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.
On Saturday, October 26, shoppers browse the wares of the more than 40 vendors gathered at the FALLiday BOOtique while their children trick-or-treat at each table. The vendors represent a variety of small businesses in the area, including Indulgence's by Christina, which perfumes rooms with plug-in warmers and 80 fragrances, Stunning by Design, which adorns necks with handmade scarves, A Little Bit of Princess, which makes girls feel special with fun jewelry, and Madame Butterfly Creations. The event also features a few big-name vendors, such as The Pampered Chef.
After grabbing their candy and the one lone pack of raisins that always seems to turn up, kids can get their faces painted by The Face Fairy. Their parents can also get tested to become bone-marrow donors and save lives with the help of Be the Match.
The San Tan Mountains form a majestic backdrop for Welcome Home Ranch, though it's unlikely visitors will spend much time looking at the scenery. Special events make trips to the ranch an exciting and ever-changing experience. Depending on the day, it might serve as a venue for rodeos, other competitions in the equestrian arena, or seasonal festivals. In the fall, the grounds brim with haunted houses, a corn maze, and plenty of pumpkins, which will turn back into horse carriages come winter.
One thing about the ranch never changes: its commitment to education. In addition to being a home for horses and livestock, Welcome Home Ranch doubles as an educational center, where students live, work, and learn under 24/7 direction from the program director. The curriculum––which might include everything from caring for pigs to rebuilding a shock absorber––can help students 18–34 turn their lives around.
For owners Sal and Dina Zappone, their eponymous Italian eatery is a dream come true. The newly renovated dining room is rife with modern accents such as earthen clay tiles, solar-powered silverware, and hanging lights like glowing red roses. It’s also a family establishment through and through. While Sal helms the kitchen, garnishing homemade pastas with fresh ricotta, and loading pizzas with fresh fennel sausage and truffle oil, his young son and daughter can often be found in small aprons, advertising their favorite dishes. Diners may also pair meals with an espresso or a light Morellino wine, which offers a fruity nose easier than sticking grapes in your nostrils.
At 3,000 feet up, when all you can hear is the wind, the landscape takes on a magical quality. Using brilliantly colored balloons, Arizona Balloon Rides imparts that magic to up to 16 passengers at a time. The wind propels them as they float along for 45–60 minutes, up to 5 linear miles. Even children as young as 7 years old can peer over the top of the basket to scan the woodlands and fields for jackrabbits scampering, cows chewing grass, coyotes suing roadrunners in small-claims court.