WINING / DINING / AGRITOURS
Field-to-Feast Tour: One of the most amazing things about southern Arizona is its agricultural life. You'd never think a desert could be so green, but Arizona actually grows much of the produce used throughout the country during the winter season. In Yuma, you can enjoy harvesting your own produce and touring the University of Arizona research farms while the culinary students at Arizona Western College whip up your harvest into a delicious lunch.
Joe’s Farm Grill: Chow down on fast-fresh food at this organic city staple in Gilbert, located in an urban farm community called Agritopia. With a rich history of farm-to-table eating, this former family-owned farmhouse has become a community restaurant that utilizes the produce of its own fields.
PY Steakhouse: From ambiance and presentation to just darn good food, PY Steakhouse, inside Casino del Sol resort in Tucson, has everything you're looking for in a dining-out experience.
T.C. Eggington’s Brunchery: There's no doubt as to why T.C. Eggington's is an award-winning brunch spot. With a wide-selection of breakfast foods, you'll satisfy the pickiest eater.
Queen Creek Olive Mill: I'll never look at olive oil the same way again. After an enlightening tour of the Queen Creek's olive press, I learned the importance and richness in taste of first-pressed extra virgin olive oil. This mill has flavors of olive oil you couldn't even think of, like Chocolate and Vanilla (great for baking Queen Creek's delicious cupcakes) to a bacon-flavored olive oil made from a vegan extract (perfect for cooking your breakfast food in the healthiest and tastiest manner possible.
Martha's Gardens Date Farm: I considered myself more of a prune person, but Yuma, Arizona is date country, so I adjusted quickly. At Martha’s Gardens Date Farm, I savored their world-famous, sweet and gooey medjool dates: plain, stuffed with walnuts, in a cookie, and my absolute favorite, in a milkshake. Grab a shake as you tour the family-owned farm and see what makes Yuma the perfect place for a date.
Windmill Winery: Florence, Arizona, is infamous for its prisons and for Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Tent City. But there is more to experience in Florence. In fact, at the beautiful and popular wedding venue, Windmill Winery, the owner, Harold Christ, has made it his mission to incorporate the inmates into the giving and peaceful culture of the winery by allowing the inmates to come and train wild horses caught by Arizona's Bureau of Land Management on the property, giving the inmates a sense of responsibility and a source of pride. Beyond the goodwill of the winery, is, of course, the excellent wines they have in stock and the gourmet feasts they offer on Friday nights catered by Kiss the Cook.
The Orange Patch: If you're looking for the best fresh-squeezed orange juice you've ever had in your life, look no further than The Orange Patch in Mesa, Arizona. While the tour of the orange groves was fascinating and the novelty store adorable, come to the Orange Patch for the juice!
Superstition Dairy Farms: On this Mesa farm, you'll be amazed at how quiet 3,000 cows can be. "It's because they're happy!" Farmer Casey Stechnij assured us. Take a hay-ride tour through Superstition Dairy Farms and see how the cows are kept so content while savoring the dairy farm's creamy ice creams and sorbets, called Udder Delights. And don't miss the goat and donkey petting zoo or the community garden where Farmer Casey teaches students how to make useful materials out of what we put to waste.
Postino East Wine Café: One word: Bruschetta. Postino East Wine Café has 12 different kinds available to choose from with 3 slices of 4 variations on a platter. They are delicious. They are filling. They are a must-eat while in Gilbert.
Yuma River Tubing: Kayaking on the Colorado River, straddling the border between Arizona and California, was a highlight of my trip. The river was calm, which made for an ideal first-time kayaking experience. With the help of the guides at Yuma River Tubing, we were kayaking experts by the end of our hour-long excursion.
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum: If you're as excited about nature, botany, history and culture as I am, you must visit the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson. Complete with a zoo and trails through the desert, this outdoor museum offers tours of desert plant life and educational classes for all ages. I highly recommend education specialist Jesús Garcia, whose presentation provides an in-depth look at (and taste of!) Native American and Sonoran life in the desert.
Hiking in Usery Mountain: The hiking trails in Mesa can't be beat. Usery Mountain's breathtaking desert views and range of trails --from gentle, winding strolls to advanced hiking--allow for everyone to experience the peacefulness of a hike through a shockingly lush desert.
Hyatt Place--Mesa Riverview: Fresh off of the plane in Phoenix, I stayed at the Hyatt Place—Mesa Riverview about 15 minutes away. It was conveniently located within walking distance of multiple restaurants and a shopping center with a Wal-Mart and a TJ Maxx—perfect for the traveler who forgets to pack essentials. My deluxe queen room was perfectly comfortable, with a separate sitting area and a sleeper sofa, but by far, the best thing about this hotel was soaking in their spacious Jacuzzi, watching New Girl on one of their poolside flatscreen TVs, and sipping wine in between bites from my cheese platter. It was the perfect way to unwind and mentally prepare for a roadtrip across southern Arizona.
Casino del Sol Resort: is the new desert oasis in Tucson. With its posh, contemporary suites, luxurious spa, decadent dining and unbeatable views of the mountains, Casino del Sol is the place to stay for the lavish and trend-setting traveler.
--Brooke Obie is Editor-At-Large for EBONY.com. Check out more from her trip to Arizona in her column, "The Spiritual Life"