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Greater Phoenix

Phoenix is Arizona's indubitable cultural and economic powerhouse, a thriving desert metropolis boasting some of the best Southwestern and Mexican food you'll find anywhere. And with more than 300 days of sunshine a year, exploring the 'Valley of the Sun' is an agreeable proposition (except in the sapping heat from June to August).

Culturally, it offers an opera, a symphony, several theaters and three of the state's finest museums – the Heard, Phoenix Art and Musical Instrument Museums – while the Desert Botanical Garden is a stunning introduction to the region's flora and fauna. Active types, meanwhile, have plenty of options to get out and hike, mountain bike and climb in the regional parks, all easily accessible.

Southeast of Phoenix proper, student-flavored Tempe (tem-pee) is a lively district with a good bar scene, while suburban Mesa has a couple of interesting museums. To the northeast lies the ritzy enclave of Scottsdale.

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