Weather-worn gray castle walls draped with climbing vines greet visitors as soon as they step through the massive front doors of The Castle on Main. From there, guests could admire the knights in shining armor or take a stroll through the grassy inner courtyard?but they should probably leave any swords at home. While this "castle" isn't really a medieval fortress, the wedding venue plays the part admirably. The facility organizes wedding and special-event packages of varying degrees of opulence that may include featuring themed decor and cuisine catered in-house. The bride and groom receive extra perks including access to the venue's spacious, lushly appointed private suites, but not the stable where the king keeps all of his hunting trophies. Not all of The Castle's decor is from a distant age; modern touches include LED-lit walls, crystal chandeliers, and a sleek lounge and cocktail bar.
Mesa Arts Center curates artistic goings-on inside a sleek structure filled with four theaters, five art galleries, and 14 art studios. Graced by the likes of Yo-Yo Ma and Bill Cosby, the stages of the facility's theaters showcase a cultural cocktail of live music, Broadway, dance, and comedy performances. Grooming the next generation of artisans with the help of advanced equipment, seasoned instructors teach everything from acting and beading to woodworking and welding during art classes tailored to both kids and adults.
For inspiration, students and visitors can stroll through the galleries of the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum for glimpses at a revolving selection of contemporary art from international artists. Speckled with gardens, shapely architecture, and colorful lighting, the facility’s modern grounds welcome guests for everyday visits or annual events and festivals.
SunDust Art Gallery is truly a family-run operation—Ron Floyd, a retired university art professor and a recognized abstract artist, opened the 5,000-square-foot gallery with the help of his wife Mary Lou Floyd and son Chris Floyd. Opened in 2009, the studio's initial goal was to provide the Southwest's eclectic and often-unnoticed artists a home, and today it has grown to encompass a gallery collection that regularly features many such artists and mediums for which the region is well known, such as sculpture, jewelry, and photography. Throughout his long career as an art professor, Ron learned to teach students how to overcome artistry's intricacies, and he now operates out of SunDust's studios with accessible painting and drawing classes.
Teams never know what's waiting around the next street corner during the Mesa Adventure Challenge. Group obstacles, human pyramids, or even a ride on a Big Wheel might stand in the way of completing the race's various checkpoints, and team members should be prepared to crack some Morse code, collect scavenger-hunt-style items, or answer local trivia.
Mesa Adventure Challenge sprinkles tasks like these across a 5- to 7-mile route. Along the way, competitors can travel via public transportation?though no taxis or cars are allowed?and the event organizers encourage them to seek out other forms of help. Participants can ask strangers for assistance, use smart phones, and even call friends, who are hopefully having lunch with the town oracle. The challenges can take anywhere from 1.5 to 4 hours to complete, but all of the work pays off at the after-party, complete with an award ceremony.
Four-and-a-half billion. That’s how many years of history fits into the Arizona Museum of Natural History’s 80,000 square feet. The Origins gallery orients extremely disoriented visitors with a timeline that traces the most significant events in the history of the cosmos and planet Earth. From there, visitors browse the museum’s 60,000 artifacts, such as the Dinosaur Hall’s T-rex skull and full skeleton of an adolescent triceratops. On the three-story Dinosaur Mountain—flash floods gush every 23 minutes and endanger roaring replicas of dinosaurs such as a stegosaurus and tyrannosaurus.
Though chockfull of dinosaurs, not everything at the museum is saurian in nature. The museum’s Mesoamerica and South America section, for instance, focuses on artifacts from ancient cultures, such as the Maya and the early civilizations of Central Mexico.
In exhibitions on Arizona’s history, guests can explore the labyrinthine Lost Dutchman Mine, search for gold in the History Courtyard, and get locked away in an actual territorial jail that used to house outlaws, cattle rustlers, and a guy who said the jailer's chaps made his thighs look fat. In addition to all the museum’s historical relics, there are living creatures on display, including a Gila monster and a soft-shelled turtle named Tom.
Self-expression and imagination have no age limits. That's the idea behind Arizona Museum for Youth, a gathering place for youngsters to explore art and their own creativity. Rotating exhibitions, which have included glow-in-the-dark portraits and bead art, showcase that stimulate children's imaginations as well as the sense of sight. Guests can follow the spark of inspiration and create their own magnum opuses during art classes or in the museum's interactive play area, Artville. Decorated with giant-size paint brushes and other art equipment, Artville presents kids with a colorful array of play stations and even a performance arts center to stage productions of Waiting for Go Dog Go.