Challenger Space Center Arizona is on a mission: to excite and educate its visitors about science and the vast wonders of outer space. That excitement starts as soon as guests walk onto the entrance's elevated gantry bridge to see a four-story, space-themed mural painted by Robert McCall. Then it's on to the museum, where the center's affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution enables it to offer top-notch exhibits, which range from a model of an Iridium satellite to three separate meteorite exhibits. Beneath the planetarium’s night sky, stargazers can learn about the stars or test their wishes out on different constellations. Regular Family Star Nights encourage families to bond over stargazing presentations, a simulated shuttle launch, and other activities.
To immerse themselves in the space experience, groups can also sign up for two-hour simulated space missions that unfold in three spaces: a mission control room designed after the Johnson Space Center; the Spacecraft, which simulates a room onboard the International Space Station; and the Earth Space Transit Module, which helps crew members dock there.
In 1975, Jay Kogan's parents opened up a store that was literally a hall of frames—just a small store stacked with thousands of frames. At the time, they had no idea that that tiny corridor would expand to 12 locations throughout the greater Phoenix area, all still run by the Kogan family. Today, their shops have more than 4,500 custom frame options along with mats of all colors and textures, as well as seven glazing choices and expert assembly. They can answer framing questions and frame everything from documents and artwork to posters and small 3-D objects such as sports memorabilia and very still grandmothers.
When they custom-produce frames, the family cuts their mats exactly, miters frame corners precisely, and installs flawless glass. Or, since the stores' walls are lined with ready-made frames, customers can walk in and find what they're looking for quickly. Since installing framed art is an art unto itself, they also offer hanging services with an eye for placement and ability to install in difficult spaces.
After you hike a 10-mile descent through Hualapai Canyon—past the Supai Village and breathtaking ancient geological formations—you arrive at Havasu Falls. Follow the sound of the water and you’ll find the falls, where rapids cascade 100 feet to a dazzlingly blue-green, travertine pool below. It’s one of the world's most remote and beautiful swimming holes, and Pygmy Guides’ backpacking guides, who are medically trained as wilderness first responders or wilderness EMTs, lead groups there regularly.
Havasu Falls is just one of many destinations that you can explore with Pygmy Guides, a company that was founded by people who have spent more than 10 years living in and exploring Grand Canyon National Park. They lead groups to hike below the rim to see ancient rock art, hidden fossils, and california condors, walking in the footsteps of horse thieves on the Tanner Trail or along routes on the Bright Angel Trail once tread by ancestral Pueblo peoples. At Dripping Springs, water drips from the roof of a sandstone alcove so you can dilute Gatorade that tastes too sweet.
Sightseers who prefer the comfort of a plush SUV can see the canyon's expansive vistas through high-powered telescopes during day tours. Each all-inclusive trip includes park fees and gourmet meals and is limited to small groups for comfort and convenience.
The giraffe smells a food pellet. He pokes his head just over the railing and starts sniffing for the guest holding his treat. Not far off, some brightly plumed parrots land on another visitor’s arm, spying the tasty apple slices in her hand. Though you can’t get this close to every animal at Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium—such as the lions and the wild Larry Fitzgeralds—the keepers do facilitate animal-human exchanges as often as possible with the zoo’s more than 600 species. They also give visitors novel views of some exhibits by welcoming them aboard the Skyride, the Australian boat ride, and the African train safari. The adjacent aquarium adds to the zoo’s impressive animal collection, housing more than 75 exhibits and enough water to start a new earth colony.
Further attractions include a children’s petting zoo, daily shows, and a baby-animal nursery. At the 15-acre Safari Park, guests stroll or ride the tram through animal habitats, where they can spy on species that live on the other side of the equator. Wildlife World also features two restaurants where guests can feed themselves and their own helpless progeny.
Lauded in Frommer’s for its cowboy collection, Desert Caballeros Western Museum calls itself “Arizona’s Most Western Museum,” transporting guests into Arizona’s storied past with a collection of more than 400 cowboy paintings, cases stocked with memorabilia, and a mock 1915 street scene. Visitors can peek into several exhibits, including dioramas of the gold rush and the dude ranches. The Native American exhibit showcases the handicrafts and heritage of the land’s original dwellers, and the Spirit of the Cowboy collection congregates authentic cowboy memorabilia from the 1870s to the 1950s, including guns, saddles, ropes, and 40-gallon hats that cowhands could use as makeshift hammocks. Spurred stompers can mosey through the gem-and-gold collection or view the 1915 street scene, exploring the rowdy saloon, the Victorian home, and the Western storefronts.