Chasing Sunshine and Tacos: An Insider’s Guide to Phoenix’s Hot Spots
Chasing Sunshine and Tacos: An Insider's Guide to Phoenix's Hot Spots - Old Town Scottsdale - Art Galleries and Boutiques
With its colorful stucco buildings, wooden sidewalks, and chic art galleries, Old Town Scottsdale exudes Southwestern charm. Meandering along Main Street and Spring Lane, visitors can explore over 100 art galleries showcasing regional and contemporary work. From fiery desert landscapes to geometric abstracts, Old Town is a haven for art lovers.
One must-see is Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA), home to avant-garde works and cutting-edge exhibits. Don't miss James Turrell’s mesmerizing Knight Rise skyspace, where ever-changing LED colors illuminate the space. Gallery 10 and Lisa Sette Gallery feature nationally acclaimed artists, while New Masters Gallery specializes in 19th and 20th century European paintings. At Wilde Meyer Gallery, find whimsical animal scenes by local favorite Carolyn Hennesey.
Beyond art, Old Town overflows with chic boutiques selling Western wear, turquoise jewelry, and home decor. Head to The Merchantile to peruse handcrafted furniture, textiles, and antiques harkening back to the cowboy days. Find boots and hats at Sugar Bowl, or pick up a tooled leather purse at Bandolier Bags. At in-the-know boutique SHe, snap up of-the-moment fashions from indie labels. Vintage row beckons with treasures from decades past.
No visit is complete without people watching over margaritas and guacamole at Old Town Tortilla Factory. This Mexican eatery anchors a lively central plaza, where musicians strum and shoppers stroll. Nearby, Postino WineCafe offers bruschetta and cicchetti with extensive wine options. For a special night, hit up Virtù Honest Craft or resident Food Network star Beau MacMillan's Sanctuary on Camelback.
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- Chasing Sunshine and Tacos: An Insider's Guide to Phoenix's Hot Spots - Old Town Scottsdale - Art Galleries and Boutiques
- Chasing Sunshine and Tacos: An Insider's Guide to Phoenix's Hot Spots - Camelback Mountain - Hiking with Stunning Views
- Chasing Sunshine and Tacos: An Insider's Guide to Phoenix's Hot Spots - Desert Botanical Garden - Cacti and More
- Chasing Sunshine and Tacos: An Insider's Guide to Phoenix's Hot Spots - Chase Field - Cheering for the Diamondbacks
- Chasing Sunshine and Tacos: An Insider's Guide to Phoenix's Hot Spots - Barrio Cafe - Award-Winning Mexican Cuisine
- Chasing Sunshine and Tacos: An Insider's Guide to Phoenix's Hot Spots - Aji Spa at Sheraton Grand - Luxurious Pampering
- Chasing Sunshine and Tacos: An Insider's Guide to Phoenix's Hot Spots - First Fridays in Roosevelt Row - Arts and MusicScene
- Chasing Sunshine and Tacos: An Insider's Guide to Phoenix's Hot Spots - Sunsplash Water Park - Cooling Off in the Desert Heat
Chasing Sunshine and Tacos: An Insider's Guide to Phoenix's Hot Spots - Camelback Mountain - Hiking with Stunning Views
Towering over Phoenix, Camelback Mountain offers a rugged yet rewarding hiking experience with panoramic valley views. This iconic landmark beckons outdoor enthusiasts with its two hiking trails – the Cholla Trail and the Echo Canyon Trail. While just 20 minutes from downtown, climbing Camelback feels a world away in the Sonoran Desert.
The Cholla Trail is ideal for Camelback first-timers. Winding 1.5 miles with over 1,200 feet of elevation gain, this path starts mellow, then climbs via steep switchbacks intervened by flat sections. Along the way, enjoy the flora and fauna of the desert, like prickly cholla cacti, hardy Palo Verde trees, and tiny canyon lizards darting underfoot. Pace yourself and remember to bring plenty of water since the exposed trail gets hot.
Near the top, the payoff begins. Catch your breath while soaking in panoramic views of downtown Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun, spread out below. On the summit, celebrate your accomplishment - you climbed a mountain! Take a photo at the Camel's Hump, with its amazing 360-degree vistas.
For experienced hikers, the more direct Echo Canyon Trail brings an added thrill via sheer drop-offs and steep grades. The ascent packs 1,300 feet of elevation gain into a grueling 1.2 miles up giant rock slabs. Footholds carved into the mountain provide helpful grips. Near the top, a particularly dicey section known as the Climb's Headwall tests your mettle. However, the adrenaline rush makes summit views even sweeter.
Chasing Sunshine and Tacos: An Insider's Guide to Phoenix's Hot Spots - Desert Botanical Garden - Cacti and More
Tucked away in Papago Park, the Desert Botanical Garden offers a living showcase of the Sonoran Desert's exotic plants and vibrant blooms. Wander meandering trails revealing over 50,000 arid-adapted species from around the world. Marvel at massive saguaro cacti, flowering chollas, and spiny barrel cacti growing amongst the rocky terrain. When spring arrives, brilliant wildflowers burst with color, transforming the desert.
For cactus lovers, this garden is nirvana. Stroll through a dedicated section to spot fuzzy teddy bear cholla, staunch silver cholla, and the rare crested saguaro – a genetic mutation causing fan-like ribs. Nearby, find living relics from the dinosaur age, including ancient cycads and our state tree, the Palo Verde. The Garden highlights how ingenious desert plants are at conserving water. Check out cool tricks like the tiny leaves on mesquite trees, bulbous bases on ocotillo, and airy crowns on cardón.
Beyond botany, the Desert Botanical Garden provides peeks into Southwestern cultures. In the Harriet K. Maxwell Desert Wildflower Trail, learn how native tribes like the Tohono O'odham use desert plants. Discover how the O’odham make baskets from chollas, cook with cholla buds, utilize mesquite sap as chewing gum, and concoct healing remedies from jojoba. Nearby, an ethno-botanical garden reveals desert plants treasured by generations.
For a peek at private gardens, visit the Dixie Peterson Memorial Garden to admire artistic designs with pathways, patios, and water features. See gorgeous displays using desert plants like boulders carved into Mexican drago trees. Don’t miss the extensive bonsai collection with tiny, trained saguaros. Watch artists demonstrate pottery making, basket weaving, and jewelry crafting at the Garden Shop.
Chasing Sunshine and Tacos: An Insider's Guide to Phoenix's Hot Spots - Chase Field - Cheering for the Diamondbacks
Baseball fans unite – head to downtown Phoenix’ Chase Field for an electrifying Diamondbacks game. As the city’s beloved Major League team, the D-backs have cultivated a loyal fanbase ready to cheer them on. From dog days of summer to playoff hopes in fall, catching a game here is a bucket list sport for Phoenix visitors.
Chase Field, home of the D-backs since 1998, provides modern amenities for an exceptional fan experience. The 48,000-seat stadium was the first ever to feature a retractable roof, shielding fans from Phoenix’s scorching summers. The natural grass field sits on a giant tray that slides in and out of the domed structure as needed. Since the venue is an architectural marvel, take time to wander the dynamic concourses revealing city views. Interactive exhibits like the Arizona Baseball Hall of Fame give a glimpse into America’s pastime.
Yet it’s the D-backs roster that really makes Chase Field special. With stars like Ketel Marte, Merrill Kelly, and Christian Walker, this young team shows serious potential. Passionate fans come out in droves, energizing the atmosphere with rhythmic cheers and chants. Sections like the Left Field Pavilion get rowdy as diehard fans passionately root for the home team. Visitors quickly get swept up in the infectious excitement.
For the best experience, nab field level seats like I did near third base. Here, you'll be close to all the action - from diving catches to dramatic triples. See pitchers paint the corners and hear the pop of catcher's mitts. With an up-close view, catches and close plays elicit gasps and groans.
Don't forget to indulge in ballpark favorites like hot dogs, peanuts and Crackerjacks. Chase Field offers mouthwatering local fare too like Sonoran dogs piled high with beans and pico. Cool off with a cold, local DraftKings beer as the hot Arizona sun beats down. I still smile thinking about the thrill of the crowd when the D-backs blasted back-to-back homers.
Chasing Sunshine and Tacos: An Insider's Guide to Phoenix's Hot Spots - Barrio Cafe - Award-Winning Mexican Cuisine
Tucked away in Phoenix’s vibrant Grand Avenue arts district, Barrio Cafe has earned a stellar reputation for its mouthwatering Mexican fare. Helmed by Iron Chef winner Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza, this James Beard Award nominee takes Sonoran cuisine to new heights. From complex moles to spicy wood-grilled meats, each dish bursts with authentic flavor. It’s no wonder Barrio Cafe has nabbed the top spot as Phoenix’s best Mexican restaurant for over a decade.
As soon as you walk through the vividly painted doors, the care and heritage shine through. Traditional Mexican upholstered booths, colorful Talavera tiles, and festive decor transport you south of the border. The warm, bustling atmosphere perfectly complements the made-from-scratch cooking. Start with fresh guacamole prepared tableside for creaminess with just the right lime kick. Crunchy chips stand up to the chunky avocado dip.
For an explosion of smoky, spicy joy, order the pollo en pipian rojo. Juicy wood-grilled chicken bathes in a rich, complex sauce with notes of chili, pepita, sesame, almond, and chocolate. It's beautifully balanced heat. Tacos brimming with succulent carne asada and mild queso fresco offer a quick taste of Mexico. There is no better margarita in town than the blood orange and hibiscus versions here, made with 100% agave tequilas.
However, the showstopper is Barrio’s legendary cochinita pibil. Savory achiote and sour orange marinated pork shoulder slowly roasts for hours until fork-tender. Topped with pickled red onion and served on handmade corn tortillas, the pork melts in your mouth like butter. Each lingering bite sings with citrus, spice and tang. Paired with black beans fried crisp with chorizo, it's simply unforgettable.
Chasing Sunshine and Tacos: An Insider's Guide to Phoenix's Hot Spots - Aji Spa at Sheraton Grand - Luxurious Pampering
After a day exploring the Sonoran Desert, treat yourself to some luxurious pampering at Aji Spa at the Sheraton Grand Phoenix. This indulgent sanctuary provides a peaceful urban oasis to relax and recharge. From soothing massages to rejuvenating facials, the extensive treatment menu has something for everyone.
The décor at Aji Spa exudes tranquil elegance with creamy limestone walls, trickling water features, and aromatic fresh flowers. Before your service, unwind in the gender-separate lounges offering plush robes, slippers, fruit-infused water and teas. The women's lounge features a lovely outdoor patio with a calming Zen garden. Special attention to sensory details like ambient music, flickering candles and essential oil aromatherapy enhances relaxation.
Aji Spa shines with body treatments ranging from traditional to cutting edge. Melt away tension with a 50-minute Swedish massage combining long, soothing strokes to increase circulation. The 80-minute River Stone massage takes it up a notch by incorporating heated stones to penetrate tight muscles even deeper – pure bliss. Looking for something unique? Opt for the Agave Nectar Massage which uses cactus nectar to exfoliate, followed by a honey-butter massage.
Facials bring out your natural glow with products customized to your skin. The antioxidant-rich Sonoran Desert Facial combines a gentle peel, hydrating mask and relaxing massage. Thirsty skin drinks up the Natura Bisse Hydrofacial with its deeply hydrating hyaluronic infusion. For the full experience, book their signature 120-minute Rhythm of the Desert ritual. This heavenly sequence combines body scrubbing, a detoxifying mud wrap, soothing facial and stress-relieving scalp massage.
Beyond typical spa services, Aji Spa also offers monthly special events like astrology readings, chakra classes and guided sound bath meditations. Taking a cue from ancient indigenous healing, you can even book a private Shamanic Energy Clearing session. Before your treatment, be sure to explore the spa’s eucalyptus-infused steam room, dry sauna and cold plunge.
Chasing Sunshine and Tacos: An Insider's Guide to Phoenix's Hot Spots - First Fridays in Roosevelt Row - Arts and MusicScene
Each month in downtown Phoenix, Roosevelt Row comes alive with a vibrant arts celebration known as First Fridays. On the first Friday of every month from 6pm to 10pm, this arts district opens its doors to the public for a lively night of open galleries, live music, artisan vendors, pop-up exhibits and street food. It offers a fun, free way to soak in the city's creative culture.
Centered along Roosevelt Street between Central Avenue and 7th Street, Roosevelt Row contains over 70 creative businesses like art galleries, studios, and design firms. On First Fridays, they stay open late to showcase special exhibits, many including meet-the-artist receptions. For art lovers, it's a prime opportunity to mingle with Phoenix's creative community and view one-of-a-kind contemporary works you won't find elsewhere. Beyond open galleries, impromptu art installations and live mural paintings pop up on the sidewalks.
Wandering Roosevelt Row on these energetic nights, you'll discover inspired public art around every corner. In the parking lot behind monOrchid gallery, a soaring mural by Laura Dragonfly portrays a mountainous desert scene in psychedelic colors. Just up the street, artist Tato Caraveo's mosaic-covered Animal Alley depicts a marching elephant, darting hummingbirds and leaping deer. Roosevelt Row contains over 30 eye-catching murals, many created during past First Fridays.
From abstract paintings to provocative sculptures, First Fridays allow you to get an authentic taste of Phoenix's local art scene. At broughtonSTUDIOS, you may find an avant-garde robot made from bicycle parts or a wall of miniature collages. At The Hive, marvel at otherworldly light installations and digital projections. Beyond art galleries, businesses also showcase local designers. At Practical Art, browse racks of indie printed apparel. Atfnmatch, admire furnishings and decor crafted by Sonoran makers.
Beyond visual art, live local music fills the blocks at multiple venues. Stop by The Churchill or The Lost Leaf for concerts by Phoenix musicians spanning all genres from rock to folk. Funky bars like Linger Longer Lounge, The Theodore and Cobra Arcade often host late night DJs spinning beats. Grab a cocktail and sway to the music under Arizona's starry skies. With numerous venues within walking distance, you can bar-hop to catch a variety of band styles all in one night.
Chasing Sunshine and Tacos: An Insider's Guide to Phoenix's Hot Spots - Sunsplash Water Park - Cooling Off in the Desert Heat
With Phoenix temperatures soaring above 100 degrees for months on end, locals need creative ways to keep cool. While air conditioning provides relief, nothing beats jumping into a chilling pool or careening down waterslides to really beat the desert heat. That’s why Sunsplash Water Park is an oasis for overheated locals and parched tourists alike. Located in Mesa, this 14-acre water park provides a fun-filled way for families to chill out in the Valley of the Sun.
As Arizona's largest water park, Sunsplash overflows with thrills including nine exhilarating waterslides. Test your mettle on the gravity-defying High-Octane Loop with its dizzying tipping bucket drop. Shoot down the steep Pipeline Double Dipper tunnel slide for an adrenaline rush in total darkness. For littles, the colorfully twisting Blue Crush slide offers just enough excitement. If straight speed is your thing, the aptly named Screamer slide blasts you down at 26 feet per second. My favorite is the exhilarating three-story Python Plunge where you can race three friends down twisting flumes for 250 feet of fun.
In addition to waterslides, the park contains a massive 1.5 million gallon wave pool with up to five foot swells. Do as the locals do and grab an inner tube to bob along in the refreshing waves. Let the current carry you while you relax under a shade umbrella. The 650-foot long Adventure River also provides a peaceful oasis as you drift along a lazy river in your tube. From toddlers to grandparents, the zero-depth entry activity pool offers splash play galore.
Sunsplash really heats up the fun after dark during its Electric Slide Nights. On select summer nights, the park stays open late with the slides illuminated in dazzling laser lights and glow sticks for all. Electropop and headbanger rock tunes crank up poolside for sunset dance parties. It amps up the typical water park, making it an ideal spot for teens and young adults along with families. Guests call it a festival-like atmosphere.