Sonoita Vineyards56 miles southeast of Tucson off State Route 82)
Stop by the Sonoita Vineyards between 10 A.M. and 4 P.M. for a taste of the Arizona grape. The winery's $3 tasting includes a variety of cheeses and a souvenir glass. The 29th Annual Blessing of the Sonoita Vineyards takes place April and you can taste their most current releases, listen to live music and take home your wine glass.
Information: 520-455-5893; www.sonoitavineyards.com/
FairbankApproximately 74 miles southeast of Tucson off State Route 82
The town of Fairbank, once a major railroad hub in the 1880s located about 10 miles from Tombstone, slowly died out and was abandoned in the 1970s. Many buildings remain standing, but have fallen into major disrepair. Located in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area and managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Fairbank has been brought back to life. The schoolhouse holds a museum, bookstore and information center.
Information: 520-455-5893; www.sanpedroriver.org
Catalina State ParkOn State Highway 77. 9 miles north of Tucson
Catalina State Park is a mountain playground for hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, picnicking and camping. Set off on the Romero Ruin Interpretive Trail, a 3/4-mile trek through time. Hike past the 19th-Century ruins of rancher Francisco Romero's house, a Hohokam wall, circa A.D. 1150, and a Hohokam pit-house village that may date as far back as A.D. 500. Don't expect preservation along the lines of Montezuma's Castle or Mesa Verde – these are subtle, crumbling remains, but intriguing nonetheless. Also be sure to check out the one-mile Nature Trail for a quick fix of Sonoran Desert vistas.
Information: 520-628-5798; http://pr.state.az.us/Parks/parkhtml/catalina.html
Romero Pools in the Pusch Ridge WildernessFrom Tucson, drive north on Oracle Road 18 miles to Catalina State Park
The Pusch Ridge Wilderness begins as an outback of light green cacti that darkens into pine forest as it rises 6,000 feet. Hike 6.6 miles round-trip along the Romero Canyon Trail to the Romero Pools, where you can soak in waterfall-fed basins or soak up the sun on the surrounding rock shelves. As if that weren't idyllic enough, in spring the scene is speckled with butterflies and wildflowers.
Information: 520-628-5798; http://fs.fed.us/r3/coronado/forest/recreation/wilderness/pusch.shtml
Sabino CanyonFrom Tanque Verde Road in Tucson, take Sabino Canyon Road north to the recreation area
Pack your binoculars: Sabino Canyon, an oasis in the Catalina Mountains, is birding country. The visitor center provides bird lists, and hop-on-hop-off trams shuttle visitors along the canyon floor while drivers narrate. There are several bird-watching trails, including the popular Sabino Lake Trail 30. Alternatively, ride the tram to the end of Upper Sabino Canyon and walk back, checking birds off your list as you go. Keep an eye out for hummingbirds, northern flickers, curve-billed thrashers, phainopeplas, roadrunners and Gambel's quail. Listen for the rattling call of belted kingfishers diving into Sabino Creek below, and gaze skyward to spy golden eagles and other raptors.
Information: 520-749-8700; http://fs.fed.us/r3/coronado/forest/recreation/camping/sites/sabino.shtml
Mt. LemmonOff Tanque Verde Road, take the Catalina Highway to Hitchcock Highway
If your quads are up to the challenge, hike up Mt. Lemmon's 9,157-foot summit. Otherwise, hop in your car and cruise up Catalina Highway — also called Sky Island Scenic Byway — for a winding one-hour drive through varied ecosystems. Several campgrounds dot the ascent, culminating in the village of Summerhaven, which offers cabins for rent, picnic benches and the Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley — the most southerly ski area in the U.S. It's usually open mid-December to early April, and in summer you can ride the chair lift for views of the surrounding mountains.
The Rex Allen Arizona Cowboy Museum and the Cowboy Hall of Fame150 N. Railroad Ave, Willcox; 80 miles east of Interstate 10 from Tucson
When the Schley Saloon shut down in 1919, the year before screen cowboy Rex Allen was born, no one knew it would later become the Rex Allen Museum and Cowboy Hall of Fame. The museum exhibits memorabilia of the famous cowboy, movie star and entertainer, and shows a portrait gallery of local cattlemen and women. Across the street from the museum is the Railroad Park where Allen's horse Koko is buried and where a bronze statue of Allen stands. Inside the statue is a replica of a human heart that Allen requested to show that his heart would always remain in Willcox.
Information: 520-384-4583; www.rexallenmuseum.org
Faraway Ranch Historic District1 mile east of the entrance to the Chiricahua National Monument
Located in the Bonita Canyon, Faraway Ranch offers tours of the building that was home to some of the first settlers of the area. Originally built as a simple homestead in the 1880s by Swedish immigrants Neil and Emma Erickson, the property later became a guest ranch. Tours of the house are offered at the visitor center, 1 mile east of Faraway Ranch on the Bonita Canyon Drive.
Information: 520-824-3560; www.nps.gov/chir/
The Gadsden Hotel1046 G Ave, Douglas
Built first in 1907 and then again in 1929 after being leveled by a fire, the Gadsden Hotel opened its doors while Arizona had yet to become a state. As ranchers, cattlemen, miners and businessmen passed through the territory, this was the hotel they stayed in. The building holds much history for visitors to see, including an authentic Tiffany stained glass mural standing in the mezzanine with an oil painting by Audrey Jean Nichols below it. The ghost of Pancho Villa is said to walk the hotel, specifically seen in the basement wearing a long dark coat.
Information: 520- 364-4481; www.hotelgadsden.com
Painted Rocks Petroglyph SiteOff Interstate 8 at Painted Rock Dam Road, approximately 12.5 miles west of Gila Bend
Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, this archaeological site contains hundreds of ancient petroglyphs etched on stones, rocks and boulders. During the 18th and 19th centuries, many historic figures passed by this desolate Arizona landmark, including the Juan Bautista de Anza Expedition, the Mormon Battalion and the Butterfield Overland Express. Facilities include picnic tables, barbecues and fire rings, but no water.
Information: 623-580-5500; www.blm.gov/az/pfo/paint.htm
Ak-Chin Him-Dak Eco-Museum18 miles south of Phoenix off State Route 347
Located on the Ak-Chin Indian Reservation, the Him-Dak Eco-Museum is owned and operated by and for the Ak-Chin people. Exhibits showcase tribal artifacts, photographs and children's artwork. Him-Dak means "way of life" in the Ak-Chin language.
Information: 520-568-9480; www.azcama.com/museums/akchin.html
Casa Grande Valley Historical SocietyApproximately 32 miles south of Phoenix on Interstate 10
To get a glimpse of 19th-century Arizona, stop by the Casa Grande Valley Historical Museum. Walk through a miniature agricultural display and learn how irrigation transformed the desert into fertile cotton fields. Visit Heritage Hall, the "old stone church" built in 1927, and the segregated one-room Rebecca Dallis School House, constructed in 1935. Both are listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Information: 520-836-2223; www.cgvhs.org