After learning to fly in college, Arizona native Rob Norberg flew to Alaska, where he spent 20 years traversing mountains, streams, and valleys as a fishing guide and seaplane pilot. But the Arizona climate eventually beckoned him back. Norberg now leads tours five times a day in his Cessna Caravan seaplane, carrying passengers high above sights including the Salt River Canyon, Roosevelt Dam, and Tonto Indian Ruins and providing passengers with thought-provoking facts and history. His nine-passenger plane ensures a window seat for each passenger, and comes equipped with personal headsets so they can each listen to the plane's adorable heartbeat.
After you hike a 10-mile descent through Hualapai Canyon—past the Supai Village and breathtaking ancient geological formations—you arrive at Havasu Falls. Follow the sound of the water and you’ll find the falls, where rapids cascade 100 feet to a dazzlingly blue-green, travertine pool below. It’s one of the world's most remote and beautiful swimming holes, and Pygmy Guides’ backpacking guides, who are medically trained as wilderness first responders or wilderness EMTs, lead groups there regularly.
Havasu Falls is just one of many destinations that you can explore with Pygmy Guides, a company that was founded by people who have spent more than 10 years living in and exploring Grand Canyon National Park. They lead groups to hike below the rim to see ancient rock art, hidden fossils, and california condors, walking in the footsteps of horse thieves on the Tanner Trail or along routes on the Bright Angel Trail once tread by ancestral Pueblo peoples. At Dripping Springs, water drips from the roof of a sandstone alcove so you can dilute Gatorade that tastes too sweet.
Sightseers who prefer the comfort of a plush SUV can see the canyon's expansive vistas through high-powered telescopes during day tours. Each all-inclusive trip includes park fees and gourmet meals and is limited to small groups for comfort and convenience.
Hop aboard an antique tractor to take a hayride tour of The Windmill Winery, which spans more than 100 acres of Arizona countryside, boasting historical buildings and breath-stealing scenery. Visitors can wind through the working farm to see a collection of early 20th-century buildings plus a host of farm animals humming nursery rhymes under their breath. Wine sippers can then drink in views of two lakes, the Gila River, and the Superstition Mountains before heading into the 1920s dairy barn to test palates with five signature wines culled from small and organic wineries. Learn about each wine's origin and how to pair it with the right culinary sidekicks, then sate grumbling bellies with a freshly grilled meal served on the back porch of the First Pinal County Sheriff's House. The night will wind down under the stars with a bonfire, s'mores, and bone-chilling stories about pairing fish and red wine.
Comfortably nestled in the shadows of the San Tan Mountains, owner Perry Rea and his family coax silken oils out of the olives they grow in their own groves. After more than 10 years of experiments, they finally settled on planting a few more than 16 distinct varietals, which thrive in the otherwise unforgiving Arizona deserts. Extending thoughtful care to each harvest, they avoid using any pesticides or genetically modified trees, employ water-conserving drip irrigation, and hand-pluck their olives at the peak of ripeness. Within 24 hours of picking, the staff then presses the crop in order to extract oils that taste as fresh as honey taken directly from a bee's pantry.
The fresh oils line the shelves of the mill's marketplace alongside imported wines and locally made goods. In addition to gourmet food items, the store stocks an extensive collection of Italian ceramics, works by local painters, and bath-and-body products infused with extra-virgin olive oil.
Queen Creek Olive Mill's oils also appear on the menu of del Piero, the facility's Tuscan-inspired bistro. Based on the Rea family's own recipes, each entree incorporates organic ingredients whenever possible, including locally sourced meats and herbs from the organic garden.
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.
Holloway Travel Outfitters, an independent family-owned business, has been easing the travels of world-wanderers with high-end luggage, travel apparel, and accessories since 1978. A petite Rick Steves Civita travel bag ($17.95) discretely holds passports, and a Travelon carry-safe anti-theft backpack ($59.95) protects effects from would-be pilferers with a heavy-duty metal wire strap that thwarts cut-and-run attempts and a leash that locks the bag to secure chairs or tables. Country skippers entrust garments to the clutches of an Eagle Creek Crossroads Duffel ($148.50), featuring rolling wheels to keep shoulders free for impromptu airport piggyback races. During business trips, a Samsonite classic toploader briefcase ($59.95), forged from durable ballistic nylon, keeps businesspersons ready for business, smartly stashing important documents, laptops, and emergency stashes of silly string for enlivening flagging meetings.