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In the middle of the Sonoran Desert lies the capital of the American state of Arizona. In prehistory, the Hohokam Indians dug mile-long channels from the Salt River and the Gila River to the place where Phoenix is now. Remains of the settlement were found in the nineteenth century and immigrants decided to rebuild the city. Hence the name Phoenix: risen from the ashes.
Phoenix is a modern and vast city where the sun shines 300 days a year. There are numerous golf courses and holiday resorts in the area.
The Heard Museum is one of the best museums in America about the native population of the country, the Indians. It covers the customs and traditions of various indigenous tribes. There is a vast collection of Indian art, from before the discovery by Columbus to modern works.
The Hohokam Indians are the central theme in the Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park. Remains of a settlement are on display inside the museum. It offers a fascinating view in the life of this native tribe, their irrigation methods and other applications to be able to survive in the desert. Why the Hohokam Indians left this area in 1450 remains unclear.
In the Papago Park next to the zoo of Phoenix lie the Botanical Gardens. Yes, we know, there are numerous cities with botanical gardens, but these are something else. Over 20.000 flowers and plants from deserts around the world have been gathered. But not only that, you are challenged to do something with those plants, like creating a brush from yucca fibers. The cacti are beautifully lit and you can admire plants that only bloom at night.
In the center of the city lies the Phoenix Mountain Park around the nearly 800 meter high Piestewa Peak. You can climb this mountain, but make sure you carry sufficient water and wear a hat or cap to protect you from the burning sun. Of course, from the top you'll have a panoramic view of Phoenix and the surrounding desert.
The Phoenix Art Museum is one of the biggest art museum in the southwest of the United States. In this huge museum, all artistic trends, from the Renaissance to the present, are represented. Especially the department of modern art has an interesting collection of works by Kahlo, Picasso, Rousseau and Rodin. Nice are the mini-houses of the so-called Thorne Miniature Collection.
Just outside Phoenix stands a mysterious building, which is therefore called Mystery Castle. It was built in the thirties and forties of the last century by a Boyd Gulley from Seattle who, after a doctor's visit, was told he was suffering from tbc, and then vanished. He drove to Arizona and built this mysterious castle with materials he found on site and parts of cars. After his death in 1945 a lawyer contacted Boyd's daughter to inform her that her father had built the castle he promised her when she was four years old. That daughter now gives tours in the castle.
Phoenix likes to present itself as a modern, American city, but the history of the Wild West isn't forgotten. There are several theme parks around the city where cowboys, indians, saloons and a sheriff play the lead role. Certainly, those theme parks are very touristy, but if you are traveling with children it is hard to dodge a visit to one of these parks. And oh, why not, for a day?
If you are interested in modern architecture, you should definitely visit Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright's winter residence. It is the headquarters of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. Through guided tours, you will learn more about the ideas of this influential American architect, who designed hundreds of buildings. One of his best-known designs is the Guggenheim Museum in New York. You can reach Taliesin West by driving from Scottsdale Road to the east via Shea Boulevard until 114th Street and from there one mile to the north.
Over 100 miles north of Phoenix lies the experimental town of Arcosanti, whose construction began in 1970. Architect Paolo Soleri wants to prove that an urban environment can be combined with a minimal impact on nature. He calls it an arcological (combination of architecture and ecology) project.
If you drive across the Interstate 10 towards the southeast - direction Tucson - you can see the Picacho Peak from afar. Several routes have been set in the park, including some to the top. The park is especially popular in spring when it is full of desert flowers.
You can make beautiful trips through the surrounding desert and mountains with a rental car. Additionally, Phoenix is a great base for other top attractions such as the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona.
Due to the expanse of Phoenix, renting a car is the best way to visit sights in and around the city. Phoenix is particularly car-friendly. With the exception of the busy Scottsdale district, driving around and finding a parking space in Phoenix is not a problem.
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is situated just 5 kilometers east of the city center and is easily accessible by car via the Papago Freeway (I-10) or the Hohokam Freeway.