Greater Phoenix is the fifth largest metro area in the United States, home to more than 20 communities. It's big, is what we're saying.
In the city commonly referred to as the “the Valley of the Sun,” we combed through its biggest and best hot spots to create this five-day itinerary filled with history, art, architecture and great food.
Tip: Because all these communities are part of one major metropolitan area, you may base your travel in any of these cities.
Day 1: Explore Phoenix’s avant-garde art and award-winning pizza.
- Start in downtown Phoenix where you can soak up the city's history, architecture and attractions with a walking tour provided by the Downtown Phoenix Ambassadors.
- After the tour, head to Bentley Gallery, a former linen laundry warehouse dating back to 1918 that now displays world-class contemporary paintings, photography, sculpture, and prints. Head north to the Phoenix Art Museum on Central Avenue or Roosevelt Row for even more galleries showcasing a mix of established and emerging artists.
- Enjoy a casual dinner at the famous Pizzeria Bianco, home to what the New York Times said “might be the best pizza in America.” Chef Bianco is an advocate of the slow food movement, so sit back and order a glass of wine while you wait for your fresh, wood-fired pizza to arrive. (Reservations available for groups of 6 -10).
Day 2: Mix famed architecture with unforgettable shopping in Scottsdale.
Credit: Experience Scottsdale
- Scottsdale is home to Taliesin West, once Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home. Take a guided tour of this renowned architect’s desert masterpiece, now the main campus for Arizona State University's School of Architecture.
- Next, venture to Scottsdale’s newest entertainment destination, the Scottsdale Waterfront, located on the Arizona Canal in Old Town Scottsdale. The area's collection of retailers and restaurants offer eclectic wares and dining options, and it's located directly across from the upscale Scottsdale Fashion Square.
- For lunch, cross the canal's bridge into Old Town Scottsdale for an array of dining options, including the famed FnB restaurant and five-time James Beard Award-nominee, Chef Charlene Badman. Head back to Fashion Square for more shopping or continue on in Old Town's smaller shops and galleries.
- In the evening, dine at Olive & Ivy, a California-meets-Mediterranean-inspired restaurant with outdoor seating overlooking the canal. (Reservations highly recommended.)
Day 3: Continue to Tempe for more art and architecture at ASU – and plenty of diversions on Mill Ave.
- Tempe: the middle of it all. Start your day with a tour of ASU Gammage (call for reservations). This structure, built by Frank Lloyd Wright, resembles a tiered birthday cake and was originally intended to be the royal opera house in Baghdad. (Spoiler: It didn't quite make it.) Arizona State University now owns the beautiful venue, which hosts world-class concerts and Broadway musicals.
- While on campus, make time to visit the ASU Art Museum, considered to be one of the Southwest’s most significant contemporary art institutions. Bonus: It’s free! (Curious for more art? Check out "Artful Adventures Abound in Tempe".)
- After lunch, visit the Desert Botanical Garden, a beautiful respite in the middle of the city that houses one of the world’s finest collections of desert flora. Mother Nature's not too bad of an artist, herself.
Musicians play for a gathering crowd on Mill Avenue. / Credit: Tim Trumble
- At night, let loose on Mill Avenue – the hub of Tempe’s dining and nightlife. Eat, drink, dance or just people watch as you unwind for the day.
Day 4: Experience Chandler’s past – from ostrich farms to a classic golf resort.
- Spend the day in Chandler, where ostrich ranching was once a prominent part of life. The city still celebrates its history at the annual Ostrich Festival in March, a must-see event.
- Next go for a self-guided walking tour of Downtown Chandler where you will discover a variety of museums, galleries, cafes, small restaurants and historical sites.
- Lunch at one of the many award-winning, locally owned restaurants. Try El Zocalo Mexican Grille, where you will enjoy the lush and secluded patio oasis.
- In the evening catch a drama or concert performance at the Chandler Center for the Arts. Then dine on wood-fired pizza at Crust restaurant. Bonus: Sneak downstairs after dinner to craft cocktail lounge, The Ostrich, a former ostrich feather storage facility housed in the basement tunnels linking the Crowne Plaza San Marcos resort and old railroad station.
- Stay overnight at Crowne Plaza San Marcos Golf Resort, an Arizona landmark since 1912 and the first golf resort in Arizona.
Day 5: Head to the Superstition Mountains, then explore Mesa.
- Get a taste of Arizona’s colorful mining history at Goldfield Ghost Town at the Superstition Mountains.
- Have lunch at the Mammoth Saloon, pan for gold, take a narrow gauge train ride and witness an old west gun fight.
- Enjoy a walk down Main Street in Downtown Mesa, where you can go antiquing, eat dinner at a sidewalk café or enjoy shopping at local boutiques.
- Complete your day with a visit to the Arizona Museum of Natural History. Learn about American Indian culture and the natural history of the valley from the old west to the space age and from the dinosaurs to the conquistadors.