5 Mind-Blowing Places Under 2 Hours From Phoenix

Biosphere 2

Sometimes it’s just nice to get out of town for the day, right? We handpicked five offbeat, mind-expanding options that are under a 2 hour drive from Phoenix that are worth checking out this summer.

Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch
Located just about halfway between Phoenix and Tempe on Interstate 10, the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch is a classic bit of roadside Americana. This family-owned farm is full of ostriches, goats, miniature donkeys, and even a few stingrays, this “petting zoo on steroids” lets you get up close and personal with all sorts of creatures. On the weekends you can get really unhinged and go for a tour of the ranch on a monster truck, with a back row notorious for “Ostrich Fishin’.”

Head just over an hour north on I-17 to find Arcosanti, an experimental community founded in the 1970s around the tenet of Arcology, a combination of architecture and ecology, which seeks to prioritize sustainability and reject manmade sprawl. Their guided tours are the best way to get to know the community, with multiple options available, including ones focused on the community’s architecture, their commitment to sustainability, and a deep-dive historical exploration of Arcosant’s archives. They’re open daily, year round, and often have special events like guest speakers and workshops, and have in the past hosted the boutique music festival FORM Arcosanti, which we’re hoping will make a post-COVID return in the coming years.

Jerome, AZ
Once home to the largest copper mine in Arizona, Jerome is now a weirdo tourist spot paying tribute to its past notoriety as the “wickedest town in the West.” This former ghost town has plenty of eccentric attractions beyond your typical tourist traps, like Jerome’s sliding jail, an old-timey jailhouse that broke off from a larger structure and for several years slid unimpeded down the side of a steep hill and the decaying Abandoned Jerome Post Office, a photogenically decrepit structure on the outskirts of town.

Biosphere 2
A self-sustaining enclosed environment, Biosphere 2 was built as a successor to the original self-sufficient Biosphere (Earth) and was home to a few ill-fated experiments in the 1990s. The massive structure was originally built as a closed loop environment to test the viability of self-sustaining communities for future space exploration, housing all sorts of man-made versions of our planet’s elements, including deserts, rain forests, and even a small “ocean” complete with coral reef. The most infamous experiment, the subject of the 2020 documentary Spaceship Earth, was in 1991, when eight crew members were sealed into the structure for a two year long period, which unfortunately resulted in a lot of dead plants and animals and bunch of psychologically damaged scientists. More recently Biosphere is owned and maintained by the University of Arizona, who keep it open to the public for tours, which thankfully last under 2 hours instead of 2 years.

Valley of the Moon
A self-described “enchanted historic fairyland,” think of Valley of the Moon as a more fantastical Renaissance Faire, with fewer turkey legs and nobody getting day drunk on goblets of Meade. This offbeat Tucson hidden gem is an extremely family-friendly attraction, with live theatrical performances, and “fantasy adventures,” you and your whole family can get fully transported to another, more lighthearted world.

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