Super Bowl XLIX put the spotlight on Phoenix this year, giving the world a glimpse of the city's postcard-worthy desert scenery and spring-like winter weather. The secret is out: Phoenix in the winter rocks, and here's why.
Winter is a popular time of year for hiking — Photo courtesy of Visit Phoenix
1. Outdoor recreation
While some parts of the country prepare for winter storms and freezing temperatures, Phoenicians head outdoors to enjoy the cool, sunny weather (average winter day temperatures here are in the mid-60's). Hiking, golf and running are popular winter activities in these parts, and every January, the city hosts one of the largest running events in the country, the P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Marathon and Half-Marathon.
2. First Fridays in Downtown Phoenix
Fans of local art and culture will find much to love in Phoenix during the winter, including the monthly downtown First Friday art walk – the largest monthly art walk in the country. Mild winter temps make it possible to go for an evening stroll to check out art galleries, do some shopping and sample the city's lively food truck scene.
3. Las Noches de las Luminarias
One of the most beautiful and unique holiday light displays in the southwest happens in Phoenix every winter during Las Noches de las Luminarias, one of the city's longest-running holiday festivals. For 16 magical winter nights, the Desert Botanical Garden comes alive with strolling musicians, twinkling lights and 8,000 hand-lit luminaria bags.
The Waste Management Phoenix Open, also known as "the greatest show on grass," draws thousands of golf aficionados — Photo courtesy of WM Phoenix Open
4. The Waste Management Phoenix Open
With more than 200 courses in the Phoenix metro area, it's no secret that the city is a golfer's paradise. Every February, nearby Scottsdale hosts the world's best-attended golf event, the Waste Management Phoenix Open, home to one of the rowdiest crowds on the PGA circuit.
5. Farmers Markets galore
The farmers market scene is booming in Phoenix, where fresh produce is plentiful even in winter. Most Arizona farms operate in all four seasons, which means there's a steady stream of fresh fruits and veggies all winter long at local markets like the popular Downtown Phoenix Public Market.
6. Peach Blossom Celebration at Schnepf Farms
While other parts of the country brace themselves for the final push of winter, Phoenicians celebrate an early spring at the annual Peach Blossom Celebration in nearby Queen Creek. Each February, guests are invited to roam 80 acres of Schnepf Farms to bask in the beauty of hundreds of trees dotted with pink and white peach blossoms.
7. Barrett Jackson Car Auction
One of the world's biggest classic car auctions, Barrett Jackson, is held every January in nearby Scottsdale. The eight-day event draws more than 200,000 car collectors, celebrities and car-lovers, who come to see exclusive demos, ride 'n drive events and to bid on some of the world's rarest automobiles.
Every February, the Heard Museum in Phoenix hosts the World Championship Hoop Dancing Contest — Photo courtesy of Heard Museum
8. The World Championship Hoop Dance Contest
Every February, the Heard Museum hosts one of the country's most unique sporting events, as some of the best Native American hoop dancers from the U.S. and Canada vie for the title of World Champion Hoop Dancer. The competition showcases the sport's exciting mix of artistry and athleticism.
9. The Vizio Fiesta Bowl and TicketCity Cactus Bowl
Football fans have a lot to cheer about in Phoenix. The city hosts two major college bowls – the Vizio Fiesta Bowl and TicketCity Cactus Bowl – featuring parades, block parties and, of course, nail-biting football action.
10. Japanese Friendship Garden
Even some locals don't know about the Japanese Friendship Garden, a 3.5-acre park tucked away in downtown Phoenix that's beautifully landscaped with Japanese maples and purple leaf plums. The park – which is only open October through May – is a symbol of friendship between Phoenix and Himeji, its Japanese sister city.