Today I’ve got a great guest post on Phoenix to-dos by the lovely Courtney Capellan! Courtney is a well-traveled book junkie, a word snob and a technically creative writer. She’s got an amateur photography habit and a treasure hunting fever. Courtney obtained her B.A. from the University of Washington in international studies- specializing in foreign policy and diplomacy. A problem solver and decision-maker, Courtney’s approach to life draws on her ability to see the bigger picture and think outside the box. Check out her article below!
The way I see it, the East Coast of the United States is full of people. So much of American history was written there. It’s an immigrants’ tale- of pilgrims who settled and prospered and of their great endurance and perseverance. The West Coast is full of space. It’s where pioneers sought adventure, prospectors sought gold. It’s tale of migration.
So what’s in between?
If you’re faced with picking one place in the middle, Arizona is a wise choice. Known as the Valley of the Sun state, Arizona’s got a little of the old and wild as well as the spirit of the new and modern. Once upon a time, it was founded by semi-nomadic people. It’s been the home of Native American tribes like the Navajo and Hopi, the settlement of miners, and the foundation for businessmen in tall modern towers. Full of architectural wonders, national parks, and interesting cityscape– there’s no shortage of wonder in Arizona. It’s a big state with a lot of land, so if you’re faced with picking one spot on the map, look no farther than the city of Phoenix.
Must See and Do
Phoenix is a very metropolitan city but it’s still in the Sonoran Desert. You won’t see much wilderness unless you go looking for it. I definitely recommend the Desert Botanical Garden. There’s a rotating schedule of exhibitions and don’t think for a minute that you’ve got to have a green thumb or a passion for plants to appreciate this place. From glass artistry to nighttime light shows to educational tours, this place is well worth just about anybody’s US$22.
I love the sprinklers that rain mist from above along covered walkways throughout the city. They help you stay cool while shopping the outdoor malls. Everything in Phoenix is air-conditioned but it’s inevitable you’ll be outside from place to place. Yes, Phoenicians know what 115 degrees Fahrenheit feels like, and like those sprinklers, adaptation to the desert heat is reflected in the infrastructure. Many shops, buildings and homes are built half underground.
In my opinion, the best all-around shopping experience in Phoenix is City Scape. It’s a modern mix of entertainment, special events and boutique shopping. If you want peace and quiet, it’s not a good option. City Scape definitely offers the hustle and bustle feel of downtown. It’s also near Arizona State University’s main campus (the country’s most notorious college party scene) as well as the Convention Center and the Light Rail.
One unexpected thing you’ll find no shortage of in Phoenix- is hot dogs. The Sonoran hot dog is wrapped in bacon and loaded with beans, chopped tomato and onion, canned mushrooms, mayonnaise, yellow mustard and avocado puree. Some of the most authentic Southwestern hot dogs are found at the food trucks up, throughout the city, especially after the sun goes down. On a Wednesday or Saturday, visit the downtown Public Market, where the best food trucks pull up and join the farmers’ market food stalls.
If you don’t want hot dogs, but are still interested in what’s plenty, order a plate of barbeque ribs at Bobby Q’s. They’re notorious, of course, for their sauce (like any good BBQ) which is bottled to sell- a tasty addition for your cache of souvenirs.
Phoenix is an international city so the palettes of many must be tempered. Aside from hotdogs and the more cowboy-culture grub that you’ll find (authentic in a fun way) I think that Phoenix food shares more with the West than the East, especially for healthy options. If you want locally sourced, wholesome food, check out Flower Child. It’s a casual, counter-service eatery that offers organic produce and naturally raised chicken, salmon and beef.
Accommodations are plenty in the city. For the budget-conscious, an online search from third party booking agents may find you a great last minute hotel deal with basic amenities. Pay attention to the map when you book. The sprawl of the city can make for an hour’s distance or more from the city’s most interesting attractions.
For solo and international travelers, Phoenix has reputable hostels, like the Metcalf House which is right downtown. It’s lively, and with straightforward amenities. Most importantly, it’s within walking distance from the Light Rail for getting around.
Since Phoenix is a popular getaway for long-weekend domestic travelers, there are many all-inclusive, staycation-type options. The Arizona Grand Resort has its own water park, golf course, spa and multiple dining options on site. It’s actually affordable for the long list of amenities and a great location from which to experience the most of Phoenix.