It starts with sunshine: Phoenix gets it 300 days a year. Such a consistent weather forecast has made this desert city enormously popular with snowbirds, college kids, and anyone looking to wear flip-flops year-round. Though the heat can bear down, people find a way to have fun and give the city colorful character. Saguaro cacti, adobe homes, and skyscrapers find equal space in the landscape. Phoenix is also one of only 12 US cities with at least four major sports teams: the Arizona Cardinals (NFL), the Phoenix Suns (NBA), the Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB), and the Phoenix Coyotes (NHL).
Morning in Phoenix
- Breakfast spot: Start your morning in the laid-back country atmosphere at The Farmhouse Restaurant in Gilbert, run by a mother-and-daughter team. Go before 11 a.m. or prepare for a line.
- Desert Botanical Garden: If you get up early enough, you can beat the heat to visit 140 acres of meticulously landscaped and cultivated native plants.
- Climb Camelback Mountain: Phoenix’s most famous mountain, this 2,704-foot climb leads to a summit with spectacular 360-degree views of the city (bring plenty of water).
Afternoon in Phoenix
- Phoenix Park ‘n Swap: The unassuming name belies this Phoenix institution—a beloved flea market with hundreds of vendors selling everything from pottery and turquoise jewelry to real longhorn skulls, art, housewares, and clothing. Open year-round on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
- Musical Instrument Museum: Headphones serve as your gateway to bizarre and beautiful sounds played by instruments from around the world: Appalachian dulcimers, mechanical zithers, and instruments played by Taylor Swift and John Lennon.
- Shopping in Scottsdale: When it’s hot outside, head indoors for some air conditioning and retail therapy. The upscale Biltmore Fashion Park is popular; it has an Apple Store, Ralph Lauren, and Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as unique independent boutiques.
Evening in Phoenix
- Talking Stick Resort Casino: Slot machines and blackjack, roulette, and poker tables are spread over 230,000 square feet at this mega-sized gaming center. The theater within hosts big-ticket music and comedy performances.
- Old Town Scottsdale: Lively bars, restaurants, lounges, and clubs fill this densely packed area. Look for the hidden entrance to Kazimierz Wine Bar to kick back with a chilled glass of white as the locals do.
- Downtown Phoenix: Central downtown’s Cityscape development has a stand-up comedy stage, an upscale bowling joint, and more than 20 restaurants; Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails is a favorite.
Where to Stay
- For the outdoorsy types: Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia is at the base of Camelback Mountain; from the pool, get views of the rocks and cliffs that surround the resort.
- Near shopping: The Gainey Suites Hotel, a newly renovated Scottsdale hotel with an expansive outdoor lounging area, close to high-end Scottsdale shopping.
- Downtown: Hotel Palomar Phoenix Cityscape has fun, funky decor and a rooftop pool; the hotel is steps from the lights and action in the Cityscape.