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.
Few destinations are as fan-friendly as Greater Phoenix. From the Super Bowl to college championship showdowns to the best-attended tournament on the PGA Tour, the nation’s sixth-largest city plays host to some of the biggest sporting events in the world. Phoenix is one of only 13 cities that fields teams in all four major pro sports leagues, and it’s also the setting for a pair of NASCAR events each racing season. For more than 20 years, the Phoenix Suns were the only major sports team in town, but as Phoenix grew, so did its reputation for big-time sports. Greater Phoenix earned its first major sports title in 2001 when the Arizona Diamondbacks, in just their fourth season of play, earned a World Series title. America’s sunniest metropolis laid claim to its next pro titles in 2007 and 2009, when the Phoenix Mercury won the WNBA Finals.
Phoenix Suns – Since joining the National Basketball Association in 1968, the Phoenix Suns have been one of the league’s more successful franchises. The Suns have advanced to the NBA playoffs 29 times, and they regularly play before sellout crowds at US Airways Center. The arena, built in 1992, seats 19,022 for basketball and hosted the NBA All-Star Game in 2009. Information: (602) 379-SUNS (7867).
Arizona Cardinals – The National Football League’s Arizona Cardinals moved to Phoenix from St. Louis in 1988. The franchise was instrumental in bringing Super Bowl XXX and Super Bowl XLII to Phoenix in 1996 and 2008, respectively. In 2006, the Cardinals played their inaugural season at University of Phoenix Stadium, which features both a retractable fabric roof and a roll-out grass field. In 2008-09, the Cardinals won the NFC Championship and advanced to Super Bowl XLIII. University of Phoenix Stadium is the host of Super Bowl XLIX in 2015 which will be the game’s third visit to Arizona. Information: (602) 379-0102.
Phoenix Coyotes – The National Hockey League’s Phoenix Coyotes moved to Phoenix from Winnipeg, Canada before the 1996-97 season. The team moved into Jobing.com Arena in 2003. Postseason “whiteouts” are popular among Phoenix fans, who have cheered the Coyotes in the playoffs eight times since the franchise came to town. Information: (480) 563-7825.
Arizona Diamondbacks – Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks began play in 1998 at Chase Field (formerly Bank One Ballpark) in downtown Phoenix. The facility seats more than 48,000 fans, and is one of the few stadiums in the world to feature a retractable roof, air conditioning and a natural-grass playing surface (not to mention a swimming pool). In an epic battle, the D-Backs defeated the New York Yankees in the 2001 World Series. Chase Field played host to MLB All–Star Week in July 2011 and the World Baseball Classic in 2013. Information: (602) 514-8400.
Cactus League– Spring Training Baseball Greater Phoenix serves as the seasonal home of a 15 Major League Baseball teams during Cactus League Spring Training. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies and Texas Rangers conduct their annual spring-training programs at 10 facilities in the metro area. Cactus League set an attendance record in 2013 with over 1.72 million people attending games. Information: (602) 534-1915.
Phoenix International Raceway – Phoenix International Raceway has an annual economic impact of more than $470 million. The one-mile oval annually hosts two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events: the Subway Fresh Fit 500 in February and the AdvoCare 500 in November. The track, known to race fans as PIR, also plays host to Nationwide Series events in February and November. Information: (602) 463-5400.
PGA – The Waste Management Phoenix Open, held every February at the Tournament Players Club of Scottsdale, is the best-attended event on the PGA Tour. More than 500,000 spectators flock to the tournament during the first week of February, and the famously boisterous galleries on the par-3 16th hole have redefined the term “golf clap.” Information: (602) 870-0163.
Phoenix Mercury – The Phoenix Mercury, which began play in 1997, are one of the original franchises in the Women’s National Basketball Association. The Mercury captured the league championship in 2007 and 2009. Led by Diana Taurasi, the No. 1 pick in the 2004 draft, the team has a staunch following at US Airways Center. Information: (602) 252-WNBA (9622).
Fiesta Bowl – Fiesta Bowl started from humble beginnings in 1971 and has since developed into one of nation’s top four annual college-football bowl games as part of the Bowl Championship Series. The Fiesta Bowl hosted college football’s first unified national championship game in January 1999. In January 2007 it was the site for the inaugural BCS Championship, and it welcomed college football’s title game again in 2011. (It also hosted national championship games in 1987, 1989 and 1996.) In 2013, it was the only other bowl besides the BCS Championship to host two top ten teams. The Fiesta Bowl, which was originally contested at Sun Devil Stadium, is now played at University of Phoenix Stadium. Information: (480) 350-0909.
Arizona State University -Arizona State University has long fielded very successful teams in a variety of men’s and women’s sports. The Sun Devils’ athletic program, which consists of nine men’s and 11 women’s varsity squads, consistently fields teams ranked among the top NCAA schools. Information: (480) 965-2381.
P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘N’ Roll – Arizona Marathon & ½ Marathon Combining fitness and entertainment with every mile, the Rock ‘N’ Roll Arizona Marathon & ½ Marathon annually attracts more than 30,000 participants to the streets of Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe. The race, which serves as a qualifier for the Boston Marathon, debuted in January 2004. Information: (800) 311-1255.
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