September 16, 2012

By Perry Mack, photos courtesy the Mesa Convention and Visitor Bureau

While many southwestern locations off plenty of sunshine and outdoor activities, Mesa has a few twists for snowbirds and some very Canadian connections to make us feel at home – without the snow.

You can do the ‘downward dog’ at Usery Mountain Regional Park. Inner Vision Yoga (www.innervisionyoga.com) offers classes so you can pair your ‘Om’ with the tranquil chirping of desert quail or the tantalizing scent of a saguaro.  It’s a great way to loosen up and get ready to take on a day of desert activities at the park. Taught by skilled instructions, the yoga sessions are tailored to ensure guests are able to strengthen and increase lung capacity through breath awareness, work on balancing skills to help the uneven, constantly changing ground of the desert, and help develop core strength for control and stability for hiking maneuvers.

But not all of us are built for Zen, so scorpion hunts by black light, animal “hide and seek” walks and even edible adventures snacking on desert plants as you go are available at the new Nature Center. Operated by Maricopa County Parks, one of the largest regional park systems in the United States, the nature center is the newest offering for snowbirds seeking insight into the Sonoran Desert.

The Nature Center is a great place to stop in before exploring the more than 29 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding offered here. Inside, rangers are on hand to help you delve into the wonders of the Sonoran Desert before taking in some unique programming – everything from stargazing sessions, fitness hikes and “Find the Ranger” programs are offered year-round. You can purchase snacks and cold beverages, souvenirs and outdoor necessities like sunscreen, hats and water bottles before hitting the trail.

It’s not the prettiest website but you can get the information you need at www.maricopa.gov/parks/usery.

But I promised you at taste of home, so whether you’re a pro or just learning how to perfect your swing, hitting the links in Mesa has long been a tradition for snowbirds. As the nation’s largest suburb, Mesa alone boasts close to 40 golf courses and clubs and the city’s location offers easy access to the other 200+ in the Phoenix-metropolitan area. The sports’ top course designers can all be played in Mesa – Jack Nicklaus, Pete Dye, Robert Trent Jones Sr. & Jr. to name a few. But getting more attention is the close bonds that the golf communities have to Canada.

At the north end of the city lies Las Sendas Golf Club which features breathtaking views of the Red Mountain and the Superstition mountain range – an unsurpassed backdrop to the storied Sonoran Desert which extends north to Osoyoos, British Columbia.

Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., the course has matured into one of the most beautiful courses in Mesa and ranks as the 12th most challenging and one of the top 50 courses in the nation according to two ZAGAT surveys. Few realize that the facilities are primarily Canadian owned. Two years ago, former NHL player Wayne McBean and brother Lloyd purchased the golf club and immediately injected $4 million in improvements to the course. At Las Sendas, the Canadian flag is on display year-round for Mesa residents and the Canadian players that return south each winter.

It’s time to change from twisting your body with Yoga at sunrise to twisting aerial maneuvers like Yoda at Fighter Combat International.  Located in Mesa at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, this is an aerial adventure company that provides a wide spectrum of aviation thrill-seeker services. The owners hail from Ontario, Canada and have taken guests on aerial adventures for almost a decade now. These are real-as-it-gets air-to-air combat and aerobatic adventure flights. What a perfect gift for the guy or gal who has everything. There are even gift certificates available – visit www.fightercomabt.com for details on the various adventures that go from mild to wild.

Down on the ground you can take a deep breath and relax, but not for too long. Now that the thrill seekers are satisfied it’s time to tantalize the treasure hunters. Mesa is the Mecca of markets! Each winter, snowbirds take over the Mesa Market Place

& Swap Meet to sift through a dizzying array of new and used goods that you simply can’t find anywhere else. It’s not just a visit – it’s an experience. There’s great food, live entertainment and no doubt you’ll find at least one item you absolutely cannot live without. At more than 55 acres displaying up to 1,600 booths, you are guaranteed a great day of treasure hunting. Winter hours are Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 8am to 3pm and more information at www.mesamarket.com.

September 16, 2012

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