Inside Arizona: A Southern Arizona Adventure - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Inside Arizona: A Southern Arizona Adventure

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Posted: Sunday, April 12, 2009 4:27 pm | Updated: 2:41 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Inside Arizona: My adventure began at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, west of Tucson. This unusual "outdoor museum" encompasses 21 acres of desert, with nearly two miles of paths that provide a look at over 300 animal species and 1,200 kinds of plants, all in their native Sonoran Desert habitat.

My adventure began at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, west of Tucson. This unusual "outdoor museum" encompasses 21 acres of desert, with nearly two miles of paths that provide a look at over 300 animal species and 1,200 kinds of plants, all in their native Sonoran Desert habitat. The volunteers here were both helpful and interesting as they answered my many questions. Shaded resting spots, water fountains and restrooms are provided at various locations as well as a snack bar and a restaurant. Don't forget either water or sunscreen while visiting this sunny habitat.

I also fit a visit to nearby Saguaro National Park into the day's itinerary, and I stopped at the beautiful San Xavier Mission while in Tucson, just off Interstate 19. Sunset was the perfect time to visit the mission, providing dramatic lighting that only the Sonoran Desert can provide.

My next stop was in nearby Tubac, a short drive south of Tucson on I-19 and a great place to stay the night and relax. Tubac offers a shopper's heaven, with gift shops, jewelry and art galleries galore.

I began my next day with a visit to nearby Tumacacori Mission, abandoned in the early 1800s before it had been completed, and a great starting point to a daylong driving tour of southern Arizona.

In Tombstone, just 45 minutes to the East of Tubac, I made all the must-see stops; Boot Hill, the O.K. Corral, the Tombstone Epitaph and the Bird Cage Theatre.

My wanderings then took me to Nogales, where I enjoyed the celebration of two countries' cultures coming together as one.

Next, the town of Bisbee, where I did some shopping along the curved streets and saw the copper mines that made this city bigger than San Francisco in the 19th century.

I also drove over to the Chiricahua mountain range with its awesome rock formations and balancing rocks into Sierra Vista and then Benson.

I had made my loop, coming back to Tucson, where I stayed at the beautiful Embassy Suites Resort, settled in the Foothills of the Catalina Mountains. I enjoyed the opportunity to relax on my beautiful balcony and rest for the evening.

I still had one more day to visit and crammed all I could into it. Biosphere 2 was on my list, and I enjoyed the drive north on state Route 77 through the scenic hills to get there. You can wander about on your own, but the tour guides are so full of information that I would not recommend it until after taking a tour. This facility owned by the University of Arizona is an airtight greenhouse of over three acres. It contains five ecosystems under one roof where ongoing studies of the effects of varying levels of carbon dioxide on the earth's plants take place.

As the sun sank slowly into the West, we found a restaurant just off of state Route 77, west on Tangerine Road, named The Steak Out. My authentic Arizona adventure could not have come to a better end. How fitting that I should end my trip with the grand spectacle of a glorious sunset viewed from this Old West Steakhouse and Saloon, the cactus silhouetted against a blazing red sky, hazy purple mountains in the distance. Isn't that how all good Westerns are supposed to end?

Find the Monthly Newspaper AZ Tourist News at participating Village Inn, IHOP and JB's restaurants as well as your local Chamber of Commerce and convention and visitors bureaus. Find more Arizona travel tips at www.aztourist.com.

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