March 4, 2010

One of the more popular attractions in the Phoenix area is Rawhide. Each year, about a million visitors come here to be a part of an Old West saga and participate in trail rides, barbeques, stage coach rides, entertainment, shootouts and many other activities. In September, Rawhide will be closing its doors, packing up and moseying on down the road to a new home at the Wild Horse Pass Resort and the Gila River Indian Community. Reopening in November, the new facility will feature many of the same Rawhide activities and features from its former locations plus many new enhancements, added activities and special events. The park will be connected to other facilities at the Wild Horse Pass Resort via a water taxi service which travels the two and one-half mile long Gila River and via its Riverwalk path. Resort highlights include a hotel, spa, two 18-hole golf courses, tennis club, riding stables, outdoor event center, four pools and the Wild Horse Pass Casino. Contact: (Rawhide) 800-527-1885,; (Wild Horse Pass Resort) 602-225-0100,

Open Road Tours Valley Hopper offers a way for visitors to explore eight popular museums, shopping centers and historic sites at a leisurely pace and leave the driving to the Hoppers shuttle. The Hopper route travels for two hours and passengers may board at any point, get off at their choice of stops and, when ready, re-board the next vehicle. Stops include downtown Phoenix, Heard Museum, Phoenix Art Museum, Biltmore Fashion Park, Scottsdale Fashion Square, Old Town Scottsdale, Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix Zoo, Mill Avenue and Arizona State University. The all-day Hopper ticket is $28 for adults and $15 for children 11 and under. The service operates from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. Contact:

Grand Canyon Airlines has introduced a nine-hour Grand Canyon air-ground package that departs daily from the Scottsdale airport. Flights follow a path offering scenic views of area golf courses, overview of the communities of Carefree and Cave Creek and on to the Horseshoe Reservoir. It continues via the Verde River, Montezuma Well, Tonto National Forest, Red Rocks at Sedona, Flagstaffs NAU Skydome and Lowell Observatory, Arizonas Snowbowl ski region and over the expanse of the Grand Canyon. Upon arrival at the Grand Canyon airport, passengers then travel by coach to various National Park sites, including a stop to view the IMAX film, Grand Canyon The Hidden Secrets. This is followed with a direct flight return to Scottsdale. Contact: 866-235-9422,

The Sonoran Desert Discovery Guide offers visitors insights to the regions history, biology and geography. It has information about the deserts flora and fauna and directs visitors to good hiking trails, bike routes, scenic sites and many other options. There are many photos and illustrations to help familiarize readers with the discoveries they will find throughout the Sonoran Desert. The guide is available from the Scottsdale CVB. Contact: 800-805-0471,

The Heard Museum, celebrated for its collections and study of Southwest Native cultures and art, offers several options for group travel tours. Highlights of the Heard visits all museum galleries. Native Cultures and People tours both the Heard and the Desert Botanical Garden and focuses on the Southwests human and natural experience. Lunch is included. The Las Guias Specialized Tour is a customized experience for groups with special interests in the areas of jewelry, pottery, basketry, sculptures, Kachina dolls, textiles and contemporary art. There is also a Self Guided Group option that allows tour members to explore the museum at their own pace. For details about these and meal packages for groups, contact: 602-252-8840,

Enjoying personal indulgences when on vacation has become the norm for many travelers, including those on group travel tours. Taking advantage of at-leisure time for treats like enjoying a spa experience is growing in popularity and access to these services is part of most hotel and resort amenity packages.

There is no shortage of spa options when visiting the Valley of the Sun. Jewels of the Desert: The Sonoran SPA Experience, is a free comprehensive guide to 18 of Scottsdales resort and day spas facilities. Information includes details about the area spas, diagrams of the featured locations, types of treatments offered, special spa activities and service and contact information. The booklet is available from the Scottsdale CVB: 800-805-0471,

This article is sponsored by: