It certainly was a busy time in Arizona – Thanksgiving and some sight seeing with Mom and Gary.
First up, I conned my brother into going to Organ Stop Pizza in Mesa for his birthday. Now what is Organ Stop? Just a pizza place with a Wurlitzer Organ that plays the best music! I was expecting cheesy goodness and I wasn’t disappointed. Some samples from YouTube:
Let it Go (from Disney’s Frozen) complete with kids singing along..
Play that Funky Music
After enjoying the music, we headed to southern Arizona – just past Tuscon to see some of the sights. Our first stop was Kartchner Caverns State Park to see if they had any tours available. No luck on a busy Saturday during the Thanksgiving Holiday, but we were able to come back on Sunday and get a tour with no issues. Of course they totally forgot about the tour we were on until someone went inside to remind them, but the great rangers didn’t miss a beat and we got to get our full time underground. The caverns were amazingly well preserved thanks to the vision of the guys that discovered them back in 1974. We only had time and money for one side of the caverns that isn’t open all the time, so we will have to come back some time in the future to see the other side. All in all, a worthy stop if you happen to be in this part of the state. One nitpick- no photos allowed inside the caverns. It probably has benefited the preservation of the caverns but still annoying.
Next stop was Tombstone, AZ, the famous spot for the gunfight at the OK corral. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting – perhaps something a little more out in the middle of nowhere like Calico or Bodie Ghost Towns, but Tombstone is right smack dab in the middle of a city. They’ve done a good job keeping the old west feel in the main historical street, but the OK Corral has been turned into an amphitheater which robs it of anything other than Tourist trap. Definitely worth a photo stop but that’s about it.
Our final town in the Southern part of Arizona was the little mining town of Bisbee. Full of character and allegedly ghosts, it certainly is a charming town full of shops that tourists love when they visit small towns. Nothing really struck my fancy other than the historic buildings and after an eye roll from the man at the haunted Copper Queen Hotel, we decided to pass on the Ghost tour. In hindsight, we probably should have done it, but it seemed a bit sketchy. I think Bisbee has enough to warrant a trip down to this remote corner of the state.
On the way back to Phoenix, we made a brief stop at the Eastern portion of Saguaro National Park. I’m a big NPS fan and I’m glad my mom has a free AP to the parks. The Eastern portion has the namesake cactus and some spectacular views, but it is pretty compact and I’d certainly like to visit the Western district on the other side of Tucson some day. I got my magnets and some National Park postcards for my collection as well as some great photos so it was worth the stop.
The next day we headed north of Phoenix to a town called Payson which I have been to a couple of times over the years. I like it because despite its close proximity to Phoenix, it has a mountain town feel and is a nice change of pace. We went to Tonto Natural Bridge State Park – home to the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. It was pretty spectacular and the hike down to the base is pretty steep, but manageable to all. There is not much to the park other than the arch, but there are a few hiking trails and some picnic areas to occupy your time. I think this is a must-do if you are into seeing natural wonders and it’s proximity to Phoenix gets rid of any excuse you might have for not visiting.
I think it is fun that despite my Mom living in Arizona for 20 years there are still fun little places we can explore. Of course, I’ve lived in California most of my life and I am not done exploring here either!