Phoenix, AZ: Not What You May Think
Coming from northern California, when I first moved to Phoenix in 1981, yes I’m that old, I found it very difficult to see the beauty in the dessert landscape, I mean I grew up visiting San Francisco and camping in Yosemite, visiting my brother in South Shore Lake Tahoe and camping in the Sierras. So, when someone mentioned hiking Camelback Mountain, I was like…where? “You mean that pile of dirt? Now, many years later I have found the beauty of this arid land and would love to share ways you too can enjoy it.
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Where to stay in Phoenix, AZ
Arizona Biltmore, A Waldorf Astoria Resort
Opened in 1929, this desert oasis is an enduring favorite for its 39 lush acres, seven pools, pampering spa and plum location less than 10 miles from downtown Phoenix.
$100 hotel / resort credit.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
Kimpton Hotel Palomar Phoenix
Kimpton Hotel Palomar Phoenix embodies contemporary sophistication, offering guests a stylish urban oasis with vibrant design, exceptional service and a prime downtown location.
$50 hotel / resort credit.
Upgrade & guaranteed late check-out.
Royal Palms Resort and Spa
This upgraded historic Spanish villa serves as the perfect enclave from the Arizona desert, boasting proximity to city comforts and sweeping views of nature.
$100 resort credit.
Breakfast daily for two guests per bedroom (up to $20 credit per person).
Upgrade & extended check-in/out based upon availability at check-in.
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Things to do in Phoenix, AZ
Phoenix has the rightful reputation for being “face of the sun” hot in the summer. What people often forget with that sentiment is that the truly uncomfortable heat only lasts from about mid-June through mid-September. That’s three months of fire and brimstone tucked into 9 months of paradise. I actually have a vegetable garden that grows from September through June. Keep that in mind before writing off AZ as too hot for vacation.
The Phoenix metro area may not be Manhattan or L.A. when it comes to things to do, but there are a few things that are truly wonderful. First, there are three very nice zoos. The Phoenix Zoo, Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium, and just north of the metropolitan area is Out of Africa Wildlife Park. Each of these is unique in the way they present the animals and all worth the time to visit, especially if you have young children. There is also a wonderful Aquarium in Scottsdale called OdySea. It’s new and everyone who goes truly enjoys it.
The next category of things to do in Phoenix includes museums. There are a number of museums but the two I want to highlight are The Heard Museum and the Musical Instrument Museum.
The Heard is an internationally acclaimed museum displaying a myriad of culture and art of the American Indians of the Southwest. This is a unique experience due to great number of Native American Tribes that are a part of the Southwest’s history.
The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) is, in my opinion, one of the coolest museums I have ever been to. The vast display of instruments from all over the world and from different times in history makes the MIM a must see when coming to Phoenix.
The third category, and the one that people are usually acquainted with is that Arizona is home to some of the most beautiful sports venues in the country.
Footprint Center is the home of the Phoenix Suns and is located in downtown Phoenix surrounded by wonderful restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Right next to Footprint is the red brick home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. This stadium is home to a retractible roof and 75 degree baseball games in the middle of the AZ summer.
Then, of course, the home of the Arizona Cardinals, State Farm Stadium. This stadium is fairly young yet has already hosted two Super bowls, NCAA sweet 16 and final four tournaments along with a continuous schedule of concerts and events. And who can forget that Phoenix is home to no less than 10 MLB Spring Training baseball venues.
In case I haven’t said enough, the resorts in the North Phoenix and Scottsdale area are world class. There are about a half-dozen casinos with resorts scattered throughout the valley. Golf courses are kind of like Starbucks here. There is one on every corner. There are endless, unique desert trails to hike and explore, and yes, that “pile of dirt” Camelback Mountain, is one of the coolest and most challenging to hike.
That is only Phoenix Metro. In other guides I will talk about Sedona, the White Mountains, Page, Arizona, Monument Valley, the many iconic Native American landmarks like Canyon de Chelly and Havasu Falls, Saguaro National Park, Tombstone, and, I feel like I’m forgetting something…Oh yea...one of the natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon. Wanna learn more? Reach out to me and I will help you put together a wonderful vacation in the Valley of the Sun.
There are a few directions to head for day trips from Phoenix. The most popular is Sedona, AZ. This is red rock heaven with many shops, restaurants and endless breathtaking hiking trails.
Another favorite of ours is Prescott, AZ. Prescott is a quaint town only about 90 minutes from Phoenix. It has a western style downtown with dozens of restaurants, antique shops and a lovely park.
Places to eat & drink in Phoenix, AZ
Fabio on Fire. Arguably the most authentic Italian food and pizza experience in the valley.
Ajo Als is a standard go-to for my wife and I for wonderful dine-in Mexican food.
Sala Thai is our favorite Thai restaurant near our home in the west valley.
Burgers and Brews is our favorite hamburger hangout.
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check out Jen Disler's Fora Guide, Family-Friendly Guide to Phoenix.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Arizona.