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Summer's a great time to explore something new. If you live in the area, or are just passing through, check out one of these favorite family-friendly destinations for an unforgettable day. Whether it's studying marine life or the old wild west, or screaming down a roller-coaster, here are five top destinations for family fun:
Cannon Beach, Portland OR
Take time to explore the West Coast's great outdoors. Just 80 miles west of Portland, Cannon Beach offers 9 miles of accessible – and beautiful – beachfront, which is perfect for kite-flying, castle-building, and beachcombing. One of the more famous images of the Oregon coast comes from Haystack Rock, near downtown Cannon Beach. It's over 230 feet tall, making it the third-tallest "sea stack" on earth. During low tide, you can walk all the way out to Haystack Rock and investigate the interesting sea life in the tidal pools around it. Cannon Beach also has a "downtown" area with fun craft shops, art galleries, cafes and restaurants where visitors can watch saltwater taffy being stretched, and buy beach toys. Be sure to stop on the way to take in the world's tallest Sitka spruce tree (216 feet high, 52 feet in circumference), located just off Highway 26.
The Apache Trail, Phoenix AZ
This is one of Phoenix's oldest, best, and most popular attractions. The Apache Trail, or AZ 88 as it is officially known, links Apache Junction at the edge of the Greater Phoenix area with Globe via Theodore Roosevelt Lake, through the Superstition Mountains and the Tonto National Forest. It offers courageous drivers 40 miles of steep, winding and mostly unpaved roads. Why all the hype? The Trail provides one of the most scenic drives in the Phoenix area and offers visitors incredible views of canyons, geologic formations, desert plants and trees, lake views, and wildflowers in season.
Stephanie Heckathorne, Media Relations Manager for the Greater Phoenix Visitors and Convention Bureau, says "A great driving tour down the Apache Trail is a fun-filled family getaway. It sounds a little kitschy, and it is, but the kids I see go along that trail and just love it. Kids can mine for gold, and eat prickly-pear ice cream."
Along the trail Goldfield, a resurrected ghost town that is now loaded with charm, offers a taste of history with its Museum and a chance to witness an old west gun fight. Other attractions include an underground mine tour, a full size narrow gauge railroad, panning for real gold, a live reptile exhibit, carriage rides, jeep tours, horseback riding and unique shopping.
Tortilla Flats, with its population of 6, is an authentic remnant of an old west town and provides another interesting stop along the trail, as well as a chance to enjoy a cold beer atop real saddle barstools in the Superstition Saloon.
The Superstition Mountain Museum, which collects, preserves and displays the artifacts, history and folklore of the Superstition Mountains, Apache Junction and the surrounding region, also provides an interesting stop along the way.