From A to Z in AZ’s largest city, downtown Phoenix comes alive—especially at night.
Downtown Phoenix has always been the city’s nerve center, where business is conducted and civic events are held. But in recent years, with an explosion of cultural and culinary additions, it’s become the heart and soul of the city.
There’s a major museum for every taste in downtown Phoenix. The Phoenix Art Museum is the Southwest’s largest art museum, with a sculpture garden and masterpieces by Monet, Picasso and O’Keeffe. The Heard Museum is the world’s leading repository of Native American art. With it's planetarium, giant screen theater and interactive exhibits, the Arizona Science Center attracts 400,000 annual visitors. The copper-domed 1901 building that served as Arizona’s seat of government for most of the 20th century is now the Arizona Capitol Museum. And the Children’s Museum of Phoenix is ranked among America’s most fun for the 10-and-under crowd.
Bite Into Phoenix
Downtown Phoenix is teeming with a wide range of restaurant options, including two where James Beard Award-winning chefs work their magic—Pizzeria Bianco (celebrity chef Chris Bianco) and Nobuo at Teeter House (celebrity chef Nobuo Fukuda). They’re side-by-side at Heritage Square, the city’s oldest block with buildings dating back to 1895. Another tasty choice: Mexican fine dining at Barrio Café Gran Reserva. Exemplary eateries also abound at downtown hotels, notably Province Urban Kitchen & Bar at The Westin Phoenix Downtown and the District American Kitchen & Wine Bar at the Sheraton Grand Phoenix.
Chase Field is not the only downtown baseball stadium in America, but it’s the only one with a swimming pool behind the outfield fence. And the retractable roof lets you watch Diamondbacks day games in air-conditioned comfort. Cactus League spring training games, featuring 15 MLB teams, are also an option if you come in March. Not a baseball fan? Then catch some Stravinsky this summer or Beethoven’s Ninth this fall at the Symphony Hall. Go to the ballet at the historic Orpheum Theatre, a play at the Herberger Theater Center, live comedy at 5,000-seat Comerica Theatre or live music at Celebrity Theatre’s unique theater-in-the-round. It all happens downtown.
Downtown Phoenix does quirky, trendy and fun as well as most downtowns—maybe better. At FilmBar, you can pair an Indie or foreign film with a draft IPA. Choose among 60 vintage arcade games and seven unique cocktails at the adult-only Cobra Arcade Bar. Get adventurous over at The Trunk Space, where you’re more likely to see vaudeville, circus acts, or performance art than live music. These downtown nightspots break the mold, but there are plenty of others that simply serve up good drinks, bar food and live music.
The Art Walk
First Fridays have played a big part in the burgeoning popularity of downtown Phoenix. Each First Friday of the month, up to 20,000 locals and visitors make the rounds at dozens of downtown galleries, museums and other venues. They come for the contemporary art—with about 400 visual and performance artists participating each month—but also to eat, drink and enjoy local bands, especially on lively Roosevelt Row (“RoRo”). Free trolleys, which follow a continuous loop past First Friday locations, let you get around without parking hassles. And if you can’t make it on a First Friday, Third Friday is drawing crowds now too.