Gearing up for the desert heat yet? Well no need! We're going in January so it will be pleasantly in the low 70s--comfortable enough for you to explore Phoenix and the surrounding area. We recently sent a few staff out to Phoenix to sniff out some of the best local sights, sounds and snacks and will have a video coming soon with what they found.
But for now, here are a few options for your precious spare time at Imaging USA 2014. Keep reading to find some of the more fun and unique Phoenix-offerings.
1.) Be a Zookeeper for a Day
Zoos are pretty rad, but they're all pretty much the same, right? Well, the Phoenix Zoo is a pretty hip place. They host cool events like Rock 'n' Brew and even got their animals in on their version of the Harlem Shake. Plus, they're a non-profit just like PPA!
Also, we know you've walked around and seen someone feeding a baby penguin and thought, dang, what a cool job! Well apparently, at the Phoenix Zoo, you can do that (not the penguin part, but fingers crossed). No information is currently available on their website, but here's to hoping they bring it back!
2.) Take a Hike!
Ditch the valley for a bit and climb around the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. The Phoenix Mountain's offer enjoyable day hikes without even having to leave the city limits.
First there's Papago Park. The park features the aforementioned zoo, the Desert Botanical Garden, giant saguaro cacti, ponds, and geological formations like the Hole in the Rock.
There's South Mountain Park, the largest city park in the U.S., which features Mount Suppoa and Dobbins Lookout and houses an impressive chuckwalla population.
If you're looking for more of a challenge, give Camelback Mountain a try. Two trails over a mile long ascend 1,280 feet to the peak of the mountain, the highest in the region. Give yourselves a good 2-3 hours for this one.
Lastly, there's Piestewa Peak, formerly known as Squaw Mountain. The second-highest mountain in the range takes its name from SPC Lori Piestewa, the first woman to be killed during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq and the first-ever Native American woman in history to die while serving in the U.S. military. Take in views of the Phoenix valley and the surrounding mountains from the peak.
3.) Shoot From Above
As photographers, you've probably all had days where you struggle to find a higher vantage point to shoot from. And if you're trying to shoot something as expansive as the Sonoran Desert, you'll want to get nice and high. But don't try to climb a cactus, we're talking higher. Like hot air balloon high.
Get carried away with Hot Air Balloon Expeditions, America's best and largest hot air balloon tour operation. We recommend taking a sunrise or sunset ride. Make it as romantic as you like, but, you know, bring your camera.
4.) Bring Out Your Inner Cowboy
Are you after a true Wild West experience? Look no further than Western Destinations, located north of Phoenix at Canyon Creek Ranch. You can go horseback riding, stroll an authentic old western town, try the tomahawk toss and even duel the Governor for his daughter. No, seriously.
Just read this excerpt from their website:
At Western Destinations we represent a time when people were free, self-reliant and connected to nature. A time when the brave and adventurous left the humdrum of life in settled society behind and set off for the unexplored western frontier. As our guest, you too can experience the thrill of nature and the rugged beauty of the Sonoran Southwest the same way the original cowboys did.
Yep, we're in!
5.) Take a Desert Tour...Day or Night...in a Hummer
So maybe hiking or horseback riding isn't your thing. All good. You can still ride around the desert like a boss in a military vehicle at Desert Storm Hummer Tours.
Once voted one of the Top 100 Adventure Tours in America by National Georgraphic, DSHT have provided exciting off-road tours through the Sonoran Desert since 1995. There are several different options to explore the desert. Daytime tours can include shooting off some AK-47 rounds or even a stop at Four Peaks Brewery to wash down the dust. Actually, you can even ditch the hummers and go straight for the guns and beer!
But for the REALLY adventurous, there's the Night Storm Tour. That's right, ride out and experience the desert at twilight with night vision goggles. Don't forget, most of desert wildlife is nocturnal! Sorry, no assault rifles or beer after dark.
6.) Relax in a Pool & Spa...in the Outfield
By the time January rolls around, the Arizona Diamondbacks season will be long over whether they make the playoffs or not. But you can still experience Chase Field in a way no other baseball park can offer--in the pool.
No, you won't get to catch a home run ball, but the pool is available for rent year-round, it's the perfect way to cool-off after a long day at Imaging.
7.) Attend a Phoenix Coyotes Game
Did you watch this year's playoffs?! They were insane! No sport can match the intensity of hockey, a game in which players willingly lay their body in front of 100 mph slap shots, break their leg, and FINISH THE PLAY, have names as cool as Cal Clutterbuck and oh yeah, occasionally drop the gloves and fight.
The Phoenix Coyotes (yes, there's hockey in the desert) narrowly missed the playoffs this year, but boast one of the NHL's most exciting young rosters, led by all-star defenseman Keith Yandle. The Coyotes play at Jobing.com arena in nearby Glendale. The 2013-14 NHL schedule hasn't been released yet, but if the Coyotes are in town during Imaging, try to head on over for a game.
8.) Find a New Instrument or Two, or 15,000
Museums are cool to see and all, but Phoenix has the most extraordinary museum you'll ever hear™. The Musical Instrument Museum is a bright and open space and home to 15,000+ instruments from around the world. Since photographers and musicians go together like peas and carrots, it's the perfect place to find some added inspiration while on your Imaging journey.
Obviously, music isn't just a visual experience, so you can hear them all too! But before you get a headache thinking about that many instruments playing at once, luckily that's not the case. The museum will provide you with a wireless headset (or you can bring your own) to take in the sounds of the museum. As you approach an instrument, you will enter a wireless hotspot which plays a solo or ensemble loop of music from that instrument accompanied with video.
It creates a unique experience that's personal and shared at the same time. So learn the history of the instruments you already love, educate yourself in the musical culture of other countries and who knows, maybe even find a new instrument that moves you. And yes, you can bang the gong.
9.) Downtown Starts Here
Shop, eat, laugh, drink, dance, heck even bowl your way through CityScape Phoenix--the central hub of downtown.
There's Copper Blues rock pub & kitchen, heave your best gutter ball at Lucky Strike, work on your abs at Stand Up Live and grab some sushi at Squid Ink. Plus there are about 20 shops and restaurants to pick your way through. Best of all? It's right down the road from the Convention Center! Just use your feet.
10.) Wherever You Go, Take 007 With You
Listen, we're big fans of everything listed above, but there's always a way to make it a bit better. And what better way than to take 007 himself, James Bond, out on the town with you?
You might recognize Dennis Keogh, and that's because he holds a striking resemblance to actor, Sean Connery. So much so in fact, that Keogh has made a career of impersonating Connery in his most famous role, as James Bond. You can hire him to bring some class to your evening, maybe even play a round of celebrity jeopardy.
Just make sure the martini is shaken and not stirred.
So there it is, our little preview of some of Phoenix's hidden and not-so-hidden gems. Make sure you make the best of your spare time, and whenever you can, use the Light Rail to get around. It's quick, easy, and cheap!
See you at Imaging USA 2014!