PHOENIX THE DESERT CITY

Phoenix, located in central Arizona, is rarely a goal of discovery on a family trip to the United States, but rather a privileged destination to begin or end an itinerary in the American West, especially to tour the Arizona and Utah National Parks, which Americans call The Grand Circle.

Phoenix is neither a charming city nor a city full of points of interest in the United States. On the other hand, after a long trip from Europe, necessarily with a stopover to arrive in this city, or to calmly end a trip before taking the return flight, one can spend one or two pleasant days there.

But mostly we’ll be staying in the suburbs. Not in Sun City, in its North-West, reserved for rich retirees, but in its East in the cities of Scottsdale or Tempe.

Sun City is also the nickname for Phoenix, and it‘s not stolen. It’s usually what travelers who pass through the city remember, and more than the sun, it’s the warmth it feels that counts.

35° on average in the summer, 38° on average over 92 days and 43° on average over 18 days, and these are temperatures in the shade, in the sun the feeling is at least 10 to 15 degrees higher. Phoenix has the climate of a city like Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. The city even experienced 50° in the shade on June 26, 1990.

One year we came to town on an overcast day. We were disappointed when we went on vacation, but the locals told us we were lucky to land that day, because that’s what they call good weather.

Arizona

COME TO PHOENIX

Phoenix is at:

  • 185 kms South of Sedona,
  • 190 kms North of Tucson
  • 350 kms South of the Grand Canyon
  • Seventeen hundred miles east of Palm Springs…
  • 300 miles southeast of Las Vegas

A HUGE CITY

Phoenix is a huge city, 1.338 Km2, 13 times the size of Paris, and the metropolis with its 22 suburban cities covers 5.200 km2, half the area of Ile de France.

It’s the sixth largest city in the United States, with 1.5 million inhabitants, and the 14th largest metropolis with 4.5 million.

70% of Arizona’s inhabitants live in this metropolis.

ACCOMMODATION IN PHOENIX

Usually an itinerary includes only one night in Phoenix, but at the beginning of the trip, if you have enough days, you can stay two nights, to recover from the trip and the jet lag.

We advise you to take a hotel in Scottsdale, close to Papago Park which is the nicest place, and of course you should choose it with a swimming pool which will be if possible in a shady patio. It’s amazing how a patio can reduce heat by a few degrees, which unlike the outside, makes it a haven of coolness.

As you might have guessed, summer is the off-season and you’ll have a wide selection of excellent hotels at very attractive prices compared to other parts of the American West.

In the summer, you can get a very comfortable four-person room for $100.

If Phoenix is just a one-night stopover before starting a road trip from Europe, or to finish it before taking a flight the next morning, it’s best to take a hotel near the airport.

GOING OUT FOR DINNER IN PHOENIX

To dine, the offer is of course plentiful, but we recommend that you choose a restaurant in the Old Town Scottsdale area. The oldest neighborhood in the metropolis of Phoenix, with beautiful buildings from the late 19th century.

It’s a nice evening stroll. When it’s cooler, you can even enjoy the terrace of a restaurant.

Preferably you should go on Thursday nights when all the art galleries are open between 7 and 9 pm.

Park at the Center for the Arts Parking Garage, 3888 N Well Fargo Avenue, Scottsdale.

With the document below you will have the description of the places to visit the area.

RAWHIDE WESTERN TOWN

Unfortunately, it’s now reserved for private events, but on a few holiday dates throughout the year Rawhide Western Town remains open to the public and if you’re lucky enough to be in Phoenix on those dates it’s nice to go, especially with kids. Check the event calendar to see if it’s open to the public.

It is the reconstruction of a small western town with saloon, hotel, prison, stagecoach … there are shops, attractions and small shows of Gun Fights (western scenes that end of course inevitably with fights, duels and shootings).

Kids can ride stagecoaches, toy trains, ponies, search for gold, shoot at targets, climb a climbing wall or rodeo on a mechanical bull…

Of course you can find all western articles in specialist shops. There is also a photographer who takes vintage sepia photos of you dressed in period costumes in a saloon setting.

GOLDFIELD GHOST TOWN

Likewise, 20 miles east of Scottsdale, Goldfield Ghost Town. It’s a restored ghost town with all the same attractions as Rawhide. There’s also a possible 25-minute tour of the old gold mine. The advantage over Rawhide is it’s open every day of the year.

DOWN THE SALT RIVER

If you feel like you’re going into an oven when you check out of your hotel in Phoenix, we strongly recommend a trip down the Salt River on truck inner tubes. Nothing better to cool off.

This is a very popular activity in Phoenix from May through September, so avoid doing it on weekends.

The departure point is 45 km east of Scottsdale, the fare was 17$ in 2019, it includes the buoy rental and the bus ride. Children are accepted from 8 years old.

The river’s quiet enough, the rapids nice enough without any major risk of overturning. It is preferable, however, to provide a light backpack to be worn on the stomach and protect its interior with airtight plastic bags.

You should bring sunscreen, a hat, plenty of water, a picnic, shoes for going in the water (you can use your sneakers, they will dry quickly when you go out). Leave all your valuables and papers at the hotel.

Stopping from time to time, especially to take his picnic, it takes three hours to complete the descent.

THE PAPAGO PARK

South East of Phoenix the Papago Park is the green lung of the city, a protected area in the middle of the city of 6 km2.

There are sports fields, a golf course, fishing ponds, a zoo, a botanical garden dedicated to the desert, but also museums, including the very interesting Arizona Heritage Center.

THE DESERT BOTANICAL GARDEN

If you’re lucky enough to have overcast weather, a walk in the Desert Botanical Garden, devoted to desert plants, is very nice. On the other hand, if your road trip goes through Tucson, you should prefer the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.

Unfortunately the price is now prohibitive (in 2020: $25 to $30 adult, $13 to $15 3/18 years old). A guide in French is available at the reception desk.

There are more than 20,000 plants that come from deserts all over the world. You learn a lot of things, including that the desert is very much alive, contrary to popular belief.

If the weather’s good, you should get there early in the morning to beat the heat.

L’ARIZONA HERITAGE CENTER AT PAPAGO PARK

This is a great museum that the whole family will enjoy. The Arizona Heritage Center Museum retraces the history of Arizona in a chronological and very educational way without being boring at any time.

From the origins of the first settlements, through the era of mining exploration and the two World Wars, you can even find the American way of life of the 50s and 60s in reconstructed interiors.

I mean, after all those walks in this heat, you’ll want to go out for ice cream…

PHOENIX CLIMATE

As we mentioned in the introduction, Phoenix with its desert climate is one of the hottest cities in the United States with an average summer temperature of 35 degrees Celsius and a record set at 50 degrees to 6 degrees of the world record.

The winter is pleasant on the other hand with its very soft temperatures and its always blue sky, on average the temperature falls below zero only one day per year.

How do you prepare for your first trip alone? Resources and practical advice

You have to be daring to decide to go solo but when the desire is there, the decision is not so difficult to take in the end. It is only afterwards that you finally face your demons and endless questions: will I be able to go on a journey alone? Am I going to meet people? What if something happens to me? Should I be worried about my safety while traveling? All these questions I asked myself before leaving for my first trip alone, around the world please… I will explain my 7 months of journey between my decision and my departure as well as all the steps I needed to be ready on D-day, the day I embarked on this one-year trip that turned my life upside down.

It was on a spring evening in Jordan that I decided to quit my job and my well-adjusted life to go on this long solo trip. Ah, it was easy to launch the idea one evening during a discussion between friends and to say “that’s what I want to do” but once I got back to Paris, facing the blank page of the first chapter of my life change, there was everything to think and write. Where to start?

3 verbs quickly imposed themselves on me: REASSURE me, PREPARE me and ANTICIPATE me.

Reassuring oneself of one’s ability to travel alone

My first wish on returning from this trip to Jordan was to inform me to reassure myself about my ability to travel solo? I just wanted to give some answers to a question: is this adventure alone right for me? Honestly you can never really answer this question without trying, but meeting other solo travellers and reading everything I could was my way of freeing myself and moving from my questioning to “I think I can do it“.

At the time I was preparing my trip (in 2009), there were no real resources on the internet. There were a few blogs that inspired me and above all made me dream, but not much about sharing practical experiences.

Today, almost 8 years later, there are many resources that allow you to learn, share, meet and discuss about travelling solo. I’ve made a small selection for you.

Discuss on forums

The forums are a great place for exchanges even if the confrontation between novice vs. experienced travellers, long-distance travellers vs. irregular travellers sometimes leads to heated debates and exchanges.

Read dedicated books

At the time I started, there was no great book of inspirations on solo travel except travel stories. Today there are some of them, guides, books sharing experiences and even a comic book that will certainly help you reassure yourself and overcome your fear of travelling alone.

Preparing for the solo trip

Once the decision has been made and validated to travel solo, you must of course prepare yourself. I won’t go into all the work and apartment issues that you have to leave behind, but I will focus on the steps you need to take to travel with a light mind and peace of mind.

Consult a doctor

It is essential to be reassured about one’s health before the big departure. You can go to your GP for a check-up and for help with your first aid kit to get advice on vaccinations.

Preparing your first aid kit/pharmacy kit

Get help from a doctor to prepare your special travel medicine kit. If it’s easy to slip in Paracetamol and bandages, it is also necessary to think, according to the countries where one goes to an anti-diarrheal, of what to rehydrate after the diarrhoea, perhaps an antibiotic with broad spectrum (and to know when to use it)… In short a kit to prevent the small boo-boos it is thought but it is better to be accompanied. I went to see a doctor at the pastoral institute but I think that your doctor can clearly do the job (and will be reimbursed).

Take out travel insurance

If there is one expense not to be neglected when going on a world tour, working holiday visa or even an occasional trip to the other side of the world, it is of course travel insurance. You are never safe from a mosquito bite that degenerates, from diarrhoea that you cannot treat on your own, from dengue fever that requires hospitalization or, more seriously, from a bus or scooter accident. We really don’t like to think about disasters before we leave, so the best thing for us and our loved ones is to make sure that we are as well accompanied as possible if something happens.

Save a copy of your papers on a cloud

There’s nothing worse when you’re robbed than to be destitute. To prevent this I advise you to scan and save a copy of all your papers on a cloud (Passport, ID card, driving license, travel insurance…).

Why on a Cloud and not on your phone or computer? Well, because these terminals are stolen when you can access your Cloud from any computer or phone (as long as you remember the password).

Anticipating loneliness, problems, returning…

Once serene on all practical matters, it is necessary to anticipate all the small problems that could put a small grain of sand in your trip, such as the blues for example. If I didn’t have big problems during my various solo trips, I think it’s because I anticipated a lot of things (but not everything can be anticipated eh).

Be aware of your limits

Even if they can evolve over time, being aware of one’s limits is really a necessary fact before leaving. For example I dreamed of trekking in Nepal in the Himalayas but I was aware that I would never go without a local guide. I’m not experienced in the high mountains so I preferred to rely on the know-how of someone who was.

Thinking you can always go home

Why put pressure on yourself? We can’t know if the solo trip is right for us without trying. I always told myself that I could go back at any time and that it would certainly not be a failure because success is already in the fact of having tried! I also told myself to see each day after the other so I wouldn’t have the dizziness of seeing myself facing a year alone. Looking back, I’m glad I did that!

Knowing the time of the trip

I attacked my trip with a bang, which was not necessarily a good thing considering the conditions I was traveling in and the length of the trip. In my article les temps du voyage: from euphoria to the blues I look back on the highlights of my world tour. Not everything is rosy when you travel, whether it’s short term or long term. This article can help you anticipate and perhaps encourage you to take your time. The journey is not a race to see the most or cross the most countries. Travel is above all encounters and for that you have to give yourself time to experience things.

The return from the trip, a highlight

Ah, the return… a great subject. Before I left, I knew that it was not to be neglected. I just didn’t expect to be back before the holidays. What a shock! In one Rio-Paris flight, I went from basic consumption (accommodation, food, entertainment) to over-consumption.

However, we are not all equal in our ability to manage the return. For some, everything will go smoothly, for others it will be difficult. You can never really know. Just know that it’s not always obvious… And especially before the holidays, believe me !!!!