We live in the Valley of the Sun. On vacation, someone overheard me say that and stopped me. “Where is the Valley of the Sun? That sounds amazing.” I was happy to let her know it’s the valley that is home to Phoenix and its surrounding suburbs. “It is amazing,” I smiled back. “We love it there.” Our brief exchange turned into a quick conversation about what there is to see and do near our home.
The family whose mom posed the “where is it” question was traveling to several National Parks in the west from their home in the midwest. They hadn’t yet been to the Grand Canyon, but it was on their itinerary. We intrigued her with several suggestions. She thanked me and wandered off with her family talking about adding a diversion or two to their itinerary. That got me thinking about more places to share with friends headed out west who want to see the famous sites like the Grand Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, but also want to wander a bit and spend some time chillin’ in the desert.
I’ve written about several iconic sites: Hoover Dam is a brief drive north and offers hiking trails and water fun. Lake Pleasant is another water fun destination with trails and its own museum. Vulture City offers a ghost town glimpse into the past. Further south you can spend several days exploring Tuscon, Tombstone and Bisbee.
But what about the chillin’ time? You can spend time on the famous golf courses of Scottsdale, or drive about 15 minutes north to Cave Creek, park in the shade in front of the Tonto Bar and Grill and watch someone else swinging a club in the sun. “Tonto” as we’ve come to call it, is a favorite weekend lunch spot for us.
The dazzling cocktail menu is filled with desert flavors featuring a robust selection of tequilas. They’re accommodating, too. On a recent trip, when I asked if she could add a shot of vodka to the prickly pear/basil lemonade on the “mocktail” menu, Nichole simply asked if I had a vodka preference. Greg opted for a taste of the shore with a mojito, which he described as unbelievably perfect.
A quick glance at the appetizer menu left us wondering about the crab cakes. We’d moved out west from the mid-Atlantic and Maryland crab cakes are tough to beat. Tonto coats crab with a tortilla crust and serves a pair of meaty crab cakes with jicama and roasted chile slaw and a fancy drizzle of smoked ancho chile aioli.
Moving on to the entrees … and a gobsmacking choice of mouth watering delights like Ancho-chile rubbed filet mignon or Pacific Coast sand dabs. We ordered both and split them … voila … surf and turf!
We relaxed, sipped, savored and chatted. Before we knew it, we’d spent almost three hours chillin in the desert.
There’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored. Take the time to chill while you’re on your next adventure.
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