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Central Arizona offers warm sunshine, cosmopolitan living

“Buenos Dias” from the greater Phoenix Valley of the Sun region. The desert has been wonderful with temperatures ranging into the mid 80s.

Remove the mountains and the topography reminds me of central Florida.

It is sprawling housing developments surrounding old cattle ranches, miles upon miles of strip malls and University of Phoenix buildings.

Another noticeable difference from Florida is the humidity actually the lack of it.

This absence helps makes this warmer desert climate more tolerable even in the scorching summer months.

Currently there are 14 major league baseball conducting spring training activities in the Valley.

The clubs are scattered around suburbs like Mesa, Surprise, Goodyear, Peoria, Glendale, Scottsdale, Tempe and Phoenix proper.

Interstate highways I 10 and I 17 along with beltways 101 and 202 allow for easy travel and access to these facilities.

Like any major city there still are the peak travel time delays but it was easy for me to navigate around the area.

Air service into Phoenix Sky Harbor airport is well developed with nonstop flights from Columbus and Cincinnati and connecting flights from our other air gateways.

I’ve seen fares from Columbus as low as $198 roundtrip but expect to pay more if you have to fly out of Huntington or Charleston.

Most airlines schedule 11 months into the future so set the fare watcher feature on your on-line travel agency booking website and when the price drops into your pricing comfort zone I suggest purchasing your flights.

A car is the way to get around but rental rates are not cheap here. While the cost of the car rental isn’t bad it is all the extra local taxes and fees that jack up the final rental costs.

These doubled the cost of my rental. I went the hotwire.com route for this trip and saved about 50 percent off the total rental rate that was quoted on the rental car company website.

The area is laid out in a north-south/east-west street grid pattern which for me made it easy to motor around.

I took a GPS but found that in the metro area a street map and pre-trip route recon was the best maneuver as the GPS tended to have me wander through residential neighborhoods.

Once you get your bearings and the major streets identified you should feel comfortable to explore this destination.

Lodging options are abundant with offerings ranging from budget hotels to ultra upscale resorts. I’ve seen rooms at the inn that leaves the light on for you starting at $35.99 a night.

If you are planning on following your favorite team and traveling to many of the local ballparks I suggest a hub and spoke approach.

I’ve found that staying near the intersection of I-17 and I-10 is a great hub location. You will have easy access to the high speed roadways, hotels, restaurants and shopping.

Use your hotel as the hub and the spokes become your journey to the stadiums.

For this trip I found a 2 bedroom 2 full bath condominium for a great rate of $700 a week.

My unit featured a full kitchen, washer, dryer, swimming pool, tennis courts and other resort style amenities. Split between two couples or four people this place prices out at a bargain of $50 a night.

A full kitchen meant a trip to the grocery store. Food City a local chain offered the best prices and a great selection of ethnic foods.

Again shopper affinity card again mega savings at other local stores like Safeway, Albertsons and Fry’s. Take your Kroger card as it is honored at Fry’s. The local 99 cent stores offered an abundance of fresh veggies along with other staples and were worth the visit.

Currently the closest hotel option to the Reds/Indians Goodyear Stadium is the Comfort Inn Suites located in Estrella Parkway in Goodyear.

It is about a mile and a half to the stadium but walking is not really a good idea. Sidewalks are nonexistent and you’ll be hiking over broken terrain. I’d plan on driving to the stadium and paying a $5 parking fee.

Baseball ticket prices are all over the board. Lawn seats run $5 while box seats go for $30 to $40 a pop. A great value was the all you care to eat package at Goodyear. $30 dollars a person got you a general admission ticket and a hot dog, hamburger, chicken and pork BBQ buffet.

This year I bought a Cleveland Indians 4 game mini package that offered a small but appreciated discount off the face value of the tickets.

If you are fussy about seating locations and/or shade seats purchase your tickets early. Spring training schedules are generally available around Thanksgiving then the teams announce their own sale dates which normally start in January.

For golfers this is the Myrtle Beach of the West with hundreds of courses ranging from short par 3 executive clubs to PGA championship caliber ones. I played some nice courses and all with green and cart fees were under $50 a person.

Obtaining these rates was a challenge back east in central Florida. Tennis, hiking, biking and other recreational activities are also very abundant. For the inside gamer you can try your luck at the 7 greater Phoenix area Native American casinos.

Additionally there are plenty of day trips from here but that is a whole new article.

So if you’re looking for a cosmopolitan center where warm sunshine and cool cultures collide, Central Arizona is your playground.

Central Arizona is a haven of relaxing resorts and award-winning golf, restaurants, shopping and nightlife.

For more travel information on travel visit www.arizonaguide.com and www.visitphoenix.com or contact your local travel professional.

I hope to see you out here next spring at the new ball park or maybe this summer at Great American when the Tribe is in town.

Play ball and happy travels!