“This land of Arizona has had an exciting history, so dramatic and inspiring that it needs no exaggeration or fictional embellishment.” ~Barry Goldwater
In an attempt to list a dozen of my favorite Arizona field trips, I realized that it’s really hard to decide because there are so many unique destinations to choose from. The following (in no particular order) are all very different but I personally found each to be a memorable, enjoyable, and educational experience.
Pioneer Arizona Living History Museum – Pioneer Arizona is a 90-acre village displaying the history and lifestyle of Arizona’s Territorial Days (1880’s – 1912). They offer self-guided tours and interpreters in period costumes. They also regularly host special events and reenactments. The combination of original buildings and historically accurate reproductions really brings Arizona history to life. Visit a working blacksmith shop, peek into a sheriff’s office and jail, sit inside the historic Opera House, look through a rifle port in an actual cabin that survived Arizona’s bloodiest range war, browse through an 1890’s dress shop, see a complete ranch complex, and much more! www.pioneer-arizona.com
Mesa Southwest Museum – This museum of cultural and natural history features permanent and changing exhibitions on Arizona and the southwest, from dinosaurs to ancient Indians, from the old west to the space age. www.azcama.com/museums/mesa_southwest.htm
Arizona Science Center – Enjoy hands-on interactive exhibits, science demonstrations, traveling exhibitions, a planetarium, and Imax theater. www.azscience.org
The Phoenix Zoo – One of the nation’s largest non-profit zoological parks, the Phoenix Zoo was also voted one of the nation’s Top 5 zoos for kids. Enjoy four distinctive trails: Arizona Trail, Tropics Trail, Discovery Trail, and Africa Trail. You can also visit Harmony Farm to experience life on a working farm. www.phoenixzoo.org
Titan Missile Museum – Travel through time to stand on the front line of the Cold War. This is the only publicly accessible Titan II missile site in the nation, home of the only Titan II missile not dismantled and destroyed. Visitors can tour the deactivated Launch Control Center and go 35 feet underground to see the actual Titan II missile! www.pimaair.org
Boyce Thompson Southwestern Arboretum – The 320-acre Arboretum brings together plants from many varied deserts and dry lands, displaying them alongside native Sonoran Desert vegetation. As you walk the Main Trail, you will find odd shapes and forms in the Cactus Garden; peaceful reflection in the cool shade of towering trees in Queen Creek Canyon; a blend of beauty and utility in the old-fashioned herb garden; and intellectual stimulation in the various displays at the Smith Interpretive Center. You can also see expansive vistas from the High Trail, and other special places. The Arboretum’s mission is committed to education, truly making it a living classroom. http://arboretum.ag.arizona.edu
Meteor Crater – For many years, scientists denied that there were any meteor impact craters on Earth. Then the discovery of fragments of the Canyon Diablo meteorite made Arizona’s Meteor Crater the first to be positively identified as an impact crater. It is also the best preserved meteor crater on Earth. www.meteorcrater.com
Sunset Crater/Wupatki National Monument – This 35-mile-long loop drive passes through a spectacular volcano-scape at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument with cinder cones, lava flows, and a lava tube cave. From there it journeys back in time to ancient Anasazi and Sinagua Indian ruins at Wupatki National Monument. www.nps.gov/sucr/index.htm and www.nps.gov/wupa/index.htm
Arizona Mining & Mineral Museum – One of the largest and finest mineral museums in the Southwest, it features permanent and changing displays of ore and minerals from Arizona and other states. Over 3,000 minerals are on exhibit. Highlighting the collection are the colorful minerals from Arizona’s copper mines. There are also exhibits on the lapidary arts, gemstones, carved semi-precious bowls and spheres, well-known Arizona specimen localities, and fluorescent minerals. www.admmr.state.az.us
Estrella Wars – The second largest Medieval event in the country is held every February in Arizona. It is sponsored by The Society for Creative Anachronism, an international organization dedicated to researching and recreating pre-17th-century European history. Thousands of re-enactors recreate the ambiance of a Medieval Village and period encampments. Their tents and furnishings are very much like what people would have used in the Middle Ages. There are a variety of demonstrations and recreational combat. School Tours provide a simple introduction to the Middle Ages, displaying a sampling of Medieval life. www.estrellawar.org
American Heritage Weekend – Held annually in November at Schnepf Farms in Queen Creek, this is a grand scale demonstration of civilian and military aspects of 18th and 19th century American life as represented by an experienced cast of historical interpreters. Included are battle reenactments, first-person portrayals of famous men and women, musicians, craftsmen, and more. www.americanheritageweekend.com
SEE ASU – This annual two-day event in March includes demonstrations, hands-on exhibits, presentations, and educational activities from the science, engineering, and environmental communities at ASU. See ASU laboratories and museums, demonstrations and hands-on activities! See the Mars Space Flight Facility, a Moon Buggy, and meteorites! See how a dime is coated with gold and what that has to do with integrated circuits! See high resolution microscopy! See demonstrations on heat transfer, cryogenics, vacuum and air pressure! See glass blowers, storm chasers, fossils, and magic math! See Center for Environmental Studies! See how veterinarians care for animals! See geology, archeology, anthropology and more! Meet ASU faculty, students and staff. www.asu.edu/vppa/seeasu
Arizona Family Field Trips, a book by Marty Campbell.