This past week was spent in vacation bliss while I visited Arizona for the first time. Perks included a significant lack of snow, summertime temperatures and bountiful breakfast burritos, which is why Arizona has been on my travel bucket list for a while now. The drastic desert landscape (Cacti! Open spaces!) and outdoorsy activities in Phoenix and Scottsdale made for a perfect getaway from the often cramped, dirty and freaking freezing city. First stop in Arizona were the cities of Phoenix and Scottsdale.
Often times, an easy and cheaper way to travel is to go for shorter periods of time. If you only had 48 hours to visit Phoenix and Scottsdale, here are some highlights you can’t miss.
5 Things to See and Do
- Hiking - We decided to tackle Squaw Peak’s summit trail, rather than the larger (and way more difficult) Camelback. Squaw Peak isn’t the easiest, but we did see all types climbing to the summit – including small children who made me feel like I need to get my ish together when they ran past me up steep inclines. [Free! Just park your car and hike up the side. Be sure to bring at least 2 bottles of water per person. You are in a desert after all.]
- Horseback Riding – We visited MTM Ranch for our horseback riding, and I can’t sing higher praises for their rides. The ride is private, just your group and their guide, and it takes you all over hills, mountains, valleys and through a landscape dotted with thousands of saguaro cacti. Spring for the sunset ride, the views are gorgeous and you'll get more than your money's worth. [$40 for an hour, $50 for an hour and a half and $60 for two hours]
- Phoenix Desert Botanical Gardens – If you think that touring gardens sounds slightly boring, I would have half agreed with you before visiting this one. Why would I want to pay $20 for admission to a place that has landscaping I could see the natural landscape just driving through the state? It’s because you can’t see it like this. They have a succulent garden, whole forests, and areas that look like you’re in the lushest desert ever. It helped that we were there the day after some rain fell and everything was popping out of the ground and blooming. And we saw hummingbirds. And learned that a 10 year old saguaro cactus is actually only a few inches tall, which then made me feel really guilty for killing so many succulents and cacti in my life... [$22 for adults, $12 for anyone with a student ID]
- Old Town Scottsdale – While the area has a hokey, touristy vibe, we stumbled on an art gallery that had works by Miro, Warhol and Norman Rockwell. We popped in for a bit, and got a quick art museum fix without having to buy a ticket. Plus, it was right across the street from Sugar Bowl ice cream parlor which looks like soda jerk straight outta the movie Grease.
- Taliesin West – Frank Lloyd Wright’s former studio and home in Phoenix where he housed his first apprentices is a bit pricey to visit. However, if you’re a fan of the architect or pretty views, landscapes and architecture this is something you should add to your itinerary. Apprentices in the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture still live and work here, and the grounds are seriously beautiful. Learn all about how obsessive and egotistical Frank Lloyd Wright was on your tour! [Tours range from $32 to $70, depending on length and access to “behind the scenes” areas]
5 Places to Throw Your Diet to the Wind (Hey, this is vacation after all…)
- Pizzeria Bianco – Apparently this place has some of the best pizza in the entire US… and I missed out on it. I had a week, but I was busy trying to fit in all the Mexican food I could shovel into my face and somehow missed this spot. I still recommend it since locals, NY pizza enthusiasts and pizza lovers nationwide have recommended it to me.
- 15 Y Las Salsas – Oaxacan-style restaurant with a bit of grunge. The restaurant’s ceiling is decorated with papel picado, there may have been a bullet hole in one of the front windows and the food is on point. You like mole? Go here. They’ve got moles I never knew existed. Don’t leave without ordering some freshly made agua fresca – they come in pitchers big enough to split between two or three, not to mention that it’s so cheap, you could eat for less than $10 a person.
- S.E.E.D Café & Juice Bar – We wanted cold juice post-Squaw Peak hike and stumbled upon this spot, tucked in between two strip malls. With outdoor seating, fresh pressed juices and a healthy menu of acai bowls, kale-everything and (gasp!) healthy burritos, it’s a lighter option an ocean of tortillas, red meat and tequila.
- Butter’s – Located in Scottsdale, this breakfast spot gets busy early in the morning, so get there early and expect a wait. Fresh squeezed orange juice, a Mexican chorizo omelet and their famous pancakes are all worth your while. If you’re feeling more like a breakfast burrito, look no further than Los Tacos Favoritos, also in Scottsdale. You could split one between two people and still be full. Heavy on the green chile sauce, please.
- Los Altos Ranch Market – This Mexican market was our first stop for cheap tacos, HUGE bags of chicharrones, roasted jalapenos, all sorts of fruits, chili peppers, tamarind chili candies and other Mexican goodies. They’ve got fresh fruit and veggie juices at their juice stand, delicious beans and rice, handmade tortillas and super cheap taco plates. Not to mention that we got 3 avocados for 99 cents, and an entire pineapple for 99 cents. 99 CENTS. This alone is a reason to visit.
Stay tuned for the next leg of my trip, when we travel north to the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon and Sedona.
Have questions about my time in Arizona? Planning a trip of your own? Email me at Lauren@The-BLVD.com and I'll answer them in my next travel post!