Exploring Phoenix by Light Rail
Metropolitan Phoenix is about the size of Delaware and encompasses more than 20 cities and towns. Sometimes, the most rewarding trip to Phoenix is one that keeps it simple. Limiting your visit to locales accessible by light rail certainly simplifies things. You might miss out on the dining and nightlife of Scottsdale or the sports and entertainment of Glendale, but you’ll still get a great sense of the city’s Southwestern character—and possibly have a more satisfying visit than if you try to drive all over the place and see all Metropolitan Phoenix’ attractions.
Getting to Phoenix Without Renting a Car
From Sky Harbor International Airport, take the Valley Metro’s free Phoenix Airport Shuttle to the
44th and Washington St. light rail station. Returning, take the light rail to 44th and Jefferson St. station and take the free Airport Shuttle back to the Airport.
From the Greyhound Bus Terminal (24th and Buckeye Streets), take route 70 to 24th and Jefferson Street. Walk one block to the 24th and Washington St. light rail. Returning, get off the light rail at 24th and Jefferson Street, and take route 70 back to the Greyhound Bus Terminal.
For help with using public transit (bus and light rail) in the Phoenix, call Valley Metro at (602) 253-5000, or go to http://www.valleytransit.org. Click on Transit Tools, and then Trip Planner.
ABOUT LIGHT RAIL
When a $1.4 billion light-rail system debuted in downtown Phoenix on Dec. 27, 2008, it ushered in a transportation revolution not seen in the Sonoran Desert since the thirsty horse gave way to the combustion engine. The 20-mile line links Phoenix to the neighboring communities of Tempe and Mesa, and includes stops at attractions such as Phoenix Art Museum, the Heard Museum, Chase Field and US Airways Center.
Light rail’s quiet, air-conditioned trains operate 20 hours per day, seven days a week. The system operates at street level and is powered by electricity from overhead wires. Fares are $1.75 per ride or $3.50 for an all-day pass. The system has 28 stations, and trains stop at those stations every 10 minutes.
Light rail provides college students an easier, greener way to travel from Arizona State’s growing downtown Phoenix campus to the university’s main campus in Tempe. It’s just a 20-minute ride to Tempe– home to Tempe Beach Park and the popular Mill Avenue entertainment and shopping district.
NEIGHBORHOODS SERVED BY LIGHT RAIL
Locals only recently began referring to Central Phoenix by the catchy moniker “CenPho,” because, frankly, the city’s core wasn’t always worthy of special designation. But downtown isn’t just for commerce and conventioneers anymore. Billions of dollars of new development — including light rail itself and a downtown campus for Arizona State University — has lured hot chefs, young artists and independent retailers to CenPho. This is where you’ll find theaters, museums and professional sports venues, as well as the Downtown Phoenix Public Market and neighborhoods-within-neighborhoods such as Roosevelt Row.
Every big city seems to have a once-blighted neighborhood that has been transformed into a funky arts district. Roosevelt Row is Phoenix’s. Located on the northern edge of downtown, along the light-rail line, Roosevelt Row is a neighborhood of 1920s-1940s homes that are now occupied by artist studios, galleries, coffee shops, co-ops, boutiques and intimate restaurants. Roosevelt Row’s laid-back, arty vibe nicely counterbalances a city-center character defined by pro sports venues, refined performance halls and a massive convention center. Roosevelt Row is relatively quiet except for the first Friday night of every month, when tens of thousands of people crowd the streets for the First Friday Art Walk. This popular festival of street performers, bands and merchants is concentrated in the Row but also extends to gritty Grand Avenue and the elegant Phoenix Art Museum.
Tempe is home to the largest public research university in the U.S. and is the gateway to Phoenix’s suburban East Valley. The students of Arizona State University (enrollment 68,000) dominate the social scene and lend verve to Mill Avenue, one of metro Phoenix’s few centralized entertainment districts. Mill Avenue is a great place to people watch (especially during Halloween and New Year’s Eve), and is within walking distance of Tempe Town Lake, where the near-perpetual presence of joggers, rowers, sunbathers and volleyball players make it seem like summer never ends.
This suburban city of Mesa is the eastern terminus of the light-rail line. Mesa has an impressive performing arts center and a much-visited Mormon Temple and Chicago Cubs fans will recognize as the longtime spring-training home of their beloved baseball team. However, the light rail line stops at Mesa (at the Main & Sycamore station) and does not yet extend through it; that means you’ll have to take a taxi or city bus to really see the rest of the city.
For Visitors With Special Interests
Visit Roosevelt Row, The Heard Museum, and the Phoenix Art Museum.
The Heard is Arizona’s most famous museum. The traditional and contemporary art on display provides insight into the culture of American Indian tribes native to Arizona and the Colorado Plateau. The upstairs exhibit on Indian boarding schools is hauntingly well done. You can take a self-guided tour of the museum any time, while guided tours are offered daily at noon, 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. A tip: If you’re into meaningful souvenirs, the Heard Museum Shop is one of best places in Phoenix to buy authentic American Indian jewelry, pottery, paintings, sculpture and weavings.
Light Rail Station: Encanto Blvd & Central Ave
2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85004
Phoenix Art Museum
Phoenix Art Museum is the largest fine-art museum in the Southwest. Its permanent collection includes American, Asian and European masterpieces, as well as contemporary works, fashion and photography. You can wander in silence, employ an MP3 audio guide or take a docent-led tour. The museum is noted for its Western American collection — with pieces by artists such as Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Remington and Ernest Blumenschein — but striking work is also to be found in the Contemporary wing and Fashion Design gallery. The sculpture garden (with WiFi) and museum café are both peaceful urban escapes.
Light Rail Station: McDowell Rd & Central Ave
1625 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85004
Visit the Arizona Science Center, located in Heritage & Science Park. Here is a brief description of both the Park and the Arizona Science Center.
Heritage & Science Park
Visitors to Heritage and Science Park can stroll back into Phoenix’s Victorian past, watch a movie on a five-story screen or dine on pizza that a New York Times food critic deemed the best in the country. Occupying a picturesque city block in the heart of downtown, the park is home to locally owned shops and restaurants, as well as the Arizona Science Center.
115 N. Sixth Street, Phoenix, AZ 85004
Arizona Science Center
600 East Washington St., Phoenix, AZ 85004
The Science Center houses more than 300 interactive exhibits, a planetarium and an IMAX theater.
Nearest Light Rail stop to both the park and science center is 3rd Street and Washington
If you have your children with you, they will enjoy a dip in the splash pad at Civic Space Park (next to the Van Buren St. and Central Ave. light rail station). The other place they should visit is the:
Children’s Museum of Phoenix
If kids designed a museum, this is what it would look like. A hanging forest made of foam swimming noodles. A grocery store with box-filled aisles. A wooden racecar track that would tickle the fancy of M.C. Esher. And you can touch everything. The Children’s Museum of Phoenix was created for children as young as infants and as old as 10. Unlike traditional museums, it doesn’t focus on art or science, nor does it contain paintings or bones; instead, the hands-on exhibits are designed simply to stimulate and entertain. Located in an historic school building in downtown Phoenix, the museum is a short stroll from the likewise-kid-friendly Arizona Science Center.
Light Rail Station: 3rd Street & Washington
215 N. 7th St., Phoenix, AZ 85034
For addition information about attractions near light-rail stations, visit http://www.valleymetro.org/metro_light_rail/how_to_ride/attractions_and_destinations/
For information and reviews of eating places along or within a short walk of light rail, visit