If you’ve lived in Arizona for a while, you know that we have our fair share of offbeat things to do – and you can’t get far into the desert without uncovering some really cool petroglyphs, ancient ruins and interesting attractions.
But there are handfuls of hidden gems right here in Metro Phoenix. If you haven’t checked them out yet, now is the time to get off the beaten path and explore.
3 Totally Offbeat Things to Do in Metro Phoenix
- You Who Are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies Exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum
- Mystery Castle
- Tovrea Castle
You Who Are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies Exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum
This is something you have to see to believe. Designed by Japanese avant-garde artist Yayoi Kusama, You Who Are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies is a temporary exhibit in the third-floor Katz Wing of the Phoenix Art Museum. It’ll only be there through June 2019, which means you have a limited time to experience it.
And experience is putting it mildly.
The dark room, lined with mirrors on every surface and outfitted with strands of looping LED lighting is small, but it feels like you’re standing in the center of an infinite galaxy. The idea: To explore the “psychedelic sensations of the ‘self'” by delving into the artist’s own hallucinations.
Get more information and tickets here: http://www.phxart.org/exhibition/yayoi-kusama
Mystery castle is neither a mystery nor a castle, but it’s an adventure. Built by Boyce Luther Gulley over a span of 15 years, the “castle” is only open during winter months, and then only Thursdays through Sundays. It’s on the Arizona Historic Register and has won the Pride of Phoenix Award. Sadly, its former owner (Gulley’s daughter), passed away in 2010; she used to live in the home, and a staff of volunteers has worked tirelessly to preserve it.
What makes Mystery Castle so interesting is the story behind it.
Gulley disappeared in the 1930s without a word – not to his wife or to his daughter, who was a toddler at the time. He didn’t want to let his family know that he was suffering from tuburculosis, but he heard that the air in Arizona would help his condition. Nobody knows why he began building the castle, which he constructed from cement, stone, car parts and salvaged rail tracks, but in 1945, a lawyer approached Gulley’s wife and daughter. This was the first they’d heard of him since his disappearance – they didn’t even know he was in Arizona or that he was building a massive home. Gulley left the space to his family, so the pair traveled out here and moved in.
The castle is filled with quirky oddities and tons of antiques. Some parts don’t have power, and none of it has conditioned air.
If you’re touring Mystery Castle, be aware that they only accept cash – and you should call to make sure they’re open before you go.
You can get more information on Mystery Castle here: http://www.mymysterycastle.com/
Tucked away on a knoll in Phoenix’s Airport Gateway District, Tovrea Castle looks like a giant, tiered wedding cake in the desert. Built by an Italian immigrant – Alessio Carraro – and his son between 1928 and 1930, Tovrea Castle was supposed to be a luxury hotel catering to the rich and famous.
It didn’t quite turn out that way.
The hotel never opened, thanks to the Great Depression and probably the unwelcome smells from the nearby Tovrea stockyards, so Carraro sold it to the stockyard owner, Edward Ambrose Tovrea. Tovrea turned it into a private residence, but lived there only a year before he passed away. He left the massive home to his widow, who lived there until she passed away in 1969. As the city built up, the castle remained – and today, the city of Phoenix owns it. Tours are only held on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from September to May, and in June, only twilight tours are available. The building is closed during July and August.
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