BEST RIDE OFF INTO THE SUNSET 2006 | T-Bone Steakhouse Ride | Arts & Entertainment | Phoenix
Usually, asking your companion to "go bareback" on a date would warrant a slap in the face, but not this time. Ponderosa Stables offers a unique trail ride that includes a hearty meal at the T-Bone Steakhouse. Riders depart from the stables with a guide and take an hourlong ride down the mountain at sunset. It's a quiet journey no cars or city sounds, just the chirping of crickets and coyotes howling under a hazy purple sky brushed with hints of crimson and ginger. Even when there are other riders, it's easy to slow down a moment and steal a kiss under the stars. After the downhill trek, hitch your pony to the post and enjoy a moist top sirloin, or, if the ride's made you exceptionally hungry, the massive 32-ounce porterhouse. Be forewarned: Inexperienced riders may end up with a raw hide by the end of the date. Then again, if you're lucky, maybe your date will let you kiss it and make it better.
A traditional Japanese garden that can survive the Land of the Blazing Sun? Believe it. Heck, they even managed to get moss to grow here, in a shady patch near the authentic tea house. Phoenix might have parched riverbeds, but inside this tranquil downtown oasis, there's a waterfall, a flowing stream, and a huge, koi-filled pond dotted with bright green lily pads. Granted, the water features are all manmade, yet they're also an utterly Japanese take on natural beauty, kind of like the precisely placed rocks (1,500 tons of 'em, all hand-picked by visiting experts from our sister city of Himeji, Japan) and sculptural, exquisitely pruned trees found throughout the garden. And it all suits Mother Nature just fine, from the looks of the ducks contentedly paddling across the water, and the dragonflies busily zipping past thickets of leafy bamboo. Seeing how Ro Ho En is right in the heart of the city (on the southern end of Margaret T. Hance Park), we're still shocked that this secret is so well-kept but not for long, we suspect.
Over the years, we've honored Desert Botanical Garden as the Best Place to Take an Out-of-Towner, but really, we think you should stop by, too. Check out the Web site, and visit the Marshall Pavilion, where butterflies roam twice a year; take a gardening class; or come for a festival (there's a great Day of the Dead one, at the end of October each year). Or simply come on a random weekday, when foot traffic is light and the garden is at its best in full sunlight, showing off colors you never knew existed in nature; not around here, at least.

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