Bessie Heard dedicated years of her life to philanthropic efforts throughout the McKinney area, helping plant hackberry trees along downtown streets and establishing an American Red Cross chapter during World War I. However, she accomplished her greatest feat in 1967 when the Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary opened to the public. With 289 acres of rolling space, the sanctuary functions as a testament to the diversity of local flora and fauna, educating visitors and urging them to protect those species for future generations.
More than 6.5 miles of unpaved hiking trails wind throughout the sanctuary, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in habitats that range from tall-grass prairie to limestone slopes. The grounds shelter more than 150 varieties of wildflowers and plants, as well as more than 240 species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. In addition to the trails, the sanctuary also features an extensive garden of native trees, grasses, and perennials, as well as a treetop ropes course (reservation required; additional fees apply). Indoors, interactive exhibits and collections impart valuable information on north-Texan geology, marine life, and venomous snakes.
Nearly a half century ago, horticulturist Harrison G. Yocum opened his backyard to the public, displaying a bounteous collection of cacti and palms. After a few relocations, expansions, and the establishment of a nonprofit charter, Tucson Botanical Gardens now spreads 17 distinct plots across more than 5 acres. A delicate rumble hearkens the arrival of the Garden Railway miniature train, which winds through gardens uniquely dedicated to birds, butterflies, wildflowers, and traditional Native American crops. Admission—which is free for garden members and children younger than 3—grants passage to five different tours, and groups of 10 or more can arrange self-guided or docent-led tours at a discounted rate. If visitors awaken their appetites by savoring aromas from the onsite herb garden or by staring at clouds shaped like canned goods, they can dig in at the Gardens' Café, where sun spills through a slatted gazebo onto iron tables loaded with roast-beef baguettes and mexican tortilla soup.
The Arizona Fishing Guides’s experienced anglers scan the azure vistas of Arizona’s lakes for tiny splashes and darting glints of silver on fishing trips with groups of all ages and experience levels. The guides, each of whom averages more than 300 days on the water every year, share their expertise as they lead the way through the picturesque waterways of Oak Creek Canyon, Bartlett Lake, and the northern pike in Lake Mary. As soon as their boats arrive at the choicest fishing spots, groups can cast out lines in hopes of attracting aquatic creatures such as bass, carp, trout, and Kevin Costner.
Salt River Shuttle's chauffeurs run a fleet of SUVs, vans, and party buses between the metro Phoenix area and the picturesque shores of Salt River. They safely drop off families of fun-seekers and groups of friends or coworkers at a stretch of placid riverfront flanked by massive red-rock formations and open fields. After disembarking, passengers are free to spend lazy afternoons floating down the gentle current in tubes or the mouths of friendly sea monsters before drivers reappear to transport them home.
For all their ubiquity, chain restaurants seldom embody the same character and culture as their independently owned counterparts. That’s where Arizona Food Tours comes in. With their signature A Taste of Old Town Scottsdale tour, the company introduces visitors to the idiosyncrasies and food of the desert burg, from classic western grub to the local wine bars that pour cabernet and red zinfandel for diners and thirsty cacti.
The experienced tour guides at Segway of Tempe and Phoenix lead fleets of two-wheelers through one of two scenic Arizona cities during an extensive schedule of rides. Guests gear up for either of the 90-minute tours by hopping aboard a segway, whose self-balancing technology allows riders to tilt handlebars gently for turns or quickly for back flips. Each session begins with a 30-minute orientation, followed by a narrated jaunt past the towering opulence of the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort in Scottsdale or around the city-flanked oasis of Tempe Town Lake. During the summer months, groups traverse the town's bridges and boulevards at dusk, stopping by landmarks such as Arizona State University and Sun Devil Stadium, whose eponymous student-athletes practice under solar-powered stadium lights to escape the chill of night.