Phoenix, Arizona Insider Travel Tips

Sharing is caring!

Phoenix Skyline Piestewa Peak

Phoenix Skyline Piestewa Peak

Phoenix, Arizona Insider Travel Tips
By Stacey Wittig

Must Do
Desert Botanical Garden – near the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport – is a must-do. Make this your first stop after your flight into Phoenix, Arizona. Docents give you a fascinating overview of the Sonoran Desert ecosystem and a better understanding of this unique clime.

Second stop? Float the Salt River on inner tubes. Wear your bathing suit under your travel clothes – which will really freak out your friends staying back in frigid Minnesota or BC. Then experience the Saguaro cacti – that you have just learned about at the DBG – by floating by Saguaro forests on the fun Salt River.

What do you like best about Phoenix?
The climate! You don’t have to worry about scheduling your stay, with more than 300 sun-filled days a year and average temperature of 72.6 degrees, Phoenix is a premier destination. Come any time of the year. The “Valley of the Sun” will romance you with the spirit of the desert, the purple peaks of nearby mountains and the perfect weather for its variety of attractions.

Best Walk
My fave is Piestawa Peak climb. Named after Lori Piestewa, the first Native American woman to die in combat while serving with the U.S. military. She was a member of the Hopi people of northern Arizona. Piestawa is one of the highest peaks that you see from downtown Phoenix, so it is not an easy walk. But the hike rewards with awesome views of the city below.

Best Restaurants
Barrio Cafe – Chef-owner Silvana Salcido Esparza’s restaurant has been awarded Best Mexican Restaurant every year since 2003! It is the trendy place to see and be seen – and is convenient to the Phoenix Art Museum.

Talavera Restaurant at The Four Seasons – Troon, Scottsdale features American cuisine with a nod to local food sources. The upscale yet comfortable restaurant offers outdoor dining overlooking a city-lit view. The Wine Cellar is THE spot for Double-Income-No-Kids and 30-somethings which congregate for weekly tequila tastings.

Prado, Intercontinental Montelucia Resort and Spa’s signature restaurant, gets its culinary inspiration from traditional Andalusian cooking. Healthful ingredients, prepared simply are bursting with flavor. The wood-fired grilling is done in European open-fire brick ovens. Romantic views from your table of Camelback Mountain backlit by city lights. Thus the resort’s name, Montelucia, means mountain of light.

CityScape Phoenix

CityScape Phoenix

Best Music/Festival
The Fountain Hills Great Fair is held every February. The three-day juried art fair features nearly 480 artists and artisans from across the United States and around the globe, and attracts 200,000+ visitors.

A special event at the art fair is the annual Hot Air Balloon Rally which launches from Fountain Park on Sunday morning (weather permitting). The exciting lift-off is a blast of colorful “photo ops” as the balloons reflections are caught in the mirror finish of Fountain Hill’s lake. The local tradition among balloonists is to dip their baskets into Fountain Lake at lift off.

Live Native American music adds a special Arizona spirit. Free Admission – Free Parking – Wheelchairs and Scooters available for rent.

Best Nightlife
Scottsdale ArtWalk is “America’s Original ArtWalk” and takes place every Thursday evening from 7 to 9 p.m. So Happy Hour on Thursdays are lively for appetizers and drinks before the walk begins. The 30-year tradition is popular with locals and visitors alike. Scottsdale is home to about 100 art galleries, so after strolling so many galleries, most art goers are hungry for dinner and more drinks. The Scottsdale club scene is infused with students from nearby ASU. Clubs such as e4, Suede, Myst, SIX and Axis/Radius also offer celebrity star gazing. George Clooney, Paris Hilton, Ben Affleck and Carmen Electra are some of the celebs that have been spotted around Scottsdale.

Best Day Trip Out of the City
Get a fresh taste of the Old West at Tortilla Flat: Cowboy grub and crackleberries (eggs) have been on the menu since Tortilla Flat was a stage stop in 1904. No worries: food is country fresh!

The drive to Tortilla Flat is an adventure in itself. The windy mountain road weaves through mountain passes and down into sandy desert draws following the Historic Apache Trail. Once there, saddle up to the bar — the bar stools are real western saddles — and order your favorite drink or sarsaparilla. There’s plenty to do: a country store and museum, BBQ patio dining, trail tours and Wild West Gun Fights on the second and fourth Saturdays from December through April. Only 55 miles — or one hour and twenty minutes – from downtown Phoenix, Tortilla Flat is located in the Tonto National Forest a century away.

Little-know Phoenix-Area Gem
Sit around the campfire with real Yavapai Indians. “The Yavapai Experience” is an unique cultural tour where you will gather around a campfire to hear stories about ancient culture first hand from the tribal members of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. You will get a personal, guided tour around Yavapai ancestral land and learn about the history, stories and traditional Yavapai foods.

Next explore the heart of Yavapai country on a guided, one-mile nature trail. You will view artifacts along the way which help depict how the Yavapai’s lives are connected with the Sonoran desert. See a wikiup – temporary lodge – and petroglyphs. To relax after the nature walk, you’ll enjoy an authentic Yavapai food tasting with dishes including cabbage stew and Indian fry bread. The experience concludes with a video presentation and question-and-answer session to help guests learn more about the intriguing Fort McDowell Yavapai.

Read More Articles by Stacey Wittig:

Travel Tips: 4 Smart Tips on How to Travel Light


Stacey Wittig, “Vagabonding Lulu,” is a travel writer based in Flagstaff, AZ. Her trekking adventures have led her up the Inca Trail in Peru eating fried caterpillars and roasted guinea pig, across the plains of northern Spain on El Camino de Santiago enjoying tapas and steamed barnacles, and through the vineyards of Cinque Terre sipping Chianti Classic. “Northern Arizona is a remarkable place to call home,” declares the wandering writer who loves sour cream enchiladas at El Charro Restaurant in Flagstaff, AZ.


Sharing is caring!

Leave a Reply