yk+ child one-week in Tucson; Feb 2024

Old Mar 3rd, 2024, 06:36 PM
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yk
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Day 5

Day 5 (Saturday) — back to the desert

We had a late start this morning due to getting home late from Mt Lemmon Observatory the night before. We arrived at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum ($50) just in time for its Raptor Free Flight program at 10am (thank you to jubilada for the recommendation.) Given it is a weekend, there were already plenty of people when we arrived, but my son managed to wriggle his way through and got a front-row spot. It is super cool, seeing these birds flying and yet coming close to you. Many of them like to swoop just above our heads!

Afterwards we explored the rest of the museum, which has plenty of things to see. They don't allow outside food so halfway through our visit we exited the museum, found a small veranda area and ate our sandwich lunch, before we went back inside to finish seeing the rest of the exhibits. Altogether, we spent 4 hours there.

10 minutes down the road is Saguaro National Park West; it makes good sense to combine these 2 places in one visit. We arrived at the Visitors Center just before 2pm, and noticed they are having a Bingo game starting at 2:15pm, and my son wanted to play. So we stuck around and joined the Bingo. It was actually super fun — bingo card has pics of all the different living creatures (plants, insects, animals) that live in the Sonoran Desert. For each "call", the ranger would read a description of the creature, and we would guess what it is, and then she will reveal the answer before we mark the box. We definitely learned A LOT about all the organisms that call this desert home, and according to the ranger, sonoran desert has the highest diversity of living creatures among all deserts. The bingo game lasted about 30 minutes and every one who "won" got to pick out a free gift donated by the gift shop! my son picked out a cheesy-looking green drinking glass shaped like a saguaro cactus. I took a post card and a water bottle sticker.

Finally we were back in our car to drive the scenic loop (which I didn't realize is a dirt road), and got to Signal Hill area so we can do the short hike to see the Petroglyphs. After seeing them, initially my son agreed to go on another hike in the King Canyon wash (where there are also petroglyphs), but by then it was past 4pm and the tiredness from the week has caught up with him, so he asked to go home instead.

We went home, rested for a bit, and then headed back out for dinner. I forgot which Fodorite recommended Seis Kitchen? That was the perfect place for us — casual and easy-going, but excellent food, and also outdoor dining area as well! My son got the kids taco meal, I had 2 fried fish taco, and we shared a salad. ($37)

~ End of Day 5 ~
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Old Mar 3rd, 2024, 07:11 PM
  #22  
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Day 6

Day 6 (Sunday)
Believe it or not, today is our final day in Tucson! How time flies when you are having fun. We have a early-ish start heading to Sabino Canyon, as I bought tickets for the 9am electric tram (aka Canyon Crawler, $23). 9am is the first tram up the mountain. We arrived at the visitors center around 8:30am; by then, the parking lot already was close to full ($8 day parking). We looked around in the visitors center and then checked in for our tram.

The tram provides narration (they pass out free ear buds) on the ride, which is very nice. The scenery is very pretty, and very different from Saguaro National Park. At first my son said he wants to take the tram down and then hike around the base of the mountain, but when we got to the top (stop #9), he changed his mind and said he'd like to hike down along the road. Along the way up, we saw plenty of people already hiking DOWN the mountain, so they must have arrived really early to hike up and back down by 9:15am!

About half of the passengers on our tram got off at the top; majority of them continued to hike to Hutch's Pool, which i've read is a really beautiful hike ending in a pool, but that hike is 8 miles r/t which is more than what we wanted to do. So we meander our way down, every turn feels like a photo op spot. With the road crisscrossing the creek, it is very pretty. However, it also got warmer and warmer, as the day was heating up and there was less shade down the mountain. We then tried to go on a few trails but couldn't because they involved crossing the creek. One of the hikers told us the water is higher than usual; normally the creek is just a trickle and it's easy to cross. But the few times we checked, we would need to wade in > ankle deep water and we were unwilling to get our feet and shoes wet, so we continued on the road and checked out the dam. It was close to 12 noon when we made our way back to the Visitors Center, and I think it was in the 80sF (today was the warmest day on our trip). I had brought more picnic lunch with us (leftover from the dinner sandwiches from Mt Lemmon) and we ate at the picnic table by the VC.

Next stop was Mini Time Machine Museum ($22), which is very unique and unlike anything we have seen before. Majority on display are doll houses, but there are also other miniature items. One can easily spend hours there. The current special exhibition, The Pencil Art, was truly mind-blowing. This artist makes micro-sculptures on the graphite tip of pencils. The museum provides magnifying glasses so you can see the details.

We were at the museum for 90 minutes. By then it was 2:30pm, and I gave my son a choice: either call it a day, or go to Pima Air and Space Museum. Pima Air and Space was definitely on my son's wishlist, but before our trip, I told him this will be the attraction that goes first on the chopping board if we have to drop something due to our packed schedule. He was really torn; on one hand he really wants to go, but OTOH, between the heat and the hike from this morning, he was really beat. Ultimately he chose to skip the museum. Instead, we went to grab some ice cream from The Screamery before going home to shower and start packing.

Not wanting to go far for dinner, we went back to Seis Kitchen for Round 2 tonight. We ordered more of less the same food (I got 1 fish and 1 carnitas taco, instead of 2 fish tacos) and enjoyed the warm evening sitting outside.

~ End of Day 6 ~
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Old Mar 4th, 2024, 07:10 AM
  #23  
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Days 5 & 6 photos


Upclose with a hawk at Arizona-Sonora Desert museum

Crested Saguaro (quite rare: 1 in 200,000)

Petroglyphs on Signal Hill at Saguaro National Park West

View of saguaro national park from Signal Hill

Sabino Canyon

Closeup of a room in a dollhouse at Mini Time Machine Museum
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Old Mar 4th, 2024, 10:13 AM
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Great job and gorgeous shots, yk.
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Old Mar 4th, 2024, 07:51 PM
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I continue to enjoy your report on Tucson. You get an A plus for seeing so much of Tucson. Great job!
I wonder what m-yk’s favorite place was that you visited?
Our grandkids always loved Sabino Canyon too.

Last edited by HappyTrvlr; Mar 4th, 2024 at 07:53 PM.
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Old Mar 5th, 2024, 02:25 PM
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As always your trip reports with your child are an enjoyable read as well as an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your adventures.
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Old Mar 10th, 2024, 09:09 AM
  #27  
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Day 7

Day 7 (Monday) — back to Phoenix

We checked out of our Tucson Airbnb in the morning to drive back to Phoenix. Today is the first day in a week that was overcast with rain showers. The only item on our agenda was Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesen West in-depth guided tour at 1pm ($81), so the day is fairly leisurely (which we appreciated, after a jam-packed week of getting up early!). We had some time to kill so we made a quick stop at the extremely popular Hole in the Rock at Papago Park, next to the Phoenix Zoo. Honestly, I did not expect so many people there on a Monday morning, but maybe because of its proximity to the zoo, there are lots of families who hike over? It is a very short trail up; the hole itself is packed with people, but you do get a nice view from the top (given how flat Phoenix is) where on that day, we saw the thickness of smog over the downtown area. Anyway, after some pics we returned to our car and drove over to Scottsdale for a quick lunch before our tour. I randomly picked this place, called d'Lite Healthy on the Go, just a 5-min drive from Taliesen West. The food ($13) is very good and the staff is super nice.

We arrived at Taliesen West around 12:20pm, which turns out to be far too early for our 1pm tour. All guided tours are sold out in advance, but they do have self-guided audio tours you can purchase on the day of. We were told to wait around until 12:50pm before checking-in, so that they can check-in other self-guided visitors. We ended up chatting with a staff member who turns out to be our 1pm guide.

This destination is highest on my list for this trip, and probably lowest on my son's list. But after a week of doing all the things he's interested in, it's his compromise to do something I wanted. Not surprisingly, he was by far the youngest (the only kid) on our tour. The tour is GREAT! Our tour guide is excellent and really knows how to keep us engaged. On the tour we get to go inside many rooms, we are allowed to sit on the furniture (though no touching on other objects), take as many photos as we want, but of course, appreciate the architecture and how it relates to the landscape, and history about FLW during his time in AZ.

The tour was 90 minutes, at at the end of it, even my son was a FLW convert! (a few months ago I took him to visit 2 FLW houses in New Hampshire, so he's has a little background.) We then spent a great deal of time in the shop to choose gifts for my husband, who couldn't come on the trip with us and with a birthday coming up shortly. We finally left a bit after 3pm.

I booked a hotel room at the Drury Hotel @ Phoenix Airport for the evening. It is by far the most expensive lodging on our trip. There is no shortage of hotels in the Phoenix/Scottsdale/Tempe area for cheaper, but I picked this Drury for the following reasons:

1. Our flight home the next morning leaves at 8:30am. Given the rental car center is in a completely separate building connected by monorail, I wanted to return the car the day before, and use hotel shuttle for our morning flight.
2. Drury Hotel provides 24-hour shuttle service, and is located very close to the airport (some other "airport hotels" are located miles away)
3. Drury Hotel provides a free "kickback" meal 5:30-7pm each night, and free breakfasts starting at 6am. So even if we return our car the day before, we don't have to worry about how to get dinner and breakfast without a car.

Therefore, we drove from Taliesen West back to Phoenix Airport (with a gas station stop to fill-up) to return our car, the take the monorail over to T4 and called the hotel for shuttle pick up. The shuttle came pretty quickly and we were soon checked-in at the hotel. Around 6pm we went downstairs for the Kickback, which has adequate amount of food to fill us up. I believe their menu changes day-to-day. For that evening there was meatballs in gravy, mashed potatoes, and steamed vegetables. There is also green salad, nachos and chips, hotdogs. they even give you a drink card for free alcoholic drinks.

We had an uneventful night and got up 5:30am the next morning so we were all packed and ready to head down at 6am for breakfast. Breakfast offerings is quite good as well. Then we got on the 6:30am airport shuttle. The ride is about 10 minutes, and then it took just 5 minutes for us to get through security thanks to our TSA preCheck. In retrospect, we probably could have taken the 7am shuttle and still have plenty of time. But of course the hotel personnel suggested us to take the early shuttle on side of caution, esp given the week we were there was during Spring Training.

We had over an hour to kill at the airport, and we were able to go inside the "Escape Lounge" so I got some more coffee and a few more bites to eat. Unfortunately there was no nonstop home for our fare so we had a layover in Detroit. The Delta terminal in Detroit is pretty fancy, there is even an elevated Express Tram that runs inside the terminal because the terminal is so big. We had almost 2 hours so we grabbed lunch at a Japanese place — my son got a poke bowl and I had an udon soup — before boarding our final flight back home to Logan airport in Boston.

~End of Day 7 & 8; End of Trip Report ~

Thank you for reading and for all your kind words!
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Old Mar 10th, 2024, 09:17 AM
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Day 7 photos


View of smog over Phoenix from Hole in the Rock

Entry courtyard at Taliesen West

Main living room

Living area on the right: workshop on the left

A pool to provide cooling ventilation for workshop

Our souvenirs from this trip. The Taliesen west symbol is inspired by petroglyph designs found on rocks on site
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Old Mar 10th, 2024, 05:35 PM
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yk, a wonderful trip, so well researched! And only the very last item in your report made me cringe! We had a horrific experience at the last hotel you stayed in near Phoenix Airport. We didn’t go to any of their buffets as the place was over run with mobs of ill mannered, out of control guests! I am glad you and your son survived that.
We were flying to Europe in the morning .
You studied so much about Tucson and I hope other Fodorites interested in Tucson use your trip report as a guide!
We dislike flying out of PHX. Hopefully your next time in AZ you can use the easy and wonderful Tucson airport, TUS.
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Old Mar 11th, 2024, 02:08 AM
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Great report and photos, thanks for taking the time to post!
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Old Mar 11th, 2024, 07:12 AM
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Your reports are always so good, thank you!
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Old Mar 11th, 2024, 10:17 AM
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Super report, yk. The FLW house would be my goal as well. Glad you saw it. My art group visited Falling Water and Kentuck Knob in PA some years ago...a very interesting architect.

What's next?!
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Old Mar 11th, 2024, 04:59 PM
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Fabulous report and photos, yk. You son is a winner for sure. Glad you liked the Miniature Museum, I think I threw that suggestion out. The pencil tips are incredible.

Conicidenatlly I was reading about Mayan architecture recently and learned that FLW was inspired by Mayan works. Note in particular The Nunnery in Uxmal. Add that to you list!
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Old Mar 12th, 2024, 09:36 AM
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I.'m glad that you and your son had such a good trip. You certainly saw a lot.

My husband and I are also great FLW fans. Last fall we visited Kentuck Knob in PA and we've also toured Falling Water which is in the same area. We would really like to stay in one of the houses at Polymath Park and may try to do that this fall
https://www.franklloydwrightovernight.net/
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Old Mar 12th, 2024, 12:09 PM
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Nice that your son got a look at this very interesting area. Did he have any things that really hit the spot? What was his favorite?

Thanks for giving me another trip down memory lane.
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Old Mar 12th, 2024, 05:01 PM
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Thanks again for all your kind words. As for my son's favorite on this trip, he came up with his "Top Three" (but in no particular order):

Mt Lemmon observatory
Titan Missile
Copper Queen Mine

I wrote reviews of the 2 hotels over on Tripadvisor. They were both fine; we didn't have issues with other guests at the Drury at Phoenix, and it served our purpose well. Our AirBnb was fine too, though I wish it were in a nicer neighborhood.

As with my other trip reports, I like to see how much we spent (excluding shopping for gifts).

Transportation — Airfare ($534), rental Car ($406), gas ($76) = $1016
Lodging — $1620 for 7 nights
Sightseeing — $520
Food — Dining out ($270) , dining in/picnic sandwiches ($100 — 5 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 2 dinners) = $372

grand total = $3528
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Old Mar 12th, 2024, 08:09 PM
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yk, I’m glad you found Seis Kitchen for dinners too.

Last edited by HappyTrvlr; Mar 12th, 2024 at 08:14 PM.
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