A chill has most definitely been in the air. While it’s been a pain to cover outdoor plants, defrost windshields and keep flip-flop accustomed feet cocooned deep inside warm socks, we’ll no doubt be wishing for this kind of weather again soon, when steering wheels burn our hands and 6 a.m. walks require a hydration pack and a sweat towel. Here are five ways to make the most of the wintry weather before it’s gone.
There’s no better way to be out in the cold yet not suffer too much from it than sitting around a campfire, and there are three worthwhile blazes this weekend:
>> Friday Night Franks is a campfire cookout in the desert where you can play horseshoes and corn hole, take a wagon ride, tap your toes to live music, and roast weiners and s’mores over the flames. Information: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays through Memorial Day. Friday Night Franks, 14803 N. Hiawatha Hood Road, Fort McDowell. Free admission; $2-$4 for food and drink items. (480) 816-6465 or fortmcdowelladventures.com.
>> Local act the Stephanie Eason Band will give two concerts at San Tan Flat, the rustic family friendly saloon known for its dirt courtyard, while you kick back and roast marshmallows around your own cozy firepit. Information: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. San Tan Flat, 6185 W. Hunt Highway, Queen Creek. (480) 882-2995 or santanflat.com.)
>> New Mexico cowboy poet Longtree Austin will entertain with poetry and prose at a campfire in the shadow of the Goldfield Mountains northeast of Mesa. Bring marshmallows and a poem to share. Information: 7 p.m. Saturday. Usery Mountain Regional Park, 3939 N. Usery Pass Road, Mesa. $6 per vehicle. (480) 984-0032 or maricopa.gov/parks/usery.
Of course you can head to Polar Ice in Gilbert and Chandler or to Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe anytime, but an outdoor ice skating rink in the Valley is a fleeting thing. The NRG Ice Rink is open just two more weekends at Patriots Square Park; it features real ice and room for about 100 skaters, smack dab in the middle of the most urban setting Arizona can manage — downtown Phoenix. A flat fee gets you on the ice for as long as you’d like and includes skate rental. Information: Open noon to 11 p.m. Friday through Sunday, and 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, through Jan. 15. CityScape Downtown Phoenix/Patriots Square Park, 1 W. Washington St. $10 per person. (602) 772-3909 or cityscapephoenix.com/icerink.
Bundle up and bring your camera for a night of shooting pictures in the chilly hills and canyons at the base of Picketpost Mountain, the 4,375-foot mass rising above the Boyce Thompson Arboretum east of the Valley on U.S. 60. Phoenix Camera Club field trip coordinator Pete Rendek will lead an indoor workshop on how to capture landscapes at night, followed by a session of shooting in the field from sunset through full darkness. Bring your camera and tripod. Information: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday. Boyce Thompson Arboretum, 37615 U.S. Highway 60, Superior. $37.50; you must call to prepay and register. (520) 689-2723 or arboretum.ag.arizona.edu.
Amateur astronomer Bill Dellinges is back for his 14th year of astronomy lectures at Lost Dutchman State Park, a rugged parcel of more than 300 acres in the Superstition Mountains that gets really, really dark once the sun goes down. The 45-minute informal talks delve into the nature of stars and planets, star lore and interesting facts about the night sky. You’ll also get a tour of the night’s constellations, and a small telescope will be available before and after the session for a closer look at planets, star clusters or nebulae. Information: 7:30 p.m. Friday. Lost Dutchman State Park, 6109 N. Apache Trail, Apache Junction. $7 per vehicle park entry fee. (480) 982-4485 or azstateparks.com. (FYI: If stars aren’t your thing, Ron Feldman, author of “History of the Superstition Mountains,” will share stories around the campfire on Jan. 15, and there’s a guided full-moon hike followed by a campfire marshmallow roast on Jan. 17.)
This weekend is your last chance don a scarf and wander through Phoenix Zoo at night, taking in the millions of lights that won’t be rolled out again until after Thanksgiving 2011 — something you’re sure to miss when you’re sweating in line at the admission gate at 7:30 a.m. in July. In addition to the light sculptures, there’s a Polar Slide that’s the closest you can get in the Valley to tubing on real snow. Information: Open 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday. $10-$12 per person. Phoenix Zoo, 455 N. Galvin Parkway. (602) 914-4333 or phoenixzoo.org.
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