Among the rough-and-tumble prospectors pouring into Arizona in the 1860s, there was a former Englishman and self-appointed aristocrat who called himself "Lord" Darrell Duppa. Drawing on his Cambridge education, he named one town Phoenix to suggest its rebirth from the ashes of older settlements and another Tempe after the Valley of Tempe in Greece. Today, the two cities make up a major part of the Valley of the Sun, an area inhabited by more than 14 million people and still growing fast. Within Tempe, Fiesta Resort Conference Center lies a few miles from the international airport that caters to the entire region. The hotel simplifies travel plans by offering a complimentary 24-hour airport shuttle as well as a business center equipped with touchscreen printing stations.
In addition to convenience, the 3-acre hotel comes with plenty of southwestern flair. Slender palm trees shade the outdoor pool, and cacti flank Milagro's, the onsite restaurant. You can sample the eatery's signature chicken tortilla soup at lunch or dinner or show up for complimentary snacks during the Kachina Lounge's happy hour (4 p.m.–7 p.m. on weekdays). Outdoor patio seating surrounds a fireplace shaped like a step pyramid.
Recently upgraded guest rooms are housed in low-slung buildings inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, who built his winter home, Taliesin West, in nearby Scottsdale. Interiors feature southwestern décor such as sunburst carvings, geometric fabric prints, and paintings of saguaro cacti posing as stadium goalposts.
Tempe, Arizona: University Town near Downtown Phoenix
If you hear Tempe natives referring to "A Mountain," there's no need to ask which one. It's the local nickname for the Tempe Butte, a steep-sided hill with a giant letter A painted near its peak to represent Arizona State University. The butte rises above the school's campus, which dates back to 1885. Along the western edge of campus lies the Mill Avenue District, an area popular with students for its brewpubs and shops.
Downtown Phoenix, located a 15-minute drive away, boasts an ASU satellite campus as well as several acclaimed museums. Escape scorching summer afternoons in the air-conditioned confines of the Children's Museum of Phoenix or the Phoenix Art Museum, which includes a collection of Thorne Rooms—miniature dioramas of ornate interiors kept tidy by a fleet of tiny roombas.