From late February through March, nearly 2 million baseball fans converge on metro Phoenix to watch their favorite pro teams during Cactus League Spring Training. If you're one of them, don't let the fun stop with peanuts, hot dogs and home runs. Take a day away from the park to embark on an Arizona road trip.
Day trip 1: Mesa to Globe/Miami
Starting from Mesa (home of the Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics), this trip takes you through the town of Superior, Arizona, where you can visit the "World's Smallest Museum" and walk among the spring wildflowers in a 400-acre garden dedicated to plants from desert nations.
Heading east on U.S. Route 60, your first stop is Boyce Thompson Arboretum. Lined pathways wind through blooming plants, cacti and trees set amidst the serene mountains of the Sonoran Desert. It's a perfect complement to the action of the stadium.
Once in Globe, grab a bite at Nurd Berger, a local favorite that's won well-deserved praise for their shakes and "Next-Level Bergers." Browse the antique shops along Broad Street or request a tour of the allegedly haunted Old Gila County Jail and Courthouse.
The ruins of Besh-Ba-Gowah Archaelogical Park / Credit: Jim Lindstrom
On the return trip to Mesa, save some time to visit Besh-Ba-Gowah Archaeological Park, about a mile outside of town, for a glimpse into what life was like for the Salado people who occupied the site nearly 800 years ago.
Tip: If you prefer to extend your stay, book a room at Noftsger Hill Inn, where you can fall asleep in school without risking detention. Built in 1907, the elementary school-turned-B&B's spacious guest rooms are adorned with mining-era antiques and art, as well as the original classroom chalkboards.
Besh-Ba-Gowah Archaeological Park 1324 S Jesse Hayes Rd, Globe (928) 425-0320
Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park 37615 US Hwy 60, Superior (602) 827-3000
Noftsger Hill Inn 425 North Street, Globe (928) 425-2260
Old Gila County Jail and Courthouse 177 E Oak St, Globe (928) 425-4449
Nurd Berger 420 S Hill St., Globe
Day trip 2: Scottsdale to Cave Creek
If you're staying near Scottsdale Stadium (springtime home of the San Francisco Giants) or Salt River Fields at Talking Stick (Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies), this day trip will take you to three distinct experiences.
Credit: Musical Instrument Museum
Hop off State Route 101 to take in the sounds at the Musical Instrument Museum and its more than 6,800 instruments collected from around the world. A special exhibition during Spring Training, "The Electric Guitar: Inventing an American Icon," features more than 80 of the world's rarest electric guitars and amplifiers.
Spring training lands during a beautiful time of year in central Arizona. Take advantage of the sunshine and perfect temps with a hike at Spur Cross Conservation Area. Situated north of the Musical Instrument Museum in Cave Creek, this picturesque desert region offers difficult hikes—like the two-mile Elephant Mountain Trail with steep elevation gains—and moderate trails such as the 1.2-mile Tortuga Trail.
For an up-close wildlife experience—and a fulfilling conclusion to your day—consider spending a few hours volunteering at Cave Creek's Wild At Heart, a rescue, rehabilitation and release center for birds of prey. Before you visit, contact firstname.lastname@example.org to request a volunteer packet
Musical Instrument Museum 4725 E Mayo Blvd, Phoenix (480) 478-6000
Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area 44000 N Spur Cross Rd, Cave Creek (602) 506-2930
Wild at Heart 31840 N 45th St, Cave Creek (480) 595-5047
Day trip 3: Surprise to Wickenburg
As the most northwest Cactus League location, the city of Surprise (home of the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers) is an ideal launch point for a road trip along U.S. Route 60 to Wickenburg.
Just before you enter Wickenburg, you'll approach the 770-acre Hassayampa River Preserve, a favorite of birders thanks to the 280 species of winged creatures spotted in this riparian corridor. A self-guided trail system explores the desert oasis—the only place where the Hassayampa River flows above ground over its 100-mile course.
For 50 years, the Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg has displayed the art and history of the American West, from indigenous peoples to mining, agriculture and rodeo. Special exhibits through March 10 include the bronze work of John Coleman and "Wagons West."
Heading back to Surprise, a stopover at Western Trails Ranch offers an array of activities. Food, drinks, dancing, live bands and team roping—pretty lively for a former ghost town!
Desert Caballeros Western Museum 21 North Frontier St, Wickenburg (928) 684-2272
Hassayampa River Preserve 49614 US Hwy 60 89, Wickenburg (928) 684-2772
Western Trails Ranch 37838 NW Grand Ave, Morristown (623) 521-0367
About the Author
Jake Poinier is a veteran freelance writer, editor, and author whose work has appeared in USAToday, Blue Water Sailing, and Golf Illustrated, among numerous other publications. When he's not at his desk writing for corporate clients and editing books, he can probably be found hiking or fishing along the Mogollon Rim, skiing in the White Mountains, or sailing just about anywhere.