Best Day Trip Into Arizona's Prehistory (2000)

Casa Grande National Monument, Coolidge

If your kids' idea of history is watching '70s-coifed Michael Landon preside over Little House on the Prairie, perhaps it's time to take them to the Big House in the Desert -- better known as Casa Grande Ruins National Monument.

Built around 1350, the four-story Big House sits at the center of a small Hohokam farming community that was part of a much larger network of Hohokam villages. The building may have been part observatory, part trade center, part food-storage bin -- archaeologists are still trying to understand its full significance to the community.

According to the comprehensive information center, the Big House was just a small part of a sophisticated culture that used an expansive canal system to prosper in a hostile environment. Sound familiar? They built the original Phoenix that then rose from the ashes.

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