Carolina: Cruising Past 70: 3 TOP PHOENIX LANDMARKS THAT WILL CAPTIVATE YOU

Thursday, June 21, 2018

3 TOP PHOENIX LANDMARKS THAT WILL CAPTIVATE YOU


The day after Bill’s daughter and granddaughter left, my friend from the Philippines, June came to visit me. She arrived in the early afternoon. It was her birthday so we immediately took her to a posh dinner hosted in her honor by her former classmate at the UP College of Medicine in Manila and now a successful pediatric cardiologist in Phoenix, Dr. Ernie Alboliras.

Wrigley’s Mansion

Ernie treated us to a classy night at the Wrigley Mansion in Phoenix, Arizona, a landmark building constructed between 1929 and 1931 by chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. It sits atop a 100-foot knoll with views of greater southern Phoenix. In July 1992, Geordie Hormel bought the mansion and, due to zoning regulations, made it available for private functions as a private club.   

It was built in a mix of styles, including Spanish Colonial, at a cost of $1.2 million. With 24 rooms and 12 bathrooms in over 16,000 square feet, it is the smallest of the Wrigley houses used for only a few weeks a year. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, it has been designated as a Phoenix Point of Pride. Unfortunately, in 1932 shortly after its completion, Wrigley died. 

We have celebrated Christmas or New Year’s Eve at the upscale Arizona Biltmore (also owned by Wrigley) and the high-end Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Hotel. But we should have chosen the Wrigley Mansion, too. It has the unbeatable trio of location, food and service par excellence plus glorious history to boot.  We were captivated by the experience especially after we sat with the glorious Phoenix sunset from the picture window at Table 101.

Musical Instrument Museum

June had said that she wanted to see museums and nature. So the following day, we took her first to one of the Top 20 museums in America and the top Phoenix attraction, the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM). Luckily, Sunny, a colleague from the UP Alumni Association-Arizona Chapter which we had founded, is the Museum Writer/Editor. With her 50% discount, we only had to pay $10 per person. Even without it, the Museum is worth every penny.

The MIM was opened in April 2010. It is the largest museum of its type in the world with a collection of over 15,000 musical instruments. There are examples from every inhabited continent and almost 200 countries. Former Chairman/CEO of Target Robert Ulrich and his friend Marc Felix were inspired when they visited the Instrument Museum in Brussels. They were then guided by the Musee de la Musique in Paris during its construction. The three hours we reserved for the tour was woefully inadequate. MIM is huge at 200,000 sqft in two well-lit floors built at a cost of $250 million.

The Lower Galleries include The Artist Gallery which features world-renowned musicians and music innovators such as John Lennon and Elvis Presley; the Experience Gallery where guests can touch, play, and hear different instruments; the Mechanical Music Gallery with musical instruments that “play themselves;” the Target Gallery for special exhibitions (closed when we went); and the Conservation Lab. A CafĂ©, a Museum store, and a concert hall, the Music Theater, complete the floor.

The Upper Level is composed of Geographical Galleries that focus on five major world regions: Africa and the Middle East, Asia and Oceania, Europe, Latin America, and United States/Canada. Larger countries like the United States, Mexico, India, China, and Brazil have multiple displays with subsections for ethnic, folk, and tribal music. But the Philippine collection was disappointingly small.

MIM is a unique musical experience. Exhibits are accompanied by flat screen high-res videos. We listened to the performances by great artists and local musicians through a wireless guidePORT and headphones that are activated automatically when you are near the exhibit. MIM, alive with the sound of music, captivated us. The entrance sign, “Music is the language of the soul,”didn’t disappoint.

Tortilla Flat

For the nature part, we took June for a drive to the Superstition Mountain area. Just like Bill’s family, she also got brief visits to the Superstition Mountain Museum, the Elvis Chapel, and the Goldfield Ghost Town. But we reached only up to where Dolly Steamboat was docked on Canyon Lake. We did not go to Tortilla Flat, just ten minutes more of driving farther into the mountain, at the far end of the lake. We took June there and she got a lot of desert scenery, like the yellow mountains I love!

Tortilla Flat is a small unincorporated town on the last surviving stagecoach stop along the Apache Trail. It is the smallest community, with a population of 6, that has a U.S. Post Office and a voter's precinct. Once a camping ground for gold prospectors, the town later became a freight camp for the construction of the Theodore Roosevelt Dam. A 1942 flood pushed many residents away. In 1998, an Indiana farmer bought the town and today, there are a small store and a restaurant serving great Southwest cuisine. Many hiking trails of the Superstition Mountain area start there.

This little place oozed with the West: the hanging man, the saddle bar stools, the old jukebox, and the food! There was even a good selection of ice cream at the store so we had the desert’s great dessert. $1 bills covered every single inch of the walls and June signed and stuck one of hers to the littlest empty spot she could find. But the best experience was saved for the last. All those we met advised us to not miss the restrooms when we told them we were going to Tortilla Flat. Let me tell you that, If you weren’t captivated by the end of your meal, this one surely will.

June was enthralled by these three landmarks. She also loved the pace we followed: a stark contrast to the time Bill’s family was with us. For an accomplished member of the Committee on Torture of the UN High Commission on Human Rights, a practicing psychiatrist, and a speaker/teacher, she had been on a two-month trip and welcomed the change in pace.  We just went to one place a day and lounged around the rest of the day, playing a bit of tennis, or moving a little at the Fitness Center. In fact, she was so captivated by the resort lifestyle and inquired about how to buy a place in Viewpoint.

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