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Wednesday, 10 December 2014 00:00

Local Guide to Phoenix, Arizona

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Founded in 1871, Phoenix is the capital city of Arizona & the 5th largest city in US. The metro area, called The Valley of the Sun, or just “The Valley”, encompasses the cities of Tempe, Scottsdale, Glendale and Mesa. A major cultural, economical & political center, Phoenix’s fast paced vitality opens a plethora of activities to its visitors. At over 500 square miles, the city of Phoenix actually exceeds the land area of the Greater Los Angeles area!

Arriving in Phoenix

The best way to get to Phoenix from anywhere in the world is by air.  Like many cities in the American west, there is not a truly viable rail option; the nearest Amtrak stop is in Maricopa, about 50 miles away.  Phoenix is served by two commercial airports, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), and Mesa Gateway Airport (AZA).  Sky Harbor is centrally located to the center of the city, convenient to downtown Phoenix, Tempe, Scottsdale, and many other destinations.  Mesa Gateway is located in the southeast section of the metro area, and is much smaller.

If part of your trip through the American southwest is by car, Phoenix is located on Interstate 10, which is the southernmost transcontinental highway in the U.S. interstate system.  Phoenix is about 6 hours from Los Angeles on the I-10, and about 6 and a half hours from El Paso along the same highway.

What time of year should I visit Phoenix?

Phoenix enjoys around 300 days of sunshine per year on average, so if you like sunshine, any time of year is great!  However, there is a caveat!  Phoenix is perhaps the hottest major American city with temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit not uncommon from May through September.   While not “cold” by the standards of anyone living in the Northeastern U.S., Canada, or much of Europe, the winters in Phoenix can get a little chilly; given that, our favorite times to visit Phoenix are late September through November and February through April.  During those months, the weather is nearly perfect.

How should I get around Phoenix?

Phoenix really began to grow as a city after the introduction of air conditioning about 100 years ago.  As a result of another invention of about that time, the automobile, the city is very car-centric.  Phoenix has a good assortment of freeways, and its roads are organized largely on a grid system, making it very easy to find your way around.  However, there is not much in the way of rapid public transit.  There is an extensive bus system, and the start of a light-rail system, but there is no subway.  Simply put, if you’d like to see a lot of Phoenix, you’ll need to rent a car.

A couple of fun facts:

  • Phoenix is located in the Sonoran Desert.  The Sonoran Desert is the only place in the world that the saguaro cactus grows naturally.
  • Phoenix is home to a professional sports team in each of the four major American sports (NFL Football: Arizona Cardinals; NHL Hockey: Phoenix Coyotes; NBA Basketball: Phoenix Suns; MLB Baseball: Arizona Diamondbacks)
  • The metro-Phoenix area is home to Arizona State University, the largest university in the United States by student count (over 75,000 undergraduate and graduate students)
  •  South Mountain Park, located in Phoenix, is the largest municipal park in the world
  • Historic Route 66 cuts through Phoenix on its way to California.  Route 66 was one of the original highways in the U.S. highway system, starting in Chicago, Illinois and ending in Santa Monica, California.
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