Discover Arizona’s Valley of the Sun: Phoenix, Scottsdale & Sedona

A tree grows up out of red dirt while in the distance, clouds gather over striated cliffs of rock
Change may be constant, but in the Valley of the Sun, the desert endures. Photo © Noel Reynolds, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

The only constant is change.

This saying attributed to Heraclitus could easily be the motto of Phoenix, an energetic city that reinvents itself every decade or so. Phoenix, Scottsdale, and surrounding communities—together known as the Valley of the Sun—make up one of the country’s fastest growing metro areas, enticing new residents with abundant sunshine, mountain vistas, and a resort lifestyle. This desert playground boasts more than 200 golf courses, countless swimming pools, and miles of hiking and biking trails. Skyscrapers mark its status as the Southwest’s commercial center, yet it’s mountains, not architecture, that truly define the skyline. The McDowells, Superstitions, and other ranges encircle the Valley of the Sun, and the distinctive outline of Camelback stands a thousand feet above seas of red-tiled roofs and emerald green resorts.

While growth may be the city’s lifeblood, the Sonoran Desert is its soul. The desert’s twice-yearly rain pattern supports a surprisingly lush assortment of plants and animals, including the iconic saguaro cactus. Many species that have adapted to cope with local conditions are found nowhere else in the world.

Humans, too, have learned to conform to desert living. Hohokam farmers who settled here 1,500 years ago relied on a complex system of canals, and the advent of air-conditioning set the stage for the city’s post- WWII boom. In this metropolis of four million residents, cacti, coyotes, and lizards coexist with people.

Blend the exotic landscape with welcome winter sunshine and colorful cultural traditions, and you have a place where even locals live like they’re on vacation, hiking before work or enjoying a late-night swim, booking their weekends with festivals or visits to the high country. Follow their lead: Taste the best Sonoran-style cuisine this side of the Mexican border. Enjoy Scottsdale’s two favorite pastimes—shopping and nightlife. Discover centuries-old Native American traditions. Venture north to the red-rock monoliths of Sedona and the leafy oasis of Oak Creek Canyon.

Just remember to leave plenty of time to kick back on the patio and watch a desert sunset. Change may be constant, but the desert endures, an ever-present reminder of antiquity and grace—especially as the mountains turn purple and swatches of orange, vermilion, and magenta streak across a darkening sky.

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