BEST PLACE TO PRETEND YOU'RE NOT IN THE DESERT 2006 | Ro Ho En � The Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix | Arts & Entertainment | Phoenix
A traditional Japanese garden that can survive the Land of the Blazing Sun? Believe it. Heck, they even managed to get moss to grow here, in a shady patch near the authentic tea house. Phoenix might have parched riverbeds, but inside this tranquil downtown oasis, there's a waterfall, a flowing stream, and a huge, koi-filled pond dotted with bright green lily pads. Granted, the water features are all manmade, yet they're also an utterly Japanese take on natural beauty, kind of like the precisely placed rocks (1,500 tons of 'em, all hand-picked by visiting experts from our sister city of Himeji, Japan) and sculptural, exquisitely pruned trees found throughout the garden. And it all suits Mother Nature just fine, from the looks of the ducks contentedly paddling across the water, and the dragonflies busily zipping past thickets of leafy bamboo. Seeing how Ro Ho En is right in the heart of the city (on the southern end of Margaret T. Hance Park), we're still shocked that this secret is so well-kept but not for long, we suspect.
Over the years, we've honored Desert Botanical Garden as the Best Place to Take an Out-of-Towner, but really, we think you should stop by, too. Check out the Web site, and visit the Marshall Pavilion, where butterflies roam twice a year; take a gardening class; or come for a festival (there's a great Day of the Dead one, at the end of October each year). Or simply come on a random weekday, when foot traffic is light and the garden is at its best in full sunlight, showing off colors you never knew existed in nature; not around here, at least.

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