Visitors to Phoenix, Arizona, have a major challenge when it comes to activities. It’s not what to do while visiting the Valley of the Sun, but what to do first while in the Phoenix area. This short list only looks at activities inside the Phoenix city limits.
Phoenix is a 365-day vacation. In the joyously warm winter weather and even under the sizzling summer sun, there is something for every visitor. The best way to divvy up the trip is to decide whether to be active, easy-paced or luxuriant. Full information is at Visit Phoenix.
Home to the second-largest city park in the world, South Mountain Preserve, and another ranked in the top 10 globally, Sonoran Desert Preserve, Phoenix offers more than 1,000 miles of on- and off-road bike trails and routes. A recent bond issue passed by voters in 2015 will add another 1,000 miles.
There are three types of bike trails in Phoenix. The canal trail system adjoins the Arizona Canal and Grand Canal. These paved and hard-packed trails run for more than 20 miles diagonally across the city. Some of the hard-pack trails are slated for paving, with one major segment in the Biltmore area planned for 2016.
In the South Mountain Preserve, there are more than 100 miles of mountain biking and hiking trails running up and down South Mountain. For road cyclists, the paved road to the top of the mountain has been a heart-pumping challenge for decades.
The newly opened, 2015, Desert Mountain Preserve, has several shared use single track trails terraced into the side of the hills offering challenges for intermediate- and advance-skilled cyclists and hikers.
The venerable North Mountain Preserve has an eight-mile continuous trail running the length of the preserve. This is shared by hikers, cyclists and equestrians. It offers options of generally level trails for beginners and moderate to steep climbs for intermediate- and advance-skilled riders and hikers.
Camelback Mountain is a destination climb for advanced and serious hikers only. The trails are extraordinarily beautiful, require strong skills and test endurance. It’s a mark of pride to hike Camelback, but there are multiple annual deaths from falls and lack of conditioning. Know personal limits before attempting this in-city climb and hike.
It doesn’t matter the season, it doesn’t matter that these parks are inside the sixth largest city in the U.S., this is the desert; it will kill for carelessness. Understand desert activity safety. Carry one liter of water per person per hour. More in the summer. Avoid hiking in the heat of the day. Plan summer active activities early in the day.
A downloadable Valley of the Sun bicycle trails map is available from the Maricopa Association of Governments.
|Mountain and Road Bike Rentals|
|Exhale Bikes Inc.||North Phoenix||602-548-0567|
|Landis Cyclery||Midtown and Scottsdale||602-264-5681|
|Slippery Pig Bike Shop||Midtown||602-263-5143|
|Sonoran Cycles Bike Shop||Deer Valley||623-434-4883|
|Trailhead Bike Café||Sunny Slope||602-264-2328|
On a hot afternoon, or any relaxed day, a cool visit to one of the Phoenix museums is a calm, easy activity. All of the museums in Phoenix are within short walks of Metro Light Rail. An all-day pass on light rail allows on-and-off riding on the same day and connects museums, restaurants, the major sports arenas.
Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 N. Central Ave. at McDowell Road. The growing museum has more than 18,000 works of art with an international reputation for its curation and leadership. Phoenix Art offers numerous floating exhibits, a gift shop and a café associated with one of the city’s top restaurants, The Farm at South Mountain.
Heard Museum, 2301 N. Central Ave. at Encanto Boulevard, one-half mile north of McDowell Road. The Heard is centered around the original Spanish-style estate of the Heard family. Its collection and curation focuses on the art of Native Americans and the Southwest. In addition to its archaeological and historic collections of Native American clothing, baskets and pottery, the Heard features a chilling exhibit telling the story of the Indian boarding schools into which children from Native cultures were forcibly taken to become Americanized. The Heard also offers a rotating collection of visiting exhibits. The Heard and its collection are unique in the world of museums.
Musical Instrument Museum, 4725 E. Mayo Blvd. at Tatum Boulevard south of Loop 101. The only museum of its kind in the world, the MIM has collected musical instruments from throughout the world and throughout musical history. From earliest percussion in Africa to legends of rock’n’roll, MIM incorporates interactive displays, visual demonstrations and live musical performances in a state of the art theater. It is a one-of-a-kind Phoenix experience.
Arizona Science Center, 600 E. Washington St. at between 6th and 7th streets. The Science Center is for families and inspires exploration, innovation and collaboration. Many of the exhibits are interactive, and although children dominate the attendance, it’s an experience and exploration for solo adults as well. The center has a collection of permanent and rotating exhibits, video presentations and a planetarium.
Pioneer Living History Museum, 3901 W. Pioneer Rd. at I-17 exit 225, approximately 30 miles north of downtown Phoenix. Complete with reconstructed and relocated historic buildings, the 90-acre museum is a collection of authentic buildings and historic accuracy of a 1800s Western town. The experience includes costumed interpreters representing the populations of the era from lawmen and utlaws to ranchers and Victorian ladies.
Phoenix has been a resort and luxury destination for decades and its reputation was built on historic and unmatched resort properties. In the summer months, many of the luxury resorts offer unique packages that include access to pool and recreation, spa services, and rooms at very low rates.
Phoenix is also home to a number of luxurious contemporary resort hotels, which also provide day-access and spa services. Among the top-rated include the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, which despite its Scottsdale address, is within the city of Phoenix. The JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa is another destination resort in the city. Spa services are also offered at new downtown hotels, including the Sheraton Grand Phoenix and Kimpton boutique Hotel Palomar CityScape. In the South Mountain area, the Arizona Grand Resort and Spa is part of the hospitality or day use options.
A luxurious spa experience also awaits visitors at one of the many day spas in the city. Services vary, but most offer massage, nails, facials and body work. This list is not comprehensive, as there are many in Phoenix. Many are interpedently owned, and some, like the Elizabeth Arden Red Door, have international reputations.
|Small Selection of Day Spas|
|Azul Day Spa||Metrocenter||602-997-2174|
|Body Beautiful Spa||Midtown||602-522-9222|
|Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa||Biltmore||602-553-8800|
|Gigi’s Mind Body & Soul Day Spa||Uptown||602-441-2279|
|Inner Radiance Spa||Midtown||602-956-8222|
|Roose Parlour and Spa||Roosevelt Row||602-274-6942|
image: Flickr/Edward Blake