Phoenix celebrates its desert climate. The sky is said to be bigger, the stars brighter and the sunsets divine. Called the “gateway to the Grand Canyon,” Phoenix’s culture and natural landscape keep the spirit of puebloans, ranchers, miners and visionaries alive.
Saint Simon & Jude Cathedral, the only cathedral in the Catholic world dedicated to the apostles, Simon and Jude, offers group tours and welcomes guests to attend daily Mass. The post-war Cathedral houses the cathedral, or chair of the Bishop, and has a beautiful Gothic interior.
St Mary’s Basilica, founded in 1881, is home to Arizona’s largest collection of stained-glass windows. This Franciscan Catholic basilica offers tours to groups and welcomes visitors to attend Mass. The basilica bookstore, Via Assisi, is full of religious treasures and gifts.
Tanner Chapel, called “the diamond in the desert,” was built in 1929. This African Methodist Episcopal Church in Phoenix is the oldest black congregation in Arizona. Its enduring message to bridge the gap between community and church remains strong. With frequent gospel concerts, workshops and holiday celebrations, visitors are always welcomed.
Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center, the Valley’s first Jewish synagogue, was constructed in 1921. The restored synagogue and annex will soon serve as a museum, representing the historic fiber of Jewish culture in Phoenix and is currently an available space for all faiths to hold weddings, seminars and events. Phoenix is also home to the Arizona Jewish Historical Society Phoenix.
Religious Retreats in Greater Phoenix
Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale offers many programs and retreats. The center is also available for private group retreats of all faiths and provides exceptional meeting facilities, priding itself on providing Franciscan hospitality and sleeping and feeding up to 100 guests. With acres of space, groups can spread out and explore healing gardens, desert walkways and the Meditation Chapel.
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church and Renewal Center offers groups a desert retreat. The center can sleep 50 people but provides ample room for groups of 100+ for day use. Recreational activities are available.
Tucked away in a residential area, Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery offers a quiet retreat for groups. With access to a conference center, kitchen and mediation grounds, faith groups will be satisfied. Prepared meals are available and all guests are invited to join the community liturgy on Sunday mornings. The monastery has a chapel with stained-glass windows depicting various charisms of the Benedictine life.
If your group is fit for an urban hike, take a brisk 60-minute hike to the top of Camelback Mountain, which resembles camel humps. Located in the Echo Canyon Recreation Area, Camelback Mountain offers groups an escape from the noise of the city and a peaceful time to sojourn into the desert. The reward for reaching the top is a view of the
Phoenix valley. Several park trails are available for less ambitious hikers.
The Heard Museum, one of Phoenix’s finest cultural attractions, has free guided tours through 10 galleries of American Indian art and artifacts. Lunch packages are available.
Desert Botanical Garden, created by volunteers over 70 years ago, has an extensive collection of plants from the deserts of the world. Specialized tours for groups allow visitors to explore the diverse garden, learn about the natural wonders of the desert and see conservation efforts at work.
With four major league sports teams and over 200 golf courses, Phoenix is a sports lover’s dream. Watch the Arizona Diamondbacks play ball in Chase Field, or catch the Phoenix Suns or the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury run the court at the US Airways Center, both located downtown. January visitors may be interested in college football’s annual Fiesta Bowl, played at Sun Devil Stadium City in Tempe. Additionally, NASCAR events take place in April and November at the Phoenix International Raceway.
The , in downtown Phoenix, has interactive exhibits, a planetarium and a five-story theater, making science fun and exciting for both children and adults.
The light rail system, called METRO Light Rail, runs through downtown and runs nearly 20 miles into suburban areas and to the airport.
Phoenix Festivals and Events
Because of the desert climate, the winter months are ideal for outdoor activities and festivals in Phoenix, including many heritage and culture events that can take groups on an exotic journey to another country. Here are a few suggestions:
Festival of Greece in Scottsdale in mid-November, Wild West Days in early November, or the Latino Halloween celebrations, Dia de los Muertos Celebration.
Mariposa Monarca, sponsored by Desert Botanical Garden, is a fall celebration of the native monarch butterflies. Come
stroll through the best butterfly habitat in the Southwest and be immersed among hundreds of colorful, fluttering monarchs. During the month of December, the gardens glow for the annual La Noches de las Luminarias. Musicians play as visitors stroll through the illuminated gardens.
Faith groups find an oasis of piety, culture and community in Phoenix, proving that a sophisticated urban city can also be in touch with its roots.
Phoenix is appealing because of its affordability, hospitality and welcoming citizens.
– Douglas Mackenzie, director of communications for the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau