There are so many things that make Phoenix unique: the architecture, the surrounding desert, its cultural institutions, and its laid-back, fun-loving atmosphere, just to name a few. As you explore these Phoenix features, you’ll understand what makes the city so special. Capture moments that make exploring Phoenix so memorable at these iconic sights and favorite spots across the Valley of the Sun.
1. Desert Botanical Garden
Located just east of downtown Phoenix in Papago Park, the Desert Botanical Garden houses more than 50,000 different plants, including a wide variety of rare desert species. The garden comprises five major accessible trails, each of which highlights a different aspect of native desert life. General admission grants you access to all of the trails, but some of the more popular ones include the Desert Wildflower Loop Trail and the Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert Loop Trail. If you visit in early spring or late fall, be sure to stop by the tented butterfly pavilion and find yourself surrounded by hundreds of monarchs and swallowtails. The Desert Botanical Garden stays open until 8 p.m.; visiting at night is a unique experience, with epic sunsets and illuminated art installations under the stars. If you’re an early riser, the garden allows visitors to bring their dogs during the morning hours of specially-designated “Dog Days.”
2. Taliesin West
Taliesin West was architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic winter home from the late 1930s until his death in the late ‘50s. Today, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is open for public tours. The hour-long Panorama Tour shows off some of the highlights of the building, a perfect example of Wright’s ability to blend indoor and outdoor spaces. The 90-minute Insights Tour gets you behind the scenes into Wright’s private quarters. The Garden Tour and Night Lights Tour are worth looking into if you have a few hours to spare.
3. Camelback Mountain
For a truly incredible view of the desert, lace up your hiking boots and take on Camelback Mountain. Part of the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, Camelback gets its name from its two rock formations that resemble the head and back of a kneeling camel. Echo Canyon Trail (rated difficult) is a relatively short but intense climb to the summit at 2,704 feet, which offers 360-degree views of the city. The sense of accomplishment you’ll feel once you reach the top is unbeatable, and the panoramic views of the desert don’t hurt either. Just remember to bring plenty of water along for the hike.
4. The Farm at South Mountain
5. Arizona Biltmore
When it comes to accommodations in Phoenix, it doesn’t get more classic than the Arizona Biltmore, A Waldorf Astoria Resort. Built at the end of the 1920s, and designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, the Biltmore has been the standard for luxury resorts in Phoenix for decades. In the 1930s, Gene Sulit of the Arizona Biltmore combined tequila, soda water, lime juice, and liqueur to create the first Tequila Sunrise. With seven swimming pools (each more stunning than the next), golf courses, a country club, a variety of onsite dining options, a full-service spa, and luxurious suites and villas to rent, it’s not hard to see why celebrities and politicians—including presidents—are frequent guests.
6. Dobbins Lookout
For another stunning view of Phoenix that’s a little easier to access than Camelback Mountain, head to Dobbins Lookout. You can make the 5.5-mile trek to the top in your car along a winding scenic drive, or hike up Holbert Trail (2.5-miles one-way). From the lookout 2,330 feet up, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of the city below. It’s especially lovely at sunset, when the often-colorful sky lights up the surrounding mountains. At more than 16,000 acres, South Mountain Park and Preserve is one of the largest municipal parks in the country.
7. Roosevelt Row
Roosevelt Row, referred to as “RoRo,” is an arts district in downtown Phoenix full of murals, galleries, art installations, boutiques, restaurants, and breweries. Most of the shops are centered around East Roosevelt Street, but the entire district covers multiple blocks in all directions. With ample parking and endless street art to explore, a self-guided mural tour is a great way to get to know RoRo. Don’t miss the alley behind The Churchill, a mixed-use space made of 10 shipping containers, where you’ll find the “1 1/2 Street Mural Project,” a colorful and collaborative effort by 12 local artists stretching the full length of the alley.
8. Hole-in-the-Rock Trail
For a unique view of the city, head to Papago Park’s Hole-in-the-Rock Trail (Papago Park is also home to the Desert Botanical Garden and Phoenix Zoo). The sandstone formation is believed to have been used by the ancient Hohokam civilization to track the position of the sun through a hole in the rock “ceiling.” Today, it frames a picture-perfect view of Phoenix. Follow the steps up about 200 feet in just 1/10 of a mile to reach this scenic overlook. Best viewed at sunset, this is a quick and lovely stop to end your exploration of the park, known for its hiking, mountain biking, and fishing opportunities.