Downtown Glendale Sights
Besides the shopping for antiques and crafts that attract many visitors, you can tour several unusual museums. Glendale Visitor Center (5800 W. Glenn Dr., Suite 140, 623/930-4500 or 877/800-2601, www.visitglendale.com, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sat.) makes a fine place to start. Turn north one block on 58th Avenue from Glendale Avenue; there's lots of free parking.
Head east across the street for The Bead Museum (5754 W. Glenn Dr., 623/931-2737, www.thebeadmuseum.com, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun., 10a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sat., to 8 p.m. Thurs., $4 adult, $2 children). Beautiful examples illustrate the long history and diversity of beads from around the world. The museum shop sells beads and supplies.
Fans of country-western singer Marty Robbins will enjoy a visit to the Marty Robbins Glendale Exhibit (5804 W. Myrtle Ave., 623/847-7047, http://www.smecc.org/marty_robbins_museum.htm, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.-Sat., check for summer hours, donations welcome). It's two blocks north of Glendale Visitor Center in the Historic Catlin Court District.
Life doesn't get much sweeter than at the Cerreta Candy Company factory (5345 W. Glendale Ave., 623/930-9000, www.cerreta.com, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Sat., free). Monday to Thursday is best to see the candy making; call for times of free tours.
Ever pet a water puppy? The Katydid Insect Museum (5060 W. Bethany Home Rd. #7, 623/931-8718, 11a.m.-4 p.m. Mon.-Fri., also noon-4 p.m. Sat., Oct.-Feb., $4 adult, $3 student and senior, $2 ages 7-11, $1 kids 3-6) features hand-on experiences with docile reptiles, amphibians, arthropods, and insects. Kids—and many adults—love it. The museum is in a little shopping center at the northeast corner of 51st Avenue and Bethany Home Road.
Historic Sahuaro Ranch
A visit will take you back in time when orchards and ranches dotted the Valley (9802 N. 59th Ave., 623/930-4200, free). You can step inside the 1887 adobe house, the first permanent building at the ranch, and take a tour of the luxurious 1895 main house. Nearby to the north, the 1899 foreman's house has a gift shop, and the 1891 fruit packing shed now contains art and historical exhibits. A stroll around the grounds offers views of the historic citrus orchards, date palms, olive groves, and a large rose garden. Peacocks and other fowl strut about. You can take a self-guided audio tour of the grounds and the Xeriscape Botanical Garden just to the north; pick up an audio wand from the gift shop or Glendale Public Library, which has longer hours. The garden surrounds the library parking area. Buildings on the ranch are open noon-4 p.m. Sun., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Wed.-Fri., and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat.; they close in summer. Grounds are open 6 a.m.-sunset daily year-round. There's a small fee for a half-hour tour of the main house. From downtown Glendale, head north about 2.5 miles on 59th Avenue; the entrance is on the left between Olive and Peoria Avenues.
Challenger Space Center
Journey into space on a two-hour simulated team mission or take in the exhibits, space videos, and astronomy programs at this gleaming Center (21170 N. 83rd Ave. in Peoria, 623/322-2001, www.azchallenger.org, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat., exhibits cost $6 adults, $4 seniors/student, missions—open to the public a few days per week—cost $17.50 adults, $15 children and require reservations). A six-story mural by Robert McCall surrounds you in the central rotunda, and you'll see other space art in the corridors. Docents use models and other exhibits to explain features of space exploration on tours of the facility. The modest number of exhibits may not be enough to make your visit worthwhile, however; they're probably best thought of as a bonus to participating in a mission. A gift shop sells space-related items. The reach the Center, turn west from the 101 Loop (Agua Fria Fwy.) at the Union Hills Exit, then turn north on 83rd Avenue. The distinctive white-metal structure will be on your left. The excellent website lists programs, exhibits, and future plans.
Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium
Begun in 1974 as a breeding farm for rare and endangered species, this zoo (16501 W. Northern Ave., 623/935-9453, www.wildlifeworld.com, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. every day of the year, $14 adults, $6 children 3-12) opened to the public 10 years later and today houses Arizona's largest collection of exotic wildlife. You'll meet the patas monkey, fastest of all primates, which can run doglike across the ground at 35 miles per hour. Larger animals include the scimitar-horned oryx, dama gazelle, addax (an antelope of the Sahara Desert), rhino, tapir, zebra, giraffe, camel, kangaroo, and white tiger. The zoo's impressive bird collection displays pheasants, toucans, cockatoos, macaws, curassows, ostriches (all five of the world's species), and some birds exhibited nowhere else in the country. A large, walk-in African aviary contains Abdim's storks and other unusual birds. Penguins from South Africa keep their "cool." Additional creatures live in the small mammal, reptile, and aquarium exhibits. Wildlife Encounters Shows and feedings take place several times daily. A Safari Train takes visitors on a narrated excursion past animals of Africa. The Australian boat ride wends its way around an island inhabited by wildlife from "Down Under." A skyride offers a bird's-eye view of the zoo. Children enjoy meeting domestic animals in a petting area and taking a spin on the carousel. The zoo has a restaurant with aquarium views and a gift shop.
From Phoenix, head west 18 miles on I-10 to Cotton Lane/303 Loop (Exit 124), then turn north six miles to Northern Avenue. From the northern Valley, it's fastest to take the 101 Loop to Northern Avenue, then follow Northern west eight miles.
West Valley Art Museum
The museum had to close its doors in September 2009. Check the website www.wvam.org to see if it has reopened or contact museum staff at P.O. Box 6377, Peoria, AZ 85385.
On to South Phoenix