While most of the country hunkers down this time of year to brace themselves for freezing temperatures, folks in Phoenix rejoice and head outside. After all, it won’t be long until the first 100-degree day rolls back around (usually sometime in mid-Spring). With the average high temperature in the 60s with plenty of sunshine, it’s pretty close to perfect. It’s no wonder then that so many visitors flock to the city—approximately five million on average in the first quarter of the year. Here’s a guide on what to see and do in the Valley of the Sun.
What to Do
With teams in all four major professional sports leagues, Phoenix is a great city for sports fans. During the winter months, both the Phoenix Suns (basketball) and Arizona Coyotes (hockey) are in the middle of their seasons, while the Arizona Cardinals (football) are just finishing up.
As March rolls around, baseball fans flood the Valley as Cactus League Spring Training kicks off. With 15 professional baseball teams, including the hometown Arizona Diamondbacks, and 10 stadiums scattered around town, it’s a great way to get up close and personal with your favorite players before the regular season starts. If you’re inspired to get active yourself, grab some water and check out one of the many local hiking trails or golf courses.
In addition, there are several exciting events that happen every year. Held in January, The Barrett-Jackson car auction achieved two Guinness World Records in 2014—“Largest Marquee” at 435,656.95 square feet and “Largest Single-Unit Marquee” at 351,210.33 square feet—and looks to grow bigger and better this year. At the end of the month, the Waste Management Phoenix Open plays host to the largest crowds on the PGA tour. Not your typical golf tournament, the Open is known for its party atmosphere, especially on the famous 16th Hole.
For some of the best arts and culture in the country, be sure to schedule a visit to The Phoenix Art Museum—an exhibit on Leonard da Vinci’s artistic influence begins Jan. 24, followed by a display of Andy Warhol’s portraits starting March 4— and The Phoenix Symphony. Other impressive venues include the Arizona Opera, The Orpheum Theater, and The Herberger Theater Center.
Where to Eat
While there are many wonderful places to eat—too many to experience all in a short visit—there are a few musts that will tantalize your taste buds. Given its proximity to the border, it’s no surprise there’s an abundance of great, authentic Mexican food. Family-owned and operated for over 30 years, El Bravo is as good as it gets, serving traditional Sonoran-style fare.
Downtown Phoenix is also home to an eclectic smattering of restaurants. For breakfast, take one day at Matt’s Big Breakfast and the next at Phoenix Public Market Café—good luck choosing a favorite! For dinner, options range from some of the best pizza in the country at Pizzeria Bianco, or James Beard winner Nobuo Fukuda’s Japanese tavern at Teeter House, to the all-around goodness at District American Kitchen and Wine Bar. And Bitter and Twisted has a long list of adult beverage options, perfect for a drink before or after.
Where to Stay
From boutiques with tons of local personality to upscale chains that are strategically placed near all the action in Phoenix, choosing a place to stay can be half the fun. For history, and to be close to all those great Arcadia restaurants, book a stay at the Arizona Biltmore, A Waldorf Astoria Resort. Known as the jewel of the desert since 1929, the property offers golf, tennis, one of the best local spas and close proximity to hikes and arguably the nicest part of town.
Looking to bring an RV into town instead of staying at a hotel? Arizona is an RV friendly state and Thousand Trails has lots of options within a short drive of town, making it a great way to check out the surrounding areas as well. Options include Central Park, Whispering Palms and Palm Shadows.
For more information including maps and tips on how to get around Phoenix, check out Visit Phoenix.
By Shana Schwarz