- The state capital of Arizona, with about 1.45 million inhabitants.
- Has a subtropical desert climate (temperatures in the summer can exceed 100 F (38 C).
- Nicknames: PHX Arizona’s Urban Heart, Valley of the Sun, The 602, Bird City
- Currency: U.S. Dollar (USD)
- Spoken languages: English.
- Best time to visit: from September to June – when the temperature is bearable!
- Arriving via airport: Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is about 40 minutes outside of the city center. The Valley Metro 13 bus line can take you there for $2, though it takes a long time and may not take you to your exact destination (Phoenix is spread out). Taxis start at $15.
WHERE TO STAY
The best hotels for all budget levels can be found in the historic and cultural hub of Central Phoenix, or Downtown. Here, you’re near most of the sights, while Camelback Mountain draws well-heeled crowds to its few legendary hotels and affluent shopping centers. The Sky Harbor International Airport has a few budget hotels (motels) just outside it.
- Riding the Light Rail ($4.00 all-day pass) is a viable option if you just need to get around Downtown.
- Taxis can be hailed around train stations, the airport and Greyhound Bus station as well as Downtown, but otherwise aren’t too frequent. If you don’t plan on renting a car in Phoenix, call a cab company and work out rates beforehand, because a last-minute taxi ride can set you back over $100!
- Phoenix can be very spread out and public transportation just doesn’t cut it, so most visitors end up renting a car. The downside? You may spend a good chunk of your vacation in traffic!
- Drinking age is 21, and last call is around 1:30 AM (bars close at 2 AM).
- In Central Phoenix, much of the nightlife is centered around the Uptown, Downtown and Roosevelt areas. Clubs are sprawled out all over town, making it difficult to make several stops in one night, especially without a designated driver (Arizona has the strictest drunk-driving laws in the United States).
- The nearby nightlife centers of Scottsdale, Tempe, Chandler and Glendale attract younger crowds and feature bars clustered together in small grids, making bar-hopping easy.
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- The Phoenix Art Museum’s contemporary facade is a sight to see in of itself, housing the Southwest’s largest collection of visual art on 285,000 square feet of space. Make sure to check out the Center for Creative Photography and landscaped Sculpture Garden.
- The Heard Museum is uniquely Phoenix as it displays Native American cultural relics in an adobe-style colonial hacienda.
- The archeological ruins of the ancient Hohokam civilization right by the airport make Pueblo Grande Museum and Cultural Park a National Historic Landmark and Phoenix Point of Pride.
- The paths at the 150-acre Desert Botanical Garden make for a great twilight walk.
- Scottsdale is the ideal town in the greater Phoenix area for walking. Art fans can join the Scottsdale Art Walk on Thursdays to glimpse the over 100 galleries downtown.
- The Boyce Thompson Arboretum has a 1.5 mile trail that leads you past over 3,000 different desert plants, all humming with 250 species of native birds.
- Due of its proximity to wild places, Phoenix makes a great base for outdoors excursionists. “Soft adventure” is easy to come by too, with short hikes round Camelback Mountain or tubing down the Salt River.
- If adventure is not your thing, consider checking into one of the many spas in town.
- Where to find good cheap eats: Phoenix has emerged as a prime foodie destination, and the best place to seek gourmet bites for under $10 is Camelback East Village. Pizza places and other cheap eateries can be found around Arizona State University’s campus in Tempe.
- Dangerous areas: Maryvale to the West and parts of South Phoenix should be avoided, as well as the nearby towns of Mesa and Guadalupe at night. Car theft is incredibly common in Phoenix. Exercise caution when walking alone at night.
RECOMMENDED PHOENIX GUIDE BOOKS
- Phoenix & Tucson: 10 Locals Tell You Where to Go, What to Eat, & How to Fit In
- Day Trips from Phoenix, Tucson & Flagstaff: Getaway Ideas
- 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Phoenix
Recommended trip duration: 1-2 days