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World Travel Guide > Guides > North America > United States of America > Arizona > Phoenix

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Phoenix Travel Guide

About Phoenix

The heart of the Sonoran Desert is an unlikely place for the fifth largest urban city in the US, but there sits Phoenix, a place bisected by freeways and boasting four distinct quarters, each with a different character.

Not that a passing glance would reveal it. At first glimpse, Phoenix looks like nothing so much as a collection of faux-adobe homes interspersed with clumps of saguaro cacti.

Delve a little deeper however and there’s much to like about Phoenix, not least its university-dominated Downtown. Here, you’ll find a slew of interesting museums, among them the excellent Heard Museum which charts the area’s Native American past, much of it dominated by the Navajo.

Then, there’s the Phoenix Art Museum, the largest in the south-western United States, which boasts a permanent collection of contemporary classics as well as a roster of ever-changing temporary exhibitions.

Downtown is also home to the Arizona Cardinals, based at the vast University of Phoenix stadium, and the equally popular Arizona Diamondbacks whose home is at the sprawling Maryvale Baseball Park. Close by is the Desert Botanical Garden, which showcases a cross-section of the local fauna, including yet more saguaro cacti.

Further natural beauty is to be found in Scottsdale; a ritzy suburb that meanders along the bottom of the beautiful Salt River Valley. Along with more than 200 golf clubs and resorts, the area is also home to a network of hiking trails as well as some of the city’s most upmarket bars. Scottsdale is bordered by Tempe, another major hub for drinkers that includes the buzzing Mill Avenue.

The final piece of the puzzle is Mesa, a short drive from Downtown Phoenix and famous for its museums and archaeological sites. The best-known of these is the Mesa Grande, a series of structures built by the Hohokam people from whom the modern Navajo, among others, are descended. It serves as a reminder, were one ever needed, that Phoenix, although ultra-modern at first glance, has more historical depth than most give it credit for.

Key facts

Population:
1601587 (2009)
Latitude:
33.447589
Longitude:
-112.071119

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The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

This luxurious desert retreat's backdrop is in the dramatic McDowell Mountains, and has pools, fountains, falls and lagoons in its own grounds. A plaza and courtyard have a Mexican village style. Rooms are spacious, with a southwest theme and either a patio or balcony. Casitas include butlers. Amenities include a free kids’ club, golf concierge for its famous golf course, five restaurants, five pools, water slides and an indoor/outdoor lounge with live entertainment.

Four Seasons at Troon North

Everything you expect from a luxurious Four Seasons resort. The lobby is a living gallery of desert art. Accented with a desert motif, the spacious rooms include a fireplace and a balcony, often with picture perfect views. Marble bathrooms have deep soaking tubs. Accommodation is in casitas, small villas. Excellent cuisine is accompanied by sweeping desert views at Acacia, a contemporary steakhouse, and the southwest-flavoured Crescent Moon. Amenities include a spa and fitness centre, and two lounges.

The Phoenician

With US$25 million worth of art (there is a self-guided tour), this hotel is opulent. The grounds have a large cactus garden, nine pools (some shaped like grand pianos) and a golf course. The hotel's restaurants range from epicurean, with a wine list of 4,500, to an ice-cream parlour and tea court. Airy rooms feature Berber carpeting, Irish linens, as well as rich and oversized Italian marble bathrooms. Not to be missed is its plush spa with a complete treatment menu, and the unusual addition of Tarot card readings.

Orange Tree Golf Resort

This hotel complex, on one of Scottsdale's popular golf courses, offers plenty of luxury for the discerning guest with a slightly less discerning budget. The décor is newly renovated and modern, and has 160 suites, all with a balcony or patio. The facilities include fitness and sports centre, swimming pool and golfing lessons. The poolside bar serves lunch and the golf restaurant is an alternative destination for dinner.

The Saguaro Scottsdale

Vibrant colours, handcrafted Mexican furniture and two outdoor pools help give this trendy hotel in Oldtown Scottsdale the va-va-voom factor.
Recently renovated, the hotel boasts 194 guest rooms, each furnished with a pillow-top mattress and 42-inch flat screen TV. Outside, a tropical garden sits between two outdoor pools and a margarita bar, stocking more than 100 varieties of tequila.

Arizona Golf Resort and Conference Center

Located in Mesa, about 30 minutes from Sky Harbor Airport, this property offers a lot for a little. Rooms are spacious with a bar, microwave, safe and Wi-Fi. Amenities include a championship golf course, pool, four whirlpools, two restaurants, a lounge and fitness centre. A nice little extra is the courtesy van that shuttles guests to and from destinations within 8km (5 miles) of the resort.