The HUBS and I like to call Phoenix one of our hometowns. Its a beautiful, very clean, newer city with tons to offer. At first glance, many would never realize that it is the 6th largest city in the states. You will never feel the 5 million Phoenician natives, primarily because the city is so well mapped out (grid system FTW) and quite physically large (14,000 sq miles)! That means its bigger than Boston & Chicago! Who'd thought?!
Another perk is that its driving distance to many major cities & the sunny beaches of Mexico: LA (5.5 hrs), Las Vegas (4 hrs), Grand Canyon (3 hrs), Sedona (2 hrs). Its also quite pretty in its own right. Phoenix is located in a valley with tons of surrounding mountains aka beautiful hikes. Plus who doesn't like sunshine 300 days a year?
After living here for some time, the HUBS and I have created a list of MUSTS for visitors.
3542 Cheery Lynn Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85018
PROS: the "drivers" are very knowledgeable about the history of ballooning and have tons of trivia to share. some rides include champagne and snacks! great views of the city. the sunrise ride was beautiful!
4925 E McDonald Dr, Phoenix, AZ 85018
PROS: beautiful hiking spot with two trails. The "Cholla" trail is longer but less of an incline and therefore less difficult. The "Echo" trail is much harder, but shorter. Both trails lead to the same point with exquisite views of the city. Plus during the holiday season you may even find a Christmas tree with ornaments at the top! Best times to go: October - March. Avoid weekends if you don't like a crowd or to be hustled while hiking! Be prepared to be on all fours. Elevation: 2707 ft.
2701 E Squaw Drive
PROS: another beautiful hiking spot. More difficult than Camelback Mountain. Definitely will be on all fours. Awesome views of Scottsdale, Tempe & Downtown. Elevation: 2612 ft.
9800 E Talking Stick Way, Scottsdale, AZ 85256
PROS: this resort is really a casino with specialty nights like Bingo. Great place to people watch, drink and play games with friends. Think like downtown vegas but less people. drinks aren't too expensive and they have concession stand nachos. also the entire building is a screen that lights up neat projections (which you can see from the plane!)
CONS: smoking indoors (ugh!). not suitable for kids.
9200 N Bush Hwy, Mesa, AZ 85215
PROS: when is too miserably hot to go outside people do water sports in PHX. perfect for 108F weather. lazy river that caters to day drinking fun. large groups welcome. inexpensive.
CONS: tubes are black so be sure to bring a towel. if going in a large group, bring something to tie tubes together. little bit outside the city.
PROS: another great activity for extreme heat. rent a boat on craigslist and day drink with friends. Make sure the captain doesn't drink (they have cops!!). Large groups welcome. Cliff jumping, tubing, wake boarding.
CONS: sometimes gets kinda packed and a little bit outside the city.
10575 W Indian School Rd, Avondale, AZ 85392
GET: Best Thai Red Curry in the city. 2 stars = normal thai place 4 stars aka Indian food might make you sweat spicy. Spring rolls are also delicious. Hole in the Wall.
1805 E Elliot Rd, Tempe, AZ 85284
GET: Best Panang Curry in the city. 4 star = 4 star spice. Nicer thai restaurant. Delicious.
COLADOS (COFFEE & CREPERIE SHOP)
10685 W Indian School Rd, Avondale, AZ 85392
GET: the chipotle or morning crepe. They also have seasonal fruit crepes like peaches + cream or pumpkin. Any of the crepes can be made vegetarian! Literally the best crepe I've ever had. The savory crepes even come with chili oil!! also try the chai latte or cucumber smoothie! To put this in perspective, everyone that comes to visit us gets taken here. ITS A MUST.
FORGET: do not come here and get the nutella crepe. their unique crepes are worth trying instead of getting the usual. I promise you won't be disappointed.
2334 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85257
ABOUT: this is a quaint little italian market in the midst of sprawling Scottsdale. You literally are eating in the middle of the wine section of the grocery store which you can purchase and they will cork for you!
GET: the margherita pizza, jumbo stuffed pasta shells, and baked ziti. veg friendly and hole in the wall.
IRMA'S KITCHEN (MEXICAN)
906 N 15th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85007
ABOUT: tiny hole in the wall mexican joint with 4 parking spots. Authentic and very very inexpensive. Great customer service.
GET: just about anything on the menu. salsa is really really fresh! I personally love the bean burritos. The first time I tried this place I was so satisfied that I went back that same week!
BARRIO CAFE GRAN RESERVA (MEXICAN)
1301 W Grand Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85007
ABOUT: one of the best gourmet Mexican restaurants in the country (see this article here). completely different flavor pairings than anything I've ever had.
GET: the veggie enchiladas, mezcal margarita, and spicy side house salad (with pomegranate!!).
THE PARLOR (ITALIAN)
1916 E Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016
GET: The Funghi pizza - truffle oil, mushrooms, and goat cheese.
FORGET: the margherita pizza. they have so many wonderful novel pizzas - each worth trying!
7018 E Main St, Scottsdale, AZ, 85251
PROS: 90's pop & hip-hop, classy decor, delicious cocktails (classics and modern)
GET: jameson & the giant peach, mule, and the flatbread pizza!!
1 W Jefferson, Phoenix, AZ 85003
PROS: downtown, larger, modern, large handcrafted cocktails. great small bites too! try the whiskey berry jubilee!
7133 E Stetson Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
ABOUT: this bar features a different country every six months. The decor, drinks and food adapt to the featured country. We tried this during the Cuba reign. Everything from the green chile plantain chips to the banana rum cocktail was delicious (and I know that sounds questionable, but I swear it was really good)!