Phoenix, Arizona

Arizona's capital city, Phoenix has risen from the mythical ashes of an ancient agricultural Indian village to become a sprawling modern metropolis and the fifth most populous city in the US. Its rapid urban growth has filled what is known as the Valley of the Sun, encompassing the neighbouring towns of Scottsdale, Mesa, and Tempe as suburbs. It's one of America's fastest-growing urban centres, claiming to have more five-star hotels than any other city in the US.

With luxurious resorts and spas, glitzy shopping plazas, upmarket restaurants, and superb golf courses, together with over 300 days of sunshine a year, the area has become a popular winter getaway for the rest of the country.

However, while some may know Phoenix as a retirement community, it is home to both the University of Phoenix and the University of Arizona, as well as over a dozen other colleges, ensuring a huge student population that keeps Phoenix young.

Phoenix has a number of interesting museums, including the Heard Museum of Native American culture and the Phoenix Art Museum. A scattering of parks, a wide variety of restaurants, and a well-developed arts scene makes a vacation in Phoenix an attractive prospect for travellers of all ages.

Phoenix's greatest attraction is its location, with the city surrounded by a vast cactus-studded desert and the magnificent scenery of the Red Rock Country around Sedona. It's a landscape of canyons, pinnacles, and red cliffs which have been the setting for numerous Wild West films and novels. The Apache Trail is a winding scenic drive that passes through some of the beautiful rugged terrain of central Arizona, passing ghost towns, ancient ruins, and the Superstitious Mountains.

Phoenix shimmers in the heat of the biologically unique Sonoran desert in central Arizona. For decades people have chosen to travel to Phoenix for the sunshine, and found a modern metropolis with a thriving tourist district, an art neighborhood packed with galleries, and a number of fascinating natural and historical attractions. The city offers some good sightseeing and a great restaurant scene, but most travelers use Phoenix primarily as a travel hub for excursions into the glorious desert landscapes on the city's doorstep.

Within the city, popular sights include the Heard Museum, the Desert Botanical Garden, the Phoenix Children's Museum, St Mary's Basilica, the Musical Instrument Museum, and Taliesin West, the former home and school of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Travellers are spoilt for choice when it comes to excursions out of Phoenix: Camelback Mountain, South Mountain Park, Piestewa Peak, and many other scenic spots lure hikers and photographers just beyond the city. Many people choose to travel farther afield on a day trip to famous attractions like the Grand Canyon, Lake Mead and Hoover Dam.

Golfers are very well catered for on a Phoenix holiday with scenic courses to take a swing at, and there are numerous spas and health resorts for those who enjoy pampering. Hikers enjoy excursions to the surrounding mountains.

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Travel guide by wordtravels.com © Globe Media Ltd.