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A Phoenix travel guide – dramatic desert landscapes and cowboy culture

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Dusty trails flanked by towering cacti, stylish cafés overlooking canals and vibrant red sunsets – unique encounters unfold on a Phoenix vacation. Book a Phoenix hotel and experience unforgettable moments in the Valley of the Sun.

Get your bearings

Phoenix unfolds in a grid-like pattern. Numbered streets run north-south. Named streets run east-west. Camelback, Indian School and McDowell roads take you from downtown’s Historic Heritage Square west to Desert Botanical Garden and Pueblo Grande Museum and Cultural Park. Northwest of downtown, dramatic desert landscapes unfurl amid the lavish estates of Paradise Valley, where Camelback Mountain rises. West of downtown, Scottsdale flaunts sophisticated boutiques, stylish restaurants and luxury spa resorts. Southwest of downtown lies laid-back Tempe, home to the Arizona State University. The Valley Metro light rail runs regularly to these outer cities from downtown.

Dining in the Valley of the Sun

On a Phoenix vacation, the word is no two Mexican restaurants are alike. Phoenix is, after all, the birthplace of the chimichanga. Tackle spicy chilies in a restored 19th- century Scottsdale house or dig into sassy tortillas in a casual downtown Mexican grill. Along the Scottsdale Waterfront, cassoulet is the order of the day in French bistros or pesto-pepperoni gnocchi in traditional trattorias. A cowboy steakhouse is the place for saucy ribs or succulent steaks.  

 

Museums and Wild West culture

Phoenix passionately embraces its Wild West past and desert surroundings. Yucca and cacti dot the rocky paths at the Desert Botanical Garden, while Hopi kachina dolls peak out at passers-by at the Heard Museum. Canvases from Diego Rivera and Pablo Picasso vie for space inside the Phoenix Art Museum. Wander among an ancient adobe village at Pueblo Grand Museum and Archaeological Park, or mosey down the dusty streets of a Wild West theme town. Bring a picnic basket for concerts under the stars at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts, or two-step to a rockin’ country band at a Scottsdale roadhouse. 

Luxury living

Choose a resort and pamper yourself on a Phoenix vacation with a stay in a Spanish colonial deluxe casita with a view of the mountains. Visit the spa so you can indulge in tantalizing treatments like couples massages. Opt for mouth-watering shrimp-crusted cod on a rooftop terrace with a red-hued sunset as a backdrop. Play 18 holes on groomed greens peppered with towering cacti and desert mountain views. Or see it all at once from above on a scenic airplane tour. 

Savvy shopping

Shop in style by browsing the haute couture emporiums and stylish chains that line the Scottsdale Waterfront. Visit Old Town Scottsdale‘s 19th-century brick storefronts to pick up Southwest-inspired gifts or Western outfits. A short walk away is Scottsdale Fashion Square, with its retractable roof. Head downtown to poke around the boutiques and department stores along the garden courtyards of Biltmore Fashion Park or hunt for Western gifts at the Heard Museum Gift Shop or Faust Gallery.