Archive for the ‘ Arizona ’ Category


Arizona Renaissance Festival

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

The Arizona Renaissance Festival is is one of the largest such festivals in the nation. This year festival organizers are celebrating its 26th season, which runs from the beginning of February through the end of March. The 30-acre park is located just outside of Apache Junction, about 50 miles east of Phoenix.

If you’re not familiar, the Renaissance Festival is a medieval amusement park full of entertainment, reenactments and mischievous antics, which are performed throughout the park on 13 different stages, including a jousting venue.

I attended the festival a few weeks ago and just had a blast, it seems each year it gets bigger and better. All the participating actors take the festival very seriously…you can’t help but feel you’ve been transported back in time some five hundred years.

The village marketplace has over 200 shops offering an array of goods. You’ll find circus events, arts and crafts, a jousting tournament and a feast, all rolled into one non-stop, day-long adventure.

If you’ve ever been to the Arizona Renaissance Festival, please leave a comment below and share your favorite activities or events.

Arizona Renaissance Festival Information:

When to go: Open Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 6pm (rain or shine)
Dates: Early February to the end of March
Directions: Google Map to Arizona Renaissance Festival
Address: 12601 East Highway 60, Gold Canyon  AZ  85118

Chihuly exhibit at Desert Botanical Garden

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Located in the heart of Phoenix, Arizona is one of the city’s most popular and illustrious attractions…the Desert Botanical Garden. No matter when you visit, you’ll be awed by the diversity of the Sonoran Desert. However, if you go now until May 18th, 2014, you’ll be dazzled by the outdoor Chihuly Exhibit. As you stroll the beautifully maintained garden trails, you’ll be wowed by the vibrant works of art on displayed, each thoughtfully created to enhance the desert garden setting.

Chihuly and his team are renowned for their ambitious architectural installations around the world. It was back in 2001 when Chihuly had the audacious idea to display delicate works of glass art in an outdoor setting. For more than a decade now, Chihuly’s ever-changing outdoor display tours the best gardens around the world. This is the second time the Chihuly Exhibit has been on display at the Desert Botanical Garden and I can tell you that is certainly worth a visit. My recommendation is to go in the late afternoon so that you can see the exhibit in both the daylight, as well as the evening. As soon as night falls, the exhibit is transformed as strategically placed lights accentuate details of the glass that can be minimized during the day.

If you’ve been to a Chihuly Garden Exhibit before, whether at the Desert Botanical Garden or elsewhere, please share your experience below by posting a comment.

Desert Botanical Garden Chihuly Exhibit Information:

Time Periods: There are three time periods per day to choose from: 8 a.m. – Noon / 12 – 4 p.m. / 4 – 8 p.m.
Ticket Prices: Adult: $22, Senior: $20, Student: $12, Child: $10
After Dark: Special day/times 8pm-midnight March 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29 | April 5, 12 and 19
Address: 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, Arizona
Phone: 480-941-1225
Website: Desert Botanical Garden

The Watchtower; best Grand Canyon view

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

The Grand Canyon is a distant second to the Smoky Mountains as the most visited National Park in the country, with over three million visiting annually. The vast majority of visitors come through the South Rim entrance, each in search of the best place to see the awe-inspiring sight. Few are aware that there is actually an East Entrance to the Grand Canyon, also known as Desert View. The Desert View (or East Entrance) is home to probably the best and most expansive single view of the Grand Canyon, it’s located at the Watchtower observation platform.

Grand Canyon East is where you’ll find the authentic looking 70′ Hopi Watchtower. This replica was design by famed architect, Mary Colter, and was the last of the visitor concession structures to be completed at the park in 1932. The most architecturally impressive section of the tower has to be the interior of the building. The space is an open shaft surrounded by circular balconies edging the walls and small staircases that lead up to subsequent levels.  The walls are covered with beautiful murals, hieroglyphs, pictographs and petroglyphs painted by Hopi artists.  Experiencing the multiple levels and circular balconies will fill visitors with an overwhelming sense of the southwest.

Grand Canyon East begins below Glen Canyon Dam, which creates the magnificent Lake Powell recreation area. Access to the East Entrance is off highway 89, south of Lake Powell by nearly 80 miles. After turning west onto highway 64, you have another 50 miles until the Grand Canyon East Entrance. If you’re already at the South Rim, you can just drive east along the edges of the canyon for 26 miles of scenic views.

If you’ve ever been to the Watchtower at Grand Canyon East, leave a comment below and let me readers and me know what you enjoy most.

Hoover Dam

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Hoover Dam is located about half an hour outside Las Vegas and situated in between Arizona and Nevada. Filled with history and a colossal view, the Hoover Dam is certainly a worthwhile stop. It’s easy to be awed by the Hoover Dam. If you have just a few minutes, stop along one of the many roadside viewpoints–perfect for snapping a photo and taking in the immensity of the dam.

If you have have more than a few minutes, be sure to check out the power plant tour and see how the dam operates, it plays an essential role in brining much needed water to the Southwest. When it was completed in 1936, the Hoover Dam was quite an engineering marvel and was the largest dam in the world at that time.

Hoover Dam straddles the mighty Colorado River, which acts as the border between Arizona and Nevada. The damn created Lake Mead, which is the largest reservoir in the US in water capacity.

In 2010 a four-lane highway bridge arching across the Colorado River opened, carrying traffic between Nevada and Arizona. The older two-lane highway across the dam could no longer handle the 15,000 vehicles that travel across each day. Construction on the 1,900-foot-long structure, named the Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, began in 2005. An impressive feat of engineering, the supporting twin-rib arch span echoes the elegant curves of the dam itself.

Why you need to come to Arizona right now!

Monday, April 8th, 2013

The following photos will illustrate ten reasons to visit Arizona in the springeach represents at least one our our five senses, using the local flora as symbolic representations.  Spring is a fantastic time to visit the Arizona Sonoran Desert, with many unique cacti in full bloom, and, a variety of distinct scents and sounds.

Without further ado, here are ten spring reasons that will entice you to visit Arizona right now!

The sunsets in Arizona are second to none.  This shot of a Joshua Tree in the early stage of the sun setting cycle illustrates a warm amber glow, while other evenings you’ll see rich reds’ streak across the sky. This shot was taking at the Flying E Dude Ranch.  (Sight)

There are large open spaces to enjoy, where the air is as clean as the sky is brilliant. This shot is just outside Wickenburg, which is about 60 miles N.W. of Phoenix. (Sight)

Poppies, Marigolds and Evening Primrose litter yards and sides of streets with a palette of vibrant colors.  (Sight, Smell)

Wildflowers and blooming cacti herald the arrival of migrating songbirds, butterflies and hummingbirds. There is so much life in the Sonoran Desert during spring months…from butterflies to 100s of species of birds chirping song.  If you’re lucky, you may even see a Gila Monster or other rare reptiles.  (Sight, Sounds)

There is nothing sweeter than some desert honey…from mesquite to cactus blooms, to flavor-infused jalapeño or prickly pear, there are merchants selling the nectar that only Arizona can produce. This shot is of a bee pollinating a Palo Verde Tree. (Taste)

There are so many variety of cacti in the Arizona Sonoran Desert, most have unique and splendid springtime blooms.  This photo is a hedgehog cacti. (Sight, Smell)

There are several areas where you’ll see seasonal water in the desert, and when you do, it’s a sight to behold.  This is the upper Hassayampa River in Yavapai County (Sight, Sound, Touch)

Second only to Arizona sunsets, are the sunrises.  If you’re an early-bird,  you’ll bear witness to a stupendous sight as a rising glow illuminates the horizon, indicating the beginning of another beautiful day in the desert. (Sight)

Because the sky is often so clear at night, the stars are quite bright against the dark sky.  This is a star-trail shot I took, which is a technique combining hundreds of photos into a single image. (Sight, Feel)

The amber light in the morning and evening hours. The bright warm sun in the afternoon, and the diverse textures  of the desert create vibrant contrasts that can only be found in the desert southwest of the Arizona Sonoran Desert.  (Sight)

If you live in, or have ever visited Arizona, please leave a comment below and share with my readers and me your favorite Arizona spring sights. If you enjoyed this post, please share it with friends and family by linking or posting on social media.

Wickenburg, AZ: Where cowboys roam and artists reign

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

If you conjure images of the west, generally what emerges in the mind’s eye is horses, open space, clean air and cowboys.  With fewer and fewer areas to enjoy a true western experience, there is one place that has flourished for well over a century…Wickenburg, Arizona.

Wickenburg is a true western town, where the spurs have a job to do and hats are not accessories. The town is full of character, where spirits remain wild and the souls are “western” through and through.

Located about sixty miles northwest of Phoenix, Arizona, Wickenburg is arguably the “west’s most western town.”  150 years ago a man named Henry Wickenburg came to the area in search of gold, he was fortunate enough to find it at the Vulture Goldmine, which helped the community become the third largest town in Arizona during its heyday.  2013 marks Wickenburg’s sesquicentennial, 150 years since Mr. Wickenburg first came to the area, making it the 2nd oldest town in the state north of Tucson.

Over the years Wickenburg has been able to maintain its roots as a western town, one that continues to embrace the cowboy lifestyle.  Visitors will enjoy a plethora of activities, from dude ranches, lush golf courses, shopping, horseback riding, hiking, arts & culture to exploring those great outdoors.

Here are my top-10 suggestions of things to do while in Wickenburg:

  • Stroll downtown and enjoy the various sculptures with audio narration and historic buildings. Stop by the Chamber of Commerce, which is located in the old Santa Fe train depot, and pick up info on the various Wickenburg activities.
  • Visit the Desert Caballeros Western Museum for an impressive collection of Western artifacts and Southwestern art.
  • Hike to the top of Vulture Peak, an iconic sight in Wickenburg. The 360 degree desert views are simply spectacular!
  • Check out the Hassayampa River Preserve, a lush riparian area where the normally underground river rises above ground. There are many trails and great places to enjoy a picnic.
  • Enjoy a concert or theatrical presentation at the Del E. Webb Center for the Performing Arts.
  • No visit to Wickenburg would be complete without a Dude Ranch experience. There are several guest ranches in the area where you can ride horses, rope cattle, square dance or enjoy a camp fire as a famous southwestern sunset fills the sky with color.
  • Take a Jeep tour of the area…see abandoned mines, get a history lesson, and enjoy the diverse landscape.
  • Peruse the local shops and galleries to get a real sense of the western flair in the community.
  • If you’re like me and you enjoy golf, don’t miss either of the two courses in town…the Wickenburg Country Club and Los Caballeros Golf Club.
  • If you really want to know what it was like back in the gold rush days, give the folks at Miner’s Creek a call for a gold panning experience in which you get to keep everything you find.

For more information on the area, visit the  Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce website.

Click the following link to see more pictures of Wickenburg.  If you’ve ever been to Wickenburg, please leave a comment below and share your favorite activities.

[Video] Cowgirl Up! “Quick Draw” contest

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Cowgirl Up! is an annual art event hosted by the Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg, Arizona.  On the final day of the event there is a “Quick Draw” competition in which female artists have one hour to paint or sculpt an original piece of artwork. Shortly after the competition the various pieces go up for auction.  The video below is a snapshot of the event featuring V…Vaughan…from start, to finish, to sold.

If you’ve been to Cowgirl Up! before, leave a comment below and share your favorite aspects of the event.

Kartchner Caverns: Still growing after 200,000 years

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Arizona is a wondrous state for its diverse, natural and awe-inspiring beauty.  Everyone is familiar with the state’s most popular tourist sights, from the Grand Canyon, Sedona’s red rock country to the Saguaro National Park. However, there’s one sight that may not be familiar to you: A state park located about an hour south of Tucson…Kartchner Caverns.

Kartchner Caverns is one of the largest and most well-preserved living caves in the country…if not the world.  If you’ve never been inside a cave before, this is the one you must see.  Painstaking effort not only went into preserving the cave for generations to come, but also for making it the most comfortable cave for tourists to explore.  Paved trails run throughout the cave system, making it easy for folks of all ages and abilities to explore.

Your tour guide will explain the difference between stalactites and stalagmites, while giving you geologic and historic information.  While the cave is estimated to be 200,000 years old, it was not discovered until 1974 when two cavers were exploring the limestone hills at the base of the Whetsone Mountains. The Cavers (Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts) spent the next few years making trips back to their discovery to further explore the depths of the cave. It wasn’t until many years later that they shared their findings with the owners of the land. All involved decided the best way to preserve the site was to contact the state of Arizona and pitch the idea of creating a park. It took many more years of planning and meticulous construction efforts before the park would eventually open to the public in 1999.

In order to maintain the integrity of the cave’s ecosystem, only a limited number of visitors are allowed to tour the cave, so advanced reservations are required. I was living in Arizona when Kartchner first opened and remember the intense tour demand…if I recall correctly there was nearly a six month waiting period.  I was lucky enough to see the caverns in the early days as I had a friend whose cousin was a ranger at the park.  It’s been over a decade since I last visited Kartchner, since then it has expanded, now offering two tours in different parts of the cave.  Your first option is the Rotunda/Throne tour, which lasts 90 minutes. The second is a 105 minute tour of the “Big Room.” Both tours are equally interesting, but if you have to choose only one, I’d go with the Rotunda/Throne. Prices and additional info are below.

If you have been in the depths of a cave before, most likely it’s been cool inside, Kartchner is different…it’s warm, muggy and a constant 69.5 degrees (summer or winter).  As you tour the cave, you are left awestruck by the wonderment of this natural beauty. The Throne Room contains the world’s longest soda straw stalactite at over 21 feet.  The Big Room contains the world’s most extensive formation of brushite moonmilk and is closed from April 15 to October 15 each year because it’s a nursery roost for over 1,000 cave bats.

Kartchner Caverns is one of those unique sights that is certainly worth a visit, especially if you’ve never been to a cave before.   If you’ve ever been to Kartchner, please leave a comment below and share your experience with my readers and me.

Kartchner Caverns State Park Information:

Kartchner Caverns map:
Kartchner Caverns SP
Benson, AZ 85602

(520) 586-4100
Karchner Caverns State Park
$22.95 Adults/$12.95 kids 7-13/Kids under 7 are free

Wickenburg Train Depot

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

The Wickenburg, Arizona railroad station serves as the headquarters for the Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce, and is among the oldest of the Santa Fe’s wooden stations in Arizona. It continues to remain near its original configuration and is one of the few such surviving examples of “Wild West” railroad architecture.

In 1995, Wickenburg celebrated the one hundred year anniversary of its railroad depot (which was dedicated on July 29, 1895). The Wickenburg depot saw its last passenger service in May of 1969 when the Santa Fe Railroad Company discontinued the daily Super Chief train running between Phoenix and Williams, Arizona.

Flying E Dude Ranch

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

If you’re looking for a truly unique vacation experience…enjoy history and the outdoors, do yourself a favor and check out a dude ranch.  I recently visited the Flying~E~Ranch in Wickenburg, Arizona…this ranch dates back to the mid-40s and still offers guests a way of the west cowboy experience.  You’re not going to find five star resort-like accommodations, but what you will discover is an experience that will not soon be forgotten.  The connection you’ll have with guests, the staff, the horses and even the land will make you want to come back again and again.  I met guests who’ve been to the Flying E Ranch 9,10, 15…even 36 times.   That says a lot about the enjoyment and memories created.

I’ve only been to a handful of guest ranches, but I’ve found a common theme… the camaraderie and connection that guests have with one another is like none other.  Guests quickly make friends with other guests and end up planning their next visits together. There are a number of reasons why the dude ranch experience connects folks as it does…for starters, many of the ranch activities are conducted as a group.  Whether it’s horseback riding, a communal meal or square dancing in the barn, you end up seeing the same friendly faces over and over, which provides that opportunity to bond with folks.  You just don’t experience this connective occurrence at a typical resort or other vacation venues.

When you first check in to the Flying E, you’re greeted with some old fashioned western warmth and a tour of the property.  The ranch encompasses 20,000 acres and provides amazing mountain and desert views.  The southwestern sunrises and sunsets are some of the best in the world—and, with little light pollution in Wickenburg, the stargazing is also spectacular. There is a heated pool and spa, a game room, horseshoe pit, tennis courts, ping-pong table, stables, pasture and a storage room full of western garb in case you forgot your own boots or cowboy hat.  Once you’ve gotten a lay of the ranch, you’ll be shown to your accommodations.  There are a number of room variations depending on your needs.  The rooms are a bit dated, but very clean and comfortable nonetheless.  While the ranch is quite old, it has been extremely well maintained.  I was impressed by how well-groomed the grounds are…from the common areas, to the stables.

The focal point inside the lodge is a stone fireplace, which greets and warms guests on those cold desert days during breakfast, lunch and dinner service.  There are always freshly baked goods and refreshments available throughout the day. Prior to the dinner service you won’t want to miss happy hour (note: BYOB – appetizers supplied) in the saloon—this is a great time to mingle and get acquainted with fellow guests to talk about the day’s activities and to further bond with family and new friends. There is a wonderful deck attached to the saloon, which is the perfect spot to enjoy one of those amazing Arizona sunsets.

You can do as much, or as little as you’d like during your stay at the Flying E.  There are two rides per day, one in the morning and one in the evening.  Many guests will not miss a ride, while others might enjoy a nearby hike, a game of tennis, a soak in the spa, or a sweat in the sauna.  Everything is provided for you at the ranch, but you can also mosey outside the grounds for a round of golf or an off-road excursion.  Each day of the week provides a different schedule of events in which you are welcome to participate. You can visit the Flying E website for a list of annual activities to see what time might best suit your needs.

The chuck wagon breakfast cookout is a treat that I got to experience (I believe this takes place on holidays and special events).  Everyone at the ranch gets together for an early morning ride out to the desert where wranglers and staff have a full breakfast meal waiting.  This activity really makes you feel like you’ve gone back in time.  You can even get your butt or your boots branded (as seen in the video). I also enjoyed watching guests trying to steer three reluctant calves into a boxed pen during a team-penning contest at the corral. Evening entertainment includes square dancing in the barn, western music, or simply some fun and competitive games in the ranch house.  Of course depending on how long you stay, there’s enough free time to relax, swim, read, or just soak up the Arizona sunshine in a quiet, restful atmosphere.

You’re also bound to see some wildlife roaming the hills while on a ride or wandering the ranch…from whitetail deer, javelina, coyotes, quail to bobcats and mountain lions.

The Flying~E~Ranch is certainly a peaceful, relaxing place and the entire staff will go out of their way to make sure you feel comfortable and welcome.  It amazed me at how the staff made a concerted effort to know everyone’s name and to make sure they introduced new guests to ones who’ve been there for a few days.

If you are looking for a real dude ranch experience, look no further than the Flying~E~Ranch for a realistic flavor of the Arizona frontier.

Click the following link to see pictures from the Flying E Ranch.  If you’ve been to the Flying E before, please leave a comment and let my readers and me know what you like best…or share a fond memory. If you enjoyed this post and video, please click the “like” button and share with friends and family, it really helps when you spread the word.

Flying~E~Ranch Contact Information:

2801 W. Wickenburg Way
Wickenburg, AZ 85390-1087
(928) 684-2690
(888) 684-2650

Map: Click here for Google Map