In the northeast corner of the Sonoran Desert, in a region referred to as the Valley of the Sun, is an urban oasis called the City of Phoenix. Phoenix, the state capital of Arizona and the 5th largest city in the United States, anchors the 11th largest metropolitan area in the country. Over 22 million people visit the Valley each year to play golf, escape the cold up north, and take in all that Phoenix has to offer.
Created in 1931, Desert Botanical Garden sits inside Papago Park and is home to a wealth of events, displays, and activities. During the winter months, the desert comes alive with a light and music display during the evening hours in the garden. Concerts and talks are also regularly featured as well as a handicap accessible trail that brings you close to desert wildflowers, cacti, and other flora. The garden is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m Sunday - Wednesday and 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday - Saturday.
Are you going to be looking for fresh produce and other food items? You should look no further than the number one rated farmers' market in the Phoenix area, Uptown Farmers' Market. It has everything local farms have to offer, and it also has farmers who will chop, dice, and prepare food and vegetables the way you want after you purchase them for use later. The market is open on Wednesday from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. - 1 p.m.
The Chandler Museum is located in the pueblo revival-styled McCullough-Price House and is home to artifacts and exhibits detailing the early years of the Phoenix area. Research and archive facilities are located in the house. On the grounds, there is a Tumbleweed Ranch that teaches about agriculture in the desert. There is an old farmhouse built in 1917, an old-style grocery store, and old farm equipment. The museum is open Tuesday - Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 1-5 p.m.
After a day of hiking and visiting sites, you can head over to the Wren House Brewing Company. Wren House is the locals' favorite craft beer brewing facility, and it makes different styles beers and ales depending on the season such as pilsners, IPAs, sour ales, stouts, and porters. Wren House Brewing is open Monday - Thursday from noon -10 p.m., Friday and Saturdays from 11 a.m. - midnight, and Sundays from 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
One of the greatest draws to Phoenix is the golf courses. There are almost 200 courses in the area from local municipal ones to prestigious ones like TPC Scottsdale that hosts the USPGA's Phoenix Open. You have the opportunity to play on greens lined with pine trees or on ones that seemingly take you away from everything as you head out into the desert. Most courses are only open during daylight hours, but some are lit so you can play at night.
One of the best spot to go hiking to get a good view of the Valley of the Sun is Piestewa Peak. The peak rises to 2,608 feet above the base of the valley and is surrounded by diverse landscapes and valleys. The views are remarkable, and there are six trailheads located around the base where you can gain entry. The trails are open every day from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.
One of the best places to go out to eat, according to many locals, is Little Miss BBQ. The restaurant serves sandwiches piled high with meat covered with its famous barbecue sauce and more. Little Miss BBQ has two locations. One is located at 4301 E. University in Phoenix and opens at 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. This location closes early if they sell out what they had prepared for the day, so always plan to arrive well before 4. The second location is at 8901 N. 7th Street and is open Tuesday to Saturday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
One of the biggest festivals in the Phoenix area is the Arizona Balloon Classic. The festival draws spectators and balloonists to the Phoenix area for one weekend each year in January. Families and spectators get to walk around the balloons on the field before they lift up to get a close look at them and take pictures.
The best view of the Phoenix is available when you climb the trails at Camelback Mountain between Phoenix and Paradise Valley. There are two trails that will lead you up to the peak; a steep, rugged trail called Echo Canyon and a less strenuous trail called Cholla. The trails are over a mile long (1.14 and 1.4 miles respectively). The trails are open from sunrise to sunset.
The best time to visit Phoenix is when the snowbirds come down from the north between November and April. The temperatures in Valley of the Sun range from highs in the 60s to the low 80s during this time. Blue skies and mild temperatures make the winter season here a perfect time to visit. It's easy to hike, golf, dine and stroll around outside to see everything the city and desert areas have to offer without having to deal with the heat of summer.