Travel Guide: Things to Do, Food to Eat, and Where to Stay in Phoenix & Scottsdale, Arizona

Phoenix, Arizona, located in the Sonoran Desert and the ‘Valley of the Sun,’ is the largest city in the southwestestern U.S. state of Arizona, the fifth-largest city in America, and a pretty popular destination for many Canadians often looking to escape the snow. 

Whether you’re taking a desert hike, hitting a resort pool, eating all the great food or more—it’s done with delight under the hot Arizona sun, set to a stunning desert landscape flanked by mountains and dotted with cacti and palm trees. 

The Greater Phoenix area is comprised of the cities of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Glendale, Tempe, Chandler, and Gilbert. Locals will say exploring in this region is exploring ‘The Valley.’ 

The area is a quick, 3.5-hour direct flight from both Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta, which means many Albertans are quite familiar with this desert sun. In fact, many Albertans also call Phoenix home! So it makes sense then that I wanted to put together this travel guide to Greater Phoenix—knowing just how many Albertans (and otherwise) will visit. 

In Nov 2023, I worked with Visit Phoenix (tourism) on a hosted travel week experiencing a lot of what Greater Phoenix has to offer to share with you!

We did these activities and restaurants with our infant (eight month-old baby!) so I’m happy to give the family-friendly stamp of approval here, though we also did * a lot * (it was work!) so I don’t necessarily expect you to replicate the trip  exactly. Pick and choose the experiences that pop out at you! I split the guide into activities, food, where we stayed, and I do a few of our favourite highlights at the bottom. Whatever itinerary you create, I know you’ll enjoy your time in this beautiful state. Remember, the desert made you do it! 😉

I hope you’ll find great use out of my:

Travel Guide for Things To Do, Food To Eat, And Where To Stay In Phoenix & Scottsdale, Arizona

Use + share my Travel Guide to Phoenix & Scottsdale, Arizona!

First, 

A Few Fun Facts about Phoenix, Arizona:

(because who doesn’t love fun facts!)

  • Phoenix is often referred to as the “Valley of the Sun” because of its location in the Salt River Valley the many days of sunshine the location gets—more than 300 days of sunshine each year. That makes Phoenix one of the sunniest cities in the United States.
  • The Sonoran Desert—where Greater Phoenix is situated—is actually one of the wettest and greenest deserts in North America! The region gets between 3 and 15 inches (76 mm to 381 mm) of annual rainfall. For comparison, my Alberta readers, we get an average of 350-450 mm of rainfall a year in most places of the province, so we sometimes only get a bit more rain than this wet desert does! AT the same time, this desert is also the hottest desert in both Mexico and the United States. 
  • Phoenix’s earliest inhabitants were the Hohokam Indians. This tribe is said to have thrived in the region until about 1450 A.D. There is no record of the Hohokam after that, although they are believed to be ancestors of the Pima Indians. In the Pima language “hohokam” means “those who have gone.” Arizona is home to 22 sovereign American Indian tribes.
  • Phoenix is one of only 13 U.S. cities with franchises in all four major professional sports leagues (Phoenix Suns – NBA, Arizona Diamondbacks – MLB, Arizona Cardinals – NFL and the Arizona Coyotes – NHL, if you’re into sports things lol). 
  • And you’ll find the iconic Saguaro Cactus surrounding Phoenix as it is native to the Sonoran Desert. These cacti can grow as tall as 40 feet and can live for more than 150 years.
You'll see a lot of palm trees and cacti in Greater Phoenix!

Now, some of the awesome attractions we experienced!

What to Do in Greater Phoenix, Arizona

In alphabetical order

Desert Botanical Garden

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Location: 1201 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008, United States

The Desert Botanical Garden is home to the world’s finest collection of arid plants from deserts of the world! The Garden has more than 50,000 desert plants on display throughout five thematic trails themed around topics like conservation, desert living, plants and people of the Sonoran Desert, and desert wildflowers.

Maybe you’ve been to a botanical garden before, but have you been to a DESERT botanical garden? It’s so unique! This is where you can get real close and personal with all sorts of cacti (and other arid desert plants).

This 140-acre garden has been operating since 1939. When we visited, the Garden was hosting Arizona’s first-ever exhibition of paintings, drawings and monumenal sculptures by Fernando Botero, who is quite famous for his chonky horses! Apparently a chonky horse was actually there when we visited but we didn’t realize there was more inside a hall. A tragedy. Always make sure you explore every inch of a place, don’t make my mistake! lol. 

The Desert Botanical Garden is beautiful!
Sunset at the Desert Botanical Garden!

Downtown Phoenix / Roosevelt Row 

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Location: Roosevelt Row Welcome Center (918 N 2nd St., Phoenix, AZ 85004, United States

Roosevelt Row in Downtown Phoenix is a popular Arts District and home of a big event called ‘First Friday,’ the Largest Self Guided Art Walk in America! 

This area is known for public art, live music performances, art galleries, eclectic boutiques, independent businesses and much more.

First Friday, which occurs on the first Friday of every month (a date we happened to be in Phoenix for during this trip!)  features an outdoor market, live music/buskers, food trucks and a real fun vibe, where you’re also encouraged to take a self-guided tour throughout the various art galleries, installations and murals that call this walkable neighbourhood home. 

Even if you don’t visit on First Friday, this area is well worth exploring especially if you’re an arts and culture lover, finder of Instagrammable Walls / murals, and want to pop into some fun local shops and restaurants. 

A vendor sign at First Friday on Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix!

Phoenix Art Museum

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Location: 1625 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004, United States

Since 1959, the Phoenix Art Museum has been home to world-class art and experiences. Not far from downtown Phoenix, the Museum attracts more than 300,000 guests each year, experiencing the Museum’s collection of more than 20,000 works of American and Western American, Asian, European, Latin American, modern and contemporary art, and fashion design. The Museum also presents a comprehensive film program, live performances, and educational programs designed for visitors of all ages, along with photography exhibitions. 

I felt very fortunate to be able to experience one of artist Yayoi Kusama’s infinity mirror rooms here at the Phoenix Art Museum “You Who are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies.” In this 2005 installation, Kusama’s repetitive and extensive use of polka dots, mirrors, and LED lights investigates infinite repetition and encourages you to ‘obliterate’ your personality and become one with eternity.

It was Instagrammable before Instagram was a thing (and because of that it was kind of hard to take any decent photos of it lol) but since then so many copycats (inspired by~) have popped up around the world but Yayoi Kusama did it first and I love that I got to experience that. 

A few other pieces that popped out at me included this river installation in the Amalia Mesa-Bains: Archaeology of Memory exhibit called “What the River Gave to Me” 2002, which pictures the border between the U.S. and Mexico as a goddess-like, living landscape, the embodiment of nature as the mother of all life. “The installation references the politics of the U.S-Mexico border and the land as a natural demarcation. The river remembers, as suggested by the names of those who made the perilous journey inscribed on the glass river rocks.”

As well as a piece called Para olvidar (In order to Forget), 1996, by Cuban-born artist Kcho, who depicts the “plight of the balseros, or those who departed on makeshift rafts to seek political asylum in the United States. Here a homemade kayak shaped from fiberglass balances precariously on a sea of beer bottles. The surface of the boat’s shell resembles human skin that has been parched by the sun. The beer bottles suggest that inebriation at home might offer an alternate form of survival to risking passage across the Atlantic Ocean.”

I found that many art pieces we encountered in Phoenix spoke to border/immigrant-relations. 😔

Hole-in-the-Rock at Papago Park

Website 

Location: 625 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008, United States

One of Phoenix’s best and easiest hikes—located just minutes from downtown PHX and the airport—is the iconic Hole-in-the-Rock Trail at Papago Park. This is a super short half km hike with hardly any elevation (14m lol) making it a must-stop for pretty much anyone visiting the area!! The unique sandstone red butte formations include a literal hole in the rock (actually two! The main one and one higher up that some people do climb to as well), that overlooks nearby lagoons and the distant downtown Phoenix skyline! The formation is thought to have been used by the ancient Hohokam civilization to track the position of the sun through a hole in the rock “ceiling.”

You may know that I’m all about low effort high reward adventure (lol) so this is just that.

It’s such a a pretty and distinctive Arizona view that’s for all ages and the best part is while you’re out at the park you could plan to take in other hikes or park attractions too! 

Papago Park is home to many accessible trails, ‘Governor Hunt’s Tomb’ (literally a white pyramid in the middle of the desert that serves as a tomb for Arizona’s first governor), plus the Desert Botanical Garden and Phoenix Zoo are also in the area.

The Hole-in-the-Rock is a must-see in Phoenix!

Musical Instrument Museum

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Location: 4725 E Mayo Blvd, Phoenix, AZ 85050, United States

The largest museum of its kind, the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) is home to more than 15,000 instruments from 200 countries and territories! When you enter, you’re given headphones that automatically start playing depending on where you stand in the different exhibits of the museum so you can not only see the instruments but hear them being played—and sometimes interviews with people who played them. We enjoyed the Geographic Galleries, which was like travelling the world through its music(al instruments). Many of the instruments displayed are either rare examples, the finest of their kind, historically significant, or part of distinctive musical cultures. It was really interesting to see the ancient musical instruments of Vietnam! 

The museum has Native American and First Nations instruments in the United States/Canada Gallery, and represent musical traditions ranging from coastal Alaska to the southeast, as well as features instruments from groups indigenous to Arizona and the greater region.

Don’t forget a visit to the gift shop, where we got a music maker and guitar book for Benjimin.

Also a did you know: the MIM’s founder was the then-CEO of Target lol, apparently a music buff. 

There are a *lot* of instruments at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix!

Old Town Scottsdale

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Location: Old Town Scottsdale (considered Scottsdale’s downtown) comprises several ‘districts’ and walkable neighbourhoods that stretch as north as Highland Ave. to Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall and south to 6th Street to the Scottsdale Stadium, between 68th Street and Miller Road going east and west. 

You’ve got to visit Old Town Scottsdale when in the Greater Phoenix region—home to 400 retail shops, 120 restaurants and 70 art galleries and museums. It’s Downtown Scottsdale, with a bunch of very walkable streets with a shop everywhere you look, with an American southwest vibe. 

We were there just as they were setting up Scottsdazzle, an annual holiday extravaganza that starts the final week of November to end of December—where the community is decked out in holiday decor and there are free holiday events held throughout the season. 

It’s basically the heart of the city and is truly bustling. We dined at one restaurant while in the area (more on that below) but you really have a ton of spots to choose from. 

Also: parking in Old Town Scottsdale is free! Everywhere!

Funny elves in Old Town.
Benjimin at a Scottsdazzle decoration!

Wonderspaces

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Location: Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall – 7014 E Camelback Rd Scottsdale, AZ 85251

Wonderspaces is a totally cool, interactive, Instagrammable art museum located in Scottsdale, Arizona. It’s 16,000 sq. ft of ever-changing art space home to a line-up of 14 rotating works. 

When we visited, we were absolutely delighted to experience some of the immersive pieces. Our favourites were Portraits in Pink, Blue and Silver by Breakfast Studio – an amazing kinetic art piece that records clips of visitors interacting with the work and then plays it back to them on a Flip-Disc surface, Pipe by Rejane Cantoni.- a sort of tunnel you wlak through that shows the transformation of the Grand Canyon form dawn to dusk, Radiance (Infinity Box No. 6) by Matt Elson – a box that gives you two distinctly different views depending on which direction you peek in from, and The Immigrant by Michael Murphy – 2,300 wooden balls that—when viewed precisely 40 feet away—shows an image of the artist’s partner, calling attention to the positive contributions immigrants make in our community.

A must-visit if you love art but especially if you love Instagrammable art. 

And it’s in a really huge mall that’s worth perusing too, part of Old Town Scottsdale!

Next, some restaurants you could try during your visit! 

Something that I always try to do when I’m about to visit an area is find what types of food or ingredients are local or popular to the region. When I looked up foods for Phoenix area, a lot of Mexican cuisine came up because Arizona shares a border with Mexico. It’s actually really hard no to find a Mexican restaurant or Mexican dishes in Great Phoenix lol. 

Fry bread is also popular in the region, because the Navajo Nation is also in the state! 

And there was also something called a ‘Sonoran Hot Dog’ that I knew I had to try, to name just a few quintessential ‘Phoenix’ dishes. 

Where to Eat in Greater Phoenix, Arizona: 

In alphabetical order

Aunt Chilada’s (Tempe)

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Location: 2019 W Baseline Rd, Tempe, AZ 85283, United States

In the City of Tempe, Arizona (part of the Greater Phoenix region), you’ll find the very popular Aunt Chilada’s, a neighbourhood favourite since 1986!

Aunt Chilada’s is open daily for dinner and is home to the best margaritas in town! They also carry over 65 brands of tequila. So you’re going to have some fun here lol. 

We tried:

  • Tres Enchiladas de Harina—a house special featuring three enchiladas with cheese – carne asada, pollo asado, red and green Sauce, sour cream, guacamole, and flour tortillas.
  • Donut Hole Churros with salted caramel and chocolate sauce
  • Complimentary table chips + salsa
  • And Non-alcoholic Baja Refresher with coconut water, hibiscus reduction, liquid alchemist strawberry, fresh lemon and club soda. 

At Aunt Chilada’s you will get some MASSIVE portion sizes. They don’t do anything small. The food was awesome, you get major value here with the taste + portion size, and the atmosphere is real fun. For my Edmonton folks, Aunt Chilada’s gives me like a Julio’s Barrio type of vibe.

I wish we had had more time to explore Tempe so if you find yourself here while exploring Greater Phoenix, check out Aunt Chilada’s! (It’s seriously so close to Scottsdale and Phoenix lol). 

In Tempe, check out Aunt Chilada's!
Complimentary chips + salsa!
Tres Enchiladas de Harina!

Barrio Cafe

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Location: 2814 N 16th St #1205, Phoenix, AZ 85006, United States

You will find a ton of Mexican restaurants / Mexican-inspired dishes in Arizona because the southwestern U.S. state shares a border (and desert) with Mexico! 

So there are lots of authentic, delicious options to choose from during your visit to Phoenix, including Barrio Cafe, which has been serving Mexican American cuisine in the area since 2002. 

No reservations here, it’s first come first serve. Park in the rear and be sure to take photos with some beautiful murals all over the building, including an iconic PHOENIX mural, which was a collaborative effort by Gennaro Garcia, Lalo Cota, Breeze, Angel Diaz, Pablo Luna and more.

There’s also a lot of lovely artwork inside the restaurant too. It’s like an art gallery! 

The beautiful PHOENIX mural behind Barrio Cafe.

At Barrio Cafe, we ordered from their Happy Hour menu:

  • A Mini Barrio Cafe Guacamole (world famous! with pomegranates)
  • Cochinita (a bowl of their award-winning Chochinita Pibil, 12-hour achiote and sour orange pork) – this version came with corn tortillas and totopos, the full size version comes with pickled red onions, Yucatan pico de gallo and Sangre del Diablo chile oil).
  • Queso Fundido (with roasted poblano, spinach, mushroom, cabra and quesilio cheese, jocose cream and house-made chorizo sausage with avocado). 
  • Papas y Asada (garlic oil new potatoes with carne asada and cheese)
  • Tacos de Asada (beef tacos) 
During Happy Hour, all alcoholic drinks are 50% off! 

Barrio is also known for their Chiles en Nogada (a Barrio classic poblano pepper with chicken, nuts, dried fruits, apples, pears and almond cream reduction), though we didn’t try that during our visit. Honestly some places we ordered/tried so much and some places we ordered just a few things because we had so many places we wanted to try and our stomachs really weren’t big enough for every dish lol. Please try these dishes we didn’t get to, and our favourite dishes here were the Cochinita and tacos! 

The pomegranates in guacamole was the first time we had seen that fruit in guac, and I later looked up and found that pomegranate trees actually grow quite well in Arizona.

They aren’t native to the region but apparently were brought to Mexico, Arizona and California regions back in the 16th century from Spain. They are also one of the oldest fruits, having been one of the first fruit trees domesticated in the Mediterranean. Gotta love the fun facts! 

Pomegranate in our guac!
Art inside Barrio Cafe.

Diego Pops

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Location: 4338 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, United States

Of course I looked up before we came to the Phoenix area were popular or unique to Phoenix/Arizona foods, and something that came up were “Sonoran Hot Dogs,” bacon-wrapped all-beef hot dogs topped with pinto beans, grilled onion, mayo, avocado crema, and cotija on a brioche bun. This Sonoran Hot Dog is a style of hot dog that originated in Hermosillo, the capital of the Mexican state of Sonora, in the late 1980s. The Sonoran Hot Dog is just one of the Mexican influences you find in Arizona (and makes sense that it became popularized in this area what with it also being in the Sonoran Desert). 

During our visit, we tried the Sonoran Hot Dog at Diego Pops, a Mexican restaurant inspired by taco and tequila-fueled conversations on the beaches of the Yucatan. Their kitchen serves playful twists on authentic Mexican favourites. Find 7-day-a-week Happy Hour, an awesome ceviche dish we tried as well, their signature Brussel Sprout Nachos, creative cocktails, and a really nice patio! They also have a handy take-out window for quick tacos to go (which we also did and loved!) You can get any taco on any tortilla you like, corn, flour or crispy tortilla. 

Super cute Diego Pops.
Handy take-out window at Diego Pops!

Fry Bread House

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Location: 4545 N 7th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85013, United States

We had some of our favourite Arizona bites at the Fry Bread House!

At this James Beard Award-winning restaurant serving authentic Native American cuisine since 1992, you can find dishes representative of Tohono O’odham people in the Southwest—like red chili beef, hand-stretched flour tortillas (chumuth) and sweet and savoury frybead (popovers).

The Fry Bread House was the first Native American restaurant to ever receive the James Beard American Classics award. 

We absolutely loved the two dishes we tried and I wish we had tried even more: 

  • Green Chili Beef with beef, green chili strips, stewed tomatoes, onions and jalapeños with chumuth (this stew was so spicy but SO good I could not get enough!)
  • Cinnamon Sugar Sweet Fry Bread (delicious!)
I definitely recommend a stop at Fry Bread House when eating around in Phoenix, Arizona! 
We loved Fry Bread House!!
Tohono O'odham owned & operated!

Greenwood Brewing

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Location: 922 N 5th St, Phoenix, AZ 85004, United States

Right on Roosevelt Row is Greenwood Brewing, one of very few woman-owned breweries in Arizona (or really, anywhere!) Their downtown taproom has a super cute dog-friendly patio, lets you Bring Your Own Food and offers Reverse Happy Hour (late night). You can also ask for a tour!

Greenwood (owned by Megan Greenwood), is changing perceptions around women and beer. 

“In an industry largely dominated by men, women sometimes feel intimidated or underrepresented in the craft beer scene. And while our Greenwood Brewing™ handcrafted ales are for everyone to enjoy, our goal is to create approachable craft beer to allow women to feel welcome in this industry.”

We got a private tour from Megan during our visit and enjoyed our flight! 

I also really loved learning a bit about women brewing history.

This Smithsonian article “Why did women stop dominating the beer industry” touches on a lot of what Megan shared with us, including lore around what witches have to do with beer. Summary: men started rumours about women brewers when they realized they could make money off of brewing themselves (of course they did lol) and to do this day women are still extremely underrepresented in a craft they were really involved in in the early brewing days (at least in America). 

Megan’s own story of how she got into brewing is also a great example of how it’s never too late to switch careers, to do something you love for a living, to reinvent yourself, to be your own boss.

Greenwood Brewing is a fun spot for some brews, order some food from the many nearby restaurants to enjoy with your pint or flight, and if you time it right like we did—you can enjoy ‘First Fridays’ along the row as I mentioned in the Roosevelt Row ‘thing to do’ section above.

Grab a flight at Greenwood Brewing!
Getting a tour from Megan Greenwood!

LATHA

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Location: 628 E Adams St, Phoenix, AZ 85004, United States

Latha Restaurant and Bar “celebrates the interconnected journey of foodways and culture in Africa, Brazil, the Caribbean and the southern U.S.” 

The focus here is on pan-African contemporary cuisine that celebrates and helps you discover Africa and African diaspora’s diverse and delicious flavours.

Latha means ‘flavour’ in Swahili and the restaurant is located in a historic home in Heritage Square in downtown Phoenix, and not only includes a lovely patio, but one part of the building is used as Soko—a marketplace selling handmade goods from African artisans. 

Latha and Soko fall under something owner Evelia calls The Diaspora Collective, bringing some fantastic representation and African culture to Phoenix. 

At Latha we tried:

  • Whipped Goat Cheese with black garlic honey, radishes, sumac and chapati
  • Latha Burger with pimento cheese, housemade pickles, spicy mayo on a brioche bun
  • Piri Piri Wings with pineapple, zaatar sesame, and lemon
  • Arizona Wild Shrimp Co. Moqueca with rice grits, charred broccolini, roasted coconut chutney and chimichurri
  • Harissa Roasted Chicken with sweet potato, fonio and pickled onion, and a
  • Southern Pound Cake with watermelon frosting, whipped cream and coconut dulce de leche

Our favourite bites were the shrimp + grits , piri piri wings, and southern pound cake! 

The vibe is really cool here!! And plan to shop at the marketplace! 

Latha and Soko in a heritage building!
Shrimp & grits at Latha!
Southern Pound Cake!

Little O’s (Arcadia)

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Location: 4910 E Indian School Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85018, United States

We had a really fun brunch at Little O’s—part of the O.H.S.O. Brewery & Restaurant family in Arizona. The location we went to was located in Phoenix’s Arcadia neighbourhood, and included a huge outdoor / heated and dog-friendly patio along with a nice green space and fun Instagrammable Wall (see photos!)  

It was pretty funny when we asked if we could be seated on the patio, our server said “for sure, and it’s heated too so it’s real nice!” lol it was 18C / 64F and sunny which was perfectly great patio weather for us already  coming from Canada but I think the Phoenicians need a bit more heat than that lol.

For brunch we ordered:

  • A delicious Chorizo Burro with chorizo, cheddar jack, egg, tots, sour cream, roasted salsa, served with fruit. When selecting this, I thought oh I wonder if a Burro is an Arizona thing? Can’t wait to see what that is, and then it turns out Burro is just short of Burrito lol. Still—a really great burrito! And technically, burritos are very Arizona  food as Arizona food is very Mexican food lol. 
  •  Croque Madame with fried egg, open faced focaccia bread, pork, rosemary aioli, arugula, tomato and bechamel.

They do brunch every day at Little O’s in Arcadia and they also have Monster sized mimosas! 

Nice local brewery vibes here. We really enjoyed our visit! 

There is also a market for your touristy needs lol. 

Love this wall at Little O's Arcadia!

LOM WONG

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Location: 218 E Portland St, Phoenix, AZ 85004, United States

Another Arizona favourite meal of ours was had at LOM WONG, which showcases regional cuisines of Thailand. “Lom Wong” means “to eat together in a circle,” so the couple behind the restaurant wanted to represent the feeling of gathering / cooking / and eating with one another when you dine here.

Lom Wong’s menu highlights different foods you’d find in villages and small towns across the different regions of Thailand. Everything we ordered was so full of flavour!!

We tried the:

  • Yam Hua Plee – banana blossom salad, minced pork, makrut lime, shallot, lime, hand-squeezed coconut milk, toasted coconut, fish sauce
  • Sai Ua + Nam Prik Noom – charcoal-grilled Northern Thai sausage, hand-pounded roasted Thai green chili dip, shallots, cilantro, pork rinds
  • Kaeng Phet Charinda – beef shank kaeng phet with hand-pounded curry paste, hand-squeezed coconut milk, makheua eggplant, Thai basil
  • Gai Tawt Won Pen – Won Pen’s fried chicken
  • Pad Kwang Toon – stir-fried bok choy, tofu, garlic, Thai chili

Plus dealers choice alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks!! 🥂 Literally everything was awesome.

LOM WONG also offers an “ARAI KODAI” chef’s choice meal which we were tempted to try but ended up making our own selections and obviously not disappointed with that choice at all. 

Not only was the food excellent but this restaurant just exudes coolness.

Be sure to make a reservation! 

Mowry & Cotton at The Phoenician Resort

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Location: 6000 E Camelback Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, United States (at The Phoenician)

One of our stays in Arizona was at The Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale. I talk more about the premier luxury resort below, but for this food reference, wanted to share that the resort is home to eight restaurants! With our itinerary, we didn’t have a ton of time to dine-in at the many Phoenician resort dining options, but we were able to order excellent room service breakfast from one of the restaurants Mowry & Cotton, along with poolside cabana eats from Kalio Kabobery.

For our leisure in-room dining breakfast, we had:

  • Belgian Waffle Bites with Strawberries
  • Huevos Rancheros with Arizona farm eggs
  • Smoked Salmon on a Bagel
  • and Pork Sausage on the side

Staff even set up our patio table for us with the meal, and we got to eat al fresco with the resort lawn fountain splashing in the background. It was really lovely. 

For our pool cabana dining, we had:

  • Beef Kafta Kebabs
  • Salsa Trio with fresh corn chips
  • Pacific Shrimp Aguachile (like ceviche)
  • and various poolside drinks (I love blended drinks)

I’ve written before that there’s just something about eating outside / and eating poolside / that hits different / feels better. There were both lovely dining experiences had at The Phoenician! 

Olive & Ivy (Old Town)

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Location: 7135 E Camelback Rd #195, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, United States

Located in Old Town Scottsdale, right along the Arizona Canal, is Olive & Ivy, a Mediterranean restaurant with a menu designed to transport you to the warm, relaxing French Riviera. 

At Olive & Ivy we ordered:

  • Bruschetta (proscuitto, mozzarella and salmon lox).
  • Artichoke Hearts
  • Bacon-wrapped Dates
  • Grilled Chicken Panini 
  • Complimentary Bread for the table which came with pesto (delicious! I much prefer pesto with my table bread over balsamic vinaigrette lol)

The restaurant is also a marketplace and the space itself is gigantic. It was bustling when we stopped in for lunch during our little jaunt in Old Town Scottsdale. The patio was also right next to the main Scottsdazzle holiday entertainment area so there was lots of lovely holiday decor. 

Find great service and fresh food at Olive & Ivy!

Inside Olive & Ivy in Old Town Scottsdale!

Phoenix Coqui

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Location: 4041 N 15th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85015, United States

Phoenix Coqui is a delicious Puerto Rican restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona. 

Owned by Alexis and Juan, Phoenix Coqui started as a food truck back in 2017 and was so popular it moved to a brick and mortar restaurant building in 2022. 

They serve authentic Puerto Rican cuisine inspired by Juan’s family recipes, and provide warm service that feels like home. We got to meet Alexis and he was so sincere.

We tried their:

  • #1 best seller the Plato de Pernil with pulled pork, salad and rice, but you can upgrade it so it comes on Mofongo which is a signature Puerto Rican cuisine made out of plantains.
  • We also tried the Cubano with pernil (Puerto Rican pork shoulder), ham, swiss, pickles and mustard + fries.
  • I grabbed a Passionfruit Juice as well and our dishes came with a really great Puerto Rican sauce like a mayo / ketchup combo.

These dishes were so so good!! The Cubano in particular got an exclamation of “oh my god” from Mike on first bite, which is obviously always a great sign (love at first bite!) And that sauce? Could drink it lol. Put that thing on everything! 

The Sicilian Butcher

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Location: 15530 N Tatum Blvd #160, Phoenix, AZ 85032, United States

The Sicilian Butcher is home to Arizona’s famous 5-foot Charcuterie Board & Bucket of (Meat)Balls! 

The massive board is the ‘Sicilian in Strada’ and requires 4 people minimum to share as a Signature family favourite. Board arancini + creamy polenta + Tomaso’s meatballs + artisanal cured meats & cheeses + bruschetta + olives + roman artichokes + fig jam served on a 5-foot charcuterie board.

For your craft meatballs you choose the type of meatball, the type of sauce, and the type of bottom. Your meatball options are Tomaso’s Sicilian veal and prime beef, Uncle Arthur’s Sausage with fennel, eggplant, chicken parmigiana, Tony’s aged ribeye steak, and your Sauce options are marinara, bologenese, picchio pacchiu, parmigiano cream, carbonara, vodka and truffle mushroom. You can also do a Meatball Flight to get one of each craft meatball with selected sauces (we did that!)

We had a very filling and fun meal at The Sicilian Butcher! Inside you find butcher knife-shaped chain link room separating wall decor, hanging rolling pins and charcuterie boards, comfy read leather booths, and next door you’ll have The Sicilian Baker their sister bakery if you want to take home some Italian treats after your meal. 

ZuZu Restaurant at Hotel Valley Ho

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Location: 6850 E Main St, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, United States (at Hotel Valley Ho)

We had a phenomenal brunch at ZuZu Restaurant inside Hotel Valley Ho during our Arizona trip.

The restaurant is named after Rosalyn ‘Rosie’ Bennett Lyon, also known as ZuZu, who was the matriarch of the familyw ho owns Hotel Valley Ho. ZuZu was a fantastic cook who believed food is better shared with those you love, so the restaurant embodies that.

The decor of the room—like much of Hotel Valley Ho—just feels so cool. Mid-centry modern vibes, pops of bright colours, and as I said, phenomenal food! We had brunch at ZuZu’s, and ordered the:

  • Cinnamon Roll Bread Pudding (with corn flake sweet cream butter and warm caramel sauce).
  • Steak Frites with charbroiled bavette steak, chimichurri, garlic parmesan fries + add two eggs to make it breakfast lol.
  • Breakfast Fried Rice with schreiner’s turkey sausage, pork belly, cabbage, peppers, onions, mushrooms, scallion, chili crunch + two fried eggs.
  • Plus a fruit plate for Benjimin (he loves berries so we asked if the fruit plate could be more berries than other stuff and they delivered lol). And some nice cocktails! 

ZuZu’s is also known for their ‘Show Stopper Shakes’— over-the-top delightful milkshakes with house-made ingredients piled on top. They have monthly specials plus some year-round shake options. It’s a meal unto itself so we didn’t try it as we had so much other food but I sure wanted to try it lol.

This was a fantastic meal conveniently located in one of the hotels we were at during our stay. 

ZuZu!

Finally, you can’t explore a region without staying in the region! 

Did you know: on average, most visitors spend 3 nights in this beautiful desert. 

Where to Stay in Greater Phoenix, Arizona: 

To wrap up this guide, I wanted to share about where we stayed while exploring Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona—Two amazing but and very different hotel / resorts. 

Where to Stay: Hotel Valley Ho

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Location: 6850 E Main St, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, United States

Hotel Valley Ho is an iconic mid-century modern x cool contemporary hotel located in historic Old Town Scottsdale, Arizona, just a short walk from hundreds of shops, restaurants and art galleries. It was first built in 1956 and has since been fully restored with really fun rooms with pops of colour. There’s really no better word to describe this hotel than: Cool. 

Seriously, it’s cool! And considered one of the very modern luxury resorts that honour its hip roots. We thought everyone here was so friendly, from the valet and luggage team to the front desk to our ZuZu Restaurant servers to the pool staff and everyone in between. 

You can choose to stay in the cool hotel or the luxurious tower—wherever you choose you’ll just feel, well cool! Every room and suite at Hotel Valley Ho features a pillow-top bed, 49″+ flat-screen HD TV, Terrazzo-tile bathroom, private bar with gourmet snacks and beverages, morning bar with complimentary coffee, vanity and pull-out desk, hair dryer, iron and ironing board, a laptop-sized safe, Wi-Fi and no daily resort fees (a resort without the resort fees!)

We loved our stay at Hotel Valley Ho and would definitely stay here again on a return visit!

Where to Stay: The Phoenician: Scottsdale Luxury Collection Resort

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Location: 6000 E Camelback Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, United States

The Phoenician is Arizona’s premier luxury resort destination and you feel that luxuriousness as soon as you turn into the massive, lush, resort. This is an AAA Five Diamond resort that is set in front of the Sonoran Desert’s iconic Camelback Mountain. The property first opened in 1988 and has undergone extensive renovations since, with a Forbes Five Star spa, 18-hole golf course, state-of-the-art athletic club with tennis and Pickleball courts, and our favourite amenity— a multi-tiered pool complex! The Phoenician is grand—no other word to describe it. And when we went just before December, it was decked out in holiday lights and Christmas trees. There are eight restaurants at the resort so you really wouldn’t need to leave the resort if you didn’t want to (but I mean, after I listed all the restaurants to try above you probably do want to leave a lil bit). 

We stayed in a cute casita, which means ‘little house’ in Spanish, that was separate from the main building, and opened onto the lawn just steps from a fountain, hot tub and pool. The fountain added really nice vibes. As mentioned above, we had room service breakfast out in our little casita patio during our stay and it was so lovely. Our casita also included a fire table which was really nice on some of the cool Arizona evenings. We also got a cabana to experience a pool day at The Phoenician—and absolutely loved having drinks and food poolside! It truly felt luxurious. 

So there’s my little travel guide to Greater Phoenix, Arizona!

We absolutely loved our time in the Valley of the Sun and totally understand why so many Albertans head down all the time—and would want to buy a home there! 

While we certainly were able to cram so much into our week, I still feel like we only scratched the surface. There’s a lot more to experience and I know we’ll be back to experience it. 

Find this mural at 2303 E. Indian School Road in Phoenix, Arizona!

Located on the east side of the building, this  ARIZONA mural showcases the Superstition Mountains, painted by Tucson’s Joe Pagac, behind “ARIZONA.” For this collaboration, each of the following artists brought their signature style to the lettering: A, Ashley Macias; R, Josh “BASK” Brizuela; I, Joshua Rhodes; Z, Clay Halling; O, Andy Brown; N, Volar; A, JB Snyder.

Houses of Phoenix!
Houses of Phoenix!
Houses of Phoenix!

These houses were near downtown Phoenix! 

If I were to pull out our favourite experiences/food as must-visits, knowing you probably won’t be able to do everything on this list in one trip, it would be:

  • Zuzu Restaurant at Hotel Valley Ho for an Arizona brunch
  • Phoenix Coqui for Puerto Rican lunch 
  • Lom Wong for Thai dinner
  • Fry Bread House for Native American stew and dessert
  • Wonderspaces for interactive and Instagrammable art
  • Hole-in-the-Rock for an easy, picturesque hike 
  • Desert Botanical Gardens for all the desert plant experience
  • Old Town Scottsdale for walkable sightseeing/shopping
    • And lounge about at a pool to soak up that Arizona sunshine! 
But I really think you just need to plan multiple trips, or a longer vacation down in Phoenix to get to experience as much as you can!! 
Christmas decor in Phoenix!
Musical Instrument tree!
Hello Arizona Santa!

If you’ve been to Phoenix and Scottsdale Arizona before, what do you think is missing from this guide?

Leave a comment with your suggestions so people can include it in their trip planning too!

And don’t forget to check out my other Arizona blog posts:
P.S. Thanks to my pal Jessie of BONAFIDE Media & PR for the Visit Phoenix connection!!
Use + share my Travel Guide to Phoenix & Scottsdale, Arizona!

Linda

If you live or work in the Edmonton, Alberta area, or care about Edmonton content, sign up for my hyperlocal newsletter to get weekly recommendations on things to do, eat, and know this week (in the Edmonton area), plus more exclusive content. You can sign up for a free or paid subscription. 

SIGN UP FOR MY EMAIL NEWSLETTER

(You’ll get the option to select free or paid after you enter your email). 

EXPLORE RELATED CONTENT:

1 Comment

  • Fantastic guide! 🌵 Excited to explore Phoenix & Scottsdale with your recommendations. The mix of activities, food, and stay options is perfect for planning my trip. Thanks for the insights! 👍 #TravelReady

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

If you're Edmonton area, subscribe to my newsletter for hyperlocal recommendations on what to do, eat, and things to know this week!
If you're Edmonton area, subscribe to my FREE newsletter for hyperlocal recommendations on what to do, eat, things to know this week, and more!