- Published: Friday, 06 January 2012 17:10
- Written by Mary Anne Been
By Mary Anne Been
Phoenix is not just a place for snowbirds and retired people. The greater Phoenix area is an oasis for many tourists and aspiring artists. If you are looking for a destination that is easy to get to and full of fabulous history, cultural experiences, and great hotels, consider visiting Phoenix.
Art and Culture
For the artist who wants a new perspective, there is an abundance of experiential places to visit. The Mesa Arts Center in Mesa, AZ tops this list. The Mesa Arts Center has every medium to get your creative juices flowing. They offer classes that cater to everyone, from the visitor who only has a few days to get the basics to multi-week courses to fine-tune your craft. If you enjoy watching or participating in theater, take part in a production at the Ikeda Theater.
With more than 2,000 seats and amazing aesthetics and acoustics, the Ikeda Theater makes every production a “Thumbs Up.”
MIM (Musical Instrument Museum) in Phoenix has something special for the music lover in all of us. MIM was founded by Robert J. Ulrich, former CEO and chairman emeritus of Target Corporation. His unique vision was to create a museum and collection that affords equal representation to the musical instruments and music of every country in the world. The collection is quite impressive, and takes much more than a day to fully comprehend and appreciate. Music lovers will be able to experience the roots of music and really understand the instinctual need of all people around the world to hear and play it. MIM is a real treat for the music lover and offers a diverse understanding of instruments and their meaning to humanity around the world.
Native American art and culture lovers will get happily lost at the Heard Museum. The Heard Museum contains one of the best collections of Native American culture, art, and history in the country. Dwight and Maie Bartlett founded the Heard Museum in 1929. Their mission was to educate the public about Native American life through arts and crafts. At the Heard you will experience more than 40,000 fine artworks and cultural artifacts in the permanent collection. One heartbreaking aspect of the Heard is The Indian Boarding School Exhibit, which shows how Native American children were “Americanized” through education and segregation. It was quite an eye-opener.
The beautiful Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix allow visitors to experience the flora and fauna of the Arizona desert and the natural beauty that can be found there. There are more than 145 acres and 50,000 plant displays. The gardens also feature art exhibits. The current display is Big Bugs by David Rogers. The larger-than-life insect displays are lit beautifully in the evening, and it almost feels like they are watching you walk the pathways.
The wonderfully landscaped paths have far-away views to appreciate, one of which is so incredible many people think it is a painted backdrop. The view from Ullman Terrace overlooks a gorgeous red-rock butte with Saguaro cactus that has grown so perfectly that it looks like it belongs in an old Western movie.
Home Grown Culture
The Greater Phoenix area is full of family-owned-and-operated businesses and the surrounding communities are big on supporting them.
The Queen Creek Olive Mill produces much of the olive oil and olive products used by restaurants and hotels in the area. You wouldn’t think that olives grow in the desert, but the climate in Arizona offers the perfect growing conditions and also protects against the trees’ natural pests. These conditions allow Queen Creek Olive Mill to produce 16 different types of olives without the use of pesticides or mold treatments. Treat yourself to a tour and complimentary tasting when in town.
Orange Patch is another home-grown business that is widely supported by the community. Think of the sweetest, juiciest, most delicious citrus fruits you have ever eaten, and most likely you can get them at Orange Patch. Again, the climate and lack of natural pests makes for an ideal growing situation. Family-owned and operated for more than 40 years, Orange Patch continues to feed the community and the rest of the U.S. some of the best citrus around.
Agritopia seems to be the buzzword in the Mesa community. Created by Joe Johnston around his original family homestead in Mesa, AZ, Agritopia is a utopian world focused on community. Johnston had a dream of creating a utopian society that accomplishes some very simple things, including creating sustainable food sources. The community gardens at Agritopia are abundant and well-tended. Joe’s restaurant on the property is Joe’s Farm Grill. Along with great food and a guest appearance on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, Joe’s Farm Grill is big on using food they have grown at their Agritopian Farm.
Barrio Café is one of the best Mexican Food restaurants ever!
Order anything off the menu and prepare to be impressed with massive amounts of flavor and large portions. The cochinita pibil and fresh guacamole with a beer make for the perfect Mexican food experience.
If you like tequila tasting, order any tequila that comes to mind and they may have it. Barrio Café also supports local artists. The walls outside the restaurant and through the alleyway are covered with amazing murals. Do not forget to take a look.
Architecture and Hotels
There are some incredible places to stay in the greater Phoenix area. At the top of the list is the historically and architecturally important Arizona Biltmore. Influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright and built by Albert Chase McArthur, the Arizona Biltmore has some pretty amazing features. From the gardens that lie within each section of the property to the intricate design of each stone in the buildings, the exquisite detail is evident. Frank and Albert’s restaurant in the main building offers an upscale menu in a casual setting. Executive chef Todd Sicolo and chef de cuisine Conor Favre have worked together to create an outstanding menu of fine comfort food. Make sure to save room for the homemade Twinkies and made-at-the-table s’mores.
Next on the list of places to stay is the Montelucia Resort in Phoenix. Nestled at the base of picturesque Camelback Mountain, the Montelucia Resort will transport you to another land. Filled with European and Moroccan décor, each and every room feels warm and inviting, like a home away from home. Montelucia is the type of resort that you never have to leave if your vacation is all about relaxing and rejuvenating.
A restorative visit to Montelucia isn’t complete without a visit to Joya Spa. There you will find the ultimate relaxation room filled with Tempur-Pedic beds for quietly resting before or after a treatment, plus a steam room, dry sauna, and their signature Hammam Ritual.
Don’t hesitate to book you next trip to Arizona. These exciting places are waiting for you to come and eat, play, stay, and relax.
For more information, visit:
Desert Botanical Gardens
Main Garden: 1-480-941-1225 – Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Recorded Information Line: 1-480-941-1217
Call Center: 1-480-481-8188