Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Coronado Historic District, Scottsdale & Phoenix Attractions

By Edie Jarolim
Special for USATODAY.com

Think L.A. without an ocean. The quintessential New West urban complex, Greater Phoenix comprises 22 freeway-laced cities sprawling over more than 9,000 square miles and hosting some 3.1 million residents. The Valley of the Sun, as it's also known, is one of the country's fastest growing metroplexes. But while satellites such as Mesa, which experienced a whopping 41% population increase in the 1990's, are drawing new settlers in droves, visitors tend to spend their time in Phoenix, Scottsdale, and, to a lesser degree, Tempe.

Phoenix, the country's sixth largest city and growing, is the Valley's prime arena for business, spectator sports, and high culture. Copper Square, the city boosters' designation for downtown's once decaying core, is home to municipal buildings and high-rise corporate headquarters, including that of Phelps Dodge. It's also where you'll find the Bank One Ball Park and America West Arena sports facilities, as well as cultural hubs such as the Herberger Theater Center and the Heritage & Science Park museum complex. Downtown is fairly dead on the weekends and on most evenings when there are no games or concerts, however. Most of Phoenix's action still lies to the north, with its older residential enclaves, popular restaurants, and, along the Camelback Corridor, upscale lodgings such as the historic Arizona Biltmore and low-slung modern business parks.

Scottsdale, which combines an artist's heart with a capitalist's idea of a good time, is where both locals and visitors play. Its strollable downtown — an Old West settlement in an earlier incarnation — is chock-a-block with chi-chi galleries, trendy eateries and happening nightspots. As you head north on the city's main thoroughfare, Scottsdale Road branches off towards endless golf courses, malls, and spa-studded mega resorts. In contrast, Tempe, home to Arizona State University, is a low-key college community with student-oriented shops, bars and restaurants lining its main drag, Mill Avenue.

A few years ago, Tempe flooded a dry riverbed, thus acquiring a watersports scene of sorts. But most of the Valley's outdoor recreation — golf, hiking, biking, and horseback riding — is focused around the cactus-rich northern Sonoran Desert. In winter, you can play outdoors all day, reveling in glorious warm, sunny weather (as long as you remember the shades, water bottle, and sunscreen). Spring and fall, when temps can rise into the 90s, are iffier for fresh-air enthusiasts. And despite the Valley-dweller's mantra, "It's a dry heat," only the hardiest athletes venture outside to exercise in summer — and only in the early morning and at dusk.

A native cultural must — Opened in 1929 in Dwight and Maie Heard's lovely Spanish Colonial-style home, The Heard Museum has long had one of the country's best collections of Southwest Indian artifacts. And it just keeps getting better. Traditional crafts such as antique Navajo rugs and the Hopi katsina dolls donated by the late Barry Goldwater share space with provocative contemporary Native American paintings and displays relating to controversial topics such as transporting Native American children to boarding schools to "Americanize" them. An outdoor sculpture garden makes the most of its dramatic desert setting. On the weekends, there are always interesting talks and craft demonstrations. The Heard hosts a variety of year-round festivals and events.

Located just north of Copper Square in downtown central Phoenix, the Heard is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, $3 for kids 4-12, and free for Native Americans and kids under 4.

There's also a smaller branch of the Heard Museum in the El Pedregal complex in North Scottsdale, open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. The recommended contribution is $3 for adults.

Phoenix: 2301 N. Central Ave.; (602) 252-8848. Scottsdale: 34505 N. Scottsdale Rd.; (480) 488-9817.



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