Desert trail in Phoenix, Arizona

Take a hike along a desert trail. (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

Experience the Spirit of Phoenix, Arizona in 3 Days

Part outdoor adventure lover’s playground and part busy, urban city, Phoenix, Arizona, offers travelers the best of two worlds. In this former ranch town — now the largest city in Arizona — experience a vibrant arts scene and sample dishes crafted by a James Beard Award-winning chef. Then get out of town to explore the desert on horseback and climb to the top of the famous Camelback Mountain.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: Catch the Downtown Buzz

Person eating shumai dumplings with chopsticks
Dig into a lunchtime feast. (Photo: Getty Images)

Get a feel for Phoenix with a day exploring its downtown area. Set out on a self-guided art stroll along Roosevelt Row. Downtown’s walkable arts district is known for its street art, coffee shops, galleries and restaurants.

Stop in for a morning pick-me-up at Jobot Coffee & Bar, where breakfast is as simple as a single egg cooked to order or as elaborate as decadent crepes and dim sum.

Stop to see the 1½ Street Mural Project and take a few pictures along this alley full of colorful murals painted by local artists. Make sure to head to the corner of Roosevelt and Central to admire the nine-story piece depicting James Baldwin.

Wander through the exhibits at the monOrchid Gallery, which change every quarter. (If you’re in town on the first Friday of the month, check out the monthly Art Walk, complete with food trucks.)

Arizona is known for its craft beer scene and the Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company is a good place to give them a sip. Sample a diverse range, from IPAs to sours to German-style wheat beers, along with shareable snacks and a side order of people-watching.

Continue your tour with a visit to the Phoenix Art Museum. The permanent installation “You Who Are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies,” an infinity-mirror room by Yayoi Kusama, will leave you dreamily and delightfully disoriented.

Next, walk half a mile up North Central Avenue to the Heard Museum, dedicated to the preservation of Native American art, where you’ll find pottery, jewelry, dolls and more.

For dinner, head to the Arrogant Butcher. This Phoenix institution serves juicy steaks and stacked burgers under glittering chandeliers. With a belly full of beef, you’re ready for some live music. Check the calendar at the Van Buren to see if there’s a live show to your liking or kick back with cocktails and arcade games at the Thunderbird Lounge.

Saturday: Experience the Desert’s Beauty — and Bounty

Camelback Mountain during sunset
The sunsets at Camelback Mountain are a must-see. (Photo: Marriott International)

Begin your day with a fresh perspective. Head to Camelback Mountain, offering an elevation of 2,704 feet and 360-degree views of the surrounding city. The mountain, which resembles a camel’s hump, is home to two challenging trails. Arrive early to experience the red rock formations without the crowds.

Refuel after the hike at the Downtown Phoenix Farmers Market, open Saturdays until 1 p.m. Mingle with locals shopping for produce while choosing between several types of ready-to-eat dishes — from Tunisian to Cajun and beyond. Baked goods and coffee are also available from the market merchants.

Continue an immersion into the natural beauty of Phoenix with a visit to the Desert Botanical Garden. This 55-acre garden is home to thousands of species of cactus and trees and is a favorite destination for both photos and peaceful reflection.

When night falls, catch a jazz performance at the Nash or wander through the Warehouse District, a former industrial neighborhood now known for music, bars and restaurants.

Toast the day with a drink at Little Rituals. The sleek cocktail bar has creative bites such as “Pho French Dip” and “Claypot Wings.”

Sunday: Get Out of Town

Cacti in Sonoran Desert at dusk
Check out the cacti at the Sonoran Desert. (Photo: Marriott International)

Greater Phoenix spans 500 square miles of the Sonoran Desert, as well as smaller towns like Scottsdale, Tempe and Mesa. Explore the area on foot at South Mountain Park & Preserve, which includes 50 miles of trails through 16,000 acres of Sonoran Desert.

For an authentic Southwestern perspective, try a guided trail ride booked at Ponderosa Stables. The breakfast ride includes eggs, bacon and cowboy coffee.

Continue your exploration with a visit to Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Inspired by local flora and fauna, the structure’s clean lines mirror the desert landscape. Take a tour of the home and learn about the architect’s legacy.

Next, head to Old Town Scottsdale, a historic neighborhood nestled among Scottsdale’s many golf courses. Stroll around the Fifth Avenue Art District and check out the gallery scene. Choose between shopping, a spa visit or exploring historic landmarks, such as the Little Red Schoolhouse, built in 1909.

Wind down the weekend with a final evening back in Downtown Phoenix. Discover Heritage Square, one of the city’s most historic neighborhoods, where antique structures have been transformed into cool restaurants and bars.

This neighborhood is home to one of the city’s most famous restaurants, Pizzeria Bianco, which is run by James Beard Award-winner Chris Bianco (there’s a bar next door for a glass of wine while you wait for a table).