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.
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:
Located on an site covering more than 12 acres at the foot of the mountain, Superstition Mountain Museum shares the rich history of the varied inhabitants of the Apache Junction area. Both indoor and outdoor exhibits pepper the site, where curious sightseers take in the area’s geology and natural history, finding out that gold normally begins as ore, rather than popping out of the ground as gold teeth. With an emphasis on the gold-rush years of the late 1800s, outdoor walking trails are replete with days-of-yore accoutrements, such as stagecoaches, windmills, and old mining equipment. History hounds stomp around a reproduction of a town straight from the Old West, peering in the windows of the barber shop or bailing fictional poltergeists and real uncles out of the old clink. Movie mavens clamor for two famous structures, both transported piece by piece from their original sites, the Apacheland Barn, known for its western film cameos, and the Elvis Memorial Chapel, which now houses the Apacheland Movie Memorabilia Museum. Gold gophers examine a collection of maps to try their hand at searching for the Lost Dutchman Mine(http://gr.pn/gLJM0r), supposedly the most plentiful gold mine in the world.
The Festival of Horses parades rare breeds alongside hitch-pulling draft steeds to celebrate equine diversity, entertainment, and labor. The graceful gaits of breeds such as frisians, spanish barb mustangs, and arizona appaloosas glide across the stallion showcase’s arena, the walls of which are made from wooden remnants of the Trojan Horse tied together with Mister Ed film reels. Rows of commercial booths promote and sell their wares on the trade-show floor, where horse-lovers haggle over trailers, tack, and feed. Trot from ring to ring, absorbing the sights and sounds of horse-human demonstrations from groups such as the Golden West Cowgirls and horse soccer, a contest of skill that has confused jersey manufacturers everywhere.
For the Banzai Physical Challenge, young warriors must face a dastardly foe: mud. Throughout a two-mile course, kids must brave the mess as they scale a hay mountain, take on a technically engineered ¼ pipe, rope swing, and mud crawl. Youngsters ages 7–17 can opt to tackle the muddy obstacle course on their own, with an adult, or with an altruistic pig that can carry them to the end.
After rinsing off at the cleanup area, participants can explore Banzai's other kid-friendly attractions, including tug-of-war, inflatable obstacle courses, and bounce houses. Warriors can unwind with chair massages, adorn their arms with glitter tattoos, groove to tunes spun by live DJs, or replenish themselves with food and drink. There's even a beer garden for the adults.