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Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix is a popular desert retirement community

Phoenix (pronounced FEE-nicks) is located in central Arizona about 150 miles south of Flagstaff and 150 miles north of Tucson. It is situated on a broad, flat desert basin amid scattered barren rocky mountain peaks. It is a large sprawling city that has expanded to envelop the surrounding communities of Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe, Glendale and Sun City. It has a small downtown area containing a few dozen high-rise buildings surrounded by a large metropolitan area that has expanded outward rather than upward.

Desert Museum © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
The Phoenix area lies within the northern fringe of the Sonoran desert, home of the giant Saguaro cactus that can exceed 10 meters in height.

Phoenix has attracted many retired people who come to enjoy the year-round warm climate, the dry desert atmosphere and the relatively modest cost of living. Unfortunately, this popularity has given rise to increased population density, urban sprawl and traffic congestion. Nevertheless, Phoenix and the surrounding areas retain a pleasant arid climate free of the rains and mosquitoes in Florida and without the exorbitant cost of living in Southern California.

The climate is dry and warm

The climate is very dry with temperatures ranging from pleasantly temperate during the winter to extremely hot during the summer. Daytime temperatures often exceed 45 deg. C during the summer months but average a refreshing 20 - 25 deg. C during the winter. Golfing at one of the many surrounding courses is popular during the winter. Residents usually avoid all outdoor activities during midday hours in the summer. Late fall and early spring are good times to visit Phoenix, in order to avoid the summer heat and the winter tourists.

The Phoenix area lies within the northern fringe of the Sonoran desert, home of the giant Saguaro cactus that can exceed 10 meters in height. The surrounding countryside varies from barren rocky waste to fields of cactus and exotic desert vegetation interspersed with mountains and mesas of varied-colored rocks. It is a land that can be rugged and forbidding yet strangely beautiful.

There are many interesting sights in Phoenix

There are many things to see in Phoenix and the surrounding area. The Desert Botanical Museum has a wonderful collection of desert plants from arid regions around the world. It is a great place to learn about the flora of the southern Arizona desert. The museum is located near the popular Phoenix zoo, which contains a fine exhibit of animals living in the surrounding desert. Heard Museum features Native American culture and art including an extensive collection of artifacts that depict the lifestyle of local indigenous people. Deer Valley Rock Art Center is dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of petroglyphs or prehistoric Native American rock art. Pueblo Grande Museum features an archeological site revealing some of the ancient dwellings. These attractions in addition to the Mining and Mineral Museum and the Chicano Museum help form a complete depiction of the Central Arizona heritage.

Goldfield, Superstition Moutains © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
The old mining town of Goldfield just outside of Apache Junction has been reconstructed and converted to a tourist attraction with train rides, mine tours, old west shows and gunfights.

The Mystery Castle at the foot of the South Mountains is worth visiting. It was built before 1945 out of rocks, bottles and discarded objects of all kinds by Luther Boyce Gulley, an eccentric artist. Taliesin West in Scottsdale was the winter home and architectural studio of Frank Lloyd Wright, USA's most famous architect. It is now an architectural school and is open to visitors. The Cosanti Foundation, headquarters and workshop for Paolo Soleri, architect, craftsman and designer of the Arcosanti community is also located in Scottsdale. On a different note, Rawhide is a reconstructed western cowboy town and shopping paradise in Scottsdale.

The drive in South Mountain Park leads to a wonderful view overlooking the city. There are many hiking paths and horseback riding trails in the park and several stables that rent horses. North Mountain Park has similar trails and horse rental stables.

The Lost Dutchman Mine remains hidden in the Superstition Mountains

Apache Junction is located about 20 miles east of Phoenix at the western terminus of the old Apache Trail. The old mining town of Goldfield just outside of Apache Junction has been reconstructed and converted to a tourist attraction with train rides, mine tours, old west shows and gunfights. It is a lot of fun for the entire family. Goldfield lies in the shadow of the Superstition Mountains, famous as the legendary location of the Lost Dutchman Goldmine. At least eight people have been killed and many others disappeared into these forbidding mountains in search of the Dutchman's lost gold.

Outdoor activities like golf, tennis and mountain biking are very popular all year-round in Phoenix but especially during the winter months. There are nearly 120 golf courses near Phoenix. Horseback riding is another favorite pastime and many horse rental stables are located in the area.

Phoenix offers a wide variety of activities

Phoenix has professional baseball, football, NBA basketball, ice hockey and indoor soccer. It has a horse-racing track and a dog-racing track. Phoenix also has drag racing and drag-boat racing 8 miles south of the city. It has an opera, a symphony and several theaters.

The Fiesta Bowl parade and football match is held in Tempe on New Years Day. The National Festival of the West is held in Scottsdale in March. The Maricopa County Fair and the Rodeo of Rodeos are also held in March. The Arizona State Fair and the Cowboy Artists of America exhibition take place in October. The spectacular Thunderbird Balloon Classic is held in November.

Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau
Photo Description: Phoenix Skyline