what to do in phoenix

There’s always more to do in Phoenix. (Photo: Getty Images)

Phoenix

Phoenix Is a Hotbed of Arts, Shopping and More: Here’s What Not to Miss

With several major arts districts and expansive shopping malls, Phoenix offers ample ways to while away a warm afternoon or find a lovely spot for a vacation selfie. Take a stroll down nearly any street in the downtown area to view colorful murals, imaginative sculptures and contemporary public art that will leave you marveling.

Or leave the skyscrapers behind and visit one of the city’s stunning shopping districts where you’ll find public art, artisan boutiques and all your favorite shops. As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Get an arts fix while you shop

Phoenix’s downtown arts districts aren’t the only places to find remarkable public art. A terrazzo mosaic in a tunnel beneath Camelback Road leading to Biltmore Fashion Park doesn’t just make a cool break from the summer sun — it’s an artwork worth admiring. Biltmore Fashion Park — the crown jewel of the city’s shopping malls — is also home to the state’s sole Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as other high-end retailers that include Williams-Sonoma, Macy’s and Ralph Lauren.

Make your way to Scottsdale Fashion Square and stroll the scenic Scottsdale Waterfront along the Arizona Canal. The mall rolls out upscale retailers like Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Macy’s and Dillard’s, as well as two Abercrombie stores for adults and kids, Anthropologie and more. Rest your feet and watch a movie at the Harkins Theatres, watch live entertainment on the Desert Stages Theatre Stage, or time your visit to coincide with special events like the Barrett-Jackson Car Show.

In North Scottsdale, Kierland Commons reflects a Main Street lifestyle layout with 70 high-end retail stores interspersed with dining and entertainment venues. Michael Kors, Tommy Bahama, Crate & Barrel and Sundance are just a few of the shops you won’t want to miss. A free trolley makes it easy to get to and from the mall and connects to Scottsdale Fashion Square, as well.

Finally, in the East Valley, Chandler Fashion Center showcases major retailers like Macy’s and Dillard’s, along with unique dining options. Take a break from shopping and refresh yourself with a colorful fruit beverage punctuated by tapioca balls at the Boba Tea Company or create a one-of-a-kind souvenir at the Build-a-Bear Workshop.

Explore the arts

Phoenix is one of the prime art destinations in the U.S., with extensive public art displays and opportunities to enjoy live performing arts.

When you step off the plane at Sky Harbor International Airport, you’ll soon understand why Phoenix is considered an arts hotbed. Before heading into town, plan a stop at the Phoenix Airport Museum, which has more than 900 pieces displayed in exhibition rooms in all three airport terminals, as well as Sky Train Stations, parking garage lobbies and more.

Stay in the heart of downtown and you’re in the center of premier arts districts. Book a room at the stylish Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel, which gives you access to the property’s navigator, who can help you plot a stay teeming with local arts and culture. The navigator acts as an ambassador to the city and helps organize on-property experiences with artists, musicians and other creatives.

phoenix art
See the street art on Roosevelt Row. (Photo: Getty Images)

Check out colorful murals along Roosevelt Row and Paint Can Alley or meander around the Civic Center area on a self-guided public art tour to find imaginative art installations at the Arizona Science Center, Phoenix Convention Center, Arizona State University campus and other buildings along the way.

To find cultural events like art exhibits, music performances and comedy shows taking place while you’re in town, check out listings in the Phoenix Urban Guide (PUG).

Downtown isn’t the only place to put your finger on the pulse of the Valley of the Sun’s arts scene. Rent a bike and pedal the Sunnyslope Public Art Bike Tour in the north part of the city or combine art with Old West adventure at Ponderosa Stables on its southern end.

Stroll First Fridays

When Friday rolls around, the Valley of the Sun is hopping with activity. Traditionally, the city’s downtown arts districts are the best places to explore, especially on the first and third Fridays of each month when the Artlink First Friday Art Walk is typically held. However, be sure to check the event’s current status on the Artlink website before planning to attend.

If the art walk is happening, hop on board a free trolley shuttle leaving from the Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona Center complex or the Oasis on Grand community, and make your way around downtown to visit the walk’s dozens of participants on one of three trolley routes.

One of the largest art walks in the country, Phoenix’s First Friday can attract about 15,000 people each month, ranging from college students and professionals to visitors hoping to explore vibrant public art, creative galleries and collectives; sample culinary arts, and listen to the performing arts.