Visit Arizona by Way of a Local’s Perspective

Andrew H. Goldstein, MD

A longtime New Yorker, Andrew H. Goldstein, MD moved 14 years ago to Phoenix, Arizona, where Southwestern art, culture, outdoor activities, entertainment, shopping, and climate combined to make him a Phoenix enthusiast.

Dr. Goldstein, an STS member and cardiothoracic surgeon who attends the STS Annual Meeting regularly, said he likes to show visitors what makes Phoenix and the surrounding area so unique and interesting.

Nearby Sights

Being away from the office before or after the STS Annual Meeting can be difficult, but attendees easily can get a taste of the region by taking in two Phoenix spots Dr. Goldstein recommends: the Desert Botanical Garden and the Heard Museum.

Take a stroll through the rare landscape of the Desert Botanical Garden, where more than 50,000 plants are on display in five thematic trails. The world-class garden, which sits on 140 acres within Papago Park’s red rock buttes, is a living collection of plants from the world’s deserts. The garden is about a 20-minute drive from the convention center, but it’s a big leap into a fascinating environment. Visit the Desert Botanical Garden website for museum hours and admission rates.

The internationally acclaimed Heard Museum showcases 11 galleries featuring Native American and Southwestern art and culture and beautiful outdoor courtyards with traditional and contemporary art. The “Frida Kahlo—Her Photos” exhibit will be on display during the Annual Meeting. More than 240 images were culled from the Blue House, the residence where Kahlo spent most of her life. The museum is about a 10-minute drive from the Phoenix Convention Center. Visit the Heard Museum website for museum hours and admission rates.

A Short Drive

Old Town Scottsdale: This treasure in the heart of Scottsdale combines Western themed art galleries, kitschy shops, small museums, and an array of restaurants in the city’s downtown. Explore the area by taking one of two walking tours or even both; one features the area’s history and the other focuses on public art. On Thursday evenings, galleries along Main Street and Marshall Way extend their hours until 9:00 p.m. for the Scottsdale ArtWalk. The area is about a 25-minute drive from downtown Phoenix.

Taliesin West: A national historic landmark, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West was once Wright’s winter home. Today, it houses the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. Built with nearby stone and sand and set in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains, Taliesin West offers tours of this desert masterpiece. Located outside Scottsdale, Taliesin West is about a 40-minute drive from the convention center. Visit the Taliesin West website for museum hours and admission rates. Advance booking for tours is recommended.

Hiking Trails

For outdoor adventurists, Dr. Goldstein recommends blazing a trail on foot.

“We have two of the best urban hikes in America at Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak,” he said. “Camelback dominates the landscape because its red rock formation looks like a camel sitting down.”

He recommended that of the two trailheads, hikers take Echo Canyon, which ascends 1,400 feet to the 2,680-foot summit. The 1-3 hour round-trip hike is 2.2 miles. The trailhead is about a 25-minute drive from the convention center.

The popular Piestewa Peak trailhead, which is a few minutes drive closer, is a 1,100-foot moderate 2-mile round-trip hike, which runs 1-3 hours.

Dr. Goldstein cautioned that hikers should be in good physical shape and ready for the elements.

“Camelback Mountain trail is a phenomenal hike, but you need to be a fit and experienced hiker because it is a moderately strenuous hike,” he said. “Although in late January, the days can be sunny and temperatures in the 70s and 80s, nights in the desert in winter get very cold and go into the mid-30s or lower. For any outdoor activity, you need to be prepared. If you do any hiking, you should bring water because the air is so dry.”

Tee Up for a Round of Golf

With metro Phoenix home to nearly 200 pristine public and private golf courses boasting 3,600 holes, the region is the indisputable mecca for golf enthusiasts. Lush greens designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, and others beckon amateurs and wannabe professionals.

Desert foothills, surrounding mountains, and mild January temperatures combine to draw PGA, LPGA, and other championship events to this aptly named Valley of the Sun.

Those looking to hit the links amid this stunning landscape should book tee times in advance, especially since January kicks off prime golfing season. Course rates vary by green fees and tee times. Order a free Arizona Golf Guide.

Day Trips

If you have time to spare before or after the Annual Meeting, take the opportunity to see two of Arizona’s most stunning destinations—Sedona and Grand Canyon National Park.

Sedona, a 2-2.5 hour drive from Phoenix, welcomes visitors with spectacular red rock monoliths. A haven for art lovers and collectors, Sedona’s more than 80 boutiques, art galleries, and shops take their inspiration from Native American and Southwestern culture. 

For those who have more time, drive north from Sedona 1.5 hours past Flagstaff to the South Rim Grand Canyon, regarded as one of the Natural Seven Wonders of the World. At 18 miles wide and 1 mile deep, the Grand Canyon’s amazing canyon wall vistas display a vast palette of colors etched over millennia by the path of the Colorado River.

Dr. Goldstein said travelers should check road conditions before venturing beyond Phoenix because there can be freezing rain or snowfall in Sedona and the Grand Canyon, which could close roads to the South Rim.

“Visit the website ( to make sure the roads are open,” he said. “If they are open, then you may have the good fortune of seeing the Grand Canyon with a dusting of snow, which most people don’t get to see.”