Phoenix is hot.
Literally and figuratively. Phoenix has been one America’s fastest growing cities over the years, and it seemingly hosts every major sporting event possible (BCS bowl games, Super Bowl, Final Four, etc) because of its world class stadiums and ample hotel facilities. No doubt it’s in part by having the tony suburb of Scottsdale and college towns of Tempe and Glendale nearby adding to its metropolitan area mix.
The capital of Arizona, Phoenix is your perfect desert getaway for a weekend, that’s why so many snowbirds head south to Phoenix, especially in the winter. And for the rest of us: there’s spas, shopping, golf and fabulous chain restaurants. Jk there’s obviously great local stuff including a rich art and cultural scene (so many murals!).
phoenix is rising
The first thing you have to do when you get to Phoenix is have some bomb ass Mexican food. Head straight to Barrio Cafe, do not pass go, do not collect $200. This white linen but down to earth cafe was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, but don’t let that stop you. This place is legit. I don’t even like chile rellenos, but their Chiles en Nogada is a revelation. It’s the specialty, they put pomegranates in the sauce, and it is amazing.
What else is amazing are the gorgeous murals and artwork (skulls!) covering the walls, but interior and exterior. I love this place and you will, too.
Undoubtedly, when you arrive in Phoenix, it will probably already be hotter than sin. People will say, “It’s a dry heat” but your skin will still feel like it’s on fire. That’s why it’s called Phoenix. So to counteract the blazing sun, y’all need to find ice cream.
Head to Scottsdale for an old timey classic, the Sugar Bowl. This cotton candy pink and white confection of an ice cream parlor has been in operation since 1958 and has Family Circus art drawn by native Scottsdaler Bil Keane on its menus and napkins. This is old-fashioned churned sundaes, malts and milkshakes, the perfect way to beat the heat.
The Sugar Bowl is located right in the middle of Scottsdale’s downtown, so peruse the Old Town boutiques selling Southwestern wares and jewelry (turquoise, bolo ties, the ilk). There are like five other ice cream shops on this stretch, too, if you’re so inclined.
Just up the road past Camelback Road (the main pipeline to all the resorts) is Scottsdale’s Fashion Square, their high end mall with all sorts of rich, sun-weathered denizens roaming about. This mall is a doppelganger of the St. Louis and Dallas Gallerias. Actually, Scottsdale is familiar to other cities, having similar developers that pull in the same chain restaurants/retailers and city planning with outward suburban sprawl.
But, Scottsdale has a leg up on the others because it is a resort destination. If you are in your 20-40s, chances are you’ve been to a wedding in Scottsdale. I’ll admit, I like chain hotels, there’s something comfortable about them, and when there’s a beautiful desert backdrop? Great wedding locale. AZ resorts are relaxing oases to spend a weekend.
Big fan of the Fairmont, their pool is top notch and their bathrooms are the star of my Pinterest lavatory dreams. I’m so basic, it hurts sometimes.
After a night of festivities, start your morning early and head into the main city proper. I fell in love in Phoenix…with a coffee shop by the name of Tres Leches Mexicano Coffee.
If someone were to design a mom and pop coffee shop for me, this is it. Located in a small cottage in the up and trendy FQ Story neighborhood, there’s a super chill homestyle vibe complete with Dia de los Muertos skulls, loteria cards and seriously delicious dranks. Try the Cafe Churro, so good.
You’re probably going to want real food at some point, so head on down to Vovomeena, a very urban cool brunch spot. The Mexican Benedict is a standout, but then again anything with chorizo on sopas is.
With belly and heart full, dazzle your visual senses by visiting the Heard Museum, a museum dedicated to displaying and support American Indian Art. The grounds of this museum are as gorgeous as the treasures found inside.
There are 40,000 pieces in the collection, including the Barry Goldwater (we definitely in a red state) collection of ~440 Hopi Kachina dolls and this gorgeous Tony Abeyta mural.
I had some time to kill before by flight, so I had to drive through the neighborhoods. I really love the residential areas around Phoenix downtown: Willo Historic District, Windsor Square, Encanto, and Marlen Grove (Midcentury Modern emoji heart eyes), just cruise through the numbered streets near Roosevelt and McDowell. This area is full of historic homes from Craftsman bungalows to Spanish-style pueblos. They are so manicured and charming, it’s like being in a Reese Witherspoon movie.
Downtown proper is hampered by a lot of restoration construction right now, but there’s still cool marquees dotting Central Ave and Van Buren Street near the Talking Stick Arena (home of the Suns and Mercury) and Chase Field (home of the Diamondbacks).
Quick trips to Phoenix always leave more to be desired (so much more art to chase), but luckily, so much is happening in this town that there’s always reason to visit.