A cultural mecca situated among sprawling desert landscape; Phoenix is a sight to behold. Once inhabited by the Hohokam people, Phoenix now boasts an impressive population of over 1,680,000 Phoenicians and draws thousands of visitors each year to experience one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States.
Aside from its vast population, major-league sports teams, and accredited universities, Phoenix is known for the simple pleasures in life: lush recreation, beautiful scenery, and one-of-a-kind dining. With a year-round weather average of 75 degrees and over 500 hotels in the vicinity, it’s no surprise that many Americans choose Phoenix as a top vacation destination.
This article will cover 9 unbeatable amenities Phoenix offers in order to provide a plethora of options for tourists to indulge in. Read on to discover what awaits you in the Valley of the Sun!
Luxurious Golf Courses
If there’s one thing Arizona is known for, it’s golf! Phoenix is no exception. With nearly 200 golf courses to choose from offering nearly every style of the game there is, there’s no reason not to take a little time for yourself and hit the green.
Choose between simple yet beautiful courses or all-inclusive clubs that offer premium spa treatment following a rousing afternoon. According to Visit Phoenix, Troon North and We-Ko-Pa are great options to enjoy the widespread desert landscape, while Gainey Ranch and Arizona Biltmore offer some of the best spa treatments you can find.
Because Phoenix boasts clear, mostly sunny skies year-round, it doesn’t matter in particular which course you choose. However, prices and amenities can vary. Troon North, located just outside Phoenix in the neighboring area of Scottsdale, offers two 6,400 acre, 18-hole courses. The daily rate changes based on availability and demand, but club rentals start at $55 plus tax.
The nearby We-Ko-Pa also offers two 18-hole courses with a daily rate between $75 and $190 depending on the season. We-Ko-Pa also has a 36-hole package, which can be purchased for anywhere between $125 and $325.
If club courses are more up your alley, the Arizona Biltmore might be perfect for you. Located in the heart of downtown Phoenix, this club offers two stunning courses to choose from along with an on-site restaurant for a post-golfing nosh. Scottdale’s Gainey Ranch offers a similar experience.
Aside from actual ranges, Phoenix is also the home to several tours and events, such as Phoenix Open and PGA Tour. Regardless of your skillset or interest level, Phoenix has the right golf experience for you.
Hot and Sunny Weather
One of the main reasons Phoenix draws so many tourists is the warm, sunny weather occurring almost year-round. Why spend your days waiting out the dreary rain when you can enjoy the warmth and hospitality of Arizona’s weather? According to the U.S. Climate Data, Phoenix reaches an average low of 45 degrees in the heart of winter and hits an average high of 106 degrees in the middle of summer.
An average total rainfall of roughly 8 inches means that there’s hardly a chance of bad weather ruining your travel plans. However, you can expect to see a smattering of clouds, especially towards the end of the year. Definitely pack lots of sunscreen and be prepared for quite a bit of sun exposure during your stay.
When it comes to the desert, don’t think dead and dry! Phoenix is home to a myriad of flora, from cacti and shrubs to trees and flowers. There is plenty to see in the Phoenix landscape, simply by looking out your window!
Along with roadside shrubbery, Phoenix is home to beautiful several gardens and nature preserves that the public can visit to learn more about native Arizonan plants. For a variety of different desert species, visit the Desert Botanical Garden in Scottsdale, boasting over 50,000 desert plans to admire.
Visitors can choose from five thematic trails that wind through the garden, exploring glistening wildflowers and impressive cacti. We have another article “When Do Cacti Bloom in Arizona?” that help in touring Arizona. Be sure to check out the rich collection of agave plants before discovering the several represented ecosystems. If you’re in the mood to learn more, take one of the many tours offered by staff.
If you find yourself tired of the many succulents scattered around the city, visit the Japanese Friendship Garden for a taste of the far East. An impressive 12-foot waterfall feeds into a pond housing over 300 koi as visitors meander through cherry trees, stone architecture, and even a tea garden.
Take a self-guided tour, or partake in one of the many activities offered, such as Tai Chi. There is an admission fee of $5, but the garden is free to the public on the first Friday of each month.
For a more immersive experience, hike through the Sonoran Preserve to discover Phoenix’s native species up close. This stretch of land is home to 36 miles of trails with three trailheads, each a spectacular choice to get lost in.
Thrilling Hiking Trails
Phoenix may be mainly metropolitan, but don’t let that discourage even the most adventurous of travelers! Located on the outskirts of the city are more than a handful of different hikes, each catering to a different level of experience. You may find yourself driving a few miles away from the heart of downtown, but it’s a small price to pay for the outstanding views to follow.
If you’re a beginner hiker, check out the Double Butte Loop located in Papago Park. The entire loop is only 2.3 miles, with the opportunity to hike a small out-and-back stretch to visit the Hole-in-Rock, a large, cavernous opening in the red sandstone formations. The Double Butte trailhead is easily accessible from the parking lot, with the Hole-in-Rock located just on the opposite side.
For an even shorter trek, visit the Waterfall Trail in White Tank Mountain Regional Park. The entire out-and-back hike is a total of 1.8 miles and takes you through wide paths surrounded by ancient rock carvings. The park has an admission fee of $6, and it’s unlikely you’ll actually spot the waterfall(it had to have rained recently), but the trail does offer beauty beyond compare.
If you find yourself looking for something a little more in the middle in terms of intensity, check out Pinnacle Peak Trail located in the aptly named Pinnacle Peak Park. The well-maintained pathway takes you 3.5 miles out and back. But be prepared, as there is an incline of 2,750 feet to reach the top, so expect a little bit of burning in your legs.
We haven’t forgotten those die-hard explorers. If you want a trail to be grueling, difficult, but absolutely worth it, look no further than Tom’s Thumb in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. While the entire trek is only 4.6 miles, the trail requires some serious elevation gained by a relentless group of switchbacks. You’ll make it to the top alright, but be prepared to be absolutely exhausted but so happy you did it!
Delicious Southwestern Eats
You can’t visit Phoenix without gorging yourself on the wide range of local cuisine. While there are a handful of unique and unmissable eateries in the area, most of the food is inspired by the location. You’ll find no shortage of Southwestern-inspired burritos, chimichangas, and Menudo.
You also might find local inventions such as Sonoran hot dogs — hot dogs wrapped in bacon with onions, pinto beans, and mayonnaise — and cheese crisps, a crunchier take on the quesadilla.
Due to Phoenix’s diverse metropolitan status, there are plenty of different cuisines available, ranging from Italian to Japanese to fast food. However, you can’t miss out on some of the best things available for you in the Valley of the Sun.
For appetizers unlike any other, try Renaissance Phoenix’s avocado fries; lightly breaded slices of avocado served with pepper aioli, or Southern Rail’s fried green tomatoes plated with spicy pimento cheese. Or, try a classic snack with a twist, and head to Citizens Public House for their bacon-fat heirloom popcorn served in a cereal bowl.
When it comes to an entree, nobody knows option paralysis quite like Phoenix. Sandwich lovers must visit Zookz Sandwiches for their No. 22, a black bean, avocado, and egg delicacy. Taco fans can’t miss the lobster tacos served at La Hacienda. And if you’re feeling really fancy, stop by LON’s for their Himalayan salt seared tuna.
We mean it when we say don’t stick to what you know here in Phoenix! With so many different restaurants to choose from, you’re certain to find your new favorite eatery.
Art and Culture Museums
While outdoor activities are the calling for some, Phoenix also caters to the intellectually driven with a myriad of museums to peruse. From precious art to musical instruments, to even racing cars, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
The internationally acclaimed Heard Museum is perfect for those inspired by both traditional and contemporary art. Located in downtown Phoenix, the museum offers eleven exhibit galleries along with several outdoor courtyards and even an in-house cafe. Showcased are pieces done by American Indian artists, some of which can even be purchased! Over 200,000 visitors a year are drawn to the Heard — be sure to be one of them; the only regret you’ll have is that you weren’t able to experience it sooner.
While the Heard specializes in American Indian art, the Phoenix Art Museum showcases over 17,000 pieces done by artists from every culture there is. Along with a handful of exhibits to look through, the Phoenix Art Museum also offers several educational programs and even an interactive sculpture garden. General admission to the museum costs $23 for adults and $5 for children between the ages of six and seventeen.
After perusing some paintings and sculptures, stop by the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) to enjoy another side of fine arts. The MIM displays over 6,800 different instruments along with five Geographic Galleries and an in-house cafe. Rated Phoenix’s #1 Attraction by TripAdvisor, visitors can try their hand at different instruments in the Experience Gallery or reminisce on memorabilia from famous artists such as Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. Admission to the museum is free to members but costs $20 for the general public.
Lastly, visit the Penske Racing Museum in Scottsdale for a wide array of cars and trophies that celebrate the racing company’s forty years of experience and 300 major wins. The museum and cafe are open seven days a week to visitors.
Phoenix’s hot weather isn’t just for hiking and golfing. Beat the heat with one of the many impressive and kid-friendly water parks around the city, perfect for families traveling with young children. There are even a few indoor options for winter visitors to still enjoy the excitement and state-of-the-art rides Phoenix has to offer.
The first and most famous park to visit is Oasis Water Park, named one of the Top 10 Water Parks in the U.S. by the Travel Channel. Oasis covers seven acres, with six resort pools scattered throughout the park for the less adventurous. Impressive slides include the 200-foot Road Runner and 225-foot Free Fall, with the Zuni River lazily rolling throughout. For younger ones, check out the Oasis Wave Pool and Wild Cat Springs.
The admission price for Oasis is included in the Resort Fee when staying at the Arizona Grand Resort, where the water park is located. However, visitors can also purchase a day pass starting at $35 for adults and $30 for children. The resort also offers several packages for groups starting at around $175 that include reserved lounge chairs, dining tables, and complimentary bottled water.
For another great and affordable option, check out Wet’n’Wild Phoenix, with tickets costing around $50 per person. This park includes the Monsoon Bay Wave Pool, Crazy Cactus Roaring River, and water-slide heavy Serpentine Complex. Little ones can enjoy Wet’n’Wild Junior, which includes the Soak ‘em Playground and Boogie Board Beach. As for thrill-seekers, check out Maximum Velocity and the Constrictor.
If you’re looking for an indoor option, check out Scottsdale’s Great Wolf Lodge. The park includes a lazy river, a wave pool, and several exhilarating ride experiences. Prices vary, but you will need to be staying at the resort in order to enjoy the park.
Before the end of your trip, be sure to visit the bustling downtown Phoenix. The city’s business and entertainment district is home to a plethora of restaurants, clubs, and shopping centers. There are plenty of activities available for every type of tourist, from the thrill-seeking to foodie to shopaholic.
For a look into the arts community, visit Roosevelt Row, an area in the downtown area full of unconventional art galleries. Here, you’ll find murals dotting nearly every wall and colorful sculptures lining the sidewalk.
Afterward, head to the Orpheum Theater for everything from vaudeville performances to regular movies. Built in the 1920s, the Orpheum is the go-to spot for Broadway productions and even ballets. Even if you aren’t catching a show, be sure to check out the elaborately detailed interior of the theater before heading out to catch a bite to eat.
CityScape is the go-to spot for food and drinks. The vibrant hub covers three blocks of downtown Phoenix and offers daily happy hour specials that cater to each and every palate. For something a little more upscale, check out the Lustre Rooftop Bar, a modern installation complete with a rooftop pool.
Lastly, stop by Yogurt Time to get a quick dessert before heading out for the night. The shop offers 12 flavors with over 60 different toppings to choose from and is open seven days a week. Yogurt Time is also conveniently located in CityScape for easy access after eating.
If eating and sightseeing aren’t enough for you, enjoy a thrilling helicopter ride over the city. The twenty-minute experience begins at the Falcon Field Airport, where you will fly circles over the stunning skyscrapers and beautiful landscape of Phoenix. Don’t forget to snap a few photos before touching back down!
Catch a Diamondbacks Game
If sports are more your wheelhouse, spend an afternoon at Chase Field watching the Arizona Diamondbacks. While the team itself has only won one World Series championship, a home game is an unmissable experience.
Don’t worry if you happen to visit Phoenix during the major league baseball offseason! Cactus League Spring Training is a seasonal tradition that occurs each year during February and March and can be attended by the general public. FiIFTEEN major league teams participate in Spring Training, with over 200 games to choose from.
Spring Training is also considerably more affordable than attending a Diamondbacks game during the main season. Games are spread out across ten different fields in Phoenix, with tickets typically costing around $40 per person.
Planning a trip to Phoenix doesn’t have to be a difficult endeavor. With plenty of available activities, dining options, and sights to see, there’s no reason not to spend your next vacation exploring the streets of Arizona’s biggest and most bustling city. This guide offers all you need to know in order to experience Phoenix exactly as it’s meant to be.