The word that reads, "Go west, young man, go west" should be changed to advise on going far west in Arizona to Lake Havasu City. This area is deservedly known as Arizona's seaside resort. The majestic Colorado River, at this time in its 1400 mile journey, has been subdued to form Lake Havasu with an expansive 25,000 acres. The rapidly expanding Havasu city includes a mainland section plus a man-made island, formed by dredging a stagnant stream and transforming it into an integral part of the lake / river.
We first visited Lake Havasu City in 1999, and to our acquaintance were not overly impressed. Maybe we didn't look harsh. But in 2008, through guided tours and other ways, we saw firsthand what a thriving little metropolis it is.
Lake Havasu City was founded in 1962, as the work of industry and visionary Robert McCulloch (1911-77). The lake itself dates back to the late 1930's when Parker Dam served to control the Colorado River in these parts.
A unique talking point about the city is that it has a bridge brought to the United States, lock stock and stone, from London in 1968-71. When the London authorities decided to auction their sinking London Bridge, McCulloch got the idea to bid on it and revive the original rocks over Lake Havasu. This project cost him about $ 7 million, most of which consisted of stone transport.
Of course, it seemed unique to walk across the reconstructed London Bridge in Arizona. On the city side, under the bridge, there is a waterfront area known as the English Village with the London Bridge Hotel. We enjoyed going and window shopping.
As you might expect, the city's biggest source of revenue is tourism. But with 8 boat manufacturers having a presence nearby, the area is known for its range of boats and boat races as well as annual regattas to showcase their latest products. It rightly owns the Personal Watercraft Capital of the World, and has hosted the annual International Jet Sports Boat Association (IJSBA) World Finals since 1982. From our hotel room balcony, we enjoyed witnessing many of the various watercraft.
There is also fishing, boating, canoeing, kayaking, parasailing, windsurfing, scuba diving and boating. The nice thing is to be able to rent all the equipment you need on an hour, half day or full day. This area is becoming a chosen destination in the Southwest area for water sports.
Country lovers don't have to get bored. There is plenty to do within a significant amount of public coastline, all within city limits. This area includes London Bridge Beach, Rotary Park Beach and Windsor Beach. In addition to miles of public shoreline and beaches, Lake Havasu State Park also has camping and 138 boat pitches. We managed to get training just walking through the parks.
Golfers are not left out as Lake Havasu City has five distinctly different golf courses. They cater to golfers at all different levels of expertise. In addition, they have several courses in the planning phase. Since we are not golfers, we cannot provide first hand experience.
One aspect of the region that impressed us is the commitment of the people and the city to keep activities going all year long for a lively desirable area. Voluntary organizations construct the local parks and keep them up to date with improvements.
During our February visit, we arrived at the winter festival. We saw about 250 booths and 35-50K attendees for a craft, food and related demo along a closed off on Main Street. It was years since we participated in a craft award. As we walked up and down Main, we found that local vendors added a huge color and history to our outing.
In line with this, Winterblast, an annual convention for pyrotechnic manufacturers, was scheduled about a week later. Annually, it gives a view of the latest advances in their field. It culminates with a large, free fireworks display. Winter blast is something everyone looks forward to seeing, Saturday after President's Day. This event was described by several with such enthusiasm we will try to attend next year.
After the festival, we checked into Arizona's only beachfront resort, The Nautical Inn http://www.nauticalinn.com. Its 139 rooms with lake and lake views provide a relaxing atmosphere.
That night we drove a mile to the Island Mall & Brewery and enjoyed an excellent dinner at Shugrue Restaurant & Bar http://www.shugrues.com. We enjoyed human-sized portions of halibut and pork chops, creamed baby spinach and stuffed baked potato, topped with bananas that care for two. Our young servant, son of the chef, talked us into the latter two choices. By checking if we were happy with these innovative new dishes, he did not realize that for us they brought back the memories of the 60's and 70's.
We were lucky the next morning to have Jared Lyman of the Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) http://www.golakehavasu.com give us a tour of the city and surrounding areas. The many parks in the city are easily accessible and well-kept. Jared took us out of town to visit one that Chamber members are expanding and improving. When listening to him describe how long it took his team to install stone gate posts and throw some of the trails made us appreciate going.
We were surprised to hear that according to Dr. Michael Rourke, Life Sciences faculty member at Mohave Community College, "There are over 300 species of (water) birds that either make Lake Havasu their home or use it as a stop in their migratory route." Most arrive late September and travel In the spring, some great places to see include Mesquite Bay, South Dike Road, Bill Williams Refuge, Parker Dam and Aha Khav Preserve, and we were amazed at the number of species we observed.
After a morning of walking, during lunch at Javelina & Mexican Restaurant http://www.javelinacantina.com/, we found that their fajitas were an unusual choice.
We were on our own after lunch and decided on a memorable boat trip around the lake in Dixie Belle. Sailing from the English village dock next to London Bridge, the narrated tour was unique. We have seen all the many lighthouses around the lake.
The closest you can come to experiencing what it was like to be on a steamboat on the Colorado River is with a replicated one (powered by dual-engine off-combustion engines instead of being powered by cottonwood, as they were between 1852 and 1909). At that time, the Colorado River could be sailed nonstop with a mud, barge or paddle wheel.
Dixie Belle, a 68-ton vessel, is 51+ feet long and carries 122 passengers. One of the current captains, Gregg Smith, says Dixie Belle is repeating an old Southern horse wheel. Captain Smith has been piloting this ship since 2005. Taking this trip makes it easy to go back in time.
When dinner came around, we were still happy from lunch. So we chose dessert at Cold Stone. Returning to our room, we enjoyed seeing the lights over the lake.
The next morning we would try breakfast at Makai Cafe. Located under Shugrue, Makai was one of our favorite places. There were many more locals than tourists and it was easy to understand why. We tried the highly acclaimed eggs Benedict and French Toast. Our breakfast was favorable, hot, with good customer service and good coffee. We found it quite soothing while looking out at the lake with a great view of London Bridge.
After breakfast, we drove into town for a tour of the Lake Havasu City Historical Museum. Although quite small, it is well worth the time to spend an hour visiting.
We chose a smoothie lunch downtown. We then returned to The Nautical Inn to meet Robert P. Keller on an afternoon tour focusing on lighthouses. In addition to the London Bridge, Lake Havasu now has 14 lighthouses, modeled on a smaller scale for working lighthouses on both the Great Lakes and the East Coast. They act as navigation markers for those on the lake and attract tourists. Bob is a Lake Havasu City historian and character gene actor who brings life to life. He did a combination tour for us, but we were particularly interested in how the idea of the lighthouses came about. What started as his one-man endeavor is now a club and its members are trying to add more lighthouses a year. His RV garage is the club's workshop for this ongoing club project.
That night we were touring and chose to spend time visiting friends from Chicago. We picked them up and went to Angelina. This small intimate Italian restaurant is reasonably priced with well-prepared dishes. It was a lovely finish to a wonderful 3 night get-a-way.
Lake Havasu City promotes many annual events, including the Havasu Classic in April, when classic cars roll into the city. October has Relics and Rods Run to the Sun with more than 1000 cars from 1972 and older. October also hosts London Bridge Days, which is a two week party. November brings Chillin N & # 39; Swilling Brewfest. In December, the waterfront is decorated with more than a million Christmas lights. Along with the Festival of Lights, a Holiday Boat Parade is part of the festivities.