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Because of urban sprawl, Phoenix has yielded its importance to an area known as the Valley of the Sun (or just "the Valley"), an area encompassing Phoenix and its metropolitan area of more than 20 cities. Consequently, as outlying cities have taken on regional importance, neighborhoods per se have lost much of their significance. Think of the Valley's many cities as automobile-oriented neighborhoods. That said, there are also some actual neighborhoods worth noting.

Downtown Phoenix -- Roughly bordered by Thomas Road on the north, Buckeye Road on the south, 19th Avenue on the west, and Seventh Street on the east, downtown is primarily a business, financial, and government district, where both the city hall and the state capitol are located. Downtown Phoenix is also the Valley's prime sports, entertainment, and museum district. The Arizona Diamondbacks play big-league baseball at Chase Field, while the Phoenix Suns shoot hoops at the US Airways Center. Of course, there are also lots of sports bars in the area. Three major performing arts venues -- the historic Orpheum Theatre, Symphony Hall, and the Herberger Theater Center -- are located here. Downtown museums and attractions include the Arizona Science Center, Heritage Square (historic homes), the Arizona Capitol Museum, and the Arizona Mining & Mineral Museum. On the northern edge of downtown are the Heard Museum, the Phoenix Central Library (an architectural gem), and the Phoenix Art Museum. Downtown Phoenix is also an art-gallery district featuring cutting-edge contemporary art. In recent years, condominiums have been proliferating downtown and have infused the area with new life.

Biltmore District -- The Biltmore District, also known as the Camelback Corridor, centers on Camelback Road between 24th and 44th streets and is Phoenix's upscale shopping, residential, and business district. The area is characterized by modern office buildings and is anchored by the Arizona Biltmore Hotel and Biltmore Fashion Park shopping mall.

Scottsdale -- A separate city of more than 200,000 people, Scottsdale extends from Tempe in the south to Carefree in the north, a distance of more than 20 miles. Scottsdale Road between Indian School Road and Shea Boulevard was once known as Resort Row and was home to more than a dozen major resorts. However, as Scottsdale has sprawled ever northward, so, too, have the resorts. North Scottsdale has now become the center of the resort, shopping, and restaurant scene. Downtown Scottsdale -- which is made up of Old Town, the Main Street Arts and Antiques District, the Marshall Way Contemporary Arts District, the Fifth Avenue Shops, and the Scottsdale Waterfront -- is filled with tourist shops, galleries, boutiques, Native American crafts stores, and restaurants.

Tempe -- Tempe is the home of Arizona State University and has lots of nightclubs and bars as well as all the other trappings of a university town. Mill Avenue, which has dozens of interesting shops along a stretch of about 4 blocks, is the center of activity both day and night. This is one of the few areas in the Valley where locals actually walk the streets and hang out at sidewalk cafes. (Old Town Scottsdale always has people on its streets, but few are locals.)

Paradise Valley -- If Scottsdale is Phoenix's Beverly Hills, then Paradise Valley is its Bel-Air. This is the most exclusive community in the Valley and is almost entirely residential, but you won't see too many of the more lavish homes because they're set on large tracts of land.

Mesa -- This eastern suburb of Phoenix is the Valley's main high-tech area. Large shopping malls, numerous inexpensive chain motels, a couple of small museums, and the beautiful Mesa Arts Center attract both locals and visitors to Mesa.

Chandler -- Lying to the south of Tempe, this city has been booming over the past decade. New restaurants have opened, and the old downtown has had a bit of a face-lift. This area is of interest primarily to east Valley residents, but there is an attractive older resort right in downtown Chandler.

Glendale -- Located northwest of downtown Phoenix, Glendale has numerous historic buildings in its downtown, and with its dozens of antiques and collectibles stores, it has become the antiques capital of the Valley. The city is home to the Bead Museum, an interesting little specialty museum. This is also where you'll find the Arizona Cardinals' University of Phoenix Stadium and the Jobing.com Arena, home of the Phoenix Coyotes hockey team.

Carefree & Cave Creek -- About 20 miles north of Old Scottsdale, these two communities represent the Old West and the New West. Carefree is a planned community and home to the prestigious Boulders Resort and el Pedregal shopping center. Neighboring Cave Creek, on the other hand, plays up its Western heritage with contemporary cow-town architecture and a preponderance of saloons, steakhouses, and shops selling Western crafts and other gifts.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.