Between the months of March and November, the first thing you notice upon leaving Phoenix airport is how hot it is. Compared to the air conditioned inside, stepping out into the world feels very much like stepping face-first into an oven. Though I complain about this, it’s a feeling in which I take great comfort, though I am told some people from colder places find it genuinely unpleasant.
Typically, people who visit Arizona aren’t coming for Phoenix. Most people who come to Arizona for touristy reasons either travel up north to the Grand Canyon, Sedona, or other desert-y, absolutely-no-cell-service, bring-lots-of-water-and-sunscreen-or-you’ll-die sort of places or come for the great variety of golf courses. I don’t know why we have so many water-requiring green golf courses in the middle of the desert, but I digress. There are a lot of places in and around Phoenix that often go unnoticed by visitors, which is a shame. The Musical Instrument Museum has some fascinating exhibits and puts on concerts throughout the year; the Heard Museum has artifacts from the Native American tribes that have made their homes in the area for centuries; and the Science Center, while aimed at children, is fun and educational no matter your age.
“There are a lot of places in and around Phoenix that often go unnoticed by visitors, which is a shame.”
The one place in Phoenix that I love to visit is the Phoenix Art Museum. It’s a maze of a museum, and it’s so easy to miss some of the spectacular exhibits. I didn’t even realize there was a medieval art section until I took an odd turn somewhere and was suddenly face to face with the Virgin Mary, wondering what she had to do with the samurai armor I’d just been looking at. Some highlights include an untitled piece by Felix Gonzalez-Torres that consists of a pile of green hard candy, the only food you’re allowed to consume in the museum, and You Who Are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies by Yayoi Kusama, a dark, mirrored room in which colored LED lights hang and slowly turn on and off.
Another thing that any self-respecting visitor to the Phoenix area must do is go for a hike in the mountains. Something I’ve been reminded thousands upon thousands of times is that it is absolutely vital to bring lots of water whenever you go hiking in the desert. I don’t exaggerate when I say that people die every year from dehydration in the mountains. Despite the constant threat of death by heatstroke and the reminder with every step that you’re not as fit as you thought you were, hiking in the mountains is fun and enjoyable, particularly when you get to the top and can see much of the sprawling city, complete with mountains sticking up at random intervals like islands do out of the ocean.
“The one critter you can mess with, however, is the scorpion. Just smash it under a shoe or something: those things are jerks and will sting your foot if you’re not careful.”
You’ll also likely see a number of critters on your hike, or even just around the city. The important thing to remember about these critters is that if you leave them alone, they will leave you alone. Keep your eyes peeled so you don’t step on a rattlesnake, view the jackrabbits from a distance, and avoid javelinas, which are basically mean, hairy boars, at all costs. The one critter you can mess with, however, is the scorpion. Just smash it under a shoe or something: those things are jerks and will sting your foot if you’re not careful.
As much as I wanted to get as far from Phoenix as possible, as evidenced by the fact that I’m at university in Dublin, it’s an awesome place, and any trip to America is improved by a detour to the Grand Canyon State