Phoenix

Downtown Phoenix Skyline at Night by CC user squeaks2569 on Flickr
Introduction

Located within blistering hot heart of the Sonoran desert, the Valley of the Sun is one of the last places you would expect a city to thrive. And yet, here is Phoenix, gleaming in the sunny days that define one of the driest inhabited places in the United States of America.

It isn’t the sun worshiping nature of modern Americans that fully explains the presence of this metropolis, as native peoples not only survived here in the past, but they also had a civilization that thrived for almost two milennia until it fizzled out just before Columbus bumped into the Americas in 1492.

Despite the motivations behind its origins, modern day visitors will enjoy a visit to a city with a thriving nightlife scene, 330 sunny days per year, and a sense of standing out against an external environment that would otherwise contraindicate its very survival.

Heard Museum by CC user 22748341@N00 on Flickr

Cultural Experiences

Long before Europeans, Mexicans, or Americans strode upon the arid soil of the Valley of the Sun, the Pueblo had inhabited the region. For thousands of years prior to the arrival of outsiders, they had established a culture that can begun to evolve into a civilization, before environmental factors forced them out of the area.

The Heard Museum has done an excellent job of documenting the heritage of this nation and other tribes that have called the American Southwest their home through the eons. Containing over 40,000 pieces in its collections ranging from jewelry to kachina dolls, the Heard showcases the intricate nature of the society that the indigenous peoples possessed here long before Christopher Columbus ever arrived in the Western World.

As for the remains of the civilization that the Pueblo were building before climate change rudely cut them off, the Pueblo Grande Ruin is just one site of many across Arizona and the American Southwest that has proven that organized life beyond nomadism was not a phenomenon exclusively limited to the eastern side of the Atlantic Ocean.

The remains of irrigation canals show that the Pueblo engaged in agriculture, while ball courts within this ruin complex showed that they had enough free time during the peak of their civilization to engage in recreational pursuits.

With the oldest works in the Grande Ruin dating back to 750 BCE, and with signs that this complex was inhabited up until 1450 AD, it is evident that this native people stand among the most under-appreciated former civilizations in the world.

Throughout the history of the United States, firefighters have long been one of the nation’s best loved civil servants, putting their lives on the line to save citizens imperiled by one of humankind’s greatest foes. The Hall of Flame Fire Museum not only stands as a commemoration to the firefighters of the city of Phoenix, but as a place that pays homage to every person that dons the yellow fire-retardant jacket in the name of protecting life and property against the flames that endanger them.

With five bays showing off equipment fating back to the 17th century, along with a hall of fame that honors the brave men and women that have put life and limb on the life to save others over the centuries, the Hall of Flame Museum is an outstanding place to visit if you have extra time to spare when visiting Phoenix.

South Mountain Park by CC user flower8 on Flickr

Other Attractions

Being located in one of the arid corners of the United States, Phoenix is an ideal place for an attraction like the Desert Botanical Garden. Embracing its environment, this attraction is home to many plants that are common to the area, as well as those that are rare and/or endangered, making it a great place for those looking to get acquainted with the flora that is native to the American Southwest.

Have kids in tow? If you are looking for an afternoon that is bound to please your little ones, the Phoenix Zoo is a great place to go, as it is America’s largest privately owned non-profit zoo in the nation. In addition to featuring animals from all over the world along its two and a half miles of walking trails, the Phoenix Zoo focuses on animals that are endemic to the state, which include coyotes, mountain lions and bald eagles.

Being situated in the midst of the Sonoran desert means that there is an abundance of open land surrounding the built up area that comprises the Greater Phoenix area. This has led to many places being protected by local authorities, with one of the most notable regions being South Mountain Park.

Protecting over 16,000 acres of land within city limits, South Mountain Park is one of the largest urban parks in the world, cordoning off an ecologically sensitive area from suburban development. With its unrivaled views of the rest of the area at night, the park is one of the parts of this metropolis that is most highly valued by local residents, making it a must see for visitors looking to see the real Phoenix.

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