Where to go and what to do

There is an American city in the middle of a great desert strewn with saguaro, the cactus familiar to anyone who has ever seen a Western movie. It is a city of exuberant murals, of Frank Lloyd Wright structures and of the biggest municipal park in the country. The city is Phoenix, the fifth largest city in the U.S. To do it right is to whirl through a bright world of goat stew and lively music, purple mountains and high art, margarita riffs and coyote howls. Turns out, the Valley of the Sun has a lot more going for it than the weather.


Downtown Phoenix, Arizona

Not so long ago, downtown Phoenix was about as hospitable as the Sonoran Desert cradling it. But when locals go out at night these days, they tend to head to the vibrant area in the shadow of the city’s towers. Al fresco diners at Centrico eat chilaquiles, sip mezcal and watch the crowds flow past. Bicyclists zip back and forth. Light Rail cars trundle. Smells mingle: newspapers and greenery, perfume and petrol. You can sip drinks beside a pool in the sky at the Lustre Rooftop Bar, or head underground to rock out at Valley Bar. In this new age, downtown has options.”

Roosevelt Row

The art scene in Phoenix orbits around Roosevelt Street, just east of downtown. But the neighborhood is changing. Glossy apartment blocks have risen alongside indie galleries. Modern restaurants have opened next to edgy boutiques. But young artists are still drawn to the area, and the old guard show no signs of letting up. Now in its 20th year, the Modified Arts gallery sets the standard for contemporary art in the city. Also in its second decade is monOrchid, which is moving with the times by offering coworking office space. On First and Third Fridays, crowds flood the district. Galleries throw open their doors. Food trucks sizzle. Music plays. The Row keeps on going.

Old Town

The heart of downtown Scottsdale pulses harder than ever. Bass-heavy tunes thrum out from Vegas-style pool parties. People spill from brewpubs and cocktail bars. At Cartel Coffee Lab, you can get single-origin espresso but also wine and beer on tap. Across Scottsdale Road, a web of shop-lined streets contain fragments of the American West: terracotta tiles, cactus prints, dreamcatchers. The aroma of wood smoke drifts from Bootlegger’s barbecue pit, mingling with laughter from the nearby RnR Gastropub. Everything stills at the Soleri Bridge over the Scottsdale Canal, the water flat, the gently rising walkway pointing true north.

Cave Creek

This dusty enclave north of Phoenix has the mystique of the Old West. Homes creep outward through shrubs and saguaro, the land dotted with striking rust-red elevations. Cave Creek Road is lined with rowdy bars, artisanal shops, family-owned eateries and hip cafés. On Wednesday and Friday nights at The Buffalo Chip saloon, people ride bulls. Real ones. In a Wonka-like factory, ROC2 roasts coffee beans using equipment that wouldn’t look out of place at Cape Canaveral. A stone’s throw from here, the Meat Market cuts Arizona grass-fed beef by hand. Nearby, the Black Mountains stand in ominous silence.


Mexican, Mexican & More Mexican

El Horseshoe Restaurant

+1 602-251-3135 | 2140 W. Buckeye Road, Phoenix, AZ

This cozy Downtown eatery might not look like much, but locals swear by its Sonoran Mexican dishes, named after the state that butts up to Arizona’s southern border, and possibly as close as Phoenix gets to an official food. Must-tries include the menudo soup and the glorious machaca (air-dried beef).

TEG Torta Shop

+1 602-252-9228 | 2518 N. 16th Street, Phoenix, AZ

This cozy Downtown eatery might not look like much, but locals swear by its Sonoran Mexican dishes, named after the state that butts up to Arizona’s southern border, and possibly as close as Phoenix gets to an official food. Must-tries include the menudo soup and the glorious machaca (air-dried beef).


+1 602-441-4749 | 1505 E. Van Buren Street, Phoenix, AZ

This eatery, opened last year in a century-old building in Garfield, fuses the talents of Chris Bianco (the best Italian-style chef in town) and Nadia Holguin and Armando Hernandez (the best young Mexican chefs) to produce Chihuahua-style food tinged with an Italian sensibility—a winning combination judging by the restaurant’s growing legion of fans.

Tacos Chiwas

+1 602-358-8830 | 1923 E. McDowell Road, Phoenix, AZ

Two years before Roland’s, Holguin and Hernandez opened this hugely popular Chihuahua-style taqueria, offering comfort food made from “recipes that have been passed down through generations.” Regulars rave about the barbacoa (barbecue), the tripe and tongue tacos and the gorditas, said by some to be the best thing on the menu.

CRUjiente Tacos

+1 602-687-7777 | 3961 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, AZ

Mexican street food gets an update at this sleek Arcadia eatery, which has a selection of tacos filled with ingredients like Korean fried chicken, pork belly with kimchi, Thai curry and tempura avocado, along with classics like the crispy taco with beef. It also has a great cocktail menu, the highlight of which are the margaritas.

Mexican Bakery La Purisima

+1 623-842-1400 | 4533 W. Glendale Avenue, Glendale, AZ

Sweet-toothed locals descend on this colorful and friendly bakery for its marranitos (pig-shaped molasses cookies), pan dulce (Mexican sugar-crusted bread) and sweet buns, but the shop’s savory items—like the chile-infused pork-and-cheese tamales—are also worth a try.

Steak, Barbecue & Chicken


+1 602-264-5967 | 2611 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ

This storied spot opened in 1950, and while the prices aren’t what they were then, the vibe pretty much is—from the horseshoe booths to the low red lighting to the formal wait staff. Lamb chops and sautéed chicken livers are on the menu, but the big dish, literally, is the 48oz porterhouse with a pair of lobster tails (best enjoyed while wrapping up a business deal).

Little Miss BBQ

+1 602-437-1177 | 4301 E. University Drive, Phoenix, AZ

Among meat-loving locals, Little Miss has no peer. The eatery does Texas-style barbecue using 1,000-gallon smokers welded from old propane thanks. It has equally impressive lines—though its new Sunnyslope location promises shorter a wait. Try the Jefe: sausage with choice of chopped brisket, pulled pork or turkey, served with sauce, slaw and pickles.

Jalapeno Bucks

+1 480-459-3050 | 3434 N. ValVista, Mesa, AZ

A walk-up roadside house made from old shipping containers and wood salvaged from a forest fire, this eatery is located in in the middle of a century-old orange grove in Mesa. It’s a half-hour drive east of Phoenix, but it’s worth the trip. Bucks sells burnt ends by the pound and BBQ sauce by the pint, to be eaten under a covered patio. No-frills dining at its best.

Bourbon Steak

+1 480-585-4848 | 7575 E. Princess Drive, Scottsdale, AZ

If it’s high end you’re after, then celeb-chef Michael Mena’s Bourbon Steak, in the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort, is the place. From the quietly elegant décor to a menu that ranges from lobster pot pie to a 40oz dry-aged tomahawk ribeye, this is a restaurant that’s clearly at ease with itself—and its prices (at time of writing, the aforementioned ribeye would set you back $185).

Welcome Diner

+1 602-495-1111 | 929 E. Pierce, Phoenix, AZ

This colorful, fashionable 1940s-era diner isn’t exactly vegetarian-unfriendly—its jackfruit fries are a hit, as are its fried green tomatoes and apple Cobb salad—but its focus is comfort food “with a Southern tinge,” which means biscuits & gravy, fried chicken, chorizo meatloaf, and smoked pork over heirloom grits, washed down with a 100-percent meat-free whiskey sour.

Pizza, fry bread and everything in-between

Pizzeria Bianco

+1 602-258-8300 | 623 E. Adams St., Phoenix, AZ

While Roland’s and Tratto have earned chef-owner Chris Bianco critical acclaim, the jewel in the crown of his mini-empire is this downtown pizzeria, which opened in 1987 and now has an offshoot to the north. Blanco wood-fires his pies in a brick oven imported from Italy, using freshly milled flour and house-made mozzarella cheese. The result, locals will tell you, is the best pizza in America.

Glai Baan

+1 602-595-5881 | 2333 E. Osborn Road, Phoenix, AZ

While Phoenix isn’t renowned for its Asian food, this modest eatery, which opened in 2017, has helped to get the ball rolling. Bangkok-born chef and co-owner Pornsupak “Cat” Bunnag artfully deploys spics and ingredients to create refined but satisfying Thai street food—a swirl of pork leg stew, sticky rice, drunken noodles and stir-fried tofu, along with a great cocktail list.

The Breadfruit & Rum Bar

+1 602-267-1266 | 108 E. Pierce Street, Phoenix, AZ

This downtown Jamaican restaurant makes a habit of winning awards—for its food and selection of rum cocktails, but also its casual-cool ambience. There is an emphasis on seafood (curried white fish, pepper shrimp), but it would be criminal to leave without sampling the jerk pork and polenta, coconut curried tofu, and a chef’s-choice “Saturday Evening Soup.”

Fry Bread House

+1 602-351-2345 | 4545 N. 7th Avenue, Phoenix, AZ

Fry bread, flat dough filled with ingredients ranging from beef to powdered sugar, is also a vital component of the “Indian taco,” and nobody makes these better than Fry Bread House, which in 2012 (20 years after opening) garnered a James Beard Award for chef-owner Cecilia Miller, a member of the Tohono O'odham tribe. The shop moved into larger premises after the prize, but the neighborhood feel remains, as do the reasonable prices.

Haus Murphy's

+1 623-939-2480 | 5739 W. Glendale Avenue, Glendale, AZ

While sauerkraut puffs may not be on everyone’s must-try list when visiting Phoenix, this 25-year-old Glendale staple has steinfuls of quirky charm. The décor is Teutonic-kitsch, the music is oompah-driven and you probably won’t want to look at another sausage for a week, but who can resist an eatery with a menu section titled “The Art of Schnitzel”?

Elevated cuisine, from Native American to Asian


+1 602-385-5777 | 5594 W. Wild Horse Pass Boulevard, Phoenix, AZ

Set in the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass, Kai is the only restaurant of its kind in the world. The menu combines Pima and Maricopa tribal traditions, hyper-regional ingredients and artful preparation to create dishes like slow-cooked buffalo brisket, and seared prairie squab and oxtail-merguez sausage frittata. The epic tasting menu isn’t cheap, but it’s unforgettable for all the right reasons.

Binkley’s Restaurant

+1 602-388-4874 | 2320 E. Osborn Road, Phoenix, AZ

The set menu here costs more than $300 if you get the wine pairings. It lasts for almost 4 hours and consists of as many as 28 courses. The hopped-up New American items change frequently, and there is only one seating a night, in a house in central Phoenix. Dinner starts on the porch, moves into a barroom and culminates in the dining room. At any point, you can walk into other parts of the house, including the kitchen, where you can watch, or help, as chefs plate the food.


+1 480-284-4777 | 7125 E. 5th Avenue, Suite 31, Scottsdale, AZ

Now in its 10tth year, this Scottsdale restaurant offers the best one-two combo of food and wine in town. The wine menu features producers from around the state (Arizonan wine is underrated). The rotating offerings of chef-owner Charleen Badman (a.k.a. the “Veggie Whisperer”) can make you envious of vegetarians, though carnivores aren’t forsaken: the braised pork shoulder is a joy.

Barrio Cafe Gran Reserva

+1 602-252-2777 | 1301 W. Grand Avenue, Phoenix, AZ

In the summer of 2016, Mexican chef Silvana Salcido Esparza followed up her beloved 16th Street restaurant, Barrio Café, with Barrio Café Gran Reserva, a small but stylish eatery serving creative Mexican cuisine, including a vegan tasting menu. No visit to Phoenix would be complete without trying the creations of the woman who reinvented the city’s Mexican food scene.

Nobuo at Teeter House

+1 602-254-0600 | 622 E. Adams Street, Phoenix, AZ

Housed in a turn-of-the-century bungalow in Heritage Square, Nobuo serves some of the most accomplished Japanese you’re likely to have anywhere. The Tokyo-born, James Beard-winning chef Nobuo Fukuda has made traditional izakaya into an art form, while ensuring his restaurant remains relaxed and welcoming.

From foraged wolf berries to Californian fish

Cotton & Copper

+1 480-629-4270 | 1006 E. Warner Road #113, Tempe, AZ

At this new restaurant in South Tempe, Tamara Stanger, Phoenix’s most exciting up-and-coming chef, cooks with foraged ingredients, such as the wolf berries and barrel cactus she plucks from the Sonora Desert. Highlights include goat and bison carpaccio, and venison medallions. She is known for her outlandish pies. Her fruit-and-vinegar creations are otherworldly.

Cartwright’s Modern Cuisine

+1 480-488-8031 | 6710 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek, AZ

The chef here, Brett Vibber, also forages much of his produce. The vibe is steakhouse but there are surprises: dishes like elk steak and venison meatballs are joined by trout with apricot jam and Navajo steamed corn. The best way to go is the tasting menu, with each dish containing at least one foraged ingredient.

Larder + Delta

+1 480-409-8520 | 200 W. Portland Street #101, Phoenix, AZ

At this downtown hotspot, Stephen Jones cooks southern food with a twist. He is known for his pickles (he makes dozens of them) and creative veggie dishes like Buffalo “chicken” cauliflower. Meat eaters, meanwhile, can go to town on the “Burgoo” (smoked pork neck, chicken, rabbit, autumn vegetables).

Chula Seafood

+1 480-621-5121 | 8015 E. Roosevelt Street, Scottsdale, AZ

A casual BYOB sit-down with island vibes and reggae tunes, this family-owned eatery doesn’t promise boat-to-table seafood in the middle of the desert, but it comes as close as it can. Chula sources much of its smoked, raw and bowl-style fish via a boat it has docked 5 hours away in San Diego. For those who prefer thigs to be even more casual, they do home deliveries.


Places to keep your spirits up

Bitter & Twisted

+1 602-340-1924 | 1 W. Jefferson, Phoenix, AZ

This might look like your standard trendy cocktail bar—industrial-chic décor, Instagram-friendly presentation (a cocktail in a teacup!)—but it has gained national attention for taking mixology to new heights. Its twist on the grasshopper cocktail comes with a cone of crispy fried grasshoppers pegged to the side—and it works. If that isn’t enough irony for you, B&T is located in the former Arizona Prohibition Headquarters.


+1 602-753-6504 | 3620 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix, AZ

This décor of this underground joint is a jumble of clipper ship, speakeasy and tiki bar. The drinks menu is equally elaborate. Interspersed with tales of adventure, the list ranges from basic rum-based cocktails to the extravagant Mallory's Treasure, which contains 18-year agricole rhum, Japanese whiskey, Palo Cortado sherry, Italian amaro, palm sugar and orange bitters.

Across the Pond

+1 602-296-5629 | 4236 N. Central Avenue, Suite 101, Phoenix, AZ

While ostensibly a sushi bar, this new eatery has become known as much for its drinks as its fish. Located beside the owners’ kitchen & craft cocktail bar Clever Koi, this one blends in more Asian elements, serving elaborate mixtures like a sake cocktail with Czech amaro. Oh, and the food, created by longtime sushi chef Alvaro Salinas, isn’t half bad either (try the simple salmon nigiri).

Arizona Distilling Co.

+1 480-921-2487 | 601 W. University Avenue, Tempe, AZ

Along with making fine spirits, Tempe’s Arizona Distilling Co. is serving up some of the best drinks in town. Its new on-site lounge tends towards old-school, serving classic cocktails with minimal ingredients, but it’s the quality of spirits that count (try the Copper City bourbon), all made a few feet away in the facility’s in a 100-gallon still.

Craft ales, experimental ciders and beer-battered cod

The Wandering Tortoise

+1 602-441-3490 | 2417 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix, AZ

This spacious venue occupies a spot on an unglamorous strip north of the city, but it has a cool feel to it and fine selection of craft beers. The Tortoise also carries several meads from Arizona meadery Superstition, which is difficult to top. You can take some of the beers to go, or pop next door to the much-loved Nelson’s Meat + Fish and bring oysters, ceviche and clam chowder back to the bar.

AZ Wilderness

+1 480-497-2739 | 721 N. Arizona Avenue, #103, Gilbert, AZ

This nationally-acclaimed farm-to-glass bar uses locally foraged ingredients in its beers (prickly pear, or sycamore leaves and bark), producing bold flavor combinations like the Rosé Nouveau wine/beer hybrid, made with regional cabernet sauvignon grapes. They also do great burgers and duck fat fries, which are worth the trip on their own.

Cider Corps

+1 480-993-3164 | 31 S. Robson, Suite 103, Mesa, AZ

For those whose taste runs more to apples than hops, this Mesa cidery is the place to be—sort of. Cider Corps uses ingredients that range from cold-brew coffee to pea flowers, prickly pear to caramelized pineapple. They also do pie-flavored ciders and ciders aged in barrels with maple syrup. You can also get plain old apple if that’s your thing.

Goldmine Underground Tap & Barrel

+1 480-350-7305 | 3608 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, AZ

Located 16 feet below Scottsdale’s Goldwater Brewing Company, the lagering room of this award-winning brewery is set in an old shooting range. Customers have to share tiny space with tanks and barrels, but those who do make it in are treated to a variety of great craft brews like Go Go Sour Rangers! (a weisse with blueberries and lemon juice). Just don’t ask for a shot.

George & Dragon

+1 602-241-0018 | 4240 N. Central, Phoenix, AZ

If the name doesn’t give it away, the interior will: Union Jacks on the tables, bangers and mash on the menu, English soccer on the TV. The pub was opened in 1995 by an British expat, and it has had its ups and downs since then (in 2016, it was featured on the reality show Bar Rescue), but it is also a cherished local institution, especially among those who value a decent pint of Guinness.

Speakeasies, Dives and Clubs

The Duce

+1 602-866-3823 | 525 S. Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ

Bar fights aren’t to everyone’s taste, but at the Duce they’re all part of the fun. A prohibition-era bar and restaurant built in an old warehouse, the brick-walled space has foosball, ping-pong and, in the middle of it all, a working boxing ring. If that’s not enough quirk for you: The food (which includes “Spaghetti & Meatballs in a jar”) is served out of an old school bus.

Gracie’s Tax Bar

+1 602-366-0111 | 711 N. 7th Avenue, Phoenix, AZ

This downtown bar was opened a couple of years ago by Grace Perry, former vocalist with the metal band Landmine Marathon, in a former tax service office. The interior is red-lit. The beer is served in chilled glasses. The food is cheap and simple. It has a jukebox that everyone raves about. The clientele includes artists, musicians and barflies. In short: the hippest bar in Phoenix.

TT Roadhouse

+1 480-947-8723 | 2915 N. 68th Street, Scottsdale, AZ

This Scottsdale saloon-style bar offers discounts to people who bike to it (bicycle and motorcycle) on certain days. You can play pool, throw darts and listen to punk rock while deciding what to get from its oddly extensive beer menu. On Sundays the choice gets easier: They offer PBR cans for a buck.

The Buffalo Chip

+1 480-488-9118 | 6823 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek, AZ

This Cave Creek institution has beer, barbecue, live music and, outside, a corral surrounded by mini bleachers. Here, on Wednesday and Friday nights, the bar holds bull riding sessions. This isn't professional bull riding: You can get on a bull yourself after signing waivers. Also on Fridays is the All You Can Eat Fish Fry, which doesn’t require a waver but possibly should.

Maya Day & Nightclub

+1 480-625-0528 | 7333 E. Indian Plaza, Scottsdale, AZ

By day, a Vegas-style pool party, by night, a thronging club—this Scottsdale venue never knows when to quit. They also have regular special events, with visiting DJs and musical acts. Its clientele tend to be good looking, quite often drink champagne and express their appreciation by going, “Whooo!”

Low Key Piano Bar Tempe

+1 480-355-1705 | 501 S. Mill Avenue, Suite B101, Tempe, AZ

This Tempe basement bar is at the other end of the let’s-go-crazy scale. As its name suggests, it is a laid-back place with a pair of baby grands, upon which dueling piano players indulge audience requests. Things get less laid back as the evening goes on, with audience members singing along and the pianists whipping them up into a frenzy—or, at least, a state of mild excitement.


Boutique and Design Hotels

The Saguaro

+1 480-308-1100 | 4000 N. Drinkwater Boulevard, Scottsdale, AZ

This chic 194-room boutique hotel is located near Scottsdale’s Old Town. Its distinguishing feature is the color scheme, said to be based on regional flora. Its guest rooms and public spaces are awash in greens, yellows, oranges, purples and pinks, making it a favored spot among users of Instagram. The heart of Scottsdale is a short walk away.

The Scott Resort & Spa

+1 480-945-7666 | 4925 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, AZ

Also in Scottsdale, the Scott is another Instagrammable spot, largely due to its exuberant use of greenery, both inside and out. Now in its 58th year, the hotel recently saw extensive renovations, resulting in a sort of Scandi-Havanan feel (rattan furniture, blond wood beams). Its sleek Canal Club restaurant serves American food with a Cuban twist. Get ready to drink rum.

Arizona Biltmore

+1 602-955-6600 | 2400 E. Missouri Avenue, Phoenix, AZ

Built in 1929 with Frank Lloyd Wright as consulting architect, this luxury desert resort has had many renovations over the years, but it remains as gorgeous as ever. The architecture fuses grandiosity, art deco delicacy and Wright’s distinctive brand of natural harmony (the pre-cast blocks used to build the hotel were made from desert sand). It’s unclear what the architect would have made of the 92-foot waterslide.

FOUND:RE Phoenix

+1 602-875-8000 | 1100 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ

It’s fitting that this hotel is located just off the Roosevelt Row arts hub. The first thing you see when you check in is Burtney, an enormous rendition of Burt Reynolds’ saucy 1972 Cosmo centerfold, fitted with long blond hair. The hotel décor combines industrial-chic with Japanese austerity, along with playful touches like the ring-shaped chandeliers with marquee-style bulbs dotting the edge.

For Getting Away from It

The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

+1 480-585-4848 | 7575 E. Princess Drive, Scottsdale, AZ

This Spanish family-friendly resort offers golf, spa treatments, six swimming pools and a kids’ adventure club. Its Mexican eatery, La Hacienda, is one of the best resort restaurants around. The Fairmont is also within day-tripping distance of scenic attractions like Sedona, the northern Arizona town of Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon.

Mountain Shadows

+1 855-485-1417 | 5445 E. Lincoln Drive, Paradise Valley, AZ

This 1950s-era classic was recently renovated, adding a gloss to its motel-chic architecture. The 183-room property has stunning views of nearby Camelback Mountain (especially for those who can afford the presidential suite) and its restaurant, Hearth 61, is one of the better high-end eateries in greater Phoenix. Along with the standard golf, pools and spa, the resort has an on-site art gallery, with revolving exhibitions.

The Boulders

+1 480-488-9009 | 34631 N. Tom Darlington Drive, Carefree, AZ

This Scottsdale resort isn’t as splashy as some of its competitors, but what it lacks in pizzazz it makes up for in charm. The interior is rustic Arizona, while the building itself blends seamlessly with the 12-million-year-old boulders surrounding it. Activities include horseback riding through the Tonto National Forest, photography treks in the Sonoran Desert and gazing at the landscape from your private deck.

The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa

+1 480-624-1000 | 6902 E. Greenway Parkway, Scottsdale, AZ

This place may as well have been called the Hotel Gaga. Themed suites include “The Last Czar” (gilded ceiling, brocade fabrics) and the “Shag-a-Delic” (multiple lava lamps, animal-print pillows)—all of which is best appreciated after a Drop Dead Gorgeous vodka cocktail in the exuberant Dragonfly restaurant and bar.

For Being In the Thick of It

Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel

+1 602-333-0000 | 100 N. 1st Street, Phoenix, Arizona

Settled squarely in downtown Phoenix, this classy hotel sells itself on its contemporary comfort, offering plush bedding and a heated rooftop pool. The central location offers loads of activities to boot, from watching concerts at the Orpheum Theater to catching fly balls at Chase Field, home to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Kimpton Hotel Palomar

+1 602-253-6633 | 2 E. Jefferson Street, Phoenix, AZ

This sleek high-rise property is located in the nightlife- and dining-rich downtown area—though views of the city skyline and nearby mountains from the rooftop pool might prevent guests from straying too far. The 242 guest rooms’ whimsical designs and nature motifs lend a rustic charm to this urban-chic hotel.

The Clarendon Hotel and Spa

+1 602-252-7363 | 401 W. Clarendon Avenue, Phoenix, AZ

Some say this colourful mid-century boutique hotel has the best pool in Phoenix. Its open-air Oasis Pool and Cabanas area boasts features a HydroSpa, underwater speakers VIP cabanas and a silvery Water Wall that’s said to be one of the biggest in the world. Its Skydeck hosts a wine hour nightly, allowing guests to admire the view while sipping complimentary drinks and gingerly prodding their reddening shoulders.

Hotel San Carlos

+1 602-253-4121 | 202 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ

This downtown hotel harkens back to simpler times—specifically, 1928, when it opened. But the history comes with some baggage. As you sip G&Ts at the hotel pub, another type of spirit may be at large: the ghost of guest Leona Jensen, who reportedly died here in the 1920s and never checked out. Some might see this as a reason to head out and explore the city’s entertainment district, while others view the haunted-hotel thing as a form of entertainment in its own right.


A selection of interesting shops

Crime Scene

+1 623-565-8573 | 3602 N. 16th Street, Phoenix, AZ

A store selling all kinds of crime-themed, forensic supplies, including fingerprint kits and DNA collection swabs, even forensic mannequins, Crime Scene lets you tap your inner David Caruso.

Palabras Bilingual Bookstore

+1 602-595-9600 | 1738 E. McDowell Road, Phoenix, AZ

Palabras offers Native American novels for kids, literature in Spanish on the astrology of the Aztecs, and workshops and events emphasizing musical, visual and literary arts.

Changing Hands

+1 602-274-0067 | 300 W. Camelback Road, Phoenix, AZ

Since its founding in Tempe in 1974, Changing Hands has been Arizona’s leading independent bookstore. Along with selling books and handmade pottery, the shop has a bar, First Draft, serving mead, wine and local brews.

Curious Nature Shop

+1 602-314-4346 | 5032 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ

A natural history emporium for all things strange, Curious Nature Shop has ethically sourced taxidermy, beautiful framed butterflies and scorpions, and preserved salamanders and eels.

Local Galleries and Museums

Children’s Museum of Phoenix

+1 602-253-0501 | 215 N. 7th Street, Phoenix, AZ

The Children’s Museum of Phoenix offers loads of fun activities for kids (and adults), including a three-story climbing maze, a craft area for painting a 10-foot tall robot and facilities for cooking dinner at the Texture Café.

Heard Museum

+1 602-252-8840 | 2301 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ

With a collection of more than 40,000 pieces, ranging from tribal baskets to contemporary fine art, the Heard Museum collaborates with tribal communities and Native American artists to emphasize the lives of Native peoples, with an emphasis on the Southwest.

Musical Instrument Museum

+1 480-478-6000 | 4725 E. Mayo Boulevard, Phoenix, AZ

This North Scottsdale museum showcases thousands of musical instruments from 200 countries. A highlight is the Experience Gallery, where you can actually hit a gong, or stroke a Burmese harp.

Shemer Art Center

+1 602-262-4727 | 5005 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, AZ

The Shemer Art Center provides a place for people to learn about art through workshops and exhibits while preserving the history of Phoenix. Visitors can also create fused glass, paintings and jewelry.

{9} The Gallery

+1 480-454-5929 | 1229 Grand Avenue, Phoenix, AZ

This gallery in the Grand Avenue Arts District displays work from local, national and international artists. They also open their space to yoga, poetry readings and punk rock shows.

Outdoor activities in and around Phoenix

Soleri Bridge and Plaza

+1 480-874-4645 | 7380 E. Second Street, Scottsdale, AZ

This Scottsdale landmark was created by architect Paolo Soleri, Frank Lloyd Wright’s protégé. It spans the Arizona Canal and marks the time with sunlight shining at angles on the bridge.

Papago Park

+1 602-495-5458 | 625 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, AZ

The red rocks in this huge, hilly park seem other-worldly. Must-Instagram spots include the Hole-in-the-Rock formation and Governor Hunt’s Tomb, a white pyramid on a hill containing Arizona’s first governor.

The Desert Botanical Garden

+1 480-941-1225 | 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, AZ

This lush garden has more than 50,000 plants spread over 55 acres. While you will see much of the expected cacti and agave, more surprising is the vibrant greenery of the Sonoran foliage.