Positioned in the cozy embrace of surprisingly lush desert mountains and an evolving urban landscape, the Phoenix metropolitan has grown to be the darling of the Southwest. For the outdoor enthusiast, it’s a haven for hiking, mountain biking and more, while those seeking a calming retreat can take advantage of luxurious spas and the laid-back atmosphere of local resorts. Follow this two-day itinerary and you’ll pack in much of the best of both.
Start your day with local favorite Matt’s Big Breakfast – a popular eatery that’s been featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins & Dives. Waffle aficionados swear by their made-from-scratch Belgian-style offering that comes with side of sweet cream butter, real maple syrup and their addictive (don’t say we didn’t warn you) thick cut bacon.
Burn a few of those delicious calories off a short drive away at Papago Park. There are several miles of easy-to-trek trails snaking their way past the park’s red rock buttes, including the Double Butte Loop Trail that stretches for just over two miles. Head to the other side of the park to the iconic Hole-in-the-Rock for Instagram-worthy views of the metro area.
Next door is Phoenix’s can’t-miss attraction, the Desert Botanical Garden. The 140-acre garden shows off the beauty and diversity of desert flora with more than 50,000 plants from the Sonoran Desert and more of the world’s arid regions. If in town before May 12, visit the garden at night for the Electric Desert exhibition, where light and sound come together to turn the landscape into a living canvas.
Wind down your day at the historic El Chorro for a happy hour where the food is surpassed only by the views. While sipping on a signature margarita and their famous don’t-let-me-know-how-many-calories-are-in-these sticky buns, soak in the surroundings as the rocky hump of Camelback Mountain bursts with colors in the light of sunset.
Rest your head at The Camby, an art-filled boutique hotel centrally located in Phoenix’s Biltmore neighborhood. The rooftop pool is a stylish spot to sunbathe and your room may offer scenic views of the nearby Piestewa Peak and Phoenix Mountains Preserve.
Start your morning at The Camby’s own Artizen Crafted American Kitchen & Bar. Fuel up for a busy day with short rib pastrami hash or start light with a seasonal smoothie or “super” bowl with house-made granola and berries.
At 8 a.m., a friendly guide from Stellar Adventures will pick you up at the hotel’s door in a customized H1 Hummer and whisk you away to the Tonto National Forest on the outskirts of town for a rollicking ride through the Sonoran Desert. The 4-hour tour includes nearly 18 miles of off-road adventure that offers panoramic views of Four Peaks and the surrounding wilderness. If visiting in spring, expect to see wildflower blooms brightening the desert.
After your thrill-filled morning, unwind at the recently renovated The Phoenician Spa. Indulge with a desert serenity body treatment that includes a healing desert clay wrap and a full-body massage with a cream that contains Prickly Pear extracts. Retreat to the spa’s rooftop pool soak up the sun and sweeping views of Camelback Mountain.
For dinner, head to CIBO Urban Pizzeria, housed in a restored 1913 downtown Phoenix bungalow. If the weather suits you, opt for a table under a canopy of trees on the charming patio. Split the Pappardelle Bolognese and a simple, but delicious Margherita pizza before a dessert of a warm crepe filled with Nutella and mascarpone cheese.
If a nightcap is calling you, you’ve got a bounty of nearby options. The award-winning Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour offers a fairytale-themed book full of more than 60 cocktails such as The Green Chapulin, a creamy creation served with a side of roasted grasshoppers—trust us, it’s delicious! If hops (no pun intended) are more your style, famed Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. opened a downtown outpost on Roosevelt Row in March.