Welcome to Arizona!
Our state, commonly known as, The Grand Canyon State, is similar in size to our country - Poland and is inhabited by about 6,500,000 people, out of which supposedly about 120,000 is of Polish descent (year 2000). The capitol of Arizona is the city of Phoenix, located in the Valley of the Sun. Phoenix metropolitan area consists of Avondale, Chandler, Fountain Hills, Gilbert, Glendale, Goodyear, Litchfield Park, Mesa, Paradise Valley, Peoria, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Sun City, Surprise, Tempe and other towns. Other bigger cities in Arizona, beside Phoenix, are Tucson, Flagstaff, Yuma, Kingman, and Lake Havasu.
Arizona climate, contrary to common belief, is not a typical desert climate in all areas. Majority of the state area is in the desert climate, but there are also areas with pine trees and where it snows during the winter months. Most of the colder regions are around the city of Flagstaff, where the San Francisco Peaks are found, with the highest peak of Arizona - the Humphreys Peak (12,637 feet / 3,852 meters). During the winter, these mountains, located north of Flagstaf, are mostly covered with snow and are frequented by skiers. That's where the Snowbowl skiing area is located.
A typical Arizona flora consists of many kinds of cactus and desert trees such as the Palo Verde, which is the official state tree. The largest and the most famous of the cacti are the Saguaro, which can grow to more than 10 meters tall and can be as old as few hundred years. In spite of their look, they are very well built from a hard stem. The desert is also inhabited by many animals. These include coyotes, rattle snakes, Gila Monster lizards, Road Runner birds, Honeybirds, cactus wrens (official state bird), and of course - the vultures. There are also scorpions, tarantulas, and black widows. These are, however, hard to find in the middle of the city. The Arizona desert is, not at all, similar to the Sahara desert. It is not a sandy desert but is covered mostly with grasses, cacti and desert trees. During the winter, its look is not very attractive. However, during the spring, the desert comes alive and all cacti blossom just like all other plants.
The temperatures in Arizona reach over 120 degrees F (50 degrees C) during the summer, in the desert areas, to below 32 degrees F (0 degrees C) in the mountain areas. The heat itself, scares away many tourists but it is a so called dry heat, which is more bareable than heat in the humid climates such as that of Florida. In Phoenix, itself, the temperatures reach, on the average, 100-120F in the summer and 30-70F in the winter. Because the winter does not equal snow fall over here, the city is invaded by many people living in the colder areas of USA and Canada. Mostly, those are retired people who come here for a few months and then go back home. Theye are called by the Arizonans - "Snow Birds". Because of their arrival, the population of Arizona increases dramatically during this time of the year and all the freeways are very crowded.
There is a lot to see in the state of Arizona. There is one of the wonders of the world - The Grand Canyon, there are many historical cowboy and mining towns such as Tombstone and Bisbee. There is the famous Yuma, where there isn't really much to see beside the old jail and some casinos, there are many lakes with the biggest - Lake Powell on the border with Utah, there are forests where mushrooms can be picked, and there are mountains where one can ski. In addition, we are close to Mexico where many Arizonans go for recreational reasons (Puerto Penasco) because it is the closest place with access to the ocean.
The city of Phoenix, the capitol of Arizona, together with its metropolitan area is home to over 4 million people. It is a relatively new and modern city, which is still developing at a rapid pace. Surrounded by a range of mountains, it is hot during the summer but very comfortable the rest of the seasons. When hot, Phoenicians escape the valley to the nearby lakes and rivers. Most of the local lakes are artificially created by stopping the rivers but the most important thing is that you can jump in and cool off.
Many people go to the Salt River to the Salt River Recreation area. This is a section of the river where people go down the river on car tubes, rafts, kayacs or self made boats. It is a real attraction. In Arizona, a very popular thing to do is off-roading on the desert on the ATVs or in 4x4 trucks. Only a few miles outside the city, you can get into the desert for recreational purposes. You can also get on I-17 and soon you will find yourself in areas similar to those in Poland. Many Phoenicians go there for camping to the forests and many Poles and Europeans go to pick mushrooms.
The Polish community organizes annual festival every year, on the grounds of the Polish church, where hundreds of Poles and Americans come to spend time together. The Phoenix Polonia is growing all the time and until now they have earned their own catholic church, several food stores, Polish clubs, and radio programs. Of course, many are in possession of the satellite dish, which enables them to receive Polish TV channels and channels of Polish radio, which allows them keeping in touch with Polish culture and events. In addition, Phoenix is often visited by Polish artists and more and more the local Poles have an opportunity to see Polish movies in a cinema. It is also possible to rent Polish movies and books. The Polish church is always full to the limit, which means that there are more of us here every day.
In the city there are very few very old buildings. The city grows to the sides and not up, as it is the case in some other US cities. The distance between the city limits reach over 100 miles (160 km) but visiting friends across the city is still a common thing. Travelling to work 20-30 miles (32-48 km) every day is the life of an average Phoenician. The public transportation is not as developed as in Poland or even other big cities in the USA but it has already a big network of busses and even a Light Rail system. Even so, most people go everywhere by car. It is a rare thing for someone to say "I am walking to a store".
There are many palms growing in the city but they are not native to this area. Without watering them regularly, they wouldn't survive very long. The same is true with many other non-native trees, vegetables and grass. All that, requires everyday watering, at least during the summer time. Fortunately, we don't have a water shortage in the city. Of course you cannot say that about the desert where water practically is nowhere to be found except in cacti. So far, there are no big cataclysms over here such as earthquakes, tornados or blizzards. It is hot but the heat is less dangerous than an Earthquake or a tornado.
In addition to Phoenix, in Arizona, there are also such cities as Tucson, Flagstaff, Yuma, and several others worth mentioning.
Tucson (pronounced Tooson) is the second largest city of Arizona. It is located about 100 miles south of Phoenix, also in a desert area, and not far from the border with Mexico. Because of being so close to Mexico, the city is inhabited by many Mexicans, even more than Phoenix. There is not too much to see in Tucson itself but there are a few attractions outside the city. One of them is the Biosphere2, a glass building, which in the 90's was used for an experiment, during which several scientists lived inside the building isolated from the outside air, for one year and surviving only on what they made themseleves inside. Inside, there are chambers with plants from different climates, lakes, and animals. Currently, the building is open to the public for visiting.
South east from Tucson, there are a few wineries and several cowboy and mining towns, such as the famous Tombstone shown in many movies. 25 miles south of Tucson, there is a missile silo, which during the 60's was used to store a intercontinental nuclear rocket Titan. Currently the silo is open to the public. The nuclear head is removed and half of the opening is covered with concrete but the rocket is still inside and can be seen. Also, the room with all the equipment that was supposed to be used to start the rocket can be visited. All that is hung on huge springs deep under ground.
Flagstaff is located in the mountains, at 7000 feet and is one of the highest located cities in the United States. The temperatures here are on the average 20 degrees F lower than in Phoenix. The temperatures and the high altitude mean that during the winter it snows in Flagstaff. It is here, where during the winter time many people come to ski. It is not as good as Aspen or Durango in Colorado, or even Sunrise in the White Mountains, on the border with New Mexico but it is the closest place to ski from Phoenix. The snow usually covers not only the mountains but also the whole city and all the areas up to 50 miles around. It also snows in Payson and in Sedona, and sometimes even very close to Phoenix. Beside skiing, it is also worth to see the mentioned town of Sedona, where the mountains and the soil are red. East of Flagstaff, there is a meteor crater, petrified forest and painted desert, which looks as if it is painted because it has many different colors. Finally, Flagstaff is one of the cities which you will pass on the way from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon.
Yuma is located in the south western corner of the state. It is placed next to the Colorado river and is inhabited mostly by people of Mexican descent. Of course, it does not mean that white people don't live there but priximity of the Mexican border means a big influence of Mexican nationals.
Lake Havasu is by the Havasu lake and is inhabited mostly by retired people. It is frequented by tourists who like water sports because it is the greatest attraction here. Another big attraction is the London Bridge, which was brought here from London when it began to sink. It was privately purchased and brought here stone by stone and reassembled exactly in the same way as it stood in London.
Overall, there are many attractions in Arizona. There is desert, forests, lakes, rivers, and mountains. The temperatures are high but bareable because it is dry heat. However, during the winter, the temperature is nice and mild and in Phoenix there is no snow. If you want snow, you can get to it in about two hours by car. The weather is almost always very nice.
So what are you waiting for. Come to Arizona and see for youself.
Good information about the state of Arizona can be found on the following web sites:
Honorary Consul in Arizona
Polish Congress of Arizona
Polish Church in Phoenix