Spinning fire creates a haze of smoke. A giant dances through it. There's no stage around, no velvet seats to remind audiences they're watching a show, so the scene feels like hallucination, or like a portal has opened up and granted eyes a glimpse into another realm. And such is the effect Flam Chen has sought to create for nearly 20 years. Through pyrotechnic displays tinged with technology and made more daring with acrobatics, the circus troupe's performers create a dramatic playground where dark and light forces—at once human and animal—feed off each other.
Outside of performing a dozen original shows across the globe, the troupe performs custom performances for public causes and private commissions. Their theatricality has attracted the attention of masters of spectacle such as Tim Burton and Stan Lee, and made them shoe-ins to serve as the flyers during the Scream Awards. Yet their performances have also served a greater good: they've raised funds for local charities and communities, and worked with the non-profit Many Mouths One Stomach to create public celebration and ceremony.
Much of Arizona remains unchanged from the days when cowboys and their dinosaur steeds ruled the desert plains. Millions of acres of lush trees still blanket the Coconino National Forest, growing up over mountains in defiance of the desert's red rocks. In Mayer, miles of horseback trails snake past rivers and rock outcroppings, passing by historic windmills and cattle ranches that still operate to this day.
The horseback guides at Pot A Gold Adventures call each of these majestic landscapes home. Each day, they lead groups from three different stables: Hitchin' Post Stables, Pot A Gold Stables, and Mountain Ranch Stables. From here, they depart on two-hour adventures through deserts and forests. On some of these trips, they might stop to build a fire and cook dinners of steak, potatoes, and beans.
Lemonade and iced tea replace cowboy food during the spring and summer. The wagons are drawn on rubber wheels to make the ride as smooth as possible so guests can enjoy the views as well as the horses, as they are nearly as beautiful as the surrounding landscape. Pot A Gold Adventures' trainers raise most of the purebred Quarter and Paint horses almost from birth.
Though visitors to Pot A Gold won't find leprechauns, they will find horses?plenty of them. That's because the business, which runs its own outpost in Mayer, is also the parent company to Pioneer Village Stables in Phoenix and Hitchin' Post Stables in Flagstaff. At each of its locations, visitors climb atop purebred quarter and paint horses to travel a different landscape. Pot A Gold Stables invites riders and their steeds to trot along 4,500 acres peppered with rock outcroppings and a river. Pioneer Village Stables has a more urban aesthetic, albeit one that feels more like a ghost town than a city. Here, riders saunter through the remnants of an 1800s-era community, clomping past an old church, sheriff's station, and sarsaparilla well.
Cowboy Way Adventures’ veteran wranglers traverse this vast landscape and know the wilds of Arizona almost as well as they know the muscular steeds they captain. To introduce others to the untamed beauty of the Arizona countryside, they match riders with compatible horses and lead guided trail rides.
After pairing each guest with a steed that moonlights as a cattle horse and occasional lounge singer, the wranglers take parties through the pine-filled Prescott mountains, trotting alongside rocky cliffs and through the Verde River. Riders in Wickenburg wander down Sonoran Desert trails, past saguaro cacti and sandy washes that lick the bases of soaring cliffs. Those in Sedona follow red-dirt cattle trails before circling back to the stables, guided by the windmill in the distance.
Wranglers ensure a comfortable yet exciting journey that allows beginners to saunter along and advanced equestrians to gallop up hills and naturally occurring escalators.
The Prescott Wedding Walk lets pairs of paramours promenade through one of Arizona's most historic towns while browsing vendor booths, open houses, giveaways, bridal demonstrations and displays, and specialty boutiques and shops—all while basking in a connubial atmosphere that would make even the gloomiest of nimbus clouds brighten into a puffy cumulus. Brides-to-be can take in "Marvel," a red-carpet fashion show followed by Spring Bling Bridal Happy Hour at the Hassayampa Inn, while future hubbies can take refuge in a guy's mini-getaway at the Firehouse Kitchen. Though a questionable first-date option, the Prescott Wedding Walk lets seasoned soulmates work out the particulars of their Big Day and score discounts and free stuff in the process.
Heritage Park and its volunteers are dedicated to the conservation and protection of wildlife, caring for more than 150 indigenous and exotic mammals, reptiles, and birds in a 10-acre haven. Many of Heritage Park's animals were previously injured, abandoned, or marked with a human imprint that prevents them from rejoining their packs without bringing personalized coffee mugs for everyone. While prowling through the sanctuary, visitors might spy a mountain lion that was kept as a pet, a black bear that was orphaned by his mother, or a fox rescued from a swimming pool. Emus, tarantulas, and ring-tailed lemurs also run free in their habitats, serenading onlookers with their wild cries.
Heritage Park also plays an important role in the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan, granting asylum to critically endangered Mexican gray wolves, which are being reintroduced into the wild after a 20-year absence. The zoological sanctuary is open every day, with extended hours from May 1 to October 31 to give guests a chance to see animals that are usually out running errands during business hours.