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Health Journalism 2018: Things to do

Andrea Gómez Romero/©Visit Phoenix

Greater Phoenix is awash in sunshine, earning the metropolis its well-deserved reputation as America’s sunniest urban destination. Phoenix receives an average of 300 sunny days a year. One of the features that sets the city apart is its Sonora Desert scenery. April, with average daytime temperatures of 85 degrees, is an ideal month to explore the outdoors. And it doesn’t hurt that Greater Phoenix has more acreage of preserves and parks than any other major metropolis in the nation.

Take to the trails near the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs ResortThe hotel sits next to the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, where you can access trails ranging from easy-to-moderate to moderate-to-difficult. The longest and least-rigorous trail, the Charles M. Christiansen Memorial Trail (No. 100), covers 10.7 miles and rises in elevation from 1,290 to 2,080 feet. You can find the entrance to No. 100, a hiking and biking trail to nearby stables, at the north end of the hotel grounds, between two tennis courts.

The Shaw Butte Trail (No. 306) splinters off No. 100 and forms a loop back to it. This trail is rated moderate-to-difficult and will take you four miles through elevations of 1,390 feet to 1,890 feet.

To get to a third, also popular mountain trail, rated moderate-to-difficult, you will need to drive one mile south on 7th Street to Peoria. There, you will turn right (west) into scenic North Mountain Park to find North Mountain National Trail (No. 44), a challenging 1.6 miles through the preserve, rising in elevation from 1,490 feet to 2,104 feet. At the park you’ll come across the North Mountain Visitor’s Center.

Hike Camelback Mountain – About 20 minutes from the hotel, you’ll find Camelback Mountain, the Greater Phoenix region’s most popular destination for hikers. Rock formations at the ridge of the mountain resemble the outline of a resting camel (if you squint your eyes, that is). At its peak of 2,704 feet, Camelback Mountain rewards hikers with a 360-degree view of Greater Phoenix and jewel-toned, stunning sunsets.

Catch a ride to Downtown Phoenix – After dark, April’s temperatures dip into the high 50s, creating an ideal climate for a brisk walk downtown. Downtown is just a 20-minute drive away by taxi or ride-sharing service. Once there, you’ll find that the city’s core is highly walkable, compact, with streets laid out on a grid.

Nick Cote/©Visit Phoenix

Within downtown, Roosevelt Row, or RoRo as it’s known to locals, was dubbed by the Boston Globe “… the most walkable part of the city.” It’s also an arts district nationally known for its culture of creativity and award-winning restaurants, galleries, murals, nightlife and shops. Downtown’s newest trendy cluster of restaurants, bars and fashion retailers downtown is CityScape, a two-block stretch that also features an urban-chic bowling alley, a dance club, an arcade for grown-ups and a comedy theater.

View Native American art at the Heard Museum For a deep dive into Native American artistic culture, head just north of downtown to the Heard Museum. There, you can view both contemporary and traditional art reflecting the cultures of Arizona’s 22 Native American tribes. The museum’s shop is one of the best in Phoenix for authentic American Indian art and jewelry.

Try out exotic instruments at the Musical Instrument MuseumThe newest museum is in the northern section of Greater Phoenix and it’s said to be the first in the world dedicated to the celebration of global instruments. Drop into the Experience Room, where musicians of all ages can touch and play instruments on display. The museum’s collection includes instruments from 200 territories and nations.

For that Old-Western feeling, check out Old Town Scottsdale – One of Greater Phoenix’s most popular destinations is Old Town Scottsdale, where Old West and New West converge in a pedestrian friendly streetscape filled with shops that stock Southwestern jewelry and crafts, and also fine restaurants and trendy nightlife.

Fancy some fine-arts at the Phoenix Art MuseumHere, you’ll find the largest fine-art museum in the Southwest, with a permanent collection of American, Asian and European works. The museum is most known for its Western American Collection but also displays fashion design and contemporary works.

Experience succulents at the Desert Botanical Garden Set your compass a little farther to the north to find this vast, 50-acre garden, with the world’s largest and most diverse collection of succulents. April is the perfect time to hike the trail winding through this preserve. Wildflowers and cacti are blooming. Birds and bees are pollinating. Bats, too, are busily pollinating the iconic saguaro cactus, which grows naturally only in the Sonoran Desert and blooms under the darkened skies of night.

Walk on the Wild Side at the Phoenix Zoo – With more than 1,300 animals, this zoo is one of the largest and most acclaimed in the world. Here, you can visit with mountain lions, orangutans, cheetahs, giraffes, Asian elephants and American bald eagles. It is said you’ll need four hours to cover all the ground at the zoo, where the featured exhibit, Dinosaurs in the Desert, runs until April 30, 2018.

Relive the Drama of Pompeii – Wall-sized frescoes, mosaics, marble and bronze sculptures, jewelry, statues and ancient Roman coins – more than 200 precious artifacts are on loan from the Naples National Archaeological Museum in Italy. Amidst the objects are body casts of adults and children that show the emotions of the volcano’s victims. Advance reservations are recommended.

Time for a day trip? Visit The Grand CanyonThis granddaddy of excursions is a four-hour drive from Phoenix. But for a price, you can work with local outfitters to arrange a fly-and-hike daylong excursion for this epic adventure.

©Pueblo Grande Museum via Visit Phoenix

Another day trip? Visit the Montezuma Cliff DwellingsAt the Montezuma Castle National Monument, located in Camp Verde, Arizona, you can tour some of the best-preserved historic cliff dwellings. The dwellings were built and used by the Sinagua people in pre-Columbian days. On a guided scenic day-tour from Phoenix, you can take in breathtaking landscapes of this desert playground with plenty of photo opportunities as you explore ancient Native American ruins.

Yet another day trip: Sedona awaits – Sedona is a desert town near Flagstaff surrounded by red-rock buttes, steep canyon walls and pine forests. It’s noted for its vibrant arts community. Uptown Sedona is dense with New Age shops, spas and art galleries. On the town’s outskirts, hiking trails access Red Rock State Park.