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Dick's Hideaway has become our personal haunt when we've got a group of up to 25 party pals. There's a $500 minimum to use the room, but divided among our cohorts, that comes to only $20 each, and the money is applied to food and drink (the contract lets us know the fee can be used to cover damage to the room, too, but we've never tested it).
The place is just too cool, hidden behind a door set invisibly into the paneled wood wall of the tiny bar called Dick's Hideaway. Signs? Doorknobs? Not here. Inside, it's startlingly opulent, centered by a copper-topped table and comfy booth tables lining the wine-rack-lined walls. There's a loft above one of the booths, too, in case we feel like taking a nap.
Dishes are the best of next door's Richardson's, lauded for its creative New Mexican fare like surf and turf (tenderloin with jumbo chipotle pecan grilled shrimp, enchiladas, green chile potato and fried egg), or blue corn smoked turkey enchiladas with grilled portobello mushroom.
At Dick's, we can get as raucous as we want, and no one will shush us. That alone is worth the price of admission.
Cholla is a sure bet, though, for exemplary dinners showcasing regional and Native American cuisine. This is one game we're guaranteed to win, feasting on roasted pheasant with Cabernet cassis, peppery elk tenderloin, pan-roasted Muscovy duck and "campfire" salmon with tomatillo-lime coulis.
Figuring that there's no tax charged on this Indian reservation, Cholla is in the only casino where we've ever come out ahead of the game.
Want to fly the friendly skies without the deafening engine noise? Take a spin in a sailplane. After you climb to the clouds behind a powered towplane, your instructor explains a few bells and whistles, then lets you take the reins. You'll even get an official pilot's logbook to commemorate your adventure.
On October 19, Turf celebrates its 35th anniversary by combining the usual rides and lessons with aerobatic demonstrations, fly-bys, a barbecue, live music and dancing. (Remember to show your Mile-High Club membership card to enjoy special promotions and discounts.)
Since Arizona has a large Mexican community, an abundance of Mexican restaurants and many occasions where you might be around a mariachi, we thought it would be only right for us to provide our readers with the following list -- to fit every mood:
If You Want to Break Up With Your Ex -- "Volver, Volver"
Sample lyric: "Return, return, return to arms again. I will arrive where you are; I know how to return. Return, return, return."
If You're Looking for a Mexican Version of "My Way" -- "El Rey"
Sample lyric: "With money or without money -- I always do what I want. My word is the law."
If Your Lover Is Out Loving Someone Else -- "Paloma Negra"
Sample lyric: "I am tired of waiting for you, and the morning is not here. I don't know whether to call down evil or cry for you -- black dove, where are you?"
If You're Broke but in Love -- "No Tengo Dinero"
Sample lyric: "I don't have money, and nothing to give. All I have is love."
Or If You Just Want to Hear the Best Feel-Good Mexican Song -- "La Negra"
Sample lyric: The words make no sense. But every mariachi plays it, and the crowds love it!
In the pest-control biz since the 1960s, Nedra and husband Al decided two years ago to share their global assortment of insects, arachnids and reptiles -- all pinned, caged and encased in exhibits named for Nedra's granddaughters.
Not drawn to a building full of black widows, snakes, termites, tarantulas and Happy the downhearted iguana? Say a quick prayer to Gratus of Aosta (patron saint for the fear of insects, duh) and face your phobias. Thanks to Nedra's knowledge and charm, the whole ordeal somehow avoids The Silence of the Lambs creepiness and becomes a pleasant educational experience. After all, this is the home of a turtle that nods hello and a scorpion about to birth 25 babies. How could it not be a place of joy?
One caveat this fall, though. As with much of Arizona, the drought has taken its toll on the plant life, so this autumn likely will be a replay of last year, when severe heat and dry conditions muted the colors.
As for the details: Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for children 5 to 12. Children under 5 are free. The Arboretum is open every day of the year except Christmas from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is just about a half-hour east of Apache Junction on Highway 60.