Resident concierge, Johnny Fenton answers the question …
Q. What are the top spots in Arizona that we should put on our “bucket list”?
A. It’s obvious Homer Simpson hasn’t visited Arizona when you learn that his list starts with “a bucket of chicken and a bucket of popcorn.” But I would add to a recent list in USA Today with the following suggestions:
Get off the grid and visit the Grand Canyon (because broadband connections are rare at the South Rim in Northern Arizona) where there is no bad place to capture an iconic picture—especially at sunrise or sunset. Take a concierge’s word, your money will be well-spent to stroll over to the IMAX just outside the park entrance to take in “The Grand Canyon—Hidden Secrets.” Here is the one way to experience on a 6-story screen, a mule ride, a helicopter fly-over and a white-water river rafting experience at the Grand Canyon in the space of one hour! If you are at the rim during a full moon, the stroll here reveals a dim glow off the upper cliffs and an occasional flicker from camper’s flashlights below. www.nps.gov/grca. John Wayne movies of cattle drives and such classic films as Stagecoach, Easy Rider, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Back to the Future, and Forest Gump filmed at this spot don’t fully capture the majesty of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Here you are on a magnificent portion of the largest Native American Reservation in the U.S. The Navajos offer guided jeep and horseback tours. But if you have limited time and funds, $20 will give you access to a 17-mile scenic drive where more than 340 scenic spots are awaiting your wonderment. Favorite photo stops are the Two Mittens and Spider Rock. www.navajonationparks.org
Two must-sees in Central Arizona will have to include Sedona for its visual concert of red rock formations that will spoil you for your lifetime of forays into other lands of “sky islands.” If you’ve never taken a jeep tour, you’re in the sweet spot for such a bucket list splurge. You’re guaranteed to be swept away on a Pink Jeep Tour into the core of all the stirring history and mythology of the Old West. My favorite is their Broken Arrow Tour. (928) 203-7021. And while here in December with the family, plan your visit to include a stroll through Tinsel Town at Posse Grounds Park every Thursday through Sunday for dancing light displays, toboggan rides, live music and chats with Santa. (928) 282-7098. My pick for America’s Best Hometown Christmas is in Prescott. It passes all the tests: a quaint downtown Courthouse Square lit with imaginative holiday lights, an area committed to adult refreshments known as Whisky Row, one of a “Dozen Distinctive Destinations” according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the territorial capital of Arizona. www.visit-prescott.com
Particularly fascinating to our foreign travelers who are beguiled by the mix of history and myth of the Old West is a pilgrimage to Tombstone in Southern Arizona where the 1880s are frozen in time. Here the tough-looking men swagger about in dusters and handlebar mustaches. The frontier facades are largely original but the souvenir garters, T-shirts, mugs and refrigerator magnets are not. Oddly enough, Tombstone is home to “the world’s largest rose bush” which won’t be in bloom this month (December) —but good to know in a trivia contest. Don’t miss a trip to Boot Hill Cemetery where those not “Too Tough to Die” are buried. It will complete your visit to take in the Gunfight at the OK Corral reenactment, the tattered Bird Cage Theater/Museum, a former concert hall and brothel and a burger at Big Nose Kate’s for the shear entertainment and good grub. www.tombstoneweb.com. Just nine miles south of Benson, Arizona is the magnificent Kartchner Caverns within the Kartchner Caverns State Park where you can marvel at one of the world’s richest caves in terms of varied formations during an 90-minute tour of either the Rotunda/Throne Tour where the largest ice column in the state, the “Kubla Khan” is on display or the Big Room Tour and the Helmet Headlamp Specialty Tours are offered for the more adventurous. The cave is comprised of 13,000 feet of passages and two chambers as long as football fields and includes the longest soda straw stalactite in the U.S. at 21 feet! The park is open daily. Reservations are strongly recommended (520) 586-2283. www.AZStateParks.com