Phoenix is experiencing a revival. In the 1990s few people wandered the downtown streets of Arizona’s crime-ridden capital, but thanks to the efforts of programs like the Downtown Ambassadors and Upward Projects, that’s all changing. Here are the best reasons to visit Phoenix right now:
The Ambassador Program
The Downtown Phoenix Ambassadors sport bright orange shirts and large “Ask Me” badges and offer free escorted walks around this cool downtown—any time between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. Along with good advice on what to see and do, the ambassadors make dinner reservations, lend out umbrellas and provide detailed transportation and cycling maps.
Flat, wide streets make Phoenix an urban cyclists’ dream. In collaboration with local police, Ambassadors advise visiting cyclists to use the sidewalks with caution when a bike lane is not available. Some suggested stops are:
Encanto Park: Located in central Phoenix, Encanto Park comprises 222 acres of picnic areas, two golf courses, nature trails, an amusement park, a swimming pool and a lagoon with good fishing.
Del Norte Place Historic District: The neighboring Del Norte Place historic district dates from the 1920s. Broad, tree-lined streets sport houses ranging in architectural styles from English Cottage to California Ranch.
Phoenix Farmer’s Market: (Wednesdays and Saturdays): Before 1 p.m. you can stop by 721 North Central Avenue, just south of the Roosevelt Arts District and Phoenix Art Museum for lunch at the food trucks and sample local organic citrus fruits and homemade chocolate peanut butter treats to name a few.
Phoenix Art Museum: The Phoenix Art Museum’s permanent collections include more than 18,000 works of American, Asian, European and Latin American art and, with travelling contemporary exhibits, the museum rivals those of larger centres. The museum is also home to the Center for Creative Photography, PhxArtKids and the Dorrance Sculpture Garden—another good al fresco lunch spot.
Roosevelt Arts District: Nearby, the Roosevelt Arts District is particularly lively on the first and third Fridays of most months and features art walks and gallery talks.
Further north on Central check out the new restaurant row—a collection of trendy eateries in formerly abandoned buildings rescued by the folks at Upwards Projects. Try Windsor’s contemporary American dishes on the popular patio near the square of the same name. Finish your meal with homemade ice cream from Churn, a popular ice cream parlor next door.
Mexican food fans will appreciate Barrio Café and Los Sombreros, and good take out can be found at local favourite, Los Compadres—serving enchiladas, empanadas and chili for 50 years.
Happy Hour Specials
All over Phoenix and stretching into downtown Scottsdale next door, top bars and restaurants offer great deals on their food and drinks—well worth planning your dinner hour around the common happy hours of 3 to 6 p.m.
For the complete urban experience, choose a downtown boutique hotel like The Palomar, which is close to the US Airways Center, Chase Field, the Phoenix Symphony and James Beard’s award-winning restaurants, Nobuo and Pizzeria Bianco. Amenities at The Palomar include a rooftop pool and free city cruiser bikes. But be sure to return the bikes by 5 p.m. to enjoy the complimentary daily wine tasting and happy hour.
At the W Scottsdale, excellent summer rates starting mid May are $199 per night. Special packages include poolside pitchers of margaritas, gas cards and free valet parking.
Hikers, dog walkers, cyclists and horseback riders enjoy miles of trails that literally surround the city of Phoenix, which was voted “Best Hiking City” by National Geographic. As the city is in the middle of the Sonoran desert, October to April is the most comfortable time to hit the trails.
To the east, Papago Park is home to the Phoenix Zoo and the Desert Botanical Garden. It features the easiest trails and a stocked, eight-acre lagoon for the urban angler, but don’t get caught without your city fishing license. North Mountain is America’s largest park with 16,000 acres and 20 miles of trails. And for great views, say goodnight to Phoenix with a sunset visit to South Mountain Park, which is also home to ancient Native petroglyphs and the Phoenix Mystery Castle.