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The Dolly Steamboat

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Summer Bucket List

Staying in Town This Summer? Take Advantage of the Time to Explore the Valley

The Valley and its surrounding areas are filled with unique attractions, fun experiences, and historic destinations. Whether you’re here in town this summer and looking for something to do, or you tuck this list away for a later date, there’s never been a better time to explore locally. (Note: Some locations may not have usual hours currently; check before you go.)

Stroll Through Japanese Garden

Feel serenity envelop you as you step onto the grounds of the Japanese Friendship Garden, named RoHoEn. Located in the heart of Phoenix, this place of beauty and tranquility was created through a partnership between the City of Phoenix and its Sister City of Himeji, Japan. It features an authentic 3.5-acre stroll garden, with a tea garden and tea house. There are stone foot bridges, lanterns, flowing streams, a 12-foot waterfall, and Koi pond with more than 300 fish.

From October to July, the destination holds an authentic tea ceremony one Saturday per month. Bookings usually sell out well in advance, but now is a perfect time to reserve a future reservation. 1125 N. 3rd Ave., Phoenix;

Take a Cocktail Journey

At Century Grand Phoenix, book a “ticket” (i.e., a reservation) to Platform 18, a Presidential Pullman-inspired train car that resides inside the location and get ready for an immersive, elevated cocktail experience. The 90-minute journey—complete with changing scenery in the train windows—takes its “travelers” through mountainous terrain surrounding the proprietor Hollis Cottley Pennington’s estate, while they imbibe on exquisitely crafted cocktails. Re-opening Aug. 1. 3626 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix;

Go For a Cruise

Step back in time as you enjoy the nature of Canyon Lake and its surrounding flora and fauna on the The Dolly Steamboat, a replica of a classic American sternwheeler. Located just outside of the Valley in Tortilla Flat, cruisers have the option of three different tours—a scenic nature cruise, a twilight dinner cruise, and an astronomy dinner.

As The Dolly winds through the inner waterways, you can often spot desert bighorn sheep, bald eagles, and other wildlife nearby. And don’t worry—while the boat may be a throwback to the past, it still boasts air conditioning on the upper and lower decks during the summer. 16802 AZ-88, Tortilla Flat;

Visit a Bat Cave

Yes, Phoenix has its very own bat cave. Every summer since the late 1990s, several thousand Mexican free-tailed bats and canyon bats use the Maricopa County Flood Control Tunnel near 40th Street and Camelback Road to roost (they are usually in the eastern and western ends of the tunnel). They begin arriving in Arizona early March and can be seen through October, though the best times for viewing are in July and August when the young begin to fly. Be there just prior to sunset to watch them emerge.

Hit the (Wine) Trail

Who says you have to go to drive to California to spend a day wine tasting? Head to Downtown Scottsdale and follow the Scottsdale Wine Trail. Five tasting rooms—Aridus Wine Company, Carlson Creek, LDV Winery, Merkin Vineyards, and Salvatore Vineyards—participate in the Wine Trail (there’s a map on the website), all showcasing a selection of their Arizona-grown wines. So raise a glass and toast to Arizona, as well as a fun day.

Explore a Historic Location

Tour the Rosson House, a fully-restored 1895 Queen Anne Victorian house museum, located on Block 14 of the original townsite of Phoenix (now Heritage Square). Tours of the home, which was named for owners Dr. Roland Lee Rosson and his wife, Flora Murray Rosson, include all living areas, and offer visitors a glimpse into the lifestyles of early Phoenix families with furnishings and items from the time showcased. 113 N. Sixth St., Phoenix;

Learn About Arizona’s History

How much do you know about Arizona? Visit the Arizona Capitol Museum, reopening later this summer, and explore exhibits such as USS Arizona: Flagship of the Fleet, Governor’s Office, Historic House Chamber, Martin Luther King Jr., and more, plus view a robe worn by United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a 7-foot flag made from 114,006 Lego bricks (to represent the total number of square miles in Arizona), and feel the textured surface of two large minerals native to Arizona. 1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix;

Enjoy a Steak-cation

Your taste buds will think they’ve taken a trip and your senses will be engaged at either one of Arizona’s historic steakhouses. Durant’s, the storied restaurant opened by James E. “Jack” Durant in 1950, has been the site of many a power meeting, and hosted names such as Joe DiMaggio, Clark Gable, John Wayne, Dizzy Dean—to name just a few. Enter through the back door, which takes you into the kitchen, and be ready to embrace the red décor of the famous dining room. 2611 N. Central Ave., Phoenix;

Meanwhile, The Stockyards opened three years prior, making it Arizona’s original steakhouse. It was opened by Edward A. Tovrea, who had a packing house nearby to support his growing beef operations. Now on Phoenix’s Historical Register, the locale will take you back to when the West was still Western. 5009 E. Washington St., Phoenix;

  • Japanese Friendship Garden. Photo by ksblack99/Flickr
  • The Dolly Steamboat
  • Scottsdale Wine Trail. Photo by Christine Johnson
  • Platform 18. Photo by  Grace Stufkosky
  • Durant's. Photo by Jill Richards
  • Rosson House Museum. Courtesy Visit Phoenix/An Pham
  • Arizona Capitol Museum. Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr