Big-city adventures and stunning natural beauty coalesce in Phoenix, a luminous town in southwest Arizona surrounded by several distinct metropolitan areas. Built in the Sonoran Desert on a flat valley created by the winding Salt River, the region’s fertile soil and central location have lured travelers for centuries. More hours of sun are clocked here than in almost any other major city in the world, giving this region the apt nickname, “Valley of the Sun.”
On the horizon, towering mountain peaks kiss the skies above, adding even more drama to the landscape. Giant saguaro cactuses found throughout the region and vibrant sunsets over the rugged horizon complete the panorama.
Explore Desert Landscapes
Learn about the ecosystem that surrounds you with a visit to the Desert Botanical Garden. Succulents, cactuses, yucca and more thrive in this bountiful display. Nearby, Papago Park’s maintained paths snake through a red-rock paradise. Ascend the rugged incline to Hole-in-the-Rock, where large gaps in the rocks frame expansive views of the city below.
For serious hikers, trail choices abound. Before heading to the hills, take plenty of water and wear good shoes, as this desert landscape can be unforgiving. Piestewa Peak, Camelback Mountain, Cholla Trail and South Mountain Park dish out panoramic views of the sprawling desert landscape, but these climbs aren’t for the faint of heart. Folks who prefer staying closer to the ground can opt for Dreamy Draw Recreation Area, Apache Wash Trailhead and Lost Dutchman State Park.
Major Metropolitan Museums
Most major cities serve up their fair share of cultural opportunities, and Phoenix doesn’t disappoint. The city bursts with arts, from intimate galleries to major museums and performance spaces. Though its name is a little plain, the Musical Instrument Museum earns high ratings for its displays. Stroll among instruments dating back centuries as you learn their sounds and their stories. Then, take in a live performance of the Phoenix Symphony or the Arizona Opera.
See artworks from major American and world artists with a visit to the Phoenix Art Museum, which is recognized for the quality of its exhibits and the beautiful architecture of the building. The monthly First Friday Artwalk exhibits the best of the thriving arts culture in the town’s chic galleries. The massive Mesa Arts Center provides contemporary spaces for performing and visual arts.
History Comes Alive
Learn the stories of Phoenix’s earliest residents with a visit to the Heard Museum, which focuses on the region’s Native American history. Colorful artworks and intriguing artifacts fill the halls, while live performances bring tribal cultures to life. A visit to the Pueblo Grande Museum & Archaeological Park offers more insights into the Hohokam culture as you tour a prehistoric archaeological site. The nearby town of Mesa has a well-preserved Hohokam temple mound, which was likely built before A.D. 1400. More history can be explored at Ruins National Monument, where ancient pueblos have been preserved. Learn about the irrigation techniques of the native tribes who farmed this region in the 13th century. See the tales they told with carved symbols on rocks by walking a trail into the Superstition Mountains to search for petroglyphs.
Relive European history in Gold Canyon at the Annual Arizona Renaissance Festival. Held every year from February through April at the foothills of the Supersition Mountains. Jesters, jousters and costumed performers dazzle attendees in a fun-filled celebration.
Arizona Office of Tourism
The Valley of the Sun is home to major sports teams for baseball, football and basketball, meaning you can catch a pro game almost any time of year. Stadium tours are also fan favorites. The Spring Training Cactus League provides perfect opportunities for baseball fans to observe the off-season practice and exhibition games of a number of Major League Baseball teams. In Goodyear, located just 20 miles west of Phoenix, locals get a taste of the big leagues: The town is the spring training home to two Major League Baseball teams — the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians — and the state-of-the-art Goodyear Park becomes a baseball mecca when the frost melts. It’s no wonder that USA Today ranked the city as the Best Place to See a Spring Training game in the U.S.
With as much sun as the valley receives, it’s no surprise that golf is a favorite pastime. A number of premier courses are found throughout the region. Scottsdale has myriad high-end greens, while East Valley and West Valley offer lesser-known courses that won’t break the bank.
While Phoenix serves as the hub for the Valley of the Sun metropolitan area, it’s worth your while to venture out to the surrounding communities. Mesa is a place to get away from it all and experience true desert solitude, with the creature comforts of a friendly town. The San Tan Mountain Regional Park offers a variety of trails that you can walk, peddle or ride (even horses are welcome here).
To the east, Scottsdale proudly lives up to its chic reputation as the “Beverly Hills of the Desert.” Under the soaring palm trees, you’ll find swanky shops and posh galleries. Spas in the area rejuvenate weary travelers. Old Town Scottsdale, on the other hand, retains an Old West flair, with rustic storefronts galore.
Apache Junction’s Past
About 35 miles east of Phoenix, Apache Junction takes a step back in time. Visitors have fun walking the dusty streets of the Goldfield Ghost Town and bellying up to the saloon bar. Watch out for gunfights, as re-enactors playing feisty cowboys duel in the streets. Folks interested in extreme sports can zoom on the Superstition Zip Line, which transports riders high above the desert floor.
The Superstition Mountain Museum takes a glimpse into this time period with exhibits detailing the effects of the railroad, mining and Hollywood on the region.
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For More Information
Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau
Arizona Office of Tourism