Since Spring Training is right around the corner, I thought I would share some of my favorite things to do in Phoenix.
If this is your first year, or this was a vacation you were considering–Please know that March is the craziest month in Arizona so it’s good to plan ahead.
Flights and hotels are nearly triple their normal price and finding a place, car service, and restaurant reservations can be a total headache if you aren’t familiar with the town–so I’ll give you a Phoenix rundown, how to plan ahead (& who to contact), and some local favorites.
For those last-minute people: tickets for the game are pretty cheap, starting at 8 dollars a ticket. Just beware that tickets are selling out, you can buy tickets on http://www.ticketmaster.com (there’s still plenty of tickets left).
The games are divided in to two leagues: the Cactus League and the Grapefruit League and games are played all over the city. Depending on where they play and where you want to stay, you may want to consider renting a car.Just to give you an idea, I live pretty close to the airport (where the 51 and 202 freeway meet) and driving to some of the parks take me 45 minutes, so without a car it may be a little inconvenient.
So if you’re planning on staying in Old Town Scottsdale, you’ll probably be spending most your time there (where it’s pretty easy to manage without a car) and will only need a ride to and from the park, in that case I’d look in to a car service because during busy times, they’re more reliable.
My friend Chris Bizub, of AZ Limo, is my favorite go-to for private car service, and he can be reached at 716-566-8975.
Otherwise I suggest using Discount Cab, everyone in the company drives electric cars, the drivers are really nice, and they’ll never hassle you if you want to pay with credit. Discount Cab even has a smart phone app! Check out DiscountCab.com for more information.
Since most of the time when I travel, I usually look for the best location then look for the best price. Most people will want to stay in Scottsdale, but there’s some other fun places to check out in Phoenix, too.
Biltmore Fashion Park
I live close to the Biltmore area, and it’s one of my favorite areas in Phoenix!
Essentially, Biltmore Fashion Park is a business park offering tons of dining, shopping, even a dine-in movie theatre.
To give you a better idea, restaurants range from Paradise Bakery & Royal Coffee Bar (for a quick coffee/breakfast/lunch), to True Foods (my favorite!), Zinburger, Cheesecake Factory, & Stingray Sushi Restaurant (for casual dining), and Capital Grill, Seasons 52, Del Frisco’s, Morton’s (for finer dining) but I can’t forget the shopping! Although it’s not to be compared to Scottsdale Fashion Square, the Biltmore Fashion Park still has some of my favorite shops including Saks, J.Crew, M.A.C., an Apple Store, Lululemon, and Macy’s (just to name a few) and there’s even an Elizabeth Arden ‘Red Door’ Spa incase you want a spa service.
For more information and a full directory, you can visit: www.shopbiltmore.com
If Scottsdale or the Biltmore sound too ritzy for your taste, then I suggest a more hipster friendly neighborhood like Downtown Phoenix, which has a ton of fun places and most are hidden gems in this city. There’s a light rail that operates through downtown so transportation is easy and cheap! One thing we’re really lucky to have in Phoenix is a team for every professional sport making downtown home to two stadiums, one for our basketball team (Phoenix Suns) and the other for our MLB team (Diamondbacks) so between the two, there’s always a game or concert going on and plenty of people keeping the downtown scene alive.
It is also home to one the most eclectic art museums I’ve ever been to, the Phoenix Art Museum sits right in the north part of downtown and is a fun place to check out (1625 N. Central Ave, 602 257-1222). It’s closed on Monday/Tuesdays but it’s FREE every first Friday and Sundays from 3-9! It’s right off Central at McDowell and the light rail will take you directly there.
For more information and current exhibits visit www.phxart.org
The Phoenix Art Museum
Some of my favorite dining spots in all of Phoenix are in downtown, but there’s so many places all around Phoenix–I’ll go over some of my favorites, but trust me, there’s so many more!
For breakfast, Downtown has not one but two of my favorite restaurants. Scottsdale’s favorite breakfast spot The Breakfast Club opened their second location in CityScape earlier this year (2 East Jefferson Street, 602.354.7284), if you go there, you have to try their french toast, it’s phenomenal! Another great option is Matt’s Big Breakfast (116 East Garfield Street, 602.254.1074) If you are a fan of bacon, you will love this place–I recommend their house-made Waffles (bonus: it comes with their thick-cut bacon).
Then there’s the must-try Pizzeria Bianco (take note they’re closed on Sundays). Hours vary, but it’s usually open from 11 to 9 and the Margherita pizza is so good! It’s one of the most talked about restaurants in this city and it’s won a James Beard award! (623 E Adams St, 602.258.8300)
Phoenix also has amazing happy hour and specials making it hard to stay in, and one of the best deals in town is Mondays at Postino’s (There’s three locations, 602.274.5144) and from 8-10 on Mondays (it may be 11), they do a 20 dollar bottle of wine and bruschetta board. Seriously, it’s the best deal in town but it gets packed early–I usually recommend going in around 7:30 to snag a spot, and if you end up at the Arcadia location, sit at the bar with Sander–he’s the best!
The Yard & Culinary Dropout
Then there’s Sam Fox. Who is pretty well-known, and you may have even been to his restaurants before, but he has taken Phoenix by storm! He’s the mastermind behind Modern Steak (Scottsdale), Culinary Dropout (Scottsdale and Uptown), Olive and Ivy (Scottsdale) and True Food (Biltmore) just to name a few, and if you have never been to one of his restaurants, you must try at least one–I’ve been dying to visit the Yard which opened earlier this month in Uptown and is attached to his newest Culinary Dropout location. They remodeled a 1950’s motorcycle yard and made it in to a restaurant with a huge patio. You’re best bet is to explore his site and see what menu caters to your taste, but you won’t be disappointed, I promise!
And now for the best part. I’ve worked in nightclubs for most of my early twenties, so these days I tend to stick to bars–although I’ve yet to explore as much as a like, I can tell you that Scottsdale is where you want to be if you like to go to clubs. It’s full of nightclubs, bars and restaurants that always seem to be filled with people no matter the day. Business owners provide complimentary go-cart transportation on weekends in case you’re in heels and want an easy way to club hop. Be advised, Old Town Scottsdale has a younger crowd so if you’re looking for a more sophisticated crowd, I’d try the W or Blue Martini but you’ll find plenty to do without my help.
If you’re staying in the Biltmore area, there’s a lot of fun places to check out in the Uptown and Arcadia area, and Uptown folks love to bar hop on beach cruisers (it seems like there’s a pub crawl every weekend) so if you really want to fit in with the locals I’d recommend renting a bike :).
The Vig Uptown
My top picks for the area (& with the help of a couple bar-aficionados) include the Vig (6015 N 16th St, 602 633 1187) which is an upscale tavern complete with a bocce ball/corn-hole court and fireside seating. It’s a really fun place to hang out, and grab some food & drinks. It also helps that there are drink specials nearly every day including half off wine bottles on Sunday and a reverse happy hour Tuesday-Thursday. On weekends the Vig offers a ‘Vig Rig,’ which is a complimentary van service that will take you to and from the two Vig locations.
Another great place is the Arcadia Tavern. They have tater tots and have a game station (Wii & X-Box) so it’s basically catering to people like me–13 going on 30 year olds.
If you want something a little more upscale, try the Rockerij (6008 N 16th St, 602 241 1881), an upscale bar that caters to late night diners & they offer their full menu until close. The bar is warm and inviting, tucked underneath in what looks like an old wine cellar–good spot for happy hour and half-off bottles of wine during the week.
If you want something dive-ier, there’s plenty to choose from in the area, my pick is The Swizzle Inn (On the corner of N 16th St and Bethany Home behind Starbucks) or Little Woody’s (4228 E Indian School Rd, 602 955-0339) which has a game room with darts, a shuffle board, and retro arcade machines.
If you’re looking for more of nightlife entertainment but don’t want to go to Scottsdale, I say try downtown:
- Bar Smith (130 E. Washington St)
- Gypsy (50 W Jefferson St, inside Lucky Strike)
- Crescent Ballroom (308 N 2nd Ave)
So if this guide overwhelmed you, or you’d rather have someone just plan everything out for you instead, I recommend going through a concierge service like TheConcierge., owner Grace Rosenthal has plenty of experience in hospitality from living in Las Vegas and Scottsdale and will plan everything out for you starting the moment you arrive–all you have to do is show up. She can be reached at 602.663.3561 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
No matter what, I hope this guide helps and you have a ton of fun while you’re out here. Feel free to e-mail me or comment with any questions and make sure to check back, I feel like there’s a million places I’m forgetting!
For more information on Spring Training, be sure to check out www.SpringTrainingOnline.com