By Josephine Matyas
There are few destinations that can match how Phoenix mixes bright lights and big city glitz with the jaw-dropping scenery of rugged mountain ranges and desert. Add picture perfect weather, a packed entertainment calendar and an eclectic mix of museums and attractions and you’ll find there is always something happening in Phoenix.
The hot list
National Geographic rates Phoenix among America’s best hiking cities (320 kilometres of accessible hiking trails).
Mobile-savvy travellers can now call up the new mobile version of the state’s website at www.arizonaguide.com.mobi
Train aficionados can hop aboard a steam locomotive through southern Arizona to Phoenix in celebration of Arizona’s Centennial. A “living legend,” No. 844 was the last steam engine built for Union Pacific.
Elvis is in the house! A new, permanent exhibit at the Musical Instrument Museum dedicated to the King showcases his clothes, personal items and instruments (including the 1975 Martin D-28 acoustic guitar Elvis played at his last concert). www.themim.org
Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Phoenix homestead, celebrates 75 years and the National Historic Landmark will mark the 2012 anniversary with symposiums, concerts, special events and enhanced tours. www.franklloydwright.org
Photos Greater Phoenix CVB
Arizona Railway Museum. Take a self-guided walk in the open-air train yard. www.azrymuseum.org
Phoenix Art Museum. Catch the special exhibition Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture for the 21st Century with 33 never-before-shown drawings by the man they call “America’s greatest architect.” www.phxart.org
Musical Instrument Museum. At “the most extraordinary museum you’ll ever hear” more than 300 exhibits celebrate world cultures through the common language of music. www.themim.org
Desert Botanical Garden. Walk with a trained Garden Guide along trails showcasing more than 50,000 arid-climate plants from deserts around the globe. www.dbg.org
Heard Museum. This downtown, world-class museum is home to fine exhibitions about the art and history of Native peoples. www.heard.org
Pioneer Living History Museum. Visit an old frontier town and be transported back to the world of the Arizona Territory from 1862 to 1912. www.pioneeraz.org
Phoenix Zoo. Voted one of the Top 5 Zoos in the Nation for Kids, there are four kilometres of walking trails and exhibits replicating the natural habitats of more than 1,200 animals that call the zoo home. www.phoenixzoo.org
Children’s Museum of Phoenix. Stirring the imagination and a love for learning through play with interactive displays like 10,000 Blocks (opening 2012), a creative art studio and a cosy book loft. www.childrensmuseumofphoenix.org
Arizona Science Center. A family favourite with its IMAX Theater, dome Planetarium and more than 300 hands-on exhibits in five themed galleries. www.azscience.org
Eat & Drink
Just east of downtown Phoenix, the new Phoenix Ale Brewery serves beer samplings and tours of its craft ale facility. The brewery’s Fretzy’s Unfiltered Ale debuted at the 2011 Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Phoenix. www.phoenixbrew.com
The new Province, in The Westin Phoenix Downtown, showcases seasonal American cuisine with Latin Soul. With an emphasis on a farm-to-table philosophy, the menu is a blending of old and new world culinary traditions. www.westinphoenixdowntown.com
The Rim Lobby Bar at The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa offers Scotch Tastings for novice to expert scotch drinkers. The resort’s Deseo, featuring Latin-influenced cuisine, has been named “One of America’s Best Wine Restaurants.” And the new Brittlebush Bar & Grill boasts Scottish-influenced cuisine, DIY Bloody Mary Bar and a dog-friendly patio space. www.kierlandresort.com
There’s a little bit of Jamaica tucked away at the Rum Bar, located at The Breadfruit, with over 108 rums in its collection. www.thebreadfruit.com
The Arizona Biltmore now offers Afternoon Tea and a Winemaker Dinner series (until May 2012) pairing innovative menus, fine wines and fashion shows. www.arizonabiltmore.com
Even in the middle of a desert landscape, there’s water everywhere at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa – four pools with cascading waterfalls and a massive waterslide are perfect for families. In the summer months, “dive in” movies play poolside on the big screen. www.wildhorsepassresort.com
Just steps to restaurants, shops and nightlife, The Westin Phoenix Downtown is a business hotel with 1,393 square metres of meeting and banquet facilities, a 24-hour gym and an Executive Club lounge with a fully equipped business centre. www.westinphoenixdowntown.com
Nicknamed “The Jewel of the Desert,” the landmark Arizona Biltmore has been a long-time favourite of celebrities and politicians. Composer Irving Berlin penned White Christmas while sitting poolside. www.arizonabiltmore.com
Photos Greater Phoenix CVB
Hikers head for Hayden Butte (a.k.a. “A” Mountain) in nearby Tempe with inclines steep enough to push pulses into the red zone.
Camelback Mountain is an unmistakable landmark, rewarding hikers with a 360-degree panorama of the city and surrounding desert.
Nature lovers gravitate toward the Phoenix Mountains Preserve and South Mountain Park (at 20,000 acres it’s the world’s largest city park).
Archaeologists and anthropologists lead tours with Arizona Frontiers, designed to showcase Arizona’s history and the Hohokam and Sinagua cultures. www.arizonafrontiers.com
Cardiotourists can join locals in the annual PF Chang’s Rock ’n’ Roll Arizona Marathon. The flat-course race begins in downtown Phoenix and runners are greeted with live music along the route. www.rocknroll.competitor.com
Aerial creativity abounds at SKYPARK Indoor Trampoline Park – activities include trampolining, trampoline dodgeball and basketball trampolines. www.jumpskypark.com
Photos Greater Phoenix CVB
Stroll along Mill Avenue District in nearby Tempe and browse in three-dozen small shops and boutiques with clothing, jewelry, books, art and home décor items. www.millavenue.com
Over 700 artists display jewelry, sculpture, pottery, beadwork, weaving and baskets at the annual Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market (March 2012). www.heard.org
CityScape Phoenix is three blocks of shops, restaurants, bars and lounges for the savvy shopper, right in the heart of downtown. www.cityscapephoenix.com
Mega malls, like Desert Ridge Marketplace or Biltmore Fashion Park, and funky shopping districts, like Melrose on 7th, are filled with cinemas, eateries, live music and shopping.
Photos Greater Phoenix CVB
Many of the signature treatments at Agave, The Arizona Spa are inspired by the indigenous agave plant, including body masks, mud wraps and nourishing exfoliation therapy. www.kierlandresort.com
Tocasierra Spa’s full-service day spa and fitness centre includes massage rooms, an aesthetician room and a dozen comfortable pamper stations for salon services and skin treatments. www.squawpeakhilton.com
The Aji Spa has the only authentic Native American spa menu in existence. Treatments include ancient techniques passed down for generations from Pima Medicine Healers. www.wildhorsepassresort.com
Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess offers a full selection of treatments and facilities, guiding guests along an innovative path to “summon their energy.” www.fairmont.com/scottsdale
Pointe Hilton’s Squaw Peak Resort and Tapatio Cliffs Resort Stay and Play Package bundles accommodation, breakfast and one round of golf. www.squawpeakhilton.com
The Legacy Golf Resort has a Gary Panks-designed, par 71 course, the site of the 2000 LPGA Standard Register PING tournament. Golf Digest named the Legacy “One of the Top 10 Golf Courses to Play in Phoenix.” www.shellhospitality.com
Serious golfers are drawn to the legendary “Troon Golf Experience” at the Troon Golf Club in North Phoenix. Troon is known as the hallmark of the desert golf experience, with two Tom Wesikopf-designed courses, weaving through the natural ravines and foothills in the high Sonoran desert. www.troonnorthgolf.com
For more information, visit www.visitphoenix.com