Phoenix is an interesting mix of artsy hipness and retirement community. Everything is beige but there are plenty of street art to spice up the place. The new and oldness of Phoenix makes it a great place to visit no matter what your age is. Here is my personal itinerary for spending a quick weekend there with a friend or family member like I did.
When you get to Phoenix you will most likely need a car. If you are getting your rental from the airport you must take an airport shuttle like a mile away to where all of the car rental places are. It is just outside of baggage and people will help direct you if you have trouble finding the sign. There are a ton of different places to rent from. My favorite way to rent a car is through Costco Travel. You can get a really great rate and a second driver for free in the U.S.
I’m not sure how public transportation runs here, but depending on the time of the year I personally wouldn’t want to be waiting at bus stops. Everything is pretty spread out. Parts of downtown are walk-able, but some of the more interesting things are further out. Uber and Lyft are both great options if you are going out or just don’t feel like driving or parking.
Once you are all good to go with your vehicle situation it is time for breakfast! Head on over to Welcome Chicken and Doughnuts for some really amazing flavors! We did not try the chicken but honestly we probably should’ve! It looked delicious! We did end up getting two doughnuts each and my cousin got a PBR. Yeah this was after a long through hike so the guilt wasn’t really there. Not at all the healthiest option obviously, but local doughnut shops tend to have some of the most unique breakfast foods in a new place. This is kind of a tradition with me and my cousin now without even realizing it. If you are looking for something healthier there are plenty of other options in the next location.
After your hipster breakfast it’s time to head downtown to the Art District. Specifically head to Roosevelt for First Fridays (if you are there on a Friday like we were). Park your car on the street and walk. This is an opportunity to see all the cool art galleries open to the public. There are street vendors, food trucks, arts and crafts booths for the kids and kids at heart. I ended up buying a really cool cyanotype art print by a local artist. We went in quite a few interesting shops that sold everything from Japanese snacks and kawaii stuff to one that sold crystals and blessings. There was even a guy selling poems. It’s a very interesting way to blow a couple of hours.
Once you have your fill of art and artists I would suggest checking out a local brewery nearby and getting lunch if you haven’t already. This area has quite a few options. We checked out State 48 Brewery on W Van Buren St. It’s a pretty short walk away from Roosevelt so no need to move your car. State 48 has a great selection of beer on tap, and some good food as well. We were meeting friends, so it served as a nice place to hang out and catch up.
We then headed to Scottsdale for a more Western vibe and some shopping. It was funny when we would ask people leading up to the trip where we should go in Phoenix they all said Scottsdale. I think that’s a bit unfair but I do see why people would suggest going there. It is a lot cuter than Phoenix if that’s what you’re looking for. When you think of a Western town this is probably what they think of. There are even saloon doors on some of the bars. There are tons of shops, bars and restaurants here. You could wander around for hours.
Once it is getting close to sunset head on up to Scorpion Gulch at South Mountain Park. You will be rewarded by a beautiful sweeping views of the city and a gorgeous Southwestern sunset. There are some cool old buildings here to take pictures next to, Ponderosa Stables where you can ride horses, and some trails you can hike during the day. It was free for us to get in near sunset.
By now if you haven’t checked into your hotel or Airbnb it might be a good idea. We needed to change since the temperature dropped quite a bit once the sun went down. We stayed in South Phoenix near South Mountain. It was a gorgeous area filled with really nice homes our Airbnb was phenomenal! Probably the best one I’ve stayed in the United States. You can find a link to it here. If you have never used Airbnb and want to save some money on your first stay just use my referral link here.
Our next location was to the Desert Botanical Garden for the Electric Desert light show. This is an event where they illuminate the cacti and rocks in the garden for a spectacular experience. I was interested in seeing the botanical garden in the day too but I’m so glad I did it at night. The lights are paired with music and it makes all the plants look totally otherworldly. It’s a little trippy being there. Everyone seemed to love it though especially the kids! It’s about $30 for adults, and $13 to $16 for kids under 17 to get in. The Electric Desert is going from October 12, 2018 to May 12, 2019.
For dinner we ended up going to a really great restaurant and bar. It had a great outdoor seating area with fire pit tables that kept us warm. We were meeting another friend here and it was his favorite place in town. We spent quite a few hours here enjoying the awesome weather and great food! After dinner it was time for bed and an early start the next day.
Get up early for a beautiful hike in one of the parks around Phoenix. My suggestion would be Papago Park for the Double Butte Loop and Hole in the Rock Trail. It’s 2.3 miles. If you are looking for a real challenge try the Echo Canyon trail on Camelback Mountain. It’s a difficult 2.4 miles. Today you aren’t going to want doughnuts you’re going to want something healthy, so head to a grocery store for a protein shake, juice, or maybe some fresh fruit. Pick up some trail snacks while you’re there and make sure your water bottle is full. Hiking in the morning is great for getting you going, beating the heat mid-day, and getting the perfect light for pictures!
If you chose Papago Park you have the option of heading to the zoo directly. They are both in the same area and your workout gear is perfect for strolling around the zoo anyway. After your hike head back to your hotel or Airbnb to clean up and change for the rest of your day.
Head over to the Melrose Curve. It is a one mile stretch on seventh avenue between Indian School and Camelback Roads. A great place to go thrift and antique shopping this area is part of what makes Phoenix unique. You can find really cool stores offering one of a kind items. Those are the best right? Totally a great way to spend the rest of your morning.
Once lunch time rolls around go ahead and pick one of those adorable restaurants nearby! Want something super unique to the Southwest? My recommendation would be Fry Bread House. This place serves up sweet and savory Native American fry bread. We got a taste of it when hiking Havasupai Reservation and loved it! If you are still wanting to be healthy no worries there is a really popular Thai place called Thai Long-an nearby where you can get something light.
If you are an art lover and you didn’t get your fill yesterday head on over to the Phoenix Art Museum for Renaissance to contemporary displays. The cost is $18-$23 for adults. If you are interested in Native American art and culture the Heard Museum is your best bet. The cost is $18 for adults. Both museums are highly rated and would be a great way to spend your afternoon especially if it’s hot out.
If you are a beer lover go on a self guided brewery tour. There are a ton of great Breweries in Phoenix. If you pick a few that are grouped together you can easily walk or Uber to each one. I always get flights so I can taste the most of what each place has to offer. This is a great way to cool off in the hot afternoon after a long day.
For Dinner head to Gen Korean BBQ House for all you can eat Korean food. Be warned you will be stuffed by the time you leave! If you have never been to a Korean BBQ before you have to cook your own food at your table. The restaurant provides the meat and vegetables. It’s a fun way to spend your last evening in Phoenix, and it’s a fair price.
Head back to your room for your last night. In the morning check out, return your rental car, and fly home. There are plenty of other things to do in Phoenix but these are my personal recommendations. I hope you have a spectacular trip!