Phoenix, Arizona

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.

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History

The Hohokam people inhabited what is now Greater Phoenix until about 1450 A.D. They created the first major urban civilization in the Salt River Valley and developed a canal system that is still in use today. In 1865, the U.S. government established Fort McDowell here, and settlers such as Jack Swilling began farming the land. The city of Phoenix was established in 1868; two years later, the first survey and census of the city noted it was about a mile long and a half-mile wide, with 74 dwellings and a population of 250………
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Population

One of the fastest-growing regions in the nation, Greater Phoenix has a population of nearly 4.3 million. Greater Phoenix’s population increased by 39 percent from 1997 to 2005 (compared to the national rate of 12 percent). In 1950, Phoenix proper had a population of about 100,000; today its population is more than 1.4 million, making it the sixth-largest city in the U.S. The average age of Greater Phoenix residents is 34, making it the fifth-youngest metro region in the country.

Climate

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 (more than 300 days per year). Phoenix has an average annual rainfall of 7.66 inches, an average annual temperature of 72.6 degrees (Fahrenheit) and an average annual high temperature of 85 degrees. Phoenix’s low humidity makes summer heat more comfortable than in other hot climates. The average high temperature in winter is 67 degrees, and travelers should bring light sweaters and jackets November through March

Activities & Adventures

Dependable sunshine and warm temperatures make outdoor activities a way of life in Phoenix. Golf, tennis, hiking, cycling, mountain biking and rock climbing are popular Phoenix activities. Horseback riding is a great way to see the Sonoran Desert, as is a rugged Jeep or Hummer ride. Thrill seekers can soar above the desert plateau in a glider, sailplane or hot-air balloon, or satisfy their need for speed at the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving. Visitors also can choose from water skiing, sailing, fishing and tubing in the region’s lakes and rivers…..
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Popular Attractions

Greater Phoenix’s top attractions (in terms of yearly attendance) are South Mountain Park and Preserve, Tempe Town Lake, Camelback Mountain and First Friday Art Walks in downtown Phoenix. Other noteworth y attractions include the Heard Museum, Desert Botanical Garden, Heritage and Science Park, the Musical Instrument Museum, and Phoenix Zoo. Phoenix, of course, is also the gateway to the Grand Canyon; the drive to America’s greatest natural wonder takes 3½ hours.

Spectator Sports

Greater Phoenix annually plays host to the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Phoenix Open (at the TPC of Scottsdale), NASCAR’s February and November events (at Phoenix International Raceway), P.F Chang’s Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon, and college football’s Fiesta Bowl and Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Phoenix is one of 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)……
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Accommodation

Greater Phoenix is home to nearly 500 hotels with more than 62,000 guest rooms. That total includes more than 40 luxury resorts. Notable resorts in Greater Phoenix include the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa, the Arizona Biltmore, Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, The Phoenician, Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa, Montelucia Resort & Spa, Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North, the Wigwam Golf Resort and the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess…….
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Getting Here

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is located 4 miles from downtown and 20-30 minutes from most resorts. It is served by more than 20 carriers and is the only airport in the country that is a hub for two major low-fare airlines (US Airways and Southwest Airlines). Thoughtful touches at Sky Harbor include free wireless Internet access, a shaded dog park for four-legged fliers, and an audio-visual paging system that allows travelers to call for assistance with the push of a button. Sky Harbor serves about 40 million passengers a year, ranking it among the 10 busiest airports in the nation.

Fun Facts

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…….
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Cuisine

With a spectrum of cuisine that ranges from signature Southwestern dishes to exotic international fare—plus weather that’s perfect for patio dining under the desert sky— Greater Phoenix has all the ingredients to leave diners feeling a warm, after-dinner glow. Passionate foodies will find fine cuisine created by James Beard Award-winning chefs, pizza a New York Times critic deemed the “best in America,” and the only Five Star/Five Diamond restaurant on the continent owned and operated by Native Americans……….
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Shopping

From charming antique shops to chic boutiques to some of the nation’s most fashionable malls, Greater Phoenix is hope to a spectrum of shopping experiences few regions in the Southwest can match. The basic breakdown for where to find what goes like this: Scottsdale for high fashion; Central Phoenix for vintage; Uptown Phoenix for hipster goods; East Valley for mall fare; and Glendale for antiques. And the excellent gift shops at the Heard Museum, Phoenix Art Museum and Taliesin West are good choices for thoughtful souvenirs……
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Spas

Greater Phoenix has one of the highest concentrations of resort spas in the United States, and, not surprisingly, the menu of treatments available to spa-goers in America’s sunniest metropolis is copious and eclectic. Many treatments are imported from Europe and Asia, while others—such as desert-mud body wraps and herbal aromatherapies—are inspired by Native American traditions. Hot-stone massages? They were invented here. In the “World’s Best” awards by Travel + Leisure, Greater Phoenix spas consistently receive significant recognition……
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Golf

Windswept rural Scotland might be the birthplace of golf, but sun-burnished Phoenix seems divinely suited for the game. Shrouded by mountains on three sides and covered by a canopy of near-perpetual blue sky, Phoenix and its neighboring communities are home to more than 200 courses. Many of those courses were designed by the greats, and most don’t have merely one signature hole, but many. Some courses occupy desert canyons where civilization feels a world away, while others are part of opulent resorts where golfers can indulge themselves with a post-round spa treatment…….
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Museums & Performing Arts

Greater Phoenix’s geological splendor, Native American history and Western sensibilities lend distinct character to the city’s cultural offerings. Phoenix’s museums are thoughtfully designed and well maintained, and most take advantage of the sunny weather with skylights, sculpture gardens and outdoor gathering spaces. The Heard Museum is arguably Phoenix’s most famous museum. The traditional and contemporary art on display provides insight into the culture of American Indian tribes native to Arizona and the Colorado Plateau………
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Daytrips

Arizona is often described as a land of contrasts because of its changing scenery and activities. You can swim and play tennis in the morning in Phoenix, then spend the afternoon fishing, hiking or sightseeing in the cool pines of the White Mountains. In March, you can even snow ski in Flagstaff the morning then don shorts for a spring training game in Phoenix the same evening……
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