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How Phoenix Became the Valley of the Sun The Full Story

How Phoenix Became the Valley of the Sun: The Full Story

When we think of Phoenix, some words that first pop into our minds are sun, valley, or collectively, the Valley of the Sun. Now, why is this city called the Valley of the Sun in the first place?

In this article, we’ll explain why it’s called the Valley of the Sun and what makes this place so special. We’ll explore its history, culture, and hidden to help you discover the magic of Phoenix.

Why is Phoenix called the Valley of the Sun?

Why is Phoenix called the Valley of the Sun

Phoenix is called the Valley of the Sun because its location enjoys plenty of sunshine annually, with minimal rainfall and warm temperatures. The phrase “Valley of the Sun” was coined in the early 1930s to boost tourism in the area. 

Geographically, Phoenix also sits within the Salt River Valley within the Sonoran Desert, which creates a microclimate that amplifies the region’s hot summers and clear skies.

Today, the Valley of the Sun pertains to the Phoenix metropolitan area in Arizona, encompassing Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe and Chandler. 

How did they come up with the Valley of the Sun? 

How did they come up with the Valley of the Sun

The nickname “Valley of the Sun” was the winning entry in a competition in the 1930s to attract tourists to Phoenix. The phrase was then adopted by the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce and used in promotional materials throughout the region.

Phoenix’s tourism industry struggled in the 1930s, so city officials sought to coin a unique and memorable name to attract visitors. During that time, Phoenix was called the “Denver of the Southwest,” but it hasn’t been successful in boosting tourism in the area. 

The city of Phoenix then banked on its unique sunny characteristic and used it as a branding opportunity. Then, in 1931, the Arizona Biltmore Resort held a contest to find a new regional nickname for Phoenix. 

Over 8,000 entries were submitted, with “Valley of the Sun” finally winning the judges’ votes. Today, “Valley of the Sun” is synonymous with Phoenix and its surrounding area and remains a recognizable symbol of the region’s sunny disposition.

Why is Phoenix a valley?

Why is Phoenix a valley

Phoenix is a valley because the metropolitan area sits flat within the Salt River valley. It sits at a low elevation and is surrounded by mountains and mountain ranges.

The Salt River valley was formed by a depression caused by the Salt River. The river carved away at the surrounding mountains and deposited sediment in the valley, which created the flat terrain on which Phoenix lies today.

The “Valley of the Sun” refers to the entire Phoenix metropolitan area, encompassing several cities and reflects how these cities are located in the Salt River Valley.

The Phoenix metropolitan area, comprised of Maricopa County (Chandler, Glendale, Scottsdale, Gilbert, Tempe, Peoria, and Surprise) and Pinal County (Casa Grande and Maricopa), is collectively what we call today as the Valley of the Sun.

What caused Phoenix to be a valley?

What caused Phoenix to be a valley

Phoenix became a valley due to the natural geological processes of the Salt River, such as tectonic plate movement, uplift and faulting, erosion and volcanic activity.

When the Earth’s tectonic plates shift, over time, sections of the crust are pushed upwards, forming mountain ranges, while other areas sink along fault lines. These sunken areas along fault lines create basins like the Salt River Valley.

For millions of years, the Salt River flowed through the newly formed basin, leading to the erosion of surrounding mountains and depositing sediments in the valley. Further, volcanic ash and lava filled the valley floor, leading to its flat and fertile nature.

Even today, these geological processes continue to shape the Salt River Valley as the Salt River continues transporting sediment, although slower.

What are fun things to do in the Valley of the Sun?

Check out every visitor’s must-try activities in the Valley of the Sun.

1. Hike the Echo Canyon Trail on Camelback Mountain.

Hiking the Echo Canyon Trail on Camelback Mountain is a fantastic way to experience the best of Phoenix, as the trail offers incredible 360-degree panoramas of the city and surrounding desert landscape, especially the Sonoran Desert.

The hike has steep inclines, rock scrambles, and uneven terrain. But it’s also rewarding because you can see desert wildflowers, cacti, and wildlife like coyotes, javelinas, and even a bald eagle.

2. Join the First Friday Art Walks in Roosevelt Row.

Artlink is a nonprofit organization that founded and organized the First Friday Art Walks. This event features over 70 galleries, museums, and art studios along downtown Phoenix.

This is the best way to mingle with the local artists and gain insights into the Phoenix art scene. Many venues host live music performances and street performers, and there are unique shops, cafes, and restaurants featuring local artists and artisans to explore.

3. Visit the Desert Botanical Garden.

The Desert Botanical Garden is a 140-acre tranquil area that showcases over 50,000 plants, including cacti, agave, and wildflowers, all native to the Sonoran Desert. The garden is in a scenic location that offers views of the McDowell Mountains.

The garden has educational exhibits and themed trails that teach visitors about the plants and animals. A crowd-favorite activity here is the Sonoran Desert Nature Loop Trail, where visitors can hike to the top and panoramic mountain views.

4. Enjoy a casual dinner at the famous Pizzeria Bianco.

Phoenix is also home to what the New York Times described as what “might be the best pizza in America.” Pizzeria Bianco is widely acclaimed for its pizzas, made with fresh, high-quality ingredients and cooked to perfection in a wood-fired oven. 

They offer a variety of classic and creative pizzas, and the restaurant has a trendy yet casual vibe. Chef Bianco advocates the slow food movement, so you can sit back and order a glass of wine while you wait for your fresh, wood-fired pizza to arrive. 

5. Explore world-class architecture and shopping centers in Scottsdale.

Scottsdale boasts a rich architectural heritage, with landmarks like Taliesin West and Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and studio. You can also enjoy the upscale ambiance of Scottsdale Fashion Square or the La Mirada Shopping Center thrift shop. 

Shopping centers like Scottsdale Towne Center offer open-air plazas and courtyards. Many architectural landmarks are within walking distance of shopping centers, allowing you to blend your interests seamlessly.

6. Attend award-winning Broadway musicals and concerts in Tempe.

ASU Gammage is a Phoenix must-do for theater lovers. Here, you can immerse in award-winning Broadway musicals, world-class concerts, and dance performances right in the heart of Tempe. 

With its iconic Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and state-of-the-art acoustics, Gammage offers an unforgettable experience. You can also visit the ASU Art Museum, one of the Southwest’s most significant contemporary art institutions. 

7. Learn Arizona's history by visiting the Superstitious Mountains.

The Superstitious Mountains exploration is an absolute gem for any adventurer in Phoenix. Here, you can hike to visit the Lost Dutchman Mine or learn about the past of the Pima and Apache tribes through ancient petroglyphs etched onto rocks. 

You can also wander through remnants of ancient mining towns like Goldfield and Peralta and discover remnants of saloons, mineshafts, and weathered structures, transporting you back to the Wild West era.

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