Located in Tucson, Arizona, on the northwestern face of the Santa Rita Mountains, Madera Canyon is a part of the stunning Coronado National Forest. Whether you are into bird watching, hiking, or simply appreciating nature, this is a gorgeous part of the region that is definitely worth a visit.
Madera Canyon is famous for its network of hiking trails, each of which provide quite the different experience. One of the best trailheads to start from is the Mt. Wrightson trailhead, as this area gives you access to several different hiking trails. In addition to the many easier trails here, you will also find the Old Baldy Trail and the Super Trail, which is only really recommended for experienced hikers who are able to climb to quite high levels. Whichever trail you choose, be sure to stick to the track each time, because taking short cuts around designated trails only leads to soil erosion and the general degradation of the area. If you would like to plan your hiking route in advance, trail maps are available from the Madera Canyon website.
Home to over 250 species of birds, including 15 hummingbird species, Madera Canyon is a haven for bird watchers. Different parts of the canyon are home to different species, but there are some areas that are especially abundant in bird life. Proctor Road always ends up being a productive area to visit, as it is home to everything from the Yellow-Billed Cuckoo to Lucy’s Warbler to the Northern Beardless Tyrannulet. The Old Baldy hiking trail is another great spot to visit, especially if you are hoping to catch sight of an elegant Trogon. For those visiting Madera Canyon during the months of spring, try your hand at some night time bird watching, where you will be able to hear the screeches of everything from the Elf Owl to the Spotted Owl to the Common Poorwill. If you are a bird watching enthusiast, it would be worth starting your visit off at the Visitor Information Station, as you will be able to pick up a Birds of Madera Canyon checklist here that will help you to keep track of all that you see.
Bud Gode Interpretive Nature Trail
The Bud Gode Interpretive Nature Trail is all about educating the public on the nature that can be found at Madera Canyon. This is a self-guided tour that visitors can take, interjected with interpretive panels that explain more about many of the natural features that this area boasts, from its geology to its animals to its sky islands to its plant communities. The five trailheads that this trail will take you to feature large scale topographical maps that are designed to whet you appetite for the hiking trails ahead.
When visiting Madera Canyon, keep in mind that there is no gate or official entranceway that marks your entrance into the canyon, so it would be best to first head to the Visitor Information Station to get your bearings. This is an incredibly gorgeous part of the state, and also boasts several scenic picnic spots that make it an ideal place to spend the entire day, so be sure to schedule yourself enough time when visiting the canyon.
Located just west of Tucson, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum consists of a zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, aquarium and natural history museum, all spread out across a 90 acre plot. Considered to be one of the top ten attractions in the entire country, this museum is the perfect place to start your morning when visiting Arizona.
There is such a wide range of exhibits to be seen at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, with the Stingray Touch pool being one of the most popular. For even more marine creatures, there are two galleries to be seen at the Warden Awarium, while the Riparian Corridor features aquatic invertebrates, as well as river otters, beavers, and bighorn sheep. The Walk-In Aviary is ever-peaceful, with over 20 species of native birds flying around you, while the Reptile, Amphibian and Invertebrate Hall is a climate-controlled gallery that is dedicated to the area’s incredible bio-diversity. The Mountain Woodland exhibit is also not to be missed, as here you will see a mountain lion, Mexican gray wolves, a Black Bear, thick-billed parrots, and so much more.
Desert Museum Gardens
One of the best public gardens in the country, the Desert Museum Gardens at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum showcases the nature that can be found in the Sonoran Desert region, which is famous for being the lushest desert on earth and home to 2000 species of plants. The museum’s gardens are home to 1200 different species, of which there are 56,000 plants altogether, definitely making it an impressive collection. From the Cactus Garden to the Hohokam Agave Field to the Pollination Gardens, this is a part of the museum that guarantees to captivate any nature lover out there.
Tours and Presentations
For those who would like even more in-depth information on the nature and animals to be found at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, it would be well worth taking one of their tours. The Bird Walk is ideal for bird enthusiasts, especially when you consider the fact that over half of the bird species in North America are found in the region. If you would prefer to learn more about the Sonoran Desert region and its spectacular biological diversity, then the Desert Discovery Tour is the one for you. There are also several presentations held by trained docents throughout the grounds, covering a wide range of topics, from Brown Owls to agave to scorpions. The live animal presentations are also a must-see, with the Raptor Free Flight demonstration showcasing birds of prey, and the Keeper Encounters presentation showing you the many different tasks that the professional animal keepers at the museum do.
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is open every day of the year, even on public holidays, which is extremely convenient when planning a visit. If you are hoping to catch a specific presentation or tour, then it would be worth checking the timings of these in advance online. With so much to see and do, the minimum amount of time that you should schedule for the museum is two hours, although you may easily end up spending the whole day here.
Located in one of the most architecturally-unique structures in Salt Lake City, the Salt Lake City Public Library used to be housed in the Salt Lake City and County Building, before it was moved to its current location in 2003. In addition to its spectacular architecture and a collection of over half a million books, the library also hosts an array of special events that are designed to bring the community together.
The building that houses the Salt Lake City Public Library was designed by architect Moshe Safdie, and makes the most of the incredible natural landscape around it thanks to its walls made from glass. The building itself is five storeys tall, and, at the very top, lies a lush and green rooftop garden that offers 360 degree views of the Salt Lake Valley.
Books and More
There are over half a million books to be found at the Salt Lake City Public Library, and, with the majority of the library being lit by natural light, thanks to its glass walls, it really is a joy to simply sit down and spend some time reading through some of the books here. In addition to the books, the library also boasts audiobooks, DVDs, music, subscriptions to 60 newspapers and magazines, and also has 163 computers, each connected to the internet, for the public to use.
The library offers many community-driven special events, with an action-packed calender to be found on their website. From fun and games, such as power bingo and kids’ activities, to art exhibitions, such as Let Paint Be Paint and Drawings by Carter Johnson, to special exhibitions, such as the one titled Utah at War: Rare Books, Periodicals and Photography from the City Library’s Special Collections, there is always something going on at the Salt Lake City Public Library.
The Salt Lake City Public Library has long since supported the arts, and have recently installed 18 permanent public art sculptures in downtown Salt Lake City. The series is titled Flying Objects, and has given over 45 local artists the chance to create one-of-a-kind sculptures. While the previous four series of this exhibition were temporary, the one being installed this April is permanent, so you will be able to view it whenever you are next in the city.
The Library Store
The renowned Library Store has been featured in several publications due to its unique selection of goods, and is considered to be one of the best local spots to shop for unique gifts. The items that you will find here are mostly literary-related, but are curated to suit just about every audience and occasion. Whether you are seeking a whimsical literary poster or an educational writing product, all sales made at the Library Store go towards helping the City Library.
Many would argue that the need for libraries in this modern day is becoming obsolete, but the Salt Lake City Public Library is the perfect example of a library that is able to meet the changing demands of society. From their tranquil reading spaces to their cutting-edge special events, this is a library that is truly cherished by its local community.
Located in Salt Lake City, the Rio Tinto Center is home to the Natural History Museum of Utah. From learning about the state’s fascinating biological diversity to hearing stories about the prehistoric peoples of the Great Basin, this is a museum that not only tells the tale of Utah’s natural history, but also that of the planet as a whole.
There are a number of permanent exhibitions to explore at the Natural History Museum of Utah, beginning with the exhibition on the sky, which is housed in a gallery that has an adjacent rooftop terrace, so you can learn about the sun, climate and astronomy first hand. Another must-see exhibit is the one on Life, which features a series of displays that explore the complexity of the web of life, focussing on everything from ecosystems within Utah to human DNA. Of course, the Great Salt Lake exhibit is not to be missed, as this really brings the lake to life, while the Past Worlds exhibit spans hundreds of millions of years, taking a look at how Utah’s ancient environments have changed over time. The early residents of Utah are not forgotten at the museum, and can be learned about at the First Peoples exhibit, as well as at the Native Voices exhibit, which tells of the traditions of the eight federally recognized tribes in Utah.
The Natural History Museum of Utah has an action-packed calender of special events that are designed to bring the community together. The Extreme Plants Travelling Sideshow is a theatrical performance that focuses on various species of plants, and is guaranteed to entertain visitors of every age group. For those who want to get involved in helping to preserve Utah’s incredible landscape, the museum hosts a regular event called the Urban Habitat Weed Pull, while the Foothill Wildflower Walk will take you into Salt Lake City’s foothills and teach you all about the importance of the wildflowers that grow here.
NHMU After Dark
In addition to all of their special events held during the day, the museum also hosts an evening series of events titled NHMU After Dark. The next one is being held on the 10th of May, and is a Craft Night Workshop, where you will be able to learn how to mix your own custom essential oils. August’s Craft Night is a Summer Floral Arranging class, while September is all about how to build your very own mini ecosystem in a terrarium.
Shop and Café
Once you have explored all of the exhibits at the museum, be sure to stop off at the shop, which not only sells museum merchandise, but also one-of-a-kind Utah-themed gifts. If you are feeling peckish, the Museum Café can be found on the main level of the Rio Tinto Center, and serves up a selection of fresh salads, sandwiches and bakery items, featuring some of the finest local bakeries within Utah.
For those visiting Salt Lake City, a visit to the Natural History Museum is definitely a must, as this is one of the best ways to learn more about the region and its past. From the diverse ecosystems that can be found here to ways in which you can contribute to the conservation of nature, this museum will no doubt have you seeing Utah in a completely different light.
Nature and wildlife is abundant in and around Salt Lake City, making a nature tour one of those must-do activities when visiting the area. From wild antelope and wetland birds to the impressive Wasatch Mountains, here are some of the region’s top nature and wildlife tours.
Wasatch Mountain Tour
Offered by Salt Lake City Guided Tours, the Wasatch Mountain Tour takes around three hours, with pick-up options available from the majority of the hotels in Salt Lake City. The tour begins by taking you through the Wasatch National Forest, where you will be able to spot plenty of local wildlife, followed by a drive up to Big Cottonwood Canyon, where you will have the opportunity to see some moose. Next up is Silver Lake, which is perched right at the top of the mountains, offering incredible views and invigoratingly fresh mountain air.
Antelope Island Wildlife Safari
Provided by City Sights, the Antelope Island Wildlife Safari takes you right into the heart of the Antelope Island State Park, which is the largest island on the Great Salt Lake. The island is home to the largest buffalo herd in the country, and, with these buffalo being the largest land animal in North America, they definitely make for an impressive sight. In addition to seeing several hundred buffalo roam the island, this tour also gives you the opportunity to view antelope, mule deer, coyotes, and several bird species, depending on the time of the year that you visit.
Great Salt Lake Tour
A Tours of Utah tour, the Great Salt Lake Tour is two hours long, and will take you to see the saltiest lake in the western hemisphere, also referred to as America’s Dead Sea. The water here is ten times saltier than the ocean, meaning that it is impossible to sink into it, making this a sight that you will not want to miss out on. Within the lake, you will stop off at a migratory birds wetland area, which welcomes several million birds each year. You will also have the opportunity to catch a live sea monkey, which is the only creature that can survive within the lake. The Great Salt Lake State Park is also on the agenda, including the Utah State Marina and the Silver Sands Beach, where you will be able to take a short stroll on the soft, pearl-like sand. The Great Salt Lake also has quite the history behind it, which you will learn more about at Saltair, a historic beach resort that was built by the Mormon Church, and is also known as the Coney Island of the West.
There is so much natural beauty and wildlife to be found in the Salt Lake City area, so while the city itself may have plenty of exciting activities to offer, be sure to save a couple of days for some of these tours. Whether you venture out into the Great Salt Lake, or enjoy a bird’s eye view of the region from the peaks of the Wasatch Mountain, these tours guarantee to make you Salt Lake City vacation so much more memorable.
Constructed in 1891, the Al Jahili Fort in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, is one of the largest castles in the region, as well as one of the most historic buildings in the United Arab Emirates. Over the years, the fort has served a number of important purposes, and today it is home to a permanent exhibition that is devoted to Wildfred Thesiger, a writer, photographer and explorer.
The fort is surrounded by a beautiful, lush park, which is something that you will immediately notice when you pay it a visit, as it feels like an incredible oasis in the middle of the desert. The serene environment that surrounds you here is a welcome break from busy city life, and the vibrant plants and flowers are bound to inspire. Visitors are encouraged to explore the park, so be sure to leave enough time in your visit for a leisurely stroll around the grounds.
Natural Climate Control
When you first enter the fort, you will notice that the temperature within remains at a steady 22 degree Celsius, which is extremely comfortable in the scorching desert heart. This is something that has always been controlled naturally, thanks to the traditional mud brick walls. However, in 2007, the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage worked to restore the building, and wanted to combine this traditional climate control method with modern technology. This has allowed for additional cooling within the rooms, with a network of chilled water pipes running beneath the mud plaster that has been used in the fort’s newer compound.
The North Wing
The North Wing of the fort was the original structure, and today is home to an exhibition devoted to Wildfred Thesiger. Thesiger crossed the area twice in the 1940’s, documenting his travels through photography. The black and white photographs that you will find on display here, titled Bin London and the Freedom of the Desert, are a fascinating insight into what the fort would have looked like in its early days. There is also a visual room that is a part of the exhibition, and here you will be able to watch a short documentary film on Thesiger’s life, as well as that of his two Bedouin companions.
The West Wing and South Wing
The West Wing and the South Wings are the newer parts of the fort’s compound. The West Wing is primarily used to house temporary exhibitions, while the South Wing is where you will find an visitor information center, which will tell you all you need to know about the fort and Al Ain in general. There is also a bookshop here, which is well worth browsing if you are looking to expand your knowledge on the area.
The Al Jahili Fort is closed on Saturdays, but open on all other days throughout the year, even on public holidays. There are specific visiting hours that you will need to adhere to, with different timings for the summer and the winter, so be sure to check these in advance on the fort’s website before planning your trip.
Held in Warehouse421 in Mina Zayed, Abu Dhabi, the Lest We Forget: Emirati Adornment: Tangible & Intangible exhibition first opened its doors on the 4th of February this year. This is the third edition of the exhibition, and features over 200 objects that were specially curated to help teach the public about the region’s history and culture.
Lest We Forget
Lest We Forget is a major grassroots arts community-based initiative that is dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of the UAE. They do this by using everything from workshops to their website to special exhibitions, the latest of which is the Emirati Adornment exhibition, and all of which encourage public participation whenever possible.
There are a number of displays at the exhibition that feature rare weaponry, which were donated by Dr. Ahmed Al Khoori, an Emirati antiques collector. One of the highlights of the weaponry displays are the exquisite daggers, which showcase a high level of craftsmanship and complex design details, with everything from gold and silver decorations to ivory handles. You will also see late 19th century Martini-Henry rifles, which bear marks that show that they were manufactured in London, while some of the swords on display contain blades that are believed to date back to Renaissance Europe.
Emirati Women Through the Generations
The Lest We Forget exhibition covers many areas of female life over the years, with one of the first highlights that you will see being a stop-motion animation by illustrator Amani Jamal Baswaid, which tells the story of a young bride from Buraimi. The installation by Noura Al Mansouri, titled Burqa Portrait of 50 Ladies, also provides a fascinating insight into the adornment that Middle Eastern women have worn over the years.
While items on display do give you a good idea of the way in which others have lived over the years, there is nothing quite like personal stories to really provide a deeper insight. These tell the tales of the lives of local men and women, and you are likely to read many stories that really inspire you.
Perfume and Fragrance
Perfumes and fragrances have always been a significant part of life in the UAE, and the section of the exhibition dedicated to this is truly an educational one. There are many boxes here containing different perfume-making materials, from oud to frankincense, as well as a small external courtyard with a display of native plants that were traditionally used to manufacture these scents.
Books on Display
In order to provide a deeper level of information on the many items on display throughout the exhibition, there are also several books on-site that are related to the topics being featured in the exhibition. With books on everything from women’s clothing to the pearl industry, these items are definitely worth browsing if you are seeking an even more rounded view on the subjects depicted in the exhibition.
The Lest We Forget exhibitions are aimed at sharing the region’s history with the general public, giving them a way to hear and feel the memories of others. From the fragrances that you can smell to the personal stories that will really resonate with you, these exhibitions are well worth visiting for those who are interested in the heritage and culture of Abu Dhabi.
A man-made island in Abu Dhabi, Yas Island is famous for being one of the best entertainment destinations in the UAE. Home to venues such as Yas Waterworld, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, and Yas Mall, these are some of the highlights that you can expect to encounter when exploring Yas Island.
Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi
Yas Waterworld promises a day of fun and adventure for the entire family, with 45 rides, slides and attractions to enjoy. Some of the park’s finest rides include the Bandit Bomber, which is the longest suspended rollercoaster in the Middle East, the Liwa Loop, which is the first logging waterslide of its kind in the Middle East, and Bubble’s Barrel, which is the largest surfable wave sheet in the world. For those with young children, there are plenty of gentler rides to choose from, including the Tot’s Playground and the Amwaj Wave Pool, while the many food and beverage outlets scattered around the park make for a perfect pick-me-up in between rides.
While the theme parks of Yas Island may be wonderfully thrilling, there will come a time when you need a break from all of the pulsating stimuli, making Yas Beach the perfect place to head to. With white sand, sparkling blue waters and dense mangroves surrounding the area, this beach is tranquil and peaceful. There are also several beach activities to be found here, from an outdoor gym to beach volleyball to a variety of water sports.
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is a one-of-a-kind theme park, with several rides and attractions that are, of course, Ferrari-related. This is the only Ferrari branded theme park in the world, so you can expect the attractions here to really be special. One of the most popular rides at Ferrari World is the Formula Rossa, which is famous for being the fastest rollercoaster in the world, taking you to speeds of 240 km/h in under five seconds. For those who would prefer to spend their time learning more about the brand, there are many Ferrari experiences to be had here, from taking a factory tour to driving a Ferrari around Yas Island yourself.
When it comes to retail therapy, there is no other place like Yas Mall, which boasts over 400 of the top fashion and food brands in the world. Their 20 screen cinema is also another highlight, while the family entertainment zone, which is the largest in the region, promises to provide hours of fun.
There is always a constant buzz of activity at Yas Marina, making this an exciting area to explore on a warm, sunny day. The long boardwalks are perfect for a leisurely stroll, with the extravagant yachts dotting the marina exuding a air of glamour. With so many al fresco dining options, Yas Marina is a great spot to stop for a bite to eat, while the multiple children’s play areas ensure that any young ones that you are travelling with will be kept occupied and entertained.
With such a wide range of different attractions, it is no surprise that Yas Island is continuing to grow in popularity each year. From the picturesque Yas Marina to the action-filled Ferrari World, be sure to set aside quite a few days if you are hoping to thoroughly explore the island.
The sunny resort city of Marbella is one that many people dream of moving to, as it is not only filled with history, culture and natural beauty, but it also supports such a diversity of lifestyles. Whether you happen to be crazy about the beach or fanatic about golf, there is no shortage of luxury Marbellan estates out there to suit your lifestyle.
The city of Marbella itself is home to 17 miles of coastline, which has been divided up into 24 different beaches, each offering its own unique set of features. If you already have a beach in mind, then this will help to really narrow down your search, but for those who are more flexible about picking a beachfront property, there are so many worth checking out. Estates on Malibu Beach enjoy exclusivity, as this is a gated complex offering the utmost of privacy, and is only a few minutes walk from the famous marina of Puerto Banus, which also happens to be one of the top nightlife areas in Marbella. Alternatively, Los Monteros is home to a number of historic properties that could do with some fixing up, while Victors Beach is another that boasts a prime location.
The Costa del Sol is home to some of the finest golf courses in the world, making a golfline estate the perfect choice for those who enjoy the sport. The villas in Nueva Andalucia are within a walking distance from the Los Naranjos Golf Club, which is known for being incredibly peaceful, while also boasting scenic views of La Concha Mountain. For those who would prefer an exclusive gated community, the Estepona complex is just 15 minutes from the centre of Marbella, and just one minute away from the nearest golf course, while the gated community at Benahavis, which is nearby to the Los Flamingos Golf Resort, is another spot worth considering.
The architecture that you will find throughout Marbella is definitely impressive, with many buildings sporting contemporary, avant-garde design details. The gated community of La Quinta de Sierra Blanca, on Marbella’s Golden Mile, has no shortage of modern estates, each boasting unique features such as suspended fireplaces, indoor swimming pools and plenty of natural light. Guadalmina Baja is also home to many designer properties, with everything from double-height rooms to dramatic entranceways, while the contemporary architecture that you will see in Benahavis contrasts beautifully with the dense woodland around it. Many of the plots here contain steep slopes, but these have been incorporated into the modern designs of the properties, making use of multiple terraces and garden areas to take full advantage of the views that can be had from these one-of-a-kind plots.
Marbella is home to many extraordinary estates, and you will no doubt be able to find one that suits you. Whether you are seeking an isolated beachfront villa, or a modern golfline mansion, there are so many estates here that are bound to take your breath away, which does make the decision-making process so much harder!
While there is so much to see and do in Marbella itself, it is always rewarding to explore the surrounding areas and see what else is out there. From the history of Seville to the surfing in Tarifa, these are a few of the best day trips that you can take from Marbella.
Seville is the largest city in southern Spain, and is famous for being the birthplace of tapas, meaning that it is home to some of the oldest tapas bars in the country, including El Rinconcillo, which was founded in 1670. This makes the city a must-visit for any foodies visiting Marbella, especially since you can travel there by bus as well as car. When you are done tasting your way around town, there is plenty of history to soak up, which is understandable considering the fact that Seville was reportedly founded by Hercules himself. From the 13th century Catedral de Santa Maria to the 16th century Casa de Pilatos, there are many historical landmarks that are worth touring, so be sure to research these in advance to ensure that you can fit them all in to your itinerary for the day.
The southernmost city in Spain, Tarifa’s incredibly laid back vibe makes it perfect for a day of relaxation, and it is just a one and a half hour drive from Marbella. Tarifa boasts white sandy beaches that stretch for miles, healing mud baths and water that is so strikingly blue, meaning that the beach areas are usually where visitors flock to. Tarifa is also known for its water sports, with everything from surfing to diving to kiteboarding available here, while those who want to check out some local wildlife can head off on a dolphin and whale watching expedition between the months of April and October.
While it may take two and a half hours to reach Sierra Nevada, the mountains here are where you will find the highest peak in Spain, which is why the area makes for a fantastic ski resort. With 100 kilometres of alpine ski runs, as well as toboggans, ski bikes and an ice rink, there is plenty to occupy your time with here. For those who are feeling especially adventurous, spend your evening on a night walk climbing Veleta, the second highest mountain in the Sierra Nevada, as the views from the top, of the twinkling lights below and sparkling stars above, is truly unforgettable. In the summer months, the area turns into a wonderland for outdoor adventure, with everything from horse riding to mountain climbing available. If you are visiting in July or August, be sure to take the cable car up to the summit of Veleta, as you will enjoy stunning views from up here, including Africa on a clear day.
Marbella enjoys a prime location, with easy access to many nearby areas that are well worth visiting. From the culture of Seville to the outdoor adventure of the Sierra Nevada, each of these locations promises a day filled with fun and excitement.