By Melora Hathaway, Tempe Tourism staff
I recently had the opportunity to plan a fun day trip from Tempe with my kids. I instantly thought I wanted to go north to escape the summer heat and head towards the mountains. With the kids in mind, I knew the Out of Africa Wildlife Park would be a perfect destination to fit the bill.
But first things first, we needed to start our day right and that clearly meant we needed a yummy breakfast to fuel our drive to Camp Verde. We chose Daily Jam on Mill Avenue to satisfy everyone’s requirements, a specialty omelet and cappuccino for me, fruit smoothies and French toast for the kiddos. We all resisted the counter of fresh baked goods; however, in retrospect, I would recommend you order a couple of treats to go and have a tasty snack handy for later in the day.
Once fortified with food, we hopped in the car to begin our drive up I-17 towards Camp Verde. The drive is notable for the more than a mile of altitude it gains between Tempe and Flagstaff. This route boasts several scenic view exits along the way that overlook the many mountains and valleys in northern Arizona. We took advantage of the Sunset Point rest area to stretch our legs and admire the view. Even for a longtime resident of Arizona, it is still a pleasant surprise to be surrounded by mountains while in a desert state.
Within 90 minutes of leaving Tempe we arrived in Camp Verde and, only three miles further off the highway, to the Out of Africa Wildlife Park. Akin to a real African Bush Safari, the park provides an opportunity to see hundreds of wild animals in a preserve type setting where an emphasis is placed on interacting with the animals while they roam about freely as they do in the wild. There are several activities you can participate in while at the park. We opted to catch the Tiger Splash and Giant Snake shows, participate in the Predator Feed and African Bush Safari and capped off the day with a Zip Line Tour over the park. They suggest you spend 4-5 hours in the park to take in all the shows, activities and have time to visit the numerous habitats spread over the 104 acre park. It definitely can be a full day of activity, so it’s best to wear comfortable walking shoes, bring water, and be prepared to get a little dusty.
Returning back to Tempe didn’t seem right without a stop at the Rock Springs Café in Black Canyon City, which is a quick 30 minutes from the park and an easy exit off the highway. Known for their assortment of homemade pies, we were on a mission to beat the crowds that line up daily for a home cooked meal and award-winning pies. There is a take away counter if the wait is too long, or you can peruse homemade goods and local specialties in the little farmer’s market type shop next door. We were only interested in pie and had a take me away moment while lost in the chocolate cream.
Continuing back to town, we watched the landscape change from mountains and valleys to once again being peppered with saguaro cactus and city lights. We opted to have a lighter dinner once we reached Tempe, as pie was still weighing heavy in our bellies. We headed to Original Chop Shop for a healthy and fresh dinner set in a cute little house. Sitting al fresco while the kids played chess on a life size board was the perfect way to wind down the day and reflect on the memories made. As well as start the wheels turning for our next outing…
You can follow our road trip on Google Maps to see which route we took and how long it took us to get to and from each destination.