I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Phoenix a few times, both for work and for vacation. My grandma lives in Arizona so this post will highlight the adventures we went on together when I visited.
One of the main highlights was the Hole in the Rock in Papago Park. I am not a hiker by any means, neither is my grandma, but this was a very doable short hike for adventurers of any age or skill level. We were able to take the light rail to a stop close to the park. We climbed to the top and looked through the literal hole in the rock at the scenery below. I do not have views like this in my backyard in the Northeast, so having this view so close to my grandma’s house is always a bit unbelievable. The rock wasn’t too steep to climb up and the footing was pretty even, but if you do go, be sure to wear proper footwear.
After we climbed back down, we thought that the Desert Botanical Garden was nearby and walkable from our current location. Since we took the light rail over, we didn’t have a car with us. We started walking in the direction of the garden (or so we thought). We kept walking and as we continued along, we both thought that it seemed farther away than we expected. It was also getting into the early afternoon by this point so it started to get pretty hot out and we were feeling the desert heat. We must have looked like we were having a bit of trouble because a biker stopped and offered us some water. We kindly declined and said we were prepared with our own water.
We kept walking with no Desert Botanical Garden in sight. Then a maintenance truck drove by and also stopped to make sure we were okay. We replied that we were fine and were looking for the garden. The driver gave us a quizzical look and told us that it was still pretty far away and we were not completely heading in the right direction. She was nice enough to give us a lift over to the garden, which we graciously accepted.
After we arrived at the garden and purchased our tickets, we sat down on a bench and recuperated for a minute. It was a welcome reprieve to rest for a moment after walking and being on our feet for so long in the heat. This botanical garden was unlike any I’ve seen before and that’s because it’s in the desert. We explored a bit and saw people setting up for a wedding ceremony. It looked gorgeous and the scenery was perfect for an elegant event. I even recognized it from television shows like Four Weddings. We ate some lunch and continued to see species after species of cactus. Some were fuzzy, some very spiny and some were even over ten feet tall. There were many trails and paths to walk along, which could keep you busy for hours.
We also did a few indoor activities to cool off in the air conditioning. I love art and theater so my grandma got us tickets to see Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at the Mesa Arts Center. It was not as high-production as a Broadway show, but the actors were talented and put on a great performance in a welcome setting.
Before the show we took a visit to the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum, which had all types of art from painting to sculpture. Admission was free and the museum strives to motivate your senses and transport you to a world of contemporary symbolism. Some exhibits exuded color and emotion, while others were more subdued and evoked a metaphorical experience through lines and shapes. The museum was beautiful both inside and out. Outside there was a water structure lined by palm trees (yes, even in the Arizona desert there are palms). If you are an art lover, this is worth the stop.
I have also visited the Scottsdale area for work. One of the most memorable experiences was staying at the Hotel Valley Ho. The hotel is a mix between mid-century modern architecture and contemporary accommodations. It has a vibe unlike anywhere I have stayed before and the sheer sense of chic is apparent when you first step through the entrance. The second time I visited for work, we stayed at Westin in Scottsdale. This was the ultimate in luxury and if you are a golfer (which I am not other than hitting a few balls at the driving range), this is the place to be. During this stay, I did indulge in the golf life as we were invited to the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Even if you don’t know too much about golf, the open is an exhilarating experience. The atmosphere is fun with everyone coming together to watch momentous accomplishments in the sport, as well as enjoy some exceptional food and drink. The scenery is also quite unique with cactus and desert fauna surrounding the course.
While my trips have been unique, either visiting close family, eating at home and exploring the arts, nature and theater, or coming for work and adventuring into the world of golf, Arizona is a place with beautiful landscapes. For my next visit, I plan on visiting the Grand Canyon, which is about five hours north of Phoenix and am open to any suggestions about where to eat, stay and the best places and times of year to explore!