Social distancing doesn’t have to limit your Labor Day weekend options in the time of COVID-19.
You can stay close to home and meet new species of animals, glide across a lake on a kayak and go see a movie at a drive-in. More ambitious travelers who live in the West can take a road trip: Find the perfect spot for stargazing in northern Arizona or visit a mountain town straight out of the Swiss Alps over toward New Mexico.
Here are 10 things you can do outdoors in Phoenix and around Arizona for Labor Day weekend 2020, curated by The Arizona Republic, which is part of the USA TODAY Network.
Meet the new animals at Wildlife World Zoo
Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium and Safari Park in Litchfield Park welcomed several new species, including the endangered pygmy hippo, while it was closed for five months due to COVID-19. Recent newcomers also include clouded leopard pups, young colobus and spider monkeys, and a baby capybara. Some attractions remain closed, but you can still ride the Sky Ride, African Tram and Safari Train. The petting zoo, stingray touch tank and giraffe feeding station will also be open.
Details: 602-321-5478, wildlifeworld.com.
More: Wildlife World Zoo is reopening for Labor Day weekend. Here’s what’s newhow to see the new animals
Swim at Patagonia Lake State Park
There’s no doubt that Arizonans will take advantage of the holiday weekend to cool off at lakes and rivers across the state. Nearly 80 miles south of Tucson, Patagonia Lake State Park is a popular destination where you can hike, camp, fish, boat and bird watch. The lake has separate areas for swimming and boating.
If you decide to go, arrive early. The park is limiting admission to help promote distancing and it has reached capacity as early as 9 a.m. on some busy weekend days. Mask use is required in ranger stations, restrooms and other buildings, as well as whenever you cannot maintain social distance.
Details: 520-287-6965, azstateparks.com/patagonia-lake.
More: You can swim in these Arizona lakes and creeks
Hike in Sedona
Arizona outdoors expert and Arizona Republic contributor Roger Naylor makes the following recommendations for Sedona hiking trails that are extra lovely in summer:
- Secret Slickrock Trail.
- North Urban Trail System – West.
- Munds Wagon Trail.
Sedona’s landscape undergoes a magical transformation during the monsoon — just make sure to get off the trail and head back to your car if there’s thunder or lightning. And of course bring plenty of water, snacks and sun protection. Here’s Naylor’s advice for how to get to these trails and insight into what you’ll see there.
Rent a kayak
Whether you want to stay close to home or take off camping for the weekend, kayak rentals across Arizona offer the option to choose your own water adventure. Some options include traversing Tempe Town Lake, seeing Horseshoe Bend from a new vantage point and discovering hidden coves among the granite boulders at Watson Lake. Here’s our guide to where you can rent kayaks in Arizona.
Drive through Bearizona
Grizzlies, wolves and bison — oh my! You can drive a 3-mile route through Bearizona, a 158-acre wildlife park in Williams, or stroll through Fort Bearizona to see baby animals and some of the park’s smaller species. Among the newest additions are three grizzly cubs, who can also be spotted on the Bearizona website’s cub cam. To allow for social distancing, shows, bus tours and the petting zoo have been temporarily suspended.
Details: 928-635-2289, bearizona.com.
Take a scenic skyride at Arizona Snowbowl
The Grand Canyon Express chairlift at the Arizona Snowbowl Resort in Flagstaff. (Photo: Arizona Snowbowl)
Soar 10,000 feet above Flagstaff on the Grand Canyon Express lift and keep an eye out for Sedona’s red rocks or — on a clear day — the Grand Canyon. Among the coronavirus safety precautions being implemented are required mask use and purchasing tickets online.
Details: 928-779-1951, snowbowl.ski.
You don’t need a high-powered telescope to see the Milky Way, but you should try to escape the city lights. Some of the state’s prime viewing spots can be found around Flagstaff, an International Dark Sky City — about 20 minutes outside the city should be sufficient. And the higher the elevation, the better your view will be. Here’s our guide to Arizona’s best stargazing spots and tips on identifying planets.
Visit a cool mountain town
If you head toward the Arizona-New Mexico state line, you’ll find the tiny community of Alpine. Within a 30-mile radius, you’ll also find 200 miles of trout streams and 11 lakes. Some of the best birding is along the Rudd Creek Loop Trail; make sure to keep your ears open for wolf howls. There’s also the Devil’s Highway, now officially known as the Coronado Trail National Scenic Byway, which is said to be the curviest and least traveled federal highway in the U.S. Here’s our guide to the wildlife, campgrounds and fishing spots around Alpine.
Watch a movie at the drive-in
Indoor movie theaters have reopened, but drive-ins across Phoenix are still going strong. You can see new releases “Tenet” and “The New Mutants” or watch throwback favorites such as “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” and “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” at West Wind Glendale 9 Drive-In. Here’s what else is playing this weekend.
Experience Biosphere 2 at night
Tired of quarantining? Head to a facility that once quarantined eight people for two years. Biosphere 2, a 3-acre scientific research center about 110 miles southeast of Phoenix in Oracle, is open for night-time self-guided driving tours. Biosphere 2’s seven model ecosystems are used for ecological and environmental study.
Details: 520-621-4800, biosphere2.org.
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