Arizona Stops on the Way

Desert Haven at Salt River

Find dozens of ways to learn, play and eat in this sovereign community near Scottsdale.

Located on the eastern border of Scottsdale, Ariz., you’d never guess you’re in a city. This 52,600-acre sovereign community, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and its Talking Stick Entertainment District, is an oasis.

Get out and enjoy the Arizona sunshine by visiting the site the community is most proud of—the USS Arizona Memorial Gardens at Salt River. These five-acre gardens surround a real piece of the USS Arizona’s boat-house to help visitors remember and learn about the attack on Pearl Harbor. The length and width of the ship is outlined by 1,200 columns signifying the number of U.S. service members on the ship on Dec. 7, 1941. At dusk, 1,077 of the columns illuminate honoring those who died that day. Each year on the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, the Salt River Community performs a Breathing Ceremony sending honor to the four cardinal directions and remembering the fallen. More than 45,000 Native Americans served in the U.S. Armed Forces during WWII.

At sunset as the USS Arizona Memorial Gardens light up at Salt River
At sunset as the USS Arizona Memorial Gardens light up at Salt River (Photo: Courtesy of Discover Salt River)

Then check out the community’s amazing outdoor and indoor art scene with a self-guided art walk. Stop by the Visitor Center at 9120 E Talking Stick Wy., Ste. E-10, to pick up a brochure with a map and information on the artists and then take a stroll. You’ll see Jefferey Fulwilder’s stunning iron sculptures depicting wild horses, birds in flight and basket dancers as well as sculptures, murals, pottery, paintings, photographs and baskets all done by artists in the community.

Wild horse sculpture by Jefferey Fulwilder on the Salt River Art Walk
Wild horse sculpture by Jefferey Fulwilder (Photo: Courtesy of Discover Salt River)

Tourism manager Blessing McAnlis-Vasquez’s favorite piece of art? You’ll have to head to the Talking Stick Resort, which houses the largest Native American art collection outside of a museum in North America. There, you’ll find the talking stick itself.

“It’s a modern nod to the calendar stick,” says McAnlis-Vasquez. “When an important event happens in our community like visitors coming, a drought or a flood, the holder carves an icon in the stick to represent the event.”

The talking stick and its three identical copies are still being actively carved today. These three on display go back 40-plus years.

Cultural Center exhibits at the Talking Stick Resort at Salt River
Cultural Center exhibits at the Talking Stick Resort (Photo: Courtesy of Discover Salt River)

Still want to learn more about the Salt River Pima and Maricopa people who live in and manage the community? Stop by the Huhugam Ki Museum and see how their culture shapes the world around you from art to traditional structures.

Baskets and pottery at the Huhugam Ki Museum at Salt River
Baskets and pottery at the Huhugam Ki Museum at Salt River (: Courtesy of Discover Salt River)

After you’ve absorbed enough history for the day, check into Great Wolf Lodge. Kids of all ages will get a kick out of the indoor water park along with mini-golf, an arcade and eight on-site restaurants. Or, head to the Maverick Entertainment Center for laser tag, bowling and more.

If you’re looking for a memorable dinner experience, head to Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament. This immersive dinner theater features knights on horseback fighting their way to win the queen’s championship.

The queen acknowledges the winner at the Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament at Salt River
The queen acknowledges the winner at the Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament (Photo: Courtesy of Discover Salt River)

For a more upscale dining experience, you’ll want to stop into the Talking Stick Resort’s restaurant, Tash (pronounced thosh), which means “sun” or “day” in Pima. You’ll get incredible views of the west side of the community while dining on Mediterranean and tapas dishes. Don’t forget to check out the fantastic cocktail menu.


Learn more at www.discoversaltriver.com.