Last Updated on February 3, 2023
Why would anyone go to the Sonoran Desert near Phoenix, Arizona in July? For two reasons, actually…
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
By Carla Marie Rupp and Lari-Ann Rupp
What is it that draws a seasoned traveler and her young niece to the middle of the Sonoran Desert near Phoenix, Arizona in July? Two things, actually.
While at a spiritual convention in Phoenix we decided to become more in tune with nature and extend our trip extra days to experience the Sonoran Desert, as well as to see some sights in the Greater Phoenix area. The second reason was to celebrate Aunt Carla’s birthday.
Our first day kicked off with a 4:20am wake-up call at our hotel, alerting us to get ready for an exciting hot air balloon ride, one of our bucket-list items, that would provide a high view of the city and its surroundings.
When we arrived at the small Deer Valley Airport in north Phoenix, we met the rest of our group. They included a young romantic couple, an over-50 favorite “crazy uncle” with his family-friend “nephew” from Florida who was turning 22 the next day, a 58-year-old father and his son from Iowa, and a single Houston woman not yet 50. “When you’re single, you’ve got to treat yourself for your birthday!” she told us.
Hot-Air Ballooning Over the Sonoran Desert
We were hot air ballooning with Hot Air Expeditions and once we were airborne our captain, Patrick Stevens, regaled his colorful basket of characters with stories and jokes galore. (“Why do you think a Jack Rabbit has long ears? Answer: to keep cool – so tell your friends with long and big ears that they’re ‘cool.’”)
After we were aloft a while Captain Patrick took our dare and went higher than the usual 6,000 feet over the desert. No one was nervous and it was a nice high and spiritual feeling of camaraderie. Our group bonded in the air and after landing sat for a delicious breakfast out in the desert (including a jelly cake with a candle to blow out), complete with a linen-covered table with real china and silverware.
Sonoran Desert Botanical Gardens and A Music Museum
The wonderful Desert Botanical Garden is within walking distance of the Phoenix Zoo (which itself is within walking distance of the Light Rail that connects the airport with points all over the city), so it’s a great idea to make a day trip out of the two. But we decided to forgo the zoo that day and opted instead to visit to the Musical Instrument Museum.
No matter your age, or where you come from, you will likely delight in the soul-transcending experience of the MIM (an endearing term for the museum). Visit the museum and you’re taken on a fascinating musical trip around the globe, enhanced by an audio headset that is included with your admission.
Just attach the receiver to your belt or put away in your bag and you don’t have to fuss with it. As you walk around and look at the phenomenal, vast collection of thousands of rare musical instruments and artifacts, it automatically plays a demonstration of the instrument as a short video is shown in the each installation. It’s wonderful in that it gives you this freedom to march to your own beat, while cutting off the sounds of the competing narratives, providing a close encounter with music and people from all over the world. The mesmerizing experience is enhanced since no one has the same personal experience.
The experience makes us feel connected with every other human on the planet, perhaps explaining why famous musicians in the know plan trips to Phoenix just to visit the MIM. As lyricist-songwriter Bernie Taupin, best known for his collaboration with singer Elton John, put it: “Anyone with a love of music should be legally bound to make a pilgrimage to this extraordinary museum. Missing out would be a crime.”
The Heard Museum
While musicians may head for the MIM, another attraction some people plan an entire Phoenix visit around is the Heard Museum, a cornucopia of American Indian Art and History. It is a well-regarded institution worldwide, so much so that in one of the video galleries we met a father and his teenage sons who had come all the way from Holland to learn about the Indigenous Peoples of the Southwest and the Sonoran Desert.
Aside from displaying incredible artwork and providing many interactive experiences, the Heard Museum has a profound effect on how we envision Mother Earth. Time spent at the Heard can be a powerful and life-changing experience if one lets their guard down and stands in solidarity with a natural and spiritual viewpoint of what they see. We were helped to do so by our guide Deb who took the time to explain her Native American heritage and the meanings behind many of the exhibits. Later on we were lucky enough to also have lunch with her at the museum, tasting specialties of the Sonoran.
Free tours of the Heard are given on the hour and anyone can have a similar experience to ours. We think if everyone could get a taste of it and learn from the Native American culture – a beautiful and simple lifestyle deeply rooted in spiritual values – we would be closer to finding peace.
If you go:
Hot Air Expeditions, Inc.
Desert Botanical Garden
1201 N. Galvin Parkway
Phoenix, Arizona 85008
Heard Museum: American Indian Art and History
2301 N. Central Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 8500