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Best of AZ
Hubbell Trading Post, Ganado

© Tom Bean

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Best of AZ
Unless you're über-omniscient or an arrogant know-it-all, there's no way of putting together a definitive list of the best of everything. Especially in a place like Arizona, where the range of people, places and things is as vast as the Grand Canyon. Nevertheless, in our ongoing effort to steer you toward the state's superlatives, we present our second-annual Best of AZ package. From the beefiest bratwurst to the best place to shack up with the stars, this is our take on the best places to eat, stay and play in Arizona.

By Kelly Kramer

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BEST OF HISTORY & CULTURE

Best Way to Witness Strokes of Genius
Celebration of Art, Grand Canyon National Park
Now in its second year, the Grand Canyon Celebration of Art pairs one of the world's most beautiful places with some of the world's finest painters. The artists gather at the Canyon's South Rim for a paint-off, of sorts, working en plein air. Think Bruce Aiken, Curt Walters and Merrill Mahaffey in a battle of the brushes. This year's event takes place September 11-18, and proceeds benefit the Grand Canyon Association. Information: 928-863-3877 or www.grandcanyon.org/celebration.asp.

Best of Arizona


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Best Bet for Loafing Around
Piki bread at the Heard Museum, Phoenix
During the Heard Museum's Indian Fair & Market each spring, visitors can taste traditional Hopi piki bread. Made from blue cornmeal mixed with water and the ashes of native bushes or juniper, the bread — a nearly translucent sheet that's often rolled loosely into a scroll-like loaf — is baked on a flat stone coated in watermelon seed, sunflower or squash seed oil. Traditionally, the bread is prepared by women during various phases of a romantic relationship, then eaten by the happy couple on their wedding day. Visitors, however, can enjoy it without any commitment. Information: 602-252-8848 or www.heard.org/events.
Best Thing About Congress
Fox Theatre, Tucson
On April 11, 1930, the Fox Theatre opened on West Congress Street in Tucson. Consider it the party of the decade. The street was shut down and waxed for dancing, live bands played, trolleys carted revelers all over downtown, and roughly 3,000 people enjoyed a MovieTone short titled Chasing Rainbows, as well as a Mickey Mouse cartoon. It was the start of a 40-year run as Tucson's major entertainment center. After several renovations and remodels, the theater faced a period of decline and abandonment, but thanks to the efforts of former patrons and culture buffs, the grand venue — which holds a spot on the National Register of Historic Places — has been restored and now hosts acts from around the globe. Information: 520-547-3040 or www.foxtucsontheatre.org.
Best Place to Climb the Ladder in Yavapai County
Groom Creek Loop Trail, Prescott
The Spruce Mountain Lookout Tower is your reward for having climbed 1,300 feet along the Groom Creek Loop Trail. The tower, which dates to 1936, is open from May to October, whenever a ranger's around to man it. When open, it's almost mandatory that you climb its ladder. You might run into Space, the tower's watchdog, and, according to Arizona Highways contributor Maryal Miller, "by climbing the ladder, you'll fully experience the crisp air, the vacant whisper of the wind sifting through the open windows, and the ethereal views of hilly Prescott Valley, Mingus and Granite mountains, and the San Francisco Peaks to the north." Plus, it's a great place to take a breather before you make your 1,300-foot descent. Information: 928-443-8000 or www.fs.fed.us/r3/prescott.
Best Bet for a Good Buy
Hubbell Trading Post rug auction, Ganado
When you visit the Southwest, certain things have a kitschy-souvenir appeal — scorpions under glass, "snakes" in a can, miniature cactuses. But if you're a serious collector or art aficionado, you might consider visiting Hubbell Trading Post during its semiannual auction. There, Navajo rugs, Hopi kachina dolls, pottery, baskets, concho belts, jewelry, cradleboards and fetishes go to the highest bidder. The best part? Proceeds benefit the post and help provide scholarships to Navajo and Hopi college students. Information: www.friendsofhubbell.org.
Best Place to Stare at a Rock
Museum of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff
In Northern Arizona, Winona is a rock — a space rock that plummeted from the sky and likely scared the daylights out of Sinaguan residents of the prehistoric Elden Pueblo. When it landed, the locals ceremoniously buried it beneath a stone cist. Most likely, they believed the rock had special significance, although it's impossible to identify exactly what. Today, the Winona meteorite is on display at the Museum of Northern Arizona, and museum director Dr. Robert Breunig says it was quite a find when archaeologists uncovered it in 1928. "A meteorite that was buried in such a special way isn't something you discover every day," he says. Information: 928-774-5213 or www.musnaz.org.

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