Things to do in Phoenix

If you're heading to Phoenix for the Super Bowl and need a break from the crowd, here are some recommendations of things to do and see that are not on the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau's recap of things to do in Phoenix.

Having grown up in Phoenix, I have my own personal list of things to see while in the Valley of the Sun, and it is my pleasure to share some of those.

One of my favorite areas is Tempe's Mill Avenue. Adjoining the beautiful campus of Arizona State University (ASU), it is a quintessential college town Main Street that will appeal more to the younger demographic than Baby Boomers but has much to offer for all ages. One of the area's oldest restaurants, Monti's La Casa Vieja, closed Nov. 17 after nearly 60 years in business but the building, in which legendary Arizona politician Carl Hayden was born in 1877, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is of course still standing. As such, it is definitely worth a visit for history buffs. It is located at 100 S. Mill Avenue, near the street's namesake Hayden Flour Mill.

Grady Gammage Auditorium
Farther south, where Mill Avenue turns east and becomes Apache Blvd., is Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium. Considered to be the last public commission of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, it is a "must see" for architecture lovers.

Tempe and ASU are on the Valley Metro Light Rail route and easy to reach from downtown Phoenix and Super Bowl Central.

If you have a car or are adventurous enough to negotiate the public bus system, head north from Tempe along Rural Road and, on the north side of the Salt River, you'll enter Scottsdale. The downtown area along Scottsdale Road is also worth a visit. Stroll along the sidewalks, check out the shops and stores, and have a beer or margarita at a restaurant that catches your attention.

Visitors who have access to a car should also consider making the short drive north to the Carefree/Cave Creek area. It's a bit of a bucolic artist's colony with a variety of shops, stores and restaurants.

On your way to or from Carefree/Cave Creek, make a short side-trip to Fountain Hills, northeast of Scottsdale. When the area was built, the fountain -- which entered service in 1970 -- was the tallest fountain in the world, shooting a stream of water 560 feet into the desert sky. No longer the holder of the "world's tallest" honor, it is still in the top five, and operates every 15 minutes. More details here.

McCormick Ranch, along Scottsdale Road north of Lincoln Drive, is home to a variety of upscale shops and restaurants

A drive along Lincoln Drive in Paradise Valley will take visitors past a number of upscale resorts and will also provide a stunning view of Camelback Mountain.

Turn off Lincoln Drive and head south on 24th Street to reach the Arizona Biltmore. Built in 1929, it is a lavish hideaway featuring eight swimming pools, tennis courts, golf, five dining options and an on-site spa.

West of the Biltmore and visible from its grounds is the Wrigley Mansion. The landmark was originally constructed in 1932 by chewing gum personality William Wrigley Jr. Threatened with demolition in 1973, it was purchased and restored by a private investor. While it is a private club, one month "trial memberships" are available for as little as $5 and allow members to dine at The Mansion for lunch, dinner, brunch, happy hour, and to enjoy a tour or tour/lunch package. More details are available here.

Finally, with high temperatures forecast to be in the mid-60s to upper 70s between now and game day, be sure to bring your swimsuit so you can relax poolside and soak up some of that famous Arizona winter sun.

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