Phoenix - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to Phoenix


Arizona's capital city, Phoenix, has risen from the mythical ashes of an ancient agricultural Indian village to become a sprawling modern metropolis, the sixth largest city in the USA. Its rapid urban growth has filled what is known as the 'Valley of the Sun', encompassing the neighbouring towns of Scottsdale, Mesa and Tempe as suburbs and is America's fastest-growing urban centre, claiming to have more five-star hotels than any other city in the USA.

With luxurious resorts and spas, glitzy shopping plazas, upmarket restaurants and superb golf courses, together with over 300 days of sunshine a year, the area has become a popular winter getaway for the rest of the country. However while some may know it as a retirement community, it is home to both the University of Phoenix and the University of Arizona as well as over a dozen other colleges, ensuring a huge student population of roughly 200,000.

Phoenix has a number of interesting museums, including the Heard Museum of Native American culture and the Phoenix Art Museum. A scattering of parks, a wide variety of restaurants, and a well-developed arts community makes a vacation in Phoenix an attractive prospect for travellers of all ages.

Phoenix's greatest attraction however, is its location: surrounded by a vast cactus-studded desert and the magnificent scenery of the Red Rock Country around nearby Sedona, whose landscape of canyons, pinnacles and red cliffs have been the setting for numerous 'Wild West' films and novels. The Apache Trail is a winding scenic drive that passes through some of the beautiful rugged terrain of central Arizona, passing ghost towns, ancient ruins and the Superstitious Mountains.

Information & Facts


With its arid climate Phoenix has been ranked the hottest city in the United States, and one of the hottest in the world. The temperature in Phoenix registers at least 100°F (38°C) or more on an average of 90 days out of the year, mostly between June and September. Most days are sunny, and rainfall is scarce, although there are thunderstorms sometimes during July and September caused by humid air blowing in from the Gulf of California. Winters bring mild, sunny days, with occasional fog. Snow is rare, but has been recorded, but frost is frequent in winter months.

Getting Around

Phoenix is spread out, and distances between places of interest to visitors tend to be significant; therefore, outside of the downtown area, a rental car is a must. However, the construction of the METRO light rail, expected to be completed in 2008, may help shorten these gaps a bit. In the meantime, keep in mind that local drivers often speed and tailgate. At present, the city's public transport system is geared more towards commuters rather than tourists, although the free central city shuttle bus service, called DASH (Downtown Area Shuttle), is useful for accessing attractions like the state capitol and major shopping malls. The buses run on weekdays between 6.30am and 5.30pm. The city's bus service is called Valley Metro, and schedules are available from the Central Station and Frys supermarkets. Taxis are freely available from local companies but tend to be expensive and are not recommended for getting around, unless for a short trip within a limited area.

English is the most common language but Spanish is often spoken in south-western states.

The US Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency and is divided into 100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are widespread and credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. Travellers cheques should be taken in US Dollars to avoid hassles. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.

If you don't particularly like cacti before your visit, there is a good chance you'll fall in love with them by the time you leave. These gardens get high ratings not only for the size and range of the botanical collection - 21,000 plants, representing 139 species - but due the inventive way visitors get to experience them. Founded in 1939, the garden provides visitors with a fascinating and colourful introduction to the ethnobotany of the region. A highlight is the Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert Trail which allows you to make your own yucca-fibre brush and grind corn as the Native Americans once did. Over November and December the gardens are lit up at night by beautiful luminarias(candles inside small bags).

The Heard Museum is home to America's finest collection of Native American art, making this an essential attraction for visitors looking to gain an understanding of the west's original inhabitants. In total there are over 39,000 works of cultural and fine art ranging across textiles, katsina dolls, pottery, jewellery, baskets, cradleboards, paintings and sculpture. There are also 10 galleries with dynamic and imaginatively curated exhibitions. Don't miss the annual Guild Indian Fair and Market (March) which includes traditional dance performances along with arts and crafts. The museums signature exhibition is Home: Native People in the Southwest, which uses a variety of media to take visitors on an unforgettable journey through the region and the vibrant arts and cultures of its Native peoples.

Taliesin West was legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright's winter home and school from 1937 until he died in 1959, aged 91. Today the facility can be visited as the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation with tours providing a general introduction to Wright and his hugely influential theories of architecture. The building is built of natural stone, a reflection of Wright's philosophy that local materials should be used design wherever possible. There are a range of tours available to suit your level of interest: for the rookie, a basic introductory tour is recommended, while devotees will want the behind-the-scenes exposé.

A mile deep, 277 miles (446km) long and up to 18 miles (29km) wide, the breathtaking grandeur of the Grand Canyon is so impressive that pictures or words simply cannot do it justice. One of the great natural wonders of the world, it was formed by the cutting action of the Colorado River over millions of years. The hard rock formations survive as great cliffs, pinnacles and buttes, and the different layers of rock span a range of colours: from purple, fiery-red and pastel-pink, to yellow, brown, grey and soft tones of blue.

Whether by foot or on horseback, from a plane or helicopter, aboard a raft down the mighty Colorado River or by merely gazing in awe from the rim, the canyon's seemingly infinite depths can be experienced in a variety of ways and is a sight not to be missed however one chooses to see it. The park receives hoards of visitors from around the world, who never fail to be transfixed by the sculpted rock shapes, the shifting colours that change with the light, and a tiny glimpse of the Colorado River far below.

The Grand Canyon National Park comprises two separate areas: the South Rim and the more remote North Rim. Separated by the 10-mile (16km) width of the canyon, it is a 215-mile (346km) drive from one Visitor Centre to the other. The South Rim is the most accessible and has more facilities, and as a result it attracts the bulk of visitors to its boundaries. The North Rim is higher in elevation, wetter, with thicker surrounding forests, is further to access, and is cut off by snowfall from October to May. Many people however, prefer its comparative peacefulness and less-crowded lookouts.

Both rims have numerous drives and walkways along the edge with various scenic viewpoints, and some hiking trails into the canyon where one can overnight at Phantom Ranch on the canyon floor. The impact of the more than four million visitors a year to the South Rim, especially during the busy summer months, is one of overcrowding and traffic congestion; but to see for oneself one of the most spectacular examples of natural erosion in the world more than makes up for the inconvenience.

Grand Canyon West has recently opened the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a glass-bottomed, horseshoe shaped deck that juts almost 70 feet (21m) from the canyon's rim. It gives visitors the sensation of being suspended amid the canyon's towering red rock walls above a faint sliver of Colorado River flowing 4,000 feet (1,219m) below. There is an additional charge for the Skywalk, which is not for those with a fear of heights.

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