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Visiting Arizona’s Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community

Red Mountain with cloudy sky and cacti and text visiting Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community

Arizona’s Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community is located in the heart of the greater metro area and many people visit without even knowing it. The land has a long history and rich culture and is a modern attraction for the Cactus League, art, culture, casinos, restaurants and outdoor activities.

This guide covers how to visit the Salt River Indian Community, including a brief history, where to learn more, what to see and where to stay on your visit.

Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community overview

The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (you’ll often see SRPMIC written) is made up of two tribes, the Akmiel O’odham and Xalchidom, known as the Pima and Maricopa respectively. The community spans over 52,000 acres bordering Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa and Fountain Hills. There are 10,300 people enrolled as tribal members of the community.

Among the 52,600 acres, primarily the western boundary is developed commercially and for visitors, specifically in the Talking Stick Entertainment District. The community owns and operates Talking Stick Resort, Talking Stick Golf Club, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick and Casino Arizona. 19,000 acres are preserved in nature and 12,000 acres’ primary function is farming.

SRPMIC is a sovereign tribe, which was established by executive order in 1879. While it borders metro cities, it is an independent government and community.

Drawn map of Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community location, between the 101 and 202

Where does “Talking Stick” come from?

“Talking Stick” are two words seen all over the commercial areas of the Salt River Community, but why use that in the names? Talking Stick is designed as a reference to the traditional calendar stick that the Pima and Maricopa communities used to record significant events.

The Talking Stick represents the important stages of the community’s economic development, including building Talking Stick Resort, the golf course and the baseball fields.

Learn about the Salt River Indian community history and culture

  • The Visitor Center and Art Display is located in the Pavilions at Talking Stick; it is located at 9120 E Talking Stick Way, Suite E10 (not currently on Google Maps by name, though pinned to the Salt River map in this post) and is well signed.
  • The Huhugam Ki Museum (currently closed for renovations) is dedicated to the history and culture of the O’odham (Pima) and Piiaash (Maricopa) both in its collections and exhibits and also in its adobe construction and desert landscape. Huhugam Ki means “house of the ancestors.”
  • The Cultural Center at Talking Stick Resort is located in the lobby and features Native American art reflective of the ancestry of the Pima and Maricopa communities; it is the largest Native American art collection outside of a museum.
  • See it in action during community events, like the Red Mountain Eagle PowWow.

Traditional dancer doing a spotlight dance at Red Mountain Eagle Pow Wow

Salt River map

All of the Salt River Community venues, hotels, restaurants and activities in this guide are pinned in the map below.

Getting around the Salt River community

There is a complimentary trolley service that runs in the Talking Stick Entertainment District, more frequently during Spring Training. You can find more information about stops and schedule on the Discover Salt River page, during season. The internal trolley route runs in the Talking Stick Entertainment District area, about every 30 minutes, Thursday through Sunday (daily during Spring Training).

But you can also easily get around by car and expect to find parking pretty much everywhere you want to go (take that downtown parking!).

Salt River Fields at Talking Stick

Salt River Fields Spring Training and Fall Ball

Arizona is where spring training started (officially in 1929) and the Cactus League helps 15 teams get ready for the season in the Valley. Salt River Fields at Talking Stick is the second-youngest spring training ballpark in Arizona, shared by the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies. Salt River Fields is the only facility on Native American land.

READ  Visitors’ guide to 2020 Cactus League spring training in Arizona

But baseball doesn’t stop in spring, or even with the regular season. Fall Ball is Arizona’s best baseball secret. Arizona Fall League is held at the end of the minor league season as a proverbial finishing school for the top prospects. Each MLB team sends seven prospects to the league and the league’s six teams each represent five MLB clubs.

READ  Visitors’ guide to Arizona Fall League baseball

Events at Salt River Fields

Because of its size, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick hosts more than baseball. See the events list below, but these vary from car auctions to food and wine to more focused festivals like Arizona Taco Festival and Mac and Cheese Fest AZ.

View of Salt River Fields at Talking Stick

Things to do at and around the Talking Entertainment District

Sculpture Trail in the Salt River Community

Sculpture artist Jeffrey Fulwilder has works all over the community and you can see them on the Salt River Sculpture Trail. The trail includes 10 works at six locations, each with significance to the history of the community and the land. These sculptures incorporate nature (like the Devil’s Claw sculpture and its namesake plant) and Salt River history (in examples like Fire Keepers, Basket Dancers and Gourd Dancers).

Release – Talking Stick pool party

Release is the weekly Talking Stick Resort pool party that brings some of the best DJs to the desert. The 21+ parties are on Saturdays from 1:00-7:00 pm, spring through Labor Day. You can buy tickets, reserve cabanas and check out the music schedule on their website. If you prefer to hit the pool without the party, there are two additional pools on property.

Catch a Phoenix Rising game

Phoenix Rising Football Club is a member of the USL Championship and they play at Casino Arizona Field. The team was established in 2014 and the intimate field has a capacity of 6,200, so you’re right in the action. The season runs March through November and they often have $1 beer nights!

Diving goalie and striker at Phoenix Rising soccer game

Visit the Native Art Market

The Native Art Market is held in the Pavilions at Talking Stick weekly from November through March, on Saturdays and Sundays. It is free to enter and features Native American artists and performers. Over 300 artists and performers rotate, so each week’s market is unique. Performances start at 11:00 am daily and you can find more up-to-date information on specific dates on their Facebook page.

 

Navajo artist playing a wooden flute in art market stall

Talking Stick Golf

Talking Stick Golf Club

The Talking Stick Golf Club has two championship courses, named for the two parts of the Salt River Community, the O’odham Course and the Piipaash Course. The courses have won awards, being named in Golfweek’s Best Casino Courses, Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Resorts in North America,  and Golf Magazine’s Top 25 Resorts for Buddies.

If you plan on golfing during your stay, you can look at golf and stay packages or they offer an all-inclusive golf card and last-minute and resident tee times.

The Talking Stick Golf Club will be host to the Talking Stick Resort Amateur Golf Championship in January 2020.

Topgolf at Talking Stick

If you aren’t looking to get a full round in or prefer your golf to include music and food, Top Golf has a location just down the road.

Sunset behind silhouetted mountain in the background and Talking Stick Golf Club in the foreground, green

Salt River Casinos

The SRPMIC operates casinos both at Talking Stick Resort and its sister property Casino Arizona. Note: smoking is permitted in the casinos.

Talking Stick casino

Talking Stick Resort has a casino with slots, table games, keno and a poker room. It is open 24/7 and there are poker tournaments nearly every day (see the schedule here). It is host to the annual Arizona State Poker Championship in August, boasting a prize pool of over $1,000,000.

Casino Arizona

Casino Arizona is Talking Stick’s sister property, further South. It offers table games, slots, keno, video poker, bingo and a sports bar. It is open 24/7. They have on-site entertainment and trivia. There is not a hotel on-site, though they recommend Talking Stick Resort as it is just 10 minutes North.

Relax at Talking Stick resort spa

If you want something more relaxing, the Spa at Talking Stick Resort is located on-site and offers myriad spa treatments, using local ingredients like prickly pear blossoms and mesquite.

Hiking near Salt River

While Red Mountain (Mount McDowell) is an icon of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian community, it’s important to know that it is off-limits (to visitors and community members). It is sacred and has centuries-old petroglyphs; permits are not issued and trespassers are prosecuted. If you want to see it, you can do so from the Beeline Highway. It even has a music festival named after it! (though the fest is in Phoenix.)

That said, there are plenty of gorgeous places to hike nearby when visiting the Salt River area. The McDowell Sonoran Preserve is incredibly beautiful, nearby and has several route options (easy to hard). If you’re lucky to catch the right timing, it’s one of the few places in Arizona to see poppies bloom. The two trails at Camelback Mountain are tough and some of the most-visited in the metro area. You can get away from the crowds and town at Usery Mountain Regional Park, where there are PLENTY of options to choose from. It’s about a 30-minute drive from the Talking Stick Entertainment District.

Know that hiking in Arizona takes some preparation, regardless of the time of year that you visit. You can expect dry conditions and little-to-no shade. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen and snacks to make sure you enjoy the hikes safely!

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Events at Talking Stick Resort, Salt River Fields and in the community

You can check the events calendar to see what’s on during your visit, but here are some of the main events that happen annually in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

  • Ritchie Bros Leake Car Auction (January): Salt River Fields host the annual premier Ritchie Bros Leake Car Auction, with 5 days of auction and nearly 1000 classic cars. January 15-20, 2020.
  • Street Eats Food Truck Festival (February) Street Eats is a two-day event at Salt River Fields with 55+ food trucks, each presenting a $2 sample. February 8-9, 2020.
  • Cactus League Spring Training (February-March): The Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies share Salt River Fields at Talking Stick as their spring home. 15 teams make up the Cactus League in Arizona, taking advantage of the beautiful weather to get ready for the season.
  • Release Pool Parties (May-September): These weekly pool parties are held on Saturdays, spring through Labor Day, and draw internationally renowned DJs.
  • Arizona State Poker Championship (August): The Arizona State Poker Championship at Talking Stick Resort has been running annually for 15 years. The four-day tournament draws over 1000 players from around the world.
  • 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb (September): The United Salt River Firefighters 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb pays tribute to the FDNY first responders with a stair climb equivalent to the 110 stories of the World Trade Center. Held at Salt River Fields. September 11.
  • AZ Taco Festival (October): The Arizona Taco Festival is more than tasting tacos; there’s everything from pepper-eating contests to a chihuahua pageant, Lucha Libre wrestling and margarita wars. October 12-13, 2019.
  • Halloween Balloon Spooktacular (October): The Spooktacular Hot Air Balloon Festival has 20+ balloons on display at Salt River Fields, with trick-or-treating, music, food and drink, fireworks, a spooky trail and tethered balloon rides.
  • Arizona Fall Ball (October): Spring Training isn’t the only baseball action in Arizona. At the end of the minor league season, Arizona Fall Ball is a “finishing school” of sorts for the league’s hottest prospects.
  • Phoenix Fashion Week (October): Phoenix Fashion Week is held at Talking Stick Resort annually in October, with shows, seminars, challenges and scholarships. Its goal is to garner global exposure while pushing Arizona fashion forward.
  • Wine and Food Experience (November): the azcentral Wine & Food Experience is held annually at Salt River Fields, with food and drink tasting, demonstrations and seminars. Emphasis is put on local vendors, so you can get a taste of where you want to go out next.
  • Red Mountain Eagle Pow Wow (November): This annual pow-wow is the largest in Arizona and sees over 400 dancers and 15,000 spectators over two days. It is free to enter and open to the public. Don’t miss the grand entry!
  • AZ Barrels, Bottles and Brews (November): AZ Barrels, Bottles and Brews is a sampling event held at Salt River Fields featuring only Arizona-made craft beer, wine and spirits. November 23, 2019.
  • Mac & Cheese Festival (November) The only Arizona festival dedicated to (my personal favorite food) mac and cheese, Mac and Cheese Fest has all the macs you could want, contests, craft beer and lawn games. November 16-17, 2020.
  • McDonald’s Rock’n’Roll Classic Car Show (weekly, Saturdays): This weekly car show has been running for over 20 years, with 250-500 classic, muscle and sports cars. It is free, and held 4:00-8:00 pm on Saturdays in the Pavilions at Talking Stick.
  • Native Art Market (October-March, weekends):
  • Native American Dance Showcase (November-April): Yellow Bird Productions Native American Dance showcase celebrates heritage and culture through dance, stories and music.
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Concerts at Talking Stick Resort

Talking Stick Resort and Salt River Fields both serve as concert venues and host comedians and other shows. You can check the schedule of events here. Do note that the Talking Stick Resort Arena is not located in the community, but in downtown Phoenix.

Other things to do in the Salt River Community

USS Arizona Memorial Gardens at Salt River

In February 2020, the USS Arizona Memorial Gardens at Salt River will open as a memorial to honor those aboard the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor. It will include the original boathouse relic from the USS Arizona, which was part of the original memorial at Pearl Harbor.

OdySea in the Desert

OdySea in the Desert is home to several places to visit, OdySea Aquarium, Butterfly Wonderland, Pangaea Land of the Dinosaurs, Polar Play, and restaurants. There are also bumper boats and educational exhibits, like the Titanic Artifact Exhibition.

Medieval Times

Medieval Times is new to the Talking Stick Entertainment District, but has several other locations around the country. It’s an immersive dinner theater experience, with a queen, jousting and knights, horsemanship and falconry.

Octane Raceway & Velocity VR

Octane has indoor and outdoor tracks, with karts that go up to 45 MPH. There’s also an arcade and bowling, and a VR game area with free-roam VR games.

iFLY Indoor Skydiving

While Arizona is home to the World Cup of Formation and Artistic Skydiving in Eloy, you can also try it out indoors and closer to town. iFLY welcomes guests ages 3-103.

Trapeze

TRAPEZEIUS is in the Talking Stick Entertainment District and you can go to learn or just to watch.

Restaurants in Salt River and Talking Stick

Orange Sky Talking Stick

Orange Sky offers one of the best views in the Salt River community, located at Talking Stick Resort and designed specifically with Arizona’s sunsets in mind. It has an award-winning wine list and floor to ceiling windows for 360° views. It is an upscale restaurant and both business casual dress and reservations are encouraged.

Talking Stick Buffet

If you’re looking for something more casual (and to be sure you’ll get your fill), the Wandering Horse Buffet is on-property at Talking Stick Resort (Casino Arizona has the Eagle’s Buffet). The Talking Stick buffet is open daily, with specials like champagne brunch on Sundays and prime rib dinners on Wednesdays.

The Block and Pavilions at Talking Stick

There are over 60 restaurants in the Pavilions and Block areas, including plenty of well-known casual dining chains. If you’re looking for something faster, Filiberto’s is a personal favorite and an Arizona staple and White Castle is new to the area (hoping to satisfy the cravings of all the transplants from Illinois).

Cholla Prime Steakhouse in Casino Arizona is a great option for a nicer meal. Reservations are recommended.

Where to stay in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community

Talking Stick Resort

Talking Stick Resort is the main hub of the Salt River community accommodation options. The resort itself has a casino, entertainment, six restaurants and is located minutes from everything you want to do in the area. It’s the only option with casino gaming as Casino Arizona does not have accommodation.

Hotels near Talking Stick Resort

The Great Wolf Lodge is one of the newest additions to the area, the closest to Salt River Fields and has an indoor waterpark and family suites, along with plenty of restaurant options. The Courtyard Scottsdale Salt River is another modern option, and conveniently on the trolley route.

Hampton Inn & Suites Riverwalk is near Talking Stick Resort and centered in the Entertainment District.

Talking Stick Resort

Courtyard Scottsdale Salt River

Hampton Inn & Suites Riverwalk

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Visiting Arizona’s Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community

Founder of How Dare She, Jessica is on a mission to visit every country in the world, and bring you along with through photos, video and stories. 6 continents and 104 countries in. She has a BA in journalism and Master's in innovation and change, but her real skill is plugging in a USB in 2 or less tries (most of the time). She believes daring isn't about being fearless, but choosing to opt in, in spite of fear. She dares to see, taste, experience and meet the world as she goes.

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