Photos: Valley of the Sun

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  1. Authentic Arizona

    Spanish and Mexican culture has always been as much a part of Arizona and the Sonoran Desert as the Saguaro cactus. Mexico remains Arizona's most significant cultural partner. Today, Arizona abounds with authentic Mexican art, architecture, entertainment. (Babe Sarver / Greater Phoenix CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Copper Square

    From sun-up to sundown and well into the night, Copper Square provides a truly unique urban environment. Delight in the aromas and tastes of over 90 restaurants, bars, and markets. Expand your horizons with museums, live theater, and music events. (City of Phoenix) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Desert oasis

    Spending a day on the water might not be the first thing you'd think about doing in Greater Phoenix. Yet several lakes are within a 90-minute drive of the city, offering water sports and breathtaking sights. (William Hawkes / Greater Phoenix CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Museum of History

    The Phoenix Museum of History, located in Downtown Phoenix, showcases the city's early history with interactive and educational exhibits. (Greater Phoenix CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Year-round adventures

    Outdoor recreational opportunities, such as biking, are plentiful throughout the Greater Phoenix area. Perfect weather conditions allow outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy the Sonoran-Desert landscape year-round. (Harry Karidis / Greater Phoenix CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Diamondbacks at the diamond

    The Arizona Diamondbacks play 81 home games per year inside Chase Field, the only Major League stadium with a pool and Jacuzzi just beyond the outfield wall. The stadium seats more than 48,000 fans. (Greater Phoenix CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Orpheum Theatre

    The Orpheum Theatre is a Spanish Baroque Revival playhouse, built in 1929. It once saw the likes of Mae West and W.C. Fields. Its marquee at Second Ave and Adams Street again announces the names of first class productions, drawing thousands of people to a vibrant show. (Orpheum Theatre) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Sonoran serenity

    Guided horseback tours among cacti and other wildlife allow you to experience the thrilling days of the Old West while enjoying the beauty of the Sonoran Desert. (www.peterjordanphoto.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Ancient stories

    Petroglyphs, or ancient rock drawings, are an indication of the cultures that inhabited Phoenix before the city grew to be the fifth-largest in the U.S. (Bob Rink / Greater Phoenix CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Old West tucker

    Picture yourself having a rip roarin' cowboy cookout under the stars. Add a Country Western band, a quick-draw contest, an Old West casino or line-dance lessons, and experience a taste of the real West. (Jeff Noble / Greater Phoenix CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Superstition sensation

    The Superstition Mountains are known for the Legend of the Lost Dutchman, a gold miner who sealed up his find, never to return. The area is also home to some great rock climbing, and is a perfect place for peace and relaxation. (William Hawkes / Greater Phoenix CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
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updated 7/10/2006 1:27:12 PM ET 2006-07-10T17:27:12

The Valley of the Sun boasts hundreds of excellent restaurants, with most of the best dining options concentrated in the Scottsdale Road and Biltmore Corridor areas. If you want to splurge on only one expensive meal while you're here, consider a resort restaurant that offers a view of the city lights. Other meals not to be missed are the cowboy dinners served amid Wild West decor at such places as Pinnacle Peak Patio and Rustler's Rooste.

Good places to go trolling for a place to eat include the trendy Biltmore Fashion Park shopping center, at Camelback Road and 24th Street (tel. 602/955-1963), and Old Town Scottsdale. At the former, you'll find nearly a dozen excellent restaurants. In downtown Scottsdale, within an area of roughly 4 square blocks, you'll find about a dozen good restaurants. A few of my favorites in both places are listed in the following pages.

Phoenix is a sprawling city, and it can be a real pain to have to drive around in search of a good lunch spot. If you happen to be visiting the Phoenix Art Museum, the Heard Museum, or the Desert Botanical Garden anytime around lunch, stay put for your noon meal. All three of these attractions have cafes serving decent, if limited, menus.

Forbidden City in the Desert - So you're driving along the Loop 202 freeway near Sky Harbor Airport and this strange mirage materializes. You think you're seeing a mall-size complex of classical Chinese buildings. Don't worry, it's not a hallucination -- it's the COFCO Chinese Cultural Center, 668 N. 44th St. (tel. 602/275-8578; www.phxchinatown.com). This fascinating complex includes several Chinese restaurants, Asian art galleries and antiques stores, and an Asian supermarket. There's also a Chinese garden with numerous traditional viewing pavilions.

Cowboy Steakhouses - Cowboy steakhouses are family restaurants that generally provide big portions of grilled steaks and barbecued ribs, outdoor and "saloon" dining, live country music, and various other sorts of entertainment.

Espresso Bars, Bakeries & Ice Cream Parlours

Perhaps it's the heat or the sunshine, but espresso is not the ubiquitous drink in Phoenix that it is in many other parts of the country. However, there are still plenty of places to get a good latte or cappuccino. In Scottsdale, try The Village Coffee Roastery, 8120 N. Hayden Rd., Suite E-104 (tel. 480/905-0881), which roasts its own beans and makes what just might be the best lattes in Scottsdale. Alternatively, try The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, which has locations in the Shops at Gainey Village, 8877 N. Scottsdale Rd. (tel. 480/315-9335), and at 4513 N. Scottsdale Rd. (tel. 480/946-1500), which is at the corner of Scottsdale and Camelback roads.

Up on the north side of the Valley, I always get my latte at Cave Creek Coffee Company, 6033 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek (tel. 480/488-0603), which doubles as a wine bar and the Valley's best live-music venue.

Along the Camelback Corridor, there's Hava Java, 3166 E. Camelback Rd. (tel. 602/954-9080), in the Safeway Shopping Center. Not far from the Heard Museum, there's Lux, 4404 N. Central Ave. (tel. 602/266-6469), which serves the best espresso in Phoenix. (Not surprising since the owners started out in Seattle.) It's also the hippest espresso bar in town. Right next door there's a great little bakery run by the owners of Pizzeria Bianco. Lux is closed on Sunday.

If ever there were a place where ice cream is a necessity, it is Arizona. In the desert heat, ice cream is a survival food, a means to cool off when the temperatures soar. When the heat gets to be too much for you, head to some of these great chill-out spots. Scottsdale's Sugar Bowl, 4005 N. Scottsdale Rd. (tel. 480/946-0051), in the heart of Old Town, is a long-time locals favorite that has been immortalized in "Family Circus" cartoons. If you find yourself dying from the heat as you motor through central Phoenix on a toasty afternoon, there's no better antidote than Mary Coyle, 5521 N. Seventh Ave. (tel. 602/265-0405), which makes its own ice cream and has been in business for more than 50 years. However, the absolute cream of the crop is The Phoenician resort's Café & Ice Cream Parlour, 6000 E. Camelback Rd. (tel. 480/941-8200). Not only can you cool off with house-made ice cream, but the pastries here are positively divine. To top it all off, you get to hang out at this posh resort for as long as you can make your ice cream last. If old-fashioned ice cream just doesn't do it for you, and you absolutely have to have gelato, check out The Gelato Spot, 3164 E. Camelback Rd. (tel. 602/957-8040), which is right next door to Hava Java in the Safeway shopping plaza.

Breakfast, Brunch & Quick Bites

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Most of Phoenix's best Sunday brunches are to be had at restaurants in major hotels and resorts. Among the finest are those served at Marquesa (at the Scottsdale Princess), LON's (at the Hermosa Inn), T. Cook's (at the Royal Palms Resort and Spa), Wright's (at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa), the Terrace Dining Room (at The Phoenician), and Top of the Rock (at The Wyndham Buttes Resort). However, for a unique experience, make a brunch reservation at Geordie's at the Wrigley Mansion Club , 2501 E. Telawa Trail (tel. 602/955-4079), a historic mansion now owned by Geordie Hormel (of the Spam-making family). Don't worry, the food is great.

The Desert Botanical Garden, 1201 N. Galvin Pkwy., in Papago Park (tel. 480/941-1225; www.desertbotanical.org), serves brunch with its Music in the Garden concerts held on Sunday from September to March. Tickets are $16 and include admission to the gardens, but meals cost extra.

If your idea of the perfect breakfast is a buttery croissant and a good cup of coffee, try La Madeleine, 3102 E. Camelback Rd. (tel. 602/952-0349; www.lamadeleine.com), the place for a leisurely French breakfast amid antique farm implements. Other branches are at Fashion Square Mall, 7014 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale (tel. 480/945-1663), and at 10625 N. Tatum Blvd. at Shea Blvd. in Paradise Valley (tel. 480/483-0730).

For smoothies, muffins, and healthy things, try Wild Oats Natural Marketplace, which has stores at 3933 E. Camelback Rd. at 40th Street (tel. 602/954-0584), at 13823 N. Tatum Blvd. (tel. 602/953-7546), and in Scottsdale at 7129 E. Shea Blvd. at Scottsdale Road (tel. 480/905-1441).

Frommer’s is America’s bestselling travel guide series. Visit Frommers.com to find great deals, get information on over 3,500 destinations, and book your trip. © 2006 Wiley Publishing, Inc. Republication or redistribution of Frommer's content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Wiley.

For a complete listing of Frommer's-reviewed restaurants, visit our online dining index.

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