Downtown Phoenix has quickly become one of Arizona's hottest destinations (quite literally, too). Today, the destination features a fresh, hip vibe and is home to one-of-a-kind street art and murals, incredible restaurants, and shopping. To make the most out of your visit to Phoenix, check out our top picks for things to see and do in or around the downtown area.
Where to Stay
Without a doubt, the hippest hotel in the city is Found:re Phoenix, which is located in the heart of the downtown arts district, Roosevelt Row. As soon as you enter the lobby, you'll notice a massive (and provocative) painting of a naked Burt Reynolds laying across a bear skin rug while smoking a cigarette. This artsy, 104-room hotel offers loft-like accommodations that are simple, sleek, and modern. Highlights include floating bed frames and savvy tech amenities to make your stay as comfortable as possible. Throughout the property, you'll also find curated, locally produced artwork. The on-site eatery, Match Restaurant & Lounge, offers one of the finest food and drink menus in the city (think strawberry BBQ pulled pork sandwiches and coconut cream rum salmon).
Where to Eat and Drink
In Heritage Square, you’ll find two local favorites. Pizzeria Bianco serves up some of the best pizza in the U.S., and it's an absolute must-visit when in town. When Chris Bianco (who is now a James Beard Award winner) first opened his tiny Pizzeria Bianco in the back of a local grocery store in 1988, little did he know he would later become a leader in the artisanal pizza front. The neighborhood is also home to Nobuo at Teeter House, a sophisticated Japanese restaurant that serves tapas-style dishes. Nobuo Fukuda, another James Beard Award winning chef, elevates Japanese cuisine and at times reinvents it, offering wilding inventive omakase (chef’s choice), which he’s famous for.
The newest location of the valley’s favorite breakfast spot, Snooze, is conveniently located one stop away from the light rail and within walking distance to some of the arts district's best finds. The eatery is best known for its playfully named dishes (Ooo La La Frittata, OMG! French Toast), creative cocktails, and a fun atmosphere with retro-inspired décor. For a hearty breakfast, order the Chile Verde Benedict (tortillas bathed in green chile sauce and melted cheese, topped with slow-cooked pulled pork or barbacoa-style beef and green chile hollandaise). For something on the sweeter side, try the pineapple upside-down pancakes, served with caramelized pineapple chunks, house-made vanilla crème, and cinnamon butter.
Phoenix’s first kava bar, Lacuna, offers fresh brews of plant-based teas that have an array of health benefits, from managing anxiety and inflammation to helping with mood enhancement. The space itself is welcoming and has a rotating art exhibit, live music, board games, and even snacks (some CBD infused). Kava, which translates to “intoxicating pepper,” is a crop from the Pacific Islands that is traditionally used by indigenous people in social events and ceremonies; it's reportedly known for its calming effect. The best part about spending time at Lacuna is that you will not need a designated driver after indulging. Lacuna serves kava both on its own and in drink. Their kava colada is made with pineapple juice and coconut milk (which helps to mask the flavor of the kava on its own); expect your tongue to get a bit numb while your body and mind enjoys am almost euphoric, mellow experience.
What to See and Do
Arguably the most well-known hiking destination in the area is Camelback Mountain. With an elevation of 2,704 feet, it’s an intense and rewarding trek. Because the hike is quick, making your way to the top of Camelback is a perfect tourist activity in Phoenix. There are two hiking trails — Echo Canyon and Cholla — and both are difficult. (While Echo Canyon is steeper, Cholla is longer.) As you make your way to the top, take some time to admire the beautiful flora located through the trails, including the saguaro cactus, ocotillo, and palo verde trees. Rescues on the mountain are not a rarity, so be sure to know your limits and take caution on the steep trails.
The Southwest’s largest and premier destination for world-class visual arts is none other than the Phoenix Art Museum. In addition to the annual calendar of exhibitions, the museum’s permanent collection galleries are drawn from more than 19,000 works of art from around the world. Visitors can also enjoy photography exhibits through the museum’s partnership with the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona. Make sure to enjoy the exterior of the museum and snap a pic with the famous T-Rex.