|Founded in 1871, Phoenix is the capital of the state of Arizona. At an elevation of 1100 feet, it is situated in the biologically unique Sonoran Desert. With a population of 1,321,045 (2000 census) and anchoring a metro area of 3,251,876, it is one of the fastest-growing large cities in the United States. Why would anybody want to start a city in the middle of a desert? The answer is, surprisingly, agriculture. The Salt and Verde Rivers of central Arizona were exploited for large-scale agriculture by Native Americans as early as the 11th century. The area that now encompasses Phoenix was a center of the Hohokam culture, which built large canal systems and a network of towns and villages, whose remains may be viewed in the city to this day. Anglo-American settlement of the area commenced in the 1860s, and in 1911 the completion of the first of several large reservoirs in the mountains north and east of Phoenix insured its success as a center for irrigation-based agriculture. Many tens of thousands of acres were planted in citrus and cotton and other crops, and for many years intensive, year-round irrigated agriculture formed the basis of the economy. Warm and sunny winter weather also insured a thriving tourism industry, and encouraged many easterners and Midwesterners to relocate to Phoenix. High-tech industry began to flourish after World War II, and since that time the growth of Phoenix has been explosive, rising from a population of just 106,818 in 1950 to today's figure of well over 1,300,000. |
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), which serves as a hub for Southwest and US Airways airlines, is also served by American, Delta, Northwest, United, Continental, Alaska Airlines, and British Airways. http://phoenix.gov/AVIATION/
Due to a dispute among the Arizona Department of Transportation, the Union Pacific Railroad, and Amtrak, passenger train service to Phoenix has been discontinued. Amtrak passengers may disembark at Maricopa, Arizona (25 miles south of Phoenix) and arrange their own travel into the city. No regular shuttle service currently exists.
I-10 from the south and west, and I-17 from the north. US 60 is also a major route into Phoenix from the east.
Greyhound Bus Lines, 2115 E. Buckeye Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85034; Tel. (602) 389-4200. (This is a large bus terminal adjacent to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.) http://www.greyhound.com/
• Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park. The US's only city-operated archaeological site, exploring and interpreting the pre-Columbian Hohokam civilization.
• Heard Museum. Celebrating Native American cultures and arts, especially those of Arizona and New Mexico.
• Phoenix Art Museum. 16,000 artworks with an emphasis on American, Asian, Latin American, and modern and contemporary.
• Desert Botanical Garden. Plant life of the Sonoran Desert, and of arid lands around the world.
• Bank One Ballpark (The BOB), 7th Street and Jefferson, home of the National League Arizona Diamondbacks, capacity 49,033, with a retractable roof and air conditioning. You can get really decent tickets for $12.50. Call (602) 514-8400.
• Arizona Science Center. Hands-on science for kids and grown-ups, modeled on San Francisco's Exploratorium.
• Phoenix Symphony. The city's classical and pops orchestra, presenting a 25-week season of concerts.
• Arizona Opera. Presenting a season of five grand opera productions, with emphasis on Verdi, Puccini, and Mozart.
• Arizona Theatre Company. Professional theater in downtown Phoenix's Herberger theater complex.
• Arizona State University. Located in the eastern suburb of Tempe (with three branch campuses around the Phoenix metro area), ASU is one of the largest public universities in the United States. Noted for its engineering, business, music, and creative writing programs.
• Maricopa Community Colleges. Largest system of community colleges in the United States, with 10 campuses in the metro (Maricopa County) area; numerous community and adult education programs.
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• Valley Metro. Extensive metropolitan bus system, soon to be supplemented by a light rail system.
• Freeways. Extensive network of freeways, most built since 1987. Caution: Heavy construction on some segments and interchanges continues. Check construction schedules and closures in the local media.
Time-honored tchotchkes from Phoenix are scorpion bolo ties and saguaro-cactus salt and pepper shakers. Look for them at the various airport gift shops.
If you're a traveler, and you're leaving Phoenix, you might want to go to Tucson, Las Vegas, or San Diego. For cool weather, head up to I-17 to Flagstaff.
A good option for a day trip, or longer, out of Phoenix is a drive north to Sedona.
• Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors' Bureau
• City of Phoenix
• AZ Central -- Web presence of The Arizona Republic, Phoenix's major daily newspaper. Besides news, provides detailed community info, including an events calendar and dining guide.
• Phoenix Public Library