Like its namesake, Phoenix rises up out of scorching heat—in the minds of most, an unlikely metropolis of urban villages, ranches, and lush golf courses against spaghetti western skies. Ask any native, though, and they’ll tell you that Phoenix is far more than just a triple-digit cowtown.
We’ve got castles…
The Valley seems an unlikely locale for castles, but it’s got at least three that warrant a visit. Tovrea Castle, the multi-tiered structure known locally as the “Wedding Cake,” was completed in 1931. After a period of deterioration, the castle was renovated for the state centennial and now offers tours of the basement, first floor, and grounds.
Mystery Castle, located near South Mountain, dates from the same period—the castle, hewn out of local rock, was the brainchild of Boyce Gully. He came to Phoenix after being diagnosed with tuberculosis and built the 18-room house (with its own chapel, dungeon and cantina) for the little princess he left behind, daughter Mary Lou. Mary Lou lived in the castle and gave tours of her fairytale home, still open to the public.
Finally, if you like golf but you’re not quite ready for the Biltmore greens, Castles and Coasters off the 1-17 has been around for years as a family fun spot, offering mini golf, rides and games to kids of all ages.
Phoenix has a museum to suit everyone. As with most major cities, the Valley has its own science museum, symphony, theatre and a flourishing art scene—in addition to the Phoenix Art Museum, monthly First Friday cross-gallery openings lure art lovers to the urban core.
For music aficionados, the Valley’s own world class Musical Instrument Museum opened in 2010. The largest museum of its type, it represents the sounds of seven continents with more than 15,000 instruments, thrilling visitors in an immersive audio-visual experience.
Phoenix recognizes its native culture in the Heard, a Valley staple since 1929 and one of the finest of its kind, which boasts an internationally-renown collection of Native American arts and artifacts historic and modern.
Beyond that, Phoenix plays host annually to fairs and events that range from the Japanese Matsuri festival to the Scottish highland games and the Heard’s Guild Indian Fair and Marketplace.
…and creatures from another planet?
Perhaps it’s the 1953 War of the Worlds (filmed in town) that draws them, or maybe it’s an earlier call—the inhabitants of Phoenix’s own Pueblo Grande were keen astronomers—but it’s rumored that Phoenix may have welcomed tourists of the extraterrestrial variety.
In 1997, the sighting of mysterious v-shaped lights over the Valley sparked such a frenzy that it prompted a press conference, a spread in USA Today, national news coverage and at least one direct-to-dvd movie. Theories from military flare drops to interplanetary visitors abound, but the phenomenon remains unexplained. With recurrences in 2007 and 2008, the enigma of the Phoenix Lights continues to captivate the world, and Phoenix even hosts the International UFO Congress annually.
Whether fun or far-out, Phoenix is the place to be.