Phoenix, Arizona, is a captivating desert oasis that beckons travelers with its world-class resorts, upscale dining, serene spas, championship golf courses, and unforgettable desert sunsets. Situated just 12 miles from Scottsdale, it offers easy access to a vibrant mix of leisure and activities for couples and families alike. If you’re planning a visit to this stunning destination, here are some unique and budget-friendly ways to make the most of your Phoenix vacation.
Embrace the Great Outdoors:
Begin your journey by immersing yourself in the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert, right in Phoenix’s backyard.
- Explore the vast 140-acre Desert Botanical Garden, where you’ll encounter native flora and fauna while strolling along trails adorned with over 50,000 desert plants and striking red rocks. Don’t forget to visit the Butterfly Pavilion, home to thousands of live butterflies.
- If you’re up for a thrilling adventure, tackle the iconic Camelback Mountain via the Echo Canyon Trail. Though the 1.23-mile trek to the summit is steep and rocky, the breathtaking city views at the top are a reward worth the effort. Be sure to bring extra water and avoid hiking during the summer heat. For a family-friendly desert hike, consider the 4.2-mile Lost Dog Wash Trail, complete with a kids’ scavenger hunt guided by a handy “passport” at the trailhead.
Family Fun and Unique Experiences:
There are plenty of unique experiences in Phoenix for families to enjoy.
- All aboard at the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park, a must-visit destination for train enthusiasts of all ages. Enjoy rides on the Paradise & Pacific Railroad or whirl around on a vintage 1950s carousel. The park also features a free museum, shops, and playgrounds, with individual rides priced at $3 each.
- Take to the skies in a hot air balloon with Hot Air Expeditions or Rainbow Ryders for a serene, bird’s-eye view of the Sonoran Desert. Glide above coyote and jackrabbit paths and marvel at the surrounding mountains. Keep an eye out for seasonal coupons to make the experience even more budget-friendly. Sunrise flights are available year-round, with sunset flights offered from November through February/March.
- Golf enthusiasts, rejoice! Phoenix and its neighboring communities boast a staggering 200 golf courses in various styles, making it one of the premier golfing destinations. Whether you’re a seasoned player or a casual golfer, the desert scenery and fresh air will enhance your game and your vacation.
While outdoor adventures are a highlight, it’s wise to have indoor options in case of inclement weather or sunburn. Explore some of Phoenix’s top indoor attractions.
- Discover the enchanting Mystery Castle, a testament to a father’s love for his daughter. This unique 18-room castle, built in the 1930s, features 13 fireplaces, parapets, and hidden corners to explore. Although the castle’s creator, Boyce Gulley, passed away before his family could move in, his daughter Mary Lou later lived there and gave tours until 2010. Today, you can tour this extraordinary castle from October to May (bring cash as credit cards are not accepted).
- The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) houses a staggering collection of over 8,000 instruments from 200 countries. The museum features special exhibits and concerts throughout the year, including interactive displays in the Experience Gallery and self-playing instruments in the Mechanical Music Gallery.
- Keep the kids engaged at the Arizona Science Center in Downtown Phoenix, boasting four levels of hands-on exhibits designed to spark creativity and an early interest in science. The Dorrance Planetarium, one of the largest in the country, offers daily shows highlighting the wonders of the sky. For a less crowded experience, plan your visit after 1 p.m.
- Dive into the lush world of butterflies and rainforest creatures at Butterfly Wonderland. Experience Monarch migration through a captivating 3D movie, observe chrysalises as they transform into butterflies, and stroll through a conservatory filled with these magnificent insects. You can even get up close to unique rainforest reptiles and savor edible insects!
Phoenix offers a rich tapestry of cultural exploration, allowing visitors to delve into the heritage of American Indian tribes, and admire contemporary and traditional art at renowned museums. Park. Whether it’s the centuries-old traditions or contemporary expressions of culture, Phoenix offers an enriching journey for every cultural enthusiast.
- Immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of American Indians at the Heard Museum. Explore their traditional and contemporary art, featuring an impressive collection of over 40,000 pieces, including Hopi katsina dolls, Navajo and Zuni jewelry, textiles, and Southwestern ceramics.
- The Phoenix Art Museum is a treasure trove with over 19,000 objects in nine focus areas, including American and Western American art, Latin American art, fashion design, and photography. Don’t miss the unique fashion collection that spans 500 years of fashion history.
Sometimes, one of the most memorable things about visiting a new destination is discovering a quaint eatery that puts a new twist on an old favorite.
- Take a break and indulge at Soda Jerk Co. Milkshake Bar, offering retro 1950s milkshakes reminiscent of soda fountain classics. Try the Sweet Tooth cotton candy-flavored milkshake or explore their array of photo-worthy treats.
- For a refreshing hotel beverage, make your way to Lux Central, an independent coffee bar that serves up your favorite caffeine fixes along with irresistible pastries. The cafe also offers beer and wine for those looking to unwind.
- If wine is your passion, go beyond the glass with a visit to LDV Winery. Arizona’s burgeoning wine scene awaits, and LDV Winery offers tastings of warm-climate grapes that thrive in the desert, featuring three of their current offerings.
Choosing the Perfect Accommodation:
No matter which accommodation you choose, whether it’s a luxurious resort, a moderate hotel, a rental Airbnb or VRBO property, or an RV park, your stay in Phoenix is sure to be a memorable and scenic experience. Below are just a few suggestions.
- In Phoenix, consider the Royal Palms Resort and Spa for a truly unique experience. Nestled in a captivating Spanish Mediterranean mansion built in 1929, the resort offers 119 artfully appointed casitas, estate rooms, and villas. Each one immerses you in a journey for all the senses.
- For a touch of luxury with a dash of 1950s modernism, book your stay at Mountain Shadows. Set against the majestic backdrop of Camelback Mountain in the serene town of Paradise Valley, just a short drive from historic Old Town Scottsdale, this boutique resort promises contemporary design infused with abundant natural light. Choose from chic resort guestrooms and two-story lofts in the luxurious wing of residences.
- If you prefer to stay in the vibrant heart of Scottsdale, plan a visit to the Sheraton Desert Oasis. This hotel property harmonizes with the Sonoran Desert landscape and offers stunning views right from your private balcony or patio. You can book a stylish one- or two-bedroom villa, providing up to 1,290 square feet of intuitively designed living space for accommodating as many as eight adults.
- Alternatively, consider The Westin Kierland Villas for stylish villas designed to inspire relaxation. Guests will appreciate generous balconies and custom touches that reflect the beauty of the desert.
Lead – Wallpaper Access
Desert Botanical Garden and Mystery Castle – Vistana
Hot Air Balloon – Susan Weber on Unsplash
Heard Museum – Heard Museum
Soda Jerk Co – Soda Jerk Co
Winery – Kim Ellis on Unsplash
Royal Palms Resort – Hyatt