If a few too many of your weekends have turned into “workends,” now’s the time to get acquainted with the diverse range of relaxation and recreation activities Fountain Hills and Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation present. And all in an area sized to let you skip the work of shuttling long distances or fighting traffic to do great things.
You might start with the fantastic view of Four Peaks from the Fountain Hills Botanical Garden. Then meander the garden’s easy half-mile trail to read the names of Sonoran desert plants such as the strawberry hedgehog. That name may remind you that it’s just as likely you will experience wildlife here as plant life. Try Fort McDowell Adventures for the chance to encounter wild horses and bald eagles on the Verde River, Arizona’s only officially designated wild and scenic river.
Globe mallow orange, brittlebush yellow, and pink fairy duster may grab your attention, but the many shades of green at the garden will hold it, unless, of course, you believe “green” is a word that should follow “putting.”
If that’s the case, you’re in luck. Desert Canyon, Eagle Mountain, SunRidge Canyon and We-Ko-Pa’s two courses are located within minutes of each other. In Fountain Hills and Fort McDowell you will find one of the highest concentrations of world-class golf in Arizona. The courses’ proximity to one another makes it easy to play more courses in less time.
A championship disc golf course is here, too. If you are not already familiar with this sport, you can watch it being played at Fountain Park. One “distraction” the players have to contend with: Faithfully, at the top of the hour, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day, 70,000 gallons of recycled water shoot up nearly 400 feet in the air from the lake in the middle of Fountain Park. Yes, the water is showing off, but that’s only as it should be, given how appreciated it is here in the desert.
While you photograph – or simply admire – the fountain, take a look around. You’ll notice you are also at a first-class sculpture museum, but one with no mandated whispering, camera checks or admission charges. Fountain Hills is filled with outdoor artwork by internationally recognized artists working in bronze, metal and stone, which can be enjoyed against the majestic backdrop of the McDowell and Four Peaks mountains.
And here is something else that makes visiting Fountain Hills and Fort McDowell require less effort and more relaxing: You don’t have to work to make sure every member of your family can enjoy themselves, even if some are the take-photographs-of-the-dozens-of-sculptures type and others are the let’s-go-hiking/kayaking/horseback-riding type. Just four miles from where you can linger over coffee and pastry with a view of the fountain or watch your toddlers get a kick out of the playground and splash park sits the 21,099-acre McDowell Mountain Regional Park.
And the choices continue within the park. Hike or mountain bike. Choose trails less than a mile long, or take on the 15.3-mile Pemberton Trail. Take in what you can in a morning, or plan to camp by reserving one of 76 individual sites.
Guided hikes at the park are a great way to learn about everything from birding to edible desert plants. That’s desert, not dessert, but if you are seeking sweets, you will find one of the smiling folks at La Scala Creamery – one of more than 60 savory spots to eat at in the area – happy to blend a special gelato flavor for you.
This is a place where you’re not only surrounded by strikingly beautiful scenery, but also by some of the planet’s friendliest people. And the busiest – they host car shows, juried art festivals, and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, complete with a green 400-foot fountain. Not to mention movies and concerts in the park, the state’s only Thanksgiving day parade, and the Fountain Hills Community Theater, which presents close to a dozen main stage and youth theater productions each year. There’s always something going on, as a quick look at the calendar of events shows.
The people here know how to relax, though, too, whether by fishing at nearby Saguaro Lake; seeing what the chef at the AAA Four-diamond Radisson Fort McDowell Resort has created to showcase local citrus, pecans and herbs; or stepping centuries back in time at the L. Alan Cruikshank River of Time Museum.
The museum tells the story of Arizona’s Lower Verde Valley, from the geological upheavals that formed the valley to its ancient people to the vibrant communities of today, dramatizing the critical importance of the rivers and water to life in the desert. The Yavapai Experience and Yavapai Tours at Fort McDowell Adventures offers a personalized look at the Yavapai culture.
Visit soon and you will find it’s no work at all to recognize in Fountain Hills and Fort McDowell the meaning of “the perfect getaway.”
Begin planning your visit today by browsing our online visitors guide at www.visitfhfm.com.
(Brought to you by Fountain Hills & Fort McDowell Visitors Bureau)