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.
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.
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…
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.