Until a recent visit, all I knew about it was that it was the city the characters in vampire movie The Lost Boys came from (a cult hit when I was a teenager) and that it was probably very hot.
Now I know that it’s home to some drool-inducing taco joints, fascinating museums, great bars and that lying within easy reach of all these is one heck of a luxury hotel – The Phoenician.
What this adds up to is that Phoenix is a most alluring base from which to explore the other-worldly delights of the Sonoran Desert and the Grand Canyon National Park.
The 645-room Phoenician sits just underneath the 1,420ft-high Camelback Mountain – and hiking this is an absolute must.
The hotel can arrange for a guide to meet you in the reception at an ungodly hour and lead you up a fairly demanding trail to the summit, or any point you fancy calling it a day at.
We called it a day at a dusty helicopter landing zone about three-quarters of the way up, but even that was truly rewarding.
The views from there, and from the ascent, were spectacular.
One gazes upon a landscape thickly peppered with huge cactuses and punctuated by big rocky hills, so well-ordered and surprisingly green Phoenix seems slightly incongruous amid the desert vista.
I was hypnotised.
And by the time I got back to the hotel, I was desperate for sustenance.
Step forward Mowry & Cotton, The Phoenician’s breakfast venue, so popular that the hotel has a well-oiled waiting system for it. You put your name down at the front desk, then help yourself to tea and coffee and relax on a sofa until a table becomes free.
Following an eggs Benedict so substantial I’ve frankly only just digested it, I availed myself of my room’s luxuries.
There was a huge tub but I opted to put the hotel’s plumbing through its paces by trying the separate rain shower. The verdict? Marvellous.
Lolling on the gigantic bed while watching a movie came next followed by a bit of terrace-gawping.
The view was filled by the hotel’s incredible three-tiered pool complex. Palm trees swayed, deliriously delighted children dashed about and content adults sculled and sunbathed contently.
This exotic set-up contrasted beguilingly with the arid Sonoran surrounds.
The rest of the hotel is similarly glamorous and glistening.
There’s an athletic club with ‘virtual exercise classes’, a collection of boutique-style shops, a three-story spa with 24 treatment rooms, an 18-hole golf course and last, but not least, the ‘Funicians Club’, a daily supervised program for guests between the ages of five and 12.
I mentioned it was a good base to explore the Grand Canyon and the desert, but it’s also clearly a great base for discovering Phoenix itself.
For a fascinating insight into the history of the city and how the locals have regenerated some of the formerly run-down areas, I highly recommend booking a tour with the Arizona Pedal Cab Co.
You sit in a tricycle cab and trundle from one point of interest to another.
My tour guide, Billy Oxford, was superb. He spoke with humour and passion – and knew all the short-cuts.
The Heard Museum, on Central Avenue in downtown Phoenix, is also a must.
Here you can learn all about the history and culture of American Indians via 11 galleries.
It’s intriguing and, at times, incredibly moving, especially the exhibits that reveal how American Indian children were wrenched away from their parents and ‘Westernised’ in boarding schools far, far away.
The museum also has beautiful outdoor courtyards featuring outstanding traditional and contemporary American Indian art.
Much of the rest of my itinerary was taken up with exploring Phoenix’s food and beverage options, which are excellent.
Try the Phoenix Public Market Cafe for tasty brunch options, Carolina’s for delicious, authentic Mexican food, The Churchill for a range of options – it’s a hipster courtyard that’s home to 10 local businesses, including a sandwich shop and a pizza café – and The Gladly Restaurant for, among other things, superb oysters .
There’s also a fantastic Botanical Garden and a farmers’ market that takes place every Saturday outside the Phoenix Market Café at Phoenix Public Market Place. Here you’ll find everything from artisanal bread and cheese to handcrafted wooden animals courtesy of Arizona Mantel Works, run by a retired carpenter.
I bought my two-year-old daughter a little wooden tortoise and a mythical jackalope – a jackrabbit with antelope horns.
When I told their smiley creator they would be making their way back to London – where I live – he was utterly delighted. ‘Wow,’ he said, ‘my creations will be all the way over in London, England, amazing.’
I pondered his comment and realised London would seem as exotic to him, with all its cactus-less streets and parks, as Phoenix does to me.
I don’t think I could swap it permanently for Phoenix, but this Arizonan gem has my vote as an intriguing, other-worldly holiday destination. And having the uber-swanky Phoenician as a hotel option makes it all the more enticing.
Ted was hosted by The Phoenician and was a guest of Visit Arizona and Visit Phoenix.
The Phoenician offers rooms from $179 (£146). For more information visit www.thephoenician.com.
Rating key: one star – poor; two stars – ok; three stars – good; four stars – very good; five stars – exceptional.
Boss Transportation offers a first-rate luxury car service in Phoenix. Visit Bosstransaz.com.
American Airlines’ Heathrow to Phoenix return fares start from £508 per person in economy, £953 in premium economy and £1,717 in business class.