Phoenix is the capital, and largest city, of the state of Arizona. With 1,445,632 people (as of the 2010 U.S. Census), Phoenix is the most populous state capital in the United States, as well as the sixth most populous city nationwide. Phoenix is the anchor of the Phoenix metropolitan area, also known as the Valley of the Sun, which in turn is a part of the Salt River Valley. The city is the 13th largest metro area by population in the United States, with approximately 4.3 million people in 2010. In addition, Phoenix is the county seat of Maricopa County and is one of the largest cities in the United States by land area. The population growth rate of the Phoenix metro area has been nearly 4% per year for the past 40 years. While that growth rate slowed during the Great Recession, it has already begun to rebound. Phoenix is the cultural center of the Valley of the Sun, as well as the rest of Arizona. Phoenix has maintained a growth streak in recent years, growing by 24.2% before 2007. This made it the second-fastest-growing metropolitan area in the United States, surpassed only by Las Vegas. In 2008, Squaw Peak, the second tallest mountain in the city, was renamed Piestewa Peak after Army Specialist Lori Ann Piestewa, an Arizonan and the first Native American woman to die in combat while serving in the U.S. military, as well as being the first American female casualty of the 2003 Iraq War.
The city has numerous performing arts venues, most of which are located in and around downtown Phoenix or Scottsdale. The Phoenix Symphony Hall is home to the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, the Arizona Opera and Ballet Arizona. The Arizona Opera company also has intimate performances at its new Arizona Opera Center, which opened in March 2013. Concerts can be attended at Talking Stick Resort Arena (formerly US Airways Center) and Comerica Theatre in downtown Phoenix, Ak-Chin Pavilion (formerly Cricket Wireless Pavilion) in Maryvale, Gila River Arena (formerly Jobing.com Arena) in Glendale, and Gammage Auditorium in Tempe (the last public building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright). Dozens of museums exist throughout the valley. They include the Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona Capitol Museum, Arizona Military Museum, Hall of Flame Firefighting Museum, the Pueblo Grande Museum and Cultural Park, Children’s Museum of Phoenix, Arizona Science Center, and the Heard Museum. In 2010 the Musical Instrument Museum opened their doors, featuring the biggest musical instrument collection in the world.
The tourist industry is the longest running of today’s top industries in Phoenix. Starting with promotions back in the 1920s, the industry has grown into one of the top 10 in the city. Due to its climate, Phoenix and its neighbors have consistently ranked among the nation’s top destinations in the number of Five Diamond/Five Star resorts. With more than 62,000 hotel rooms in over 500 hotels and 40 resorts, greater Phoenix sees over 16 million visitors each year, the majority of whom are leisure (as opposed to business) travelers. Sky Harbor Airport, which serves the Greater Phoenix area, serves about 40 million passengers a year, ranking it among the 10 busiest airports in the nation. One of the biggest attractions to the Phoenix area is golf, with over 200 golf courses. In addition to the sites of interest in the city, there are many attractions near Phoenix, such as: Agua Fria National Monument, Arcosanti, Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, Lost Dutchman State Park, Montezuma’s Castle, Montezuma’s Well, and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.
Due to its natural beauty and climate, Phoenix has a plethora of outdoor attractions and recreational activities. The Phoenix Zoo is the largest privately owned, non-profit zoo in the United States. Since opening in 1962, the zoo has developed an international reputation for its efforts on animal conservation, including breeding and reintroducing endangered species back into the wild. Right next to the zoo, the Phoenix Botanical Gardens were opened in 1939, and are acclaimed worldwide for their exhibits and educational programs, featuring the largest collection of arid plants in the U.S. South Mountain Park, the largest municipal park in the U.S., is also the highest desert mountain preserve in the world.