These cold mornings may tempt you to rub your chapped hands and whine about the constant static shocks or your tendency to stick to metal.
But remember: The clock is ticking. Every winter, Mother Nature leaves us a cool moment like this while she primes her blowtorch.
Triple digits will kick in around tax day. So here’s a quick guide on how to savor the last of the cool weather. Because, soon enough, you’ll be rubbing your hands to spread the aloe vera.
HIKING AND BIKING
Lace ’em up, or pop your kickstand, and reconnect with the desert’s brochure beauty. McDowell Mountain Park’s North Trail Loop offers an easy trek through a Sonoran sampler of desert plants and creatures. To the East, the Peralta Trail in the Superstition Mountains wilderness draws more ambitious climbers up a series of bluffs to Weaver’s Needle, of the Lost Dutchman lore.
Siphon Draw Trail, at the base of the Superstitions, rewards a steep climb with a gorgeous vista of the East Valley. Bicyclists have more than 1,400 miles of cycling paths to choose from, but beginners can get rolling along Tempe Town Lake, the 12-mile multiuse path between McKellips Road and Shea Boulevard, or the two-mile track connecting Mesa’s Hohokam Stadium with Harris Drive to the east. Cool breezes guaranteed. BYOB (Bring your own bike).
• North Loop Trail — (480) 471-0173.
• Peralta Trail —
www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto/recreation or (602) 225-5200
• Siphon Draw Trail —
www.pr.state.az.us/Parks/ parkhtml/dutchman.html or call (480) 982-4485
ENJOY THE WATER BEFORE IT BECOMES STEAM!
The Salt River’s still too cold, but aquatic fun can still be had by renting paddle boats or kayaks and racing the 202 commuters from Tempe Town Lake. East of Apache Junction, a double-decker steamboat makes a stylish way to tour Canyon Lake. Nature cruises through the Tonto National Forest are also available. And, up in Scottsdale, the Sandolo restaurant still offers gondola rides at Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort at Gainey Ranch.
• Tempe Town Lake marina information and rates — (480) 517-4050
• Canyon Lake — (480) 827-9144
• Sandolo restaurant, Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort at Gainey Ranch — (480) 991-3388
PLANTS AND ANIMALS (IN A GOOD MOOD!)
Walk The Phoenix Zoo on an August afternoon, and exotic animals will stare at you from shaded enclaves, wondering how you ever evolved. But March offers cool, animated creatures doing exciting things, like moving. It also brings the final month of the zoo’s World Music Series — free outdoor concerts where alternative and world music complement your Sunday safari. Across the parking lot, the Desert Botanical Garden’s "Music in the Garden" plays a Sunday soundtrack of big band, jazz or salsa music, as you discover the Valley’s cactuses, flowers and trees have a life beyond mall courtyards and dentist’s offices.
• The Phoenix Zoo, 455 N. Galvin Parkway — (602) 273-1341
• Desert Botanical Garden, 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix — (480) 941-1225
SHOPPING IN THE SUNSHINE
The Scottsdale area offers several outdoor tracks before shoe-leather capitalism retreats to the mall. Old Town Scottsdale blends an Old West mystique with the artifacts of yesteryear at the prices of tomorrow. The Borgata landscapes shopping around elegant walkways with 14thcentury Italian architecture, while Kierland Commons dots the lawns near the Scottsdale Airpark with high-end speciality stores, clothiers and restaurants.
• Old Town Scottsdale — Scottsdale and Indian School roads
• The Borgata of Scottsdale — Scottsdale Road between McDonald and Lincoln drives
• Kierland Commons — northwest corner of Greenway Parkway and Scottsdale Road, Phoenix
This spring, Arizona bristles with outdoor festivals. Celebrate a different culture or era, contemplate the majesty of gawky birds or just walk around with lots of handheld food. In Apache Junction, the Arizona Renaissance Festival offers jesters, jousting and medieval food and drink weekends through March 28.
In Mesa, hearts are light and brogues are heavy for the 40th annual Arizona Scottish Highland Games and Clan Gathering (Feb. 28-29, see Family Fun). At the Chandler Ostrich Festival (March 12-14) Formula One ostriches race in a family-friendly atmosphere (no wagering).
At WestWorld, the Festival of the West (March 18-21) ropes music, poetry, movies and all things cowboy together in a four-day for a salute to John Wayne.
And Tempe’s Spring Festival of the Arts, the Kentucky Derby of sunshine commerce, stuffs Mill Avenue with painters, crafts, performers and bohemians March 26-28.
• Arizona Renaissance Festival — U.S. 60, Apache Junction, (520) 463-2600
• Chandler Ostrich Festival — Tumbleweed Park, 2250 S. McQueen Road, (480) 963-4571 or www.ostrichfestival.com
• Highland Games — Mesa Community College, 1833 W. Southern Ave., (480) 312-2311
• Festival of the West — WestWorld, 16601 N. Pima Road, S cottsdale, (480) 312-6802
• Tempe Festival of the Arts — Mill Avenue between University Drive and Rio Salado Parkway, (480) 967-4877
East Valley Mexican restaurants let diners hit the bricks and enjoy the view while the sky is still kind. In Mesa, Rancho de Tia Rosa’s patio provides a lively blend of nature and neon. At El Encanto in Cave Creek, patio diners enjoy the companionship of (nonedible) ducks and swans. Orange trees and a flaming water fountain make locals happy to work a shift at Old Town Tortilla Factory in Scottsdale. And for those fond of the far East (Valley), De la Cruz offers fine Mexican dining and a view of the Superstitions from its Gold Canyon patio.
• Rancho de Tia Rosa — 3129 E. McKellips Road, Mesa, (480) 659-8787
• El Encanto — 6248 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek, (480) 488-1752
• Old Town Tortilla Factory — 6910 E. Main St., Scottsdale, (480) 945-4567
• De la Cruz — 5301 S. Superstition Mountain Drive, Apache Junction, (480) 982-5277
BASEBALL WITHOUT THE DOME
Yes, it’s a staple. Yes, the Diamondbacks will occupy the rarefied environs of Bank One Ballpark soon enough. But March brings us baseball as God intended: Out in the brazen sunshine, every team in first place, and you’re close enough to complain to the players about their salaries. The East Valley plays winter host to the Cubs (Mesa), Angels (Tempe), Athletics (east Phoenix) and Giants (Scottsdale). Buy a ticket, grab a beer. Mock the snowbird with the whitest legs.
• Chicago Cubs — Hohokam Park, 1235 N. Center St., Mesa, (480) 964-4467
• Anaheim Angels — Tempe Diablo Stadium, 2200 W. Alameda Drive, (480) 784-4444
• Oakland Athletics — Phoenix Municipal Stadium, 5999 E. Van Buren St., (800) 225-2277
• San Francisco Giants — Scottsdale Stadium, 7408 E. Osborn Road, (480) 990-7972
FINAL, FRIENDLY REMINDER
Drive with your windows down. It’s a simple pleasure, free of charge. But do it before May, when your car becomes a Crock-Pot.