Southern Arizona Travel Guide
What to do in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area
by Joseph A. Sprince - Photography by Gerald B. Allen
The Southern Arizona Travel Guide is a resource for those planning a road trip or vacation to the region. The southern half of Arizona, including the metropolitan Phoenix and Tucson areas, is within the Sonoran Desert. While the region is extremely warm during the summer, mild, dry, and sunny weather is the rule from mid-autumn through mid-spring. This section covers the Metropolitan Phoenix - Maricopa County areas .
This guide offers descriptions of many points of interest, links to many references, travel itineraries, and suggested visit times. See below for Metropolitan Phoenix Points of Interest and the complete Index for this guide.
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What to do in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area - Points of Interest
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Metropolitan Phoenix - Maricopa County
The Phoenix metropolitan area includes the large cities of Phoenix, Tempe, Scottsdale, Mesa, and Glendale. The region is noted for winter resorts, lots of golf, ideal weather, and plenty of recreation. Teams in the four major professional sports are located here, as well as Arizona State University. Major League Baseball's spring training ("Cactus League") takes place here in February and March. In recent years, dining, entertainment, and cultural options have increased enormously. The metro area boasts a system of municipal and regional parks perhaps without equal in size and number. These parks are largely preserves of unspoiled and scenic desert and mountains with wonderful opportunities for hiking, biking, horseback riding, camping, or just enjoying peace and quiet.
General Guides to the Area
Southern Arizona is especially noted for its many beautiful golf courses which have particularly excellent conditions in the winter and spring. Maricopa County maintains a system of truly excellent regional parks around the edges of the metropolitan area. The parks are large in area, largely unspoiled, and usually of interesting terrain that features mountains and deserts. Miles of trails of available for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Some of the parks have horseback riding concessions open during the winter. Lake Pleasant Regional Park is one of the area's most popular destinations for boating, fishing, camping, and hiking. The Phoenix Mountain Preserve is the nation's largest urban park system, and at over 16,000 acres, South Mountain Park is the largest municipal park in the country. The preserves offer over 200 miles of unspoiled trails within the city of Phoenix, again available for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. The trail to the summit of Camelback Mountain, the highest point in Phoenix at 2,704 feet above sea level, is one of the busiest areas in the city's trail system and parking is very limited. The trail to the summit of Piestawa Peak, the second highest point in Phoenix at 2,608 feet, is also quite popular. Scottsdale's McDowell Sonoran Preserve also offers unspoiled outdoor experiences. Scottsdale's Pinnacle Peak Park features the popular Pinnacle Peak Trail.
- City and County Parks
- Golf Courses - Public/Private
Cultural and Other Attractions
As one of the nation's fastest growing cities, Phoenix continues to offer new and upgraded cultural venues along with more traditional attractions. The Heard Museum is considered one of the nation's finest for Native American culture and art. The recently remodeled and expanded Phoenix Art Museum has received rave reviews. The Arizona Science Center, opened in 1997, offers a planetarium, IMAX theater, and a wide variety of exhibitions. The Herberger Theater, the refurbished Orpheum Theatre, and Symphony Hall offer performing arts and big-name entertainment. Popular Papago Park features the outstanding Desert Botanical Gardens, the Phoenix Zoo, and a large park with fishing lagoons and trails. The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) is a 200,000-square-foot building with two floors of spacious, light-filled galleries and a collection of more than 15,000 instruments including the Steinway piano on which John Lennon composed “Imagine”, Eric Clapton’s well-known “Brownie” Fender Stratocaster guitar, and the first Steinway piano, which was built in the kitchen of Henrich Engelhard Steinweg’s home in Seesen, Germany, in 1836.
The Phoenix area offers a wide variety of professional sports, including the Arizona Cardinals (NFL), Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB-NL), Phoenix Suns (NBA), Phoenix Coyotes (NHL), Phoenix Mercury (WNBA), Arizona Rattlers (Arena Football), Arizona Sting (Lacrosse). Major League Baseball's Cactus League Spring Training is extremely popular. The athletic teams of Arizona State University, the Sun Devils play in Tempe, Arizona.
Cave Creek, Arizona
The town of Cave Creek is located in the foothills about 20 miles north of Phoenix. In an era of rapid growth, Cave Creek continues to maintain a unique old west character and charm, featuring funky western-style saloons, interesting restaurants, western shops, rodeo events, art galleries, and live music. The desert mountains around Cave Creek offer excellent recreation. Cave Creek Regional Park has a nice campground, an excellent network of trails, picnic and play areas, ranger-led activities (in season), and a horseback riding concession (in season). The less developed Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, one of the region's newest parks, features remote trails and a gorgeous riparian area along perennial Cave Creek. More recreation is available in nearby Tonto National Forest.
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- Cave Creek Regional Park - Nature's Cactus Garden
- Cave Creek Regional Park and Nearby Attractions
- Spring Wildflowers in Southern Arizona
- Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area
- Tonto National Forest - Seven Springs
- Tonto National Forest - Cave Creek Canyon
- Cave Creek Regional Park (Maricopa County)
- Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area (Maricopa County)
- Cave Creek Ranger District (Tonto National Forest) Activities: Bicycling, Camping, Fishing, Hiking, Horse Riding, Nature Viewing, Picnicking, Boating, and Swiming. Daily Pass required at Seven Springs, Bartlett, Horseshoe, and Verde River Recreation Areas.
- Cave Creek Visitors Guide (Chamber of Commerce)
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Index to the Southern Arizona Travel Guide
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