This week I had to fly to Phoenix from Atlanta for work. I was scheduled to be in Phoenix from Monday-Thursday afternoon so I had planned with the best of intentions to see 5 Phoenix tourist hot spots while I was there. I shared all the places I wanted to visit and why they’re such interesting spots to visit whenever you’re in Phoenix, Arizona. Of the 5 I selected, I really only had time and energy to visit 1 per day for the first 2 days. It’s very hard to incorporate tourist stops on a work trip…

The most important thing I think about visiting another city, state, or even country is to find a tourist place that will help you immerse yourself into not only that local culture but also within that region’s climate and landscape. With that being said, the two places I had to see were Papago Park and Roosevelt Row. Papago Park was really going to help me see the landscape of Phoenix, which if you didn’t know is a desert that happens to have beautiful palm trees and water features. Roosevelt Row was a must see because it was going to culturally immerse me into an area with locals in the downtown area, with businesses made and stocked by local artisans and business owners.

View outside the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

TRAVEL TIP: One thing that I always like to point out when I visit a place is if there are any travel things to be aware of between leaving the airport and getting to the hotel. The car rental place is 7 minutes from the airport so you have to take the shuttle to get there. Is that the worst thing in the world? No, but is it inconvenient and slightly annoying for both arriving at the airport and coming back to catch your flight? Yes, absolutely!

Papago Park

Sitting next to a small cactus on my Away luggage at Papago Park

If you’re like me and you’ve never been to a desert or you’ve only lived on the East Coast of the United States then you’re very used to seeing lush green trees and grass, mountains aren’t that common, but when you see them they have foliage as well on them or surrounding them. Well not in Phoenix. The first thing I noticed is that there is NO grass. Not really anywhere where I was in Happy Valley or downtown Phoenix. I was told by the hotel clerk that he had grass in his yard, and by a coworker that people put own fake grass, but the grass is definitely a rare sight to see. I had also never seen a cactus actually growing out of the ground before, but they were everywhere and some of them get really tall and fat.

Hole in the Rock at Papago Park

So I know what you’re thinking…were you in a desert-desert, like what my Mom saw in Dubai? No, I didn’t see sand dunes and barren land for long distances with just sand. What you’ll find out at Papago Park might surprise you, but first let me tell you about the things that you’re probably going to be expecting to see in Arizona. There are lots of rocks everywhere. There are even large rock structures like the Hole in the Rock which is notable and cool to see. Check out the Trip Advisor post about it or this great article from Arizona Leisure. I can tell you that although I didn’t go on a hike, there are numerous hiking trails including one that leads you right up to the hole in the rock.

There were a bunch of rocky structures that were gorgeous to see, I saw a few scary looking bugs that I’d never seen before and were a little to cool for my comfort levels. You’re probably wondering if I was hot, but honestly I was perfectly fine on that day, which was April 22. The temperature was somewhere in the 80’s and I was out there around 3:30-4 pm. I am from Atlanta, and annoying people don’t call it Hotlanta for no reason. So if you come from Florida, Atlanta, Nevada, Texas…You’re going to be perfectly unbothered by the temperature. Even if you’re not used to the heat, just protect your skin from the extra exposure to the sun and you’re all set.

I Bet You Didn’t Think You’d Find This in the Desert

One thing that really shocked me about this area was the beauty of it. Your first thought when thinking about a desert isn’t going to be how beautiful it is. Your first few adjectives might be dry, barren, sandy, hot…but not beautiful. Which is what I thought until I saw bodies of water surrounded by palm trees (or what appears to be palm trees). Obviously, I took advantage and had quite the photo shoot. Nobody would believe me otherwise if I hadn’t taken advantage of the opportunity and fantastic natural lighting.

Tell me the above doesn’t look like I visited another country?! It was so cool to experience this natural beauty in person. One thing I will warn you about is how drying the climate is on your skin. I didn’t notice so much in my natural hair. As a matter of fact, I only wet my hair and twisted it Monday night. I never really used any product except when I was taking out my twists. I used my red Shea Moisture line. I mostly noticed the drying effect on my skin especially on exposed skin like my legs when I wore a dress, my hands, and my feet. It seemed like no matter how much lotion I put on, I was still looking pretty ashy. It was a sad little sight to see.

Overall, if you want to see the land itself and enjoy the outdoors it’s worth visiting Papago Park. It is open from dusk until 7 pm. Bring some water and your walking shoes and enjoy! I will definitely visit this park again the next time I’m in town. Until next time Phoenix!

Do It For the Culture

When you think of travel within the US as an American, most won’t think about a cultural experience. Most will think most Americans live similarly to other Americans. Yes, we know some people live in urban cities while others live in the suburbs or rural areas so their way of life is different, but most people don’t take a step back to look at the local people of different states or even different cities long enough to realize behaviors, accents, foods, dialects, lifestyles–it’s very different as you move city to city and state to state.

Everyone is so nice in Georgia, because honestly, most people in the south are known for being hospitable, accommodating, and very friendly. If someone mentions a New Yorker to you, people assume they are all fast paced, rude, and hard working. When I thought of Arizona, I didn’t have an idea of what to expect from the actual people. I have heard assumptions about people on the west coast like they’re creative, relaxed, and very organic with food choices.

What I found on Roosevelt Row is what I’d consider the heart and soul of the people of Phoenix and their personality. People from Phoenix are proud to be from there. They want to share their experiences with you, recommend places for you to go, give you history about the town or local folks, and invite you to have a seat or have a bite to eat. I was told from a local that Phoenix is known for 3 things:

  1. Coffee
  2. Good Tattoos
  3. Good Weed

I can’t officially say that is true as I didn’t have any of those things while I was there, I can say that I believe any place on the west coast will have incredible weed. The street artwork was breathtaking, and the handmade goods I found from local artists were of the best quality! Lastly, there were a bunch of delicious smelling coffee shops that weren’t just a Starbucks (which I love) or Peet’s Coffee.

Roosevelt Row is Art Heaven

One of the main reasons I wanted to walk down Roosevelt Row is because I knew it would have amazing murals (I have to get good pictures), boutiques (my Mom isn’t ok with me not buying her something on any of my trips), and I wanted to try some local restaurants instead of all the chain restaurants near my hotel in Happy Valley.

I started with the murals, because hello, I’m a graphic designer…and I wasn’t disappointed in the few I found (I didn’t walk all of Roosevelt Row).

It’s not all about the art on Roosevelt Row, there is also good shopping. I was there on a random Tuesday, but I’ve been told that on the first Friday of the month they line the streets between Roosevelt and 2nd and Roosevelt and 5th with merchant booths for their First Friday A.R.T.S. Market. It brings fine art, handmade crafts, and delicious local food. As I mentioned, I was in town for work from the East coast so I was too tired to stay there too long. Thank goodness the first and only boutique I went into was amazing.

Rubymint General

Right when I walked into Rubymint General, I was in love with the atmosphere. It’s a small boutique with so many different things like jewelry, purses, clothing, beauty products, and other cute things that I didn’t have enough time to fully absorb, but I did see a few items from some local folks that I really wanted and picked up a few pieces. One of the owners, Kat Proffitt, was there when I walked in and she was amazing! She knew so much about all the products she sold because I’ve read on their website that they curate items themselves. Kat told me so much about the area, suggested other places for me to shop, and recommended a delicious restaurant for me to eat because I mentioned I was hungry. I could have stayed talking to her all day to learn all about the area because she was kind and knowledgeable.

Mitchell Street Metal

This metal jewelry by Abigail, who’s behind Mitchell Street Metal, is truly one of a kind. Her unique pieces were not only stunning but as I touched them, I knew they were of the highest quality. The earrings on the left had some decent weight to them, which was really cool. As much as my Mom tortures me when she shops for jewelry, she’s never looked at anything so different before. I love that she’s a local jewelry maker and that she makes every effort to use recycled materials and eco-friendly chemicals to create these wearable works of art. She doesn’t have a storefront, but you can purchase her jewelry online. If you’re ever in Phoenix, I recommend visiting the Ruby Mint General store to see some pieces in person. It’s worth a look.

Pamela V.

Pamela V. (purse) , Rye Jewelry (necklace & ring)

Ruby Mint had a bunch of amazing products—bath products, jewelry, clothing, paper products, and then there were the purses. I kept noticing deliciously authentic leather purses in various sizes around the store. I picked up a few by Pamela V. and OMG, were they of the highest quality. With quality came price as they were $100+ for even a mid-sized satchel. It was totally worth it based on the quality alone, but I hadn’t expected to spend that much. However, there were some smaller ones, and this one little bag caught my eye and turned out to only be $65. I had to have it. It’s such a unique, adorable piece, I know I won’t find it back home in Atlanta.

Rye Jewelry

Other things that caught my eye were these clear quartz necklaces by Rye Jewelry. I have always wanted crystal jewelry because I read of how powerful they are for the spirit. According to this website, clear quartz is universal healer, it links to all chakras to provide balance and harmony. There were 2 quartz necklaces hanging on displays at the front of the store that I noticed right away. They weren’t the same size, but both were beautiful. The larger one was $55 and I had already spent more than I wanted to spend to take a little bit of Phoenix home with me. In the end, I couldn’t pass it up that good juju. I got the cheaper of the 2 which was only around $35, and totally worth it. The co-owner of Rubymint General actually told me that the artisan behind Rye Jewelry actually performs Reiki on her jewelry. If you’re unfamiliar with the practice of Reiki, it’s an energy healing treatment that is often used as an alternative to medicine (welcome to Arizona!!). I’m a spiritual person, so I found it to be a huge selling point. So much so that I bought a cute quartz ring to go with it.

Is Phoenix Worth the Trip?

Yes! If you like being outdoors, can stand the heat and want to be deeply immersed in the culture of another city in the US, then I’d highly recommend this place. People were so kind and happy to share information about the area with me. It was very comforting and made it easy to explore by myself. I always felt safe no matter where I went. It’s also very affordable there, so you could stay in a nice hotel and drive around to all the cool places. I’d definitely recommend renting a car, mostly because that’s what I did. I didn’t take one form of public transportation and it was easy. I found street parking in downtown and easily parked and drove everywhere else.

Want to learn more about other places to visit in Phoenix as a tourist? Check out my blog post about 4 other good spots to check out.

2 Comments on “Two Must-See Places to Visit in Phoenix

  1. Great post! I was just in Phoenix and had a great time checking out the local gems. Luckily I missed heat! We were able to explore Scottsdale, too. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

    • I’d love to check out Scottsdale. I also heard Sonoma is a must see as well. Thanks for reading.

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