From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
Arizona is easily one of the most popular RV camping destination states — and for a whole lot of great reasons. From Grand Canyon National Park to Page’s Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, Arizona has no shortage of fantastic sights to see and experience… not to mention its year-round lack of winter weather. (That’s a major plus for full-timers!)
But as popular as Arizona is amongst campers, they all too often miss out on one of its very best attractions: the capital city of Phoenix, AZ. A sprawling desert metropolis with a population of more than 1.5 million people, Phoenix is chock-full of amazing things to see, do, and taste — and it’s well worth a stop if you’re headed to the Copper State and it’s not yet on your itinerary.
We wouldn’t want you to miss out on the offerings of this one-of-a-kind city, so if you’ve found this page by looking for a Phoenix, Arizona travel guide, you’re in luck! Here’s what you need to know to get around “the Valley,” as the locals call it, like a pro.
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
Nearby National Parks and Wilderness Areas
If you’re willing to do a little bit of driving, you’ll be rewarded in the form of an endless array of nationally protected wilderness, monuments, and landscapes to discover. Within a few hours of Phoenix, you’ll find the following — which still doesn’t represent a comprehensive list of all the outdoor adventure opportunities in the entire state of Arizona.
Agua Fria National Monument
Tonto National Forest and Monument
Sonoran Desert National Monument
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
Montezuma Castle and Well National Monuments
Nearby State and Municipal Parks
Even if you’re looking for something a little less grand than the Grand Canyon, there are a number of stunning state and municipal parks right near Phoenix, such as Lost Dutchman State Park, Papago Park, and, further south toward Tucson, Catalina State Park. Each has its own attractions including hiking and biking trails as well as other outdoor recreational opportunities, from birding to geocaching to rock climbing and more. Many also offer RV camping, which can make them a perfect place to call home base when you’re done with city life for a while.
You may think the Phoenix restaurant scene has nothing to offer but tired Tex-Mex. But if you do, you couldn’t be further from the truth.
Here are some of the very best restaurants, breweries, and bars in the Phoenix area, dishing up everything from ramen noodles to breakfast beignets — and, of course, the occasional taco. (As if you don’t totally want one!)
A small plates restaurant that also offers catering, Bri is actually named after a type of wood fire grill commonly found in South Africa, whose full traditional spelling is braai. It’s a cozy establishment situated in a converted bungalow and the perfect place to go with a few friends or family members to split several of its smaller plates and get a taste of everything.
Sometimes, all you need is a comforting slurp of soup to turn your day from good to great — even if it’s hot as a desert outside. If you’re craving an authentic Japanese noodle experience, Tampopo Ramen has you covered. Its noodles are housemade and its atmosphere is inviting, casual and family-friendly. It’s also downright delicious!
Listen — tacos may not be the only thing you want while you’re in the southwest, but you definitely do have to eat some while you’re here. And sometimes, the best place to get an authentic ethnic cuisine is in the tiny little unassuming hole in the wall… which is exactly what you get at Tacos Atoyac off 19th Ave and Glendale. Although this Mexican eatery doesn’t have a proper website, fans continue to sing its praises by tagging it on Instagram. One look at those tacos is marketing tactic enough, if you ask us!
Just because something’s quick doesn’t mean it has to be subpar. At Worth Takeaway, you get both: fast service and fresh, delicious food that’s worth coming back for. (Pun intended.) Serving up a slate of delicious, hearty sandwiches for lunch and a variety of other favorites for brunch and breakfast, this spot is a local favorite for a reason… and yes, that reason might be breakfast beignets.
Shaanxi Garden Chinese
From favorites like beef lo mein to slightly more exotic eats (like lamb neck with tortillas), Shaanxi Garden Chinese is a great place to get an authentic and delicious taste of the other side of the world, right in Mesa, Arizona. Alongside its main menu, Shaanxi also offers a variety of barbecue items as well as traditional drinks and sweet, satisfying desserts.
The Sleepy Whale
A bottle shop and beer bar serving up a variety of adult delights in an unpretentious space and also hosting events on a weekly basis, The Sleepy Whale is one of the hottest new bars to hit Phoenix in recent memory. Whether you’re looking to catch up with friends, watch the game, or even grab a yoga class (with brews waiting thereafter, of course), it’s worth a visit.
The Arizona Wilderness
Chances are the wilderness is at least a part of what attracted you to Arizona in the first place… though you might not have known about this version. The Arizona Wilderness, along with a saguaro-studded landscape, is also a downtown brewery devoted to celebrating hand-crafted, artisanal beers inspired by the great outdoors.
If you’re the type who takes your drink as seriously as your food — and then some — you absolutely must put Century Grand on your to-stop list. This cocktail bar prides itself on its “meticulously” crafted beverages, and also serves up a wealth of delicious accompaniments dim-sum style as well as a smaller selection available on a traditional menu.
From the Rooftop
There’s nothing quite like a rooftop bar… especially when it’s a rooftop from which you can watch a stunning Arizona sunset. Serving up fresh drinks, craveable eats, and views for days (and days, and days), From the Rooftop is the perfect place to kick off a Phoenix weekend.
Cobra Arcade Bar
If you ask enough Phoenix locals for their favorite watering holes, sooner or later — and probably sooner — someone’s going to mention Cobra Arcade Bar. This downtown joint is equal parts drinking establishment and literal adult playground, and it’s the perfect place to turn childhood faves like Mario Bros or Donkey Kong into grown-up ventures. (It’s also got a sister location in Tucson, so if you end up further south, you’ll still have the opportunity to sip and play!)
Once you’re well-fed and have had a cocktail or two, it’s time to get serious about your adventures! Here are some of our favorite things to discover while visiting Phoenix, AZ.
Children’s Museum of Phoenix
Looking for something fun to do on a rainy (or super-hot) day that the kids will be totally into, even though it’s educational? The Children’s Museum of Phoenix is one of the best-regarded children’s museums in the country, and admission is downright reasonable at $14.95 per person for non-members. (Kids under the age of one get in free!)
Experience a range of hands-on exhibits that will captivate not only the kids, but the adults along for the ride. All the while, actual learning will be going on… though it won’t feel like it!
Desert Botanical Garden
You’d be forgiven for thinking the desert is, well, deserted… but in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden is the perfect place to discover just what a diversity of life this arid landscape really can support, all in the context of knowledgeable and friendly guides who are happy to answer all of your most pressing questions.
Biltmore Fashion Park
Craving a shopping spree? While there is no shortage of shopping in Phoenix, for those after a high-end, luxury experience, Biltmore Fashion Park is the destination of choice. Populated by favorites like Chico’s, Macy’s and MAC as well as homespun local establishments and eateries, you’ll be sure to find your next favorite outfit on your trip to this, one of the best shopping malls in the Phoenix, AZ area.
The Phoenix Zoo
Get up close and personal with the Phoenix Zoo‘s family of more than 3,000 critters, ranging from tiny invertebrates to mammals that weigh more than you do. Along with giving visitors the chance for a wild experience, this zoo — the largest privately owned, non-profit zoo in the U.S. — is also devoted to conservation and educational programs that will help keep our planet healthy and abundant for creatures of all shapes and sizes, including us.
The Phoenix Theater Company
Bringing world-class Broadway acts right to the heart of the Sonoran desert, the Phoenix Theater Company is a great place to catch some live entertainment you’ll never forget. The largest performing arts company in the Valley, the Phoenix Theater Company stages nearly 500 performances per year across multiple venues as well as hosting educational and outreach programs that inspire more than 100,000 citizens annually.
You’ve had the best eats, sipped the best drinks, and taken in all the shopping, museums, and entertainment that city life can offer.
It’s time to get out in the countryside, don’t you think? Here are some not-to-be-missed areas for hiking and other outdoor recreational pursuits just outside of Phoenix.
Flagstaff and Sedona
Two hours’ travel north into the Arizona wilderness will land you in a totally different landscape. Northern Arizona’s high desert offers a different kind of flora and fauna than its southern counterpart, not to mention a host of unparalleled outdoor activity opportunities.
Sedona is world-renowned as one of the most stunning hiking destinations on the continent, if not the globe. Dramatic red rock walls are backdropped by pine forests, creating the perfect place to find yourself by getting lost.
The nearby town of Flagstaff is an ideal place to combine the stunning outdoor vistas of this part of the country with the unique cultural experience of a small, college town, all just an hour south of perhaps the most serious attraction in the state: Grand Canyon National Park.
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Phoenix that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Phoenix? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.