- Sprawling, rapidly growing desert city
- The largest state capital in population
- Culture strongly influenced by its huge Latino(a) population
Metro Population: 4.6 million (#12 in the U.S.)
When To Visit: Year-round
Climate: Warm and sunny year-round with slightly cooler temperatures in the winter
This huge, spread-out desert city is distinguished by its architectural earth tones and huge variety of beautiful cacti. Enjoy excellent Mexican cuisine and explore the area’s numerous parks and fun neighborhoods.
Photo: South Mountain Park
Where To Go in Phoenix
- State Capitol: This distinctly styled capitol building is one of the few that no longer hosts the state’s legislative offices – it is now the free Arizona Capitol Museum, which has excellent exhibits on the state’s history. Don’t miss the Wesley Bollin Memorial Plaza, a beautiful garden next door. Free. 1700 West Washington Street. (602) 926-3620
- Heritage Square: This corner of Downtown dates back to the 1800s and has several restored Victorian-style homes. Free. 113 North 6th Street. (602) 261-8063
- 16th Street Murals: Calle 16 has the densest collection of murals in the city – this area features predominantly Latino(a) artists who pay homage to their culture and the city of Phoenix. Free. 16th Street & Thomas Road.
- Architecture Row: Take a stroll down this block that has several unique buildings that were designed by top architects in the 1950s. Free. Central Avenue & Camelback Road.
- Desert Botanical Garden: A large garden with miles of trails and hundreds of beautiful cacti and other succulents. $25 admission. 1201 N. Galvin Parkway. (480) 941-1225
- Tovrea Castle: This striking cake-shaped building is worth driving by for a look-see; unfortunately, you can only enter as part of tours, which usually sell out months in advance. 5025 East Van Buren Street. (602) 256-3221
- South Mountain Park: When you step into this desert park, you’ll find it hard to believe that you’re still within city limits; it feels like a remote and very tranquil area. Choose from several trails to climb and get good views of the city – I recommend the strenuous 5 mile loop Holbert Trail. On the way, stop and explore Scorpions Gulch, a long-abandoned trading post that was built in 1936. Free. 10919 S. Central Avenue. (602) 262-6862
- Piestewa Peak Park: Take a strenuous 2 mile round trip hike to the top of this peak for excellent views of the Phoenix skyline. Free. 2701 E. Squaw Peak Drive. (602) 261-8318
- Taliesin West: This stunning Frank Lloyd Wright house blends beautifully into the desert landscape. Tours start at $19 and require reservations. 12621 North Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard. (480) 627-5340
Phoenix Cheap Eats
Phoenix restaurants and fast casual eateries popular with locals where you can get a full meal for under $15. I always highlight some vegan or vegetarian options – cutting down on the amount of meat you eat is by far the #1 way you can reduce your environmental impact and contribute less to animal cruelty.
Los Dos Molinos: You’ll find wonderful spicy New Mexico-style Mexican food at this colorful and homey restaurant – be sure to try one of their chimichangas. 8646 South Central Avenue, South Mountain. (602) 243-9113
NCounter: This breakfast and lunch spot has hearty food for very low prices (many entrees are under $10). 310 South Mill Avenue, Tempe. (480) 968-9288
Barrio Cafe: Located on the same block as the beautiful 16th Street murals, don’t miss out on the amazing mole at this casual and artsy eatery. 2814 North 16th Street, Encanto Village. (602) 636-0240
Cornish Pastry Company: Choose from a variety of amazing savory English-style pastries at this casual eatery. 960 West University Drive, Tempe. (480) 894-6261
Mary Coyle: A 50s style ice cream shop with unique flavors like penuche nut and maple walnut. 5823 North 7th Street, Alhambra. (602) 626-5996
Phoenix bars, lounges, and clubs that are popular with locals and meet one or more of these criteria: A) Unique, unlike anyplace you’ll find in another city B) Fun and lively, sure to be a good time C) Beautiful decor or view
Compass Arizona Grill: The only revolving restaurant in Arizona, this swanky spot on the rooftop of the Hyatt has the best views of the Downtown skyline but predictably high prices – so just go for a drink in their lounge instead. 122 North 2nd Street, Downtown. (602) 440-3166
Swizzle Inn: You’ll love this colorful dive bar with plenty of games, $2 mystery shots, and a great happy hour menu. 5835 North 16th Street, Camelback East. (602) 277-7775
Kobalt: A bright and fun dive gay bar with karaoke, drag shows, and daily drink specials. 3110 N Central Avenue, Suite 125, Encanto Village. (602) 264-5307
The Lost Leaf: A dive bar with a friendly vibe, frequent live music, and beautiful artwork and decor. 914 North 5th Street, Downtown. (602) 258-0014
Nearby Side Trip from Phoenix
Sedona: This stunning town 2 hours to the north sits amidst a series of beautiful red rock formations and is one of the best stargazing cities in the country.