Look beyond the desert on a stroll through Phoenix’s Japanese Friendship Garden. (Photo: Wendy Rose Gould)
Here’s a little secret Phoenix, Arizona insiders know: Despite its reputation for scorching heat, Phoenix is a very cool city. Just a few of the things you can do: grab a locally roasted coffee, and hike or kayak in the morning, satisfy your inner foodie at lunchtime, get your culture on in the afternoon and wrap up the day with a show, an award-winning cocktail or world-class nightlife. Not sure where to start? Here are 12 things locals say should be on your Phoenix bucket list.
1. Have tea at the Japanese Friendship Garden.
This tiny sanctuary in the heart of the city houses waterfalls, stone paths, and a koi pond with 300 fish.
2. Eat an authentic street taco from Los Taquitos.
Mexican restaurants abound in Phoenix, but few are as memorable as Los Taquitos. This local, family-owned favorite was an obscure, strip-mall dive until locals elevated it to icon status. Now, you can grab a handful of mouthwatering street tacos (try the asada and pastor) at three locations citywide.
3. Float down the Salt River.
If it does happen to be hot in Phoenix, cool off with a trip down the Lower Salt River. Full-service outfitters make it easy with tube or kayak rentals and shuttles to the starting point. Just wear your swimsuit and sunscreen and keep an eye out for wild horses along the banks.
4. See a saguaro up close at South Mountain Park, the largest municipal park in the U.S.
5. Hike Camelback Mountain at sunrise.
Pack plenty of water and a taste for adventure. Your reward for the steep hike is arguably the best view of the city.
6. Watch a spring training baseball game.
Cactus League fans can catch their favorite teams at several venues in metro Phoenix and the surrounding ‘burbs from mid-February until April 1.
7. Stroll and see the famous murals in Roosevelt Row (RoRo) arts district.
Urban renewal is at its best in RoRo, a walkable, creative paradise in the heart of downtown.
8. See a show at the historic Orpheum Theater.
Once a venue for vaudeville acts, the restored Orpheum now hosts everyone from Jimmy Fallon to Primus.
9. Tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West.
A mecca for mid-century modern fans, Taliesin West gives you a peek into the mind and work of the master.
10. Stop by Crudo for happy hour.
You’ll enjoy the best cocktails in town (both classic cocktails and creative mixology). Try the “Violet Femmes” made with local gin, lemon, violet infusion, and sparkling wine.
11. Visit the “Bat Cave” on the Arizona Canal at dusk and watch 20,000 bats take flight.
12. Sample a beer flight at Four Peaks Brewery and/or grab an espresso at Cartel Coffee Lab.
These venues demonstrate that Arizonans take their vices very seriously. One taste, and you’ll be hooked. Locals love the Hop Knot IPA at Four Peaks and Cartel’s pour-over coffee menu.
This article was published through a partnership with Visit the USA, inspiring travelers to explore America’s boundless possibilities.