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Destination Guide

 
 
As one of the fastest growing cities in the nation, Phoenix offers a constantly changing mix of entertainment for its swelling population. Do your tastes run to strolling amongst world famous works of art or galloping on horseback amongst the saguaro? Do you prefer elegant gourmet dining or just want a really good pizza? Would you rather relax in reclining comfort at a multiplex movie cinema or rocket in circles on the only double loop roller coaster in the state? Whatever your preference, this city will not disappoint you!

Arizona is a state of contrasts, from the saguaro dotted desert to the snow capped peaks of Flagstaff to the awe-inspiring vistas of the Grand Canyon. Likewise, the area offers a virtual cornucopia of exciting attractions. The focal point of downtown Phoenix, America West Arena is home to the NBAs Suns, NHLs Coyotes, the WNBA Mercury, and the Arizona Rattlers and showcases events from tractor pulls to rock and roll concerts. When the heat of the city becomes too much, water parks like Island of Big Surf offer oases of fun, or seek the cool green of one of Phoenixs many world class golf courses. Besides the nationally acclaimed Phoenix Zoo, animal lovers can experience a unique habitat at Out of Africa and delight in human interaction with a variety of exotic wild animals. Float high over the valley on a hot air balloon from the Unicorn Balloon Company or for a more rapid pace visit the fastest one-mile oval in the world at the .Phoenix International Raceway

Enjoy the Arizona outdoors with a hike up Camelback Mountain on scenic Echo Canyon Trail, or water skiing on Saguaro Lake. Take an excursion to Goldfield Ghost Town where you can try to unravel the secrets of the Lost Dutchmans Mine. Visit ancient Indian dwellings at the five-story pueblo, Montezumas Castle or saddle up for a real cowboy experience at Trail Horse Adventures and hit the trail on horseback. If your idea of the Wild West requires a gunfight, hitch your pony at Rawhide Western Town where the Roughriders still tote their six-shooters and settle differences with a fast draw.

If culture is what you seek, Phoenixs museum circuit is as diversified as its population. Whatever your interest, you're likely to find exhibits highlighting it somewhere in the city. Internationally acclaimed Heard Museum, with its dynamic collection of Kachina dolls, showcases the culture and art of the Southwests various Native American tribes. The Phoenix Museum of History explores the citys early days, from its rise in the 1860s through the fight for statehood. Stop in at nearby Heritage Square where the only remaining residential structures from the original township of Phoenix are gathered. For a more participatory view of these early days, visit the Pioneer Arizona Living History Museum, a 90-acre pioneer town where costumed interpreters recreate life in the Arizona Territory of the mid 1800s.

For more modern tastes, check out the 350 hands-on exhibits at the Arizona Science Center, or wander through the vintage fighting airships of WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam at the Champlain Fighter Aircraft Museum. Browse through the cities abundant galleries showcasing the talents of artists around the globe. Visit the Phoenix Art Museumwhere significant art pieces from a variety of cultural styles are displayed with remarkable innovation, or view the exquisite bronze sculptures highlighting a trip to the Legacy Gallery.

The performing arts are alive and well in Phoenix and a variety of amateur and professional theater groups perform in various venues throughout the city. Blockbuster Desert Sky Pavilion with its amphitheater acoustics and hillside seating hosts concerts for every musical taste. The beautiful Herberger Theater Center is home to the Arizona Theater Company, Bally Arizona, and the Actors Theater of Phoenix and features a refreshing mix of dramas, comedies, and musicals. The Phoenix Symphony performs over 160 concerts a year and the Symphony Hall and Terrace features musicians from around the world. Historic Orpheum Theater, built in 1929 in elaborate Spanish Baroque style, showcases a variety of performing arts and cultural events throughout the year.

If your idea of theater involves popcorn and Sony digital sound, Phoenix boasts dozens of luxury cinema houses from United Artist Theaters, to Harkins Theaters, to the gargantuan AMC Deer Valley 30. If your vacation budget is a little tight, try a bargain theater like the SuperSaver 8, playing hot Hollywood hits after the box office fervor has died down. Or for that nostalgic experience, pull into the Scottsdale 6 Drive-In and snuggle up with your sweet heart. And for a BIG treat, ogle up at the 5-story screen at the citys IMAX Theater.

For the kid of all ages, treat yourself to four 18-hole miniature golf courses, roller coasters, and video games galore at Castles and Coasters. Across town, Gameworks pushes the technological envelope with the latest in interactive video games. Jeepers has rides, games, and challenges for the smaller tykes, while the bigger folk can indulge in exciting war simulations at Westworld Paintball. For more shoot-em-up action with a sci-fi twist, try the new laser tag arena at Stratum Light Speed Entertainment Center with its 15 levels and 90 towers.

Adult gamers might prefer the action at the Phoenix Greyhound Park or bet the ponies at Turf Paradise Race Course. If you can't make it to the track, try the off-track betting and great beer at Padre Murphys. Or chalk up your stick and head north to Pink Es, an adult only pool hall with more games than you can shake your cue at. Phoenix is also home to several casinos like the Gila River Casino and the Fort McDowell Casino.

Phoenix is crawling with pubs and clubs, and live music blares from every bar. Whether you're into Rock or Hip-Hop, Country or Blues, you'll find some place playing it almost every night of the week. Check out The Rep, Phoenixs weekly entertainment magazine, for the latest on what band is playing where. One sure bet for fun is Alice Cooperstown, owned by the legendary rocker, who combines great food, dancing, and an intimate concert venue. Kick up your heels to contemporary tunes at Bobby McGees Conglomeration or the hot dance club AXIS. Sip high quality scotch while puffing on imported cigars at downtown Networks, or enjoy the lively British pub atmosphere of the George and Dragon. Try one of the many local brewpubs like the fabulous Four Peaks Brewing Company or party hardy at the bodacious Bash on Ash.

If shopping is more your style, Phoenix can accommodate that as well. At the Arizona Center, you'll find it all, dining, dancing, and superb shopping! The Biltmore Fashion Park features world class shopping with such stores as >Neiman Marcus, >Gucci, and Saks 5th Avenue. Shop in style at the upscale Scottsdale Fashion Square or seek for forgotten treasures in one of the cities many antique malls, like the gargantuan Brass Armadillo.

Besides the trendy mall scene, Phoenix is ripe with specialty shops and independent stores. Examine the gorgeous antique furnishings of Euro-Pine Imports, or wander through Juttenhoops, a unique and sometimes bizarre gift shop that claims to carry "everything fun." Looking for adventure? Sort the treasure from the trash and see what kind of deals you can barter at the Phoenix Park and Swap. Search through a sea of bargain imports such as Belgian Chocolates and Bali Basketry at the Cost Plus World Imports.

From its earliest days when Anglo settlers put up their tents amongst the adobe huts of Mexicans and Native Americans dwelling near the Salt River, Phoenix has been a culture conglomeration. As we hurtle into the new millennium, the same can still be said, but now its diversity and eclectic mix serve as its identity, and its entertaining blend is uniquely Phoenix. Explore and enjoy!

Mark Iacampo