A small group of explorers stands beneath an open dome of night sky as pinpricks of starlight glitter against the expanse's dark blues and blacks. Each spot of light even seems to look much clearer from here—likely because the group is standing 9,157 feet above sea level. At the Stewart Observatory inside Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter at the mountain's summit, scientists guide visitors through the use of gear such as a 32-inch Schulman telescope—the state's largest public viewing telescope—to probe the far reaches of space to learn about celestial phenomena and take in magnified images of the universe just above.
Days and nights at the center bring a slew of learning experiences to budding astronomers. Accompanied by University of Arizona scientists, Discovery Days lead explorations of topics such as tree rings, hummingbirds, and meteorology, frequently beckoning students into the surrounding outdoors. During nightly SkyNights programming, groups summit Mt. Lemmon for a five-hour evening of dining and stargazing at the observatory. One-on-one time with heavenly bodies comes courtesy of Astronomer Nights, wherein site staffers grant singles or pairs lodging, private access to the Schulman telescope, and the chance to contribute directly to the field upon discovering a supernova, nebula, or handlebar mustache on the man in the moon.
Periodically, the scientific team also expounds on specific topics, such as digital celestial imaging, with the public in multiple-day workshops. Each participant builds on the Stewart Observatory's list of achievements since 1970, which include furthering infrared astronomy, surveying the moon for Apollo lunar landings, and searching for near-Earth asteroids.
When the guides and staff at Good Enough Mine Tour opened their 1879 Tombstone silver mine to the public, their achievement was more than a year in the making. They had worked tirelessly, blasting compressed air and water to clear blocked passageways, cutting through solid rock, and mixing concrete that they'd carried into the mine on their backs. Once they finished clearing the tunnels, they built stairs and railings and installed lights. Finally, guides began leading tours through the mine's original passageways.
Today, Good Enough Mine Tour's guides escort visitors as far as 100 feet underground into the mine's 19th-century depths, where they divulge the history and uses of 130-year-old structures and artifacts such as strap-rail, lanterns, and dynamite fuses. They sometimes lead visitors through narrow passageways and into stopes??large chambers created by ore removal??or up ladders and into the living rooms of friendly mole people.
Crafting wines culled from the fertile fields of southern Arizona, Charron Vineyards has a penchant for producing quality whites and reds thanks to its high altitude, cool night temperatures, and lush fields of wine-bottle plants. Guests visit the welcoming, pet-friendly estate to walk along the 4 acres of mature grapevines and learn the intricate details of making fine wines such as their signature white merlot and smooth French-style ros?. The staff also hosts tastings on the scenic open deck and in the glass-enclosed tasting room, during which guests sip fruity whites and complex reds as they gaze at the breathtaking Santa Rita and Empire mountain ranges. Located about a half hour south of Tucson, guests are always welcome to pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the extensive tasting menu of wines offered by the bottle or glass.
Winemaking and viticulture shaped much of the young lives of Flying Leap Vineyards' founding partners: Mark Beres grew up and worked his first vineyard jobs in the wine-growing region of southeastern Washington, and Marc Moeller is the product of generations of Swiss winemakers. Their experiences make for a potent combination of artistry and science when it comes to crafting their own wine. They use only grapes that are lab certified, well adjusted for planting in the Arizona loam, and able to sit patiently for still lifes. This sophisticated fusion is evident at the winery's two tasting rooms, where guests can purchase their favorite vintages and excite their palates with sampler flights.
As the sun rises and illuminates the jagged Sonoran Desert with rose-colored light, colorful hot-air balloons rise into the sky right along with it. This scene occurs seven days a week from September to May during Tucson Balloon Rides' one-hour sunrise floats. Soaring with the morning's easy wind currents, FAA-certified pilot Kevin Wilbur ferries passengers for 10 to 15 miles at altitudes between 500 and 4,000 feet over the cacti forests of Saguaro National Park West and the shrub-covered flatlands of Avra Valley. While gliding over the Tucson Mountains, he also points out important sites as well as deer, foxes, and coyotes. After a gentle touchdown, Captain Kevin and guests enjoy a champagne toast and brunch. If the voyage inspires anyone to become a hot-air-balloon pilot or a cloud, he can also help them earn their private or commercial pilot license with his training program.
Inspired by The Amazing Race, CityScape Adventures?held across the United States?entangle race participants in webs of 12 puzzles and challenges in citywide races to the finish line. Participants compete in teams of two, using their wits, teamwork, and underground network of mutant-turtle spies to complete the tasks given at the start of the race. The 12 challenges take the form of puzzles, riddles, and clues that guide treasure hunters to a specific location within the city, where each team must complete a special task using only their cleverness and muscles. Players can also use the Internet, and the winning team is usually the one that best leverages its resources. The first team to successfully complete all tasks and vault over the finish line will receive a prize and assembly line of high-fives. Click here for a video of past races.