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Enjoy the pleasures of a desert winter at Lost Dutchman State Park. | Photo credit: Julie Foskett

Feature Story — Winter 2018

7 Activities for 70°

Revel in perfect winter weather at these outdoor attractions | By Jessica Dunham

There’s a reason visitors flock to Greater Phoenix this time of year. Sunny days, cool nights, and blue skies as far as the eye can see. In other words, the perfect recipe for enjoying an outdoor adventure. But don’t stop at just one. We’ll give you seven reasons to head outside.

1. Hit the Trail

Even though Phoenix is one of the largest cities in the nation, the metro area is surrounded by thousands of acres of wilderness and hundreds of miles of trails. Immerse yourself in desert beauty with one of these nature hikes. Make sure to come prepared with sturdy shoes, a wide-brimmed hat, and plenty of water and sunscreen.

For serious hikers who want a challenge—and the reward of spectacular views—head up the 5.9-mile Go John Trail in Cave Creek Regional Park. While the elevation changes aren’t dramatic, the rocky path ups the difficulty level.

A fabled gold mine, lost within the Superstition Mountains, inspired the name of Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction. To discover treasures of the natural sort within the park—such as wildflowers, jackrabbits, and mule deer—set off on the 2.4-mile Treasure Loop Trail, a moderate journey with a few steep inclines.

The two-mile, round-trip Waterfall Canyon Trail in White Tank Mountain Regional Park near Waddell leads to a waterfall tucked amid beautiful desert-mountain scenery. The path to the falls is easy and takes you past petroglyphs dating to the time the ancient Hohokam people called this region home.

2. Go golfing

El Chorro's famous sticky buns
Catch “The Greatest Show on Grass”&emdash;the Waste Management Phoenix Open | Courtesy of Phoenix Open

Golf is kind of our thing. Whether you want to swing a club or watch the pros do it, Greater Phoenix offers myriad ways to get on the green.

To play a state-of-the-art course at an affordable rate, book a tee time for the greens at Phoenix’s Grand Canyon University. Its junior golf school has taught many of Arizona’s top golf professionals.

Bask in the shadow of Camelback Mountain during a quick round on the par-3, 18-hole Short Course at Mountain Shadows Resort in Paradise Valley. It’s great for both beginners and experienced golfers looking to fit in a quick game before dinner.

Even though Phoenix’s winter temperatures hover at a near-perfect 75°, you’ll still enjoy the climate-controlled hitting bays at Top Golf, a family-friendly, everything-golf destination with several Phoenix-area locations.

Enjoy the game from the sidelines at the PGA’s Waste Management Phoenix Open, which draws so many spectators that this Scottsdale event is legendary for hosting the largest crowds in golf. Sip a cocktail, soak up the sun, and see the best golfers in the sport battle it out January 29–February 4.

3. Agritourism experiences

Chicken tikka from Marigold Maison
Celebrate the bounty of the harvest at Agritopia in Gilbert. | Photo credit: Julie Foskett

Discover Greater Phoenix’s agricultural past and present. This time of year, the weather is ripe for an outdoor farm-to-table experience.

Considered to be among the first “agrihoods” in the country, Gilbert’s Agritopia is a planned community founded on farming. Visitors are welcome to tour the property, which includes an organic farm, restaurants, and artisan retail space.

Oranges, lemons, tangerines, grapefruit, and more! Pick them all at the Cotton Lane Citrus farm in Surprise. There’s a feel-good plus: At the end of the season, Cotton Lane donates fruit that hasn’t been picked to local food banks.

Explore the Fresh Foodie Trail. This self-guided driving tour features urban gardens, dairy farms, a pork shop, an olive mill, and a winery in the southeastern communities of Greater Phoenix.

From U-pick organic gardens to dinners in the orchard, Queen Creek’s Schnepf Farms guarantees you’ll get a full-of-fun education in desert farming.

4. Art walks

Blackberry bacon waffles from Artizen
Artizen’s blackberry-bacon waffles are the sort of thing people comment heart-eyes emojis on. | Photo credit: Julie Foskett

Whether you’re “into art” or not, you can’t deny the appeal of a leisurely stroll on a cool desert evening.

Mesa’s free 2nd Friday Night Out runs 6–10 p.m. on the second Friday of the month in downtown Mesa. Visit more than 60 art booths, partake in contests and raffles, and enjoy live music.

At the Chandler Art Walk, not only do you get a chance to explore the city’s historic downtown—a treat in itself—but this is a juried fine-art affair. Artists must be selected through a submissions process. Get ready to be wowed every third Friday, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Every Thursday evening, from 6:30 to 9 p.m., you can peruse the internationally renowned art galleries of Scottsdale on the Scottsdale ArtWalk. Meet the artists, nibble on appetizers, and delight in the charm of Old Town Scottsdale.

Galleries and pop-up venues draw the crowds to Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix for Phoenix First Fridays on the first Friday of the month. Think mural-art demonstrations, live jazz, food and drink specials at nearby restaurants, and free admission to area museums.

5. Indoor-outdoor home tours

The OMFG Salad from Citizen Public House
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West blends desert and architecture. | Photo credit: Julie Foskett

Architectural marvels of indoor-outdoor living make the most of Greater Phoenix’s weather. See what makes these homes—and their landscapes—so special.

Neither a castle nor a mystery—well, not anymore—Phoenix’s Mystery Castle is still well worth a visit. Built by Boyce Luther Gulley in the 1930s, the home is a whimsical construction of found items and odd building materials, many of which bring the outdoors in (i.e., wagon wheels and telephone poles).

Taliesin West, famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Scottsdale home and school, features floor-to-ceiling windows that soak up desert views, breezeways that keep areas cool during summer heat, and open-air bedrooms that look up at the starry sky.

Tovrea Castle at Carraro Heights looks like a castle, and its perch high above the city gives it an air of royalty. The Phoenix property’s cactus garden is an equal draw, a study in Sonoran Desert grandeur. Be warned: Tours of Tovrea sell out months in advance, so plan ahead.

6. Spring Training

Sloan Park
See the Cubs warm up for the season at Sloan Park. | Courtesy of Sloan Park

Come March, the entire metro area plays hooky from work to bask in a breezy, sunny afternoon of baseball. Cactus League Spring Training hosts 15 Major League Baseball teams, with stadiums located throughout the city. A few of our favorites include:

Practice home of the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians, and clocking in at 103 acres, the sprawling Goodyear Ballpark offers no bad seat in the house.

The hometown Arizona Diamondbacks share Scottsdale’s Salt River Fields with the Colorado Rockies. Inviting and airy, the stadium offers plenty of sloped lawn on which to kick back with a local craft brew.

With arguably one of the best locations of all Spring Training stadiums thanks to its walkability from Old Town Scottsdale, the beloved Scottsdale Stadium is the preseason home of the San Francisco Giants.

Because it’s the training facility of the revered Chicago Cubs, Mesa’s Sloan Park sells out nearly every game. Note the architectural touches that pay homage to Wrigley Field, such as the outfield berm shaped to resemble Wrigley’s iconic bleachers.

7. Old West family fun

Rawhide Western Town & Event Center
Revel in the rough-and-tumble Wild West at Rawhide. | Courtesy of Rawhide

For cowboys, horseback riding, and gold panning, look no further than Greater Phoenix’s Old West adventure destinations.

As a thriving gold mining town during the 1890s, Goldfield boasted a general store, boarding house, blacksmith shop, brewery, and three saloons. Today, head east from Apache Junction to tour the ghost town’s historic Mammoth Gold Mine, pan for gold, and see an Old West gunfight.

Originally a horse ranch in the 1950s, Scottsdale’s family-owned and -operated MacDonald’s Ranch now welcomes guests to spend a day enjoying a true Western experience, from horseback riding (including moonlight rides) to stagecoach trips, hayrides, and cowboy cookouts.

At Rawhide Western Town & Event Center in Chandler, you can do it all. See a live-action stunt show in the Six Gun Theater, dress up in 1890s garb for a family photo, browse the general store, and savor a steak dinner.

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