It begins with a flurry of activity. Balloon operators prepare for lift-off, checking equipment and tossing ropes as spectators wander the grounds, observing the action. And then it reaches a new level: dozens of balloons take flight at once, filling the crisp December dawn sky with brilliant blues, purples, oranges, and reds that rival the colors around them. The Arizona Balloon Classic's orbs then set off on an aerial hare-and-hound race, drawing cheers from below as onlookers snap pictures.
For one weekend each year, visitors gather on the grounds to snap pictures and watch the balloons inflate and lift-off outside the Gilbert Civic Center for the Classic––a three-day festival celebrating hot-air balloon flight and culture. But the fun doesn't end with the descent to earth. After sunset the tethered balloons begin to glow, lighting up for the DESERT GLOWS portion of the festivities. Attendees browse exhibits and feast on treats from a variety of vendors, and children play in the Family Fun Zone. Last, on Saturday evening, sparks give balloons a run for their money, springing through the sky in a stunning fireworks display.
Holloway Travel Outfitters, an independent family-owned business, has been easing the travels of world-wanderers with high-end luggage, travel apparel, and accessories since 1978. A petite Rick Steves Civita travel bag ($17.95) discretely holds passports, and a Travelon carry-safe anti-theft backpack ($59.95) protects effects from would-be pilferers with a heavy-duty metal wire strap that thwarts cut-and-run attempts and a leash that locks the bag to secure chairs or tables. Country skippers entrust garments to the clutches of an Eagle Creek Crossroads Duffel ($148.50), featuring rolling wheels to keep shoulders free for impromptu airport piggyback races. During business trips, a Samsonite classic toploader briefcase ($59.95), forged from durable ballistic nylon, keeps businesspersons ready for business, smartly stashing important documents, laptops, and emergency stashes of silly string for enlivening flagging meetings.
For owners Sal and Dina Zappone, their eponymous Italian eatery is a dream come true. The newly renovated dining room is rife with modern accents such as earthen clay tiles, solar-powered silverware, and hanging lights like glowing red roses. It’s also a family establishment through and through. While Sal helms the kitchen, garnishing homemade pastas with fresh ricotta, and loading pizzas with fresh fennel sausage and truffle oil, his young son and daughter can often be found in small aprons, advertising their favorite dishes. Diners may also pair meals with an espresso or a light Morellino wine, which offers a fruity nose easier than sticking grapes in your nostrils.
Occasionally, Mood Swings Aveda Salon and Skin Spa moonlights as a studio. Sometimes camera-toting members of the media stop by to check out this season’s trends or new hair products. Other times, models strut or flutter from imaginary wind gusts during Urban Tribe and other fashion photo shoots. Perhaps most importantly, Mood Swings periodic studio space hosts educational seminars for its talented team of stylists, who learn advanced tips in coloring and other techniques from Aveda professional instructors.
This commitment to the art and science of hair justifies Arizona Foothills magazine selecting Mood Swings Aveda Salon and Skin Spa as its best salon of 2011. The praise coincides with that from AZCentral.com, which named Mood Swings Best Trendy Salon for “translating cool, avant-garde styles into wearable, everyday looks.” Stylists craft these looks with natural, plant-based products from Aveda, and supplement the service with pampering that can include a complimentary scalp massage, hand facial, and finishing touches to clients’ makeup. A comprehensive services menu treats the entire body, ranging from natural skin products that rejuvenate complexions to pedicures that soothe feet with a dual-jet therapeutic whirlpool after unsuccessful attempts to walk barefoot across a hot charcoal grill.
The experienced tour guides at Segway of Scottsdale Segway Tours lead fleets of two-wheelers through one of two scenic Arizona cities during an extensive schedule of rides. Guests gear up for either of the 90-minute tours by hopping aboard a segway, whose self-balancing technology allows riders to tilt handlebars gently for turns or quickly for back flips. Each session begins with a 30-minute orientation, followed by a narrated jaunt past the towering opulence of the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort in Scottsdale or around the city-flanked oasis of Tempe Town Lake. During the summer months, groups traverse the town's bridges and boulevards at dusk, stopping by landmarks such as Arizona State University and Sun Devil Stadium, whose eponymous student-athletes practice under solar-powered stadium lights to escape the chill of night.
The Great Urban Race is a one-day event pitting teams of two against one another in a race combining physical challenges, scavenger hunts, and puzzles. Up to 700 twosomes will traverse 4 to 8 miles of Toronto terrain on foot and by public transportation as they solve 12 challenging clues in a fun quest to reach the finish line first. Sample clues and challenges from past Great Urban Races include charades, bubble-gum chewing, pig Latin deciphering, bicycle races, and word scrambles, making this race ideal for competitive eaters and cryptographers alike. Teams are encouraged to dress up in matching outfits, and prizes will be awarded for best costume. Prizes are also given for race results, with $300 going to first place, $200 to second place, and $100 to third place. The top 25 teams will qualify for the National Championship in New Orleans in November, with the top three teams receiving free entry. Each participant gets a T-shirt and postrace refreshments of fruit, granola bars, and a run through a Perrier sprinkler. Read over the rules and FAQs for more information.