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Phoenix, Arizona
A rich concentration of history and natural beauty.
October 24, 2002: 12:07 PM EDT
By Paul Lukas, Money Magazine Contributing Writer

PHOENIX, Ariz. (Money Magazine) - When you think of Phoenix, you probably think of sprawl, lots of purple and turquoise, and phrases like, "Yes, but it's a dry heat." But there's more to the city than meets the eye: Within an hour's drive are natural and historic attractions that make Phoenix the perfect base for a winter vacation in the desert.

Tonto National Monument  
Tonto National Monument

If you're interested in Native American archaeology, this region has one of the country's best concentrations of sites. Start atCasa Grande Ruins National Monument (520-723-3172), about 30 miles to the southeast, which features the majestic Casa Grande -- the four-story "big house" that was the centerpiece of a prehistoric Native American village. Moving counterclockwise, about 45 miles east of Phoenix is Tonto National Monument (928-467-2241), where 700-year-old Salado Indian cliff dwellings are preserved. Agua Fria National Monument (623-580-5500), 40 miles north of the city, boasts hundreds of pueblos, rock artworks and other archaeological finds, as well as a magnificent landscape of hills, mesas and canyons. It all makes for great hiking, photography and wildlife viewing.

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For less history and more nature, head an hour east of the city to Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park (520-689-2723), with its garden trails full of gorgeous wildflowers, cacti and other desert vegetation, plus bighorn sheep, 250 bird species and various desert reptiles.

And don't miss the Hassayampa River Preserve (928-684-2772), some 50 miles northwest of Phoenix, where an underground river suddenly emerges topside to create its own little ecosystem, complete with mesquite forests, over 200 bird species (including rare desert waterfowl) and animals like bobcats and javelinas.

Back in Phoenix, we like the great Mexican food at Los Dos Molinos (602-243-9113) and the Tee Pee (602-956-0178), and the accommodations at the gorgeous Frank Lloyd Wright-style Arizona Biltmore ($310 a night until Dec. 31; 800-950-0086). For more info, contact the Phoenix tourism bureau at 877-225-5749.  Top of page

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