No longer content to play second fiddle to Scottsdale’s luxe swimming and golf resorts, Phoenix has reinvented itself as Arizona's ultimate oasis of cool. By embracing its cultural history and the geography of the northern Sonoran Desert, then adding a dash of urban grit, the city blends up-and-coming sophistication, a love of the outdoors, and plenty of laid-back Arizona charm.
When to Go
With an average of 299 sunny days annually, you’re unlikely to get bad weather in Phoenix. But avoiding the summer heat is the best way to take advantage of bike share programs and nearby hiking. Consider a trip in early spring, when the cacti bloom day and night.
Arizona’s largest festival, the Arizona State Fair, showcases the gamut of local talent, from athletes to musicians. At the Heard Museum’s annual World Championship Hoop Dance Contest, American Indian and Canadian First Nations dancers compete for top honors. Foodies come together to create, evaluate, celebrate, and indulge in Phoenix’s unique culinary talents at Devour.
What to Eat
Phoenix is one of the best places in the country to sample indigenous desert ingredients and experience Native American culinary influences. Look for Sonoran tepary beans at Helio Basin Brewing Company and Kai Restaurant, the state’s only AAA Five Diamond/Forbes Five Star eatery. Or try Indian tacos and Chumuth—a hand-pulled Tohono O’odham tortilla—at the Fry Bread House.
Souvenir to Take Home
Pick up a cactus or succulent for a memory of your time in the Sonoran Desert. When properly packed, they travel well and they’re easy to care for once you’re home. Have a notoriously black thumb but still want a souvenir of the thrifty plants? Stop into Phoenix’s boutique shops for a pair of saguaro earrings or a prickly pear-adorned throw pillow.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Sustainable Travel Tip
Wake up early to snap a shot of the sun rising behind the aptly named Camelback Mountain, creating one of the city’s most striking and recognizable silhouettes. If urban skylines are more your style, head for the hills. Dobbins Point at South Mountain is the place to take in Phoenix from above, especially as the sun sets and lights come on.