Phoenix, known as the "Valley of the Sun" for its 300 plus days of sunshine each year, is a fragmented city sprawling into many other towns and suburbs which surround it. Visitors first notice the sprawling low profile of the valley ensconced cozily within several mountain ranges on its border.
The downtown area has changed dramatically since its tired days of the 70's and 80's. With the construction of the
Phoenix is also trying to revitalize the urban center with more residential living and amenities which serve the people who live here. Two great restaurants that serve them are
Incorporating the themes of Phoenix's early history with culture and local events,
The bedroom communities of Glendale and Peoria include moderately priced homes largely developed in the 1970s and they primarily remain residential areas. Most people find their entertainment and shopping needs at the
The growing west side continues to spread outward into other communities such as Buckeye and Surprise, however the town with the most charm would be Glendale. Most visitors go to
Largely comprised of low-cost housing and shared lots with the farming industry, the area of South Phoenix has somewhat of a reputation for violence and poverty. However, the upscale community of Ahwatukee is a notable exception. Ahwatukee residents are mostly older adults and urban professionals who shuffle around the city for work, and as such there is not a tremendous amount of attractions here.
This area is mostly residential, with upscale apartments that coexist with middle class housing. For some of the best views of Phoenix, be sure to take the
North & Northwest Phoenix
Further north, visitors can find the tranquil towns of Cave Creek and Anthem. And further northwest, you will find Peoria and the communities of Sun City, Sun City West and Surprise. Most of these towns are filled with golf courses and retirees. However, for other recreation, hikers will enjoy the White Tank Mountain Regional Park.
Bordering Phoenix to the east is the neighborhood of Paradise Valley, which draws middle to upper class residents because of its beautiful desert location in the foothills of
Located south of Scottsdale, Tempe is primarily a college town and the home of
Continuing east we find Mesa, Chandler and Gilbert. All bedroom communities that are primarily filled with families and strip-malls. Most of the area aside from Mesa remained largely agricultural communities until a growth spurt of housing which began in the 1980s and continues to this day.
While many of our American counterparts are shoveling snow and battling the flu, Phoenicians are attending outdoor concerts, strolling around neighborhood art and wine festivals, and barbecuing poolside. It is for these reasons that the winter is considered "high season" by resorts and hotels in Phoenix. Accommodations range from luxury to budget, with most offering pools and whirlpools. The highest concentrations of resorts in the Phoenix area are located in three areas: Downtown Phoenix, Scottsdale and Paradise Valley.
Downtown Phoenix, primarily a financial and government district, is the home of City Hall and all municipal activity. Cultural attractions and night life are centered around Copper Square and the Arizona Center. The accommodations downtown vary from high-end luxury to modest hotels with lesser amenities. For more refined stays, the Westin Phoenix Downtown is another gem from Starwood Hotels & Resorts. The clean, luxurious theme extends from the public areas to each one of the elegantly appointed guest rooms. Room appointments are aimed at making life easier for business people. Facilities include a fitness room, swimming pool and a jogging track. Another good choice downtown is the allegedly haunted Hotel San Carlos. This beautiful Italian Renaissance style hotel offers European luxury. Hollywood's Golden Age movie icons are said to have frequented this posh spot with its rooftop swimming pool.
The Hyatt Regency's sky-high rooms offer incredible views of Arizona sunsets combined with the excitement of downtown city lights. Fine American cuisine is available at the on site Compass Restaurant, which features an outstanding 360 degree view of the city below. Following along Interstate-10 near Tempe, you'll find excellent accommodation at the Radisson Hotel with its six-story waterfall. Other facilities with freeway access include the Buttes or the Pointe South Mountain Resort which offer both lovely views and elegant dining experiences.
The area along Camelback Road between 24th Street and 44th Street is Phoenix's upscale shopping, business and residential district. It is home to the Biltmore Fashion Park, an upscale enclave of shopping and dining choices. The history and sophisticated elegance of the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa places it head and shoulders above all of the hotels and resorts in the Phoenix area. Reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright's style, resort rooms are large and delightfully comfortable and include patios or balconies. Tee off on the 18-hole golf courses, or take to the water in one of five swimming pools.
Other first rate accommodations in the East Valley include The Ritz-Carlton Phoenix, the lovely Royal Palms and the Embassy Suites-Phoenix Biltmore, widely recognized for its gorgeous pink exterior. A few miles to the east you'll find the premium facilities at the Phoenician Resort, complete with golf and fine dining.
Near the Metrocenter Mall, off Interstate 17, you'll find a host of lodging with more modest prices located near shopping and dining. Choose the Four Points by Sheraton or the newer Sheraton Crescent Hotel, both of which offer many amenities and a convenient location. If you need a longer stay, try the new Hawthorn Suites or the SpringHill Suites, which have services suitable for extended accommodation.
Swanky accommodations are also available a little further east on Resort Row in Scottsdale, which is known as "the West's most Western town." Resort Row is the name given to the portion of Scottsdale Road that extends between Indian School Road and Shea Boulevard. Excellent shopping can be found at the distinctive Borgata. Stay in top notch accommodations at Scottsdale Plaza Resort or Marriott's new Renaissance Cottonwoods. Premium lakeside facilities, as well as golf with a view, can be enjoyed at the Regal McCormick Ranch.
The Inn At The Citadel has managed to distinguish itself among its counterparts. The antique and original art in each of rooms gives visitors the feeling that their room was designed especially for them. The large bathrooms are marbled, with lace shower curtains. Additional resorts, also with superior surroundings and amenities include the Doubletree La Posada Resort and the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Scottsdale. The Scottsdale Princess features tennis courts and extensive conference facilities. Play at the beautiful TPC course here, which is home to the annual Phoenix Open Golf Tournament.
This particular area in the Sonoran Desert has been inhabited for over 1500 years and its remnants can be seen in the Pueblo Grande Ruins, a preserved archaeological site that provides information about the Hohokam Indians. These early indigenous settlers developed the infrastructure for an irrigation system that consisted of canals which tapped into the nearby Salt River, providing much needed water. Mysteriously, this ancient civilization disappeared in the 1400s, with a severe drought being the most widely accepted cause for their demise.
It was not until 1867 that the seeds for modern day Phoenix were planted. Traveling on horseback, Jack Swilling from the nearby town of Wickenburg stopped to take a rest, looked out upon the vast expanse of desert, and somehow envisioned a farming community in this inhospitable, arid climate. The lack of available water was the primary obstacle, so he organized the Swilling Irrigation Canal Company to divert water to the Valley's land. In 1868, the first harvest arrived at fledgling markets and a small colony named the Swilling's Mill was formed four miles east of modern day Phoenix. The name for the tiny settlement arose from the idea that, just as the legendary Phoenix rises up from the ashes, the new town would spring from the ruins of a former civilization.
The late 1860s and 1870s brought continued growth to the area with the addition of a post office and steam mill, which blared the horn for entrepreneurship and an emerging farming industry. With the continued influx of pioneers, by 1870 Phoenix became a trade center of the Southwest and earned a reputation as a wild, lawless, western town. The first county election held in 1871 resulted in a gun battle between candidates. The two men, J.A. Chenowth and Jim Favorite, engaged in a shooting match resulting in Favorite's death and Chenowth's withdrawal from the race. Tom Barnum became the first sheriff of Maricopa County, which was formed when Yavapai County was divided.
The town site was officially recorded on February 15, 1873 and incorporated in 1881. The beginnings of a bustling city could be seen, complete with the first electric plants in the West located here. Transportation progressed with the first horse-drawn streetcar line built along Washington Street in 1887, and strides in transportation would be the primary factor in the growth of the city. The long anticipated arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad rolled into the station soon after. The next few years brought with them triumphs and tragedies with the installation of the first telephone system and the worst flood in Valley history. The 1902 signing of the National Reclamation Act made it possible to build dams on western streams, and the Salt River Valley Water Users' Association was formed to manage the city's most precious commodity, its water supply.
Arizona gained its statehood with the approval of President William Howard Taft on February 14, 1912. Thus began a new era; the farming community declined and Phoenix became a booming metropolis. Within eight years Phoenix boasted a population of 29,000, a total of 1,080 buildings had been constructed and the Heard Building, Arizona's first skyscraper, loomed over the city.
Fueled by the declaration of war, the first true economic boom in Phoenix history occurred in the 1940s. Home to Luke Field, Williams Field, Falcon Field and the giant training center at Hyder, Phoenix became the temporary home to thousands of military men. Having been smitten with the Arizona lifestyle, many of these men returned with their families after the war. Determined to continue the economic rise, local economic boosters targeted companies like Motorola, General Electric and Reynolds Aluminum, describing Phoenix as the "new modern city of the West." Banks issued loans freely and newspapers praised the Valley as a great place to live. The opening of Sky Harbor Airport and the newly affordable air conditioning systems in homes, businesses and cars gave a major boost to the tourism industry, which still flourishes today.
The 1950s brought with it the beginning of a cultural community, with the Heard Museum, Phoenix Art Museum and the Phoenix Symphony at its core. The community supported the growth of a small teachers college into what is now Arizona State University in Tempe, another important step in the Valley's expansion.
Migration to the Valley continues to earn Phoenix the distinction as one of the fastest growing areas in the country. Each year golfing enthusiasts converge in droves, earning Phoenix a reputation as a premier golfing location. Arizona is one of the few states in the country to host a major league team in all sports. Following the happenings of local teams is an integral part of the Phoenix lifestyle. The Arizona Cardinals, tracing their roots to 1898, have the distinction of being the oldest continuously run professional football franchise in the nation. The Phoenix Suns burst onto the scene in 1968 and have entertained Valley residents for decades with their superb skills on the court. The new franchise known as the Phoenix Coyotes debuted in 1996, and the long awaited dream of having a baseball team became a reality in 1998 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Residents and visitors alike enjoy the new Chase Field, a cool sports facility in the desert that features a retractable roof and and indoor swimming pool.
Just as the mythical bird rose from the ashes of its funeral pyre, so has this city grown from a lost civilization to a major economic, cultural and entertainment center in a short span. There is no indication that the present migration to the Valley of the Sun will be slowing any time soon, as the climate continues to lure snowbirds and businesses. Today's new pioneers owe a debt of gratitude to their counterparts who so graciously paved the way to the magnificent modern day city we now enjoy.
The Valley of the Sun has always been considered more of a wasteland in regards to culinary innovation rather than a food paradise. However, over the years many new and exciting restaurants have opened their doors with a focus on local food and sustainability here in the desert. Outside of the popular and classic restaurants El Chorro Lodge and T. Cooks, most dining options for Phoenicians over the years were either in strip malls or at an upscale resort.
Then in the 80’s, many restaurants including the creative Vincent Guerithault on Camelback, opened and started a paradigm shift in how chefs approached food in the greater Phoenix area. Now, local chefs in Phoenix and Arizona in general have started to gather many awards, from the unique fusion of Mediterranean and desert flavors at Medizona, or to try something especially unique to Phoenix, the Native American flavors at Kai, located in the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort have transformed the city into a bizarre, yet serendipitous setting for nouveau-cuisine.
The Arizona Center located on Van Buren St. offers everything from fast-food to swanky clubs and bars within the borders of downtown's main nightlife district Copper Square. While you are downtown, most of the activities center on the sports arenas for basketball and baseball. If you are here for such an activity, you can pop into Phoenix's Irish pub, Seamus McCaffrey's, in the Hotel San Carlos. Phoenix Suns fans, and sometimes players, often frequent Majerle's Sports Grill, opened by former Suns star Dan Majerle.
In the mid-section of Central Phoenix, you'll find a super selection of comfortable neighborhood spots. Mexican food is ubiquitous in Arizona and some are obviously better than others, one that is more salient is Barrio Cafe where they have created their own niche in the city's dining scene. Two other popular spots in this area are Tutti Santi for great Italian and Durant's for classic mobster steakhouse.
Scattered among the galleries in the downtown arts district are restaurants that feature both traditional and modern kitchens. For traditional comfort, Don & Charlie's and the Pink Pony have been dining fixtures in the neighborhood for years. Some of the hottest clubs are also located here, including the glitzy, high energy Axis/Radius, the cosmopolitan Madison's and the rowdy Martini Ranch. A local music scene thrives here with many bars that provide the sound, if it is Big-Band era music you dig, then go to the Famous Door or catch some blues at the Cajun House.
AAlong the main drag of Scottsdale Road you'll find that it is truly a parkway for the palate and Scottsdale Fashion Square offers tons of restaurants including the popular P.F. Chang's. Since the valley is so hot, there are tons of resorts here that provide pool parties, one of the most popular is the Hotel Valley Ho. At the Borgata shopping plaza, designed by an acolyte of Frank Lloyd Wright, is the award-winning pizzaiolo Pomo Pizzeria. This restaurant is one of the best places in Arizona to have a pizza created in the Neopolitan style, and they have the certification to prove it (look for the placard of the little clown holding a pizza). Right across the street is the ultimate upscale steakhouse, Fleming's Prime. Another award winner is La Locanda, touted as one of the best Italian restaurants in the entire Southwest; it is known for its ever-changing menu and super selection of wines.
Further north along the corridor of Bell and Scottsdale roads, visitors will find the popular Sonoran-style Mexican restaurant, Carlos O'Brien's. Also with the same motif, albeit another kitchen, is the Coyote Grill, a southwestern café with an amazing menu. For adventurous eaters, try the rattlesnake at the Golden Belle Steakhouse & Saloon and for upscale in Paradise Valley, go to Tarbell’s or the classic El Chorro Lodge. Other new and exciting eating establishments include Restaurant Oceana, which offers fresh fish to eager desert dwellers and Michael Monti's specializes in top quality steaks. For seafood, the Cantina del Pedregal offers dramatic views and a lively atmosphere or the Salt Cellar takes you underground for some of the freshest lobster in the city.
You can always count on a college town to have an active party scene and Tempe is no exception. Mill Avenue and University Drive are ground zero for the East Valley's nightlife. The subterranean Beeloe's is a combination cafe, gallery and concert venue with live music. Right across the street you will find the Gordon Biersch Brewing Company, popular for its people-watching just as it is for the microbrews. True to its name, The Bash on Ash is a warehouse-sized "animal house", that serves cheap drinks and cheap thrills. Despite the glut of dive bars and fast-food establishments, nutrition and environmentally conscious people will find a variety of different eateries, including macrobiotic munchies at N Counter Café or Ethiopian food eaten with your fingers at Cafe Lalibela.
Mesa, Chandler and Gilbert form the "bedroom communities" of the East Valley, but in terms of dining they are by no means sleepy. A whole world of ethnic cuisine awaits visitors, including the vaunted Native American kitchen at Kai Restaurant in the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Casino, German food at Zur Kate and innovative Italian at Postino’s. For fine dining, Mahogany Run in Gilbert has quickly become an acclaimed destination.
Centered at 24th Street and Camelback, the Biltmore Fashion Park is home to the renowned Bamboo Club and Che Bella. As you head east, several standout steakhouses—Ruth's Chris, Omaha Steakhouse and Harris'all of which allow you to gorge on red meat until your heart’s content. A little lighter fare is made in the kitchens of Marco Polo and Havana Café , however they do not lack in taste or ambience.
This is the place where you'll find simple, satisfying food at bargain prices generally within strip-malls. As most of the West Valley is residential, most food is focused on families. However, there are some standouts like the Greek restaurant Golden Greek; this is the spot to go for the best gyro in the city. Another that deserves some merit is Dillon's, it is one of the Valley's younger restaurants, but it has already garnered a huge following which comes for their serving of fine Iowa corn-fed pork.
For country music and country cooking, kick up your heels and "Electric Slide" on over to Mr. Lucky's, one of the Valley's authentic cowboy dance clubs. Mr. Lucky's even has live bull riding in an outdoor rodeo arena for those who dare.