10 Things You Won't Find in Phoenix

Landmarks and Skyscrapers? Nope.

View of Downtown Phoenix
••• View of Downtown Phoenix from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. © Judy Hedding

Whenever people come from one place to another place, there are always some surprises. I know there are still some people who think that when they come to Phoenix, they'll see lots of dusty trails, tumbling tumbleweeds, cowboys and Indians, sand dunes and people wearing cowboy boots and cowboy hats. Well, we have some of those things, but that's not really what the metro Phoenix area is all about.

Lest you come with the wrong idea, here are ten things that you won't find in Phoenix.

1 - Potholes
Our roads are in great condition in the greater Phoenix area. Highways are constantly being built and improved to meet the demands of an ever-growing population. Rubberized asphalt has made travel on many of our highways quieter and even smoother than before. So you won't find that your car needs an alignment every time you go out for a drive. There are two problems, though, with keeping our streets and highways in great condition: (a) there are always road restrictions all over town, and (b) better roads mean that people drive faster and more aggressively.

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2 - Historic Landmarks
The greater Phoenix area is relatively new. You won't find historic battlegrounds here like you find at Gettysburg, or in the South.

You won't find 500-year-old castles here. Some of our homes that are considered historic are only 50 or 60 years old. As a territory, Phoenix didn't become the capitol until 1889, and Arizona became a state in 1912. What you will find here is a great deal of history about our native ancestors.

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3 - Taxicabs
Of course there are cab companies here, and you can call dispatch to get one. It just isn't like New York or San Francisco here, where you can walk out into the street in the business district and hail a cab. Also, remember that although there is a city center in Phoenix, it is rather small compared to other major U.S. cities, and both our business and leisure activities are spread out around about 9,000 square miles. Rent a car. Cabs get pretty expensive here.

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4 - Walking Downtown
Well, yes, of course you can walk downtown, and there are organizations forever working on making downtown Phoenix an attraction. There are definitely downtown destinations: the Herberger Theatre, Symphony Hall, a Phoenix Suns Game at the US Airways Center, an Arizona Diamondbacks game at Chase Field, the Arizona Science Center, festivals at Heritage Square, the Arizona Center and more. CityScape is a new development downtown with shopping, entertainment and restaurants. But Phoenix just isn't really a walking place. It's more of a go-park-do-leave sort of place. This doesn't only apply to downtown Phoenix, by the way.

Except for a couple of art walks and the zoos and gardens, this is just not a walking town. It's too spread out.

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5 - Skyscrapers
You will not be impressed by the skyscrapers as you fly in over downtown Phoenix. The tallest building here is 40 stories tall. Downtown Phoenix is in the flight path for Sky Harbor International Airport. As a matter of fact, Sky Harbor is only five minutes from downtown Phoenix, which makes it much more convenient than some major cities that have airports an hour or more away. Other cities and towns in the Greater Phoenix area don't allow tall buildings either.

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10 Things You Won't Find in Phoenix: Numbers 1 through 5
10 Things You Won't Find in Phoenix: Numbers 6 through 10

6 - Haute Couture
High fashion is not as prevalent here as it is in some other major cities in the U.S. As far as higher end clothing is concerned, you're more likely to find places like Sak's, Chico's or Ann Taylor.

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7 - The Beach
Yes, we are landlocked. No beach here. This is a real issue for those who move here from the East Coast, and for people from California who miss the sea breezes and the sound of the crashing waves.

The good news is that it could be worse. We can get to the ocean by car in less than a day. Head to Rocky Point in Mexico, or over to San Diego. As a matter of fact, so many Arizonans visit San Diego to enjoy the ocean environment that they have a name for us--Zonies. The moniker "Zonie" is generally used with what I call loving disdain, like how we call our winter visitors "snowbirds."

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8 - Rusty Vehicles
Because the humidity is relatively low in the desert, and we don't salt our roads in the winter, our cars and SUVs hold up pretty well. You will rarely see a rusty vehicle here. It is common for car collectors to store their vintage and valuable vehicles in the desert's drier climate.

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9 - Cowboys, Sawdust, Horses
All right, I lied.

Yes, you can find all three of these here, but it's not like there are cowboys everywhere, and hitching posts at the local Nordstrom. Some of the restaurants have sawdust on the floor, but this isn't Wyatt Earp's wild west anymore. Citizens don't generally walk around with guns in their holster (even though it is legal to do so).

Phoenix is the 6th largest city in the country, and it acts like a major metropolitan city. That quaint western town image is long gone. You can still get a little Wild West if you visit Cave Creek (north of Phoenix) or Wickenburg (northwest of Phoenix).

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10 - Cheap Winter Rates
There are few bargains in the greater Phoenix area, and high season runs from September/October through April/May. That about covers everything that isn't hot. It isn't unusual to find hotel rooms in the hundreds of dollars per night. Depending on what kind of special events are going on, finding a room in a nice neighborhood for less than $100 per night can be difficult. If you are coming in January or February, let's hope you are traveling on an expense account.

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10 Things You Won't Find in Phoenix: Numbers 1 through 5
10 Things You Won't Find in Phoenix: Numbers 6 through 10