If you have been following along with me for a while, you’ll know that before NYC, I lived in Phoenix, AZ for quite a few years. While I’m no longer a “local”, I still head back to the Valley 3-4 times a year to visit and try to get out and explore the city while I am there, since lately there have been a lot of new places opening up around. I thought I would put together a little guide of 25 places if you are planning to visit, or if you live there and are looking for some inspiration! While Arizona can be pretty hot (100+ degrees) during the summer, the rest of the year the weather is pretty amazing and is perfect for outdoor activities and meals outside – the desert is a really gorgeous place! If you are a hiker, a foodie, or a lover of history, this is a great place to visit and explore.
Side note, if you’re coming from out of town, renting a car is a must in Phoenix, the public transportation is lacking, though there is a light rail, it is very slow, and I would only suggest it for the downtown Phoenix or Tempe area.
Where to Eat:
Coming from New York City, I love small coffee shops with great design. This place hit the mark with their delicious coffee, they serve Ritual coffee from San Francisco, along with fresh bakery bites and a small food menu.
What to Order: Avocado toast (add the egg! They also add on a chipotle sauce when you get the egg which is so good), hot latte… the barista made me a special one with rose and cardamom, it was one of the most unique coffees I have ever tried, and if you are craving something sweet, try one of their cinnamon rolls.
7051 E 5th Ave Suite I, Scottsdale, AZ 85251 | (480) 256-1403
Great local restaurant and my favorite coffee shop in the valley. They also have some really cute gifts and other items for sale, I’m always tempted to shop while I am there! Now Luci’s has two locations, but my favorite to grab food is the original on Bethany Home Rd. If you want a different menu and to hang outside, definitely check out Luci’s at the Orchard, the courtyard is a dream!
What to order: Iced coffee with vanilla and caramel, the waffelicious; a large malted vanilla Belgian waffle topped with strawberries, whipped cream and butter + add bananas, if you are in the mood for savory, go for burrito bomb on the sun dried tomato wrap, with sausage or the egg sammie, with chorizo on a bialy!
Luci’s Healthy Marketplace: 1590 Bethany Home Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85014 | (602) 773-1339
Luci’s at the Orchard: 7100 N 12th St, Phoenix, AZ 85020 | (602) 633-2442
Copper Star Coffee
Located in the Melrose district downtown, Copper Star Coffee is an old gas station that has been converted into the cutest little coffee shop. Get your caffeine pick-me-up while you’re out and about.
4220 N 7th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85013 | (602) 266-2136
Fresh, authentic tacos, great appetizers and tasty cocktails is a combo you just can’t go wrong with. Not to mention the super instagrammable interior and the outdoor bar and patio, complete with a fireplace.
What to Order: To start, get the street corn queso (pro tip: dip your tacos in what’s left!) and chips and guacamole, my favorite tacos were the Beef Machaca and Braised Pineapple Pork (try them on the crispy tortilla), and for a cocktail, try the Fresh One Margarita – so refreshing!
4338 N Scottsdale Rd. Scottsdale, AZ 85251 | (480) 970-1007
Don’t be fooled by the underwhelming exterior, this is one of the best places to dine in Phoenix.
Chef Beckett serves refined comfort food coupled with amazing service. The last time I went, our table wasn’t yet ready, so the hostess invited us to the bar, with a complimentary cocktail! I also love that local produce is incorporated into many of the dishes making it a true farm-to-table experience. There’s a great wine selection, and is really a perfect spot for a date night. Stay for dessert, they have Chocolate-Dipped Bacon S’mores.
What to Order: Start off with Beckett’s Original Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Tomato Soup, move on to Beckett’s Table Signature Fork Tender Short Ribs for your main, and don’t skip dessert… the Chocolate Dipped Bacon S’mores are super unique and delicious.
3717 E. Indian School Rd. Phoenix, AZ 85018 | (602) 954-1700
Windsor & Churn Ice Cream
If you’re looking for ice cream in Phoenix, have a scoop, or three, at Churn Ice Cream Parlor! It’s conveniently located next to Windsor restaurant meaning you can start your meal with a Crab Cake BLT and finish with a waffle cone, talk about best case scenario! Not only is their ice cream amazing, the parlor is super charming with a bright red and white color scheme and a cassette tape wall. I also love that their ice creams are all natural with no stabilizers, chemicals or preservatives.
5223 N. Central Ave. Phoenix, AZ 85012 | (602) 279-1111
In my opinion, the best wine bar in the neighborhood – and now they have locations popping up all over the valley! The wine selection is carefully curated and the bites are perfect for sharing. If you hit the weather right, the patio is amazing, so take advantage.
What to Order: Definitely order the bruschetta board – you pick 4, my favorites are the Brie & Apples, Prosciutto with Figs and Mascarpone, Burrata, Bacon Arugula and Tomatoes, and the Warm Artichoke Spread. I always order the bottle of Moscato to drink, it’s sweet, but so delicious!
5144 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85012 | (602) 274-5144
Where to Shop:
Biltmore Fashion Park
An upscale, outdoor mall with shops ranging from the Apple store to Saks 5th Avenue to Pottery Barn and Lululemon Athletica, this is a great place to shop on a perfect, sunny day. Add in the fact that they have some amazing eateries and a few local boutiques, and it’s an easy sell.
2502 E Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016
There are some fun upscale home and furniture stores in this complex… the perfect place to go to get inspired to freshen up your home decor!
15205 N Kierland Blvd #150, Scottsdale, AZ 85254
Located right across the street from the Kierland Commons, the Scottsdale Quarter has many of the same stores as Biltmore, with the addition of Free People, Urban Outfitters and also has many fun home decor stores like Restoration Hardware. There are a few restaurants within as well, Brio is one of my favorites.
15059 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85254
Fashion Square Mall
The place to go to visit your all-time favorite department stores, located on right on Camelback Road! This is my favorite mall in the city, though it’s going under a bit of renovation right now, so it’s not at its prettiest. But check it out for a great Nordstrom and all your designer needs; Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci and Burberry.
7014 E Camelback Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Where to Stay
Hotel Valley Ho
This boutique hotel is colorful and mid-century, definitely a unique spot to stay at. It’s also one of the more fun places to stay since it has a pool party on the weekends during the warmer months, complete with a DJ and drink specials. The spa is a treat, their signature Icelandic Moonflower scent is relaxing and complements the modern vibe they are going for.
6850 E Main St, Scottsdale, AZ 85251 | (480) 376-2600
Hotel San Carlos
Hotel San Carlos is a Historic Hotel of America, located in the heart of downtown Phoenix. It opened in 1928 and was one of the first luxury accommodations in the entire southwest. It’s been updated since, but has totally retained all of its original architecture and roaring 20s feel. It’s worth mentioning that Hotel San Carlos is said to be haunted, room 704 in particular, if you’re into that kind of thing!
202 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004 | (602) 253-4121
Places to Visit & See
Arizona Science Center
The possibilities to explore here are endless. A state-of-the-art IMAX theater and corresponding planetarium inspire wonder in everyone who visits, young and old alike.
600 E Washington St, Phoenix, AZ 85004
The Children’s Museum of Phoenix
The Children’s Museum operates on the belief that “learning is a joy” and is the perfect spot for just that. With more exhibits than you can count, there is an opportunity for every age to learn and experience it through fun!
215 N 7th St, Phoenix, AZ 85034
Wander around the oldest remaining residential block in the City of Phoenix. With ten fully-restored buildings, the Square offers visitors a unique look into the vibrant history of Phoenix at the turn of the 19th century.
113 N 6th St, Phoenix, AZ 85004
If live music, local craft beer and tasty burritos are up your alley, this joint in downtown Phoenix is your go-to spot. They feature music artists in a small and intimate concert setting.
308 N 2nd Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85003
The Musical Instrument Museum
The MIM is a fairly new museum in Phoenix, and is a great place to spend the day, and one of the most unique museums I have ever visited. While here, you can learn about instruments and listen to music from all over the world, there is a room to try out the instruments yourself, and there are even concerts played here on a regular basis.
4725 E Mayo Blvd, Phoenix, AZ 85050
The Desert Botanical Garden
A beautiful place to visit in the mornings before it gets hot or in cooler months. Not only do they have local cacti, they also have species from all over the world in their gardens. They often host art installations, events, as well as a permanent exhibit about southwestern Native Americans.
1201 N Galvin Parkway Phoenix, Arizona 85008
World Wildlife Zoo
This huge zoo has just about every possible kind of animal you can imagine, plus several fun rides and exhibits!
16501 W Northern Ave, Litchfield Park, AZ 85340
The centrally-located Phoenix Zoo is adjacent to the Desert Botanical Garden in the Papago Park. This zoo has approximately 1,400 animals, too!
455 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008
This fairly new aquarium is conveniently located right off of the loop 101 in Scottsdale. There are many saltwater and freshwater animals, and even a butterfly building!
9500 East Vía de Ventura A-100, Scottsdale, AZ 85256
Hiking & Desert Exploring:
What’s a visit to Arizona without a little hiking?
Great for all ages and abilities since there are multiple areas for hiking there, including a summit trail and some fun nature walks. Make sure you take water even if it’s not a super warm day. The sun can be brutal!
2701 E Squaw Peak Dr, Phoenix, AZ 85016
Phoenix Sonoran Preserve
Dixie Mountain Loop this is my favorite and it used to be right in my neighborhood. If you ask people about it they may not be familiar, which I love and also means it’s not crowded. It’s an easy hike with interval walking, but it’s almost 4 miles if you do the entire loop, so don’t forget your water!
1600 E Sonoran Desert Dr, Phoenix, AZ 85085
When you fly into Phoenix, you will see Camelback, and the mountain will likely be a constant on the horizon during your stay in the city as well. It is more than a mile to the summit, so the main trail here is certainly a good challenge to anyone looking for a good uphill walk, it’s no joke so be prepared with water and good shoes.
5700 N Echo Canyon Dr Phoenix, AZ 85018
Have you ever been to Phoenix?
If you have, anything you’d add to the list? These are just a few suggestions and I have several other restaurant suggestions, if I listed them all this post would have never ended, so reach out if you want more! I would love to hear if you plan on it in the future, and/or if any of the above will make it on your to-do list.