Tag: Phoenix (Page 1 of 2)

Food Finds: El Chullo, a Peruvian Delight

Greetings, hungry explorers! It’s another segment of Food Finds, hot out of the oven. If you haven’t joined us at the table before, this is our guide to great food (usually local to Arizona). Today, we’ve got the scoop on El Chullo, Peruvian Restaurant and Bar.

El Chullo

If you read our last Food Finds about cozy Cambodian restaurant Reathrey Sekong, El Chullo is even cozier. This little Peruvian place is tucked into the corner of 7th St. and Virginia Ave. in mid-town Phoenix. The tables and bar seat MAYBE 30-ish people max., so if you’re bringing in a larger party (or really any dining party, especially on a weekend), call in and make a reservation.

For such a tiny tavern, they have a pretty wide variety of appetizers and entrees on their menu, so if you have questions (and had never tried Peruvian food before like us newbies), just ask your server. I’d also ask about their beverages that have a Peruvian twist, like Inca Kola. Honestly, this golden soda was a little intense on the flavor scale for me – but if you’re a fan of lemon verbena (it’s main ingredient), this is the cola (or Kola) for you.

I’d describe these dishes as comfort food, both hearty and warm. They also definitely don’t skimp on the portions. But, if you do still have room after these generous plates, don’t forget about dessert!

We tried the alfajor – a cute little cookie with a creamy dulce de leche center. It’s one of the desserts they are known for!

So if you find yourself in Phoenix, give El Chullo a try. We also heard that they might be opening up a second location not too far away on 7th Ave. sometime soon, so it’ll be even easier to sample some of this Peruvian goodness.

That’s it for this week’s Food Finds, but don’t be stranger – we have more on the horizon!

Eat Well,
Katie

Why You Need an Arizona Christmas Vacation in Phoenix: Lights in the Desert Part Two

If you live somewhere cold, and you’re feeling like you need some fresh air and sunshine, Phoenix, Arizona might be the destination for you. The capital of Arizona is no longer a characterless surburbia. There are museums the likes of which you will find no where else. It has a unique climate perfect for getting some winter vitamin D. There are tons of desert trails to explore. And Phoenix has a growing foodie scene. However, that is not what I want to talk to you about today, because Phoenix is also the annual home to some beautiful Christmas light events that make it the perfect spot for an Arizona Christmas vacation. For families, this is a great time to visit, and experience the wonder of the holiday season without the freezing temperatures and threat of blizzards.

Zoolights

Zoolights has basically become a yearly holiday tradition with family and friends. Who doesn’t love strolling around the Phoenix Zoo when it’s decked out in thousands of holiday plant and animal-shaped lights while sipping a cup of hot chocolate?

Zoolights lights up the night typically from the third week of November through the second week of January. If you can swing it, we recommend going on a weekday instead of weekend because the zoo can get PACKED (plus, parking can get kinda hairy on busier days). Plus, if you go on their value nights, admission is about five bucks less! Check their website for the value night dates and full admission info.

If you’re hoping to see animals during your Zoolights experience, it’s going to be pretty limited.  The animal enclosures are dark and most of them have turned in for the night. However, you CAN visit their Stingray Bay for a chance to pet some stingrays – basically my favorite thing (which was included in admission this year, although we didn’t go 🙁 ). Alternatively, maybe you can make a zoo day out of the trip and see the animals during the day and the lights in the evening.

The Phoenix Zoo is located in the heart of Papago Park, and also conveniently located next to our other holiday lights attraction, the Phoenix Desert Botanical Gardens.

Electric Desert and the Luminaries at the Desert Botanical Gardens

The Phoenix Desert Botanical Gardens is a must-see for any first time visitors. It is set in the beautiful Papago Park, and features desert plants from Arizona and around the world. Many have adapted so well to the desert that they have taken on exotic and beautiful forms. Even people with little interest in plants will enjoy seeing these unique little lifeforms. Strolling through the Botanical Gardens is enjoyable either way, particularly in the cool weather of the winter.

Arizona Christmas Vacation

Cacti in the night (c) ABR 2018

During the holiday season, the Phoenix Botanical Gardens plays host to a variety of events that cater to both local and visitor interests. During October, they celebrate the Day of the Dead with ofrenda installations designed by local artists (October 26, 2018 – November 7, 2018). And every Christmas they do a beautiful luminary display (Dec. 1 – 23 & 26 – 31, 2018). However, the Desert Botanical Gardens has also supported a variety of unique lights-in-the-night art events. A few years ago, they had a park-wide Chihuly installation that they lit up at night. This year they are hosting Electric Desert. This event melds music and light to create immersive experiences that accentuate and highlight the organic shapes of the garden plants.

Desert Botanical Gardens Logistics

Arizona Christmas Vacation

Electric Desert (c) ABR 2018

While Electric Desert is only here until May 2019 (October 12, 2018 – May 12, 2019), if you plan your Arizona Christmas Vacation for 2019, the Desert Botanical Gardens is worth a visit. I find that the Desert Botanical Gardens is great for adults spending the night out. It is has some class and tranquility that really sets it apart.

You can visit the Desert Botanical Gardens during the day (8a-4p) for $24.95, and the Electric Desert/Luminaries costs $34.95 – $39.95 for the night. I believe that you can also purchase a joint ticket, but I didn’t see this on the website. If you go for a joint ticket plan on spending at least 3 hours in the park. You might also want to enjoy the surprisingly amazing food at Gertrude’s, the park restaurant.

Arizona Christmas Vacation

Electric Desert (c) ABR 2018

CURRENT Hours For Las Noches de las Luminarias and Electric Desert
8 a.m. – 4 p.m.  (Daytime admission)
The Garden is open for Las Noches de las Luminarias and Electric Desert ticket holders from 5:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. nightly.

Christmas Lights: Christmas at the Princess

Arizona Christmas Vacation

Christmas at the Princess (c) Stephanie Snedeker 2018.

We would be remiss if we discussed any Arizona Christmas vacation (or staycation) without mentioning that Phoenix has many opportunities to enjoy traditional Christmas lights in the less than frigged air. My old family tradition was to drive through the neighborhoods with cultures of spectacular lights. For the sake of responsible travel, let’s leave those places for local families. Not to worry though! There are events throughout the city to enjoy so you will not be for want of Christmas lights.

Arizona Christmas vacation

Christmas at the Princess (c) Stephanie Snedeker 2018

One such event is Christmas at the Princess, where you can enjoy a mix of light draped trees and whimsical light animals, boats, Christmas characters and more. The Princess also does a variety of Christmas-themed activities that you can pay extra to enjoy, such as a skating rink, train rides, Build-a-Bear workshops and more. Probably not our cheapest option with all the add-ons. But you can keep your eyes open for Groupons to this event. (If you love these pictures of Christmas at the Princess, be sure to check out the rest of Stephanie’s photography on Instagram!)

If you have rented a car, another great option is to skip town and drive two hours north of Phoenix to Prescott. Some call this small town the Christmas capital of Arizona, and I think that the name is fitting. The downtown square of Prescott is decked with lights and Christmas decorations every year. There are a variety of great restaurants to enjoy along with the night of celebration and small-town charm. This event is free, but it has been getting more press. So I would suggest arriving earlier in the day so you can find a place to park. It is likely that you will need to pay to park as well, unless you decide to go the extra mile and reserve a hotel there for the night.

Arizona Christmas Vacation

Arizona Christmas Vacation

A Love Letter to Arizona

Dear Arizona,

Look, I’ll just say it – I love you.

I know it’s been a long time coming, and that maybe I’ve denied it in the past.

I’m sorry if I’ve ever called you boring, or unwelcoming, or even threatened to move.

I hope you didn’t take it personally. I was young and foolish when I said all those things and hadn’t taken time to travel or open my eyes to all your wonderful features.

And what would those features be? Well, Arizona, how do I love thee?

Let me count the ways.

  1. I love your industrious, final frontier spirit.

    Somehow you got me enthralled in the mining history of many of our cities. But when you visit a town like Superior and stand amongst century-old brick buildings, frankly, it’s easy to get caught up in the romance of it all. Can you imagine leaving everything you knew behind to move westward with dreams of striking it rich?
  2. I love your ghost stories.

    The Old West was truly wild. It left behind ghost towns, usually settlements that were mining boomtowns abandoned after their mines closed. It also left behind tales of the people who lived here before us and those who may still haunt our buildings’ hallowed halls.
  3. I love your small towns.

    Globe, Kingman, Florence – Arizona has an abundance of small towns. And each of them has its own charm. These are why I hate hurrying on road trips. I always want to stop and see what little gems I can find.
  4. I love your nature.

    From desert to forest to canyon, Arizona’s landscape is beautiful. Add in a dollop of sunshine (though the summers be brutal) and you have the perfect recipe for some great outdoor trips and hikes.

So there you have it, Arizona. I hope you can forgive my past misgivings about you and accept that I’m in it for the long haul.

Yours Truly,
Katie

Want to discover your love for Arizona? Explore with us.

Backyard Discoveries: Liberty Wildlife Rehabilitation Center

Just south of the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport is Liberty Wildlife – a hidden gem, nestled away from the hustle and bustle of traffic and planes flying overhead.

I can’t remember this owl’s name and I feel like he’s judging me for it.

Liberty Wildlife is wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center, that specializes in avian, reptile, amphibian and small mammal species. Though they are kept busy caring for animals seven days a week, they open to the public on Wednesday, Saturdays and Sunday for us curious visitors.

This lil’ guy had part of his left wing amputated. 🙁 The hardest part of visiting Liberty Wildlife is hearing what happened to some of these guys before they arrived.

Tips to Know Before You Go to Liberty Wildlife:

  • As mentioned above, the visiting window is limited each week. The facility is open on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Admission is very reasonable! Adult – $6, Seniors (65+) & Veterans – $5,   Children K-12 – $4  and Children Under 4 – Free admission.

A feeding demonstration with one of their Bald Eagles, Sonora.

  • Primarily, you’ll be seeing the birds that they are rehabbing or now live at their facility. They also have a couple big windows that let you catch a glimpse into the rescue rooms, where they work on and keep other animals that they take in.
  • If you visit earlier in the day, you have a better chance of catching their programs and feedings – where you get a closer look and learn more about the wildlife that they rescue.

Sonora was full of sass.

  • If you come upon an injured wild animal (no matter how small), you can call their Wildlife Hotline at 480-998-5550 for further assistance and information about animal drop-off and tours. The Hotline is manned to return calls from 8 a.m. until 8:30 p.m., 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
  • Consider them for your next creative event or party idea! They actually had a kids’ birthday party going on the day that we visited.

Aside from just enjoying seeing all the birds at Liberty Wildlife, I was impressed by how knowledgeable the staff and volunteers are and how good they are with the animals. You can tell that they truly care about conservation and their work.

Having a bit of an afternoon snooze.

It’s worth noting that they are a non-profit and could use your support in a number of ways! Check out their website for more information on how you can donate, visit their facility, attend one of their upcoming events or even volunteer.

This is a Golden Eagle adorably puffing up her feathers so they lay back down in a way that would impress her audience of admirers, said a staff member.

Be good to each other!

xo,
Katie

Original Chai Tea In Phoenix: Copper Star Coffee

Phoenix Chai Tea Adventures

I am building a guide for Phoenix chai tea for anyone else who might be as enchanted by this tea as me (or anyone looking to experience Phoenix coffee shops and cafes). My third spotlight is for one of the most unique coffee shops in the area, Copper Star Coffee, which is one of the few coffee shops with original chai tea in Phoenix.

The Tea!

downtown phoenix coffee shop

Food and chai tea out on the patio (c) ABR 2017

Reviewer(s): Aireona (the sugar-lover)

Brand: Copper Star has a house chai!

Flavor: You can’t get this chai anywhere else, because the lovely people at Copper Star have a house chai! Even as much as I love Maya, there is something wonderful and unbeatable about a chai that you can’t get anywhere else. Luckily for me, since I love the sweet, fakey chai that’s all over the US, this is a nice sugary latte. But Copper Star’s tea has a very nice balance of spice to help counteract the sweetness. While not quite as spicy as Maya, I really enjoy the smooth flavor of this chai, and on top of it, I think it has a complex of spices that really make it interesting and enjoyable.

original chai tea in phoenix

The Locale

original chai tea in phoenix

Location: 4220 7th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85013

WIFI: Free wifi provided!

Atmosphere: Copper Star Coffee is situated in a repurposed gas station. I think this is pretty awesome, because there are few mundane things more sad than an abandoned building. The inside of their shop has a rustic warehouse feel, with original art work, and a few long tables for work. There is also a nice patio to enjoy the awesome Arizona weather in the spring and fall. Parking is a bit scarce, but there is a little dirt lot behind the psychic that the coffee shop shares with them. There is also street parking that you might be able to snake into. No worries if there aren’t any spots though, they have a sweet drive through so that you can enjoy their rendition of chai at home or on the road.

The Best of Copper Star

original chai tea in phoenix

Staff: The people at Copper Star are wonderful. They can get pretty busy there. This is quite the popular spot, but they work as fast as they can crafting your delicious drinks. Busy or not, they are friendly, and seem very genuine to me. This isn’t an equation for friendly baristas that we see at Dutch Bros and Starbucks. These are cool people at a legitimately unique spot in our little suburban expanse.

Pros: Copper Star is one of the few places with original chai tea in Phoenix. I love visiting for the taste I can’t get anywhere else. On top of that, they also have a great assortment of pastries (cupcakes, pie, lemon squares and the like) and lunch food. I have yet to try their lunch food due to my schedule, but I love their desserts.

Cons: There is a lack of parking that I think could be a problem at times. The coffee shop is also a little cramped and a bit loud when it is busy. I find it a little distracting as a place to work, but I like hanging out with friends there.

original chai tea in phoenix

Want to see the rest of the guide? Check out Your Guide to Phoenix: Chai Tea Adventures.

Cave Creek Hiking: Go John Trail

There is alot of variety to Cave Creek hiking, and Go John Trail is one well known trail in this area. It was previously showcased by Sweat Magazine as reader’s choice best hike.

go john trail

Sonoran desert from Go John Trail (c) ABR 2018

General Information

Location: Cave Creek Regional Park
Run By: Maricopa County
Fee: $6 per car
General Difficulty: 2.5 (1 being easiest and 5 being hardest)
Round Trip Length: 5.4 miles (8.7 km)
Accumulated Gain: 1,260 feet (384 meters)
Crowd Levels: Moderate
Other activities: Camping, picnicking, visiting the nature center

Recommendation

Go John trail is a good place to visit if you are a local who hasn’t been, or a visitor looking to experience lots of Sonoran plant diversity. There are better trails for scenery and work outs. This trail is also fairly far from the city center.

Description

First Half

go john trail

Sonoran desert from Go John Trail (c) ABR 2018

The Go John Trail starts at the parking lot at the very end of the road in the recreation area. It is a loop hike that you can start heading north or east. The first section of the trail (if you head north on the Maricopa Trail) rises up over a saddle in the mountains. It’s not a particularly steep incline, but it was sustained enough to get my heart rate up. This is the hardest part of the trail, in my opinion, and after you make the top of this rise, Go John will take you down into a valley where you will meander through fluffy, desert washes.

Before you descend onto the main length of the trail, however, I would suggest pausing to enjoy the view. The saddle is a great place to snap some pictures of the valleys to either side, one with the heart of Phoenix and one still wild. The rest of the trail is fairly low elevation, so there aren’t tons of other spots for pictures until  the end. That being said, the mountains in Spur Cross will  be at eye line for most of your trek, so the horizon-to-horizon beauty is there.

Second Half

go john trail

Sonoran desert from Go John Trail (c) ABR 2018

Once you hike down into the washes, you will have some wonderful opportunities to see Sonoran desert biodiversity, with a multitude of plants growing in this relatively lush part of the Phoenix valley. Birds abound as well, and if you know where to look (and how to be both safe and respectful of the animals) there is also come good herping here.

The way back towards the trailhead goes require you to gain some elevation again, but it is much more gradual than the first half of the trail. The descent to the parking lot is really nice and gradual as well.

go john trail

Phoenix Chai Tea at 32 Shea

Phoenix Chai Tea Adventures

I am building a guide for Phoenix chai tea for anyone else who might be as enchanted by this tea as me (or anyone looking to experience Phoenix coffee shops and cafes).

The first coffee shop to be highlighted here is 32 Shea, a neighborhood favorite, with tasty chai, lots of food options, and a zen atmosphere.

The Tea!

phoenix chai tea

Food and chai tea out on the patio (c) ABR 2017

Reviewer(s): Aireona (the sugar-lover)

Brand: Maya Chai (Sweet version)

Flavor: Maya Chai is a Tucson company that has stolen the hearts of several of my chai tea-loving friends, and for good reason. They have two different varieties, sweet and spicy (Devi), and both strike a very nice balance between both of these flavors (as far as American tastes go, we love our sugar). For me, it is the afternote of this tea that is really special, and speaks to the artistry of its creators. While it maintains the sweet flavor that American chai has come to exemplify, the final notes of either Maya chai is reminiscent of more traditional, spicy teas. It is this perfect, subtle blend of spices that makes Maya so special, and for those of you that haven’t tried it (I have no idea how prevalent it is outside of Arizona), it is worth seeking out when you are looking for Phoenix chai tea.

The Locale

Location: 10626 N. 32nd St. 85028, Phoenix AZ

WIFI: Password Protected

Atmosphere: I love 32 Shea’s atmosphere. The building itself is quite small, and the inside has a warm feel with a wood-surfaced bar, and seating along some large windows. The patio outside, with its Buddha statue, vibrant greenery, and babbling fountain, is a very relaxing place. There are big shade trees along the fence that creates this little, private area, and umbrellas around the tables. It really feels like its own little world, although it is quite hot out here in the middle of summer.

Phoenix chai tea

Staff: The staff at 32 Shea are amazing. They are very welcoming, and don’t mind helping you navigate the menu. I have also gotten some really good recommendations for food from them. Overall, they are friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable about the menu.

Pros: This coffee shop has a lovely building, and they are a special part of the community. Their menu will have something for you from breakfast to lunch and dinner. In particular, their dinner menu is pretty stellar. For those pasta lovers out there, I would suggest the lobster mac & cheese with some nutella cheesecake for dessert. They even serve cocktails later in the day. 32 Shea has great staff and they have one of the best chai tea brands out there.

Cons: So far, I have just found their lunch food to be ok. I am never blown away by how good it is, but it is never bad either. There is also limited space and it can be hot during the summer.

phoenix cofee shop

Want to see the rest of the guide? Check out Your Guide to Phoenix: Chai Tea Adventures.

Phoenix Chai Tea Adventures: Calibration Post for Starbucks (Tazo)

chai tea phoenix starbucks

An Introduction to the Series and Example: Starbucks

I LOVE chai tea, and while I was in Europe this summer, I really started to enjoy trying different cafes and their take on this delicious sugar/caffeine boost. When I came home, I decided to start exploring all the different options that my home town has to offer, and I wanted to build a guide for anyone else who might be as enchanted by this tea as me.

To get us started, I want to make a calibration post (forgive the scientist in me!) using a standard coffee shop that we all know (and love?), Starbucks. This post will cue you into my chai tea tastes, so that you know how your own preferences for flavor compare, and walk you through how these little guides will work.

The Tea!

chai tea phoenix starbucks

Reviewer(s): Aireona (the sugar-lover)

Brand: Tazo Tea

Flavor: On a scale of sweet to spicy, Tazo’s take on chai tea makes an effort to balance traditional flavors with American preferences for sugar, but it is definitely leaning on the sugary side. Based on past conversations with people, I would even go so far as to say that those of you who really love traditional chai probably dislike Tazo’s version (or consider it to be in its own category altogether, like… Taco Bell is to Mexican food). Since I am a sugar lover myself, I find Starbuck’s chai tea to be a good comfort chai when I am on the go and I want to know just want I am getting into. I would describe it as being light and sugary with a slight hint of spice, but mostly sweet and milky.

The Locale

chai tea phoenix starbucks

Location: EVERYWHERE

WIFI: Free

Atmosphere: Starbucks is pretty standard, and has what I would consider to be the corporate distillation of coffee shop decor. With plenty of dark colors, most Starbuck’s have a professional feel, but most of their character comes from all the marketing that is carefully arranged in all directions. It’s actually not my favorite place to work, since it is just insanely busy in the morning, but once again, it’s a great place to go when you are still getting the lay of the land and need somewhere familiar and safe to charge up on caffeine.

Staff: The staff at Starbucks are like the rest of the chain in my opinion, professional and pleasant. Their product is pretty reliable, their baristas know their stuff, and you are almost always guaranteed a warm smile, if nothing overly friendly (perfect for us introverts out there).

Pros: If you need chai tea and are lost in a strange city, there’s likely to be a Starbucks within walking distance in all directions. You know what you will get in terms of taste and the coffee shop feel. Starbucks is also known to treat its staff well which earns it a plus from me, even if it is a giant corporation.

Cons: Starbucks won’t offer you a unique expression of the local coffee shop scene or local culture, and it often competes with smaller cafes.

Want to see the rest of the guide? Check out Your Guide to Phoenix: Chai Tea Adventures.

Matsuri: The Arizona Festival of Japan

(c) K. Arrington

(c) K. Arrington

So, once again, I am going against my last entry’s claim about what I would be writing about next. I did want to write about my time in Washington DC, but the past couple weeks have been a little crazy between some health issues and trying to plan for my potential field season this summer. Due to all of this, I decided that I would highlight Matsuri in a short entry (featuring the photography of one of my very talented friends) rather than skip a post.

(c) K. Arrington

(c) K. Arrington

Matsuri is, in my opinion, one of the best cultural festivals of Phoenix, and this year was its 31st anniversary, so it also has a lot of history and love behind it. For the past four years, since I have been going, the festival has always been held downtown, outside of Phoenix’s Science Museum. The grounds where it is held are filled with small, tarped stalls where Japanese food and gifts can be procured. There are also several large stages for demonstrations and performances. Getting into the event is free, which is wonderful, but anyone who visits should be sure to come with cash in case they find anything that they want to buy from one of the vendors.

 

(c) K. Arrington

(c) K. Arrington

My personal favorite performance of the festival is that of the Taiko drummers. I could sit and listen to that music for quite a long time all by itself, but the musicians are wonderful on the stage. They use a variety of different kinds of drums, as well as some other instruments such as a conch shell and small symbols. They rearrange their drums with every song; these formations play a role in the songs, but they also allow the drummers to act out a variety of entertaining interactions. In one of my favorite songs, several players drum on a line of smaller drums, while the other half of the group plays a line of larger drums behind them. During the song, the small and large drums seem to compete with eachother, rising and falling in turn, and the players themselves glance back and forth between each other, pretending to drum harder and louder than the other. The energy of the musicians makes the entire performance playful and very entertaining.

(c) K. Arrington

(c) K. Arrington

Some of the other demonstrations that I try to visit every time are the Japanese dancers and the martial arts demonstrations. The Japanese dance stage hosts performers of a wide variety of ages. The cutest, of course, are the young children, but the most skilled are the older women. This form of dance is quite different from the many forms of Western dance. The women are often very solemn, and their movements are skillfully controlled as they all but float across the stage- graceful despite the confining nature of their kimonos. Besides the dancing itself, the Japanese dance stage is a great place to see some beautiful, traditional Japanese dress and makeup. The martial arts demonstrations, alternatively, feature a variety of different forms- including karate as well as several forms samurai swordsmanship. Each form is distinct, and watching the students highlights the intriguing variety of traditional martial arts.

Finally, while I do not participate, there are also many people who cosplay at Matsuri. I am not entirely fond of this pattern, because I find it somewhat distracting, but this is certainly a draw for many people. Costumes of varied quality can be seen throughout the festival, and there have also been festival competitions for the cosplayers in recent years.

And if you have any questions about my experience at Matsuri or my travels feel free to leave me a comment. 🙂

My next update will be on March 15th, and I think I will be writing about my budget travels in Washington DC. We’ll see. Hahaha.

Phoenix Blurb: The Desert Botanical Garden

(c) AB RaschkeThe Desert Botanical Gardens, tucked away among the beautiful buttes of Papago Park and just down the road from the Phoenix Zoo, is one of my favorite places in Phoenix. In general, botanical gardens are something that I enjoy visiting (so far I have been to botanical gardens in Brazil, New Zealand, Kauai, Maui, and Ireland among others). Each of them has their own appeal, and I have enjoyed every one, but the Desert Botanical Garden really stands out among them all.

Its focus on desert species is fairly unique, and the permanent displays are informative and beautiful. They have several areas devoted to Arizona species, and their showcases of non-native species are perfectly juxtaposed to illustrate parallel evolution and similarly adapted species. One of my favorite spots for this is their aloe and agave garden. Furthermore, they have information on sustainable living throughout the park, with a trail devoted to desert living, as well as information on growing and caring for native plant species.

My personal favorite section of the park is the Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert Trail. This trail has been designed to envelope visitors in several different plant communities of the Sonoran desert including grasslands, mesquite bosque, and a beautiful little wetland. It also has traditional Native American structures from a variety of tribes, which are not only beautiful in their own right, but instructive as well.

(c) Desert Botanical Garden

The botanical garden is a wonderful place to visit throughout the year, but they also have several different events that they host which make a visit even more attractive. They have a yearly butterfly exhibit, and cultural festivals (such as those for El Dia de los Muertos). (c) AB RaschkeThis year, they also hosted Chihuly in the Desert, which showcased Chihuly’s glasswork throughout the garden. Although this made the park a bit crowded, it was well worth the trip, as the pieces were not only lovely, but their placement among the desert plants was inspiring as well.

(c) AB RaschkeEven more fanciful, however, was their Noches de las Luminarias this year. The trails of the garden were lined with hundreds of luminaries, which made for a very romantic, peaceful atmosphere. Along side the luminaries, Chihuly’s work was lit up as well, making for an almost surreal experience that reminded me of the bioluminescent science fiction world. Amid the trails of glowing glass and flickering candles were a variety of live bands ranging from mariachis to Native American flute players.

(c) AB Raschke

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