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Sportstown America
My Visit To Phoenix
By Ron Kapon, Contributing Travel Editor

Phoenix Map
New York, NY - There are 12 cities in the U.S.A. with professional teams in all four major league sports: basketball, football, baseball and hockey. One of those cities is the fifth largest in population (1.4 million) and hosted the 2006-2007 Bowl Championship Series (BCS) football game, in addition to being the host city for the 2008 Super Bowl. Over 16 million tourists visited in 2005., there are 200 golf courses in the area and the state in which it is located is now the fastest growing one in America. In addition, it is the headquarters for four major league teams.

Welcome to Greater Phoenix Arizona, population of 3.6 million and consists of Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe. Adjacent Mesa is the third largest city in the state with a population of 400,000 (Tucson is number two). The baseball and basketball teams play in downtown Phoenix adjacent to the newly expanded (triple its size) Convention Center and the football and hockey teams stadium are in Glendale, just 45 minutes from downtown Phoenix. There is also an arena football and WNBA team and two NASCAR races while nine major league baseball teams use Greater Phoenix for their Cactus League Spring Training every March.

Chase Field
Arizona Diamondbacks' Chase Field
Heading downtown, the aforementioned Convention Center will be completed by late 2008 and will contain 900,000 square feet of exhibit space. Within walking distance is the Phoenix Museum of History where one can trace the history of the city and, at the same time, visit the hands-on Arizona Science Museum with 300 interactive exhibits. Both the History & Science Museums are located within Heritage Square, home to many restaurants and gift shops. The Phoenix Art Museum & Heard Museum are also downtown. with the latter showing the history of the various Native American tribes that lived in the state together with a collection of Native American art and artifacts.

Construction for the light rail system which starts at the airport and runs 20 miles to Tempe, intended for easier maneuvering to and from the airport, will be completed in late 2008.

Just outside Papago Park (1,200 acres of rolling desert hills and rugged mountains) is the Pueblo Grande Museum & Archaeological Park with the platform mounds once used as a village larger that housed at least 10,000 of the Hohokam Indian tribe. The Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Gardens (containing over 20,000 plants) are inside the park and I encourage you to take a special tour called "Taste of the Desert," given every Saturday at Noon and 2 PM. It is followed by a tasting party of Mesquite, Prickly Pear, Saguaro and Agave as one of the perks for taking the tour. Close by is the city of Tempe, home to Arizona State University, the largest university in the state and Tempe Town Lake.

Farther south, given your having the time and inclination to travel about a bit, is the Gila Indian community where they have built the Wild Horse Pass Casino, golf course and hotel. What else is new? Interestingly enough, they also own the land where Rawhide, a re-creation of an 1880?s western town, complete with mechanical bull, gunfights and stagecoach rides, is located and, nearby, is the 16,000 acre South Mountain Park, the largest municipal park in the world. If you are into outdoors this is a must see and appreciate.

When it comes to downtown Scottsdale only Santa Fe, New Mexico, competes with this upscale city for the title of Art Capital of the Southwest. Take the free trolley from Fashion Square into Old Town Scottsdale with its antique stores, restaurants, 100 art galleries. Every Thursday night is Art Walk with most of the galleries open and serving snacks as prelude, an appetizer of sorts, for dinner that evening. Not very far away is Taliesin West by Frank Lloyd Wright, the 600-acre complex that was built almost completely by hand in order not to disturb the natural surroundings and, at the same time, served as the famous architect's winter home.

To the north and west you will find Glendale and the University of Phoenix stadium, the first in North America to feature a retractable roof and a roll-out grass field. It is also here that Sun Cities, real estate developers, created the first planned retirement community for upscale residents 55 and older.

Websites of Note:

  • Useful Websites:

    Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau: (877) 225-5749
    Glendale
    Tempe
    Scottsdale
    Desert Botanical Gardens
    Pueblo Grande Museum
    Phoenix Zoo
    Arizona Biltmore Resort
    Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort
    Westin Kierland Resort
    The Phoenician
    Vincent Guerithault on Camelback
    Arizona Science Center
    Heard Museum
    Phoenix Art Museum
    Phoenix Museum of History
    Pueblo Grande Museum
    Taliesin West
    Four Seasons Hotel
    Cowboy Ciao
    Kazimierz Wine Bar
    Rawhide
    Greasewood Flat
  • There is no shortage of hotels in Phoenix with a literal plethora of venues from which to choose, starting with a number of five star properties. Much depends upon personal taste and your budget for any trip. I can certainly recommend the Westin Kierland Resort, since that is where I stayed, and is property that was built five years ago next to the Kierland Commons Shopping Center. Upcoming, they will be home to one of the two Super Bowl teams next year and have a spa, conference center, fitness center, 9,000 square foot water park, 27 holes of golf, and what is happily, and pleasingly, referred to as "the heavenly bed & shower." Then there is The Phoenician, a resort where I had stayed on a previous trip, with casitas, lodges, overlooking Camelback Mountain, the city?s most famous landmark. I would add the Arizona Biltmore Resort, built in 1929 and Phoenix?s first resort, operated for 43 years by the Wrigley Chewing Gum family. This early list also should include the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort on Gila River Indian land with Native American artifacts everywhere. And, you can take a canal boat to Rawhide, the casino or golf course. Among the finest is the Four Seasons Hotel in northern Scottsdale with its hotel and residence villas built right into the desert landscape, a fantastic property.

    The only Wine Spectator Grand award winning restaurant wine list is at the Phoenician?s Mary Elaine with 2,200 wines and 300 ? bottles (we single diners salute you!). Master Sommelier Greg Tresner watches over things here. Cowboy Ciao opened 10 years ago (American food and 3,000 wines), Kazimierz World Wine Bar & Sea Saw (Japanese) all have a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence and have the same ownership. Vincent Guerithault on Camelback overlooks the mountain and has 1,180 wines on their list. Classic French and another Best of Award of Excellence. Deseo is Latin-influenced cuisine at the Westin Kierland Hotel and you can count on one of the best dinners you will ever experience complete with outstanding service from the staff. Not to be missed while there, just before dinner, is the area?s only ceviche and Muddle Bar. Moving to another world altogether, one that is difficult to describe, is Greasewood Flats in North Scottsdale, where you will find Bentleys parked next to Harleys...biker beer, hamburgers like you never got at Wendy's, McDonald's or Burger King, with dirt floors and enough atmosphere to have you speaking with a cowboy twang before you head out.


    Ron Kapon is seeking wine tasters for the New York Tasters Guild. Please go to www.tastersguildny.com or email him at Ron@tastersguildny.com.