This historic mining town in the heart of the Sonoran Desert is experiencing a different type of boom—this time, it’s in the form of a budding art scene and new restaurants and shops taking over historic buildings. It’s worth planning your weekend trip around the second Friday of each month, when the town comes together to enjoy art, music, and food while many downtown businesses stay open late.
This story was created in partnership with Superior, Arizona.
Situated just below 3,000 feet, Superior doesn’t experience summer temperatures as hot as Phoenix, but it does reach triple digits. If you’re planning any outdoor activities during the summer, be sure to start early and be done before the heat of the day, or wait until evening. Always carry plenty of water and salty snacks on your outdoor activities. Fall, winter, and spring are much milder, with warm days and cool nights.
Motels and camping are available, but if you’re looking for something more unique look no further than the Tiny House or the Casita Azule Bed and Breakfast. For historic charm, the Hotel Magma is located in a carefully renovated 1912 boarding house right on Main Street.
Day 1: Take a Tour
Start the day by exploring Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Arizona’s largest and oldest botanical garden. Over five miles of trails cover the 343-acre garden, which boasts over 19,000 desert plants from around the globe. Ongoing workshops and walks offer more insight into the flora and fauna of the desert, with topics ranging from birding to geology.
Next, head back into town to explore the shops and take a self-guided mural tour. A great way to experience the budding art scene is to try to find all 27 murals painted on downtown buildings while making stops in art galleries along the way. La Paloma Art Gallery, Kay Gallery, and Rolling Rock Gallery all feature local artists, and the shops and boutiques are great places to find other local wares. If you’ve planned your stay around the second Friday of the month, the galleries and other local businesses stay open late. It’s also worth visiting for Second Friday for Music in the Park, a free concert series that takes place at Besich Park.
Day 2: Take a Ride
Make a morning stop at the Farm-to-Fantastic Farmer’s Market, which takes place every Saturday morning throughout the year. Stock up on farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, locally-sourced foods, and delicious baked goods before heading into the desert.
Miles of rugged dirt roads surround Superior, and there’s no better way to explore them than by Jeep. Aside from the stunning desert vistas you’ll see along the way, you can pay homage to the region’s mining past by visiting remote historic sites. Some of the highlights include the ruins of the Pinal City townsite and the Silver King Mine, which were abandoned in the late 1800s.
Back in town, cap off the day with a wine tasting at the Bruzzi Vineyard Tasting Room. The Sonoran Desert may not seem like a hospitable environment for wine grapes, yet here you’ll find excellent wines made from grapes grown just 80 miles away. For dinner and drinks, make a stop at the Superior Barmacy, which is housed in (you guessed it), an old pharmacy.
Day 3: Take a Hike
Today, explore the desert by foot, starting out with a hearty diner breakfast from Miners on Main. There’s no shortage of hiking trails near town, with many options suited to whatever sort of adventure you’re after. If you’re visiting during the cooler months, it’s worth taking on the strenuous hike to the top of Picketpost Mountain. This 4.4 mile (round trip) hike offers panoramic views and is on many locals’ bucket list. If you’re visiting during the warmer months or a steep slog to the top of Picketpost isn’t your idea of fun, head for the shady riparian trail through Queen Creek Canyon. This trail is part of the Legends of Superior (LOST) trail system, and can be connected to other trails leading back into town for a longer hike. No matter which hike you did, you’ve earned a trip to Felicia’s Ice Cream at the end of the day.