Downtown Phoenix will be a sea of orange this weekend, and not just from all the Clemson fans wearing their Tiger spirit on their sleeves.
The city's Downtown Ambassadors are clad in bright orange, and their purpose is to help visitors find restaurants, fun attractions, or just how to get to where they're going. Clemson fans going to Phoenix to see the Tigers take on Alabama’s Crimson Tide in the College Football Championship on Monday might want to take advantage of their compatriots in color.
That's just one bit of advice from Scott Dunn, senior director of marketing and communications for Visit Phoenix.
A three-time host city for the Super Bowl, Phoenix is accustomed to giant crowds of sports fans, and organizers estimate as many as 300,000 people taking part in the weekend-long roster of activities leading up to the game.
With all those fans, there’s sure to be a festive atmosphere, said Dunn, a Tennessee native and former resident of Columbia.
"As an SEC football fan who's from the South, I'm really excited about Clemson and Alabama and their fan bases being in Phoenix because those are two storied programs and have such great fan bases," he said.
Despite the crimson and orange tide of visitors swelling the city, fans will find that Phoenix is a clean and relatively safe city, Dunn said,
Here are a few more tips from Dunn on maximizing your trip to Phoenix:
•"The No. 1 thing you want to do is experience the Sonoran Desert because it really is different," Dunn said. For starters, it's the only place in the world to see the iconic saguaro cactus. There are many ways to explore the desert, from hikes to hot air balloon tours. "And those postcard sunsets you always see from Arizona, they're really a nightly occurrence." The desert experience extends to Phoenix’s many scenic golf courses.
•"Don't expect chips and salsa (or) cheesy enchiladas" at Mexican restaurants in Phoenix. The cuisine is not the typical fare you’d find in the South, but rather is authentic Sonoran-style Mexican food with items such as guacamole made at table-side. Head to 16th Street, a few minutes from downtown, to find several good options for Mexican food.
•The Musical Instrument Museum, an “immersive” experience featuring 15,000 instrument, arranged by continent, is on Dunn’s must-see list.
•Architecture buffs will want to check out Taliesin West, which was Frank Lloyd Wright's winter home and now serves as the home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.
•If you want to get away from the football fever, go to Roosevelt Row, a "cool, funky neighborhood” filled with art galleries, boutiques and coffeehouses.
•Getting around is relatively easy, Dunn said. The city is laid out on a grid, and most of the downtown streets will be open to traffic. The light-rail system is a good way to get from the hotels in most parts of Phoenix into downtown, and there’s a park-and-ride service. If you plan to rent a car, make arrangements as soon as possible because it’s likely that there will be no rentals left by the weekend, he said.
•There will be nightly fireworks shows, as well as live broadcasts by ESPN from the downtown Fan Campus. Playoff Fan Central will be at the Convention Center, and there will be pep rallies for each of the teams, featuring the teams’ own mascots and cheerleaders. The schedule has not been finalized, but should be announced soon, Dunn said.
•Visitors who plan to stay for a day or two after the game may want to take a day trip to the Grand Canyon, just a few hours' drive from Phoenix.
•And lastly, sweet tea might be hard to find; only a handful of restaurants, including McDonalds, offer that staple of Southern cuisine.
For more info, go to www.visitphoenix.com.