One hundred years ago, during February, Arizona gave up its Territory status. Known for abundant sunshine, towering saguaros and the Grand Canyon, our 48th state also offers a diverse landscape and a wealth of natural and cultural opportunities for curious families.
Here are five ideas:
1. Experience the Arizona Trail.
Sample a section of this recently completed 800-mile scenic pathway that winds through deserts, canyons (including the Grand Canyon) mountains and mesas, stretching from the Arizona-Mexico border in the south, to Utah in the north. Explore the trail via foot, horseback, mountain bike, mule or snowshoe and tap into historic sites, geologic wonders and an extraordinary menu of wildlife and vegetation. Designated as a National Scenic Trail, small communities, abandoned mining sites, cliff dwellings and remote wilderness areas also lure adventure seekers. Contact: www.AZTrail.org.
2. Baseball Spring Training.
Each year, baseball fans unite in the Valley of the Sun to watch their favorite teams warm up their skills under the Southwestern sun. For example, Scottsdale is home to the San Francisco Giants, Colorado Rockies, and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Games get underway during the month of March in downtown Scottsdale and at the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, along Scottsdale's border with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. The crack of the bat, hot dogs and popcorn can also be found in the neighboring communities of Mesa, Surprise and Tempe. Packages available.
3.Visit Native American Lands.
Arizona has the largest percentage of Native American Tribal land in the United States. In Northern Arizona, travel through the much larger Navajo Reservation and visit the historic Hopi village of Oraibi. Built in 1100 and discovered by a lieutenant of Coronado in 1540, this small enclave is considered to be the oldest Native American settlement in the country. Shop for local crafts and visit with the native people. Consider a tour that includes visits with potters, basket makers and kachina carvers and to learn about the geology and cultural significance of the region.
4.A Bird Lovers Paradise.
Southern Arizona is recognized as a world-renowned migratory corridor for birds and was declared the first Globally Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society. Families visiting Sierra Vista, the “hummingbird capital of the US”, have the opportunity to spot more than 14 varieties of the small, winged creatures. Nearby Ash Canyon is home to a rarely-sighted hummingbird, the plain-capped starthroat. Pack your sun screen, hiking boots and binoculars. More than 150 bird species, ranging from sand hill cranes to colorful flycatchers, await.
5. Travel The Salsa Trail.
Dip your chips in the spicy sauce that gives this trail its name. You’ll expand your culinary horizons while enjoying a Southeastern Arizona road trip. Visit with local farmers, ranchers and miners as you wind your way along the scenic Old West Highway that connects eight communities known for great Mexican food, derived from old family recipes and small-town, friendly service. Visit the local tortilla factory and sample fresh roasted chiles at a nearby farm. In the Fall, the annual SalsaFest features salsa-making and eating contests as well as music and family activities.
Contact: www.SalsaTrail.com; Resource: www.ArizonaGuide.com
Diving boards and the deep end have been replaced by slippery slides, raging waterfalls and lazy rivers.
Today’s resort pools and water parks offer enough excitement to keep the kids engaged for a weekend or longer.
Here are a few cool pools worth the plunge:
Grand Wailea Resort, Maui, Hawaii.
This island haven may be most famous for its beaches, but don’t pass up the chance to explore what this resort has to offer. The whole family will be eager to check out the 25,700 square foot area that includes nine free form pools. Travel via a “river” to check out the slides, waterfalls, caves, water elevator, swim up bar, rope swing and more that are part of this water wonderland. The tropical 40 acre resort also includes an infant pool.
Fairmont Scottsdale. Scottsdale, AZ.
With the magnificent McDowell Mountains as a backdrop, families relish this oasis in the desert. By day, keep cool within the 6000 square foot Sonoran Splash complex, featuring a zero deck area for the youngest set. Kids wade right into the water, just like at the beach. Nearby a large sandbox with Tonka trucks and a bounty of beach toys beckon, keeping the kids entertained. Have fun slipping down two of Arizona’s largest slides. Come nightfall, enjoy dive-in movies from deck chairs or while floating on your raft.
Atlantis Resort. Paradise Island, Bahamas.
With more than 141 acres of water rides and pools, who has time to hit the beach? From the Mayan Temple to the ominous Power Tower to fun-filled Splashers Island, water play lovers will find 18 adrenaline-pulsing slides for kids of all ages. Ride the waves and rapids in the Current. Lounge around your choice of 11 different pools. Twist and turn through tunnels and emerge in an acrylic tube deep within a shark-filled lagoon. The thrills never end in this water-filled fantasy park.
Marriott World Center, Orlando, FL.
Think 1,000,000 gallons of cool water. That’s what you’ll find at this Orlando resort where indoor pools, outdoor pools, whirlpools, waterfalls and a 106 foot slide make for an enticing recreation area. Pool side fun includes sidewalk chalk, ping pong and pool tables, limbo contests and scavenger hunts. Lounge on deck or join in a game of water volleyball.
Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort, San Antonio, TX.
Float through the resort’s beautifully landscaped grounds aboard a trusty inner tube, making your way 950 feet along the Ramblin’ River. Stop by the activity pool and join in a game of water volley ball or basketball. Or make it a beach day and settle on the private, sandy man-made beach. Lounge on the sundeck before heading to the golf course or an afternoon at the spa. Grown-ups can enjoy the Texas-shaped adults only pool, while the kids take advantage of Camp Hyatt activities or teen-focused Underground events.