From Hip, Urban Scenes to Family-Friendly Fun, the Diverse Communities of Greater Phoenix Await
Surrounded by mountain ranges, the Greater Phoenix area encompasses more than 500 square miles of Sonoran Desert and is comprised of 24 total municipalities – each with a distinct set of characteristics, attractions and flavors that offer visitors a unique glimpse at the nation's fifth-largest city. We invite you to find out more about what makes each of the following communities perfect for your next visit.
Plush living is as easy as spending a few days in Scottsdale, home to posh resorts, spas, restaurants and nightlife, as well as spectacular landscapes. Start your day with a hike on the 3.5-mile Pinnacle Peak Trail or 4-mile Tom’s Thumb Trail before exploring OdySea Aquarium, indoor skydiving at iFLY, or an off-road adventure.
Shopping centers, spas and art galleries—many of which are located in Scottsdale—provide plenty of daytime entertainment. Evenings, however, give way to indulgence, whether you’re trying one of the city’s acclaimed restaurants or sipping a wine flight at a downtown Scottsdale wine-tasting room. Alternatively, check out Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, which takes entertainment to a whole new dimension with sword-wielding knights who challenge each other in an arena as guests tuck into a four-course dinner. For more on Old Town Scottsdale, click here.
Don’t miss: Dinner at FnB Restaurant, where Charleen Badman—the 2019 recipient of the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest—serves up a creative farm-to-table seasonal menu.
Downtown and Central Phoenix run the gamut from speakeasies and hipster coffee bars to hyper-local retail and Sunday Funday brunch, and Phoenix’s many mixed-use concepts are a must.
The Newton PHX is an adaptive reuse project where visitors can read, dine, gather and shop. Uptown Plaza, built in 1955, blends mid-century modern architecture with local retailers and restaurants. Relax with a craft beer at Huss Brewing Co. before heading on to your next stop. The Colony, which offers shopping and dining, provides a wholly local experience. Swing into Phoenix General for one-of-a-kind Phoenix gear, candles and decor.
Grab a bike courtesy of Grid Bike Share, and pedal through historic neighborhoods, along the canal or down Roosevelt Row to see art galleries, murals and boutiques. Be sure to stop by historic Heritage Square to see its 19th-century Rosson House and eat at two restaurants helmed by James Beard Award-winning chefs: chef Nobuo Fukada’s Nobuo at Teeter House and chef Chris Bianco’s Pizzeria Bianco. Or, drop in at Anhelo, the square’s newest restaurant, where uber-seasonal ingredients and contemporary cuisine shine.
For a liquid refreshment, head to the downtown outpost of Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co., with its national reputation for Arizona-centric beer. Or swing by Little Rituals for the Big City Nights cocktail (spoiler alert: It comes topped with a replica of the bar’s Phoenix-inspired mural). For more on the dining in the charming Arcadia Neighborhood; to celebrate Pride year-round in The Melrose District, click here; or to explore Phoenix's Mid-Century Modern neighborhoods, click here.
If variety is the spice of life, then Mesa delivers in spades. Stop and smell the cider at Cider Corps, where as many as 15 different hard ciders pay tribute to military veterans with names like Mango Foxtrot and Semper Vera.
Head outdoors to enjoy more than 3,000 acres of multiuse trails at Usery Mountain Regional Park, which also accommodates camping. Or pay a visit to the Arizona Museum of Natural History, where you’ll encounter a family-friendly history of the Southwest that ranges from dinosaur digs to native peoples.
Don’t miss: The theater shows, concerts, festivals and contemporary art exhibits at Mesa Arts Center, conveniently located along the Valley Metro Rail.
Tempe offers an amalgam of outdoor pursuits, local gastronomy and high-brow culture. This is a city where you can spend your days paddling on Tempe Town Lake and hiking through Rio Salado Park, or viewing contemporary art at the ASU Art Museum and catching a Broadway show at ASU Gammage. Come spring, join the festivities at the annual Innings Festival, a two-day celebration of music, food and spring training.
Like any self-respecting college town, Tempe also boasts a number of worthwhile breweries. One of the newest is Fate Brewing Company, which recently expanded from Scottsdale to bring its small-batch beers farther south. And when the occasion calls for more than beer, Tempe answers with creative cocktails. Helmed by Tamara Stanger of “Chopped” fame, Cotton & Copper sings a veritable ode to Arizona in cocktails, craft beers and plates.
Don’t miss: The Tempe Festival of the Arts, which showcases a bonanza of arts and crafts for three days every spring and fall.
Glendale is home to the dynamic Westgate Entertainment District, where restaurants, shops and entertainment complement the games held at Gila River Arena (home to the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes) and the adjacent State Farm Stadium (home to the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals). Tours of State Farm Stadium provide a behind-the-scenes look at this engineering marvel.
Glendale also caters to those in search of a Main Street experience by way of its historic downtown. Here, tree-lined streets house independent boutiques as well as a diverse array of restaurants, such as Little Saigon and Haus Murphy’s. Antique shopping along brick-trimmed sidewalks is big here, too, with stores purveying everything from secondhand furniture to vintage handbags. For additional inspiration on things to to in the West Valley, click here.
Don’t miss: The spectacular tradition of Glendale Glitters, when 16 city blocks twinkle with holiday lights between November and January.
Those in the mood for a dash of Old West fun should head to Cave Creek, where saloons, rodeos and hiking trails dominate the social landscape.
Outdoor fun awaits at Cave Creek’s Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, offering seven miles of hiking, mountain biking and equestrian trails. Join Spur Cross Stables for a guided horseback ride through the scenic region.
Carefree is versatile, though, as evidenced by the arrival of Civana Wellness Resort & Spa, a destination resort where guests are encouraged to find their best selves through a variety of fitness classes, a series of indulgences or a little of both.
Don’t miss: A night at The Buffalo Chip Saloon, a rustic retreat that offers up steakhouse fare, country dancing and, on select nights, live bull riding.
This article originally appeared in the 2020 Official Travel Guide to Greater Phoenix.