Centuries ago, native people known as the Hohokam built an agricultural civilization on a stretch of desert known today as Arizona's Valley of the Sun. Some archaeologists believe the brutally arid climate forced the people to scatter in search of milder environs, leaving behind miles of irrigation channels, stick-figure pictographs and no forwarding address. From the ashes of that civilization rose one of America's fastest growing assemblies of planned urban developments, golf courses and cactus, and it will host Super Bowl XLII on Feb. 3. But maybe the Hohokam had good reason to skip town.
Even today, Phoenix has a reputation as being an exceptionally forgettable city, unless, of course you're a golfer with a superhuman tolerance for heat.
What's there to do in Phoenix during the Super Bowl weekend? I asked friends and family.
"Best things about Phoenix are the highways leaving town," a travel writer from nearby Tucson responded. Even my wife, who attended college in Tempe and lived in Phoenix for two years, drew a blank when I asked for recommendations. Undeterred, I visited the Valley of the Sun for three days and dug up these gems of amusement.
Where to eat
Durant's Fine Food
Walk into Durant's cool, dark dining room, and you might expect to see Frank Sinatra holding court in one of the shadowy corners. This place is old-school hip with dark mahogany walls, red faux-leather booths and fresh flowers on each table. The waiters wear starched white shirts and bow ties. Best of all, the gin martinis are served strong and the steaks sizzling hot.
Dinner entrees $22 to $73.
2611 N. Central Ave.
(602) 264-5967, www.durantsaz.com.
Los Dos Molinos
If the red chili sauce at this Mexican eatery in south Phoenix is too spicy for you, don't even attempt the green chili sauce. The waiters leave a pitcher of ice water on each table, probably to avoid personal-injury lawsuits. This is authentic Mexican food with a bite like a pit bull.
Dinner entrees $3.25 to $13.95.
8646 S. Central Ave.
(602) 243-9113, www.losdosmolinosaz.com.
Matt's Big Breakfast
This red-brick restaurant is tiny, with a kitchen the size of a Mini Cooper, but the meals are big, greasy and tasty. Try the omelets, made with eggs from cage-free birds, with thick slices of freshly made toast slathered in butter.
Breakfast entrees $4 to $6.50.