The last time that University of Phoenix Stadium hosted the Super Bowl, the New York Giants stunned the previously undefeated New England Patriots in an epic finish, featuring the infamous Helmet Catch and a game-winning touchdown pass from quarterback Eli Manning to receiver Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds remaining for a 17-14 victory in 2008. There's no telling whether Super Bowl XLIX between the Patriots and Seahawks on Sunday will match that performance, but there are plenty of reasons Arizona has earned a place in the NFL Super Bowl rotation. Here are 10. (Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images)
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Duh, the weather
While the Northeast braces for a monster blizzard, the high-temperature forecast in Arizona ranges from the high-60s to mid-70s during the week leading up to the Super Bowl. The gameday forecast calls for a temperature of 73 degrees. It was 49 degrees last year in East Rutherford, N.J., for an outdoor game, 52 degrees in Indianapolis three seasons ago and a balmy 52 degrees in Dallas the year before -- "balmy" considering the horrid weather preceding that game. Isn't it obvious? The Super Bowl belongs in warm-weather climates. (Photo: Visit Phoenix)
It's also the name of a great Los Lobos instrumental you can listen to while gazing at the big, almost perpetually blue skies and the best sunrises and sunsets in the nation.
The list of world-class and world-ranked resorts in the Valley is endless. The Boulders, Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain, Royal Palms, The Phoenician, FireSky, Four Seasons and the JW Marriott on Camelback are some of the most renowned, but there are scores of other remarkable places and spaces that make for a memorable trip. (Photo: Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau)
There are dozens of destinations within a two-hour drive of Phoenix. Head north to see the stunning red-rock formations of Sedona, then wind your way up through Oak Creek Canyon to Flagstaff for good breweries or skiing at Arizona SnowBowl. Head south toward Tucson and take in the Sonoran Desert Museum and some memorable Mexican cuisine, or cross the Mexican border into Nogales to shop. Take a buzz up the Beeline Highway for one of the most beautiful drives in the state. Then there's the big hole up north. It's called the Grand Canyon, and it's one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Arizona is the only U.S. state that has one. (Photo: Grand Canyon Railway)
You might have heard by now that Tiger Woods will be here this week to compete in the Waste Management Phoenix Open (yeah, we're not fond of the name either) at the TPC Scottsdale. The quality of the field is stellar, the crowds are the biggest and zaniest in the world -- particularly at the famed 16th hole -- and the people-watching is extraordinairy. Where else can you see stiletto heels on a golf course?
Even more golf
If you'd rather play than watch, you can take your pick from Troon North, We-Ko-Pa, Southern Dunes, The Boulders, Grayhawk, Gold Canyon, Talking Stick and a host of other picturesque courses to match any budget. (Photo: Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau)
It's called the Valley of the Sun for a reason. If you look around, you'll notice that this vast city is ringed by mountains, and that means great desert hiking. Those aforementioned road trips afford the same views, but if you're looking to stay local, you can't go wrong in the Superstition Mountains, South Mountain, McDowell Mountains or the well-trafficked Echo Canyon trail on Camelback Mountain. (Photo: Visit Phoenix)
We won't even try to list the varied and incredible options available in the Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Chandler corridor. There are three culinary schools in Scottsdale alone and a lot of worthwhile experimentation occurring at eateries around the Valley. We're big fans of azcentral.com food critic Howard Seftel. Here is his list of the top 10 new eateries in the Valley. (Photo: Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau)
Scottsdale Fanfest kicked off Monday and is home to ESPN live broadcasts all week. It's well located (just north of Old Town), given Scottsdale's myriad dining and drinking options. CityScape downtown offers an ice skating rink, live music, food and drinks, and, of course, there are always options on Mill Avenue at the edge of Arizona State University's campus.
We'll grant that this is not Cowboys Stadium with commissioned art on the concourses and a video screen so large it makes watching the game on the field pointless, but University of Phoenix Stadium is an architectural wonder. That's no coincidence since Arizona Cardinals team president Michael Bidwill is an architecture buff who took great pride in this building. The Great Lawn just outside the stadium is a popular gathering place, the concourses are wide, the food and drink options are plentiful, and this stadium can really rock when the crowd gets going, making it one of the loudest venues in the NFL. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)