Who books a weekend escape in an Arizona retirement community? Smart people, that’s who – Los Angeles Times
South-central Arizona is rugged and wild, with a rich history that includes soaring Sky Island mountain ranges and Spanish missions. Itâ€™s also home to Green Valley. Who books a weekend getaway in a retirement community 30 miles south of fun and festive Tucson? Smart people with a penchant for bright, clear skies and a craving for a wide range of things to see and do, thatâ€™s who.
The tab: $255 a night, including taxes, fees and breakfast buffet; $15-$25 a person for lunch, with tip and non-alcoholic beverage; and $9.50 for adults (anyone over 13) for the missile tour.
Green Valley stays are best had the condo-hotel way. A one-bedroom unit at the Wyndham Canoa Ranch Resort (5775 S. Camino del Sol;  382-0450) included a full kitchen and, at 1,200 square feet, plenty of room to spread out. Evenings are well spent on an east-facing veranda, taking in the sunset on the Santa Rita Mountains and the trunk-and-tusk geologic formation known as Elephant Head.
Firefly Restaurant (3001 E. Frontage Road, Amado;  398-3028), a few miles south of Green Valley, is one of the best outdoor dining spaces south of the Tucson foothills. The food is American and reflects our melting-pot democracy: poulet crepes and a gyro platter, grass-fed tenderloin and blue-crab cakes, pierogis and miso salmon. Itâ€™s varied and not at all discordant. If itâ€™s not too hot, sit outside and take in the garden, desert and mountains.
The Titan Missile Museum (1580 W. Duval Mine Road, Sahuarita;  625-7736) is an eerie and enthralling reminder of the Cold War. Thereâ€™s a real, though deactivated, 10-story-tall ballistic missile â€” once topped with the equivalent of 9 million tons of TNT â€” in that concrete tube in the ground. The one-hour tour goes underground and includes the nuke-hardened control room where a four-person crew worked in isolation. Longer, more exploratory tours are offered too.
The lesson learned
Iâ€™m AARP-eligible but refuse to admit to it, certain Iâ€™m still 19 and just in need of some warranty work. Green Valley might be mostly age-restricted enclaves, but itâ€™s no Sun City circa 1976. The takeaway is that Green Valley is attractive for its setting and outdoor bounty: hiking riparian-rich Madera Canyon and the piney slopes of Mt. Wrightson, playing golf â€” San Ignacio and Canoa Ranch are standout canyon-and-cactus plays â€” and bicycling the freeway frontage route to Tubac. As a bonus, as you head south from Tucson through the Santa Cruz River Valley, the weather gets a bit cooler.
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