Exploring Phoenix - 9 fun things to do
I spent 5 days in Phoenix in December, well actually the greater Phoenix area of Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Mesa, and did quite a bit. It was again one of those times where I didn’t quite know what to expect, and came away pleasantly surprised from the “Valley of the Sun”.
Whether you are interested in exploring the desert, the local art scene, or a food lover, or really just want to pamper yourself, all of it can be done there. Here is a list of what I enjoyed.
For the art lovers and museum buffs
1. The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMOCA) – A small but vibrant museum in the Scottsdale historic area, it has an eclectic mix of modern art and rotating exhibits. Check out their website to get info on free museum hours and temporary exhibitions. Make sure to explore their outdoor installation, which makes for fantastic photos!
2. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West – This was the winter home of the iconic architect whose work and style continues influence modern design. It is now an architecture school (which accepts some 5 students a year!), but is also open to tours. The design of the building is spectacular, with the lines and angles complementing the landscape, but is also extremely functional. One of Wrights’ guiding principles was “Compress and release”, and almost every space starts with a small entryway which then opens out into a more expansive area, or at least the perception of “release” after the “compression” of the entry. I loved the red and orange colors all around, the immaculate furniture, and the beautiful grounds. Definitely a must visit.
3. Phoenix Art Museum – So we only stopped in to see a specific temporary exhibition (Emphatics – an avant garde fashion and accessories by well-known designers), but the museum looks pretty great in general. It focuses on visual arts, and includes modern and contemporary pieces from around the world, photography, fashion design and more. Check out their website for details on hours, current exhibitions, and most importantly, when it is free to get in ;)
4. Camelback Mountain – No guesses as to why the name (fine, it resembles the back and hump of a kneeling camel), but this is an iconic mountain just about 20 minutes from downtown Phoenix. There are many trails to hike or climb the mountain in varying range of difficulty, but the views from up top are spectacular. Sadly, I’ve only seen pictures as we did not get around to doing this when we were there. Start early to miss the crowds, this is an extremely popular spot!
5. Desert Botanical Garden – Go here to see more varieties of cactus that you never knew existed, but also tons of desert flowers, plants, and desert vistas. Sunset makes for a great time to go and get beautiful pictures!
6. Walking tour – I did a street art walking tour of downtown Phoenix with AZing tours and realized that I had absolutely no clue about the vibrant creative community in the city! The tour with AZing tours wasa morning well spent exploring the colorful murals and street art around downtown. The nice folks at AZing also throw in useful trivia and tidbits about the city and its history, making for a fun and informative experience. I really think there is no better way to explore a city than by walking, and a walking tour is an easy way to get a lot in one go. On this walk we came across amazing art, but also cute cafes, markets, historical buildings and hotels. Highly recommend doing this to learn more about the city. Check out their website to see all tours they offer.
7. Shopping in downtown Scottsdale – The heart of downtown Scottsdale is full of vintage and consignment stores, and makes for a fun wander around, and of course some shopping therapy as well. Some local favorites are Vintage by Misty, Celebrity Encore and Twice Designer Resale , you never know what you’ll stumble upon! If you like vintage markets, you must also check out The Old Brick House in Mesa, it’s a treasure trove of unique vintage finds, I only wish I could have brought a bunch of things back home!
8. Agritopia and Barnone – This was definitely one of the highlights of my trip to Phoenix. Agritopia is an urban farm community, with numerous specialty crops farmed, with the same day harvest sold at a farm stand in the community, and supplied to restaurants and coffee shops in the community. Barnone is the craftsmen collective for Agritopia, complete with an urban winery and various makers. I loved this entire experience and will have more details in an upcoming post!
9. For a day of pampering, head straight to the spa at The Wigwam resort. It’s quite something, with a pool to relax in and lounge, a full sauna, and of course fantastic spa treatments. It is quite the premium spa experience, and is exactly what you need after a few days of activity. We spent the morning sipping mimosas by the pool, relaxing, getting a facial and massage, and finishing with a leisure lunch on the rooftop.
For the food lovers
Too many to call out here, so I’ll have a separate post for my favorite eats in the area coming up!
Note: We were guests of Visit Phoenix, but all opinions are my own!