Category Archives: Things to Do

See Amazing Lego Creations This Summer at the Heard Museum

Courtesy of the Heard Museum

Courtesy of the Heard Museum

Legos have been a popular children’s toy for generations, but in recent years, they’ve also become an art form. The Heard Museum in Phoenix is celebrating that transformation with Build!, an interactive exhibit that’s on display at the Heard through September 28.

We asked Caesar Chaves, the Heard’s creative director, a few questions about the project.

Q: What is Lego brick art, and how did the project come to be?
A: Our director, James Pepper Henry, took the helm at the Heard about a year ago and suggested we do an exhibit using Lego bricks. Lego bricks are so versatile and accessible. Some people have created amazing artwork. We wanted to bring that art form to the public’s attention, and we wanted to include works by American Indian artists, some of whom were creating Lego-brick art for the first time. And, of course, the Lego-brick activity areas make the exhibit even more fun.

Q: How did you find Native American Lego-brick artists, and what did they contribute to the exhibit?
A: Our exhibit designer, Yuki Corello, recommended building a Lego-brick mosaic based on Marlowe Katoney’s Angry Birds textile. She also suggested Autumn Dawn Gomez, who makes these fabulous crowns out of hama beads. Jaclyn Roessel, our director of education, suggested we work with Lalo Cota for the mural. Our curator, Diana Pardue, suggested commissioning a coyote-themed painting by Steven Yazzie and asking him to make a Lego-brick coyote to go with the painting.

Courtesy of the Heard Museum

Courtesy of the Heard Museum

Q: Talk to me about how these pieces were commissioned — for example, Action Comics No. 1 or Bicycle Triumphs Traffic?
A: Action Comics No. 1 was borrowed from a Colorado father-daughter team, and Bicycle Triumphs Traffic was borrowed from nationally known Lego-brick artist Sean Kenney. We also borrowed a Lego-brick motorcycle, Captain America, by another nationally known Lego-brick artist, Nathan Sawaya, from Mesa Arts Center.

Q: Some of these exhibits are huge. How long did it take to piece together these mosaics?
A: Angry Birds took a lot of prep. The design and mapping led to the brick order that was placed with the Lego factory overseas. Then sorting was performed by staff, with coordination by Arizona Lego builder Dave Shaddix. However, it took only three hours, with more than 60 staff and volunteers, to put the actual mosaic together.

Q: Tell me more about Cota’s contribution.
A: Lalo Cota is a well-known mural painter. Since transportation was one of the exhibit themes and we had planned a wonderful Lego-brick car activity for the gallery, we wanted to connect thematically to Central Avenue’s past history of Saturday-night car cruising. So we asked Lalo to paint a mural that included a car, and we also asked him to plan a design in Lego bricks that would fill the side of a car. He did an incredible job.

Q: How many Lego pieces were used to create these pieces?
A: The Angry Birds mosaic has 57,344 Lego bricks, plus the 56 base plates, for a grand total of 57,400. In Bicycle Triumphs Traffic, 37,000 Lego bricks were used for the bicycle and about 75,000 for the cars.

Q: This exhibit is very kid-friendly. What can families expect?
A: There are some really fun activities for kids and the whole family. One of the most popular activities is the racetrack. Kids can make their own Lego-brick cars and race those made by friends or parents. They can also have their picture taken in the full-scale Lego-brick car. Another activity that draws a lot of people is the stop-motion video. You can make a Lego-brick person, animal, fantasy figure, whatever is appealing, and move them to make a short video.

Also, the Heard’s Courtyard Café has developed a menu for kids to accompany the exhibit. Families can come, spend time in the exhibit, take a lunch break and then go back to the exhibit for more fun. If you become a member of the museum, you can keep coming back all summer. It’s a nice, entertaining break from the heat and fun for the entire family.

For information on Build! and other upcoming events at the Heard Museum, visit

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Grand Canyon National Park Hosting 24th Annual Star Party

Don Lawrence | Grand Canyon

Don Lawrence | Grand Canyon

Our friends at the Grand Canyon, along with amateur astronomers from across the country, will provide free telescope viewing at the park June 21-28. If you haven’t done this yet, add it to your bucket list. Get the scoop below:

Grand Canyon, AZ – The 24th annual Grand Canyon Star Party will be held from Saturday, June 21, through Saturday, June 28, 2014, on the South and North Rims of Grand Canyon National Park. This event is sponsored by the National Park Service, the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association (South Rim), and the Saguaro Astronomy Club of Phoenix (North Rim), with funding from Grand Canyon Association. Amateur astronomers from across the country will volunteer their expertise. Free slide programs will be offered and numerous telescopes will be set up to view planets, double stars and star clusters, nebulae and distant galaxies by night, as well as the sun by day. National parks such as Grand Canyon are protective harbors for some of the last remaining dark skies in this country. Weather permitting, expect spectacular views of the universe!

On the South Rim, events include a slide show nightly at 8:00 p.m. in the theater of the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, followed by free telescope viewing behind the building.  Green-laser Constellation Tours will be offered at 9:00, 9:30 & 10:00 pm.  Parking is available in Lots 1 through 4 (use Lot 4 if accessibility is an issue), or arrive by the free Village Route shuttle bus, which runs until 11:00 p.m. To guarantee a seat at the slide show, arrive early; doors open at 7:40 pm. Telescope viewing is best after 9:00 pm and continues well into the night; visitors may arrive anytime after dark. A flashlight is recommended for the walk to the viewing area, but white lights are not permitted on the Telescope Lot.  Give your eyes time to dark-adapt, or use a red flashlight, easily made by covering any flashlight with red cellophane, nail polish, or permanent marker.

On the North Rim, telescopes will be set up on the porch of the Grand Canyon Lodge every evening. Check the Visitor Center and park bulletin boards for additional daytime and evening events.

Nighttime temperatures on both rims can be quite cool, even in summer. Those attending the star party are encouraged to bring warm layers of clothing. When traveling in the park on the South Rim, it is best to find a parking space and use the free shuttle bus system to access points of interest in the Grand Canyon Village area. See the park newspaper The Guide for tour bus routes and schedules. If you plan to stay overnight at Grand Canyon National Park, plan your visit well in advance. Browse our official website at, or download the “2014 Trip Planner” at

For additional information on the Grand Canyon Star Party see or contact Marker Marshall at (928) 638-7830.  For questions about visiting Grand Canyon National Park, visit the park web site or call (928) 638-7888. Images from the 2013 Grand Canyon Star Party (South Rim) are available at:


Filed under Loco for Local, Things to Do

Grand Canyon’s North Rim to Open for the 2014 Summer Season

Don Lawrence | North Rim, GC

Don Lawrence | North Rim, GC

Summer is (almost) here, and the Grand Canyon’s North Rim will officially be open for business tomorrow. Check it out:

The Arizona Department of Transportation will open Highway 67 to the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park on Thursday, May 15 by 8:00 am; and Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim, a Forever Resorts property, and Grand Canyon Trail Rides will commence their 2014 seasonal operations.

Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim operations include lodging, groceries, camper services, food services and a service station. All concessioner facilities will open at 10:00 am with the exception of the dining room which will open at 11:30 am for lunch. Lodge check-in will begin at 4:00 pm.

All services provided by the National Park Service, including the Visitor Center, Backcountry Information Center, and campground, as well as the Grand Canyon Association bookstore will be available on May 15th at 8:00 am. Visitors should be aware that the North Rim Entrance Station and campground no longer accept cash and only accept credit cards for entrance and camping fees. The first scheduled ranger program, Grand Canyon Geology, will be on the back porch of the Grand Canyon Lodge at 3:00 pm. The first evening program will be on May 15, at 8:00 pm in the Lodge auditorium. All ranger programs are listed in “The Guide” (North Rim: 2014 Season), a free publication distributed at the North Entrance Station, the North Rim Visitor Center, other contact stations in the park and online

The last day for most concessioner services will be October 15, 2014. The National Park Service will continue its operations including the North Rim Visitor Center and Bookstore, as well as the Backcountry Information Center through October 31. The last regularly scheduled ranger-led programs will be October 15, 2014. From November 1 through December 1 the North Rim will be open for day use (no overnight parking) unless snow closes Highway 67 prior to that date. From November 1 through December 1 pay-at-the-pump gas and diesel will be the only service available. Visitors will continue to have access to front country access points such as Point Imperial and Bright Angel viewpoints and the North Kaibab Trailhead (overnight parking allowed with a backcountry permit). Remote backcountry access points such as Widforss Trailhead, Point Sublime and North Bass will be accessible weather permitting and with a valid permit. Access to Cape Royal and Cape Final will be restricted. The North Rim campground will be closed to car camping but a few sites remain available to backcountry travelers with a valid backcountry permit. Contact the Backcountry Information Center for more information and to inquire about last minute permits available at Pipe Spring National Monument located in Fredonia, Arizona.

The North Rim lies at the southern end of the Kaibab Plateau at approximately 8,500 feet in elevation, and offers spectacular canyon views. It is approximately a 215-mile drive from the South Rim. Points of interest include Point Imperial, Cape Royal, Point Sublime, North Kaibab Trail, and Bright Angel Point.

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History at Your Fingertips at the Arizona Capitol Museum

Courtesy of the Arizona Capitol Museum

Courtesy of the Arizona Capitol Museum

If you haven’t yet made a trip to the Arizona Capitol Museum, you should — and soon. First, it’s free. Second, the museum specializes in teaching Arizona government and civics, using, per their website, “a balance of technology, hands-on activities, historical artifacts and public programs to help visitors learn about and interact with the government of the 48th state.” Third, a new exhibit at the museum, “Arizona Takes Shape,” will show visitors just how Arizona came to be, and it includes a cool interactive component called “History at Your Fingertips.”

Below, Jason Czerwinski, the museum’s on-site experience manager, talks about this exhibit:

Talk to us about “History at Your Fingertips.” What is it exactly, and what can visitors expect?
“History at Your Fingertips” is actually a smaller component (or an exhibit within an exhibit, if you will) of the Arizona Capitol Museum’s newest exhibit, “Arizona Takes Shape,” which covers the changes in Arizona’s government as well as physical boundaries in the pre-statehood era. It is a rich display, featuring a timeline of pre-statehood Arizona, marked by key events and how they coincided with national history. In addition to the “Fingertips” kiosk, we also have the very flag carried up San Juan Hill by Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders (as made by the Woman’s Relief Corps of Phoenix), and a pair of military sabers, one used in the Apache Wars, and another presented to Governor Alexander Brodie by the people of the Territory of Arizona.

The emphasis of the whole exhibit is on the evolution of our state (and pre-state) using examples such as assignment of boundaries by the federal government, appointment of Territorial oversight by the Fed, annexation of land through purchase and conquest, and the documentation of these events in newspapers and other media.

How did this exhibit come to be?
Many factors came together at the right time to make this exhibit possible.  After several delays, our exhibit production team was finally able to dedicate the time needed to research and assemble all the data needed to illustrate the complex journey we took to joining the Union. Fabricating the displays that illustrate their research took months of develop, working with our colleagues in the state archives, the Arizona Memory Project, as well as the team behind the Digital Newspaper Program.

Probably the most long-awaited element we wanted to complete was a new case for the Rough Rider flag, which up to now had to be completely covered to retard light damage for part of each year. The new case is a much more practical solution featuring UV-blocking glass and a movable and adjustable base. In all, it is a very handsome custom display for this one-of-a-kind artifact.

The AZCM’s mission, to “connect people to their government — past and present,” needed “Arizona Takes Shape” to thoroughly show how our state came to be, both for its historic importance, but also as a teaching tool to explain the fundamentals of a citizen-driven democracy.

How long did it take to scan hard copies of newspapers and microfilms?
The scanning program is actually ongoing, and new pages are constantly being added. The Arizona Digital Newspaper Program has been working for almost five years at this point.

What has the response been from the public?
Amazing! We had over 100 people at our grand opening this past Saturday. The opening reception, featuring Arizona Historical Society director Dr. John Langellier, the Territorial Brass Band and Rough Riders re-enactors, was as popular as the exhibit itself, and we have people coming in every day to see the display. Teachers and students, many of whom have visited in previous years, are struck by how much more thorough and immersive the two revamped rooms are.

Are there any specific events in Arizona’s history that may not be common knowledge, and that can be found here?
Oh my, “Arizona Takes Shape” is such a thorough exhibit, there is so much information that I doubt anyone would know all of it before coming in. Serendipitously, “History at Your Fingertips” features an informative quiz about some of the Territorial governors—I didn’t know all the answers, but it is a delight to play through. What might be most informative about the new exhibit though is its timeline, which overlays the history of Arizona over national history to show the relation and overlap of key events of both.

What makes this exhibit different from other exhibits at the museum?
Aside from having the most thorough timeline of any of our exhibits, “Arizona Take Shape” explicitly covers our years before statehood (including time as part of Mexico). It is also a physically immersive exhibit where the historical elements (the Rough Rider flag, scabbards), digital technology and interactive pieces are spread across the footpath — rather than some pieces set behind barricades.
You have another exhibit in the works called “Your Vote, Your Voice.” Tell us about that.
“Your Vote, Your Voice”  will be an exhibit and meeting place to talk about and showcase current and upcoming electoral events, such as campaigns for elected offices and constitutional amendments. Our goal is for this to be a continually updating space with news about the election process and how every citizen can be a participant in it.  Plans are still in development, but we expect to feature streaming election news, an easily accessible candidate map, text of all proposed amendments and a history of voting access for the state.

For more information about the Arizona Capitol Museum, call 602-926-3620 or visit or

—Kathy Ritchie


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Weekend (Kids) Getaway: Mount Lemmon

Ray Minnick | Mount Lemmon

Ray Minnick | Mount Lemmon

The drive up Mount Lemmon has a lot to offer — spectacular views of the Tucson area, varied plant and animal communities, and cool weather just about any time of year. What it doesn’t offer is much comfort to those who are prone to getting carsick around winding, curving mountain roads, which is why my wife kept her eyes closed for most of the 30-mile drive from Tucson to Summerhaven.

But my 4-year-old son, Wes, loved it — which was good, since the whole trip was his idea. For quite a while, he’s been obsessed with roads and maps, and he recently found Tucson on a map and asked whether we could go there someday. He also expressed an interest in visiting Crater Lake in Oregon; I told him the Beaver State might have to wait, but we could knock out the “Old Pueblo” right away.

We drove down from Phoenix on an overcast Friday morning. After checking out Diamondback Bridge — true to its name, it’s a bridge that looks like a diamondback rattlesnake — we headed down Tanque Verde Road, then up Catalina Highway (also known as General Hitchcock Highway and Sky Island Scenic Byway).

A forest of saguaros marks the early part of the drive. Wes has a love-hate relationship with saguaros, by which I mean he loves them as long as he’s not anywhere near them. The safety of the car was enough for him to put aside his anxiety and enjoy the scenery, which changed from desert vegetation to ponderosa pines, then other evergreens and aspens, as we climbed higher.

What makes the drive ideal for young children is that there are plenty of places to stop along the way. We stopped at Windy Point Vista, which offers an incredible view of Tucson, but other viewpoints feature hiking trails, interpretive signs or views of the other side of the Santa Catalina Mountains.

In Summerhaven, near the summit of Mount Lemmon, we ate lunch at the Sawmill Run Restaurant, which has a kids menu. The town also provides a teachable moment for children old enough to understand the importance of preventing forest fires: Much of Summerhaven burned in the Aspen Fire of 2003, and the fire’s effects are still visible throughout town.

After a quick exploration of Summerhaven, we headed back down the mountain, then back to Phoenix, having crossed one destination off my son’s list. Wes now wants to visit Payson, another relatively easy drive for us … but if he ever notices Kayenta on his map of Arizona, we might have to do a little more planning.

— Noah Austin, Associate Editor


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Help Save Kolb Studio

5172_Kolb_Posters-RIVER-12x18-HIGH RESKolb Studio needs your help. Perched on the edge of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, the 109-year-old building is in need of some serious repair. Earlier this year, the Grand Canyon Association launched a fundraising campaign to save this historic site. Over the years, countless visitors and extreme weather have taken a toll on the structure. The association hopes to raise $400,000 by the end of the year (they’ve raised $273,752 to date) to replace the entryway; repair and replace structural beams, wooden porches, and log and shingle siding; and remedy other issues. The goal is to restore the structural integrity so visitors can continue to learn about the Kolb brothers and the Grand Canyon.

Below, director of communications and publishing Miriam Robbins talks about the Save Kolb Studio campaign and why your help is desperately needed.

Talk to us about the Save Kolb Studio campaign. How did it come to be?
The Grand Canyon Association is Grand Canyon National Park’s official nonprofit partner. In additional to running seven bookstores at the park and several programs for the public like the Grand Canyon Field Institute, we raise funds to help with specific park projects every year. Kolb Studio is more than 100 years old and was built literally on the edge of the rim of Grand Canyon. Grand Canyon Association are stewards to this building, and we run one of our stores out the building and ensure that the historic integrity of the building is intact. While Kolb has undergone some restoration over time, the hard weather conditions at Grand Canyon and the age of this historic building require that we provide some maintenance to the building so that it’s structurally sound and maintained for future visitor use.

Why is this campaign so important? What’s going on?
Right now, Kolb Studio is open to the public as a retail store for Grand Canyon Association; we also run an exhibit hall there (currently showing The Amazing Kolb Brothers). There is also a large area of the building that is only open for special tours. This area was the main residence of the Kolb family for decades. If the building is not restored at this time, we may not be able to allow public visitation to this building.  It is a valuable historic site, and its preservation ensures people can learn about the early pioneers, the Kolb brothers, for many generations to come.

5172_Kolb_Posters-STUDIO-12x18-LOW RES
Who were the Kolb brothers and what did they do?
Ellsworth and Emery Kolb ventured to Grand Canyon National Park in the early 19-teens of last century. They were entrepreneurial and started a photography business to capture tourist photos at Grand Canyon. They originally got a small piece of land on the rim from early pioneer John Cameron before Grand Canyon was a national park. In fact, at that time, the popular Bright Angel Trail was a toll road, charging a fee of $1 to enter. Kolb Studio started out in a tent, then a small, one-room house that they built up over time.  The brother’s photography business flourished, and they took many photos of people coming down Bright Angel Trail — especially on mules. In the early years, they did not have water at the rim, so one brother would hike 4 miles down to Indian Garden, where there were springs, to develop the photos and then hike back up to deliver the prints to the tourists. The Kolbs were also known as daredevils and would hike into the Canyon to capture images that no one else could reach by hanging off cliffs and rocks. They also made a movie of their harrowing trip down the Colorado River, which was shown all over the country and at Kolb Studio until the 1970s. This video encouraged people from all over the world to visit the Grand Canyon. Over time, Ellsworth and Emery parted ways, but Emery stayed and continued showing the movie while raising a family at Kolb Studio. After Emery’s death, the Park Service took ownership of the building, and it was refurbished and turned into a store and interpretive facility in the 1990s by the Grand Canyon Association.

What role does Kolb Studio play at the Grand Canyon today?
Grand Canyon Association park stores sell products relating to Grand Canyon. In addition to the 44 books published by the Grand Canyon Association, we also sell other gift and educational items, including junior-ranger materials, jewelry, T-shirts and water bottles. Our mission is to educate the public about Grand Canyon National Park, so all our products help people understand the Grand Canyon. Purchases are tax free, and all proceeds help support Grand Canyon National Park. Kolb Studio also has long-term exhibits that rotate out every few years — The Amazing Kolb Brothers is currently showing, and it talks about the history and lives of the Kolb brothers and the building; and every September through January, there is an exhibit and sale of the Plein Air paintings for the Grand Canyon Celebration of Art event. During the winter months, Grand Canyon rangers hold daily tours of the Kolb Studio residence, which is normally closed to the public.

How can our readers help Save Kolb?
Share the website and learn more about the Kolb brothers, their history and the importance of this historic building. You can also make a donation. If you make a donation of $75 or more, you’ll receive a Kolb poster. There are four posters to choose from, each showing a depiction of one of the Kolbs’ photos.  They are custom designed 12×18 posters (not framed).  You can also share your photos and stories on the Grand Canyon Association Facebook page.

—Kathy Ritchie

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