Incorporated in 1881, Phoenix has been one of the nation’s fastest growing cities ever since. With a population of nearly 1.5 million, Phoenix is the nation’s 6th most populated city and one of the nation’s largest in area. Located on the northern edge of the Sonoran Desert, summer temperatures regularly top 100 degrees, and often top 110. It’s no coincidence that the city’s greatest growth spurt occurred as air-conditioning became widely adopted in post-WWII America. The hot Arizona summers suddenly became comfortable for those looking to escape less desirable climates. Bathed in sunshine for more than 300 days a year, Phoenix has become a destination for travelers, retirees and snowbirds seeking respite from snow, rain, clouds and cold. Electronics, aerospace, finance and tourism account for much of the city’s economic base. Although Phoenix is one of the country’s largest metropolitan areas, it has a traditional feel and relaxed atmosphere more commonly associated with rural America. Phoenix has much to offer all year round for all types of traveler. The area is home to dozens of golf courses and many other outdoor activities for singles and couples. Family-friendly activities are plentiful as well, including museums, a zoo, and of course, baseball.

 

  Papago Park, on the city’s east side is popular with both residents and visitors. Spanning 1200 saguaro-covered acres, the park offers fishing, bicycle paths, picnic areas and yet another golf course. The 125-acre Phoenix Zoo has four main trails, including a trail featuring animals of the southwest. The Desert Botanical Garden is a true gem. Covering more than 145 acres in Papago Park, the garden is devoted exclusively to the world’s desert flora. Established in 1939, the spectacularly beautiful garden has more than 50,000 arid-land plants along its five thematic trails. There are cacti, agave, aloe and many other desert plants… from tiny to gigantic… in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Desert animals like squirrels, rabbits, lizards and roadrunners scamper among the plant life. The desert wildflower trail attracts hummingbirds, butterflies and hardy desert insects. This special place is not to be missed. During the summer months, The Desert Botanical Garden and the Phoenix Zoo open at 7 AM, allowing for early morning visits while the temperature is still comfortable.

  The Heard Museum is a museum of native cultures and art just north of downtown Phoenix. The museum features ten galleries where visitors learn about the region’s native cultures and arts. The Heard Museum’s signature exhibit is titled, “HOME: Native People of the Southwest”, showcasing the region’s past and present native traditions from the perspective of each of the area cultures.

  Opening in 2010, the Musical Instrument Museum is one of Greater Phoenix’s newest treasures. The Musical Instrument Museum celebrates the similarities and differences of the world’s cultures as expressed through music. Upon arrival, visitors are provided with a wireless headset that receives audio signals from each exhibit, allowing visitors to hear the sounds of the instruments on display. The huge museum boasts a collection of over 10,000 musical instruments. About 3000 are on display at any given time. The Geographic Galleries present instruments by regions of the world and include audiovisual of the instruments being played in their cultural context. The Artist gallery is dedicated to instruments, photos, costumes and other special items related to famous musicians and innovators. This gallery includes a piano one owned by John Lennon, Elvis Presley’s Army fatigue shirt and guitars once owned by Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana. The Experience gallery is a hands-on opportunity for museum guests to play many of the types of instruments seen elsewhere in the museum. For music lovers of all ages, the Musical Instrument Museum is a delightful addition to your Phoenix Experience.

  Phoenix’ downtown area has been recently revitalized and is livelier than ever. US Airways Center, home to the Phoenix Suns of the NBA, and Chase Field, home of baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks opened in 1992 and 1998 respectively. Arizona State University’s Downtown Campus opened in 2006 and now serves over 13,000 students. More recently, the CityScape project, consisting of retail, office, residential and hotel components has drawn more people to the downtown area on nights and weekends. The recently-established light rail system links downtown Phoenix with much of the metro area, allowing for easier downtown access.

  Our evening in downtown Phoenix consisted of dinner and a baseball game. An easy light rail ride took us to within steps of Chase Field. But first, we’d have a hearty meal before the game… at Alice Cooperstown… a huge sports bar and restaurant owned by shock-rocker Alice Cooper, featuring four gigantic projection TVs and walls filled with sports memorabilia. The menu is filled with countless cleverly-named choices like the “Shaq-Stack” burger, named after Shaquille O’Neal… and “Marge Simpson’s Maniac Mac and Cheese”. Alice Cooperstown’s signature dish takes the nickname of Randy Johnson, star pitcher for Bob Brenly’s 2001 World Series Champion Arizona Diamondbacks. The “Big Unit” is a 1-pound, 22-inch hot dog (and that’s just the meat), served on a whole baguette roll. The deluxe version, “Adam Richmond’s (sic) Bases Loaded Big Unit” is piled with toppings including chili, sauerkraut and bacon. Featured on the Travel Channel’s “Man vs Food”, the “Bases Loaded Big Unit” weighs in at over 3 pounds and comes with a mountain of fries.

  Soooo… after loosening the belt a notch or two, it was off to the ball game. Chase Field is a remarkable engineering feat. Although others have followed, it was the first retractable-roof MLB stadium constructed in the US, and the first designed to counter uncomfortably high temperatures, rather than rain or snow. Chase Field's roof is opened or closed depending on the game-time temperature. When the thermometer is high, the roof is closed three hours before game time, and a massive cooling system drops the temperature inside the park 30 degrees by the time the gates open. Even when the roof is closed, the stadium’s design allows in enough light to provide a reasonably outdoor feel. The field is natural grass, the scoreboard is gigantic, and Chase Field even has an outdoor swimming pool just beyond the right field wall. Along with an enthusiastic crowd of over 34,000, we watched the Arizona Diamondbacks score 4 runs in the first inning and cruise to a 5-0 victory over the San Diego Padres on their way to the 2011 NL West Pennant. It was a treat to watch the retractable roof open up for an impressive post-game fireworks show and concert. The stadium temperature remained surprisingly comfortable for the post-game events. A quick air-conditioned light rail ride took us back to our hotel after a wonderful evening at the ballpark.

  Speaking of which, we stayed at the Raddison Phoenix City Center. Located about 3 miles north of downtown Phoenix, this 6-story hotel is a convenient base for exploring the area. The hotel has free parking, a nice on-site restaurant and bar, big HDTVs and sizable rooms. The large lobby is very attractive and welcoming. And the Raddison Phoenix City Center staff is quite friendly and helpful. The large outdoor pool has cascading waterfalls, towering palms and plenty of chairs and lounges. The adjacent garden area provides plenty of shade on the warmest Arizona days. The Raddison Phoenix City Center is an ideal spot for your Phoenix experience.

  Tourism is among Phoenix’ biggest industries, and the area boasts many fine hotels and resorts. Despite a virtual guarantee of sunny skies, summer is considered the off-season, and provides opportunities for bargain travel. Arizona and New Mexico’s unique cultures, distant horizons and stunning landscapes resonate with the spirit. It is truly a land of beauty and enchantment.