The boys of summer are back.
Baseball Spring Training 2016 is officially underway and Cactus League fans are packing their bags and heading to the Greater Phoenix area to cheer on their favorite teams. The Valley of the Sun boats 15 MLB teams and 10 stadiums, but playing in the desert isn’t limited to baseball fields.With so much to see.. squeezing in those baseball games can get tough. Good thing there’s plenty of things you’re going to want to get up early for in the desert!
Up, Up and Away
Like a hot air balloon ride over the Sonoran desert. Balloon flights give you a whole new perspective of the desert terrain and they are one of those bucket list items. My flight with Hot Air Expeditions came with a 6:15 departure from the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess hotel, but was worth rolling out of bed before the sun came up. We went 5,500 feet up and covered about four-and-a-half miles. It’s quiet and still in between the hot air bursts of the balloon’s propane burners. And those propane burners put off heat, so wear a hat to keep your head from getting hot. After many of the rides, you’re welcomed back to solid ground with a champagne toast and picnic-style breakfast.
Make a Splash
Getting wet in the desert is a fun way to beat the heat in between spring training games. Arizona Outback Adventures guides half-day trips on the Lower Salt River. Give stand up paddle boarding a try or go kayaking. Whatever you choose, keep your eyes open for egrets, juvenile bald eagles, cormorants and if you’re really lucky.. wild horses.
Work Up a Sweat
The Mesa and Scottsdale area is known for its miles and miles of hiking trails. Camelback Mountain being one of the most popular, but certainly not the only spot to get a good workout, complete with photo worthy views. Usery Mountain Regional Park stretches more than 3,600 acres and offers more than 30 miles of trails ranging from easy to strenuous. The Wind Cave Trail is one of the park’s most popular hikes. Three miles round trip with plenty of switch backs and a steady 800 foot elevation gain, pays off with views like these. It’s a moderate to difficult hike that will take most two to three hours round-trip.
Seek Shelter & Sound
When you get to the point that you need a break from the sun, head straight for the Musical Instrument Museum or MIM. Before you say.. oh no.. no museums, hear me out. It’s different at MIM. There are musical instruments and artifacts from more than 200 countries and territories around the world. You can see them, hear them and in some cases even try playing them. They’ll be plenty you’ve never heard of, then they’ll be ones that you know all about like the piano that John Lennon sat at when he composed “Imagine.”
High-tech wireless headsets automatically cue an audio guide based on where you are standing in the building. So if you’re in front of the Gong Makers’ Workshop, you’ll see and hear a gong. Video monitors incorporated into all the exhibits work in tandem with the sound track.
Frank Lloyd Wright left his mark on the Bay Area, and he left a lasting impression in the desert as well. Architecture fans should save a couple hours for a tour of Taliesin West. Built in the 1930s, but constantly expanded and changed throughout his life, the famous home and architecture school was built by Wright and his apprentices using rocks, sand and other desert items so the building would blend in with its surroundings.