Challenger Space Center Arizona is on a mission: to excite and educate its visitors about science and the vast wonders of outer space. That excitement starts as soon as guests walk onto the entrance's elevated gantry bridge to see a four-story, space-themed mural painted by Robert McCall. Then it's on to the museum, where the center's affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution enables it to offer top-notch exhibits, which range from a model of an Iridium satellite to three separate meteorite exhibits. Beneath the planetarium’s night sky, stargazers can learn about the stars or test their wishes out on different constellations. Regular Family Star Nights encourage families to bond over stargazing presentations, a simulated shuttle launch, and other activities.
To immerse themselves in the space experience, groups can also sign up for two-hour simulated space missions that unfold in three spaces: a mission control room designed after the Johnson Space Center; the Spacecraft, which simulates a room onboard the International Space Station; and the Earth Space Transit Module, which helps crew members dock there.
In 1975, Jay Kogan's parents opened up a store that was literally a hall of frames—just a small store stacked with thousands of frames. At the time, they had no idea that that tiny corridor would expand to 12 locations throughout the greater Phoenix area, all still run by the Kogan family. Today, their shops have more than 4,500 custom frame options along with mats of all colors and textures, as well as seven glazing choices and expert assembly. They can answer framing questions and frame everything from documents and artwork to posters and small 3-D objects such as sports memorabilia and very still grandmothers.
When they custom-produce frames, the family cuts their mats exactly, miters frame corners precisely, and installs flawless glass. Or, since the stores' walls are lined with ready-made frames, customers can walk in and find what they're looking for quickly. Since installing framed art is an art unto itself, they also offer hanging services with an eye for placement and ability to install in difficult spaces.
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.
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.
The Hall of Flame Fire Museum showcases the history of firefighting with nearly an acre's worth of exhibits and restored pieces of firefighting equipment that date as far back as 1725. Visitors can check out a Rhode Island fire engine from 1844 that was capable of pumping 250 gallons of water per minute to put out fires or 250 gallons of sarsaparilla per minute to fuel citywide block parties. The Hall's 400 fire helmet collection presents 400 protective headpieces from around the world, and in the museum's sixth gallery, the National Firefighting Hall of Heroes honors firefighters who were decorated for heroism and those who have died in the line of duty.
At Deer Valley Rock Art Center, visitors walk a quarter-mile trail that leads to thousands of Native American carvings. The ancient artwork includes more than1,500 petroglyphs, which were created between 7,000 and 500 years ago. Inside, a museum teaches about the prehistoric population who once inhabited the area.
For lunch, visitors can head over to outdoor picnic tables or an amphitheater area. They might also spot local wildlife such as roadrunners, jackrabbits, and red-tailed hawks.