USA Arizona 

A Guide to Phoenix

Phoenix, the capital of Arizona (which became the 48th and sixth largest state in the US in 1912), began life in the 1860s as a farming town, but gradually spread across the Salt River Valley, swallowing up Scottsdale and other small towns. Camelback Mountain, at 1 300-ft high, is the city’s most prominent feature. A granite and sandstone outcrop, it is the result of the churning forces of prehistoric volcanoes. Climb to the top and you will be rewarded with spectacular desert vistas.

Downtown, well laid out and easy to get around, has several museums: the classical Arizona State Capitol Museum, originally the state legislature, houses historical sepia photographs amongst other displays; the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum; and across town the Phoenix Museum of History, showcasing a steam-powered bicycle and other unusual collections; and the Arizona Science Center, offering hundreds of interactive exhibits. Enjoy a virtual reality walk through the human body! Heritage Square is a charming tree-lined area of Victorian houses, some now converted into small museums or tearooms.

Two museums on the northern side of the city are: the Phoenix Art Museum catering for temporary exhibitions. The second floor displays the works of 18th - 19th century American artists, including those of Gilbert Stewart whose famous 1796 Portrait of George Washington adorns every dollar note; and the Heard Museum, founded in 1929 by the wealthy newspaper tycoon and rancher, containing over 30 000 works including Native Southwestern American art, Native American jewellery, pottery and textiles, and more than 500 kachina dolls.

As petrol is cheap in the US, take a 12-mile drive northeast of downtown to Scottsdale with its delightful tree-lined streets, founded in the late 19th century. It is now a wealthy part of sprawling Phoenix with shopping malls, designer boutiques and hotels, restaurants and cafés, and also known for its excellent golf course.

Visit amazing Taliesin West, built in 1937 as the winter studio of innovative architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, famous for his ‘Prairie style’ architecture. On 600 acres, the complex was designed to blend with the desert, using local stone. It is now a school of architecture and a working design studio. Spas and holiday resorts in this area are popular during the dry, mild sunny winters.

Pay a visit to the unique Cosanti Foundation, four miles west of Taliesen West. Italian architect Paolo Soleri, a student of Wright, designed it for the creation of a new ‘arcological’ urban habitat, a combination of architecture and ecology. Low, simple structures house studios, a gallery and craft workshops turning out windbells and cast bronzes.

For archeologists, the Pueblo Grande Museum, an ancient Hohokam ruin, has artifacts from the adjacent Archeological Park, site of a Hohokam settlement from the 8th - 14th centuries.
 
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