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USATourist News Magazine

March 2006

In this issue:

Welcome to the March 2006 newsletter. Friday March 17 is St. Patrick's Day. If you're going to be in the U.S. from the weekends of March 11 through March 19, there will be parades and celebrations honoring St. Patrick's Day and restaurants will be running corned beef and cabbage specials. Spring Break is also this month, so if you are planning to be visiting any beach towns you might encounter many college students enjoying the surf and sun.

This issue is focusing on the state of Arizona. There is a lot to see and do in this beautiful state and some of the top highlights are mentioned below.

Airport City Codes

For those of you who are new to the newsletter you will notice abbreviations after many cities mentioned in the newsletter. These "city codes" are the abbreviations for the main airport of that city. These abbreviations can be used in the place of the full city names while making your airline reservations.

It's also a good idea to know the city code of the airport you are flying to if you have to "gate check" your carry on luggage if the airplane is out of space of carry-ons when you board the flight. You will receive a tag that has the city code of your destination. Always check to make sure it is going to the same location you are, especially if the flight has many stops.


Arizona is considered a southwestern state, sitting right above Mexico, east of California and west of New Mexico. The summer months get very hot in Arizona, especially in Phoenix and Tucson. July is the hottest month with the high averaging 107 degrees. The winter months are mild and very comfortable. Spring and fall months are the best time to visit if you plan on seeing all of the highlights. Traffic is lighter and the weather is mild. If you visit the Grand Canyon in the winter months you may encounter snow but the southern cities are quite pleasant.

From north to south, the state offers beautiful scenery, history, and no matter where you go in the state you will find a relaxed atmosphere. If you plan your trip right you can see most of the attractions in about two weeks with out feeling rushed.


You can fly into Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport (PHX) and rent a car. Phoenix is located approximately 358 miles (577 km) east of Los Angeles, California (LAX) and 254 miles south east of Las Vegas, Nevada (LAS). Phoenix (as of 2005) is the sixth most populated city in the United States. The Metro Phoenix includes Chandler, Mesa, Scottsdale, and Tempe.

Park Plaza Hotels & Resorts is our hotel of month (more information below) and if you are inclined to spend a day or two in Phoenix at the beginning or end of your trip to Arizona, Park Plaza has two locations in the Phoenix area. While you're in Phoenix you will find plenty to do. There are many shopping opportunities from upscale shopping malls like the Biltmore Fashion Park to discount, outlet shopping like the Arizona Mills in Tempe (one of Phoenix's surrounding communities).

Phoenix takes pride in its performing arts, mainly the Phoenix Symphony, Arizona Opera, and Ballet Arizona and has a rich American Indian history. You can learn about Hohokam tribe at the Pueblo Grande Museum. The 1,500 years old Hohokam Village Ruins sits on 102 acres. Visitors can explore the grounds and see the 800 year-old platform mound which may have been used for Hohokam ceremonies and one of the world's most cherished collections of Native American Art. This place is truly fascinating.

Also in the area is the Desert Botanical Garden which has an amazing, 50 acres display of 139 endangered plant species from around the world. This is worth the visit.


After spending a day or two in Phoenix I would recommend driving to Sedona. Sedona is 94 miles (151 km) north of Phoenix and is one of the most majestic and fascinating towns this country has to offer. ( The Sedona area offers endless outdoor recreation possibilities: hiking, biking, camping, hot air balloon rides, and off-road jeep tours. The town has numerous shops including alternative/spiritual shops and many art galleries. For meals you will want to just relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery by eating outdoors at one of the cafes or restaurants.

One item you should know before exploring Sedona is a Red Rock Pass is required to be displayed in all vehicles parking on any National Forest land in Red Rock Country. The passes are inexpensive and easy to acquire. You can purchase them from visitor centers, "self-serve" machines, and commercial vendors.

Jerome, Arizona is only 23 miles (38 km) from Sedona. Jerome is known as the "largest ghost town" in the United States. Once a thriving mining community, today it is an artistic community with historic buildings, charming restaurants and shops to roam. It's also know as the "most vertical city" sitting on Cleopatra Hill (5,200 feet) above what was once the largest copper mine in Arizona. This town is perfect for a day trip if you stay in Sedona for a few days.

The Grand Canyon

One of the main attractions in the state of Arizona is the beautiful Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and a place everyone should visit. It is approximately 277 miles (446 km) long and, amazingly, varies in width from 0.25 to 18 miles (0.5 to 29 kilometers) and a depth of more than a mile (1,600 m).

The Grand Canyon is located only 90 minutes north of Sedona. Depending on your travel plans you can stay in Sedona and drive up to the Canyon for a short day trip for light hiking or just to see the sights and return to Sedona in the evening. Or, you can spend several days up at the Grand Canyon hiking into the canyon overnight, camping at one of the many campgrounds, or staying at one of the local hotels. For more on the Grand Canyon please visit this page.

On my last visit to the Grand Canyon we hiked Bright Angel trail, and as Mike mentions in this article, it is a 3000-foot descent with a challenging 3000-foot climb back to the rim. If you decide to venture into the Canyon, bring plenty of water. We saw a couple of people who weren't prepared and had to be rescued by mule, due to dehydration. Packing plenty of water is important if you decide to hike any where in Arizona. If do you plan on doing any hiking, it's worth investing in a back hydration bag (like a Camelback) that holds plenty of water.


Tucson (TUS) is located approximately 184 miles (296 km) south of Sedona and 109 miles (176 km) south of Phoenix. It is the 32nd most populated U.S. city. Tucson has the second largest airport in Arizona, Tucson International Airport. The drive between Phoenix and Tucson takes about an hour and a half on Interstate 10. A nice time to drive the I-10 is during sunset. As the sun falls you will be awed by the colors of the sky and can only imagine what the cowboys of the early days were thinking as they crossed the desert on horseback, using the mountains as landmarks.

About halfway between the cities, I-10 passes a large landmark by the name of Picacho Peak. Picacho Peak is seen for miles in all directions and has been an important landmark since the first settlers arrived. At the base of this landmark, the most western battle of the Civil War took place on April 15, 1862. The fighting lasted only an hour and a half and three Union Soldiers were killed. "The Civil War in the Southwest" is a re-enactment that takes place every March at Picacho Peak. This year it's held Mach 11-12. This annual event isn't the only attraction of Picacho Peak, trails wind around the mountain with ranging in levels from easy, for the people looking to stretch their legs from being on a long road trip to the difficult trails for the intense hiker. Campgrounds and an RV park are available in the area. Once you hop back on I-10 and continue south you will arrive in Tucson in about 40 minutes. Tucson is a much smaller community than the Phoenix area but traffic still is congested.

West of Tucson, among thousands of saguaros, sits a part of Hollywood that has brought the Old West on to the big screen and people's homes for years. This special place is Old Tucson Studios. Built in 1939 for the filming of the movie "Arizona," the studios opened in 1960 to the public. In 1995 arsonists set the studios on fire and nearly half of the buildings burned. Although the devastation could have closed the studios for good the opposite happened and today it is a thriving amusement park and studio set where Hollywood continues to bring the Old West to life. A train takes visitors on the outskirts of the park and into scenery of cactus. If you're "lucky" your train may encounter a robbery.

The Desert Museum is neighbor to Old Tucson Studios. This is the place to explore the desert and its wildlife. The Desert Museum is a combination of a world-renowned zoo, natural history museum and botanical garden. There are 300 animal species and 1,200 kinds of plants. This is where I saw my first, Gila monster and scorpion (actually there are many). I can only describe it as captivating.

Another fascinating stop in the Tucson area is the Pima Air and Space Museum. It is the largest Air and Space Museum in the Western United States. On display are over 250 military and civilian aircraft including the sleek supersonic, SR-71 Blackbird "Spy Plane" and President Kennedy's Air Force One, available for visitors to climb aboard and tour.

Also in the area are the "Boneyards" where retired aircrafts are parked, scrapped or used as aircraft storage areas. If you fly into Tucson and you happen to get an aerial view of these thousands of aircrafts you will be astonished.


You won't want to go to Arizona without visiting Tombstone, known as "The Town too Tough to Die." This small, former silver-mining town is about an hour and a half from Tucson. When you visit you will feel like you stepped back in time to the late 1800's when the west was wild and the area was one of the most violent and deadly regions of the western United States. The town was host to the legendary OK Corral gunfight on October 26, 1881 which has been depicted in many Western films. Tombstone, specifically Main Street, has been restored and mostly caters to tourists. Reenactments of gunfights occur on Main Street and you can grab a cold beer at one of the local saloons. There are also horse rides and stagecoach and wagon tours.

No matter where you go or what you do in Arizona, you will be sure to enjoy it.

Hotel of the Month: Park Plaza

Park Plaza Hotels & Resorts is a unique full service mid-scale hotel brand known for its great value and customer-focused service. There are 35 locations worldwide. There are two in Arizona, Phoenix and Chandler (one of Phoenix's surrounding cities). Park Plaza Hotels & Resorts have a full-service approach offering rooms, suites, meeting facilities, catering, restaurants, room service and a wide variety of business services. Park Plaza hotels are located in downtown and airport locations of primary and secondary cities and are generally 150 rooms or larger. Their hotels take pride in the quality and value they deliver to their guests.

Each location offers services and amenities to their guests to make their stay comfortable and enjoyable. These are just some of the little things that make the travel experience at Park Plaza a welcome sign worldwide.

  • Free morning newspaper
  • In room coffeemaker with complimentary coffee
  • In room iron and full size ironing board
  • Indoor/Outdoor swimming pools

What are the top ten most populated cities in the United States?

As of the 2004 United States consensus: the following list includes the most populated cites with the approximate populations within city limits.

  1. New York City, New York -- 8,104,079
  2. Los Angeles, California -- 3,845,541
  3. Chicago, Illinois -- 2,862,244
  4. Houston, Texas -- 2,012,626
  5. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania -- 1,470,151
  6. Phoenix, Arizona -- 1,418,041
  7. San Diego, California -- 1,263,756
  8. San Antonio, Texas -- 1,236,249
  9. Dallas, Texas -- 1,210,393
  10. San Jose, California -- 904,522

New York Pass

Have plans to visit New York? For only $49 you can buy a 1-day New York Pass that includes admission to over 40 of New York's best attractions, a 140-page comprehensive guide book, discounts at 25 top restaurants and retailers, and line-skipping privileges at select attractions. Some of the attractions include: Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Empire State Building, The Guggenheim, American Museum of Natural History, Madame TussaudÂ’s Wax Museum, Madison Square Garden All Access Tour, Radio City Music Hall Stage Door Tour, The United Nations Tour, plus many more.

The passes come in 1, 2, 3 or 7 day options. The more days you stay, the lower the rates are and the more you save. New York City Pass

This is a great deal and the perfect way to see New York City.

New York City News

There's a lot happening in New York these days. If you're considering taking a cruise, keep in mind that New York harbor welcomes many ships from European origins and distant ports in the Americas. Today, New York City serves as a homeport to ships from the Carnival, Princess, Holland America, Seabourn, Crystal, Norwegian, Radison SS and the Silver Seas cruise lines including Cunard's Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth 2. With itineraries to Bermuda, Canada, New England, Europe, the Caribbean and around the world. The new, modernized Brooklyn Cruise Terminal will be the domicile of Queen Elizabeth 2 and Queen Mary 2 which are scheduled for ten transatlantic crossings from Southampton in 2006.

As far as baseball goesÂ…Plans for a new Yankee Stadium is in the works to be built in south Bronx (718-293-4300, with plans to open for the 2009 baseball season. In Queens, plans are underway to build a new stadium for the Mets (718-565-4305, The stadium will seat 45,000 and is scheduled to open in 2010.

In Lower Manhattan the permanent home of college football's highest honor, the Heisman Trophy will be opening in late 2006 The National Sports Museum (212-837-7950, will be the first-ever major comprehensive museum dedicated to sports.

Flying into JFK Airport or Newark Airport? Take AirTrain's traffic-free service to and from John F. Kennedy International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airports. The JFK AirTrain is a light-rail system that connects the airport to New York's subways. Newark AirTrain connects with NJ Transit commuter and Amtrak regional trains plus takes passengers to rental car facilities, hotel shuttles and more.

JFK AirTrain:

Newark AirTrain:

It's Tornado Season

Springtime is the time of year tornados are most likely to occur The United States averages 1,000 tornadoes a year but in recent years has seen as many as 1,500. In the center of the United States is a section referred to as Tornado Alley. The area stretches from the southern/central plains of Texas to Nebraska. Although tornados can hit anywhere at anytime, Tornado Alley sees a larger number of cyclones than other parts of the country.

If you happen to be visiting or driving though the plains during this season there are a few things you should know. Radio announcers and TV news people will likely warn you if a tornado is imminent. If you hear that the area is under a "tornado WATCH" this means a tornado may form in the area. If you hear that the area is under a "tornado WARNING" this means you need to take action immediately and go to safety because a tornado has been seen and danger is possible.

If you are indoors go to a basement or the center of a room and stay away from windows. If you happen to be driving and find yourself facing a tornado (try to avoid this at all costs) never try to out drive a tornado in an automobile. Instead, get out of the car and take shelter in a nearby building. If a building is nonexistent, still get out of the car and lie in a ditch or another low-lying area.

Upcoming Events

April 16th is Easter Sunday. Many religious ceremonies are conducted at outdoors at sunrise, including locations such as Red Rock Amphitheater in Denver, Colorado (DEN). You will also find hotels and restaurants serve lavish brunches and Easter egg hunts are popular among the youth.

April 20-23 is Albuquerque, New Mexico's Tricentennial Birthday Weekend. (ABQ) Celebrations will continue through October 2006.

May 6th is the 132nd annual Kentucky Derby Horse Race, held at Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky (SDF).

May 28th is the Indianapolis 500-mile Race. 2006 is also its 25th anniversary. It is held at the Indiana Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana (IND)

That's it for this issue. See you next month and Happy Travels!

Written by: Elizabeth L. Blair

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