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Gazing and Grazing
Regions: Phoenix & Central Arizona and Tucson & Southern Arizona
Unforgettable starlit skies and delectable local cuisine are just a few of the enticing attractions you'll find on this seven-day adventure.
Take a bite out of Arizona and wish upon a star on this excursion to the southern edge of the state. This tour starts in Central Arizona, then takes you down to Southern Arizona – where you'll find bright skies and food to die for.
Day One: See the Desert After Dark
Start your tour in Scottsdale, just east of Phoenix, at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale's Native American and Environmental Learning Center. There you will have an opportunity to speak with a member of the Native American community about their traditions and culture.
For lunch enjoy the First Nation's Cuisine, where you will have a meal prepared by the chef using food right from their garden. In the afternoon, take a hands-on cooking class at Sur La Table, located at Kierland Commons, and become an ace chef in your own kitchen.
Ever wonder what the desert does at night? If so, take a desert-after-dark tour for a night of wildlife and stars. Overnight in Scottsdale.
Day Two: Explore Desert Preserves and Taste Prickly Pear Treats
Depart for Tucson by taking Interstate 10 south from Scottsdale (2:00). End your drive at the Tohono Chul Park. Here you can take a tour of a 40-acre desert preserve and get some landscaping ideas for your garden back home. Stay for lunch and try a few dishes that have been made from the local plants – the delicious flavors will astound you.
Afterward, visit Cheri's Desert Harvest to explore a manufacturing plant where native-grown fruits and vegetables are made into prickly pear cactus jelly, candies and other goodies.
Have dinner and sit out under the stars at the Lazy K Ranch. Overnight in Tucson.
Day Three: Get Under the Arizona Stars
Drive to the University of Arizona. Visit the Steward Observatory Mirror lab under the football stadium. Take advantage of this rare opportunity of tour the facility responsible for the world's largest and most powerful giant lightweight honeycomb telescope mirrors.
Grab a bite to eat at the Café a La Cart, located inside the Tucson Museum of Art, featuring décor reminiscent of the French countryside. Stay in or dine on the patio overlooking the fountains.
In the afternoon, head over to the Philabaum Glass Studio, where you can witness a craft dating back 2,000 years. See how glassblowers shape fluid glass by watching from the seats of the "hotshop" (reservations are required).
For dinner, go to El Charro, the nation's oldest Mexican restaurant, which has been in continuous operation by the same family for 83 years. Make sure you order anything with carne seca. Overnight in Tucson.
Day Four: Visit Colossal Cave Mountain Park
In the morning, take in the Colliding Asteroids Exhibit and a Sky Show at the Flandrau Science Center.
In the afternoon, take a packed lunch and head over to Colossal Cave Mountain Park. Be brave and head down a quarter mile to the depths of the earth on the Wild Cave Tour. Afterward, stay for a buffet dinner and, if weather permits, have a bonfire at the ramada. Alternately, you can take the Candle Light Cave Tour, during which the cave is completely lit by candles (reservations required). Overnight in Tucson – or stay and camp out under the stars.
Day Five: See Tucson's "Secret Garden"
In the morning, visit the Tucson Botanical Gardens, which Reader's Digest has called "The Best Secret Garden in America." With more than 16 gardens available, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Popular gardens are the Backyard Bird, Herb, Butterfly and Native American Crop Garden (open seasonally). Have lunch at the Garden Café (open spring and fall) or have a picnic on the grounds.
As the sun begins to set, head over to the Kitt Peak Observatory, located high above the Sonoran Desert on the Tohono O'odham Reservation. The observatory houses the world's largest collection of optical telescopes. Have a stellar time gazing at the sky. Dinner is provided. Overnight in Tucson.
Day Six: Sip Wine All Day – and Dance all Night
From Tucson, head south along Interstate 10 to Highway 83 and continue through the community of Sonoita to Elgin (1:40). Stop in Elgin at the Village of Elgin Winery. Situated in the heart of the wine capital of Arizona, this small winery produces hand-crafted wines in the traditional manner.
For lunch, head west on Elgin road and take Arizona 82 west to the town of Patagonia (1:00). Dine at the Velvet Elvis Pizza Company (open Thursday thru Sunday), where organic and homemade are the rule. Try one of their designer pizzas, such as the "Good, the Bad and the Ugly" topped with pepperoni, sausage and Canadian bacon.
In the afternoon, head downtown to visit shops and galleries featuring the work of local artists.
In the evening, have dinner at the Home Plate Restaurant, where each weekend features a different cuisine from around the world. After dinner, head over to the La Mision de San Miguel for live music and dancing (only open weekends). Overnight in Patagonia.
Day Seven: See More of Scottsdale's Charms
Head back up north to Scottsdale on Interstate 10 and explore more of this growing city.
Note: Estimated travel time is indicated in parentheses.