Phenomenal Phoenix: Just Don’t Forget Your Hat

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Spreading across the Valley of the Sun, Phoenix is not only Arizona’s capital but also, surprisingly, the sixth largest city in the United States. I must disclose that my love for this city is partly due to my uncle’s longtime residence in nearby Scottsdale, he having ditched the Boston gray for the Arizona sun decades ago. Here are some of the best ways to spend your time in Phoenix.

Go Hiking

Camelback Mountain Phoenix

Image via Flickr by laszlo-photo

As soon as you’ve checked into the Phoenix hotel of your choice, how about some hiking? Rising between the neighborhoods of Paradise Valley and Arcadia, Camelback Mountain is the city’s natural skyline. Part of the Camelback Mountain Echo Canyon Recreation Area, the mountain supposedly resembles the shape of a kneeling camel, but I’ll leave that up to your imagination. There are two hiking trails to choose from — 1.14 and 1.4 miles long, respectively — and both offer some serious climbing. Note that the park sees high volumes of visitors during winter and spring.

Get a Lesson in Botany

Located in Papago Park, the Desert Botanical Gardens is a great way to learn about the unique local environment. Visitors can choose from five walking trails, gardening workshops, and special exhibitions. What I absolutely love about this place is the chance to see massive cacti up close. That’s definitely one of the quintessential Phoenix photos you must share with your friends.  Admission is $22 per adult, with discounts for seniors and children. Plenty of parking is available.

Desert Botanical Garden

Image via Flickr by Artotem

Hang Out with Animals

After visiting the botanical gardens, before you leave Papago Park, walk across to the largest privately owned nonprofit zoo in the United States. The Phoenix Zoo is home to over 1,400 animals, including 30 endangered species. Four trails will take you into various parts of the globe, from the American desert to the African savannah. Say hello to giraffes, zebras, flamingos, and even the king of the beasts — the lion. Adult tickets are a very reasonable $20, and there’s plenty of parking in Papago Park.

Visit the Wild West

I have very fond childhood memories of the Pioneer Living History Village. If you’re traveling with curious kids, they’ll love this place. Stroll around the reconstructed old town, visit the blacksmith, and be extra careful to avoid walking into a cowboy gunfight. Located in north Phoenix, Pioneer Living History Village is about a 30-minute drive from downtown Phoenix.

Play a Round of Golf

In this city, which is home to over 200 golf courses, you won’t have any problem teeing off. With some of the best courses in the metro area found in Scottsdale, golfers can hit the links pretty much year-round thanks to the city’s dry climate.

We’ve just scratched the surface with these five activities. There is so much more to do in Phoenix — and we haven’t even covered the topic of shopping. Whether road tripping across the American Southwest or just coming for the weekend, use these ideas to help you make the most of your time in the Valley of the Sun. Just don’t forget to bring a hat and plenty of water!

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