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The McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in McCormick Ranch (Scottsdale, AZ)

The McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in McCormick Ranch (Scottsdale, AZ)

“ALL ABOARD!”

The McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park has been a staple of Scottsdale, AZ since opening to the public in 1975. The 30 acre park sits on land that was donated to the city in 1967 by the Fowler McCormick family. The jewel of the park is the 5/12 (5 inches equals 1 foot) standard Paradise & Pacific Railroad. The train runs year-round, with rides available to visitors every 30 minutes on weekdays, and continuously on weekends during park hours. With assistance from former U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater, the train was actually constructed by the United States Marine Corps as part of a training exercise.

In addition to the fully operational railroad, the park features a variety of additional attractions including a carousel, playground, Western Town play area, authentic railroad exhibits, ramadas for parties/picnics, designated birthday party train cars, stage for evening performances, xeroscape arboretum, railroad museum, eating areas, live steamers (miniature train for small children), model train clubs and more.

The park is not just  a paradise for the kids, however. It is awash in history for the adults. Exhibits include the 1907 built Magma Arizona Railroad Engine No. 6, which hauled copper from Superior to Magma, AZ for 38 years.

The Roald Amundsen Pullman Car was built in 1928, and used for maximum security travel for every president from Herbert Hoover to Dwight Eisenhower. The Baggage Car which currently houses the Railroad Museum was built in 1914 as a sleeping car. It was converted to carry baggage during World War II. The Merci Train was France’s “thank you” to the goodwill of the American public. Following WWII, Americans donated goods and materials to fill 250 railroad cars, which were then delivered to war- ravaged France. France commissioned the Merci Train to return the favor. 49 so-called 40 & 8 boxcars (could hold 40 men or 8 horses) full of French treasures were delivered to America as a gesture of thanks. One of the boxcars is proudly on display.*

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The Railroad Park hosts a series of events over the course of the year including Railfair, a free summer concert series, holiday lights, and more.  Follow the link below for the full calendar of events.

Railroad Park Event Schedule

The park is also getting a facelift as construction is under way for a new home for the model train clubs that operate on its grounds.  Completion is slated for the fall of 2010.

*All McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park facts courtesy of www.therailroadpark.com

Learn more about McCormick Ranch in Scottsdale AZ

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Paul Slaybaugh is a Realtor with Realty Executives in Scottsdale, Arizona. An Arizona native, Paul was raised in McCormick Ranch. He loved riding the Paradise and Pacific Railroad as a child, and he still visits the park every week. Only now he rides with his own little ones.

Scottsdale Arizona Golf Courses

Grayhawk Golf Club (Talon Course)

Scottsdale and Golf go together like peanut butter and jelly.  Like Sam and Dave.  Rest and relaxation.

Listed in the 2006 Robb Report as “America’s Best Place to Live for Golf,” scratch players and weekend duffers alike make the pilgrimage to play Scottsdale’s traditional and target desert courses every year.  Many end up purchasing a second home or moving here altogether for nothing more than the amazing variety and plentiful choices that the Valley provides a golf enthusiast.

Averaging 330 days of sunshine a year, few and far between are the outings that must be cancelled due to inclement weather.  And for those hot summer days?  You can get on some of the very best courses for a fraction of the standard cost.  And while there are private clubs with equity memberships available to residents, the vast majority are public courses.  Of these, The Boulders & Golden Spa Resort was selected as the second best golf resort in the nation for 2005 by Travel & Leisure Golf Magazine.  The Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North was #4.

I’ll also use this opportunity to plug my personal favorite course.  Actually, two.  The Grayhawk Golf Club in North Scottsdale boasts two award winning 18 hole courses (The Raptor and Talon).  Grayhawk is not only challenging and gorgeous, but features a learning center headed up by PGA Tour commentators Peter Costis and Gary McCord.  Until he moved from the Valley a few years ago, Grayhawk was the home club to Phil Mickelson as well.  I actually worked here for one summer upon graduating from college and mistakenly chased Phil off of the practice range one week prior to the Masters.  Ask me and I just might tell you about it while we are out looking at property.

Grayhawk Golf Course

Of course, I would also be remiss not to mention the TPC of Scottsdale at The Scottsdale Princess where the FBR Open (formerly The Phoenix Open) is held annually.  Renowned for the infamous 16th hole, which is without a doubt the rowdiest hole on the entire PGA tour, the FBR is a place for all of the beautiful people to see and be seen.

With 174 public courses in the area and growing, if Scottsdale is not the epicenter of golf in the United States, it is a strong contender.  In addition to being a great place to play, it is a great place to learn.  In fact, Golf Magazine listed 11 Scottsdale-based instructors in its top 100 in the nation for 2001.

So whether your game is up to par, or you need a little help to iron out that slice and putting technique, there is no better place for a golf lover than Scottsdale!

McCormick Ranch Golf Club

McCormick Ranch Golf Club

Orangetree Golf Resort

Orangetree Golf Resort

Sanctuary at McDowell Mountain Ranch

Sanctuary at McDowell Mountain Ranch

The Phoenix Mountain Preserve

The Phoenix Mountain Preserve

As part of my continuing series of things to do in and around Scottsdale, Phoenix and Paradise Valley, Arizona, today’s edition is devoted to the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.

As the Valley has been beset by rapid expansion and development, political forces have been at odds over the preservation of our native land.  Victories for conservationists have produced a series of preserved mountain areas within the greater Phoenix metropolitan area.  Encompassing approximately 23,500 acres (non-continuous) in total, and open to the public for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding, the preserves offer an amazing opportunity to experience raw Arizona without leaving the confines of the city.

Phoenix Mountain Preserve

There are seven primary mountain preserve areas in Phoenix:  Lookout Mountain, Shadow Mountain, North Mountain/Shaw Butte, Stoney Mountain, Stoney Mountain South, Piestewa Peak (formerly Squaw Peak) and South Mountain.

This past Sunday, I took the family to the Piestewa Peak preserve area.  Instead of accessing the preserve from the South where there is a direct route up the peak, we decided to stomp around the open area to the North.  Not quite ready for mountain climbing, the boys were much better suited to scampering along the relatively flat trails.  On this day, the desert was surprisingly green and vibrant with undergrowth.  With sunshine on our faces and just the slightest nip in the air, it could not have been a better morning for communing with mother nature.

Piestewa Peak Preserve Area, Phoenix AZ

Look, there goes a group of middle-aged mountain bikers.  Up ahead is a gaggle of high school girls chattering away about nothing and everything.  To my left is a couple with three exceedingly happy Labrador Retrievers.  In the distance to the right, I can even see the silhouette of a man on horseback.

Yet, despite the traffic, I do not feel imposed upon.  The preserve so open and expansive, the mountain vistas so spectacular, that it never feels crowded.  Quite the contrary, we trade genuine smiles with each person we encounter.  Eager for the chance to express feelings of contentment with fellow revelers.  Every eye sparkles.

While fruitlessly trying to teach my toddler to identify a “mountain” and “cactus,” I can only laugh as he instead opts to inspect every single rock at his feet.  Trust me when I say that is a lot of rocks.

Jack in the Mountain Preserves Brandi & Wyatt - Phoenix Mountain Preserve

An hour later, tired but refreshed, we found our way back to the parking area.  The paved parking lot which I should note was not paved the last time I utilized this point of entry.  In fact there were no restrooms when I was here last either.  What does this tell me?  That it has been far too long.

Paul & Jack - Phoenix Mountain Preserve

When you need to step away from the rat race, don’t forget this haven is only minutes away.

For access to this part of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, go West on Shea Boulevard from Tatum.  Follow 40th Street South from Shea until it terminates in the public parking area.  Leave your worries with your car, and enjoy an enchanting day in the mountains.

Leaving it all behind in the Phoenix Mountains

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