Situated amid the ponderosa hills and Sonoran scrub valleys of Tonto National Forest, Cherry Creek Lodge tucks visitors into upscale accommodations that mirror the rustic environment. Although richly appointed guestrooms and gourmet meals may entice some to remain indoors, the postcard-worthy surroundings pull most sojourners into Pleasant Valley, which plays host to hunts for the 11 different game species—including elk, quail, and mule deer—that populate the region, as well as activities such as sporting clays, cattle drives, and fishing Lake Sharon’s largemouth bass.
Although today's lodge inhabitants can be found regaling one another with fishing stories or roasting pinecones over the hearth, the Pleasant Valley scene wasn’t always so tranquil. In the late 1800s, the valley provided the setting for an infamous dispute between the Graham and Tewksbury families that became known as the Pleasant Valley War. The conflict garnered national media attention at the time and generated numerous unresolved theories concerning its causes.
Held annually on Jackpot Ranch, the Verde Valley Fall Festival celebrates the advent of autumn with three days of family-friendly activities and seasonal treats. Thousands of pumpkins and gourds await plucking from the patch's vines, hayrides whisk passengers across the private ranch's grounds, and live musicians keep toes tapping on the dance floor more effectively than automated tap-shoes. As kids of all ages gambol about carnival rides, a youngster zone offers up age-appropriate attractions, and adults pluck favorite brews from the beer garden and wash palates with tastings from local wineries. More local merchants hawk wares such as handmade crafts, jewelry, and art, while tasty snacks from restaurants such as Johnny Rockets, Babe's Round Up, and Zainey's Yogurt reenergize guests throughout the fest.
Hundreds of animals from around the world roam the spacious, natural habitats on Out of Africa Wildlife Park’s 104 acres. Tours of the Wildlife Preserve jaunt past gray wolves and spotted hyenas, while a 30-minute African Bush Safari travels through a 22-acre high-desert-plains habitat where lions and tigers roam the hillside. Caretakers, colorful toys, and brain-tickling games of chess entertain Bengal and Siberian tigers in the Tiger Splash’s 35'x50' pool. Guests eager to interact with the park’s critters can hold anacondas and boas at the Giant Snake Show or tag along with caretakers feeding lions and tigers with 800 pounds of raw food.
Pinz celebrates classic ten-pin competition with open hours throughout the week, league opportunities, and cosmic bowling each weekend. The newly renovated facility is now outfitted with synthetic bowling surfaces, glow-in-the-dark carpeting, and flat-screen television sets. On Friday and Saturday evenings, the lanes take on glowing hues that emulate the experience of bowling under the Northern Lights without the inconvenience of getting frostbite. Pinz’s onsite kitchen dishes up quick specialties to fill bellies, and the facility’s game room is equipped with pool tables, air-hockey tables, and a digital jukebox capable of plucking old 45s from the far reaches of the Internet.
Amy Tuso aims to capture in vibrant acrylics and oils the joy of both the creative act itself and the subject of her choice–whether that be a minimalist, abstract take on cloud formation or a somewhat-pulpy rendition of a cowboy riding a mechanical bull. Browse her gallery to sample the radiant spectra of her brushjitsu. Small pieces start at $25, while her largest pieces range from $55–$65, with all gradations of pricing and dimensions in between.
Green Zebra Adventures allows participants a chance to steer the unparalleled terrain ferry that is the Tomcar through a portion of 23,000 acres of the Sonoran Desert. At the beginning of the three–four hour tour, you can flip a talismanic clump of desert dust to determine who will take the wheel first. After setting out on a relatively mellow road to get a handle on the vehicle, passengers will follow their guide out onto the breathtaking uneven terrain. Scheduled stops grant opportunities to switch drivers, snap photos of saguaro cacti, and take a quick dip in the Verde River (weather permitting). Aside from an appetite for brush, rocks, and path-invading cacti, your desert chariot comes equipped with four-point racing-regulated safety belts that ensure Mom's piece of mind as you zip over the Sonoran path. Four-wheel independent suspension and a high ground clearance allow passengers to enjoy the off-road experience without the whiplash and jostle-hip commonly associated with all-terrain vehicles.