||Little more than an Arizona desert frontier settlement just a century ago,
grown rapidly into one of the Western USA's most dynamic and exciting
city sits low in an arid valley surrounded by mountains and high desert
once-rugged terrain having been replaced to a large degree by massive
of residential subdivisions, strip retail and office developments, and
oasis-like golf and tennis resorts. The many slick and trendy dining,
shopping, and gay nightclub options - coupled with the sunny dry
abundance of outdoors diversions - make this an increasingly popular
and gay travel destination though little known here in the UK.
This sprawling city has an amazingly dry climate - only the Sahara
less humid than Phoenix's Sonoran Desert. If you're planning a trip
important to consider how the different seasons can affect your stay -
outdoorsy types should avoid the deathly hot summers, although May
September can be great months to score hotel bargains. And because
every interior cubic inch of Phoenix is cooled by air-conditioning,
seldom oppressively unpleasant here but for the humid rainy season in
July and August. Personality-wise, while the population exceeds 1.3
and now ranks the city among the nation's largest, Phoenix retains a
surprisingly easy pace and a laid-back personality. People move here
job opportunities - the metro area is the third-largest U.S. high-tech
- but also to escape the fast pace and rudeness of other big cities.|
GAY COMMUNITY LIFE
Phoenix tends to be deeply conservative. The city has never been
sympathetic to the plight of minorities, sexual or racial, though one
historically important Phoenix Republican politician - the late U.S.
Barry Goldwater - espoused a live-and-let-live philosophy. In his later
a defender of the gay community, Goldwater was unable to sway popular
in favour of gay-rights initiatives. On one encouraging note, however,
gay Republican state lawmaker Steve May has enjoyed widespread
support and is thought to have a decent shot at winning a U.S.
election should he pursue it. The city has a highly visible gay and
community regardless of the political climate and a huge number of
Though it has a bounty of shops and good restaurants, Phoenix has
few attractions. Cultural highlights include provocative examples of
20th-century architecture, a handful of highly regarded performing-arts
venues, and some excellent museums and galleries. Also, while it's an
enormous and rapidly growing metro area, greater Phoenix hasn't quite
over paradise: just a short drive from downtown you can reach hundreds
hiking areas, from scenic Pima Canyon to craggy Squaw Peak. The region
prestigious golf courses, plus lavish tennis centers, spas, and
clubs - swanky Scottsdale is particularly rife with such facilities.
Over the past decade Phoenix has revitalized its once barren downtown,
renovating historic buildings and erecting innovative postmodern
The East End, which has become one of the region's few walkable
neighbourhoods, is home to cultural venues like: the restored Spanish
Orpheum Theater, which hosts film festivals and theatre productions;
multi-use Herberger Theater Center, which presents dance and theater;
Symphony Hall, home of the Phoenix Symphony and the Arizona Opera.
History and preservation buffs could easily spend a day wandering
Heritage Square. Among the century-old homes you can tour here is the
Victorian Rosson House. West of the square is the impressive Arizona
Center, whose touch-friendly exhibits are a hit with kids and yet
sophisticated enough to amuse even most adults - also check out the
state-of-the-art Dorrance Planetarium. A block below Heritage Square is
Phoenix Museum of History, an eye-catching steel-and-glass structure
critically acclaimed exhibits that change regularly. In the same
neighborhood, the vibrant Museo Chicano is a major showcase for
Latin-American art. North of these museums is the Arizona Center, whose
shops, 24-screen multiplex, and restaurants make for a happily mindless
from all those stimulating museums.
The area just north of the mall on and around Central Avenue has become
repository of some of the most thought-provoking large-scale
architecture in the country. You'll see buildings shaped like King
and in the form of an inverted pyramid (appropriate styles given the
name's connection to ancient Egypt). Of particular note is the Phoenix
Barr Central Library, a curvaceous copper-sheathed wonder meant to
region's red-rock terrain. Here the superb Phoenix Art Museum, a
structure, houses an impressive number of 19th-century European
delightful American West collection (heavy on O'Keeffe, Frederic
and Albert Bierstadt), and a spacious contemporary wing representing
the world's abstract geniuses.
||The lovely Art Museum Cafe overlooks the
sculpture garden. Two blocks north of the art museum is the free Heard
Museum, a 1928 Spanish Colonial Revival house that recently doubled in
it contains the nation's top collection of Native American art and
In central Phoenix, especially along Camelback Road, you will find
excuses to spend money. Park Central Mall, less snazzy than some of its
competitors, is the gayest shopping center in Phoenix. Some of the
gay- and lesbian-owned businesses have been pushing for the past few
get this large rectangle area - bounded by 7th Avenue, Indian School
7th Street, and Bethany Home Road - to be known at least
the Rainbow Zone. The scene in Phoenix may be too spread out and
ever to fully embrace the designation of any one gay district, but
this area you will find the bulk of the city's gay bars, plus such
retail stores as Obelisk Books (a well-stocked lesbian-gay bookstore)
Unique on Central, where you'll find magazines, pride gifts, and club
Many a diva whiles away her Saturday afternoon at the Biltmore Fashion,
strolling through Cartier, Gucci, and other high-end boutiques - it's
source of several outstanding restaurants. You can also take a break
the trendy Coffee Plantation cafe, right by the Ralph Lauren store. Or
exceptional lunch break, consider driving 10 minutes southwest of the
just east of downtown to reach the gay-friendly Coronado Cafe. Set in a
charming old house, the kitchen serves creative sandwiches, soups, and
- from curried pumpkin soup to Southwestern lasagna with black beans,
corn, and chipotle sauce.
Beyond Phoenix itself, you'll find ample opportunities for further
in some of the neighbouring communities, in particular the border city
Scottsdale. A cross between Beverly Hills and Santa Fe, this ritzy
socialites, celebrities, and resort-goers has hundreds of high-end arts
crafts galleries, and specialty shops.
The Scottsdale Fashion Square, with some 240 shops, is an enormous,
mall, but the place to be seen is definitely the Borgata, a swank
Renaissance-style compound that supposedly resembles an Italian
south of the Fashion Square, 5th Avenue curves northeast from Indian
Road up to Scottsdale Road, lined with clothiers, jewelers, and
More touristy but still brimming with great shopping is the Old Town
Scottsdale district, which thrives along Main Street between Brown
70th Street. The one non-shopping must-see here is Taliesin West, 1937
home of Frank Lloyd Wright, where the master of architecture and design
a studio and his school in the desert. Tours of the grounds are
THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK
Arizona Center (3rd and Van Buren Sts., 602-271-4000). Arizona Science
(600 E. Washington St., 602-716-2000).
Biltmore Fashion Park (24th St.
Camelback Rd., 602-955-8401).
Borgata (6166 N. Scottsdale Rd.,
Coffee Plantation (2468 E. Camelback Rd., 602-553-0203).
Coronado Cafe (2201 N. 7th St., 602-258-5149).
Gay and Lesbian
Center and Switchboard (8617 N. Black Canyon Hwy., 602-234-2752,
Heard Museum (2301 N. Central Ave., 602-252-8840).
Herberger Theater Center (222 E. Monroe St., 602-254-7399).
(Adams and 7th Sts.).
Museo Chicano (147 E. Adams St., 602-257-5536).
Books (24 W. Camelback Rd., Unit A, 602-266-2665).
Orpheum Theatre (203
Adams St., 602-252-9678).
Park Central Mall (Central Ave. and Earll
Phoenix and Valley of the Sun Convention and Visitors
(602-254-6500 or 877-CALL-PHX, Website ).
Phoenix Art Museum
N. Central Ave., 602-257-2222).
Phoenix Burton Barr Central Library
Central Ave., 602-262-4636).
Phoenix Museum of History (105 N. 5th St.,
Rosson House (6th and Monroe Sts., 602-262-5029).
Fashion Square (Scottsdale and Camelback Rds., Scottsdale,
Symphony Hall (225 E. Adams St., 602-262-7272).
Taliesin West (114th
Cactus Rd., Scottsdale, 480-860-8810).
Unique on Central (4700 N.
Ave., Suite 105, 602-279-9691).
Andrew Collins authored Fodor's Gay Guide to the USA, the Connecticut
Handbook, and six regional gay guides for Fodor's. He can be reached
here at OutUK or direct at GayFodors@aol.com.