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Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona

Phoenix

Great Destination:

4

Value for Money:

3

Total Stars:

7.0

Personality Types that Like it Best

A paradise for Centric-Authentics, Mid-Authentics and some Centric-Venturers

Did you know … ?

  • The Phoenix 320-acre town site cost $550 in 1874; downtown lots sold for $7 to $11.
  • The now-defunct Ingleside Inn, this area’s first resort for winter visitors, opened in 1910.
  • Residents of Phoenix are known as Phoenicians.
  • Early Arizona resorts offered free room and board on days the sun didn’t shine.
  • Phoenix is Arizona’s sixth capital, with Prescott counted twice.

Of golf and cowboys

Phoenix, a desert city in Arizona’s Salt River Valley, is a natural lure for travelers who like dry heat and activities that thrive there, particularly golfing. Other attractions — elegant spas, fine dining, great resorts, upscale shopping — tend to develop in such places, and the Phoenix area is no exception.

But Phoenix, surrounded by low-rise mountains, also is heir to the traditions of the U.S. West. As a result, the tourist’s basket of options includes cowboy and ranch activities, horseback riding and trips into the mountains.

The city was first situated on the banks of the Salt River in the heart of the Sonoran Desert because the area, despite modest rainfall, was a promising farming district, with help from irrigation. Today’s city is still not far from lands where cotton, grains and vegetables are grown.

Phoenix was relocated in 1874 and a year later inauspiciously boasted 16 saloons, four dance halls and some gambling. Fast-forward to a new millennium and Greater Phoenix has grown to 4.3 million people, fueled in part by the tourist industry and the influx of retirees drawn by the climate and lifestyle.

Sightseeing attractions aren’t the main draw although interested visitors will find ghost towns and ranches, theme parks and museums, plus natural wonders in the desert and surrounding mountains.

The main lures are near-perfect weather (sunshine at least 325 days a year, cool nights) and a tourist infrastructure designed for the vacationer who wants to relax — in other words, luxurious resorts, golf courses (more than 200), some water sports, casinos and other night spots, restaurants, shopping, spas and access to the arts.

Nevertheless, there’s plenty for active travelers: trips into the desert and mountains by foot, bike, horseback or 4X4; water sports in area lakes and rivers, and nightlife to suit their tastes.

Summer days can be very hot, even if somewhat offset by low humidity. It’s not so close to perfect for those who don’t want to spend their vacations in air conditioning. Phoenix also is troubled by air pollution, generally because most people get around by car.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Take a hike on area trails — with plenty of water in your kit.
  • Sightsee by helicopter. Make that a sunset dinner flight, or make that a breakfast flight to Sedona. Or, take the controls in an introductory helicopter flight lesson.
  • Drive a Polaris Trailboss ATV on a guided excursion into the Sonoran Desert. Or, drive a civilian version of the Tomcar, originally developed for use by special forces, and see a historic fort and ghost mining towns in the desert.
  • Collect a few pointers by attending one or more cooking classes. There are several cooking schools in and around Phoenix, some offering vacation programs, some with classes for kids.
  • Take a guided mountain biking tour into the Sonoran Desert. If you are hardy and eager, choose the 3,200-foot climbs in the McDowell Mountains east of Scottsdale and be rewarded with spectacular views.
  • Spend a night out listening to live music or dancing until the wee hours. For laffs, consider the Tempe Improv, an improvisational comedy showcase and restaurant.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Enjoy the wide selection of ethnic and other dining choices. Include Southwestern cuisine in that mix. Also, sample a cowboy mesquite-grilled steak for a (literal) taste of the Old West.
  • Go horseback riding in the Sonoran Desert or in the city’s South Mountain Park.
  • Spend a day tubing the Lower Salt River in the Tonto National Forest near Mesa. The option is seasonal because water flow is seasonal.
  • Tour a prehistoric American Indian ruin from the days with the Hohokam people lived where Phoenix is located, and walk through replicas of Hohokam homes, all at the Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park. If your timing is right (December), attend the Indian Market here, featuring more than 450 artists.
  • Find the Old West — well, shades of it — at the Rawhide Western Town and Steakhouse in Chandler. The themed attraction is a replica of an 1880s town with stagecoach and train rides, panning for gold, staged gunfights, sundown cookouts, a shooting gallery and a raft of other amusements.
  • Book a night at the theater. There are more than two dozen theater groups in Greater Phoenix, including the Arizona Theatre Company. Choices also include the Phoenix Theatre, founded in 1920 and America’s oldest continuously running community theater. Alternatively, the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre in Mesa packages Broadway shows with a buffet dinner.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Bring the clubs along and play golf at any of the more than 200 courses found in the Greater Phoenix area.
  • See thoroughbred horses race at the Turf Paradise Race Course. The course has the country’s longest racing season, October to May.
  • Shop for beautifully handcrafted Native American turquoise jewelry. There are plenty of upscale shops and unique boutiques, as well, but put the Scottsdale Fashion Square (the largest shopping mall in the Southwest) on your list.
  • Learn more about Native Americans with a visit to the Heard Museum in downtown, known for its collections of Native American art, including the nation’s largest collection of kachina dolls.
  • Participate in Phoenix’s First Friday Artwalk. One hundred art venues are open at no charge the first Friday of each month. Shuttle buses are available on a hop-on, hop-off basis for getting from gallery to gallery.
  • Pan for gold, tour a mine, ride a narrow-gauge railroad and drop by the saloon in Goldfield, a ghost town reborn as a tourist town. You can overnight here, too.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau at www.visitphoenix.com