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Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

2021 N. Kinney Road

READERS' PICK: There is nothing worse than listening to that whining weekend mantra, "I'm bored. There's nothing to do." But enough about the relatives visiting from back east. Why not take Gramma and annoying Uncle Pete to the Desert Museum where there are all sorts of poisonous snakes and scorpions? Not to mention the dark cramped crevices of the fiberglass overpass where the body of a middle-aged man could be lost for weeks before anyone figured out that smell wasn't bat guano. They'll enjoy the antics of those lovable vermin, the prairie dogs, always craving more and more attention, like Robin Williams in a gopher suit, while you check out the more recently added coyote and javelina enclosures. Be sure to keep your eyes open for the educational tadpole-to-frog inlay as the path bridges an arroyo. The raptors have been molting most of the summer but in October be sure to call ahead and find out what times the Free Flight Demonstration is taking place. We guarantee it'll get your adrenaline flowing as those bad boys of the air swoop down within inches of your heads to grab a treat from their handlers. And don't forget to buy Pete that mucho macho muchacho cowboy sombrero with the autentico carrion hatband that he's always wanted. He'll be the hit of the entire state of New Hampshire.

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Old Tucson Studios, 201 S. Kinney Road. When Columbia Pictures picked this middle-of-nowhere site back in 1939 to build a set replicating an 1870s town, who could have known it would launch a whole new era in Western filmmaking, not to mention a clean boost to the Tucson economy? Six decades later, Old Tucson Studios bears the dusty footprints of stars for hundreds of films (from John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara to Chevy Chase and Sharon Stone); a famous 1872 steam train, "The Reno"; and a Western theme park that has captivated millions of starry-eyed visitors since 1960. While some of its original adobe brick remains, a devastating fire in 1998 led to its redesign and expansion. This one-time ghost town has cleaned up real nice. In addition to the requisite Wild West stunts and gunplay, Native American storyteller Gerard Tsonakwa brings folkloric stories to life through artwork, tribal dancing and native music. Other seasonal features include a nighttime concert calendar, the Chili Heads' Chili Cook-Off for charity in mid-September, and Tucson's largest annual Halloween haunting, Nightfall. In November, thousands of twinkling lights take over for Winter West Fest, featuring old-time caroling, wagon rides, and shops and costumed players decked out in their holiday best (continues through December 30). Open at 10 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday year round, with extended evening hours for special events.

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