As the sun sinks below the Santa Rita Mountains, towering shade trees and adobe haciendas cast long shadows across Agua Linda Farm’s 63 acres. Over the years, this idyllic farm has nabbed attention from the press as well as visits from celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor and John Wayne, who may have played hide-and-seek amid the rows of organic vegetables and flowers. In addition to a focus on sustainable agriculture, the farm strives to serve as a community hub. Farmsteaders Stewart and Laurel Loew host dinners, weddings, and scarecrow support groups in the adobe hacienda, and spark the imaginations of young horticulturists with family-centric spring and fall harvest festivals.
Aiming to turn the museum concept inside-out, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum contains two miles of paths spread across 21 acres of desert, where animals such as sun-bathing lizards, bobcats, porcupine, and grey fox make their home. However, it is the fusion experience of a zoo, botanical garden, natural history museum, aquarium, and art gallery that has earned it a top-5 museum honor by TripAdvisor.
The museum's exhibits intend to display the shared natural habitats of plants, animals, and geology. As many as 230 native live animal species and 1,200 types of plants fill the museum's many exhibits, such as mountain lions, prairie dogs, and river otters, and nearly 20 endangered or threatened species. Birds of prey that roam the skies are the subject of a twice-daily seasonal presentation. The gardens feature over 56,000 individual plant specimens native to several biomes and ecosystems of the Sonoran Desert. Also exhibited is the skeleton of a Sonosaurus, recovered in southern Arizona.
After their stint outdoors, visitors can wander innovative indoor exhibits. Inside a cool, dark replica of a limestone cave glimmer more than 14,000 minerals and fossils, which includes a moon rock on loan from NASA. Amongst an underwater view of beavers' habitat and a venomous reptile presentation, the Warden Aquarium showcases the region's marine residents, and an art institute aims to promote conservation through dynamic visual art.
Membership in the Reid Park Zoological Society grants you and your family (two named adults and any children under the age of 18) full access to the zoo for an entire year (open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas). Being a card-carrying member opens up numerous doors, behind which lie benefit after benefit, and sometimes tigers. From June through August, you'll get early-morning entry to the zoo grounds—a calm, crowd-free time to view feedings and animal care firsthand, as well as a chance to lick and groom one's own fur in peace. The "Zoo & You" newsletter will arrive quarterly in your mailbox, keeping readers up to date on all zoo-related happenings. You'll also receive advance notice, discounts, and VIP entry to all after-hours events. If travel plans are in the cards, use your family membership as a veritable Jedi mind trick to receive discounts of 50% to 100% off at 165 different zoos and aquariums throughout the United States. Concerned number-noshers and pachyderm pals should also note that this membership donation is completely tax deductible, and that a portion of the donation will support the construction of Expedition Tanzania, the new, expanded elephant habitat set to open in the fall of 2011.
Served by the flight, glass, or bottle, the wine at Bear Track Bistro & Winery makes for a tasty accomplice to the eatery's gourmet Mediterranean-style food. À la carte menus feature specialties from the sea, such as smoked oysters and sturgeon, and from the land, including all-natural artisan-cured meats seasoned with organic spices. Visitors can also share platters of cheese—feta, asiago, and smoked edam, among others—all handcrafted by a fourth-generation Wisconsin cheese maker. To go along with its food and wine, Bear Track also hosts special events throughout the week, highlighted by ladies nights and live music every Saturday.
The FAA-certified commercial pilots at the helm of Southern AZ Balloons have glided groups across Tucson for more than two decades. During aerial adventures, the luxurious, wind-blown aircraft float as low as the treetops and as high as 2,000 feet depending on conditions. Varying heights present extravagant photographic opportunities, including of mountain ranges and of Catalina. Finally, after traveling anywhere from four to 15 miles, balloons coast to a landing for celebratory champagne brunches.
Armed with only their courage, adventurers work their way through darkened alleys of corn, the path lit by nothing more than a curtain of stars above. But they're not alone. Through this maze lurk crazed doctors, hungry zombies, and grisly artifacts of murder and mayhem––an army of bloodthirsty terrors standing between groups of unwilling victims and the exit.
Not all the stalks at Buckelew Farms are haunted, however. Those who escape the Terror in the Corn unscathed can relax their nerves and test their navigational skills in the flashlight maze, where groups survey the darkness to find 12 different checkpoints that offer up clues to the maze. The casual-paced attraction offers up a challenge similar to a classic scavenger hunt, but without the creepy neighbors. Both mazes make a great ending to a day at the farm's 24th Annual Pumpkin Festival, where guests enjoy a lively collection of fall pastimes. Tractors tow carts of hay and families to pumpkin fields to pick out an ideal jack-o'-lantern candidate, and a smattering of colorful tents house arts and crafts activities, children’s games, and a petting zoo full of friendly beasts waiting to be pet, fed, and stealthily adopted. The farm will also be hosting a Great Pumpkin 5K race on October 14, during which participants chart a course through the farm and parts of the corn maze in order to win prizes and raise funds for the University of Arizona Medical Center Departments of Surgery and Neurology.