When it comes to things to do in Phoenix, you’re spoiled for choice. The sunniest city in the United States is a treasure trove of outdoor activities, local charm, delicious food and lively bars.
Sure, America’s fifth-largest city still has cowboys and red-rock buttes and the kind of cactus most people see only in cartoons, but it’s also seriously cool here.
Phoenix is also the gateway to the Grand Canyon; the drive to America’s greatest natural wonder takes just 3½ hours.
1. Stroll around Old Town Scottsdale
The Old Town—also known as Downtown— district offers boutique shopping featuring souvenirs, jewellery and art with a Southwestern flair.
If you’re hunting for a souvenir, you’ll find your fill of old-fashioned flair (think cowboy hats and turquoise jewellery) alongside upscale art galleries and trendy boutiques in the Fifth Avenue district. The area is also a hot spot for after-dark dancing and cocktails.
2. Hike Camelback Mountain
Located just 20 minutes from downtown Phoenix, Camelback Mountain is a Phoenix icon. Two difficult trailheads will bring you up 1,420 feet to a summit resembling the hump of a camel’s back, where you’ll have amazing 360-degree views of the city.
The trails are tricky, but definitely manageable – we suggest going before the sun come ups so you’re not baking in the hot Arizona rays.
3. Cool down with an ice cream from Mary Coyle
A Phoenix staple since 1951, this retro ice cream parlour serves up homemade 16% Butterfat Ice Cream – and yes, it does taste as heavenly as it sounds.
As well as doing classic flavours, you can also try Black Liquorice, Black Raspberry or Burgundy Cherry, as well as an incredibly huge 11lb ‘Grand Canyon’ sundae, which has 11 scoops, whipped cream and cherries.
4. Check out the street art on Roosevelt Row
Roosevelt Row is a walkable arts district in downtown Phoenix. It’s home to galleries, mural-splashed business walls, incredible local restaurants, boutiques and and a free monthly art walk.
Make sure to wander down the side streets to check out the best of the city’s street art.
5. Go Salt River Tubing in Tonto National Forest
Just minutes from Phoenix, you can spend an afternoon tubing the Lower Salt River rapids while floating on cool and refreshing mountain-stream waters. You can bring a cooler with you packed with a picnic and just float downstream.
Tube rentals and shuttle service are available 7 days a week, starting at 9 a.m and it only cost $17 per person/tube.
6. Learn how to line dance at a country-western night
Cheesy? Yes. Fun? YES. Grab your boots and make your way to a local honky-tonk when in Phoenix for a wildly good night.
Head to Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row (half-country bar, half-nightclub) for a few $5 “Redneck Cocktails” and you’ll be kicking your heels up in no time. Wednesday nights are popular here.
7. See Las Noches de la Luminarias at the Desert Botanical Garden
Every night during winter season, Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden lights up its paths through the Sonoran Desert for pretty strolls through the wild plants and nature.
Each evening will feature more than 8,000 hand-lit luminaria bags and thousands of white twinkle lights. A real Southwestern holiday tradition.