loop, to link up to the Tom’s Thumb Trail, a challenging hike with a reward of a phenomenal viewpoint at Tom’s Thumb, a 114-foot granite spire. Children would enjoy the Bajada Trail, a short nature loop.
Nearby Pinnacle Peak Park features a 3.5-mile round-trip trail that is popular with everyone, from families to trail runners, thanks to its meticulously maintained wide trails and gorgeous vistas. Because the trail is an out-and-back hike (1.5 miles each way), be sure to take note of the mile markers along the way if you don’t intend to hike the entire trail. A little past the ½ mile mark is the Grandview rest stop which offers a gorgeous panoramic view of the Valley of the Sun, with McDowell Mountain in the distance. Go one mile further and you’ll reach Owls Rest, where you can see Camelback Mountain to the south. While there are no facilities or water fountains on the trail, much of the trail is shaded due to how it winds between the mountain.
Camelback Mountain is quintessential Phoenix, with its iconic shape. Bobby’s Rock Trail is one of the easiest routes on this otherwise-challenging mountain, with an elevation change of 200 feet. This quarter-mile trail follows the Echo Canyon summit trail out of the parking lot, and is perfect for families and younger kids. For those who desire more of a challenge, and amazing views, the Echo Canyon Trail is a very difficult 1.23-mile hike to the summit, ascending 1,280 feet to 2,704 feet above sea level. The trail can be very crowded and parking is very limited on the weekends, but the payoff is worth it with vistas that demand to be photographed. The Cholla Trail is on the back side of Camelback Mountain (accessible via 64th Street) and, while challenging, is easier to navigate because it’s not as crowded as Echo Canyon. With gains of 1,300 feet over 1.42 miles, the first 1.1 miles are standard trail hiking with the last third of a mile a scramble over rocks in the “saddle” of the mountain.
A final option to consider is the Thunderbird Conservation Park, west of Phoenix in Glendale. About 20 minutes from Scottsdale and North Phoenix, this gem of a park is not as well-known as other hiking spots, but it offers equally beautiful vistas with fewer crowds. With over 20 miles of trails (labelled H-1 to H-5), the longest hike in this park is the H-1 hike. An approximately 5-mile hike at the ridgeline (with a 400-foot elevation) with switchbacks to the summit, results in a beginning to intermediate level hike that can be completed in about 2 hours. All ages and fitness levels will find a hike to enjoy in this beautiful little park.

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