Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Around the Circuit - Phoenix

Home of Phoenix International Raceway
atc
If you decide to visit Phoenix for their winter or fall races, you can expect to experience some of the mildest weather Arizona has to offer. During the NASCAR festivities last November, the temperatures were in the the low 70s during the day and the 40s at night. During the last weekend in February and the middle of November, the action heats up when NASCAR comes to town. It isn’t only the mild winter temperatures that bring people to this desert oasis, the sights and sounds of Phoenix and the surrounding areas bring tourists from all over. If you’re heading to Phoenix this week or later this year, you may want to consider checking out some of these hot spots. If not, sit back with me as we go around the circuit.
Sedona
Distance from track: in time- 2 hours, 21 minutes; in miles: 128. View map
Sedona is well known for its beautiful red rock formations. Red is rarely the only color you’ll see there, though. Driving through the Arizona desert is like being splashed in a southwestern rainbow. Shades of red, gold, purple, pink and some colors that don’t have names seem to bathe you in surreal beauty.

Sedona is quite secluded, and yet it is not far from Flagstaff, a college town nestled in Arizona’s northern White Mountains. The city itself offers resorts, spas, camping, hiking, 4-wheeling and off-roading tours through the desert, and so much more. If you have the time while visiting Phoenix, make it a day trip down to Sedona.

For more information, you can visit their website.

The Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum
Distance from track: in time- 29 minutes; in miles: 20. View map
Mining and minerals have long been a rich part of Arizona’s history and current economy. Being the leading state for mining and the largest producer of non-fuel mineral in the United States, it’s only natural that one of the major attractions in the capital city would be a museum dedicated to mining and minerals.

What began as a fair exhibit in the 1800s blossomed into what is now known as the Arizona Mineral and Mining Museum. The exhibit was so popular during the very first Arizona Fair in 1884 that the Arizona State Legislature commissioned a building for it in 1917. The completed building housed annual State Fair exhibits until 1953, until six of Arizona’s mining companies decided to turn the exhibit into a year-round museum. In 2010, the museum was transferred to the Arizona Historical Society. It is intended to become a part of the new Centennial Museum, although some reports have the Mining and Mineral Museum shutting its doors forever by June 1 of this year.

The museum is still a popular attraction in Phoenix, where more than 40,000 people visit each year. With a nominal entrance fee of $2 for adults 18 and over and free for children under 17, it’s hard to find a better bargain. With the rumors of its closure flying, now is the time to visit. Check out their website for information.

The Deer Valley Rock Art Center
Distance from track: in time- 39-47 minutes; in distance- 30-24 miles. View map
In the 1970s, a flood threatened the very existence of the Hedgpeth Hills petroglyph site, but a 1976 agreement was signed to prevent the site from being too seriously impacted by the dams that were being built to control flood waters. It has now been listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The site has 1/4 mile of walking trail that winds around the petroglyphs so that you can view them in their natural environment. Petroglyphs aren’t the only thing you’ll see, though; the center is host to a nature preserve hosting many different species of desert wildlife and plants.

Admission is $7 for adults, $3 for children up to age 12. They have senior and student discounts as well and all children under 5 are free. Visit their website.

Bizarre - Roadside attractions in Arizona
Distance from track: multiple locations, view state map
Every state and many towns have them. You’ve seen them. You probably wondered “what the #*%^@?” while driving past them. Yeah, I’m talking about roadside attractions.

When you think of the Southwest, chances are you think of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday in Tombstone, the OK Corral, heat and cacti. Truth is, there’s so much more to see there. Like the Word’s Smallest Museum in Superior. Well, at least there’s some culture.

Of course, if you’re in the mood to experience the Southwest that’s in the storybooks and movies, you can always check out a real Ghost Town. Most people come back alive.

On a more serious note, if you’re near the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum, you can take a short drive or walk and visit the anchor and mast of the USS Arizona. It’s a ship (well, part of one) named Arizona. In Arizona. It’s ironic, get it?

If you’re in the mood for more strange sights, check out RoadsideAmerica.com.

Phoenix travel websites and help
Anywhere you go, they probably have a website to be a virtual tour guide. Before heading out to Phoenix International Raceway this week, be sure to check out these great websites.
VisitPhoenix.com
Go-Arizona.com

Thanks for stopping in Phoenix with me! Next week, we head to Sin City - Las Vegas! See you there!

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