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.
No one knows where Dr. Vantas lost his way. Once an esteemed doctor at the vanguard of electroshock therapy for the mentally insane, the physician let his psychiatric hospital become a madhouse, prompting rumors of Vantas using inhumane experiments on patients. Those who enter his territory risk falling prey to its deranged denizens and the quack’s extremely cold stethoscope. This is the spine-tingling, horror-film narrative that plays out to visitors as they creep through The Asylum, a haunted site modeled after an 1870s-style mental institution and one third of of The Crypt Haunted Attractions’ three-piece tribute to fear.
The next stop is the The Crypt, a vault filled with the living dead that beckons intrepid guests to descend into it. Tiptoeing through the chamber's darkened corridors, voyagers must stay poised as they strafe around staggering corpses groaning about their hunger for brains or the lack of legroom in their casket. Anchoring the evening of fright is the Chaos Maze, the new lawless labyrinth that requires cunning, agility, and fearlessness to make it through unscathed.
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.