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America's Coolest City Parks

Papago Park, Phoenix

Courtesy of Papago Park

Papago Park, Phoenix/Tempe

Orange-red sandstone geological rock formations like Hole-in-the-Rock have been a fixture of this 1,200-acre park for millennia. The Desert Botanical Garden, a more recent addition, nurtures cacti, succulents, and other desert plants—amid a rotating collection of modern art that has ranged from steel sculptures by Ludvic to a 17-piece glass installation by Dale Chihuly. The park is also home to the Phoenix Zoo, which opened a new exhibit for its orangutan family in April 2011.

Coolest Time to Visit: Sunset, when the sandstone buttes take on a deeper, more fantastic color. Arrive before 7 p.m., when entrances close (trails remain open until 11 p.m.). While the city skyline is visible from Hole-in-the-Rock, the most sweeping views are from South Mountain. Don’t forget your camera!

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