Steele Indian School Park
When the final graduating class of 19 Native American students walked across the stage of Memorial Hall to receive their high school diplomas in 1990, the school's 99-year history came to a close. A "Circle of Life" pathway now encircles Memorial Hall and two other old school buildings. As you walk past 28 interpretive columns, you can read about the students and how they—and the school—changed over the years. Turn south from the Circle on a footbridge across Garden Pond to see a sunken garden of desert flora. A larger lake and grassy acres lie north of the Circle of Life with picnic tables, playground, and basketball and volleyball courts. The park (602/495-0739) is also a fine place for a stroll; turn north on 3rd Street from Indian School Road and continue to the last parking lot.
Musical Instrument Museum
Here you not only see a huge collection of music instruments from around the world, but get to hear and see them played in short video programs at each exhibit. Wireless headphones included with admission provide the audio, which plays automatically when you step up to an exhibit. Your favorite performers might have an exhibit in the Artist Gallery. The Mechanical Music Gallery is lots of fun, and staff may play one one of the instruments at scheduled times. Best to go early as it's easy to spend most of the day exploring the many music traditions. The museum (4725 E. Mayo Blvd. at N. Tatum Blvd., Phoenix, AZ 85050, 480/478-6000, www.themim.org; open Mon.–Sat. 9 a.m.–5 p.m. and Sun. 10 a.m.–5:00 p.m., to 9 p.m. on first Fri. of the month; $18 adults, $14 teens 13–19, $10 kids 4–12) is located in north Phoenix on the southwest corner of East Mayo Boulevard and North Tatum Boulevard, just south of Arizona Loop 101. Check the website for upcoming concerts and workshops. The beautiful facility includes an auditorium, café, and gift shop.
The Medical Museum
Exhibits in the Phoenix Baptist Hospital and Medical Center (2000 W. Bethany Home Rd., 602/249-0212, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily, free) display antique medical and pharmaceutical artifacts, including rare drug jars, doctors' medical bags, and quack medicine items. Look for them in the lobby and on each floor by the elevator. The hospital is at the northwest corner of Bethany Home Road and 19th Avenue.
Shemer Art Center
Housed in a historic residence surrounded by sculpture, Shemer Art Center (5005 E. Camelback Rd., 602/262-4727, http://www.shemerartcenter.org/, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and 6:30-8:30 p.m., 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Wed.-Fri. Tues., donations welcome) features works of Arizona artists and craftspeople. A new show comes about once a month. Galleries close between shows, so it's best to call before coming out. The center also hosts art classes for adults and children. Leaflets describe the history and features of the Santa Fe Mission-style house and surrounding Arcadia District. The Center is near Camelback Mountain at the southeast corner of E. Camelback Road and Arcadia Drive (enter from Arcadia).
Plotkin Judaica Museum
This collection at Temple Beth Israel (10460 N. 56th St. at Shea Blvd., 480/951-0323, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tues.-Fri., and Fri. after evening services, $3) illustrates Jewish heritage and displays ancient artifacts from the Holy Land.
Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve
Prehistoric tribes chipped more than 1,500 petroglyphs into the rock at this site in the Hedgpeth Hills (I-17 Deer Valley Road Exit 215B, then west 2.5 miles, keeping right at the signed fork to 3711 W. Deer Valley Road , 623/582-8007, https://shesc.asu.edu/dvpp, $7 adults, $4 seniors 62+ and students and military, $3 children 6-12). Scholars believe that prehistoric tribes created the images over several periods between about 5000 B.C. and A.D. 1400. Interpretive displays in the visitor center help you gain an appreciation for the rock art from the perspectives of researchers, Native Americans, physical scientists, and archaeologists. An easy quarter-mile trail leads to viewpoints where you can see many of the petroglyphs in their natural settings. (The three boulders at trail marker #2, however, come from another location.) Bring or rent binoculars from the visitor center to get a better look at the rock art. Signs along the wheelchair-accessible path identify local desert plants.
Kids can go on a scavenger hunt, make their own rock art, and practice drawing. Special events include field trips, lectures, workshops, and children's programs. The Glyph Shop sells attractive Southwestern gifts, jewelry, and books. The trail and gift shop close half an hour earlier than the museum.
Pioneer Living History Village
Set among rocky desert foothills about 30 miles north of downtown Phoenix, this historical village (I-17 Pioneer Road Exit 225, 623/465-1052, www.pioneeraz.org, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed.-Sun., except to 3 p.m. June-Sept., $7 adults, $6 seniors 60 and over, $5 students, and $4 children 3-5) brings the territorial times back to life. You'll see how residents lived from the mid-1800s to statehood in 1912. The nearly complete little town has a school, church, sheriff's office, bank, blacksmith shop, carpenter shop, opera house, ranch, cabins, and houses—including the John Sears house, one of the first frame houses in Phoenix. Horses and other animals add life to the farms. Many of the 26 or so authentic buildings have been brought here from other sites; others have been reconstructed from old photos or plans.
This collection emphasizes historical accuracy, setting it apart from "Wild West towns" based more on Hollywood fiction than on fact. The community celebrates Statehood Day on the weekend nearest its—and the state's—birthday of February 14. A Bluegrass Festival plays in February. The Gunfighters' Rendezvous brings blazing action in late March or early April. Check the website or call to find out the times of special events, such as cowboy shows, historical reenactments, and melodramas. Pioneer Restaurant (623/465-1821) serves up American food with a choice of indoor or patio seating weekends for breakfast and Wed.-Mon. for lunch and dinner. The magnificent bar has a colorful history.
Agua Fria National Monument
Like many desert rivers, the Agua Fria largely flows underground, popping up here and there along its course. Cottonwoods and willows add splashes of green. Herds of pronghorn roam the grasslands. Prehistoric pueblo ruins perch atop mesas and near the riverbanks. The monument protects 71,100 acres of the river area just to the east of I-17, about 60 miles north of downtown Phoenix. I-17 Badger Springs Exit 256 provides easy access—head one mile southeast from the exit on a dirt road to the parking area, then follow a trail one mile down Badger Spring Wash to the river. Shallow pools and water-sculpted rocks lie in a picturesque little canyon here; look for petroglyphs near the confluence. Most other hiking is cross-country.
Of the many prehistoric sites, Pueblo la Plata atop Perry Mesa is one of the largest with 80-120 rooms, dating from about 1200-1450. With a high-clearance vehicle and dry roads, head east 8.5 miles on unpaved Bloody Basin Road from I-17 Exit 259, then turn north 1.5 miles.
The monument lacks facilities. Leave-no-trace camping is permitted except within 200 feet of water. The Bureau of Land Management's Phoenix Field Office (21605 N. 7th Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85027, 623/580-5500, www.az.blm.gov) looks after the area.
Bloody Basin Road
Drivers with high-clearance vehicles can leave the crowds behind on this 60-mile scenic back road through the Tonto National Forest, connecting I-17 Bloody Basin Exit 259 with Carefree and Cave Creek north of Scottsdale. You'll enjoy views of the Mazatzals, rugged high-desert hill country, and wooded canyons. You can stop by two prehistoric pueblo sites on the way, Pueblo la Plata (see Agua Fria National Monument above) and Sears-Kay Ruin (see Sights North of Scottsdale). Allow about five hours plus stops and side trips.
In Bloody Basin, 23 miles from I-17, a very bumpy side road goes southeast 12 miles to the Verde River, where hikers can stroll across Sheep Bridge into the Mazatzal Wilderness. Primitive camping is possible almost anywhere in Tonto National Forest, or you can stop at Seven Springs, CCC, or Cave Creek campgrounds near the south end of the drive.
This unique experiment of visionary Italian architect Paolo Soleri slowly rises in the high-desert country 65 miles north of Phoenix. The public is welcome to visit this project, the first of its kind. A visitor center (HC 74, Box 4136, Mayer, AZ 86333, 928/632-7135, www.arcosanti.org, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily except major holidays, visitor center is free) has a model of Arcosanti, architectural exhibits, and books by and about Soleri. The famous Cosanti bronze and clay windbells sold here make attractive gifts and help finance the project. To see the rest of the site you'll need to sign up for a guided tour, which lasts 50 minutes and departs on the hour, with the first at 10 a.m. and the last at 4 p.m., $8 adults, free for 17 and under. From I-17 Cordes Junction Exit 262, follow signs 2.5 miles on an unpaved road.
A former student of Frank Lloyd Wright, Soleri envisions three-dimensional cities that will foster community spirit—now lost in many urban areas. Instead of today's sprawling urban areas, Soleri suggests that cities grow vertically, leaving surrounding land in its natural state. Instead of long commutes, residents will take an elevator and short walks between home, work, and shopping; the time saved can then be devoted to enjoying life and socializing with neighbors. Soleri calls his revolutionary concepts "arcology," a joining of architecture and ecology. His strangely shaped buildings at Arcosanti make efficient use of the sun's energy. The south-facing apses, for example, allow winter sunlight to enter for warmth, yet they shade the interior during summer.
Construction began in 1970 and progresses slowly as funds come in. The current population of 70-85 can rise considerably during summer when the number of workshoppers increases. Soleri typically spends three days of a week here and the rest at Cosanti, the facility he designed in Scottsdale. Currently in the first of three phases, Arcosanti will house about 5,000 people upon completion, yet it will take up only five percent as much land as a conventional town. Greenhouses will provide both food and heating, while using only a fraction of the water normally needed for agriculture.
A cafe and bakery serve snacks and meals. The Visitors Trail leads across a small canyon to a viewpoint of the project. Arcosanti staff regularly schedule concerts, usually preceded by dinner and often followed by a light and sound show projected onto the mesa across the canyon. Seminars and workshops allow interested people to participate in construction.
Guest rooms (928/632-6217) cost $20 s, $25 d ($30 with private bath), and $75 for the Sky Suite, which has two bedrooms and a kitchen. You'll need to make reservations and arrive between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Near the interchange you'll find Cordes Junction Motel & RV Park (928/632-5186, $35 s, $41 d rooms, $22 RV w/hookups) along with a small diner that serves breakfast and lunch.
On to West Phoenix