LABOR DAY GETAWAYS
While Staying Close To Home
Text by Tyler Phillips

Celebrate the unofficial end of summer by getting outdoors while staying close to home. Whether you choose to take a road trip to Sedona, kayak on Tempe Town Lake or get up close and personal with exotic animals, a break from months of being homebound is well deserved.

Hike Sedona

Sedona boasts some glorious hiking trails that are especially lovely in summer: Secret Slickrock Trail, North Urban Trail System – West and Munds Wagon Trail. Be sure to carry plenty of water, high-energy snacks and sunscreen to power on. Hint: Should a monsoon arrive during your visit, you’re in for a treat as the Sedona landscape takes on a magical quality. But, if there’s thunder and lightning, it’s best to get off the trail and head back to your vehicle.

Rent a Kayak

Whether you want to take a day trip or choose to camp out for the weekend, kayak rentals across Arizona offer the option to choose your own water adventure. Some options include traversing Tempe Town Lake, seeing Horseshoe Bend from a new vantage point and discovering hidden coves among the granite boulders at Watson Lake. Here’s our guide to where you can rent kayaks in Arizona.

Go Stargazing

You don’t need a high-powered telescope to see the Milky Way, but you will need to escape the city lights. Some of the state’s prime viewing spots can be found around Flagstaff, an “International Dark Sky City.” Experts suggest about 15 miles beyond the city limits should be sufficient, and the higher the elevation, the better your view will be. Here’s our guide to Arizona’s best stargazing spots and tips on identifying planets.

Drive Through Bearizona

Be on the lookout for grizzlies, wolves and bison as you drive a three-mile route through Bearizona, a 158-acre wildlife park in Williams. Or, stroll through Fort Bearizona to see young animals and some of the park’s smaller species. Among the newest additions are three grizzly cubs, who can also be spotted on the Bearizona website’s cub cam. To allow for social distancing, shows, bus tours and the petting zoo have been temporarily suspended.  bearizona.com

Drive-In Movies

Although indoor movie theaters have just reopened, drive-ins across the Valley are still going strong. You can see new releases Tenet and The New Mutants or watch throwback favorites such as Anchorman: The Legend of Ron and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial at West Wind Glendale 9 Drive-In. Here’s what else is playing this weekend.

Wildlife World Zoo

Located in Litchfield Park, Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium and Safari Park in Litchfield Park welcomed several new species, including the endangered pygmy hippo, while it was closed for five months due to COVID-19. Now reopened to the public, recent new residents also include clouded leopard pups, young colobus and spider monkeys, and a baby capybara. Some attractions remain closed, but you can still ride the  Ride, African Tram and Safari Train. The petting zoo, stingray touch tank and giraffe feeding station will also be open. wildlifeworld.com.

Skyride Snowbowl

Soar 10,000 feet above Flagstaff on the Grand Canyon Express lift. The views are epic! Keep an eye out for Sedona’s red rocks and, if it’s a clear day, the Grand Canyon. Among the coronavirus safety precautions being implemented are requiring that you wear a face mask  mask use and that guests purchase tickets in advance online.  snowbowl.ski

Patagonia Lake State Park

There’s no doubt that Valley residents will take advantage of the holiday weekend to cool off at lakes and rivers across the state. Nearly 80 miles south of Tucson, Patagonia Lake State Park is a popular destination where you can hike, camp, fish, boat and bird watch. The lake has separate areas for swimming and boating.  If you decide to go, arrive early. The park is limiting admission to help promote distancing and it has reached capacity as early as 9 a.m. on some busy weekend days. Masks are required in ranger stations, restrooms and other buildings, as well as whenever you are unable to maintain social distance. azstateparks.com/patagonia-lake

Experience Biosphere 2

Tired of quarantining? Head to a facility that once quarantined eight people for two years. Biosphere 2, a 3-acre scientific research center about 110 miles southeast of Phoenix in Oracle, is open for night-time self-guided driving tours. Biosphere 2’s seven model ecosystems are used for ecological and environmental study. www.biosphere2.org

Chill Out in Alpine 

If you head toward the Arizona-New Mexico state line, you’ll find the tiny community of Alpine. Within a 30-mile radius are 200 miles of trout streams and 11 lakes. Some of the best birding is along the Rudd Creek Loop Trail. Just make sure to keep your ears open for wolf howls. There’s also the Devil’s Highway, now officially known as the Coronado Trail National Scenic Byway, which is said to be the curviest and least traveled federal highway in the U.S. Here’s our guide to the wildlife, campgrounds and fishing spots around Alpine.