As the Bradshaw Mountain range stretches into the Sonoran Dessert, its landscapes change quickly. Shrub-strewn hills dip into valleys dotted with cacti. Clear streams run through dense copses, and then open to bare, clay-red plateaus. The guides at Desert Wolf Tours unveil these unforgiving yet magical landscapes, chiefly by leading caravans of Tomcars. These all-terrain vehicles let guests power over rocks, up hillsides, and through card towers to visit destinations such as old turquoise and gold mines and a ghost town.
Desert Wolf's team also takes visitors into the desert for recreational target shooting, supplying them with firearms, such as M16 rifles and Glock 17 handguns, to shoot under the supervision of NRA-certified instructors. Desert Wolf, a family-owned business, adheres to eco-friendly practices, participating in programs such as the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. These efforts have not only earned the respect of guests, but also a certificate of excellence from TripAdvisor.
MTM Ranch is located on the Willow Springs Preserve, a mountainous stretch of wilderness south of the Tonto National Forest. There are no streets to cross or cars to dodge here, which has helped ensure the abundance of coyote, javelina, and mule deer. Stationed at the center of the preserve, MTM Ranch’s herd of well-trained horses makes it easy for visitors to explore the region’s natural beauty.
Before embarking on trail rides, wranglers pair each rider with a horse that suits his or her age, size, and level of experience. Then, they train new riders with the skills and tools needed to control their horse as they hit the hills. In addition to their equestrian expertise, guides also bring a keen knowledge of the surrounding region. They’re happy to identify local flora and fauna for riders, and they'll answer any questions about horsemanship or the likelihood that one of the riders is actually a centaur.
Spur Cross Stables lives above an old 19th-century gold mine right on the edge of Tonto National Forest and its 3 million acres of rocky mesas, Saguaro cactus, and abundant desert wildlife. The stables' array of trail rides intertwine across some 30% of this vast landscape, leading up to seven riders at a time through Native American ruins, packs of coyotes, and vintage UFOs. Rides range from one hour to a full day, and match each city slicker up with one of the 50 gentle horses available for riding??many of which have been rescued from unhealthy situations. After the desert traipse is over, guides give each member of their group a carrot to feed their hoofed transport as a token of friendship and appreciation.
"I'm bored!" is probably the most common phrase uttered by children out of school for the summer. Even inundated with an abundance of toys, games, and technology, kids still want more. Instead of getting them yet another magical centaur, parents can keep their offspring occupied with one of Arizona Summer Camps's diversions. The camp teams up with a variety of local businesses to present a diverse array of summer camps to engage the minds and bodies of youths. The quality of instruction is top-notch, and the student-to-teacher ratios are kept low.
Kids can expand their horizons with science-driven experimentation in fields such as robotics or computer gaming, or break a sweat and a few boards in one of several martial-arts camps. Gymnastics camps bolster coordination and strength in wee ones.
Although tumbleweeds don't breeze down its street and there's no hitching post on which to secure your horse, Brix Wine Spot swaps the valley for the Old West while helping visitors earn their sommelier spurs. A 20-foot copper bar corrals patrons as they stampede through the door, surrounding them with country tunes and over 500 of the bar's vintages.
Weekly tastings introduce palates to new bouquets, and every day a minimum of 18 wines are available by the glass, each served at an optimal temperature and right after naptime to ensure cooperation. When stomachs begin to rumble, guests can snack on artisan cheeses, salami platters, and handcrafted cheesecakes, or even bring in their own food—a practice Brix encourages as long as a glass of one of their wines is incorporated.
Cellar 13's owner, Mike Hightower, is no triskaidekaphobian. That is, he's not afraid of the number 13. Rather, he embraces it. He even themed his whole business around the superstitious number: it's no coincidence that Cellar 13 offers 13 red wines, 13 white wines, and 13 menu items. Guests can choose to explore either of the two outdoor patios, dine along the wine bar, or descend—yes, 13 steps—down to the cellar, where a cozy lounge with leather armchairs and dark wood tables welcomes guests and anything served in a bottle or stemmed glassware. No matter where you sit, you will encounter a variety of fine wines, gourmet sandwiches, and a friendly staff.