Just like the mythical creature that rose from ashes, Phoenix, Arizona stands as a new town from the ruins of its former civilization. With this new growth came responsibility, which successfully led Phoenix to be the capital of the southwestern U.S. state of Arizona. It is now the largest, most metropolitan, and most populated city in Arizona, with 1.6 million people who call this sunny city home.
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the when’s, where’s, and what’s of Phoenix to get you acquainted with this sun-filled, scenic city. Whether you’re wanting a relaxing retreat, a golfing excursion, or a night out on the town, Phoenix definitely has a place for you. Keep reading to discover what this sunny, desert city has to offer.
1. What Phoenix is Known For
With an annual average of 299 days of sunshine, it is no wonder Phoenix is nicknamed the “Valley of the Sun.” Elaborate pools, desert gardens, southwestern infused dining, luxury resorts and spas, and championship golf courses are just some of what this capital city is known for. Of course, with so many sunny days, Phoenix will always have an outdoor activity for you and why most visit the area in the first place. Feel the warm sun on your face while hiking the Sonoran Desert or indulging in outdoor shopping. Whether you are visiting for a relaxing vacation or for work, you will want to be sure to bring that SPF and a bathing suit.
Phoenix is not only the most-populated city in Arizona, but America’s fifth most populated city. It is home to real cowboys and the saguaro cactus (those giant fake-looking ones). Phoenix’s popularity is also due in part to its proximity to other cities, such as standing as the midway point between El Paso, Texas and Los Angeles, California, as well as just about 2 hours north from the Mexico border. The beauty this city offers along with its excellent location makes for the perfect destination spot for family vacations or romantic weekend getaways.
2. When To Go To Phoenix
Because of its location, Phoenix is the second sunniest place on earth (the sunniest place is Yuma, Arizona, which is just three hours away by car). So, expect sweltering summers and tolerable, cool, dry winters in Phoenix. But, when we say “cool,” we don’t mean snowfall. Over the course of the year, the temperature usually ranges between 45 degrees to 107 degrees Fahrenheit, and the temperature rarely ever drops below 37 degrees Fahrenheit nor exceeds 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Regardless of the season, Phoenix remains a sunny location with mostly clear skies compared to other parts of the U.S.
Summer is extremely hot, with temperatures ranging between 106 degrees Fahrenheit and 112 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, and 85 to 70 at night. So, be sure to check the weather before planning a summer trip, as you may have heat warnings on your vacation. Also, keep in mind that Arizona’s monsoon season begins in June and continues through September. Hence, summer in Phoenix can tend to be quite humid off and on. Whatever outdoor activity you choose to do during these months, be sure a pool is somewhere nearby to cool you off! We recommend you to check out the many summer events here.
Spring brings consistently warm and relatively dry weather. Temperatures usually remain in the 80s and bring cool, comfortable evenings. This is the season where Phoenix’s famous cacti and wildflowers come in full bloom, which is such a sight to see. Also, if you are a baseball fan, make sure you check out the Cactus League Spring Training. There’s a lot more happening in spring than just this— check it out here.
Fall days here are warm, sunny, and beautiful. Some hikers note this as the best time to get outside, as the summer heat has left and being outside for hours is tolerable. Though the nights will get cool, be sure to check out a nice patio during the September Arizona Restaurant Week or an outdoor event going on, as being outside at night will still be perfectly comfortable. Check out some seasonal events here.
Expect to see tens of thousands of visitors during these winter months, as tourists from every area flock here to escape the cold in their own cities. The coldest time in Phoenix is predominantly from mid-December to mid-February. During these cold days you might even get to see some snowfall on this desert land (how ironic is that?). Again, some hikers say this (and autumn) are the best times for hiking as the cooler temps are ideal for hiking. If you are a golfer, be sure to stick around in February as the Professional Golfer’s Association will be in town for February’s Waste Management Phoenix Open. It’s one of the most visited tournaments in the world. Check out other winter events here.
3. Things To Do In Phoenix
Now that you know what it is known for and which season you want to visit, here are some fun activities you will want to try (in no particular order). Remember to take a look online for yourself too here as Phoenix truly has so many activities!
Phoenix was ranked one of the best cities for hiking by National Geographic. Better yet, they have trails for every level. Phoenix’s urban trails will always leave you close to escape into nature while allowing you the comfort to return quickly and easily back to the city. Moreover, we want to stress that anyone can hike so we included some amazing wheelchair and handicap accessible trails here. Below are some of our favorite hikes (again, in no particular order). Look here for some safety and hiking tips.
- South Mountain Park: This was the National Geographic’s recommendation
- Piestewa Peak: This is the second highest point in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve (after Camelback Mountain) at 2,068 feet
- Double Loop and Hole-in-the-Rock Trail (Located in Papago Park)
- Belvin’s Trail (Located in Usery Mountain Regional Park)
- Waterfall Trail (Located in White Tank Mountain Regional Park)
- Echo Canyon Trail (Located on Camelback Mountain) Note: extremely challenging
This free municipal park has been designated as a Phoenix Point of Pride. It includes Hunt’s Tomb, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The park offers exceptional hiking trails, and it also offers a wide array of recreational facilities. Many enjoy an easy afternoon running or biking the trail with friends. While exploring, you will see the many sandstone buttes that rise and fall throughout the park. This park is also home to two of the region’s most visited attractions: the world-class Phoenix Zoo and the exceptional Desert Botanical Garden (which are mentioned below).
Nestled amid the red rocks of the Papago Buttes, this 140-acre botanical garden is located in Papago Park. Even better, it’s free admission. It has more than 50,000 plants which include 379 species which are rare, endangered, or threatened. Be sure to check out their seasonal events such as the “Music in the Garden Spring “and “Dinner in the Desert” here.
Head over to this zoo, all you animal lovers. This is the largest privately owned, non-profit zoo in the United States. It offers four trails that wind through several habitats on 125-acres of land. This is a great family-friendly activity that many tourists say is a must-do in Phoenix. Note: Admission rates are around $24.95, but there is a slight discount when purchasing online here.
This mountain derived its name from its shape, which resembles the hump and head of a kneeling camel. Because it is one of the highest peaks in Phoenix at more than 2,700 feet in elevation, it offers one of the most scenic hiking spots the city can offer. Hiking experts say the best time to hike this mountain is in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid desert heat. Do not fret if you would rather not intensely hike it; there are easy walking trails and restaurants nearby to catch the view. No matter when you go, make sure you pack a lot of water and sunscreen.
Phoenix diversity in culture and art amongst its natural beauty is yet another reason to visit this special place. Whether it’s a cold winter day or hot enough outside to fry an egg, you can find a unique escape at the many world-class museums this city has to offer. Better yet, these aren’t all of the museums, just some we thought to mention.
- Heard Museum: Founded in 1929, this still remains one of the top museums for American Indian art and history in the United States. In fact, the museum is famed for its award-winning exhibits (permanent and temporary). It presents more than 2,000 works in different forms such as jewelry, textiles, pottery, and more. Note: Hours are Monday -Saturday 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and Sunday 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Admission is free 6-10 PM every first Friday except March.
- Phoenix Art Museum:This modern looking museum holds such works from Picasso, Rosseau, Diego Rivera, and Frida Kahlo. Instagram influencers will love the Thorne Miniature Rooms: which offers a look into the world in a miniature setting (as well as a great photo opportunity). Note: Check online for its seasonal hours
- Musical Instrument Museum: This museum is the largest of its type in the world and holds instruments from almost 200 different countries. It also holds instruments that belonged to Elvis, John Lennon, Johnny Cash, and more.
You won’t want to miss this if you’re a fan of architecture. This unique looking building used to be the winter home of famous Frank Lloyd Wright and school in the desert until his ultimate death in 1959. Now it serves as the main campus for The School of Architecture at Taliesin and houses the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.
We mentioned this on the hiking list, but we want to mention it again here because it really does deserve all that attention. This natural wonder was made by the flow of water over millions of years. Moreover, it holds rich history as it is known to have been used by the Hohokam culture as a kind of calendar to mark dates, position of the sunlight, and seasons. If you are unable to hike there via Papago Park, you can simply park near the Phoenix Zoo and enter the trail there. Be sure to bring your camera!
Take a day trip to the most celebrated natural wonder in the United States, as it is just a few short hours away. This National Park, National Monument, and National Historic Landmark District is home to over 5 million visitors each year. Most recommend the southern rim at Grand Canyon Village (which is also the rim that’s open all year round, except the occasional closing due to winter storms) while others debate the west rim has much to offer as well. Check out this website which offers day tours from Phoenix and Scottsdale.
Phoenix is a golf guru’s dream since this city provides 365 days a year to golf. There are over 200 golf courses within the reach of the metropolitan area. There are award winning 36-hole resorts with accompanied spas and spiritual retreats which offer a real weekend getaway. Some of the best include the We-Ko-Pa Golf Club, Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club, The Boulders, and of course the world famous TPC Scottsdale Champions Course which is home to the PGA Waste Management Phoenix Open. There are courses available for pros and rookies, so get those clubs out and give it a shot.
4. Where To Eat In Phoenix
As the capital, Phoenix offers every kind of dish that exists for its large population and numerous tourists. You are likely to find locally grown vegetables no matter which cuisine type you fancy since Arizona’s diverse landscapes offers immense, incredible vegetation. From authentic Mexican dishes to Asian gastronomy, you’ll find everything and anything to match your taste. We’ve complied of some must-try restaurants below.
- Anhelo Restaurant (American)
- Nobuo at Teeter House (Japanese)
- Little Miss BBQ (Barbeque)
- FnB (American)
- The Dhaba (Indian)
- Durant’s (Steakhouse)
- Barrio Café (Mexican)
5. Where To Stay in Phoenix
As noted, Phoenix is known for its lavish resorts that include world-class golf courses and spas. But luckily this city offers a myriad of lodging options. Here’s a list (again, in no specific order) of some of the best hotels, resorts, and bed and breakfasts to stay at when visiting Phoenix. It is important to keep in mind, however, that there are other types of lodgings. Be sure to check out Airbnb, GlampingHub, and of course good, old-fashioned camping.
- Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort
- Arizona Grand Resort & Spa
- Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort
- Arizona Biltmore, A Waldorf Astoria Resort
- JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa
- Legacy Golf Resort
- Royal Palms Resort and Spa
You can see that Phoenix deserves its connection to a mythical creature and its status as the capital of Arizona as it truly is magical in that it is an urban city with vegetation and life in the middle of a desert. It is home to much more than cacti. From the Papago buttes to Camelback Mountain, Phoenix stands as a shrubby of life, greenery, and activity in a desert-land. Even more to keep in mind, these are just the five things to know before visiting Phoenix. There is a world of adventure for you to discover there, and we can’t wait for your journey to begin!