When you hear “Arizona,” you might think “heat”. But this Southwestern state’s capital offers far more to experience than just high temperatures. In fact, Phoenix, Arizona is an amazing vacation spot filled with an abundance of places to visit – from historical to modern, and cultural to natural.
1. Papago Park
You can easily spend multiple days in Papago Park, a 1200-acre recreational area famous for its red sandstone rock formations. The park is filled with hiking trails, picnic areas, beautiful lakes, stunning desert flora, and even a golf course.
Why not try a trek to Hole-in-the-Rock, the most famous of the sandstone buttes due to its unique design of openings caused by weathering and erosion over the years.
Entertainment opportunities within the park abound. It includes the Desert Botanical Garden, home to over 4,000 species of plants including massive saguaro cacti and local agave, and the Phoenix Zoo, which features a bass fish hatchery and a sanctuary dedicated to the endangered Arabian oryx.
History buffs can also visit the tomb of George W. P. Hunt, Arizona’s first governor, and a museum of firefighting equipment.
2. Camelback Mountain
Why drive nearly four hours to the Grand Canyon when plenty of natural beauty can be found right in Phoenix? Camelback Mountain is named for its distinctive shape, which resembles the humps of a camel. Two trails, the Cholla and the Echo Canyon, provide access to the summit and an absolutely stunning view of the towns of Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe along with the Sonora Desert and Phoenix Mountains Preserve in the distance. Just don’t forget to bring water – both trails are rated as “somewhat difficult” and take between 2 and 3 hours to complete!
3. Taliesin West
World-famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright simply couldn’t be satisfied with one house – so he built Taliesin West, a sprawling and elegant “winter home” located in the Scottsdale section of the Greater Phoenix Area. Today, the home is open for daily tours as well as housing the School of Architecture at Taliesin and the headquarters of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.
Guided tours of Taliesin West reveal how Lloyd Wright drew on the surrounding desert environment for inspiration, including choosing local rock as his building material and decorating both interior and exterior with patterns inspired by Sonora Desert wildlife such as the rattlesnake and Gila monster. A true tribute to Arizona’s beauty, the house was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 2018.
4. Heard Museum
Founded in 1929, the historic Heard Museum is dedicated to educating people about Native American culture in Arizona. It exhibits both traditional and contemporary art by Native American artists, presented in a first-person perspective so that museum visitors can truly feel as though they are “experiencing history” rather than merely observing it.
The Heard’s current collection consists of several thousand items representing 22 tribes native to the Southwestern United States, including the Navajo, Pueblo and Hopi. In addition, the museum hosts regular festivals and events showcasing various traditional Native American art, handicrafts, music and dance styles, including the Indian Fair and Market and the Hoop Dance World Championship.
5. Old Town Scottsdale
What is today known as the “Greater Phoenix Area” is actually made up of several distinct towns, including Tempe and Scottsdale, affectionately referred to as “Old Town”. The latter is a hip, walkable district featuring delicious restaurants, coffee shops, and craft breweries offering Southwestern culinary favorites. There’s no better place in town to get “the taste of Phoenix” than along Scottsdale’s main street.
Additionally, the “Old Town” district is home to Scottsdale Fashion Square, which sells both traditional Arizona-themed clothing and hip modern trends. If you’re looking to bring home a cowboy hat or some Native American jewelry as a souvenir from your Phoenix trip, then Scottsdale Fashion Square is absolutely the place to visit!
6. Talking Stick Resort
Located in south-eastern Scottsdale, the Talking Stick Resort is more than simply a place to stay during your Phoenix vacation. In addition to its modern, state-of-the-art rooms and suites, the Talking Stick features a golf course, a casino, an open-air spa, and a cultural center dedicated to the nearby Pima and Maricopa tribes.
The nearby Talking Stick Resort Arena hosts the Phoenix Suns basketball team, while the baseball team Arizona Diamondbacks compete at Chase Field just around the corner.
Best of all, the Talking Stick serves as the perfect hub for accessing all of Phoenix’s natural, historical and cultural delights. The Lucky Express Shuttle runs daily and ferries hotel guests to popular locations throughout Phoenix and Scottsdale. It even offers a trip around Downtown Scottsdale for visitors who simply can’t decide what to do first!
Don’t be put off by the warm climate and desert surroundings. Visit Phoenix today for hiking, sightseeing, relaxing, educational opportunities, and of course that good old Southwestern charm!
Rebecca Brown is a translator and avid traveler, a book worm and horror flick enthusiast. My job has given me the amazing opportunity to travel to dozens of countries around the world, and writing on Rough Draft gives me a chance to try to showcase some of them.