November 23, 2010

Tuesday’s Travel Tips – Phoenix

This week’s Tuesday’s Travel Tips takes us to Phoenix, Arizona. If you’re from up north, thoughts of Phoenix may conjure up tumbleweed and large cacti, but Phoenix is actually a thriving city with lots of fun places worth checking out, adjacent arid desert included. Our very enthusiastic PHX Crewmembers provided some invaluable tips to their BlueCity, which you’ll find below.

Inflight Crewmember Tammie relays that the beautiful and diverse state of Arizona is home to more than 5,939,292 Phoenicians, according to the last census, who welcome you to the Valley of the Sun! Born on Valentine’s Day in 1912, Arizona became the 48th state, newborns compared to the original colonies. Arizona’s time zone never changes so there’s no need to ever fall back or spring forward.

Maintenance Technician Michael relays that the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is known as the friendliest in the country. He also points out that Phoenix is the fifth largest city in the United States and that denizens enjoy 325 days a year of sunlight.

Airports Supervisor Michael recommends you dine at the Left Seat Restaurant & Lounge, adjacent to the north runway of the airport, a great spot to grab a bite and watch flights take off and land.

Image courtesy of kenlund on Flickr

Inflight Crewmember Francis recommends you check out the Downtown Phoenix Art Walk on the first Friday of each month. Start at the world famous Release the Fear sculpture site, an art piece constructed using 2-1/2 tons of melted weapons used in violent crimes, located at Central Avenue and Roosevelt Street. Then walk east and be sure to visit the Release the Fear Gallery, off the beaten path at 3rd Avenue and Monroe, where you can catch a free trolley that runs on first Fridays. You will find the most interesting people at this site.

Fran’s favorite restaurants include Barrio Cafe, for great margaritas with more than 100 choices of tequilas, Pizza Bianco, Heritage Square in downtown Phoenix (expect a long wait, but you can check out the wine bar next door in the interim).

Airport Operations Crewmember Emily suggests you rent a car! Everything in Phoenix is very spread out. You can also book a hotel near the brand new LightRail, which takes you to a lot of great restaurants, flea markets, museums, libraries, even the zoo, for just a few dollars for an entire day. The rail stretches from central Phoenix to the suburb of Mesa.

Phoenix is quickly becoming a new pizza haven, Emily points out. She recommends you try Cibo, the downtown urban pizza kitchen that has a great outdoor patio and a very quaint and romantic atmosphere; Pizzeria Bianco, a tiny pizzeria that is nationally known; Pizza-A-Metro, for authentic, wood-fired pizza, which can be ordered a-metro (by the meter). Other favorite restaurants Emily suggests you check out are Matt’s Big Breakfast downtown for an amazing local breakfast. Her all-time favorite restaurant is Los Dos Molinos, where the saying is “some like it hot!” There are three locations in the valley, one downtown, one on Central, and one in Mesa.

Downtown Phoenix, and particularly the Roosevelt District, is a great budding community of

local businesses, restaurants, bars and shops. MADE Art boutique displays and sells artwork from many local valley vendors. The Heard Museum is one place not to miss when visiting Phoenix, where you can catch beautiful Native American displays and culture!

It’s Phoenix Suns season, says Emily, and tickets are very affordable, starting at just $15 each for upper-level seating.

Tammie points out that Phoenix has multiple active Indian Reservations, including the Yavapai, Apache, Cocopah, Hopi, Navajo, Pascua Yaqui, Pima and the Hohokam. The Hohokam tribe developed the largest web of irrigation canals in pre-Columbian North America. If you drive up north to Sedona (a must see) then on to the Grand Canyon (one of USA Today’s New Wonders of The World), you can buy the most beautiful turquoise jewelry along the road. Many Indian tribes make and sell original pieces that are representative of their individual, cultural backgrounds. The women are the ones that sell them along the road and they always wear traditional garb. If you are a Phoenician you rarely will buy turquoise from a retail store.

Phoenix is a very diverse state. There’s water skiing 45 minutes from the airport on the Saguaro and Canyon lakes. Tammie spent many years there frying her skin for that perfect tan to impress the boys! Yes, summers are hot (but, dry) for three months. In defense of the heat, much of the rest of the country has freezing temperatures at least three months out of the year. Speaking of heat, as kids who were bored in the summer, Tammie and her friends held contests frying eggs on the sidewalk on top of foil. She usually won (cheated) because she had figured out to get the smallest egg from her refrigerator, but don’t tell anyone because Tammie still regularly sees her childhood friends! To cool off, you can go north about 150 miles to snow ski. There are three snow ski mountains in Arizona. Tammie prefers Snowbowl in Flagstaff because she usually spent a good amount of time there in the summer at her family’s cabin.

Some important Arizona verbiage to note – Phoenicians don’t say highways, they say freeways; they don’t say pocketbook, but instead say purse; they don’t say stockings, they say nylons. To not speak Phoenician language means you’ll give yourself away as a tourist, relays Tammie. The majority of Phoenicians still say pop not soda.  They don’t retire in Florida like the northeasterners do, but rather in California (though they do call those who come to Arizona for the winters snowbirds).

According to Tammie, Phoenicians buy Roper boots and Stetson cowboy items. Their favorite country dance is “The Cotton Eyed Joe.” They LOVE country music, Tammie says, and have multiple country stations on local radio.

An interesting fact is that licenses in Arizona only need to be renewed every 30 years. Property taxes are low. 50 minutes away on the southwest border you’ll find the Mexican town of Puerto Penasco, or Rocky Point. It has affordable beach front condos and many seniors travel there in retirement buses to get dental work and medications.

Places to eat? That is a loaded question! Here are a few must go’s. Rustler’s Rooste.

Image courtesy of kankie on Flickr

Keep in mind you have to ride a slide to get in (there are stairs too). You will meet real bulls and enjoy the most beautiful views of the valley at the top of South Mountain Point. You can also order fried rattle snake (it is yummy, relays Tammie). With so many snakes it is the only thing they have figured out to do with them, Tammie says. Your ride there will be straight up the mountain. Then there’s Rawhide, where you can have a “Sundown Dinner” taken by wagon train to the desert for fresh-made food in kettles and fire pits, dancing, authentic cowboy stories by the campfire (be sure to make a reservation). Tia Rosa’s in Mesa is a great authentic Mexican restaurant. An original ice cream shop worth your while in Scottsdale is the Sugar Bowl. Camelback Mountain nearby has rocks along the ridge that resemble a monk praying. Another should-do is to hike to hole in the rock. It’s an easy hike and you get a beautiful view when you reach the “hole” at the top. The zoo is directly below.

Phoenix’s main freeways are the 101, 202 and 303, all of which are relatively new. Grady Gammage is a great concert venue located in Tempe on the ASU campus. The Celebrity Theatre is a rotating stage which is fun for concerts, and the Herberger Theater is great. There is also the State Fair grounds Coliseum Theatre, among others. Diamondback Stadium has a retractable roof and a swimming pool to enjoy if the game drags on.

Arizona is also home to the original London Bridge, brought by boat in pieces after it was purchased from the highest bidder in England and transplanted at Lake Havasu, where you can now walk over it.

If you visit Tempe, which is right next to Phoenix, there is a great comedy club, Tempe Improv. Also worth checking out is the Hyatt Regency in Gainey Ranch in Scottsdale, one of the top 10 resorts in the country. You can sit by the outside firepits for evening drinks with acoustic guitarists. Estaban got his start there. Enjoy a gondola ride, walk the property of unending beauty with showcases of the  assortment of cactus and many other displays of Arizona’s indiginous fauna. The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is another resort worth checking out, though one the most expensive in the state to stay at.

Tammie wishes you all a time of wonder and relaxation. As they say way out west, “Have fun Gitten Her Dun.”

In addition to sharing your Phoenix travel tips below, you can also tweet them using the hashtag #TTPHX. And don’t forget to give and get some great travel tips from other travelers at our TrueBlue Community!

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