Phoenix City Guide: Best things to do in Phoenix and Scottsdale
Visiting Phoenix was – well – hot.
I went during summer like a fool, but I took advantage of a last-minute trip opportunity because my husband was out there for work. Yep, that meant a free hotel for part of my stay. So I prepped myself for one heck of a hot visit to the southwest.
And, you know what? I LOVED it.
If you know me at all, you know I can’t stand the heat. You know that I absolutely thrive in fall and winter when sweaters and scarves are a daily must. So, clearly, I really liked Phoenix if I loved my time out there so much. In the dead heat of summer. Gosh, I’m hot just thinking about it.
One thing to note is that Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe are all fairly close in proximity. So while I’ve titled this as ‘Phoenix’ to keep things simple, there are spots included here that are technically in Scottsdale and Tempe. I’ll be sure to clarify when they’re not in Phoenix!
The Henry: This spot is technically in Scottsdale, but it’s worth the short drive. Oh yeah, and make a reservation! Despite its expansive interior, The Henry FILLS UP. Like truly fills up. People were waiting in every nook and cranny for a table. So, we snagged a reservation for their patio in advance. It was h-o-t, but the food and brunch bevs made it worth it.
Carolina’s Mexican Food: The food at Carolina’s is legit. And cheap. Bring your pals, stretchy pants, and a major appetite.
The Clever Koi: When I flew into Phoenix, I had 4ish hours to kill while I waited for Tim to get out of work for the day. So, I took a drive over to Lux (more on Lux below!) for coffee. I could feel my stomach grumbling for food, so I did a quick search of what was nearby, and ended up at one of my favorite spots from the trip – The Clever Koi. Their food was divine and their cocktail menu was entirely unique – don’t worry, if you’re not into getting a little experimental with flavors, they’ve got your go-to classic cocktails, too.
Barrio Café: Tim had been before I flew out to visit him, but he gladly went again with me. The food at Barrio is AMAZING. Honestly, just so good. It’s typically pretty packed, so I suggest going later in the evening. We went about an hour before closing and lucked out – we walked in and were seated immediately! If you’re unsure what to order, ask your server. They won’t do you wrong.
Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co: This is one of Tim’s favorite spots out in Phoenix and I was so glad that I was finally able to see (and drink!) Arizona Wilderness for myself. It didn’t disappoint. The brewery’s in a great spot and their beer gets an A+ from me.
Wren House Brewing Company: We were out and about, and decided to stop in at Wren House after it had been recommended to us. It was so cute and their beer was so up my alley. I like all the sour and “funky” beers, so I was beyond pleased find my favorite styles of beer at Wren House. The super powerful AC helped, too!
Papago Park: Tim had been raving about Papago Park, so I had fairly high expectations. Okay, like super high expectations. And you know what, it was BEAUTIFUL. Go early and bring some water. Walk around and enjoy the park and the stellar views of the city.
Desert Botanical Garden: While you’re at Papago Park, you should also stop by the Desert Botanical Garden. This botanical garden is unlike any other I’ve ever seen. We even signed up as members! Ha! We don’t even live in Phoenix! Once you go, you’ll understand why. It’s full to the brim with gorgeous cacti and other plant life native to Arizona. I didn’t want to leave, except for the fact that I was dripping with salty sweat. Gross, I know.
The Churchill: If you want to hit a bunch of spots all at once, visit The Churchill. It houses 10 local businesses in..get this…shipping containers! How cute, right? We went on my first night in town and snagged food from Provecho and cocktails at Pobrecito (spoiler alert – those drinks are DELICIOUS).
Drive: Drive, the verb. It’s not a place. If you have a little extra time in Phoenix, rent a car and drive north to Flagstaff via Sedona. The drive is INCREDIBLE, and also offers a little respite from the heat in Phoenix. Flagstaff’s elevation is much higher than Phoenix, which means it’s quite a bit cooler. And the red rocks in Sedona are just breathtaking. Photographs truly don’t do them justice.
Cartel Coffee Lab: Honestly, Tim may have killed me if I didn’t put Cartel as the number one coffee spot in this post. It’s his favorite! And once I finally got to try one of their lattes in person, I understood why. He’s been bringing back a bag of their coffee whenever he comes home from his week-long stints in Phoenix and even at home – it’s delicious. Oh yeah, he also brings home their pastries and they are DIVINE. Get one. Or two.
Lux: I think I truly adored Lux because it so acutely reminded me of a place that feels like home – Parish in Atlanta. It had the same familiar vibe alongside excellent coffee and a cozy community table.
Kream Coffee: I stopped by Kream one of the mornings that Tim was at work for a bit and was pleasantly surprised to see it was inside a shop with designer home goods. I mean, really, a place where I can drink a delicious espresso tonic AND shop? Yeah, you know my style. It was fantastic.
We ended up staying out near Tim’s work (hello, free hotel), but if you’re visiting Phoenix for just a few days, I highly recommend staying closer to downtown Phoenix or downtown Scottsdale. However, Phoenix is pretty massive, so be prepared to drive a bit and/or get rides to and from wherever you’re going. Oh yeah, and because it’s quite hot most of the year for walking!
There are SO many spots in Phoenix. Naturally we couldn’t get to all of them in one weekend – or one week, for that matter. We would probably explode from all that food and coffee. So, here’s a little list of the spots I’d like to check out next time we’re in Phoenix:
Ha…sensing a theme here? Basically I want to be better prepared to drink 500 coffees in 5 days.
What do you think, do you have Phoenix on your list yet?