Phoenix: Recreation


A visitor to the Phoenix metropolitan area will find many sights and attractions, some of them related to frontier history and the natural beauty of Salt River Valley. A principal attraction in Phoenix since 1939 is the Desert Botanical Garden on 50 acres of Papago Park, containing 10,000 desert plants that represent half of the 1,800 existing species of cactus. Also located in Papago Park is the Phoenix Zoo, a privately funded, non-profit zoo, where 1,200 animals are exhibited.

Historic Heritage Square near downtown is a city block of restored Victorian houses preserved as replicas of homes in the late 1800s and converted into museums, shops, and restaurants; a highlight is the elegant Rosson House. Also downtown is the National Native American Cooperative, which features dancers, foods and crafts, and a monthly Indian market October through May. In neighboring Scottsdale is Taliesin West, a national historic landmark built as the desert home of architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Scottsdale is also the site of Rawhide, a replica of a 1880s western town that offers a variety of activities, including stagecoach and burro rides, a petting zoo, and stunt shows. Located in nearby Tempe is Big Surf, "Arizona's ocean."

Old West-style entertainment, such as stagecoach rides, covered wagon campfire circles, and simulated gunfighter shoot-outs, is available to groups by reservation through various commercial enterprises in the area. Scenic day trips to the Grand Canyon and other sights near metropolitan Phoenix are provided by several bus and airplane charter services. Encanto Park is the home of the Enchanted Island Amusement Park with a variety of rides geared for the younger set.

Arts and Culture

Phoenix has a vital performing arts community, which was enriched with the 1989 opening of the Herberger Theatre Center. Located downtown next to the Phoenix Civic Plaza Convention Center and Symphony Hall, the complex is designed to augment existing cultural facilities. The Herberger Theater is used primarily for music, dance, and dramatic performances and includes an art gallery.

The Phoenix Center Youth Theatre, CityJazz, Dance Phoenix, and the Phoenix Children's Chorus call the Phoenix Center for the Arts their home. A variety of theater and drama, including amateur, professional, children/family-oriented, and experimental productions, is offered by companies in the Phoenix area. Founded in 1920, the Phoenix Theatre Little Theater is one of the oldest continuously running companies in the country. The Arizona Theatre Company, based in Phoenix, is in residence at the Herberger Theater Center and offers about 25 weeks of performances. Other local troupes include Childsplay, Actors Theatre of Phoenix, and Centre Dance Ensemble.

Housed in Symphony Hall, the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra performs an extensive classical repertoire and presents pops concerts with well-known guest artists. Phoenix hosts the state's professional ballet company and other international dance companies. The Arizona Opera also gives regular performances for Phoenix area audiences. Touring artists perform at the America West Arena, Celebrity Theatre, Gammage Auditorium, and the Cricket Pavilion.

More than 40 museums and 150 art galleries in the Phoenix area offer a range of educational and cultural experiences. The Arizona Hall of Fame Museum, opened in 1902, honors people who have contributed to Arizona heritage. Featuring the history of central Arizona, the Arizona Historical Society Museum includes replications of old-time shops and stores. The family-oriented Shemer Art Center and Museum presents primarily local and state artists. The Arizona Science Center provides interactive exhibits for children and adults in such areas as energy, life science, and health. The Hall of Flame Fire Fighting Museum houses the world's most extensive collection of fire-fighting apparatus, equipment, and memorabilia. Anthropological exhibits, fine arts, and historic arts of Native American cultures of the Southwest are specialties at the Heard Museum, which boasts 18,000 works of art and artifacts. The Phoenix Art Museum contains a permanent collection of 17,000 objects focusing on European, American, Western American, Latin American, and Asian arts and costume design. Owned and operated by artisan members, the Craftsmen's Cooperative Gallery at Heritage Square features handmade arts and crafts.

Festivals and Holidays

Highlights from the Phoenix special events calendar include the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Football Classic, which opens the year with a game between two of the country's best collegiate teams on New Year's Day at Sun Devil Stadium. Also held in January are the Arizona National Livestock Show (since 1948) and the Parada del Sol Parade and Rodeo.

The Heard Museum Guild Annual Indian Fair and Market takes place in March, featuring Native American culture. Also in March is the St. Patrick's Day Parade and Irish Family Fare. The Desert Botanical Garden's Annual Cactus and Succulent Show and Sale is offered in April. In May the Cinco de Mayo festival celebrates the 1862 Mexican victory over the French with various activities throughout the Phoenix area. The Arizona State Fair, billed as one of the most successful in the nation, takes place in October and November. The fall also brings the Way Out West Oktoberfest. The year ends with the APS Fiesta of Light Parade and Victorian Holiday Celebration, two December celebrations of the holiday season in downtown Phoenix. During the final week of the month the Fiesta Bowl events precede the New Year's Day Fiesta Bowl game with the Pageant of Bands, the Fiesta Bowl Parade, and sports and cultural events.

Sports for the Spectator

Phoenix fields teams in all major league sports. The city is home to two professional basketball teams, the Phoenix Suns of the National Basketball Association, and the Phoenix Mercury of the Women's National Basketball Association, both of which play their games at the America West Arena. Professional football is represented by the National Football League's Arizona Cardinals and the Arena Football League's Rattlers while professional hockey is represented by the National Hockey League's Phoenix Coyotes and the East Coast Hockey League's Phoenix Roadrunners. In 1998 the major league baseball team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, were formed and began play at Bank One Ball Park, built especially for them. In 2001 the expansion team defeated the powerhouse New York Yankees to capture their first World Series crown.

From March through early April, exhibition baseball games are held nearly every day by the 12 major league baseball teams that hold spring training in Phoenix at the Cactus League games. Other popular sporting events are polo matches and greyhound, horse, and auto racing. The Phoenix Greyhound Park features greyhound races year round, and Turf Paradise schedules thoroughbred racing from September through May. The Phoenix International Raceway, built in 1964, boasts the world's fastest one-mile oval paved track for auto racing, and the Manzanita Speedway holds Sprint, midget, and stockcar races.

Annual sporting events in the Phoenix area include professional golf tournaments, such as the FBR Open, with about 500,000 attendees, and the LPGA Safeway International at the Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club; the Formula One Grand Prix auto race in April; and World Championship Tennis.

Sports for the Participant

Phoenix's consistently warm climate permits such year-round outdoor activities as camping, backpacking, hiking, horseback riding, mountain climbing, swimming, boating, fishing, water skiing, skating, tennis, and golf. In metropolitan Phoenix and the surrounding valley area, there are more than 1,100 tennis and racquetball courts, more than 190 championship golf courses (many designed by golfing legends Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus), and many natural and man-made lakes and waterways with facilities for a variety of water sports. Contained within the city limits is South Mountain Regional Park, said to be the largest municipal park in the world, which offers horseback riding, hiking trails, and a view of the city. Three snow skiing resorts are within traveling distance of the city.

Shopping and Dining

Retail establishments in Phoenix range from large malls and shopping centers—including several downtown—that feature nationally known department stores to small specialty shops offering products made by local artists and craftsmen. Located downtown the Arizona Center is a uniquely landscaped mall on three acres of land. Close to the center city is Biltmore Fashion Park, a collection of exclusive and stores anchored by Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue. Nearby is Town & Country Shopping Center, considered Arizona's original open-air mall; two blocks away is Tower Plaza Mall. Located in the northeast sector of the city is Colonnade Mall, winner of the International Council of Shopping Centers "Beauty of Design" award. A variety of shops in metropolitan Phoenix specialize in such items as native American arts and crafts, products made from Arizona copper, leather crafts, and Western apparel.

Restaurants in Phoenix have become more sophisticated with the city's growth and prosperity. They offer a variety of cuisines, including traditional American, Italian, Continental, Oriental, and French. Specialties are Southwestern and Mexican dishes with an emphasis on regional foods such as chilies, jicama, local game, and citrus. A popular attraction is Rustler's Roost, a landmark and one of the busiest dining establishments west of the Mississippi. With a scenic mountaintop view of the surrounding area, the restaurant features a mineshaft entrance and walls decorated with the brands of local cattle ranches. Selected by Food and Wine magazine as Distinguished Restaurants of North America were Different Point of View, Le Orangerie, and Vincent Guerithault on Camelback.

Visitor Information: Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau, 400 E. Van Buren St., Ste. 600, Phoenix, AZ 85004; telephone (602)254-6500; fax (602)253-4415; email