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How to Spend the Perfect 24 Hours in Phoenix

Your guide to the ideal day in Phoenix, Arizona.


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Phoenix, Arizona easily earns its nickname “Valley of the Sun.” With nearly 300 days of sunshine annually, if you’re someone who worries about rain on your vacation, you’ll be glad to know that Phoenix sees only about eight inches of the wet stuff each year. Set in the Sonoran Desert, rapidly growing Greater Phoenix includes more than 20 incorporated cities. This time around, we have just twenty-four hours to enjoy the mountain views, creative eateries, historic sites, and unique offerings of the city, so we’ll focus on Phoenix proper.

Mild winters and hot, dry summers are the hallmark of Phoenix weather, so both outdoor and indoor activities are on our itinerary. Museums beckon on hot summer days, and there’s the Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona Science Center, and Penske Racing Museum in addition to the ones we suggest here. The city’s Victorian past is on display in Heritage Square, and tours of a vintage 1895 mansion are available. Once you’ve read about this short visit, you’ll want to return to Phoenix, whether it’s for golf, mountain hikes, restaurants, or a refreshing pool to float in.

9:00 am: Bid goodbye to your cozy room at the Arizona Biltmore, an American Express Fine Hotel & Resort property, and head about eight miles downtown for breakfast at local favorite Vovomeena, known for their cold-brewed Mornin’ Moonshine coffee and BMOC (big man on campus) featuring a grilled pork chop, eggs, waffle, syrup, and a Portuguese donut on the side. Guaranteed to keep you satisfied until lunchtime.

10:00 am: Just a mile away—a short drive or an easy walk to work off a bit of breakfast—you’ll find the Heard Museum, dedicated to American Indian art since its founding in 1929, and a place to appreciate the culture and artistic achievement of the Southwest Native Americans. Stroll through the outdoor courtyards, the permanent collection of paintings, prints, sculpture, and photography, and the temporary exhibits that have led to international recognition for the museum.

12:00 pm: A short distance away once again—since we’re focusing on the downtown area—the Roosevelt Row arts district (RoRo) is an emerging creative zone with street art, galleries, studios, boutiques, and restaurants. Enjoy the area’s energy, and when you feel the need to restore your own, stop into one of the many RoRo eateries including Paz Cantina or Taco Chelo for Mexican food, The Lost Leaf for their beer selection, or The Churchill, an entrepreneurial mix of businesses served up in stacked shipping containers and an open courtyard.

2:30 pm: Relaxed and refreshed, we hope, head about eight miles east to the Desert Botanical Garden to stroll among more than 50,000 desert plants, cacti, trees, and wildflowers. Join a tour or browse on your own, and if it’s a warm day, find some shade and a cold drink at Gertrude’s restaurant. From the Garden’s location in Papago Park, you’ll see the Phoenix Zoo nearby, along with golf, hiking, mountain biking, archery, and fishing.

If the weather is warm and you’d prefer to spend your afternoon indoors and save the Botanical Garden for another visit, head about twenty miles north from Roosevelt Row to the Musical Instrument Museum where you’ll find more than 6,000 instruments, music videos, memorabilia, and an Experience Gallery for actually playing music. While you’re there, check the concert schedule for live performances at the museum.

5:00 pm: It’s been a busy day, and it’s time for a change of scenery, and your next stop couldn’t be any more different. Undertow, elaborately decked out as seafaring ship down to portholes with a view, is a tiki bar hidden under Sip Coffee and Beer Garage in a former Jiffy Lube bay. Be sure to make a reservation and be aware there’s no signage. This small and popular bar has a 90-minute maximum, which is fine because it will be just about dinner time after you down your perfectly themed cocktail and absorb the shipboard atmosphere.

7:00 pm: Beckett’s Table is a short walk away, and it’s a favorite for their expertly prepared local ingredients and the impressive wine list that’s earned Wine Spectator honors five years in a row—not surprising when the owners are chef Justin Beckett and Katie and Scott Stephens, both sommeliers.

8:30 pm: If you’re looking for some entertainment before ending your evening, CityScape in the heart of downtown Phoenix should be your next destination. Bars, restaurants, comedy clubs, and live music can be found there. Check out Copper Blues Rock Pub and Kitchen for top-40 and classic rock from their resident bands or the Beer Garden for beverages from brews to cider and wines.

Or, if winding down after a full day sounds appealing, make your way back to the Arizona Biltmore for a nightcap at The Wright Bar where the Tequila Sunrise was invented. A flight of three aged tawny ports paired with dessert bites is being served this year in honor of the Biltmore’s 90th anniversary. A sweet way to end your day.

Where to Stay in Greater Phoenix

When you’re ready to expand your Phoenix visit, you’ll find a range of hotel options. The Four Seasons Scottsdale, another American Express Fine Hotel & Resort property​​​​​​​, offers golf, spa, and elegant casitas. Hotel Valley Ho combines modern and mid-century style with a hip vibe. Mountain Shadows, near Scottsdale in Paradise Valley, takes full advantage of its desert and mountain surroundings, featuring golf and poolside cabanas. Check out Experience Scottsdale and Visit Phoenix for more suggestions on where to stay and how to enjoy Greater Phoenix year-round.


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