Contrary to popular belief, a trip to Phoenix, Arizona is much more than a visit to the face of the sun. While we battle triple digit temperatures a few months out of the year, the gorgeous fall, winter and spring seasons more than make up for the few months of sunny, monsoon filled suffering. Phoenix has grown to become an incredible destination for specialty, locally owned restaurants, and is widely known as one of the best states for resort vacations, golf trips, and the place to spend a week bouncing between the pool and shopping.
Three years ago, when I moved from Seattle, I had no idea what to expect in this huge, desert city. My evenings and weekends were spent scouring the streets for hidden gems, and the city showed me more than I could have imagined. From coffee shops to wine bars, boutiques to bakeries, Phoenix has proven it can rival the other big cities as a great vacation destination. I’ve rounded up a few of my favorite must see locations for your next trip to the southwest.
Poolside at The Clarendon Hotel // Open Monday through Thursday, 7am to 10pm; Friday through Sunday, 7am to Midnight
To get the full resort experience while in Arizona, a day spent poolside is an absolute must. When temperatures rise above 100 degrees, it is challenging to force yourself out to explore the city and a dip in a cool pool is the best thing to do. Hotels like The Clarendon, The W, The Saguaro and Sanctuary boast some of the Valley’s best pools. Even if you’re not staying at the specific resorts, many offer day passes for pool or cabana use for us locals in desperate need of a staycation. With a fruity cocktail in hand, it’s a great way to spend a relaxing day feeling like you’ve taken a trip yourself!
Lola Coffee // Open Monday through Sunday, 7am to 7pm
It is a well known fact that I take my coffee consumption very seriously. Growing up in Seattle, the coffee addiction started at the ripe age of 11 with my gateway drink – the frappuccino. When I moved to Arizona, it was certainly the first order of business to find a coffee shop that I could hang out at, for a great cup of joe and a nice atmosphere to blog or meet up with friends. Oh Lola, how I love thee! The shop is on the smaller side, and is usually completely packed regardless of the hour. Their iced coffees have a delicious jolt (drip coffee with a shot of espresso) and the mexican hot chocolate is fantastic, but if you’re really in for a coffee mindexplosion, try an americano with a bit of cinnamon syrup and soy. I could probably drink four a day. With the beans ground in-house and previously only available at the one location it is clear that our city’s addiction to this delicious coffee has spread. Lola recently opened a shop in the airport, for a guaranteed visit while you’re in the state. View some no-shame proof of my love for Lola Coffee here and here!
UNION // Open Monday through Saturday, 10am to 8pm; Sunday, Noon to 6pm
Union at Biltmore Fashion Park is a new concept to the Valley and one of my favorite places to visit to shop. The open style layout of this space hosts 18 different locally owned boutiques. There is an old fashioned candy shop (with amazing photo booth!), floral shop, vintage opticals, British bike shop, natural beauty bar, olive mill cafe & market, and several shops to buy men’s and women’s fashion. You can usually find me perusing the walkways of Union in search of the perfect birthday or holiday gift. It’s fun to pop back and forth between shops, building the perfect present for your loved ones (or yourself!) I may or may not be guilty of a frequent visit to the Whoopie Pie Co. as well… for shopping fuel of course!
Gallo Blanco // Open Sunday through Thursday, 7:30am to 10pm; Friday and Saturday, 7:30am to 11pm
A visit to Phoenix is not complete without eating Mexican food. Our close proximity to Mexico has given us loads upon loads of authentic Mexican food, something you won’t find outside of the southwest. Gallo Blanco has to be one of my top five favorite spots for Mexican, or really food in general! The carne asada burrito is what dreams are made of – filled with fresh avocado, pinto beans and fire roasted salsa. The hand cut thick tortilla chips rival any chip I’ve ever tried, which are best eaten with the restaurant’s lime-y ceviche or guacamole. The street tacos? Equally amazing, as is the elote callejero, the grilled corn with cojita cheese and spices. Top your meal off with one of the refreshing cocktails, like the prickly pear margarita or paloma – que delicioso! Cute lunch dates not always included, but preferable.
Desert Botanical Gardens // Open Monday through Sunday, 7am to 8pm
Arizona offers a much different form of natural beauty. Where others have lush trees and bushes, we have prickly cactus and bougainvillea. Some have soft grass, where we instead have rocky gravel. Phoenix does offer some incredible hiking trails and mountains, like Camelback or Squaw Peak, that I often include in my winter weekend plans. The Desert Botanical Gardens are a beautiful representation of the flora we have in this state, sprinkled with man made art and sculptures. I loved bringing my mom here, who is a frequent visitor of Seattle’s many parks and gardens. We loved the Dale Chihuly sculptures the best, a Seattle artist I’ve loved since childhood. The gardens are a great place to grab a book and sit under the shade, or wind through the many walkways and paths to discover information about new plants and cacti that are only found in certain parts of the state. It’s a great place to bring a picnic and a friend, and even better as a place for self reflection.
All images courtesy of the author except intro image via
Katherine is a writer, event and wedding planner who is currently living, working and playing in Phoenix. She is a self professed coffee addict, Martha Stewart fangirl and constant explorer. She is happiest when traveling the world, and is determined to one day master latte art. She blogs about all this and more at Lucky & In Love, tweets at @kthornhill and overgrams at @sparklefarkle.