As the Arab proverb goes, “All sunshine makes a desert.” In Phoenix, the brilliant rays and cacti-sprinkled vistas prove that there’s no such thing as too much sunshine…or too much desert. An urban oasis nestled between breathtaking mountains, Phoenix is a perfect getaway, whether you're looking for a relaxing spa weekend or an invigorating hike. Phoenix may be known for record-setting summers, but you’ll leave the Arizona capital refreshed by the laidback local atmosphere—never underestimate the power of a gourmet margarita on a misty patio. Plus, locals will remind you that the Sonoran Desert boasts a dry heat, and sunsets glow orange with dusty evening breezes. If we had you at “cacti-sprinkled vistas” and you’re wondering where to stay in Phoenix, read on, traveler. The desert awaits.
Things to Do in Phoenix
To start your adventure at the beginning of the region’s rich history, you don’t have to venture far from the airport to step back through the centuries. Check in at one of the top hotels near Sky Harbor Airport and wander 3 miles northeast to the Pueblo Grande Museum & Archeological Park. This ancient village was once the home of the native Hohokam people who first settled in the rustic region around 450 BCE. Long before air conditioning and electric fans breezed through “The Valley of the Sun,” the Hohokam embraced the landscape and created a city that remains baked into the earth to this day. Take a long look around at some of the first Phoenix lodging—rugged doesn’t begun to describe it.
To explore more of the civilizations that thrived at the feet of red-rock mountains, visit the Heard Museum. Encounter the beauty early Native Americans drew from the earth to pass on for generations to come as you home in on the delicate details of handmade beads and intricately woven baskets. A path unfolds on each traditional Tohono O'odham labyrinth basket just as you will leave these galleries ready to discover the best things to do in Phoenix.
Eating and Drinking
With a mix of cultures and cuisines, downtown Phoenix and its uptown counterpart, the Central Avenue Corridor, form a bustling hub for food, drinks, and nightlife. There is plenty of outdoor seating so you can take advantage of the great weather on warm nights. Many of the restaurants feature local ingredients that fuse Southwestern flavors with fine cuisine techniques. If small luxuries woo your foodie heart, then venture north of Arizona Canal to the charming neighborhood of Arcadia, where unique bistros and a slower pace make it one of the best places to stay in Phoenix.
From the mesquite-smoked beef in old-school cowboy fare to Navajo fry bread and chili-driven Mexican fusion, the local food scene is seasoned to perfection. Order the brilliant pink fruit of the prickly pear cactus to find out just how sweet and uplifting the desert can be. While the juicy fruit livens up drinks and jellies, the green rounds of the cactus are the key ingredient in savory stews and mouthwatering tacos. Look for “nopales” on the menu and don’t worry—no spines included.
Green Spaces in the Desert
It may not be a proverb yet, but Phoenicians also have a little saying: Sun’s out, fun’s out. During the spring and summer, locals grab their rafts and fill their coolers with hydration and libations for a float on the Salt River. When someone turns on their waterproof radio, join the revelry and celebration of lazy days and cool water. Around here, the only thing rushing is the river.
Even without their backyard pools and festive rivers, You'll likely find locals out and about on the city's many hiking and biking trails, especially when the weather is cooler. To get a taste for the beautiful flora of the Sonoran Desert without venturing too far out from the city, stop by the Desert Botanical Garden and check out their collection of wildlife from around the world.
Looking for something a little more invigorating? Bring plenty of water for a climb up South Mountain. Like the time you ventured to the carved columns of Petra, you’ll enjoy the challenge of the journey, but you will love the view from the top. Look out over the saguaro cacti and fragrant creosote blooming in the rocky landscape. When the sun sets in striking color, rest easy in one of the nearby Phoenix hotels, ready to pamper you after an impressive summit.
Day Trips from Phoenix
With wide-open spaces as far as the eyes can see, the American Southwest seems to have evolved from its rubble for the purpose of road tripping through the region. As you plan a trek through the stunning landscape, book cheap hotels in Phoenix and nearby, so you can pause for reflection and refreshment along the way. Then, turn up the A/C or roll down the windows and let the cool air energize your spirit as you chase the horizon.
En route to the Grand Canyon, turn your wheels north toward Sedona. As you drive the 116 miles from downtown Phoenix, look for the layered stone mountains striped ruby and dove gray. From the ground level, Cathedral Rock and Devil’s Bridge Trail will remind you of trips to modern metropolises, but those aren’t skyscrapers. The city skyline is sprinkled with natural wonders and rather than crowded avenues, Sedona has winding waterways, like Slide Rock State Park—the all-natural water park that your childhood self craves.
Once you’ve soaked yourself in fresh water and signature Sedona sunsets, continue your journey north another 110 miles to the Grand Canyon. Speaking of natural wonders, this one is officially one of the top 7, and with good reason. Look out over Colorado River as it slowly wears away at the canyon, revealing more vivid sediment and alters its own course.
Start Fresh in the Desert
As you plan your trip to the sun-burnished capital of the “Copper State,” book hotels in Phoenix with Travelocity. Our price-matching promise means you’ll receive the best price available, whether you want to be within walking distance to downtown or you prefer a mountain view. Save even more when you bundle flights and hotels in our Phoenix vacation packages—a refreshing dose of vitamin D is on Mother Nature.