When you imagine the perfect place to winter, you picture warm days, sunshine, the beach, perhaps—but what about the desert? Not endless miles of blistering sand dunes, with a sporadic cactus here and there, but the Sonoran Desert. More specifically, Phoenix, Arizona.
Greater Phoenix is located in the Sonoran Desert, known as one of the lushest and most colorful deserts in the world. That is all due to the amount of rainfall the area gets a year. Hohokam people inhabited the area until 1450 AD, creating the first major urban civilization in the Salt River Valley, and also developed a canal system which is still in use today. To delve into the history of Phoenix, there are plenty of places to explore the city’s past, including Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park, and Heard Museum.
Home to more than 200 golf courses, you can keep up with your golf game while wintering in this delightfully warm city. But while you’re here, there are tons of other things to explore, see, and taste. Things are a little different in the desert—there are cacti, and other desert plant life that you might not have seen before. Plan a visit to the Desert Botanical Garden where you’ll be surrounded by all kinds of desert plants.
The most popular way to explore the area is by hiking and biking. Hop on the Cholla trail on Camelback Mountain, which features the most iconic outline of the Phoenix horizon. Or, enjoy a bird’s eye view and float through the sky on a hot air balloon tour. The views you’ll see on any means of exploring will leave you breathless.
There are other quirky sites you’ll stumble upon as you venture around the city, like the Mystery Castle in South Mountain Park. The 8,000 sq. ft. structure is built from rocks, brick, old car parts and other assorted junk, and houses a tavern, wedding chapel and wine cellar. It’s a spectacular sight to see, perched on a steep hillside in the park.
Downtown Phoenix is an exciting adventure, too. Catering widely to lovers of the arts, treat yourself to a show at Herberger Theatre, where you can see anything from off-Broadway to ballet. Take the metro light rail to the Phoenix Art Museum and spend hours admiring the work of artists. You can even participate in Artlink’s First Fridays, where you can tour galleries, venues and related spaces for a few hours in the evening on the first Friday of every month.
The food in Phoenix is something to check out, too—you’ll have to eat, right?—with some of the city’s restaurants being featured on Food Network. Try Pizzeria Bianco, where you’ll find incredibly tasty pizza from the recipes of Chef Chris Bianco. Matt’s Big Breakfast is another joint to check out, especially if you’re looking for a delicious breakfast spot. For a more authentic cuisine, Kai (the only 5 diamond Native American restaurant) serves both Mexican and Southwestern dishes that you’re sure to enjoy.
So, when you imagine the perfect place to winter, why not Phoenix, Arizona?