Phoenix On a BudgetThe most populous city in the American Southwest, Phoenix is the capital city of Arizona and busiest hub of activity in the general area. Geographically it is located in the Sonoran Desert, making for long hot summers and mild winters. This climate has ensured a thriving tourism industry with plenty of attractions both in and around Phoenix.
SightsPhoenix is home to many sights, both indoors and out. For those seeking refuge from the hot southwestern sun, check out some of the city's best museums. The Arizona Science Center features a planetarium and IMAX theatre, the Heard Museum celebrates local Native American cultures and arts, and the Phoenix Art Museum hosts a collection of about 16,000 works of art in American, Asian, Latin American, and modern and contemporary styles.
For those who don't mind the heat, Phoenix has a plethora of outdoor attractions as well. The Phoenix Zoo is the largest privately owned, non-profit zoo in the United States, placing an emphasis on animal conservation, often breeding and reintroducing endangered species back into the wild. Next to the zoo, visitors can also see the Phoenix Botanical Gardens, acclaimed worldwide for their exhibits and educational programs, with the largest collection of arid plants in the United States. South Mountain Park is another great stop for experiencing a preserved desert mountain environment.
Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park is also of interest for anyone wanting to channel their inner Indiana Jones. It is the only city-operated archaeological site in the U.S., showcasing ancient pre-Columbian Hohokam inhabitants of the area. There are too many sights within and around the city to name them all, but a few additional items of note include the Japanese Friendship Garden, Historic Heritage Square, Phoenix Mountains Park, Pueblo Grande Museum, Tovrea Castle, Camelback Mountain, Hole in the Rock, Mystery Castle, St. Mary’s Basilica, Taliesin West, and the Wrigley Mansion.
NeighborhoodsGreater Phoenix is divided into seven districts: Downtown, Midtown, West Phoenix, North Phoenix, South Phoenix, Camelback East, and Ahwatukee. Downtown is the center of activity, especially for visitors, spanning 2-3 square miles and a few main thoroughfares-Central Avenue and Washington and Jefferson Streets. Midtown is home to a number of historic neighborhoods as well as several cultural, performance, and sporting venues. West Phoenix has seen some urban decline except for its Cricket Pavilion concert venue, while North Phoenix is a good home base for hiking and outdoor activities. South Phoenix is another district that has seen decline, but is home to South Mountain Regional Park-the largest municipal park in the country. And finally, both Camelback East and Ahwatukee are upscale districts, with Camelback East being home to the Phoenix Zoo and world class resorts.
ActivitiesBeing the largest, most populous city of the general area, Phoenix is host to a wide range of activities both within and without. The arts and entertainment scene is alive with opportunities to enjoy opera, symphony, theatre, and a number of festivals held throughout the year. Historic sites and museums are abundant, as are opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy hiking in a unique desert environment.
There are also many sites of interest just outside the city, some of which include National Monuments like Agua Fria, Casa Grande Ruins, and Organ Pipe Cactus, as well as other destinations like Lost Dutchman State Park, Montezuma’s Castle, and Montezuma’s Well. Phoenix is also often a starting point for popular southwest locations like the Grand Canyon, Painted Desert, Tombstone, Sedona, Meteor Crater, Lake Havasu, and the Petrified Forest.