How to Enjoy Arizona in Every Season

When people think of a desert vacation in Arizona, they often picture rounds of golf and poolside relaxation in the middle of the winter when temperatures are mild. It may be surprising to find out that there are plenty of ways you can enjoy Arizona in every season, especially when you stay with Bluegreen Resorts at the Cibola Vista Resort and Spa in Peoria.

Located just 10 minutes from Phoenix, the resort is the perfect starting point for a variety of unique Arizona adventures that you can undertake based on the season, such as a trip to Lake Pleasant on a scorching hot day or a visit to Native American ruins in the refreshing winter air. The following describes some of the activities that will help you enjoy a desert vacation in Arizona at any time of the year:

Summer

It’s possible to enjoy Arizona’s desert landscape during the summer because it’s just a short drive from the Cibola Vista Resort and Spa to Lake Pleasant, where you can cool off while boating, skiing, and fishing. You can also splash around on jet skis or explore the lake’s many coves in a kayak. An ideal destination for the experienced angler, Lake Pleasant offers the best bass fishing of all the lakes surrounding Phoenix and it contains a variety of other sport fish, including tilapia and channel catfish. Anglers also report that a warm summer night is the best time to catch fish in Lake Pleasant.

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On a hot summer day in Arizona, one of the best ways to escape the heat is to book a spa day, which is particularly easy when the spa is located at your resort like it is at Cibola Vista. The spa offers a wide range of treatments in a tranquil environment to help refresh the mind, body, and spirit. When you visit the spa, you can savor treatments like the 50-minute Swedish massage, the anti-aging corrective facial, and the 80-minute hydrating body wrap. The rejuvenating effects of a day at the spa at Cibola Vista will give you a whole new appreciation for this oasis in the Sonoran Desert.                                        

Fall

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Image courtesy Mr.TinDC | Flickr

When the air starts to cool in the fall, you can more easily immerse yourself in the beautiful desert scenery around Arizona, including the Lavender Pit in Bisbee. The 950-foot deep pit is an abandoned mine with rugged tiers that stretch across 300 acres, an impressive sight that can be observed from rim viewing platforms. After the pit was abandoned in 1975, the town of Bisbee transformed into a historical tourist destination and artist community that draws visitors from around Arizona and the country.

Closer to the Cibola Vista Resort and Spa, you can appreciate Arizona’s arid landscapes at the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, a desert oasis surrounded by city views. The preserve offers miles of serene trails through the Sonoran Desert, as well as a number of peaks to climb. From the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, hikers can reach Camelback Mountain, the highest summit and one of the most popular hikes in the preserve.

Winter

Amid Arizona’s mild winter air, you can enjoy some of the state’s most unique sites. One such destination is the Pueblo Grande Ruin, located just 40 minutes from Cibola Vista. A National Historic Landmark, the ruin is an expansive prehistoric Hohokam Indian village that was inhabited from 100 to 1450 A.D. The Hohokam constructed caliche-brick dwellings, a ball court in the Central American style, and a 20-foot high masonry platform that covers more than 3 acres. When you visit the park, you can take a self-guided trail to the ruins and visit displays on the Hohokam people at the Pueblo Grande Museum. Visit on a Sunday for free admission to the park.

To enjoy more of Arizona’s cultural heritage, visit Taliesin West at the base of the McDowell Mountains in Scottsdale. The national historic landmark currently houses the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, and it was once the winter home of famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Founded in 1937, Taliesin West was hand-built and maintained primarily by Wright and his apprentices. The architecture was inspired by the desert landscape, and the simple design fosters a connection to nature. Over the years, the campus has expanded to include performance spaces, studios, a dining hall, and living quarters.

Spring

Peoria Sports Complex

Image courtesy Clintus | Flickr

Springtime in Arizona is best known for spring training or the preseason series of professional baseball games between February and March, when players gather at complexes around the Phoenix area to practice and earn positions. While teams play around Phoenix, Peoria has its own sports complex that is shared with the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners. After watching a game, you can easily access the nearby shopping and entertainment options in Peoria.

For additional springtime entertainment outside of the baseball diamond, you can visit the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, located an hour east of Phoenix. The park is Arizona’s largest and oldest botanical garden, featuring a streamside forest, specialty gardens, and a desert lake. Managed in part by the University of Arizona, the arboretum was established by mining magnate Colonel William Boyce Thompson in the 1920s. The park currently strives to offer recreation, conservation, and research opportunities related to arid-land plants. At the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, you can stroll beneath the shade of towering trees, including Eucalyptus and Palo Verde.

5 Things to Enjoy at a Hawaiian Luau

Enjoy the vacation paradise of Hawaii at Bluegreen Resorts’ Pono Kai Resort, nestled against 13 acres of ocean-facing property on the “Garden Island” of Kauai. Here, you can experience some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, including a tropical rainforest, rugged cliffs, and spectacular underwater worlds. Bluegreen members can also explore the island’s Waimea Canyon, whose spectacular beauty rivals that of the Grand Canyon.

While in Hawaii, be sure to attend a traditional luau, the islands’ famed communal feast. A luau is the perfect place to experience Polynesian culture, because no such gathering would be complete without the islands’ music, dancing, food, and drink.

Polynesians have raised celebratory feasting to a high art. Before Captain Cook reached the Hawaiian Islands, Hawaiians had enjoyed feasts they called aha’aina, or “gathering for a meal.” These events marked important community milestones, such as a military victory, the construction of a new canoe, or a major event in the life of a prominent individual. The foods served at these feasts had symbolic meanings, and certain dishes were forbidden for commoners and women to eat, for ritual reasons.

In 1819, King Kamehameha II changed all this, when he ended feast-time segregation of the genders and sat down himself among women to partake of a festive meal. The new tradition the king created is the feast we know today as the luau. “Luau” in Hawaiian refers to the dish of taro leaves with coconut milk and chicken, which was widely consumed at these events.

Here are a few highlights of any Hawaiian luau: 

  1. Kalua Pig

A traditional luau starts with cooking the kalua pig. First, the cooks dig a large hole in the ground and line it with banana or ti leaves to provide insulation and to add flavor. Next, the cooks fill the pit with very hot lava rocks, which will do the actual cooking. The cooks then season the pig with sea salt and cover the entire pit with dirt and more layers of insulation. After cooking for a large portion of the day, the pig transforms into a tender, juicy treat with a rich hint of smokiness and salt.

  1. Poi

The cooked root of taro plant, poi is a luau staple. Hawaiian cooks make poi by mashing the root until it becomes a smooth, pasty substance. They then thin it with water and let it ferment into a pudding-like dish. Because its taste is so mild, Hawaiians use poi as a palate cleanser in-between luau courses. Hawaiians may describe the dish as “one-finger,” “two-finger,” or “three-finger” poi, referring to its density and thus the number of digits required to handle it. Local historians describe poi as imparting a quality of sacredness to the meal, and say that when it is on the table, there is a prohibition against anger and divisiveness.

  1. Lau Lau

The term “lau lau” traditionally describes a meat dish, usually made with pork shoulder, chicken, or vegetables, and cooked in a below-ground oven. Some cooks add some butterfish to give the food a saltier taste. Cooks then wrap many layers of taro leaves around this hearty filling, ending with two ti leaves, to lock in all the flavors. When guests cut open the leaf wrapping, they can enjoy the rich tastes of the lau lau inside.

  1. Dancing the Hula

The hula is much more than a lively dance; its movements recount the epic histories, mythological stories, and wisdom teachings of the Polynesian people. Dancers undergo a rigorous program of instruction before they are considered competent to render these stories in movement. In fact, in ancient times dancers consecrated their lives to Laka, goddess of the hula, and took part in religiously oriented training. One tale describing the origin of the hula says that the goddess Pele requested her sisters to dance for her. Her sister Hi’laka performed, and later became one of the guiding spirits of the dance.

  1. Fire-Knife Dancing

A fire-knife dance typically involves performers, set against the darkness of the night sky, creating dramatic swirling patterns with burning brands and weapons, which they throw, catch, and spin in a dizzying array of patterns. More than just luau entertainers, fire-knife dancers perform in troupes at events all over the world.

Though the fire-knife dance isn’t very old, and doesn’t even originate in Hawaii, it has become popular at luaus over the last few generations. It derives from the traditional Samoan fire-knife dance, which only dates back to the 1940s.

9 Tips to Make a Road Trip with Children More Enjoyable

Whether you’re planning a road trip to a Bluegreen Resorts destination near Orlando, New York City, or Peoria, Arizona, you’ll be focused on making it the best and most enjoyable experience for your entire family. No matter how sophisticated or well-traveled your children are, here are a few hints that might help to minimize the friction and maximize the fun in your car:

  1. Plan ahead: Knowing how long it will likely take to reach your destination; the routes you will need to follow; and where you can stop for refueling, bathroom breaks, and snacks will go a long way toward keeping everyone less anxious during the trip. Your kids can help you to plot your itinerary on a map, which will also reinforce their geography skills. Let them help you select particular scenic or historic restaurants and places of interest to stop and take a break.

 9 Tips to Make a Road Trip with Children More Enjoyable

  1. Pack drinks and car-friendly snacks: A big thermos, or individually-packaged water or juice bottles, will help keep your kids hydrated in a healthy way. Experienced parents also recommend nutritious, protein-rich snacks such as granola or oatmeal bars, yogurt in premeasured cups, and string cheese. Fresh fruit like grapes and sliced carrots are unlikely to create a mess. You can also prepare sandwiches with ingredients such as honey, peanut or almond butter, and bananas or other fruit. You can even make your own trail mix by combining items such as raisins, granola, nuts, and pretzels. Make sure your kids are able to reach and set up the snacks on their own, so that you can keep your attention on the road.
  1. Provide interesting rewards: Tired of coping with “Are we there yet?” jitters along the way? Try giving your kids a bag of colorful tickets or tokens, and ask them to give you one for every 50 miles you travel. They can see their progress toward their vacation as the number in the bag dwindles. You can also offer them prizes, such as candies or small toys, for every mileage milestone you achieve. Travel coupons are also a great option. Your kids can redeem them for the right to choose a story, lunch spot, or a song on the radio.
  1. Take a journey into learning: There’s no reason not to put an educational component into your trip in order to keep everyone interested and engaged. National Geographic, for example, publishes a long list of illustration-packed, trivia-loaded children’s books on every aspect of North American and world geography. Any of these would make a great vacation gift, and your kids can read fun facts aloud to you on the way.
  1. Play games: There are plenty of games on the market that lend themselves to entertaining kids on road trips. Rush Hour, published by ThinkFun, offers several levels of play, depending on the age of the participants. Players try to break the gridlock among a group of colorful plastic vehicles on a game board using logic and creative problem-solving.
9 Tips to Make a Road Trip with Children More Enjoyable

Source: Marilyn M / License

However, there are many other games that don’t cost a cent. Try the classic “I Spy” as you take turns guessing what each player “spies” along your route. “Taboo” is another fun game that tests verbal dexterity. Players agree to make one common word – such as “the”, “and”, or “not” – “taboo.” Take turns asking questions of one another. If a player uses that word in an answer, he or she is “out.” The last person “out” is the winner.

  1. Create collections: Decide as a family whether you’d like to collect postcards, travel brochures, or a certain kind of souvenir from the stops you make along the way. Or you may want to just record the state license plates you see on the road. You can provide your children with a map of the United States and ask them to color in a state whenever they spot its license plate.
  1. Plug in: A judicious amount of screen time can help fight boredom. Your kids can bring their electronic devices and download travel-related apps, e-books, and games. And don’t forget that your public library is a great source of DVDs and books on CD that you can borrow for the trip. Make sure you bring the right car chargers for all your devices, too, so you don’t power down in the middle of the most exciting part.
  1. Get crafty: Klutz is among a number of publishers that offer activity books and craft kits, many of which are suitable for a road trip. Several are specifically focused on the needs and interests of school-age children on the go. And many publishers offer coloring books, sticker books, and more. Dover Publications, in particular, makes an entire series of Little Activity Books with themes that include the beach, airports, and animals.
  1. Save something for the trip back!: Some savvy parents make sure to pack a second bag with different toys, books, snacks, and surprises for the return journey. Giving kids new things to hold their interest can ensure a more enjoyable – and peaceful – time on the way home.

Nine Facts About the Grand Canyon

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Vacation with Bluegreen Resorts in Peoria, Arizona just outside of Phoenix and only a few hours’ drive from the spectacular geological wgrandonderland of the Grand Canyon. The accommodations at Bluegreen’s Cibola Vista Resort and Spa will provide you with plenty of luxury and relaxation. Then you’re on your way to experience all the splendor of the canyon. Grand Canyon National Park attracts millions of visitors every year who are drawn to the stunning displays of color and light that cascade across its rock faces, as well as to the mule train rides, camping trips, river rafting tours, and more. Grand Canyon National Park is one of seven national parks located close to Bluegreen destinations.

Do you know everything that the Grand Canyon has in store for you and your family? Here are nine fascinating facts about the Grand Canyon that will make your trip more enjoyable:

  1. The Grand Canyon is beyond enormous. At its widest point, it spans some 18 miles from one side to the other, stretches 277 miles long, and possesses an average depth of approximately 1 mile. Erosion from the Colorado River continues to change its dimensions over time. The Colorado River itself is about 300 feet wide and 100 feet deep, and it flows at a clip of about 4 miles an hour.

  1. Admission to the Grand Canyon is affordable. The National Park Service announced in 2015 that the fee for a permit for a single, non-commercial vehicle and everyone traveling in it is just $30 for one week. The price includes both the North and South Rims. If you walk, bike, or take the shuttle bus to the park, admission is $15 per person. Anyone 15 and under can enter the park free of charge, and there are also several “free days” for everyone over the course of the year, including selected federal holidays.

  1. There’s an app for it–the Grand Canyon, that is. In 2015, JustAhead.com debuted its mobile app and audio tour guide for the Grand Canyon. Using GPS technology, the app finds your location and offers a richly-narrated tour via your smartphone of the canyon’s history, geology, and must-see stops along the way. Moreover, TUA Outdoors, LLC, offers an informational app specifically for hiking the canyon that is downloadable from your iTunes account. And don’t miss out on the National Parks by National Geographic app that covers the Grand Canyon and the nation’s other wilderness heritage areas. Let National Geographic help you create a personalized list of things to see, obtain photography instruction from an expert, and pick up useful hints about exploring the canyon.

  1. Grand Canyon tours abound. If you’ve always dreamed of having a bird’s-eye view of the canyon, there are many tours available. Numerous commercial websites offer a wide range of packages at various price points, including romantic sunset helicopter and railroad trips, wildlife tours, multi-day and multi-venue excursions, and more. The National Park Service hosts many others that are comparatively inexpensive and sometimes even free. Just keep in mind that the most popular excursions, such as the mule train along the South Rim, sometimes fill up a year or more in advance.
  1. The Grand Canyon is one of the world’s seven natural wonders. It joins other grand-scale, breathtakingly beautiful places that include Mount Everest; the Great Barrier Reef off Australia; Victoria Falls on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia; Mexico’s Parícutin volcano; the harbor of Rio de Janeiro; and the earth’s Northern and Southern Lights, found at extremely high and low latitudes. The Grand Canyon is also a designated World Heritage Site of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
  1. The Grand Canyon has enjoyed a long history of protection from the U.S. government as a place for all citizens to enjoy. Toward the end of the 19th century, what is now the Grand Canyon National Park achieved the status of forest reserve. It was declared a national monument in 1908, and Congressional action formally created the national park in 1919, only seven years after Arizona became a state.

  1. The Grand Canyon continues to have a strong Native American presence. Historically, the region has been home to the Navajo people, who maintain their heritage at towns and sites near the canyon, often with exquisite silver, jewelry, and other items for sale. The Tusayan Ruins and Museum near the edge of the park honor the history of the ancient Pueblo people who lived in the area.

  1. The canyon is home to an enormous variety of wildlife. Pay a visit to the South Rim, and you just might encounter elk or mule deer, or see a majestic California condor cruising overhead. Rock squirrels, reptiles, and birds also make their home along the rim. The park is also home to coyotes, mountain lions and other big cats, rattlesnakes, and more. Remember that federal law prohibits trapping and hunting on national park lands, as well as touching and feeding the animals. This is for your protection and for theirs, so enjoy the wildlife from a safe distance. The National Park Service recommends keeping at least 100 feet between yourself and the local elk and deer.

  1. There are plenty of child-friendly activities at the Grand Canyon. For instance, you can stop in at the Visitor Center and see the IMAX film titled Grand Canyon – The Hidden Secrets, which is practically a tour in itself. Take a two- or four-hour train ride along the South Rim, which includes Wild West-themed entertainment and even lunch. Explore Yavapai Point, which is located relatively close to shops, and enjoy a sweeping view of a large part of the canyon.

5 Attractions along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Stay with Bluegreen Resorts in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and pick from one of three comfortable, luxurious, home-away-from-home vacation destinations: MountainLoft in Gatlinburg, Tennessee; Laurel Crest in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee; and Foxrun Townhouses in Lake Lure, North Carolina. All three resorts provide you with a gateway to the many outdoor adventures the area has to offer, including those along the famed Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the most picturesque routes in the country.

Construction on the Parkway, the nation’s first-ever rural roadway of its kind, began during the Great Depression as a way to link Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. When you drive the Blue Ridge Parkway, you’re traveling a stretch of a 469-mile piece of history. Along the way, you can visit sites honoring Native American Cherokee traditions, local artisans’ studios, music festivals, and, of course, sites of spectacular natural beauty. The entire stretch of the Parkway includes hundreds of scenic overlooks, with sights of mountains and gorges, vast forests, brilliant foliage in the fall, and flowering rhododendrons in the spring. Besides the two national parks that anchor either end of the Parkway, here are a few of the other attractions you can enjoy along its length:

  1. Cherokee, North Carolina – The town of Cherokee lies at the final southern milepost of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and is therefore close to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. When you stop in Cherokee, you can browse a number of shops selling authentic Native American arts and crafts, including fine artwork by Cherokee artists, pottery, basketry, weavings, dolls, pipes, and much more.

If gaming is your pastime, you’ll find local dealers, as well as the amenities at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort. If you love outdoor fun, try kayaking, tubing, and other watersports in Oconaluftee Islands Park. And if you visit during the summer, you can take in the rich drama of Unto These Hills, an outdoor play that tells the story of the tragedy and triumph of the Cherokee experience.

 

  1. The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad – Located in Bryson City, near Cherokee, the terminal of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad will be your gateway to a trip back in time as you ride in style in a vintage railway car from the 1940s. The railroad winds through some of western North Carolina’s more remote regions, taking you on a breathtaking tour of valleys, rivers, 25 bridges, and tunnels cut from the mountainsides. Much of the natural beauty of this area comes from its ancient past, when the movements of volcanoes and glaciers formed its peaks and valleys. Your ticket includes a fine dining experience, and you can choose from a 44-mile tour through Nantahala Gorge, with a stop at the Nantahala Outdoor Center, or the 32-mile round trip Tuckasegee River Excursion.

  1. The Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina – The city of Asheville is less than 30 miles from Lake Lure by car, and is a major marker along the Parkway. Stop and tour the magnificent Biltmore House, whose gardens were designed by famous 19th century architect Frederick Law Olmstead, who also planned the landscape of New York’s Central Park. The rose gardens alone are worth a visit, offering some 250 varieties of blooms. The house itself, home to a branch of the Vanderbilt family, contains soaring ceilings, paintings by European masters, a library with more than 10,000 volumes, tapestries, and other features that defined a lifestyle of elegance and luxury at the turn of the 20th century.

  1. Chimney Rock – Located in the Hickory Nut Gorge, Chimney Rock State Park is minutes from Lake Lure and includes some of North Carolina’s most stunning landscapes. Hickory Nut Falls is one of the tallest and most spectacular waterfalls in the eastern United States and featured prominently in the 1992 film The Last of the Mohicans. And when you ascend Chimney Rock’s 1,200-foot height, you’ll be able to see to a distance of about 75 miles across the Blue Ridge Mountains and Lake Lure. Go rock-climbing or hiking in the park, or stroll along the Great Woodland Adventure Trail, which offers children and families a dozen learning and discovery stations.

  1. Grandfather Mountain – About 150 miles from Gatlinburg, Grandfather Mountain offers iconic views of North Carolina’s landscapes. The mountain’s variety of wildlife includes songbirds, squirrels, black bears, deer, bald eagles, and more. Grandfather Mountain’s naturalists protect many of these animals—as well as cougars, which no longer roam wild in the area—within seven environmental habitats. These large enclosures are designed to resemble as closely as possible the animals’ natural territories in the wild. Visitors can also take in a 360-degree panoramic view from a mile above sea level on Grandfather Mountain’s Mile High Swinging Bridge.