Sprawling across 392 acres and home to thousands of unusual plant and animal species, the Boyce Thompson Arboretum is far from a standard classroom. Here, people learn through exploration rather than through textbooks; they’re able to smell the plants they study and ask native squirrels for direct quotes about soil quality. Jaunts through the park cover a range of terrain. Butting up against the northern face of Picketpost Mountain, the park encompasses canyons, hills, and trails carefully landscaped to duplicate arid environments from around the globe. The cactus garden features plants both sinuous and spiny, creating a vast collection of shapes and textures nestled into the dusty red landscape. Queen Creek Canyon provides respite from the sun, its towering trees thriving in the cool shade. Visitors pick up tips on how to enhance their own yards in the demonstration garden of drought-tolerant plants, which are relatively easy to care for except for when they demand chocolate milk. Additional education can be found in classes and lectures held at the Smith Interpretive Center.
The highly trained guides at Canyon Rio Rafting spearhead half-, full-, and multi-day expeditions down the Salt River, Rio Chama, and San Juan River. Certified in first aid and versed in advanced wilderness medical and rescue training, they ensure that trips run as smoothly over Class II–IV rapids as a mustache over the foam of a cappuccino. Following romps on oar rafts, paddle rafts, and inflatable kayaks, guides nourish excursionists with gourmet meals.
Alternatively, Canyon Rio Rafting's certified instructors help foster future whitewater navigation by staging courses for guides, rescue technicians, and kayakers.
Though some participants choose to run and others to walk, everybody who participates in the Color Dash experiences a transformation. As participants make their way through the 5K Color Dash and UVSplash courses they are subjected to bursts of color; additional events include Zombies by Color Dash, which adds the undead to the equation. Though the color will wash away, the memories will remain forever in the minds of all participants who aren't goldfish. Proceeds from Color Dash events benefit local children's charities and organizations.
Sculpted in the foreground of the Superstition Mountains, Mountain Brook Golf Club charms golfers with a 6,620-yard course that blankets the arid desert with immaculate fairways and greens. Water hazards, crushed-marble sand traps, and desert wilderness await balls that stray from their path due to an open clubface or the desire to snuggle a cactus.
The club's 12-acre practice facility blasts bogeys off scorecards with a full-length grass-tee driving range, a putting green, and two short-game practice areas where players can rehearse greenside chips, bunker shots, and approaches from as far as 100 yards. Brand-name golf apparel and equipment populates the pro shop, which sells merchandise emblazoned with the Mountain Brook Golf Club logo for those looking to obtain a souvenir from their round without having to adopt a rambunctious tumbleweed.
Course at a Glance:
18-hole, par 71 course
Length of 6,620 yards from the farthest tees
Course rating of 69.4 from the farthest tees
Three tee options
A safe space. That's what the Boys & Girls Clubs of the East Valley give to more than 43,000 kids each year. But along with keeping kids out of harm's way after school lets out, the Boys & Girls Clubs enrich children's lives though their programs. Kids get creative in arts classes, learn social interaction and fitness skills in sports programs, and prepare for the future with technology courses that ensure they won't buy stock in companies that only produce floppy discs.
But the Boys & Girls Clubs impact kids beyond afterschool care. In addition to the East Valley clubs having the first Arizona club to serve a Native American community, the clubs' Ladmo branch has Mona Dixon, who was named National Youth of the Year for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in 2010.
Her path of success, encouraged by the Boys & Girls Clubs, led her from a girl homeless and worried about her family's survival to a young woman with a full ride to college and named one of the Top 28 Most Influential Black Women in America by Essence magazine.
The sprawling Superstition Mountain Range has been inhabited for more than 9,000 years, but its landscape has remained the same until relatively recently. In the 19th century American settlers moved in, driven by rumors of a bountiful gold mine. The Lost Dutchman Mine spawned a range of new settlements alongside existing American Indian sites here. Though the mine's inhabitants?and the cowboy hats they wore?are long gone, their story lives on at the Superstition Mountain Museum, a 12.5-acre interactive outdoor museum and nature walk dedicated to preserving the area's history. Full-scale recreations of 19th-century buildings include a stage-coach shop, barber shop, 20-stamp gold ore crusher, and the church-turned-film museum Elvis Memorial Chapel. Each building transports visitors back in time with the help of exhibits featuring authentic artifacts and documents such as ancient rock samples that reveal local geology, or art and household items depicting American Indian life.