5 Best Photo Opportunities in Phoenix
Lee Van Grack
Maybe it is the way the bougainvillea blossoms in vibrant pink throughout the property. Perhaps it is the beautiful fountain situated outside the main lobby. Or perchance it is the fact that I recently wed at this property. Regardless of the reason (or my own bias), the Scottsdale Resort and Conference Center is a romantic's dream. Designed with an old Spanish flair, the resort is particularly breathtaking around the holidays. At that time, this desert oasis transforms into a winter wonderland, complete with a towering pine tree in the lobby and enough Christmas lights to blind airline pilots passing overhead.
While it is true that many newer resorts might also try to capture the Scottsdale Resort's "sparkle," they lack true soul. In an artificial town like Phoenix, the scenic landscape and authentic, romantic charm of the Scottsdale Resort is like a breath of fresh air.
Scottsdale Resort and Conference Center, 7700 E. McCormick Pkwy, Scottsdale, AZ 85258; 480-991-9000, 800-540-0727
So apparently there was once this great architect. He designed a giant blue icicle for the capitol of a state known for its hundred degree summers. His design was naturally rejected and sat in a filing cabinet until it was rescued a half-century later. Ever since the Frank Lloyd Wright Spire was built on the corner of Scottsdale Road and Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard, folks have driven by and asked how the legislature could have been so stupid to reject this monolith.
Composed of teal and blue translucent panels, the 125-foot spire ignites the night once the sun goes down, and is one of the city's best quirky photo opportunity. Phoenix visitors, including my family, constantly ask, "What the hell is that thing?" Regardless of whether or not the spire fits in with its surroundings, it is a truly beautiful piece that is worth a few shots.
Frank Lloyd Wright Spire, The Promenade Mall, 12621 N Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ 85254
Chase Field, or Bank One Ballpark as the locals still call it, has undergone a facelift after its occupants changed their clothes. Gone are the teals and purples of the World Series Champion Arizona Diamondbacks. Now the interior is splashed with "Sedona red" and "Sonoran sand".
Chase Field is not a particularly scenic park, especially when the roof is closed. Beyond the outfield bleachers, massive windows reveal...a parking garage. Still, the Diamondbacks pride themselves on providing a family-friendly atmosphere. Kids will get a chance to mingle with the mascot, Baxter the Bobcat, or the giant racing D-Back legends in the stands. There's even a tiny ballpark inside the stadium where little ones can pretend to be big leaguers. And since the team on the field is pitiful, the crowds are small and ticket prices have remained reasonable. There is a chance you can get down to field level to take some close-ups of some superstars. Oh, and on Saturday nights, the D-Backs put on an impressive fireworks display after the games.
Chase Field, 401 E. Jefferson St, Phoenix, AZ 85004; 602-462-6500
The Desert Botanical Gardens is a hidden gem in Phoenix, and you can't walk five feet in this oasis without stumbling across some of the best photo opportunities around. Phoenix couples often get married here, and I had the opportunity to attend a wedding in the gardens when they hosted the Chihuly glass sculptures in 2008 and 2009. The breathtaking exhibit may be gone, but a single masterful piece remains outside the admission gates. Speaking of admission, it costs adults $15.00 to enter the gardens. Kids get in for half price.
An ideal time to visit this site would be during the holidays when they host "Las Noches de Luminarias." Luminarias are hand-lit bags that are placed along walkways for visitors in the evenings. I'd recommend taking part in this event and catching a magnificent pink and purple Arizona sunset in the process.
Desert Botanical Gardens, 1201 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008; 480-941-1225; Open daily 7AM-8PM
If you enjoy architectural photography, the urban landscape of Phoenix is not exactly inspiring. But the old Arizona Capitol, even though it is considered so ugly that it was mocked on The Daily Show, is actually quite beautiful and reflects a time in Arizona's history where quality was considered a virtue above fiscal conservatism. From the granite walls to the massive copper dome, to the functioning angelic weathervane, the original Capitol (now a museum) harkens back to the days when the territory of Arizona yearned to be considered seriously for statehood.
Contrast that antique structure with the House and Senate chambers on either side or the nine-floor executive tower overshadowing it. These more "modern" structures look dilapidated by comparison and sum up everything you need to know about Arizona politics.
Still, it isn't all bad. The Capitol sits adjacent to the Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, which is actually an interesting park full of monuments ranging from the Ten Commandments to a controversial 9/11 memorial. The USS Arizona memorial and the memorial to fallen K-9 officers are particularly touching. While you're there, you might even be lucky enough to watch one of the dozens of immigration rallies that seem to occur weekly.
Arizona State Capitol Museum, 1700 W Washington, Phoenix, AZ 85007; 602-926-3620; Mon-Fri 9AM-4PM; Free
So, as you can see, the best photo opportunities Phoenix offers are not always found on top of a mountain. You just need to open your eyes a bit wider and find those nuggets of beauty and interest hidden amidst the sandy landscape of this busy Arizona city.
- Overview: Phoenix Travel Guide