By MICHAEL ANDERSON
Pima Community College’s spring break is March 17-23, which means we’ll all soon be jetting off to Cancun, Honolulu or some other resort destination.
What? You’re not going to Hawaii or Mexico? Neither am I.
I can’t afford to go anywhere exotic, and I’m not alone. What I can do is offer ideas for spring break outings that won’t leave you broke. Some are free and some cost a bit of money, but they’re all good deals.
I’ve also suggested a movie for each destination, either to provide a little context or just to get you in the mood.
Is there anybody out there?
Close to home and yet out-of-this-world, the planetarium and observatory at the University of Arizona’s Flandrau Science Center has something for aspiring astronomers of all ages.
The observatory is generally open Thursday-Saturday from 7-10 p.m. It is staffed entirely by volunteers, so call ahead to confirm they’ll be open. Visitors can experience the 16-inch telescope (weather permitting) and ask questions about the night sky.
The observatory is free to visit, though donations are appreciated.
The center also offers traditional planetarium shows, ranging from “Legends of the Night Sky” to “Touring the Planets.” Laser shows are mostly “Family Friendly Music Shows” or Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” and “Dark Side of the Moon.”
Tickets for the planetarium and laser show cost $5.
Details: flandrau.org or 621-7827.
Movie suggestions: “Contact” (1997). If you’re feeling ambitious, a double feature of “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) and its underrated sequel “2010” (1984).
Mosey through the Boneyard
Back on Earth, Tucson is home to the largest aircraft storage facility in the world. Officially known as the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, most people know it simply as the Boneyard.
The 309th AMARG is home to several thousand aircraft from all military branches. Most are waiting to be scrapped, cannibalized for parts or to eventually be re-fitted and returned to active duty.
Bus tours are available Monday-Friday for $7 through the Pima Air and Space Museum, 6000 E. Valencia Road. A tour requires government-issued identification. The museum itself is a very cool place, too, but a little pricier at $12.25 for Pima county residents.
There’s nothing quite like the Boneyard anywhere else in the world, and the tour is a surreal trip through the history of NATO “Cold War” aviation.
Details: pimaair.org or 574-0462.
Movie suggestion: “Can’t Buy Me Love” (1987). Oddly enough, the Boneyard is an important theme in this excellent teen comedy, which also features Tucson High School.
Take me out to the ballgame
Arizona has been synonymous with spring baseball for almost 100 years. Recently, most spring training stadiums have become overcrowded and shockingly expensive. (I’m looking at you, Scottsdale Stadium.)
One exception is Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix, spring home of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Unlike the Giants and Dodgers, the Brewers don’t have hordes of fans. That means tickets are reasonably priced and not impossible to get. Lawn seating is $8 and some reserved seats cost $13. Maryvale Park, located at 3600 N. 51st Ave., hosts four games during PCC’s break.
If you want baseball without the drive north, the Pima Aztecs play at West Campus on March 15 and 18. The softball team plays at home on March 20 and 22.
Movie suggestions: “Major League” (1989). Spring training scenes were shot at Hi-Corbett Field. Or try “Bad News Bears” (1976). Rent the original only; accept no substitutes.
What do you want on your Tombstone?
The most famous gunfight in American history took place just 70 miles from Tucson, at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone. As one of the last boomtowns of the Old West, Tombstone has a colorful history of miners, gamblers, prostitutes and gunfighters.
The downtown has been relatively well preserved. It is well worth a visit for those interested in local or western history.
The best attraction is the O.K. Corral itself, which is now a museum. It’s located at 326 E. Allen St. and is open daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. It features a re-enactment of the 1881 shootout between the Earps and the McLaury-Clanton crew every day at 2 p.m.
Most historians agree the gunfight actually occurred a few doors down the street, but the O.K. Corral is a must-visit attraction nonetheless. Tickets for the museum and re-enactment cost $10. Get them early because the show will probably sell out.
The most authentic site in Tombstone is probably the Bird Cage Theatre. It was a one-stop-shop for miners and gamblers, functioning as a theater, saloon, gambling hall and brothel.
It’s not as cool as the O.K. Corral and it costs $10, but check it out if you need the full Tombstone experience. It has a dark and violent past, and is undeniably spooky.
On your way out of town, stop by Boot Hill Graveyard, the final resting place for victims of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Many headstones have humorous inscriptions reflecting gallows humor.
It is a free and fitting way to end a trip to the “Town Too Tough to Die.”
Movie suggestion: “Tombstone” (1993). Kurt Russell is great as the legendary Wyatt Earp.
Put down ‘Angry Birds’ and go see some real ones
Madera Canyon, east of Green Valley off Interstate-19, is a bird-watching paradise. It contains beautiful hiking trails and hosts at least 200 species of birds as a waypoint on migration routes.
The canyon is open daily from 6 a.m.-10 p.m. and is a wonderful place for a picnic. Parking costs $5.
If birds aren’t your thing, you can hike or picnic on Mount Lemmon, watch a sunset at Gates Pass, ramble through Sabino Canyon or check out Saguaro National Park.
Tucson is virtually surrounded by cool places to experience nature. Go out and find your favorite.
Details: friendsofmaderacanyon.org or 281-2296
Movie suggestion: “Winged Migration” (2001). An excellent if slightly slow documentary on the worldwide migration habits of birds. Not a fan of documentaries? Have a dark sense of humor? Check out Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” (1963) and then go bird watching.
Go to prison
Many people have heard of the Yuma Territorial Prison, but how many have actually been there? Yuma is four hours from Tucson, so a visit should be part of an overnighter or a pit stop on the way to California.
The prison was one of the most notorious in the Southwest, housing Arizona’s worst criminals from 1876-1909. It was built on a bluff overlooking the Colorado River and much of it is well preserved.
It has a fascinating museum and original cellblocks that give you a sense of how horrible it must have been to do time there and how daunting the prospect of escape would have seemed.
The museum costs $6 and is open daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. There is also a hiking trail that runs along the river.
Details: azstateparks.com/parks/yute/index.html or visityuma.com
Movie suggestion: What else? “3:10 to Yuma” (2007). An entertaining western action film starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale.
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