OdySea, Butterfly Wonderland, and Wildlife World Zoo in Phoenix, AZ


Gosh, the summer is going by fast, and I can't believe a month later, I'm still posting about our trip to Arizona...Still, it was an amazing trip, and definitely a little more newsworthy than summer camp and our other low-key events at home.

After visiting the Grand Canyon, Page, Flagstaff, and Sedona, AZ, we headed over to Good Year (near Phoenix) to visit my cousin Vincent and his wife Jamie.  It's hard to believe that eight years ago, they took the plunge and moved out West without knowing a soul.  They're both librarians (he works for a state library, and she works as the library director for a high school), and they met while taking online classes together for their masters in library science.  From the moment they started dating, we couldn't believe how much they had in common--both loving books, video games, board games, Star Trek, the Blue Man Group, and evidently, the desert.  They're both enamored with their life in AZ, which means we can always count on visiting them when we're out here, but we won't see them moving back to the East Coast anytime soon!

During our last weekend in Arizona, we met up with them, and they generously offered to be our tour guides.  Phoenix was experiencing record breaking heat, around 110 degrees, but it didn't stop us from visiting Old Town Scottsdale or even going to the zoo.

After having breakfast at the Daily Dose restaurant, (yes, I did try their s'mores pancakes), they showed us around Scottsdale, and then we headed to Butterfly Wonderland.  Lewie knew a little about butterflies, having watched their growth stages in his kindergarten and first grade classes, but we never took him to a butterfly place.  Boy was he in for a surprise! He loved the 3-D movie and then didn't want to leave when it came time to to enter the butterfly pavilion.  Not only did we learn that this butterfly pavilion is the largest in the U.S., but it's also home to 3,000 butterflies from all around the world!  Lewie desperately wanted one to land on him.  A few came close, but at age eight, this boy, I think, is still a little too fidgety.  One landed on me but only for a mere second.  It flew off the minute I showed my excitement, which was right away!

Lewie took to my cousin right away.  Kids love his sense of humor!

My cousin tricking Lewie into thinking a butterfly really landed on his head!

The moment a butterfly almost landed on Lewie.

My favorite blue butterfly from afar.  I could never get to see one close and personal.

After Butterfly Wonderland, I went to the OdySea Aquarium while my two boys decided to go on a desert ATV (TomCar) tour.  (There will be more about this adventure in my next post.)  This was time for me to spend alone with Vincent and Jamie, and while the aquarium was certainly a wonder to see (sea), I have to admit that the real charm was getting to play "catch up" with family.  Highlights of the Aquarium were watching the three-toed sloth and "petting" the stingrays.  I had no idea how much they enjoy the attention!

Classic Vincent!

So creepy!  I don't think I can swim in the ocean again!
The next day we braved the hot Arizona sun, and went to the Wildlife World Zoo near Phoenix.  The parking lot was EMPTY, which means not many people visit the zoo in this kind of heat, but Vincent and Jamie promised us they knew the zoo and ways we could keep out of the sun while still enjoying the animals.  They were right, but we still had to avoid heat exhaustion.  Every 15 minutes, we were buying cold drinks or slushies to keep ourselves normal.  Even the poor outside animals looked at us as if to say, "Man, if you think I'm going to perform or do cartwheels for you in this heat, you're crazy!"  The animals in the air-conditioned inside exhibits, on the other hand, were full of life!  No crowds meant we had the chance to watch them all to ourselves.

I didn't notice the boys were showing off their bellies in this picture...

Lewie loved playing with this monkey.

Feeding the giraffes...

Lewie requested to sit with "Uncle Vincent" on the train, of course.

The safari train...

I couldn't believe the size of these ostrich eggs!

We spent the rest of our time visiting Vincent and Jamie's home; the boys had a chance to play video games, and I played a few unique card games with Jamie.  The visit, as always, was way too short, but at least we had a lot of memories to take home with us.

Ponderosa Pines and the Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Arizona


While in Flagstaff, AZ, we spent our days enjoying the Little America Flagstaff resort.  Little Lewie and I took a four mile hike through the Ponderosa Pine Forest behind the hotel, and all of us enjoyed some R&R by their outdoor pool.  Of course, Lewie rounded up all of us to play a game of three-way tag in the pool.  On some days, we had children from other families ask if they could join in the fun. (My husband is a child magnet--wherever he goes, children are drawn to his fun personality!)

On our last night at Little America Flagstaff, Lewie fell asleep after saying, "Mommy, this hotel has everything anyone could ever want."  It was so heartfelt and genuine.  We really did enjoy our four-day stay at the hotel--the Ponderosa Pines surrounding the place made it feel magestic!

I caught Lewie touching one of the many rocks on display at the hotel.  Okay, maybe Mommy touched it too...  

Our little hike into the Ponderosa Pine Forest behind the hotel.

I loved this pool surrounded by tall Ponderosa Pines.  It was so peaceful!

The hotel playground.  We made sure to go on the swings.

Playing some water "tag."

The very next day, we decided to travel AZ (Route) 89A from Flagstaff to Sedona.  The goal was to stop and have lunch at this restaurant I looked up at the Enchantment Resort in Sedona.  (If there's an "enchanted" place, I want to be there!)

I thought 89A would be like any old highway, but we soon learned that it was one of the most incredibly scenic (and dangerous) drives, we'd ever taken.  In this area, the highway passes through Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona.  Soon 75 mph and 65 mph signs change to 25 mph signs as the highway begins to descend down the canyon and take many windy hairpin turns.  There were lots of scenic overlooks, so pedestrians could be found crossing the street during some of these blind turns. To his dismay, I kept reminding my husband to keep the speed down, so we didn't hit a pedestrian or drive off a cliff!  As much as I wanted to enjoy this spectacular drive, my fear of heights kept me sitting in the passenger seat white knuckled for most of the journey. Since Flagstaff has an elevation of 6,900 feet and Sedona is 4,300, we descended 2,600 feet into the canyon still looking down at another 4,000 to the bottom floor.  My heart was beating fast!

When we finally made it to the Enchantment Resort, my legs were still wobbly from the drive we just took.  It was nice to get out onto solid ground and enjoy the views without having to look over a ledge!  The restaurant we ate lunch at, Che ah Chi, allowed us to dine outside while having a delicious, healthy, organic meal.  (The lunch prices were reasonable too!)  The restaurant (and the views) certainly lived up to its reputation.  Big Lew and Little Lewie had to drag me out of the resort as I couldn't stop taking pictures.  It was certainly one of the most beautiful places I'd ever seen!

Welcome to Sedona!

The view from our lunch spot...

I couldn't stop taking pictures of this resort.  It was so beautiful and trendy too!

Before long, we were back onto the highway heading South to Scottsdale, AZ.  There were no more descending hairpin turns, but we did have the joy of watching the vegetation change from tall Ponderosa Pine Trees, to scrub trees, and then over to cacti.  "Can you believe in just a few hours, we went from seeing pine trees to cacti?" I asked Little Lewie.  He was amazed to see the interesting Saguaro Cacti that was now part of this desert (and not forest) landscape.

At this moment, our trip was only 3/4 complete.  We still had one more resort and three more places to see.  One of those places was Good Year, AZ (yup, named after the tires), so we could visit my eldest cousin and his wife who moved out there over 8 years ago.  Yes, there was still more to see and do!