If you’re one of the lucky Inland Northwesters trading the dog days of winter for some sunshine and a seat in the stands as the Seattle Mariners start spring training games Feb. 27 in Peoria, Ariz., there’s plenty to keep you busy at the ballpark.
But at the seventh inning stretch, if you’re seeking other diversions that combine top-notch area museums, Native American culture, amazing desert gardens and a lively regional dining scene, here are a few nearby spots not to miss.
• The Heard Museum is recognized internationally as a world-class living museum celebrating indigenous people, especially Southwest American Indian tribes.
If you’re a fan of Native American art – from finely crafted turquoise and silver jewelry to Navajo rugs, pottery, baskets and textiles, you’ll find the museum’s 56th Annual Guild Indian Fair & Market, March 1-2, to be a bonanza. Here, you can meet more than 600 of the nation’s most outstanding and successful American Indian artists and buy their original creations. This year’s theme, “Traditional Art in Contemporary Times,” includes cultural performances on two stages and demonstrations by leading Arizona chefs. www.heard.org/fair
• If you love music, make time to visit the magnificent MIM – Musical Instrument Museum. Tony Bennett called it “the best museum in the world.”
You can easily spend the entire day in this 200,000-square-foot interactive space that showcases instruments from 200 countries and territories. You’ll see the piano on which John Lennon wrote “Imagine” and the last guitar that Elvis Presley played in concert.
Wireless headsets seamlessly blend solo or ensemble performances of the instruments with high-resolution video – it’s easy and fun for family members of every age.
Take a break and enjoy a delicious lunch at Café Allegro – where in house chefs prepare a daily-changing menu from scratch. www.mim.org.
• The Desert Botanical Garden has been designated as a “Phoenix Point of Pride,” for good reason.
This 140-acre desert garden features over 21,000 native plants – many of them rare or endangered. Soaring saguaro cactus and blown glass art from Northwest legend Dale Chihuly give this Sonoran garden its dramatic presence.
It’s open until 8 p.m., so if you time your visit right, you’ll watch the Arizona sun descend in one of the most beautiful settings on earth. www.dbg.org
• If architecture and design is your thing, there are two Arizona historic sites that will surely thrill you.
Taliesin West is the Scottsdale home of architect Frank Lloyd Wright where you can explore the intimate spaces of this fabled man – nothing is left behind the ropes or under glass, including his living quarters and studio. www.franklloydwright.org
Just a short distance away, one of Wright’s students, world-renowned architectural innovator Paolo Soleri, created Cosanti, where his famous bronze and ceramic wind-bells are handmade to this day, filling the breezy courtyards with their beautiful tones.
Most weekday mornings, you can view the dramatic bronze casting process. Then choose from among hundreds of hand-finished bells to bring music to your own garden. www.cosanti.com
• While there are many good restaurants in the Phoenix/Scottsdale region, a few stand out for their chef’s ability to take the freshest local ingredients and create what amounts to a culinary celebration.
At Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa’s Wine Me, Dine Me, you’ll watch your meal’s courses be prepared by chef Juan Solorio, then beautifully matched with reposado tequila or regional wine. A serenaded ride in an authentically handcrafted Italian gondola on the resort’s private lagoon is a knock-out ending to this special meal.
At Mark Tarbell’s in Scottsdale, you’ll find a Wine Spectator award-winning list and Iron Chef winner who has repeatedly won awards for Phoenix’s best casual fine dining spot.
Crave some comfort food? Head over to Justin Beckett’s Table, where you can indulge in his signature fork tender short ribs or fire roasted green chili pork stew.
If you’re looking for something truly hip, try Blue Hound Kitchen and Cocktails. Chef Stephen Jones migrated from Tarbell’s kitchen and takes the meaning of roast chicken to a new level.
But whether you’re a foodie or a family, every one of these chefs will send you back to the ballpark happy.