5 free things: Phoenix more than sun in the desert

Published on NewsOK Modified: November 29, 2012 at 2:41 pm •  Published: November 29, 2012
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RIO SALADO AUDUBON CENTER

Forget about city life just a couple miles (kilometers) south of downtown at this hidden nature center. The Rio Salado Audubon Center is nestled in a 600-acre (242-hectare) preserve along the Salt River. The park is home to at least 200 different species of birds and other wildlife including coyotes and jackrabbits. Take a walk or bicycle ride along the 16 miles (26 kilometers) of riding trails. Indoors, there are interactive and photo displays to peruse. Parents looking to amuse their children can choose from numerous free activities after-school and on weekends. You can also toast Mother Nature at a monthly Birds 'n Beer talk (lecture and snacks are free, beer from a local brewery is offered at a reduced rate). Closed Mondays, http://riosalado.audubon.org/

HISTORIC NEIGHBORHOODS TOUR

In 1996, a coalition of city residents led by Gerry and Marge McCue sought to dispel the myth that downtown Phoenix wasn't safe and had no decent housing. Their grassroots effort culminated in a handy guide to 34 historic neighborhoods. You won't find any cookie-cutter rows on these tree-lined streets. Each one is a showcase of past architectural trends. The styles range from Tudor to American Colonial and craftsman. Make sure any self-guided tour includes a stop at Encanto Park. Home of the Phoenix's first public pool and golf course, the lush 222-acre (90-hectare) park is a historic landmark. Paddle-boat across the lagoon or take the kids on the carousel. With an estimated 80,000 printed over the years, the free maps have become staples in some hotels and antique stores. You can also get a copy by calling the McCues, who say they will leave it on their porch for pick-up. If the couple happens to be home when you retrieve it, you may also get free advice about how to make the most of your visit (602-253-5579).

Frank Lloyd Wright fans should go to east Phoenix to gaze upon the home Wright built for his son at 5212 E. Exeter Blvd., which sparked a recent controversy when it was bought by a developer who announced plans to tear it down. Constructed in the 1950s, the home has a circular spiral layout modeled after the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The property remains in preservation limbo as the city council considers granting it landmark designation, which would delay demolition for up to three years.

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Follow Terry Tang on Twitter: twitter.com/ttangAP