Our Phoenix Bucket List is not just a checklist; it's an invitation to explore the city limits of all that Greater Phoenix has to offer.
Whether you're captivated by the Sonoran Desert, eager to try our regional cuisine, or seeking unique cultural experiences, Phoenix is undeniably the place to be.
Here are the things you absolutely have to check off your bucket list when you visit Greater Phoenix.
1. Try a Sonoran Hot Dog
You can't come to Phoenix without trying a Sonoran-style hot dog. We're talking a grilled bacon-wrapped hot dog in a warm, soft bolillo bun, topped with pinto beans, sauteed onions, chopped tomatoes, and onions. We're salivating just thinking about it.
Fry Bread has a long history in the Sonoran Desert and the many indigenous communities that call this land home. Try the sweet version for dessert or the tacos as a meal. The Tohono O'odham-owned Fry Bread House in Phoenix opened in 1992 and has served happy patrons since. In 2012, it was recognized by the James Beard Foundation and only five other restaurants as an "American Classic."
The Sonoran Desert is peppered with Saguaros towering over the city. Our beloved thorny friends can reach up to 50 feet, with as many as 50 arms. For us, they're as normal as breathing. To see the stunning Southwestern symbol up close, along with 4,000 other cactus species, visit the Desert Botanical Garden.
Driving around downtown Phoenix, you'll see an explosion of mural-covered walls. To learn more about the history and connection between some of the murals, check out the Calle 16 project. Inspired by activism, Silvana Salcido Esparza, the James Beard nominee and chef of Barrio Cafe, started the Calle 16 project.
Take a leisurely stroll or bike ride along Tempe Town Lake and enjoy the stillness of Greater Phoenix. It's a great people-watching spot! If you're feeling adventurous, try paddleboarding or a boat ride along the lake.
Look out for celebrated poet and ASU English Professor Alberto Rios's public art piece, which features his poems and images carved onto 600 granite tiles installed along the lake, culminating into a six-mile-long "book."
The Farm at South Mountain is one of Phoenix's hidden gems. Their farm-to-table dishes use freshly harvested vegetables, edible flowers, eggs, and herbs from the on-site garden. The gorgeous South Mountain backdrop doesn't hurt either. Try an after-lunch hike at South Mountain or watch the sunset at Dobbins Lookout.
First Friday in downtown Phoenix is a vibe. Over 14,000 people descend downtown every First Friday to catch a glimpse of the diverse and vibrant art scene. The Phoenix Art Museum's After Hours event features free access to their exhibitions, unique art activations with local artists, performances, activities, and much more.
The Melrose District is a 1-mile stretch home to some of the best antique shops, art, dining, patio cocktailing, and dance floors. Also known as "The Curve" for its winding nature in an otherwise grided city and the "gayborhood," thanks to its high concentration of LGBTQ+ bars and rainbow flags perched outside allied businesses, this neighborhood is an absolute must for a sense of this city's pride as well as its midcentury roots.
The Sonoran Desert has a distinct vibe, and it's what inspires the clothing, gifts, housewares, and more of the offerings at this central Phoenix boutique shop. The two co-owners stock the store with handpicked, locally-made gifts that are ethically created and sustainably sourced.
Chef Chris Bianco's artisanal wood-fired pizza joint started in the back corner of a grocery store in 1988. Fast forward to 2023—Bianco has been awarded two James Beard Awards and was recently featured on Netflix's Chef's Table: Pizza. The streaming platform dubbed him the "Coltrane of Pizza." Try out one of Pizzeria Bianco's most popular pies — featuring pistachio! — the Rosa.
Take home a little slice of Arizona history with you. At Cosanti Originals, you will find handcrafted, one-of-a-kind wind bells, jewelry, hanging planters, and more made by artisans at Cosanti.
Arcosanti, an experimental town maintained by the Cosanti Foundation, is considered the world's first prototype arcology. Arcology is an architectural concept created by famed Arizona architect Paolo Soleri, who founded Arcosanti, an experimental town, in 1970. It has since built a cult following for its unique take on architecture, environmentalism, and art. Designed to have a limited impact on the environment, Arcosanti integrates architecture design with respect to ecology. Tours and stays at Arcosanti are available.
12. Eat Nopalitos
Yes, edible cactus. Nopales have been dubbed a "superfood" for their many health benefits, including their antiviral, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Lots of Phoenix spots offer unique nopalito dishes. Tacos Calafia serves nopales tacos, quesadillas, burritos, mulitas, and vampiros.
Phoenix has become known for its authentic Sonoran Mexican cuisine. Hot spots like Taco Boys and Huarachis grill their meat over an open fire of mesquite charcoal, just like they do in Sonoran taquerias in Mexico. Try out Carne Asada, Tripa, Chicharron, Cabeza, or Lengua. Thankfully, both Taco Boys and Huarachis offer vegetarian options.
Sonoran cuisine is recognized for its simplicity. Sonoran food was influenced by the blending of European, Indigenous, and Mexican traditions, along with the geography and climate of the Sonoran Desert. As a cattle ranching and agricultural region, it's no mistake that Sonora is believed to have the best Carne Asada in all of Mexico. In Sonora, your tacos will almost always be served with Sonoran-style flour tortillas. Beef and wheat are two staples you will find in nearly any Sonoran dish, along with other foods such as corn, beans, green or red chili, and chiltepin.
If you want a cool Instagram shot for your feed or story, visit Papago Park's Hole-in-the-Rock. You'll be awed by a unique, unforgettable view of Phoenix. You'll get lots of likes—guaranteed!
Cactus League Spring Training is a seasonal rite that descends on the Greater Phoenix area every February and March with the iconic sounds of cracking bats, snapping mitts, and happy fans.
For baseball lovers, it doesn't get much better than this: sunny weather, affordable tickets, and unparalleled proximity to the best players in the game.
You can't come to Phoenix in the summer without tubing or kayaking on the Salt River. Bring your waterproof speakers, cooler, and friends for a memorable ride along the Salt River.
As if the beautiful scenery surrounding the Lower Salt River wasn't enough, one of the most jaw-dropping sights found along an 18-mile stretch of the river are the wild horses who call the river home. The horses roam along the banks where many visitors kayak and tube and can easily be spotted along your route, depending on the time of day.
Dobbins Lookout at South Mountain gives you the feeling you're rubbing shoulders with the clouds. The view not only includes the Valley floor below, but a panoramic sweep that travels from the Estrella Mountains in the west to the Superstition Mountains in the east.
For some shade or quiet reflection, stroll over to the stone resthouse, a Flintones-esque structure built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. This is one of the best places in Phoenix to watch a sunrise or sunset.
The Century Grand was named Best U.S. Cocktail Bar in the U.S. in the 2023 Spirited Awards. Century Grand features three turn-of-the-century unique bar concepts featuring immersive experiences, from a Presidential Pullman-inspired train car to a ship's hull to a New Orleans-inspired apothecary.
The Van Buren is housed inside the former Phoenix Motor Co. Building from the 1930s. In 2018, the Van Buren was added to the National Register of Historic Places. On any given night, local and touring acts such as Lil Wayne, 6LACK, and others light up the stage at the Van Buren.
The Grand Ambassador has been one of Phoenix's most-hyped openings in recent memory. Designed by Sam Fox, the Valley restaurateur who's created over 150+ restaurants, the Global Ambassador features five unique, globally-minded restaurant concepts. The newly constructed rooftop is the largest in Arizona. Make sure you dine at théa, the Mediterranean restaurant on the rooftop, where dinner comes with majestic views of Camelback Mountain.
The Phoenix Mercury's very own Diana Taurasi will arguably go down as one of the GOATS of WNBA history. Don't miss a chance to see the three-time WNBA champion AND Brittney Griner, the nine-time All-Star, take the floor together at Footprint Center.