Valley of the Sun
A hip metropolis that has learned how to turn up the heat on entertainment and outdoor activities, Phoenix and its surrounding cities of Mesa and Scottsdale comprise the tourism destination known as Valley of the Sun. Segmented into distinctive neighborhoods, this desert destination is chock-full of coffee houses, bistros and restaurants catering to every palate. And Phoenicians of any age feel right at home in this sprawling metropolis, playing in its vast selection of city parks, exploring offbeat shops and galleries or easing themselves into a spa day.
Phoenix has an extensive canal system, based on the irrigation network dug by Native American tribes almost 2,000 years ago. Today the canals are accompanied by a scenic urban walkway that hosts recreation and art displays. And if you venture far enough, one might see Arizona Falls, a 20-foot drop along the canal that thunders with falling H2O.
If you’re looking for more natural bodies of water, take your kayak or paddleboard to the Lower Salt River for an afternoon of cool relaxation. You might even see some of the wild horses that hang out along the riverbanks. However, trout is the main catch here for those casting a line.
Symphony of Opportunities
Cultural experiences abound at the Symphony Hall Phoenix, home to the Phoenix Symphony, the Arizona Opera and Ballet Arizona. The area is also steeped in Native American history, which can be explored at the internationally renowned Heard Museum. Fans of Frank Lloyd Wright will have designs on one of the architect’s most personal creations when they tour Taliesin West, his winter residence and home of the School of Architecture at Taliesin. Wright’s vision of Arizona architecture has been curated here since 1940.
Professional baseball teams love the Sonoran Desert in the spring, and the Valley of the Sun is where half of the nation’s teams come to practice. The Cactus League participates in spring training here, and catching a preseason game is tantamount to hitting a homerun for any lover of the national pastime.
An unsolved mystery draws thousands to Lost Dutchman State Park, where visitors can search for the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine. Reputed to be in the Superstition Mountains east of the city, treasure hunters arrive every year in search of a gold mine whose location seems to have died with its owner.
The Art of Wind
Located in Civic Space Park, a stunning aerial sculpture titled Her Secret is Patience hangs above the city scene. Designer Janet Echelman created this 145-foot-tall work of art from steel cables, braided netting and lights to utilize the desert winds. It is, indeed, a moving piece of art that changes shape with the breeze.
Horse lovers will be awestruck at the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show. As the world’s largest Arabian horse show, with nearly 2,400 horses and more than $1 million in prize money, it’s easy to see why. Competitors from colder climates enjoy an excuse to travel to Phoenix in February for the contest and exhibition.
Rise from the Desert
Located near the confluence of the Gila and Salt rivers, Phoenix was inhabited by the Hohokam people over 2,000 years ago. Members of the tribe dug several channels to irrigate their crops and make the land hospitable. Those same channel paths were used to create the Phoenix channel system seen today. But like many pueblo tribes of the time, they abandoned their homes by A.D. 1450. Decades later, the Pima tribe settled on the land and were able to harvest corn, squash, cotton and tobacco, but by 1848, at the end of the Mexican-American War, residents of the area became Americans, and more settlers arrived from the east.
In 1867, a Confederate soldier named Jack Swilling set down roots in the area, and eventually the settlement he began was called Phoenix, having risen from the ruins left by the previous inhabitants. Within a year, the town had its first post office, and by 1881 it was officially incorporated. Soon, satellite communities sprung up in the surrounding areas, and visitors can learn more about this explosion of growth at the Wells Fargo Museum in Phoenix.
Phoenix Rising Higher
By the 1930s, the town realized its potential as a tourist destination and the “Valley of the Sun” tagline was created to advertise Phoenix’s main attributes. Along with tourists came electronics companies, opening the floodgates for an eventual high-tech boom, and the city almost doubled in size within 10 years. But despite the rapid growth, you can find lots of green spaces and urban hiking trails right within the city. Try the 3-mile Quartz Ridge Trail in town for a workout.
For More Information
Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau
Arizona Office of Tourism