Usually, a long, hot Arizona summer starts to feel even longer come August when we are still in triple digits and it feels like there’s no relief in sight. Given the pandemic we are facing, options for out-of-state escapes with cooler temperatures are few and far between. By now, you may be genuinely overwhelmed with cabin fever.
These past few months, I reached out to mayors across Arizona to get their insight on how their communities are handling the COVID-19 pandemic. In light of everything, I also wanted to know what activities their communities are offering for Arizonans to experience safely, whether it’s a day trip or a weekend getaway.
A fun idea for all ages is the Verde Canyon Railroad. Nestled between the Prescott and Coconino National Forests and adjacent to the Sycamore Wilderness Area, you will get a front-row seat to Arizona’s longest-running nature show. The open-air viewing cars offer a feast for eyes as guests gaze upon the towering red buttes, the native flora and fauna and spectacular vistas, only accessible by rail. Keep your eye out for bighorn sheep and bald eagles that are commonly seen on this ride.
As far as safety is concerned, the railroad is allowing only 50 people at the depot at a time, and the train itself will be filled at less than 50 percent capacity, allowing for plenty of social distancing. All employees and passengers must wear masks, and other precautions are being taken so folks can enjoy a magnificent excursion while feeling comfortable and safe.
If you are looking for a more active adventure, head further north to Flagstaff. Flagstaff Extreme is a series of high wire adventure courses where guests will experience 10 to 17 different obstacles and zip lines. Everything from rope swings, scrambling walls, hanging nets, wobbly bridges and “suspended” surprises.
The courses range in difficulty from beginners to more advanced, and they have options for both adults and kids. Flagstaff Extreme is limiting guests. They have strict protocols on sanitizing and handling equipment, and staff will be wearing gloves and masks. What’s also great about Flagstaff Extreme is that it’s all outside and easy to social distance on this playground in the trees.
While most Phoenicians head north to escape the heat, a trip down south to the mile-high city of Bisbee can also be refreshing. This quaint, quirky, charming town has temperatures in August that average in the low 80s during the day and 60s at night. When I talked to Bisbee Mayor David Smith, he said the city is open to visitors and is safe for a getaway. If you want to stay outdoors, there are plenty of hiking trails or hop aboard a Lavender jeep tour.
One of Bisbee’s most famed attractions is the Queen Mine Tour. Led by a miner-turned-tour guide, guests will go deep into the Queen Mine’s old workings wearing a headlamp to guide their way. It’s truly a step back in time to the era where copper was king, and Bisbee was a boomtown known worldwide.
If you are ready for a change of scenery but don’t want to go too far from home, a visit to one of Arizona’s rural treasures may be just enough to lift your spirits, cool you down and make you appreciate even more this great state we all call home.
— Robin Sewell is the host and executive producer of the Emmy Award winning Arizona Highways Television.