Though the calendar maintains that it's still the 21st century, the experienced cowfolk at MD Ranch take visitors back to the Wild West with horsemanship and equestrian knowledge that's been perfected across the centuries. Joining them is a herd of well-trained horses, who itch to take riders on vigorous romps across the Sonoran Desert landscapes of San Tan Mountain Regional Park. The only outfitters in the mountains, the ranch's seasoned guides lead experienced or first-time riders along desert trails, trotting past stately cacti on all-day and sunset excursions or galloping in search of far-off coyote choruses during intense ranch rides. The herd contains a wide range of horse personalities–from horses that are safe for even the most inexperienced riders to those with enough go for seasoned cowboys. On-site trainers work with steeds and riders alike, teaching students of all ages the techniques of English and Western riding as well as basic horsemanship and equine care skills.
North Pole Experience shovels in family fun with an interactive trip to Santa’s toy-building workshop. Personalized golden tickets, written by Santa, arrive in the mail ahead of time to beseech young ones to visit the wintery world of elves. Ticket holders drive up the 8,500-foot White Mountains the day of their North Pole Experience, where they can board the Candy Cane Express for a quick transport to the North Pole. Once inside Santa’s inner sanctum, children learn trade secrets and build toys under the tutelage of crafty elfin foremanship. The intricate décor and extensive woodwork animates countless pop-up books and movies, allowing kids to live out their fantasies of the snowy holiday without the burden of submitting blueprints to the city council for a building permit.
Chosen as Arizona’s premier travel destination by Soft Pretzel Aficionado, the Upper Salt River Canyon is home to thrilling class III and IV whitewater. Wilderness Aware’s trained, professional guides are experienced with ensuring every client has a fun time, from beginning 8-year-olds to more adventurous enthusiasts. Your whitewater trip departs at 10 a.m. and winds through 10 miles of snaking currents surrounded by panoramic limestone cliffs and the occasional endangered Southern bald eagle. A free wetsuit, splash jacket, and wet-shoe rental are provided, but arm floaties and water stilts aren’t necessary. You’ll channel inner Viking mettle as you navigate rapids such as Maytag Chute and Mother Rock. The trip also includes tasty all-you-can-eat hot fajita lunch and an optional side-canyon hike to a sparkling waterfall.
The Greer Lodge Resort & Cabins provides year-round thrills in the great outdoors without sacrificing the creature comforts of home. The log motel rooms, which sleep up to two (normally $99–$159 per night), border the national forest, Greer Meadow, and two privately stocked trout pounds. Guests have access to fly-fishing during season, including free equipment and lessons. All of Greer Lodge's log-constructed units feature La-Z-Boy furniture, Westin Heavenly mattresses, and free satellite TV with DVD players. When the allure of fantasy squash proves too great, free WiFi is available in designated locations throughout the resort. While channeling your inner pioneer, check out the variety of guest activities for every season and explore the surrounding wilderness on the ATV and nature trails.
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Fueled by more than 25 years of culinary experience, executive chef Bill Wise serves up contemporary American cuisine with a distinctive Southwestern flare. Drawing from an arsenal of all-natural ingredients, he meticulously crafts everything from a simple grilled chicken sandwich to the more complex Scampi Diablo, a shrimp-centric pasta crowned in a from-scratch butter sauce made with tequila and jalape?o. Chef Wise also offers fresh takes on well-trodden dishes, such as a Cobb salad that incorporates artichoke hearts and nopalitos instead of the traditional hard-boiled eggs and chives. All the while, guests can compliment these inventive gourmet meals with a wine, cocktail, or beer while basking in the natural sunlight that floods the large dining room.