Weekend City Picks: Phoenix & Scottsdale
Despite its famous Saguaro cactus, Phoenix is not all desert and rugged landscape. Phoenix and Scottsdale’s museums, galleries, unique restaurant and vibrant nightlife scene and sophisticated shopping ensure a weekend to remember – as soon as you’re ready to get out of the pool.
Arts & Entertainment
Founded in 1929, this museum is dedicated to the celebration and study of the Native arts, through collaborations with area tribal communities and indigenous artists. A roster of changing exhibits focuses on topics like American Indian athletic history, the native art of the southwest and regional textiles, jewelry and housewares. The uniquely comprehensive permanent collection holds more than 4,000 objects and allows visitors an unparalleled view of the history and culture of the region.
Arguably America’s most famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright built Taliesin West in 1937. Inspired and moved by the landscape and the skies of the southwest, Wright’s structure is unlike any other building yet so attuned to its surroundings that it seems to have grown from the earth. Various tours allow visitors to explore the living quarters, the grounds and the architect’s unique talent for linking the indoors with the outside world. The building served as both Wright’s home and his workspace, and exploring the property is a design-lover’s dream.
Take a break from high culture to grab a couple of beers and take in a show at the Crescent Ballroom. This modern-rustic music venue is open daily with acts that run the gamut from flamenco to hard rock, and the lounge gets pretty packed Sunday nights for trivia. Post-show, snag a seat on the patio and order a bite from Cocina 10
, an in-venue restaurant that features a menu designed by area favorite Chris Bianco.
Food & Drink
Amidst flickering candles and a glowing wall of Himalayan salt blocks, dine on a medley of plates that offer an innovative Mediterranean riff on southwestern flavors. Start with a spicy Peruvian clam stew and guacamole (prepared tableside). Then move on to Malbec-braised short ribs cooked over pecan and mesquite or a platter of tecata-battered fish tacos paired with one of the house’s signature margaritas.
James Beard Award winner Chris Bianco slings pies that Bon Appétit, Rachel Ray and Andrew Zimmern all agree are among the best in the U.S. With crisp flaky crust and slow-cooked toppings, this isn’t just another artisanal pizzeria. The offerings at this mini-chain’s downtown Phoenix location include the “Sonny Boy” with salami and olives, the “Wiseguy” with onion and fennel sausage and a Margherita so simple, it’s practically transcendent. Of course, that means you can anticipate a line. Luckily you can enjoy a glass of wine next door at cheery Bar Bianco (which opens at 4) while you wait for your table.
Hi Fi’s contemporary take on a ‘50s joint is the perfect accompaniment to its sophisticated drive-in style menu and adult milkshakes. American classics are served well into the wee hours, perfect for soaking up signature drinks like the “S’more,” made with marshmallow vodka, chocolate syrup, toasted marshmallow and graham cracker crumbles. Or try one of Hi Fi’s famous beer floats like the Harvest Moon: a Blue Moon with orange vodka, vanilla soft serve and whipped cream.
Known by locals as “The Railroad Park,” this is the perfect spot for families who like to mix education with play. Learn about the history of train travel and how it irrevocably altered U.S. history. In addition to the classic train cars, the park has a model railroad building with four different model railroads on display. Admission to the park is free, picnic spaces are available and a ride on the train or on the beautifully restored carousel costs $2 per rider. Sunday evenings in May, June and July the park offers free outdoor concerts, so bring a blanket and stretch out on the lawn.
Visit the country’s largest butterfly atrium to experience a flurry of amazing. The large indoor rainforest environment is populated by thousands of free-flying butterflies and flowering plants. Little ones will love the butterfly emergence gallery, where they can observe chrysalis and watch a newly emerged butterfly spread its wings for the first time.
Kids may balk when they first hear the word “museum,” but that’s before they see an enormous sculpture they’re actually encouraged to climb all over. There’s a giant ballroom, tiny child-sized cars, a fort-building exhibit that encourages collaborative play and a giant forest of rubber noodles for kids to wander through. Special exhibits for kids under three years old ensure that even the tiniest family member will discover something to enjoy.
Arizona is the land of the spa, so a body treatment, massage or facial is practically a requirement when you’re in town. Head to Agave, a citrus-scented oasis at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, to relax and recharge. Choose from an extensive menu of services that includes a stimulating scalp massage, a brown sugar body scrub or, for something less vigorous, an Agave Moor Mud Wrap that will soothe tired muscles and improve your skin’s elasticity.
With summit trails gaining more than 1,200 feet in elevation, this peak is not for beginners. Experienced hikers, though, will relish the climb. Stunning city views and an expansive panorama of those famous Arizona skies will richly reward explorers who make the journey to the top.
For a good, long-distance trail run, get out of the city and head to the Brown’s Mountain trailhead at this majestic preserve, with more than 30,000 acres at the foot of the splendid McDowell Mountains. The preserve, one of Arizona’s greatest natural treasures, has almost 130 miles of trails. Brown’s Mountain Trail has the perfect amount of incline to keep you engaged while you take in the views and provides a few plateaus to keep you from running out of steam before your final push to the top.
Believe it or not, there is plenty of water in the desert. Arizona Outback Adventures offers full and half-day kayaking, rafting and stand-up paddleboard excursions on the Lower Salt River. Guides will show you points of interest and indigenous flora and fauna -- you’re likely to see eagles or wild horses running along the riverbanks. Up for a longer adventure? Sign up for an overnight camping excursion, and spend a night under the stars.
Golfer? Welcome to paradise. With more than 200 courses to choose from, Scottsdale is mecca for fans of the game. Take in sublime desert views and Arizona’s only sand-island green on the three diverse, flawlessly designed courses at The Phoenician, A Luxury Collection Resort
. There’s also Grayhawk
, whose Raptor Course is widely considered to be the finest daily-fee course in the state. Troon North
are just a few of the other available courses that combine the rugged, dramatic natural beauty of the area with challenging, playable holes.
For baseball lovers a trip to Scottsdale in the springtime is a must. Fifteen professional baseball teams come to Scottsdale to prep for the upcoming season at the most sophisticated training facilities in the U.S. The Cactus League
, as it’s called, offers a full schedule of games in March, with short drive times between stadiums and various shopping and dining amenities available.
A true commercial gem in the greater Phoenix area, this is the spot to hit when you’re ready to restock your closet and your home. Well-edited collections of vintage clothing and locally designed garments share space with retro antique shops hawking midcentury modern wares. Peek into Cleo & Clementine
for a look at some locally designed wedding gowns and party dresses, or check out Melrose Vintage
for deals on beautifully shabby chic furniture, housewares and reworked vintage pieces.
For an outdoor shopping experience, visit Kierland Commons. Stroll the quaint “main street” featuring retail shops like Michael Kors, Crate & Barrel and Anthropologie. Take a break to refuel at Maestro’s Ocean Club for an upscale take on traditional seafood dishes alongside mouthwatering cuts of steak.
If you’re in town and looking to splurge, direct your feet to Scottsdale Fashion Square. Stroll high-end shops like Barneys New York, Ted Baker, Neiman Marcus and Tory Burch, situated only steps from the Scottsdale Waterfront. Skipping the restaurant chains, wash down artichoke hearts and bruschetta with a glass of sangria on the leafy patio at Olive & Ivy. For dessert swing by the MacarOn Café, and scoop up a few of the dreamy French confections it’s named for.