The sixth largest city in the United States, Phoenix sprawls across the Sonoran Desert between mountains and interstates, aptly earning its nickname as Arizona’s Urban Heart. The city’s metropolitan area is known as the Valley of the Sun and the area’s combination of rugged geography and citified culture leads to two distinct brands of adventure for honeymooning couples: outdoor explorations and cultivated city undertakings.
Phoenix, for the outdoor-inclined, is replete with options. Hiking trails abound within the city as well as just outside its limits, and popular trails wind through South Mountain Park and Preserve and Phoenix Mountain Preserve, which come together in 46,000 acres of park space and more than 200 trails. Piestwa Peak and Camelback Mountain are both part of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve and, while generally packed with locals and tourists alike, the mountains sport moderate to difficult climbs with rewarding city views from their summits. Golf is another hit in the area – the valley’s 240 golf courses are carefully maintained 12 months a year.
The Desert Botanical Gardens begin our return to urban attractions. The gardens are a top destination in the city, and have more than 21,000 plants – a third of which are native to the Valley of the Sun. Similar in nature, the Boyce Thompson Arboretum just outside the city is home to numerous varieties of local plants and wildlife and is the largest and oldest botanical garden in the state.
Scottsdale, immediately adjacent to Phoenix, is the best place for shopping (boutique shops and the Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall are easy to find downtown) and also hosts a year-round Thursday evening art walk. More than 100 galleries in town open their doors for an eclectic, free-form gathering featuring the works of local artists. Other must-see attractions include the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Heard Museum, where exhibits include pieces from Native American art and history and visitors can connect with this Southwestern city’s roots.