what to do on a 3 day trip to Phoenix – especially if you’re not a shopper

the fam-damily came into town last week.

holy shit those kids are FUN! We drove all over the valley of the sun! there was much political trash-talking (as usual).

dadmanzilla and wife had from the 13th to the 16th here with me, and getting them to pick things to do was like herding cats, but we eventually got it all fingered out. we’re not big shoppers and dad’s just about seen all he can stand of native ruins, so we did a little creative problem solving and came up with this itinerary – complete with naps!

what to do on a 3 day trip to Phoenix

i’ve linked to these places to make it easier for you to plan your trip, should you care to do so. none of these are affiliate links. i encourage you to donate freely to the nature-ey organizations, of course! if you want to support this blog, click here ❤

Day 1:

arrival – they didn’t get here until the evening of the 13th and they were tired, so we didn’t do much. they wanted to get a lay of the land, so we went for a little cruise up through old town Scottsdale so they could see some lights and the fancy part of town.

dinner – one of my favorite mexican restaurants; La Santisima. their… EVERYTHING… is #damndelicious.

Day 2:

morning – we got up early because spring in Phoenix is summer everywhere else and it was going to be in the 90s! we topped off our water supply and headed over to the Desert Botanical Garden around 8:30 am and proceeded to spend 4+ hours marveling at all the different desert-adapted plants, wildlife (including a roadrunner feeding her chick – made dad’s trip!) and chillin’ in the butterfly exhibit. they also have some pretty rad ancient cultural exhibits as well. we had lunch at the Patio Cafe in the garden.

nap – we were exhausted after so much excitement, so i dropped them off at their hotel, went home and took a glorious, if short, nap.

afternoon- we had a little gap between our nap and dinner so we decided to take a peek at the valley from the summit of South Mountain City Parkit’s a short, windy drive up the side of the mountain and through a scenic hanging valley to get to the lookout. there are TONS of hiking trails, including some with petroglyphs. once at the top, the entire valley is spread out before you, ringed by mountain ranges, and there’s a nifty compass there that tells you what’s what!

drinks and dinner – guys… the Arizona Biltmore. it is, hands down, my FAVORITE place to go have a cocktail and watch the sun set. it’s set right at the base of Piestewa Peak and the veranda is gorgeous, lined with date-palms and trees wound with twinkle lights. there’s a fountain in the center and when the sunsets… the mountains turn PURPLE! so, we had drinks out on the patio (their mules are my fave) and watched the sun set, then had the BEST scallops and pork chops i’ve ever had in my life at Frank & Albert’s restaurant just across the foyer from the bar. A+++! their patio setting was perfect for a few drinks, an awesome meal and conversation.

Day 3

morning – breakfast really isn’t a thing for us, so we skipped it and went for a walk around downtown Phoenix instead (if breakfast IS your thing check out snooze)! we roamed past the baseball stadium (go Diamondbacks!) and through the historic buildings at Heritage Square, stopping to get coffee at Royal Coffee Bar in one of the buildings before hoofing it back to the hotel to get ready for our big outing for the day.

mid-morning/afternoon – so our big outing this day was a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West. Even if you’re not a fan of modern architecture or megalomaniacs like Wright, this is still a must see. the story of the place is neat and Wright was able to take some creative liberties with his home in the desert. he even convinced some people to pay HIM to work on his home by calling it a school for hands on architecture. pure genius. lunch was at Chipotle in Scottsdale, where tiny lil me scarfed down one of their gigantic fatty burritos! yum!


evening – we were starting to get wistful because the next day dad and Di had to go home. so i decided to drive them out to one of my favorite places for sunset: Lost Dutchman State Park in the Superstition Wilderness. A vast sonoran preserve with lots of trails and some of the most gorgeous cliffs you could imagine! we took a short hike up the treasure loop trail and took pictures as the alpenglow turned the cliff faces orange, then pink, then purple and the light bounced off ancient saguaros (sawaros), cholla (choya) cactus, yucca, agave (agaaav-ehy), inhaled the earthy scent of creosote and listened to the chortling of the quail and watched the graceful swooping of the nighthawks. heaven! i just wish we could have seen a gila (hila) monster or a chuckwalla!

dinner & drinks – we weren’t sure if we were hungry or not after the hike but Di had fallen madly in love with the idea of eating at Salty Senorita in Scottsdale, so off we went! it was a little too noisy and the hostesses’ attitudes were a little too millennial for my tastes… i’m sure it would be great if you were a party animal! the nachos were good though. next time i’ll take them to one of the calmer breweries just down the road, that would fit our vibe way better!

Day 4 – Good Byes

woke up at the butt-crack of dawn to take the fam to the airport. i never realize how much i’ve missed those guys until i get to spend a little time with them. there may be more trips to idaho in the future so i can see them more often!

tips for visiting phoenix

  • if you’re from a cooler climate (like my fam), you may want to come during late fall/winter/early spring, since you’re not acclimated to our heat. plus winter here is 50 – 70ish degrees! You don’t want to come during late spring/summer/early fall and have your faces melt in 90 – 120 degree heat!
  • be sure to hike smart – do all your hiking early in the morning or in the evening (be off the trails by sunset if you’re not familiar with them). this is when the temps are the coolest. you want to be off the trails during the hot part of the day, or you’ll be scrambling to find what little shade we have in the desert!
  • this is a super busy and crowded city! be sure to make reservations ahead of time for hotels, restaurants and tours and be sure to give yourself LOTS of time to get anywhere, especially during rush-hour traffic… the freeways turn into parking lots (no really)!
  • DRINK TONS OF WATER!!! especially water with added electrolytes. phoenix is no ordinary place and people get into trouble with dehydration out here ALL THE TIME, so carry more water than you think you’ll need. and if you’re hiking, turn around when half your water is gone. this will ensure you have enough water to make it back to the trailhead.
  • head for shade or indoors from 12pm – 3pm. it’s the hottest part of the day and trust me, 80 degrees can kill. heat exhaustion is a thing. and it SUCKS!
  • don’t fuck with the wildlife guys… for real. i know they’re cute and you just want to cuddle with them, but they’re not afraid to take your ass out. watch them do their thing from a safe distance and NEVER feed them!

your turn!

what’s your favorite thing to do in Phoenix?

p.s. if you found this helpful, hit the “follow blog” button somewhere on the website… and share this post with your favorite person!


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