Our media relations intern Andrea recently visited the Desert Botanical Garden and it's new restaurant Gertrude's . She offered to provide her insider’s perspective of this popular attraction. Enjoy!
I recently had the opportunity to visit the Desert Botanical Garden, a popular attraction to both locals and visitors. It’s considered a “Phoenix Point of Pride,” and has over 50,000 desert plants to see and learn about.
The Desert Botanical Garden first opened in 1939 after a group of Phoenix locals saw the need to conserve the desert environment. Today, the Garden continues to grow and currently has 145 acres of desert plants not just found in the Sonoran Desert, but from other deserts around the world.
There are five thematic trails at the Garden that you can go on. My personal favorite is the Plants and People of the of the Sonoran Desert Trail which shows visitors the relationships between people and plants in our region and how the plants are useful when it comes to needing food, medicine and fiber. As you walk through this trail, you get an understanding of how past Indians used the desert to their advantage.
Walking along the other beautiful trails, you’ll find the scenic views are incredible. There are many hills surrounding the whole area that covered with hundreds of different types of cacti, as well as Papago Park in the distance. And, if you’re lucky, a roadrunner or quail might cross your path.
Earlier this year, the Garden opened a new restaurant called Gertrude’s, which was named after Gertrude Webster who founded the Desert Botanical Garden. The restaurant focuses on utilizing fresh ingredients from farmers and artisan food producers from around the state of Arizona and the Southwest. They kitchen even uses some of the fresh herbs and vegetables from their own garden located on the property.
Since the restaurant just opened at the end of January, I was very excited to go. Our group was seated outside on the patio, which was gorgeous. There were beautiful desert plants surrounding it and thankfully, a lot of shade to keep the Arizona sun at bay.
Everyone at my table ordered from the lunch menu and everyone seemed to be happy with their choices. Some unique items included:
- Chicken Sandwich (Achiote + Citrus Marinated Chicken Breast, Apple Wood Bacon, Avocado, Arizona Cheese Co. Pepper Jack, Jicama, Napa Cabbage, Brioche Bun)
- Beets Salad (Garden Beets, Seasonal Lettuces, Crow’s Dairy Cherve, Maple-Sherry Vinaigrette, Hazelnuts)
- Sonoran Dog (Bacon Wrapped Shriener’s Beef Hot Dog, Avocado, Tepary Beans, Queso Fresco, Tomatillo Relish, Poppy Bun)
The food was absolutely delicious and the atmosphere is great. If you want to get away from the city and enjoy a few hours getting drinks and food, Gertrude’s would be a great place to go.
Overall, my experience to the Desert Botanical Garden and Gertrude’s was fantastic - I highly recommend going. And if you want to be surrounded by hundreds of butterflies, be sure to go between now and May 12 for the Spring Butterfly Exhibit.
Phoenix’s perpetual sunshine might tempt you to spend all your free time sipping frozen beverages next to a swimming pool. Don’t give in. Exploring the Sonoran Desert’s horizons will broaden yours.
Nearly every outdoors-loving Phoenix local has, at some time or another, started his or her day with a hike to the top of Camelback Mountain. The city’s most famous landmark resembles a dromedary camel in repost, and the mountain challenges hikers with a rugged but rewarding trek to its 2,700-foot “hump”. Visitors who prefer not to scale Camelback can still gawk at it from a nearby restaurant patio.
Phoenix’s newest must-see attraction is the first museum in the world dedicated to the celebration of global instruments. This $250 million museum features a collection of more than 15,000 instruments – including the last guitar Elvis played in concert.
As its name suggests, this outdoor museum showcases desert plants – and not just those native to the Southwest. Among the succulents that adorn the garden’s 50-acre grounds are endangered desert species from around the world, including Dali-esque trees from North Africa and sprawling cactuses from Mesopotamia.
Greater Phoenix is home to more than 200 golf courses, many designed by legends of the game such as Robert Trent Jones, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. Check out stay-and-play packages at area resorts before you come, and consider playing one of Phoenix’s true desert layouts.
5. Heard Museum
The Heard is Arizona’s most famous museum. The traditional and contemporary art on display provides insight into the culture of Arizona’s 22 Native American tribes. Not to be missed is the haunting exhibit on Indian boarding schools. The Heard Museum Shop is one of the best places in Phoenix to buy authentic American Indian jewelry, pottery, paintings, sculpture and weavings.
Located near the famed Arizona Biltmore resort, this fashionable shopping desintation has a garden-park courtyard, upscale retailers and plenty of dining options. Be sure to check out the Fashion Park’s newest addition: UNION, a wing of locally owned boutiques.
A major player in the Southwest’s art landscape, Phoenix Art Museum showcases an impressive collection of European, Asian, Latin American, Western American and contemporary pieces. Be sure to check out the sculpture garden, Museum Store and the museum restaurant, Palette.
Occupying a city block in downtown Phoenix, Heritage Square is home to the Arizona Science Center. But go for the food. Pizzeria Bianco serves pizza that a New York Times food critic deemed the best in the country, and Nobuo at Teeter House is an Asian-style teahouse by day and a funky izakaya by night.
The Old West and New West converge in Old Town Scottsdale, where galleries dedicated to American Indian and cowboy arts share a pedestrian-friendly streetscape with shops that sell Southwestern jewelry and crafts. Nearby, you’ll find some of Greater Phoenix’s finest restaurants and trendiest nightlife.
10. Taliesin West
The sprawling wonder at the foot of the McDowell Mountains was the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright, America’s most famous architect. Wright constructed Taliesin West from sand, gravel and stone he found on the mountain’s talus slope. It’s open to the public for tours.
Our media relations intern Andrea attended this year's Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market . She offered to provide her insider’s perspective of this popular Phoenix event.
I had the chance to experience the annual Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market this past weekend in Phoenix. Having been there before, I knew that it was going to be awesome.
This event is Arizona's largest Indian market, and if you want to experience everything relating to the culture, it's the best place to do it. The market has over 700 of the nation's best American Indian artists, artist demonstrations, music and dance performances and amazing Indian fry bread.
On Saturday morning, I ventured to the museum via the Metro Light Rail, which stops right in front of the fair entrance. When I went last year, the line to the fry bread stand was so long in the afternoon that it took almost 45 minutes before I got my hands on some (which isn't surprising, it's absolutely delicious). This year, I knew better. As soon as I went through the ticket line, I headed straight towards the good stuff. Indian fry bread is so good that it can be eaten plain. I prefer it sweet though so I ordered mine with powdered sugar and honey. It was amazing!
After satisfying my carb cravings, I headed to the tents. The parking lot of the museum housed multiple tents with artists inside. Items included everything from jewelry and pottery to weavings and paintings. The artists are all so incredibly talented and take pride in their work. And it's also cool to see what tribe the Indians come from. A few that I remembered were Navajo, Hopi and Santo Domingo.
During the day, the fair has music and dancing performances. I had the pleasure of watching Navajo dancers show the audience some traditional dances while live music was playing in the background. Some spectators even joined in to learn the dance.
One of the great things about the annual fair is the fact that your ticket gets you into the Heard Museum for free. Visitors are able to experience all 10 exhibits inside and learn more about Indian culture and history, and can even have a tour guide show them around.
This was the museum's 55th Indian fair, and it continues to get better every year. Be sure to check it out next year - you won't regret it! With American Indian food, shopping, music, dancing and entrance to the museum, you're bound to be entertained!
Think that ice skating is a holiday activity reserved for our friends up North and on the East Coast? Think again! Here are some places that you can go ice skating right here in the desert.
Temporary Ice Skating Rinks
CityScape set up its holiday ice skating rink right on Central Avenue in downtown Phoenix this year. Chloe’s Corner will serve free hot chocolate with every skate rental. The rink will be open until Jan. 6.
Details: CityScape Phoenix 1 E. Washington Street, Phoenix. Hours: 5-11pm Monday – Friday, 3-11pm Saturday – Sunday from Nov. 24 – Dec. 18 and Jan. 2- 6. 3-11pm daily, Dec. 19 – Jan 1.
The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is putting extra icing on the holidays with its new Desert Ice Holiday Rink located in the picturesque Cactus Garden. The 5,400 square foot rink, made with real ice and is open daily to the public until Jan. 6.
Details: Fairmont Scottsdale Princess 7575 E. Princess Drive, Scottsdale. Hours: 2-5pm and 6-9pm Nov. 27 – Jan. 6 Sunday – Thursday, 2-5pm and 7-10pm Friday – Saturday.
Enjoy the holidays on the W’s Wet Deck. Where you normally find their pool, you’ll find a 2,100 square foot ice rink made from not ice, but a recyclable polymer that doesn't require electricity to cool or a Zamboni to smooth out. The hotel’s rink-side cabanas will be decked out in holiday décor and the bar will serve holiday-inspired cocktails.
Details: W Scottsdale Hotel 7277 E. Camelback Road, Scottsdale. Hours: 4-10pm Nov. 16 – Jan. 3 Monday – Wednesday, 4pm – midnight Thursday – Friday, noon – midnight Saturday, noon – 10pm Sunday.
Year-Round Ice Skating Rinks
Arcadia Ice Arena 3853 E. Thomas Road, Phoenix
Ice Den 9375 E. Bell Road, Scottsdale
Oceanside Ice Arena 1520 N. McClintock Drive, Tempe
Polar Ice Gilbert 2305 E. Knox Road, Gilbert
Polar Ice Chandler 7225 W. Harrison Street, Chandler
Polar Ice Peoria 15829 N. 83rd Avenue, Peoria
Our media relations intern Lauren got the opportunity to experience a hot air balloon adventure with Hot Air Expeditions. She offered to provide her insider’s perspective of this unique and thrilling adventure in Phoenix.
Waking up before sunrise can only be justified for a special occasion, but when I had the chance to take my first hot air balloon ride, I decided it was definitely worth it! Bright and early on a Monday morning, I met with three other willing explorers to join me and Hot Air Expeditions in viewing the Sonoran Desert from a different angle- the sky. Now, I have never had a crippling fear of heights and I was a little unsure of how a hot air balloon works - but, this was one adventure I was ready to experience. I always wondered how the pilot controls the balloon, but I left the flying up to him.
A driver from Hot Air Expeditions arrived at our hotel that morning and drove us to the launch site. For added convenience, they are happy to provide transportation for hotel and resort guests. We met the Hot Air Expeditions crew in the desert near Deer Valley Airport in North Phoenix. Phoenix has over 320 days of sunshine annually and today was no exception. Keep in mind that balloon adventures are weather permitted, so check the weather before confirming your expedition. Upon our arrival, we watched the balloon grow in size as the crew inflated the balloon with motorized fans.
About 30 minutes later, the balloon was filled with air and we were ready for our flight. We met our pilot, Patrick Stevens, who is actually the Chief Pilot of Hot Air Expeditions and has over 20 years of ballooning experience. His casual demeanor convinced us that this flight would be fun. One person in our group was a little nervous about the balloon ride, but we were reassured by Patrick the ride would be relaxing. He mentioned that many people who have a fear of heights typically do not have issues while riding in a hot air balloon. Our group paired up with a few other small groups to fill up the largest wicker balloon basket, which holds 12-14 people.
Soon we were all secured in the basket and Patrick was ready to take off – we drifted up, up and away! He used the propane burners to ignite and heat the air inside. We let the pilot worry about flying and we took in the amazing, unobstructed view of the Sonoran Desert below us.
We flew over houses and farms, reaching about 1,000 feet in the air. Off in one direction, a bright blue body of water stood out amongst the desert landscape, "Lake Pleasant,” Patrick said. He also mentioned that more people own boats in Arizona than you might think, especially because there are six lakes with 45 minutes of the Valley.
With the ease of a bird, we soared over mountain tops covered in Saguaro cacti and peered into a basin where wildlife is known to live. Although Patrick said the balloon reached a top speed of 9 m.p.h., we felt almost no sensation of movement because we were flying with the wind. It feels like you are floating in a bubble above the beautiful mountain scenery. Luckily, one difference from floating in a bubble is that Patrick could control our direction, height and speed leaving nothing for the passengers to worry about.
Time flew by and soon it was time to find a landing spot, so Patrick radioed to the ground crew to follow us as he navigated the balloon closer to the ground. We slowly eased back to earth and were given instructions to lean forward and grab onto the handles inside the basket. The landing was fairly smooth as the basket’s bottom skimmed along the desert surface. Our group slightly embraced each other, knowing we were safely back on the ground. One by one, we jumped out of the basket remarking, “We made it! That wasn’t scary.” Then the Hot Air Expeditions crew deflated the balloon and folded it carefully for storage. Our ballooning adventure was concluding, but we still had something to look forward to; Patrick served us a nice “welcome back to Earth” gourmet breakfast of chocolate-filled croissants, Quiche Lorraine, apple slices and cheese. We also toasted flutes of champagne, which is a legendary ceremony that balloonists all over the world have shared for over a century. Now that we had our fill of adventure, the day was officially complete. Not a bad Monday, if you ask me!
Is a hot air balloon ride on your bucket list?
This Saturday, October 20, the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) will unveil the newest addition to its Artist Gallery—an exhibit honoring international multiplatinum superstar Taylor Swift. If you, or someone you know is a Taylor Swift fan, you won't want to miss the weekend-long celebration including live music, educational workshops, exhibit talks, and more.
We were lucky enough to get a sneak peek of the exhibit, check it out!
The first section of the exhibit details the beginning of Swift’s career, from learning to play guitar and writing songs to the release of her first single, “Tim McGraw,” in June 2006. Swift writes or cowrites every song on all of her albums, including her self-titled debut, “Taylor Swift" (released in October 2006). Objects in this part of the exhibit include Swift’s handwritten lyrics for the song “Tim McGraw,” along with her signature Taylor koa, six-string acoustic guitar and cowboy boots featured in the “Tim McGraw” music video.
The second section features Swift’s rise to superstardom, shown through instruments, stage wear, and set pieces from the Speak Now World Tour. Items on exhibit from this tour include her sparkly red Gibson Les Paul electric guitar, which she played while outfitted in her gold Roberto Cavalli dress for tour performances of “Mine.” Also on display will be a Deering banjo and a Leilani ukulele used on the tour, which demonstrate Swift’s talents as a multi-instrumentalist. The centerpiece of the exhibit is a large prop bell that was a featured and interactive set piece used during performances of the song “Haunted” on the Speak Now World Tour.
MIM will celebrate the exhibit’s opening with a variety of activities for the entire family on October 20 and 21. Museum guests will have the opportunity to listen to an exhibit talk by MIM curatorial assistant David Wegehaupt, attend a songwriting workshop with the Arizona Songwriters Association, watch Taylor Swift music videos in the MIM Music Theater, and listen to students from Rock ’n’ Roll High School singing Taylor Swift songs. All activities are free with museum admission.