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Travel Guide to Phoenix, Arizona

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travel guide to phoenix az

Phoenix isn’t like other cities, and that’s exactly what makes it such a great place to visit. You’ll find the bustling city and the quiet of the desert live in harmony. In our travel guide to Phoenix, Arizona, you’ll find everything from dude ranches and desert hikes to boutique art districts and hands-on museums for the kids. This place truly has something for everyone — whether you’re traveling alone, with a significant other or with your entire family.

Getting to and Around Phoenix

Once you get to Phoenix, through the combination of public transportation, bike share programs and ride-hailing services — like Uber and Lyft — it’s easy to explore without needing to have a car. Of course, there are car rentals available to those who prefer a traditional road trip. Other transportation options you might need to consider include:

Airports

If you’re going to be traveling far to come to Phoenix, you’ll want to look up flights to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, which happens to be America’s Friendliest Airport. There are 17 airlines that fly in and out of Sky Harbor, which keeps rates competitively priced. Its location is also a perk, as it’s located less than 10 minutes from downtown Phoenix and within 20 miles of almost all nearby towns and cities. Free transportation to and from this airport is available through the PHX Sky Train®, an automated train that arrives and departs every 3 to 5 minutes and operates 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

If you aren’t traveling as far to Phoenix but still want to fly, the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, a regional airport, is another option. It’s located about 45 minutes from downtown Phoenix but does have convenient access to the Loop 202 Santan and US-60 freeways, connecting you to the metro area.

Grid Bike Share

Once you’re in Phoenix, they have a great system called Grid Bike Share, which allows tourists and residents to bike from point A to point B. Visit their website or download the app to easily find a bike nearby to pick up. You can get a bike for only $10 per week — if you’re traveling with family and friends, you may even qualify for a group discount.

Light Rail

The Phoenix Valley Metro Light Rail is an excellent option for visitors navigating Phoenix and the surrounding area. This rail system operates on the roadways and is powered by electricity through its overhead wires.

This 26-mile line connects Phoenix to both Tempe and Mesa, two nearby communities. It also stops at several attractions — there are 35 total station stops along the route. In addition to having an extensive network, the light rail runs between 18 and 22 hours per day, seven days per week, with trains arriving and departiang every 12 to 20 minutes. An all-day pass is only $4!

The Valley Metro, a public bus system, is also available to visitors.

Car Rental

If you prefer to avoid public transportation, rent a car to navigate the city and surrounding area with just your group — you’ll find all the major car rental companies at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Plus, many of them also have locations in Phoenix and the surrounding areas.

airport

Places to Stay

Sure, Phoenix has the usual hotels, resorts and camping grounds for visitors to stay in, but they also have more unique options for those with a sense of adventure. Here’s what you can expect to have as options of places to stay:

Hotels

You’ll find a variety of hotels and resorts in Phoenix — from five-star resorts with every bell and whistle you can imagine to budget-friendly motels and everything in between. There are recognized national chains and independent boutiques. Nearby resorts and hotels include these and more:

  • Hilton
  • Holiday Inn
  • Hyatt
  • Crowne Plaza
  • Howard Johnson Inn
  • Aloft Phoenix Airport Hotel
  • FOUND:RE
  • Kimpton Hotel

Camping

When you imagine Arizona’s beautiful desert landscape, it’s no surprise sleeping under the stars is a popular option for visitors to Phoenix, Arizona. There are many campgrounds around Phoenix, but here are just a few:

  • Eagle View RV Resort at Fort McDowell
  • The MotorCoach Resort
  • Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort
  • Trailer Village RV Park
  • Desert’s Edge RV — The Purple Park

Dude Ranches

If you’re the type of person who enjoys traveling like a local, chances are one of the dude ranches will be perfect for your trip to Phoenix, Arizona. For those who may not know, a dude ranch is a name given to old cattle ranches that were converted to bed and breakfasts, resorts or hotels for visitors. Here are some of the ranches you can choose from:

  • Flying E Dude Ranch
  • Bespoke Inn
  • Maricopa Manor
  • Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch Resort
  • Rancho de los Caballeros
  • Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch
  • Tanque Verde Ranch

camping

Entertainment

Between Talking Stick Resort Arena and several casinos, there’s no shortage of entertainment in the city of Phoenix. While the shows vary from week to week, here are a few things sure to entertain you during your stay:

  • A Game, Show or Concert: Talking Stick Resort Arena in downtown Phoenix is a busy hub. Whether you catch a game, a show or a concert, there are very few weeks throughout the year that this space doesn’t have something going on.
  • Card Games and Casino Shows: All of Phoenix’s casinos are open 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Many of them offer a few dining options, including all-you-can-eat buffets, fine dining and casual options. Chances are, you’ll find shows by live musicians, comedians and tribute bands on the calendar throughout the week.

Outdoor Adventures

Phoenix has more land designated for parks and preserves than any other major city in the United States. It’s a place where you can find city buzz and the quiet of the desert all within minutes of each other. If you choose to take an outdoor adventure during one of the hot-weather months, remember to pack plenty of water. Some outdoor landmarks to check out in Phoenix include:

  • Desert Botanical Garden: Wander through 50 acres of desert at the Desert Botanical Garden, where you’ll see a variety of plants. Visit during the winter months, and you’ll also be able to see more than 8000 hand-lit luminaria bags among the plants for the celebration of Las Noches de Las Luminarias.
  • Camelback Mountain: Climb to the “hump” of Camelback Mountain, where you’ll get a priceless panoramic view of the city and the Phoenix Mountains Preserve. The top reaches 1200 feet in elevation, and you’ll have to trek two tricky trails — but it’s worth it. We’re sure you’ll see where it gets its name when you get to the top.
  • South Mountain Park and Preserve: Hike the trails at South Mountain Park and Preserve to get a beautiful skyline view of the city. This park has 50 miles of trails and includes 16,000 acres of the Sonoran Desert, just minutes from Phoenix. On your hike, in addition to admiring desert flora, you also just might find ancient petroglyphs carved into the rocks.
  • Salt River: Paddle or kayak the Salt River and you’re sure to get up close with a variety of wildlife creatures. This outdoor adventure takes you just about 30 miles from downtown Phoenix, and the guided tours are usually for half a day. Hint: Your best chances of seeing wild horses are in the late spring and summer.
  • The Grand Canyon: Take a day trip to the Grand Canyon. Getting there is a trip — as it takes just over three hours to make it to the Grand Canyon from Phoenix, but it’s a landmark with views you’ll never forget. If you have the time, it’s a day trip you won’t regret.

Kid-Friendly Family Activities

If you’re traveling with the family, our visitors guide to Phoenix, Arizona, includes several options that will entertain the entire family. From hands-on exhibits to exploring the Wild West, there is something in Phoenix for kids of all ages to enjoy. Options include visiting:

  • The Musical Instrument Museum: See, hear and play instruments from around the world through the one-of-a-kind collection at the Musical Instrument Museum. MIMkids programs are offered every week, so you and the kids can sing, dance and play. Mom and dad will enjoy seeing instruments from artists like John Lennon, Elvis Presley and even Taylor Swift.
  • The Phoenix Zoo: Go on a safari and meet more than 1400 animals at the Phoenix Zoo. Among the favorites are the Sumatran Tiger and the giraffes. The zoo also has several rotating exhibits, so you’re sure to see something unique when you visit.
  • The Children’s Museum of Phoenix: With more than 300 play experiences, the Children’s Museum of Phoenix encourages kids to touch absolutely everything, from the art studio to the noodle forest. Visit on the first Friday of the month from 5 to 9 p.m., and you’ll get in for free.
  • The Arizona Science Center: Discover more than 300 hands-on exhibits at the Arizona Science Center. In addition to exploring these kid-friendly exhibits, you’ll also find the Dorrance Planetarium and a five-story IMAX Theater, so there is truly something for kids young and old.
  • Rawhide Western Town and Steakhouse: Experience the Wild West at Rawhide Western Town and Steakhouse. This place combines a petting zoo, stagecoach tour, panning for gold and the opportunity to ride a mechanical bull. You can also watch as Wild West stuntmen duel it out. If you get hungry, the steakhouse features a menu that celebrates the West.
  • Water Parks: Make a splash at one of the water parks. Each offers water park fun for all ages — Wet ‘N’ Wild has a great mix of water slides and coasters for the older kids, and smaller areas exclusively for younger kids to play. Get there early — in the desert, water parks are popular.

Sporting Events

You may not think a tourist guide to Phoenix would include a robust sports section, but the truth is, there several options for avid sports fans to cheer on teams in the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA and WNBA. In addition to those professional teams, there’s also college football, NASCAR and the PGA Tour.

If you want to catch a game, tournament or other sports-related event in Phoenix, here are your options:

  • Arizona Cardinals: Cheer on the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium, about 20 minutes from downtown.
  • Arizona Diamondbacks: Catch an Arizona Diamondbacks game at Chase Field.
  • College Football: Root for your favorite college football team in the Fiesta Bowl or the Cactus Bowl.
  • The Cactus League: See the MLB’s Cactus League in spring training — that’s half of the teams in the MLB, training in a tight radius. The farthest you’ll have to drive to see them all is 47 miles.
  • The Waste Management Phoenix Open: Get a glimpse of the PGA Tour at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, known as “The Greatest Show on Grass.” It’s held at TPC Scottsdale, named “one of America’s best courses” by Golfweek Magazine. If you aren’t traveling in February, you could play the course yourself. If you enjoy playing golf but are looking for something more budget-friendly, there are several golf courses in the area that give you the opportunity to play in the desert.
  • Phoenix Suns or Phoenix Mercury: Watch the Phoenix Suns or Phoenix Mercury play in the Talking Stick Resort Arena.
  • Arizona Rattlers: Don’t miss the Arizona Rattlers, former Indoor Football League National Champions.
  • NASCAR: Make the trip to the Phoenix International Raceway to root for your favorite NASCAR driver.

parks

Arts and Culture

If you’re an art enthusiast, there’s a section of this visitors’ guide to Phoenix, Arizona, just for you. In the midst of the desert, this city has a few hubs for artists and many opportunities to learn more about the history of Phoenix and the greater Southwest region through art. We’re sure you’ll love the Southwestern flair you discover in the pieces of art around this city.

Activities for people interested in the arts and culture of Phoenix include visiting:

  • Roosevelt Row: Visit Roosevelt Row for First Friday, or any day of the week. Roosevelt Row is Phoenix’s art district — you’ll find galleries, vibrant murals and a monthly art walk.
  • The Phoenix Art Museum: Admire the Southwest’s largest fine art museum, the Phoenix Art Museum. Here you’ll find contemporary work and global masterpieces in the form of fine art and objects from Asia, America, Europe and beyond. If you visit on Wednesdays from 3-9 p.m., you can choose what you pay to get in, as it’s voluntary donation time. Take the family on the second Sunday of the month, and you’ll all get in for free in honor of Free Family Sundays.
  • Old Town Scottsdale: Discover art and jewelry with a Southwestern flair at Old Town Scottsdale, less than 15 miles from downtown Phoenix. On Thursday evenings, you can join the ArtWalk for a self-guided art tour. You’ll even get a free trolley or horse-drawn carriage transportation to navigate this arts district.
  • Taliesin West: Tour Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home, which is a work of art in itself. Inspired by the desert, you’ll get a chance to see Wright’s organic architecture in the rooms, gardens, walkways and entertainment pavilion on the grounds.
  • The Heard Museum: Get a taste of history mixed with art at the Heard Museum. This museum reveals the history of 22 American Indian tribes, the native people of the Southwest, through art and cultural exhibits.
  • Musical Instrument Museum: See and play instruments from around the world at the Musical Instrument Museum. This place also has a music theater, where it hosts more than 200 international acts throughout the year.

Restaurant and Eateries

When you’re a traveling foodie — or an ordinary person who loves to eat — restaurants are the key to an enjoyable vacation. In Phoenix, you’ll have plenty of options. Get a taste of the local fare, enjoy some of the best BBQ in the country and treat yourself to a fancy date night. Whatever you’re searching for, Phoenix has a solution for you.

The best choices for food in the city are:

  • Snooze A.M. Eatery: This is one of the favorites in Phoenix for breakfast. After a morning hike, Snooze A.M. is the perfect place to go to get a hearty breakfast. It also has plenty of vegan and gluten-free options.
  • Little Miss BBQ: Little Miss BBQ is a favorite for locals and visitors alike. Many claim it’s the best BBQ in town, and several visitors boast it’s the best BBQ they’ve ever had. Plan to eat lunch or dinner here to find out for yourself.
  • Different Pointe of View: Excellent for a fine dining night out, Different Pointe of View comes with delicious food and dinner views that are tough to beat.
  • Cowboy Ciao: This is the perfect restaurant for people who enjoy food, but love wine just as much — or a little more. It’s recognized by many for having the most extensive wine list in Phoenix.
  • Royal Coffee Bar: The Royal Coffee Bar is a traditional espresso bar at Heritage Square — stop in for a cup of coffee and a vegan pastry.

scottsdale

Best Pizza in Town

If you’re looking for the best pizza in Phoenix and the surrounding area, Giordano’s is the place to go. When a stuffed pizza recipe has been perfected over the course of 200 years, you know it has to be good. This is a Chicago-style pizza you can’t miss.

Not a fan of stuffed pizza? No problem. At Giordano’s, our starters, salads and pasta all come from the same Italian-inspired family, so you’re sure to love your meal, even if pizza isn’t for you.

With roots in Italy and the recognition of being “Chicago’s Best Pizza” by major media outlets, like NBC and the New York Times, this is a slice of Phoenix you don’t want to miss