Desert Botanical Garden
Here you can hike deep into the desert without leaving a paved path or proximity to a cold drink. This 50-acre refuge has undergone a transformation in recent years from forgotten cactus bed to gorgeous escape (home to 139 kinds of rare and endangered plants), where you can learn about area flora and fauna, and even catch a jazz concert or a crafts festival. Dazzling butterflies take flight in a covered pavilion during fall and spring. Check the Web site for news about classes—everything from illustration for adults to planting for kids. You can’t miss the gift shop (someone wisely put the exit on the other side) or its collection of desert-related books for all ages, plus good souvenirs like prickly pear candy and southwestern cookbooks.
Tip: The Phoenix Zoo is just next door.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.