It begins with a flurry of activity. Balloon operators prepare for lift-off, checking equipment and tossing ropes as spectators wander the grounds, observing the action. And then it reaches a new level: dozens of balloons take flight at once, filling the crisp December dawn sky with brilliant blues, purples, oranges, and reds that rival the colors around them. The Arizona Balloon Classic's orbs then set off on an aerial hare-and-hound race, drawing cheers from below as onlookers snap pictures.
For one weekend each year, visitors gather on the grounds to snap pictures and watch the balloons inflate and lift-off outside the Gilbert Civic Center for the Classic––a three-day festival celebrating hot-air balloon flight and culture. But the fun doesn't end with the descent to earth. After sunset the tethered balloons begin to glow, lighting up for the DESERT GLOWS portion of the festivities. Attendees browse exhibits and feast on treats from a variety of vendors, and children play in the Family Fun Zone. Last, on Saturday evening, sparks give balloons a run for their money, springing through the sky in a stunning fireworks display.
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Nightmares are bad enough; at least they go away upon waking. For Lenore, nightmares of torture and death are everlasting, and visitors at Sanctum of Horror bravely enter the depths of her hopelessly twisted mind. Her thoughts and memories are presented in a dark home with walls coated in peeling wallpaper and blood. The denizens of this space are not the usual happy family of four. Within the halls lurk evil dolls and menacing clowns waiting to evoke lucid dreams. Flesh-eating prisoners chomp on their latest victim while scanning the crowds for more, and hatchet-wielding madmen wait to terrorize anyone who crosses their paths or dares to insult their pets' sweaters.
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 The Asylum 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 half of The Crypt Haunted Attractions’ two-piece tribute to fear.
The other creepy venue, The Crypt, beckons intrepid guests to descend into a vault filled with the living dead. As they tiptoe 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.
Helmed by animated guide Marvin Neer, Segway Expeditions’ fleet of i2 segways zips along urban pathways and desert landscapes during scenic tours of Phoenix and Scottsdale. After strapping on fitted helmets, guests throw lassos around the handlebars of nearby segways and hop onto their backs to begin a 15-minute safety lesson. Marvin then leads packs out on tours of Papago Park, Scottsdale Green Belt, South Mountain Park, or Tempe Beach Park, commenting on the local flora and fauna as they swoosh by. A gyroscopically self-balancing mechanism keeps the segway stable as it cruises at speeds of up to 12 miles per hour, so riders need not worry about falling off their metallic steeds during sharp turns or impromptu jousts.
A spine-chilling labyrinth of dark corners, creatures back from the undead, and eerie, abandoned spaces await any brazen guests who dare enter the maze-like Dark Scares Haunted Attraction—voted "Best Haunted House" in 2011 and 2012 by Arizona Foothills Magazine. The haunted hotel unleashes a live cast of tormented spirits that have checked in and show no intention of checking out for all eternity, as long as the water pressure in the showers remains satisfactory.
During their 20-minute voyage through the demented dungeon, guests must steel themselves in anticipation of sudden spooks emerging through the walls, vacated guest rooms appearing through mysterious doorways, and other ghoulish scares. Guests may wear costumes of their own when visiting Dark Scares, though masks are not permitted.