Desert character. It can’t be conjured, landscaped or kindled with twinkling bulbs. John Ford knew that. So did Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis L’Amour. Spend a few days in Greater Phoenix and you’ll understand, too. America’s sixth-largest city still has cowboys and red-rock buttes and the kind of cactus most people see only in cartoons. It is the heart of the Sonoran Desert and the gateway to the Grand Canyon, and its history is a testament to the spirit of Puebloans, ranchers, miners and visionaries. This timeless Southwestern backdrop is the perfect setting for family vacations, weekend adventures or romantic getaways. Each year, 14 to 16 million leisure visitors travel to Greater Phoenix. They enjoy resorts and spas infused with Native American tradition, golf courses that stay emerald green all year, mountain parks crisscrossed with trails, and sports venues that host the biggest events in the nation. The best way to learn about America’s sunniest metropolis, of course, is to experience it firsthand. The following information will give you a snapshot of what to expect before your visit and provide sound reference material after you leave.
Greater Phoenix encompasses 2,000 square miles and more than 20 incorporated cities,including Glendale, Cottsdale, Tempe and Mesa. Maricopa County, in which Phoenix is located, covers more than 9,000 square miles. Phoenix’s elevation is 1,117 feet, and the city’s horizon is defined by three distinct mountains: South Mountain, Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak.
• According to legend, Phoenix gets its name from Cambridge-educated pioneer Darrell Duppa, who saw the ruins and prehistoric canals of the Hohokam and believed another civilization would rise from the ashes.
• Phoenix is the United States’ sixth-largest city with a population of over 1.4 million.
• Greater Phoenix (which includes, among others, the cities of Chandler, Glendale, Scottsdale and Tempe) has a population of nearly 4.3 million and covers 2,000 square miles.
• Maricopa County—where Greater Phoenix is located—covers 9,127 square miles, making it about the size of New Hampshire.
• Phoenix’s elevation is 1,117 feet.
• Greater Phoenix is located in the Sonoran Desert, which is one of the wettest and greenest deserts in North America, thanks to 3-15 inches of annual rainfall.
• According to data compiled by the National Climatic Data Center, Phoenix basks in sunshine more often than any other major metropolitan area in the U.S. The sun shines on Phoenix during 85 percent of its daylight hours.
• Phoenix has an average annual rainfall of 7.7 inches, an average annual temperature of 72.6 degrees and an annual high temperature of 85.9 degrees. The average high temperature in winter is 67 degrees.
• Greater Phoenix has more than 62,000 guest rooms at nearly 500 hotels and more than 40 resort properties.
• Greater Phoenix is home to more than 200 golf courses.
• Greater Phoenix consistently ranks among the nation’s top cities in the number of Five Diamond and Four Diamond and Five Star and Four Star resorts.
• More than 16 million people visit metropolitan Phoenix each year.
• More than 37 million people visit Arizona each year.
• Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is served by more than 20 airlines, and is a hub for two low-fare carriers: US Airways and Southwest Airlines.
• Sky Harbor serves about 40 million passengers a year, ranking it among the 10 busiest airports in the nation.
• Phoenix is one of only 13 U.S. cities with franchises in all four major professional sports leagues: Phoenix Suns (NBA), Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB), Arizona Cardinals (NFL) and Phoenix Coyotes (NHL).
• Greater Phoenix hosted Super Bowl XXX on Jan. 28, 1996, and Super Bowl XLII on Feb. 3, 2008 and will host Super Bowl XLIX in 2015.
• The Phoenix Suns have brought the NBA playoffs to US Airways Center 29 times.
• 15 Major League Baseball teams conduct spring training in the Cactus League, which in 2013 drew a record 1.72 million fans.
• Greater Phoenix is currently home to 15 Cactus League franchises: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers, Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.
• University of Phoenix Stadium, home of Super Bowl XLII, features both a retractable fabric roof and a roll-out grass field.
• The Waste Management Open, played each February at the TPC Scottsdale, is the best-attended event on the PGA Tour, averaging more than 500,000 spectators.
• Greater Phoenix is home to college football’s Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. The 2007 and 2011 BCS National Championship games were played at University of Phoenix Stadium.
• Phoenix International Raceway plays host to two NASCAR events each racing season.
• Greater Phoenix’s major industries are (1) high-tech manufacturing, (2) tourism and (3) construction.
• Greater Phoenix is the corporate headquarters of six Fortune 500 companies: Freeport McMoRan, PetSmart, Avnet, US Airways, Republic Services and Insight Enterprises.
• Phoenix is home to the largest municipal park in North America. South Mountain Park and Preserve covers more than 16,500 acres and has more than 50 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails.
• There are six lakes within a 75-minute drive of Phoenix.
• Phoenix has museums to suit nearly every taste. The Heard Museum (Native American); Desert Botanical Garden (the world’s largest collection of desert plants); Taliesin West (home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation); the Phoenix Art Museum (the Southwest’s largest art museum); the Fleischer Museum (American Impressionism); the Arizona Science Center; the Hall of Flame (featuring the world’s largest collection of fire-fighting equipment); Pueblo Grande Museum and Cultural Park (Native American) and the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) are among the cultural hot spots.
• The Heard Museum has an extensive collection of American Indian artifacts, including the largest kachina doll collection (donated in part by the late Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater) of any museum in the country.
• Arizona is home to 22 American Indian tribes.
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