Here are ten things I miss the most of about my old desert stomping grounds:
I probably thought about hiking more than actually executing hiking, but I miss having that choice, you know? I miss the possibility of trekking up and over a different mountain every day of the week – ‘A’ Mounain, Papago Park, South Mountain, the McDowell Mountain Sonoran Preserve, Piestewa Peak and even Camelback Mountain.
A lot of places claim they have the”best sunsets,” but I’m quite confident they’re wrong. The Valley of the Sun has, hands-down, the best sunsets I’ve ever seen. Get to a higher elevation around sun-down and see the sky ignite in flames of deep orange and ruby red that gently mellow into soft purple.
3. NO SNOW
There’s a reason Phoenix has so many transplants from the midwest and Canada: no snow. School will never be canceled in Phoenix due to blizzards. No salt is needed to keep the roads safe. And there’s no need to purchase shovels or wear four jackets just to run to the store. During winter, Phoenicians can wear flip flops comfortably. And if they really want to see snow, they only need to drive two hours to Flagstaff.
Thanks to Phoenix’s closeness to Mexico, authentic tacos are found all over the city – fish, carnitas, carne asada, cochinita, al pastor, suadero, pollo, cabeza, you name it – in fancy restaurants and in hole-in-the-walls, alike. My favorites were found at Tacos Chiwas and Taquería Los Yaquis.
5. GOLF COURSES
Even though I’m not an avid golfer, I miss seeing golf courses everywhere. I took for granted the large green oases in the middle of the harsh desert. There are dozens of courses around the Valley, and we’re even famous for hosting the “People’s Open” (AKA the annual Waste Management Phoenix Open, home of the rowdy 16th hole).
6. THE NIGHT LIFE
The Valley is comprised of several suburbs, most with their own little downtowns full of restaurants and bars. But when you’re looking for a Vegas-style night out without the hassle of driving five hours and paying a pretty penny to stay at Caesar’s Palace, you go to Scottsdale. Called “a desert version of Miami’s South Beach,” Scottsdale is home to a walk-able entertainment district full of fancy dance clubs, live-music venues and dive bars. And, only a short cab ride away, is a 24-hour casino with summer-long pool parties, perfect for bachelor and bachelorette parties.
7. SMOOTH STREETS
I may have complained in the past for encountering one or two potholes on the road, but I had no idea how close to perfection I really was. In my first month on the East Coast, I noticed immediately how horribly maintained the roads are, and I miss the days of smooth, hot, asphalted-Phoenix. Also, Phoenix is one big grid, making it terribly hard to get lost. It’s one big master planned city and driving is a frickin’ breeze. Oh and the parking lots are huuuugggeeee!
8. SPANISH STREET NAMES
Arizona was part of Mexico until 1848, and its Latin heritage is felt all over Phoenix – three hours from the Mexican border. I miss seeing names in my second tongue on street signs all around town, such as Rio Salado, Encanto Park, Alta Vista Road, Via de Ventura, Manzanita Drive, and many more. It made me feel like I lived in a diverse and multi-cultural city.
9. THE SUN
When I was living through my umpteenth summer, I often cursed the GD sun for cooking me. I didn’t realize then how rare it is to see the sun most every day. Now, four months into my eastern sojourn, I have to actively seek out other ways to get my dose vitamin D.
10. BIG BOX STORES
This is going to sound weird (and I know not everyone will agree with me) but I miss having a Walmart or Target every five to 10 blocks. The convenience of running (i.e. driving) just down the street to a Fry’s because I forgot the mayonnaise or Food City because I need some authentic tortillas, was completely lost on me before moving back east and realizing a simple trip to the grocery store is an UNDERTAKING. Count your Starbucks-on-every-corner blessings, Phoenix.