Five Offbeat Excursions in Phoenix

If you love adventure and unexpected tourist attractions, Phoenix offers its share of offbeat excursions. Although the typical tourist attractions are fun, visiting places with local history and an interesting backstory will offer a lasting memory of your vacation. Here are five interesting hidden gems in Phoenix:

1. Architecture Row: Not all people equate Phoenix with cool and edgy, but the buildings on Architecture Row feature designs from Greek inspired to art deco to modern. Between 1st and 5th Avenues on Washington Street, you will definitely find a favorite. Make certain you bring your camera - there are several different angles that offer an opportunity for interesting pictures.

2. Mountain Castle: A castle in Phoenix? Yes, it is true. Visit this 18-room, 13-fireplace castle built in the mid-1940s. There is plenty to discover in this South Mountain landmark - everything from covered wagons, pieces of colored glass, rusty shovels and wagon wheels. It makes for a satisfying experience for the tourist who gravitates toward the eccentric.

3. Poncho's Restaurant and a President: If your a fan of Bill Clinton, visit the President Room in Pancho's restaurant. On July 7, 1999, Clinton ordered the Fiesta Chiquita - an entree that comes with two mini tamales, two mini tacos, two mini chimichangas, two tostadas and beans. The restaurant has clearly marked where Clinton sat, as well as the assorted memorabilia accompanying his visit.

4. House of Alternative Art: Want to experience a twist on the typical museum and art scene? Visit Alwun House where artists try to push boundaries and cross cultural lines with various art exhibits. Currently, the museum is featuring the 15th Monsters Menagerie, a collection of paintings focusing on blood-curdling monsters and other unusual exhibits.

5. Bat Flight: Everyone has seen birds take flight, but how about bats? Watch as several thousand Mexican free-tailed bats head for the sky. Sunset offers the best view for this unusual flight at the corner of 40th Street, north of Camelback Road. It certainly isn't for those who are easily frightened!

Rudri Bhatt Patel is a lawyer turned freelance writer and essayist. Her essays have appeared in The Washington Post, Brain, Child Magazine, Raising Arizona Kids, The Huffington Post and elsewhere. Connect with Rudri on her blog, Being Rudri, Twitteror Facebook.