Suggested Itineraries for Visiting Phoenix
Phoenix is constantly changing, as snow birds continue to flock to this sunny valley. But one aspect of this city always remains the same: There are plenty of fun things to do in Phoenix, regardless of your interests. The following itineraries will provide focus to your plans, offering suggestions on what to do for stays that last one, two, or three days.
Special Events & Attractions in Phoenix
Special Events & Attractions in Phoenix
Most of Phoenix's special events and attractions involve the outdoors, so be sure to pack good walking shoes and plenty of sunscreen. These suggested itineraries will ensure that you don't miss the must-see attractions in Phoenix:
1 day: It's nearly impossible to get around Phoenix in one day. But, if that's all the time you have, start at Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park (4619 E Washington St), which gives you a good orientation to the area's geology and history.
From there it's a short jaunt by car to the Desert Botanical Garden (Papago Park, 1201 N Galvin Parkway). Make sure to stroll among the 1/4 mile long Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert trail, and take a break for lunch at the garden's outdoor patio cafe, where you can enjoy the bird watching as much as the food. Try the Strawberry Salad or the Roasted Tomato and Goat Cheese Sandwich, and don't forget to keep an eye out for the Road Runners waiting to catch a treat.
From here visit the Phoenix Zoo (Papago Park, 455 N Galvin Parkway), where meerkats, Arabian oryx, and spectacled bears are among the more exotic sights. If you have time or energy left, visit nearby Papago Park and climb up the trail to Hole-in-the-Rock, which affords commanding views of the Phoenix skyline, especially at sunset.
2 days: Start your day at the Arizona State University Visitor Information Center (826 E Apache Blvd at Rural Rd) in Tempe and pick up maps for a self-guided walking tour through the campus. There's lots of art, sculpture, and great architecture to see.
Take a stroll down bustling Mill Avenue and visit the bookstores and funky shops. Along the way, duck into one of the many beer joints and try a local microbrew. Monti's La Casa Vieja (12025 N 19th Ave) is an old adobe hacienda and is a satisfying stop to enjoy a good steak.
Staying out late? Check out the comedy routines at Tempe Improv (930 E University Dr). Rise and shine early the next day and head for Tempe Town Lake (80 W Rio Salado Parkway) to enjoy a day of boating, fishing, and concerts. End the day with a sunset cruise on the lake that includes food, drinks, and music.
3 days: For a three-day excursion that you'll always remember, head east to the Superstition Mountains and the Apache Trail. Portions of AZ 88 follow the original route carved out of rock in 1906 to move supplies to build Roosevelt Dam, which lies at the end of the drive. President Theodore Roosevelt called this 150-mile drive "the most awe-inspiring and most sublimely beautiful panorama nature ever created."
From the town of Apache Junction, take AZ 88 until you reach Tortilla Flats, a small town that was once a stagecoach stop. This is a fun, touristy place and a good resting and lunch spot for a burger and an ice cream cone before you hit the narrow dirt road, switchbacks, and drop-offs that take you into Fish Creek Canyon.
After "white-knuckling" 89 miles or so, you'll end up in Globe, Arizona, which is a mining town known for North America's richest copper deposits. There are some nice spots to spend the night here, including Noftsger Hill Inn (425 North St), a 1907 schoolhouse turned into a bed and breakfast.
The next day tour historic Globe, especially the Gila County Historical Museum and the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts. On the Southeastern side of town visit Besh-Ba-Gowah Archaeological Park, which will transfer you back 800 years to the days of the Salado, who occupied this site during the 13th and 14th centuries.
Arts & Culture in Phoenix
Arts & Culture in Phoenix
The highlight of Phoenix's arts and culture is perhaps the excellent collection of Native American art at the Heard Museum. That's just the beginning, however. Check out many more highlights by following the itineraries below.
1 day: Begin the day at the Heard Museum (2301 N Central Ave). One could easily spend an entire day here viewing the staggering collection of Native American art. Don't miss the gift shop if you're interested in taking home some authentic, high-quality treasures.
Wander down the street to the Phoenix Art Museum (1625 N Central Ave) for a peek at the work of art legends Georgia O'Keefe and Fredrick Remington. That evening, take in a performance at the Herberger Theatre (222 E Monroe St) or Orpheum Theatre (203 W Adams St). Check ahead for schedules.
2 days: Wear some good walking shoes and spend two glorious days in historic Old Town Scottsdale. Wander through Scottsdale Mall (2nd St and Wells Fargo Ave). Festivals, art shows, and music venues are often happening at the mall.
Across the mall is the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (7374 E 2nd St), where free tours are conducted on Thursdays. The five galleries here and the spacious outdoor sculpture garden emphasize contemporary art and design.
For lunch or dinner, dine al fresco at stunning AZ 88 (7353 E Scottsdale Mall), which serves the best hamburgers in town and a wonderful shrimp ceviche.
That night, listen to live jazz at J. Chews (7320 Scottsdale Civic Center Mall) or take in a performance at Scottsdale Center for the Arts (7380 E 2nd S). The next day, visit the galleries on Marshall Way and Main Street. Take advantage of the free trolley that runs through the area.
Stop in at the Sugar Bowl Ice Cream Parlor (4005 N Scottsdale Rd) for a malt or sundae. Valley resident Bil Keane, creator of the comic strip "Family Circus," has many of his cartoons on display here.
3 days: Though they're located at the end of The Valley, it's worth a trip to take in some truly western culture. Up north at Cave Creek, you'll find lots of fun things, places, and shops.
There are some wonderful, wacky shops that offer some fun decorative items like chili ristras (chili peppers tied in a string for hanging on a door or wall), barbed wire art, rustic furniture, and Mexican pottery, to old spurs, boots, and other duds to make you feel more comfy. Cave Creek also has many private art studios and galleries.
If you're here at the end of the day, stick around for some western music and grub at either Harold's Corral (6895 E Cave Creek Rd) or the Buffalo Chip Saloon, located at both ends of a dirt parking lot in Cave Creek.
Architecture & Landmarks in Phoenix
Architecture & Landmarks in Phoenix
Whether you have one day or several days to explore Phoenix and its surrounding areas, the following itineraries will help you see the best of its architecture and landmarks.
1 day: Heritage Square and Park is the natural place to begin your historic quest of Phoenix. Several residences from the late 1800s have been renovated for touring. Head north on Central Avenue and take some short side diversions along the way to take a look at some of the more interesting communities landscaped with lovely citrus trees and tall palms.
As you reach Lincoln Avenue, head east and into Paradise Valley in the Shadow of Camelback Mountain. Continue to the east and you'll soon find yourself in Scottsdale with its manicured roadways, greenways, and gardens. Many of the communities bear the names of the original ranches that were ultimately sold for the development that exists today. There's virtually no litter, nor is there any graffiti to be found in these ultra clean communities.
If you head north on Scottsdale Road, you'll pass some high-end gated communities and a few stretches of undeveloped desert land. Take a close look, because it won't be there too much longer. Sadly, not much land is set aside for future open space. If you're returning downtown, Route 101 eastbound is a beltway that will take you to the Piestewa Parkway south (AZ 51).
2 days: A wonderful second day trip will take you up to the small former mining town of Wickenburg. Route 17 north intersects with the Carefree Highway westbound (Route 74) past Lake Pleasant. That road intersects with Route 60 into Wickenburg. This is 56 miles one way -- about a two-hour round-trip drive from Phoenix.
This community on the Hassayampa River is a great place for a short stroll before visiting the Desert Caballeros Western Museum (21 N Frontier St). This is truly a first-class museum, just a little over an hour from Phoenix. The vast mountainous desert landscapes along the way offer lots of roadside photo ops.
If time permits, head west out of Wickenburg to the old Vulture Mine. Though the mine closed more than 50 years ago, you can take a self-guided tour through safe but faltering buildings of this once rich gold mine.
3 days: It would be hard to leave The Valley of the Sun without touring Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West (12621 Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd, North Scottsdale). In reverently quiet tones, the docents speak of Mr. Wright as if he were in the next room wishing not to be disturbed but delighting in the nice things being said about him. Interior tours include living quarters, a drafting studio, two theaters, a music pavilion, and small apartments. The gift shop abounds with Wright-inspired gifts and keepsakes.
If you head east to Scottsdale Road and turn north to Carefree Highway, you'll enjoy a shopping and/or dining visit to El Pedregal Festival Marketplace (34505 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale), a unique two-level shopping area with an outdoor courtyard stage designed for occasional nighttime performances. Huge boulders piled high by nature surround the facility. Behind the shopping center is the world famous Mobil Four-Star Boulders Resort and its Three-Star Golden Door Spa.
Shopping in Phoenix
If hiking or horseback riding isn't your bag, you can still enjoy the outdoors in Phoenix while shopping till you drop. Here are some of the can't-miss shops, both indoors and out:
1 day: Start your day at the Arizona Center (455 N 3rd St) in downtown Phoenix: Browse the shops, talk to the open-air vendors, and have lunch al fresco at one of the fine restaurants while enjoying the lush plantings and fun people-watching at this inner-city location.
Drive west 30 minutes to Glendale and the antique district at Glendale Old Towne & Catlin Court (59th and Glendale). Here, charming, colorful bungalows listed on the National Register of Historic Places have been turned into one-of-a-kind specialty and antique shops.
Stop for tea at Aunt Pittypat's Kitchen (7123 N 58th Ave), which is housed in an 1895 Victorian home. Tour Cerreta's Candy Factory (5345 W Glendale Ave, Glendale) and make a stop at the Bead Museum (5754 W Glenn Dr).
2 days: Mosey on down to Old Town Scottsdale and make use of the Trolley to carry you around town. Be on the lookout for high-end resale shops, which abound in this area. You may just find a Dior for a pittance of the original cost.
When you're tired of the outdoors, wander over to Scottsdale Fashion Square (7014 E Camelback Rd). There are loads of good restaurants here, too, and you might want to take in a movie at the Cineplex.
The next day take Scottsdale Road north and stop at the Borgata of Scottsdale (6166 N Scottsdale Rd). Across the street is Hilton Village (6137 N Scottsdale Rd), another upscale shopping area. There are many resorts in this area, and they are another source of shopping. Most have at least two good shops offering a wonderful array of swimsuits and golf attire and those hard-to-find gifts.
If you're still in a shopping mood, travel a bit further north on Scottsdale Road to Kierland Commons (15044 N Scottsdale Rd), where a world of shopping choices abound on every corner.
3 days: Head about 30 miles north of Phoenix to Carefree and Cave Creek, two towns that rest in the Sonoran Desert. Cave Creek is still trying to maintain its small-town persona, but new subdivisions and businesses are over-running the desert at a rapid pace. There's lots of shopping here, including Frontier Town and, a few miles down the road, El Pedregal Festival Marketplace is located in the more upscale town of Carefree. Take a tour of the famous Boulder's Spa and Resort. During the off-season (May-August) you can stay here for almost half the normal cost.
ightlife & Entertainment in Phoenix
ightlife & Entertainment in Phoenix
From trendy nightclubs to western bars, Phoenix has a variety of nightlife venues to suit all tastes. Here are some highlights:
1 day: Enjoy the jumping nightlife in downtown Phoenix at Stoudemire's (3 S 2nd St) and Alice Cooper's Town (101 E Jackson St), then wander over to the Hyatt Regency (112 N 2nd St) for a nightcap and view of the city lights at the revolving Compass Bar atop the hotel.
Or, you might choose to head to Tempe and stroll down lively Mill Avenue. Four Peaks Brewing Company (1340 E 8th St) has a dozen different brews on tap and serves the typical pub grub. One of the best comedy spots in the Valley is Tempe Improv (930 E University Dr) where better-known comics appear.
2 days: Swank and sexy...sleek and chic: this describes the club scene in downtown Scottsdale. There are lots of clubs within walking distance of one another. Most have dance floors with live entertainment or DJs. The best places to be seen are Martini Ranch, Drift, Axis-Radius, and the Myst & Ballroom. You'll definitely need more than one night to hit all the clubs in this area. You can also take in some stand-up talent at the Comedy Spot (7117 E 3rd Ave).
3 days: Put on your boots and jeans and head up to North Scottsdale and Cave Creek for some real western fun. Start out at Greasewood Flats (27500 N Alma School Pkwy). Everything here is outdoors, and the place is downright dilapidated. The burgers are delicious, and there's live entertainment and a dance floor. In winter months, fires burn in halved oil drums to keep diners warm.
From Greasewood, head west a few miles to Cave Creek and do some two-stepping to live music at the Buffalo Chip Saloon (6811 E Cave Creek Rd). Directly across the parking lot is Harold's Cave Creek Corral (6895 E Cave Creek Rd) for more live music, dancing, and billiards.
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing & Unwinding in Phoenix
Phoenix golf courses -- those are three words that go hand in hand. But there are many other ways to unwind, too. Check out the following itineraries to come up with a game plan:
1 day: Chances are, if you came to The Valley for relaxation and recreation, you came to golf. So, go for it! With so many courses to choose from and so few days to play them, check with your concierge, a good golfing friend, the free Official Phoenix Golf Guide (877-225-5749), or the American Golf Corporation (480-962-GOLF). They'll set you up and confirm tee times up to 60 days in advance.
One prime course to check out is the Camelback Golf Course (7847 N Mockingbird Lane), which is a 36-hole championship course with a 36,000-square-foot pueblo-style clubhouse. There are many beautiful and challenging courses here, so get an early start and play two full rounds, one on each of two different courses.
2 days: This may be the day to get out western style. It's a great day for the kids, too. Start your day by heading east on US 60 to Apache Junction (300 E Superstition Blvd, and visit Goldfields Ghost Town; admission is free. It's the site of a very rich gold strike in the late 1800s, and lots of mining memorabilia is still here. Most of the town has been reconstructed, and many of the old buildings contain shops and snackeries. There's a saloon and restaurant, as well as train rides, shootouts on the street, mining tours, and plenty of photo ops. The owners are currently in the process of pumping out the original mines, which flooded more than a century ago.
From here, find your way to Ron Feldman's OK Corral (2665 E Whiteley St, Apache Junction). Ron and his family will take you out on horseback for an hour, a day, or even an overnight or two into the mysterious Superstitions. Reservations are required for daylong or overnight pack tours.
3 days: By this time your poor body is bound to need some TLC, so head for a rejuvenating day spa today. There are numerous day spas scattered throughout The Valley, and the resorts here are virtually world renowned for their "pampering places."
Where to start? That's a matter of choice. But, among the options are Native American-inspired healings, with herbal-aromatic extracts designed to relax and help you release negative energy, or a Blue Coyote Wrap, which is a Shegoi aroma facial. You can have a private session among the boulders or receive a mud bath or a cedar-sage-oil full-body massage. There are dozens of choices, but each and every one is designed to relax and make you want to come back for more.
Come for the sun, stay for the fun. Phoenix has dozens of unique attractions for visitors, from incredible art museums to a plethora of first-class golf courses. Even better, the huge number of resorts will provide the utmost in pampering, so a long day of sightseeing won't seem so tiring after a full-body massage or therapeutic wrap. Book your trip to Phoenix today, and prepare yourself for a valley's worth of a good time.
©Publications International, Ltd.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Gloria, have written numerous guidebooks and western-themed publications.