Planning a weekend in Phoenix? We got you! Here’s the perfect 2-3 day Phoenix itinerary for your first visit to the Valley of the Sun.
Phoenix is often compared to Vegas. They even compete about who gets the hottest weather. For those craving some sunshine, it’s a popular destination in the Sun Belt, and for us, it makes the perfect weekend getaway.
Thank you, Visit Phoenix, for hosting our weekend getaway. This post may contain affiliate links, where we receive a small commission on sales of the products that are linked at no additional cost to you. All opinions are always our own. Read our full disclosure for more info. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Local Adventurer possible.
Last Updated: September 25, 2023
Why Visit Phoenix?
Phoenix is the fifth-largest city in the US, making it an excellent destination for all types of travelers. Besides its world-class resorts and golf courses, it also offers outdoor adventures, museums and culture, and a wide variety of cuisine.
What is Phoenix Famous For?
- Beautiful Desert Landscapes
- World-Class Resorts
- Southwest Culture and Food
- Great Hiking Trails
- Pro Sports
How to Spend The Perfect Weekend in Phoenix Itinerary
Weekend in Phoenix Day 1: Tourist Attractions
We typically start our trips by visiting a few tourist attractions on the first day and then diving deeper into the surrounding outdoor activities or neighborhoods on the following days.
4725 E Mayo Blvd, Phoenix, AZ 85050, map | Tickets: $20-27
Even though we’re not big on museums, this one is great for anyone remotely interested in music. It’s the best museum you’ll ever hear, with 15,000 instruments from 200 countries and 400 TVs with 3-10 minutes each showcasing different musical instruments. When you arrive, they give you a headset that’s GPS activated when you walk close to a TV. They also have an Experience Gallery on the first floor where you can play the instruments, and we had a lot of fun there.
Check out our Reel here.
Local Tip: On average, people spend 2-3 hours, although it’s easy to spend the whole day here. One of the staff told us if we wanted to read and listen to everything, it could take 14 days.
Travel Tip: If you’re using Uber, search for MIM rather than Musical Instrument Museum and double-check the address. There is a Tempe location in their database that needs to be corrected.
1625 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004, map | Tickets: $24
Phoenix has a great art scene, and the Phoenix Art Museum has been serving the city since 1959. There are over 20,000 objects in two different wings, one with modern art and a permanent Kusama exhibit, and the other with more traditional art galleries. They also have a rotating exhibit, and when we went, it featured Mr.: You Can Hear the Song of This Town, where you can see a manga-inspired world on giant canvases.
Local Tip: On Wednesdays after 3 PM, it’s Pay What You Wish Wednesdays, where you can decide how much to donate to visit.
12621 N Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ 85259, map | Tickets: $39-49
Taliesin West was Frank Lloyd Wright’s Desert Laboratory, where he and his apprentices spent their time. It’s the second Frank Lloyd Wright property we’ve visited since the Guggenheim in NYC.
You can go on a self-guided audio tour (60 mins), which is what we did, or a guided tour (90 mins). We liked going at our own pace with the audio tour but later realized a few areas were available only on the guided tour. If you have the time or are a huge Frank Lloyd Wright fan, you should do the guided tour.
We loved that he doesn’t just design buildings but designs spaces connected to their environments. See our Reel here.
Local Tip: They run special events on their property, like a book club, a happy hour, and more. Check their site for the most updated info.
Pro Tip: The tour goes in one direction, so spend as much time in each space before moving forward. If you want to learn more before your visit, pre-download the Smartify app (for google play) and listen to the “Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Highlights Audio Tour – Sacred Spaces.” You don’t need to sign up or add any personal info. Just continue as a guest.
1201 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008, map | Tickets: $24.95-29.95
The Desert Botanical Garden in Papago Park has a massive collection of over 50,000 arid plants from deserts around the world. Each area has a different theme, and our fave was the Organ Pipe Cactus garden.
Local Tip: Wear comfortable shoes since you’ll be doing some walking. Also, remember to reapply sunscreen!
625 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008, map
Just around the corner from the Desert Botanical Garden is Hole in the Rock, one of Phoenix’s best places to view the sunset, along with downtown, Scottsdale, and Camelback Mountain. You can see the hole from the parking lot, but you follow the trail behind the rock feature and follow the stairs up to the entrance.
Local Tip: Visit during sunrise if you want to avoid crowds. So many people were there during sunset.
Weekend in Phoenix Day 2: Get Outside
As long as it’s not summer, you should get outside! There are amazing hikes within the city and many beautiful spots nearby.
5150 N Invergordon Rd, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253, map
You’re bound to notice Camelback Mountain because of its unique silhouette. It’s a popular and challenging hike with two trails to the peak, and you can hike it one of three ways.
- Cholla Trail (3 mi RT, 1,279 ft elevation gain, 2 hr 15 min) – longer and easier as long as you’re not afraid of heights. It has more exposure, which felt way scarier.
- Echo Canyon Trail (2.5 mi RT, 1,420 ft elevation gain, 2 hr 15 min) – the steeper side with rails, but overall, way less scary than Cholla.
- Point to Point Hike (2.4 mi point to point, 1,322 ft elevation gain, 2 hr 5 min) – will need a way to get back to your car
We did the point-to-point to experience both sides, going up the Cholla trail and down Echo Canyon trail. If you’re driving yourself, doing it point to point will take more coordinating, but if you’re ubering there and back, it’s not an issue. You’ll have a cell signal at both trailheads.
See our Reel here.
Local Tip: Always carry plenty of water and wear shoes with a solid grip and support. There is little to no shade throughout this hike, and I don’t recommend hiking it in the summer.
14011 N Bush Hwy, Mesa, AZ 85215, map
The Dessert Belle has been cruising Saguaro Lake for over fifty years. It’s a great way to spot wildlife and see the surrounding canyons and the Sonoran Desert’s lush landscape. Plus, after a morning hike, it was a great way to relax and sit back enjoying the views.
There is an outdoor viewing deck upstairs and an air-conditioned area downstairs.
Local Tip: You cannot bring any food or drinks, but they sell refreshments on board. They also have special wine and live music cruises!
6109 N Apache Trail, Apache Junction, AZ 85119, map
Lost Dutchman State Park gives you amazing views of the Superstition Mountains. There are plenty of trails to hike or enjoy the views from the bottom. We visited previously for a friend’s elopement!
Local Tip: If you plan on going on a longer hike, bring a headlamp in case it gets dark.
South Mountain Park and Preserve is another great outdoor spot 6 miles south of downtown. There are 51 miles of trails exploring 16,000 acres of landscape. Since we did a hike earlier in the morning, we decided to drive up to Dobbins Lookout for sunset, where you get amazing views of the whole valley. Plus, if we’re going to hike, it’s not going to be to a drive-up spot.
See our Reel here.
Local Tip: Service is spotty in the park, so download any info you need to access it offline. We ubered down, and asked our driver if he could wait for us..
Weekend in Phoenix Day 3: Neighborhoods
If you have an extra full day or half day during your weekend in Phoenix or just want to replace one of the other activities, these are the places you should check out.
10. Downtown Mesa
30 S Sirrine, Mesa, AZ 85201, map
Downtown Mesa is a great area to spend a morning or afternoon, especially if you love craft beers. The main street has vintage shops, beautiful murals, sculptures, and a great brew scene. We stopped at Cider Corps, named one of the top ten cideries in the US by USA Today, then walked around and popped into different boutique shops.
Afterward, we headed to the nearby Asian District for some dessert and to pick up snacks for the rest of our trip.
Local Tip: Most spots downtown are closed on Mondays and some on Tuesdays, so go later in the week to take advantage of everything.
11. Old Town Scottsdale
Old Town Scottsdale is another great neighborhood with plenty of shopping, dining, and nightlife. We met our friend for lunch at Farm & Craft. Afterward, we did some eye shopping around Old Town for western jewelry, decor, and art, before making our way over to Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall, the largest luxury shopping mall in the greater Phoenix area.
12. Roosevelt Row
918 N 2nd St, Phoenix, AZ 85004, map
Roosevelt Row, or RoRo as the locals call it, is a historic neighborhood known for its local eateries, art galleries, small venues, boutiques, bars, and more. It also has murals that you can find throughout the area.
Local Tip: They hold a First Friday Monthly Art Walk that is popular among locals and visitors. It gets really busy so go early.
More Things to Do in Phoenix
Here are more things to do in Phoenix.
- Arizona Center
- Chase Field – Arizona Diamondbacks
- Heritage Square
- Hot Air Balloon Ride
- Live Music
- Melrose District
- Pemberton PHX
- Phoenix Symphony
- Tempe Beach Park
- Japanese Friendship Garden
- Tres Rio Wetlands
- Piestewa Peak Summit Trail, Phoenix Mountain Preserve
- Salt River Tubing
- Lost Dog Wash Trail, McDowell Sonoran Preserve
- Mormon Trail, South Mountain Preserve
- Pinnacle Peak Trail, Pinnacle Peak Park
- North Mountain & Shaw Butte
Museums, Monuments, and Attractions
- Arizona State Capitol Museum
- Arizona Science Center
- Children’s Museum
- Goldfield Ghost Town
- Hall of Flame Fire Museum
- Heard Museum
- Mystery Castle
- Native American Ruins
- Pueblo Grande Museum and Cultural Park
Weekend in Phoenix Things to Do Map
Seasonal Things to Do in Phoenix
- Fiesta Bowl (January)
- Phoenix Fan Fusion (January)
- Maricopa County Home Show (January)
- Doggie Street Festival Phoenix (January)
- Arizona Balloon Classic (February)
- Asian Festival (February)
- Arizona Matsuri: Festival of Japan (February)
- WM Phoenix Open (February)
- Cactus League Spring Training (February)
- Arizona Fried Chicken and Wings Festival (February)
- Mask Alive! Festival of Masks (March)
- Superstition Blues & Brews Art Festival (March)
- Arizona Aloha Festival (March)
- Innings Festival (March)
- Arizona Renaissance Festival (March)
- NASCAR Championship Weekend (March)
- Arizona Bike Week (April)
- Maricopa County Fair (April)
- AZ Desert Showdown (April)
- Sangria, Craft Beer, & Food Truck Festival (April)
- Uncorked AZ Wine Festival (May)
- Arizona Restaurant Week (May)
- Real Wild & Woody Beer Festival (July)
- AFASA Reggae Festival (September)
- Ales on Rails (September)
- Arizona State Fair (September)
- Arizona Taco Fair (October)
- Country Thunder Music Festival (October)
- Goldrush Music Festival (October)
- Phoenix Greek Festival (October)
- Phoenix Pride Festival (October)
- Dia de los Muertos Festival (October)
- Spooktacular Hot Air Balloon Festival (October)
- Arizona Fall Festival (November)
- Phoenix Pizza Festival (November)
- Phoenix Flea (November)
- Tempe Fall Festival of Arts (December)
- Annual Dirt Expo (December)
- Zona Music Festival (December)
- Phoenix Festival for the Arts (December)
Where to Eat in Phoenix Arizona
Here are all the spots we checked out during our visit and our thoughts:
- Barrio Cafe (Mexican, 💰💰) – they were featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, and the guac and Cochinita Pibil were delicious.
- Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour (Cocktail Bar, 💰💰) – it’s hard to get a reservation here, but if you can, they have fun, themed drinks and a rotating kitchen. When we went, it was decked out for the holidays.
- Cider Corps, Mesa (Cideries, 💰💰) – get a flight to try various ciders. We loved the Sangin Sangria and Mango Foxtrot.
- Farm & Craft, Scottsdale (New American, 💰💰) – everything was fresh and delicious
- Happy Baos (Chinese, 💰💰) – solid and cheap soup dumplings.
- Hearth 61, Scottsdale (New American, 💰💰💰) – get anything with the Noble bread!
- Mykez Pizza, Mesa (Pizza, 💰💰) – located inside Cider Corps, the Margherita pizza hit the spot
- Prep & Pastry (Breakfast & Brunch, 💰💰) – we only had time for pastries but want to go back for a proper brunch
- Postino Highland, Scottsdale (Wine Bar/Italian, 💰💰) – the bruschetta boards were so good!
- Roll Avenue, Mesa (Ice Cream, 💰💰) – yummy Thai-style rolled ice cream
- The Fry Bread House (American/Mexican, 💰💰) – What’s not to love about fried bread? They’re a James Beard Award winner and soon to be featured on Food Network. We tried their ultimate taco with hot green chili and the chocolate and butter sweet fry bread.
- Sake Haus, RoRo (Bars/Asian, 💰💰) – elevated sushi and a great sake selection, check out their sake and whiskey of the month
- Zuzu, Scottsdale (American, 💰💰) – had a hearty breakfast since we were staying at Hotel Valley Ho.
Essential Tips for Your Weekend in Phoenix
- The best time to visit is in the winter and spring. You’ll get the best weather to enjoy the outdoors.
- Avoid hiking in the summer. It’s brutally hot.
- Bring lots of water and sunblock if you are doing any outdoor activities.
- Dress appropriately for the desert. Temperatures swing with the sunlight, so layers and sun protection are essential.
- Phoenix is a good home base for surrounding adventures in Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, or Sedona.
- Pay attention to popular events if you’re looking for travel deals. Hotel rates are much higher during events like the Phoenix Open, Superbowl, and music festivals.
- Download offline google maps if you’re going on hikes. Some areas have spotty service.
- Time zones can be confusing in Arizona. They are on Mountain Standard Time and do not acknowledge daylight saving time, so in the summer, Arizona is in the Pacific Time Zone.
Getting to and Around Phoenix
Getting to Phoenix is easy whether you’re flying or driving in.
- By Plane: If you are flying, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) has been dubbed America’s Friendliest Airport and serves more than 120 domestic and international destinations. Once you arrive, you can rent a car or use public transportation.
- By Car: From Las Vegas, Phoenix is just under 5 hours away by car. If you’re coming from LA, it will take roughly 6 hours.
- Public Transportation: Here are the public transportation options. They can work well if you’re doing activities within those lines.
What is the best way to get around Phoenix?
Renting a car is the best way to have the flexibility to get around town, but you can also use rideshare, which can get pricier.
Best Places to Stay for Your Weekend in Phoenix
During our weekend in Phoenix, we split our stay between two hotels, each with its own vibe.
We spent the first couple of nights at Hotel Valley Ho. The mid-century modern aesthetic is found throughout the property, and we had an amazing suite with a full kitchen, huge living space, and beautiful balcony views. And talk about storage space. I wanted to move in! See our Room Tour here.
After going to Taliesen West, we learned that this hotel was designed by Edward L Varney, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright.
We spent our last night at the Mountain Shadows Resort. The beautiful property has a modern, desert-chic aesthetic and is a mix of hotel rooms and private condos. The room was beautiful, and the amenities were even better. They had fitness classes we could join in on and a heated pool. Too bad we forgot our bathing suits! Check our our Room Tour here.
For more hotel options, check the map below:
What to Pack
- A backpack is convenient to carry everything you need throughout the day. These are our faves.
- A jacket is always handy. During the summer, places crank the AC so it’s cold inside. During the winter, it still gets cool at night. These are our favorite travel jackets.
- Don’t forget to apply sunblock and reapply throughout the day.
- Bring a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated and help the environment. See our favorites tested on the road here.
- Comfortable shoes are essential for long days walking around town. If you plan on hiking, bring solid hiking shoes.
- Bring your camera gear so you can capture all the beautiful photos during your trip!
Frequently Asked Questions
How many Days do you need to see Phoenix?
We recommend spending 3-5 days in Phoenix to get a chance to see the highlights, visit the top attractions, and get to know the local scene.
Is it better to stay in Phoenix or Scottsdale?
It depends on what you want to do. Scottsdale is a great spot to stay if you’re looking for shopping, fancy restaurants, and luxury hotels. If you plan on going to downtown events, staying in Phoenix is better.
What is the best month to go to Phoenix?
Winter (Dec to Feb) or Spring (Mar to May) are the best times to visit Phoenix, especially if you plan on spending time outdoors. The weather is good and the desert is in bloom.
What part of Phoenix is the nicest?
Phoenix is a large and diverse city, and the “nicest” areas will depend on various factors, including lifestyle preferences, budget, and individual priorities. However, here are some neighborhoods that are often considered desirable:
- Arcadia: Located in the east of Phoenix, Arcadia is known for its lush greenery, upscale homes, and proximity to Camelback Mountain.
- North Central Phoenix: This area is characterized by tree-lined streets, historic homes, and easy access to some of Phoenix’s best dining and shopping.
- Biltmore: Located in the heart of Phoenix, the Biltmore neighborhood is home to luxury resorts, high-end shopping, and some of the city’s most expensive homes.
- Paradise Valley: This affluent neighborhood is known for its exclusive gated communities, world-class golf courses, and stunning mountain views.
- Scottsdale: While technically a separate city, Scottsdale is often considered a desirable area to live due to its abundance of upscale amenities, nightlife, and outdoor activities.
Is Phoenix close to Sedona?
It is roughly a 2 hour, 115 mile drive from Phoenix to Sedona.
Is Phoenix a walkable city?
Phoenix is not a walkable city since the neighborhoods and attractions are spread out. Certain neighborhoods are walkable, but for the most part, you will need a car to explore.
Can you walk around Downtown Phoenix?
Downtown Phoenix is one of the few walkable neighborhoods in Phoenix. You’ll also find rentable bikes and scooters around.
What is the main strip of Phoenix?
Phoenix doesn’t have one particular main strip, but there are several streets and areas in the city that are popular destinations for locals and tourists alike. Here are some of the most well-known:
- Camelback Road: This major east-west thoroughfare runs through central Phoenix and is home to many upscale restaurants, shops, and businesses.
- Central Avenue: Running north-south through the heart of the city, Central Avenue is home to many of Phoenix’s tallest buildings, as well as numerous restaurants, bars, and cultural attractions.
- Mill Avenue: Located in the college town of Tempe, just east of Phoenix, Mill Avenue is a bustling pedestrian strip lined with restaurants, bars, shops, and entertainment venues.
- Scottsdale Road: Running through the city of Scottsdale, north of Phoenix, Scottsdale Road is home to many high-end shops, galleries, and restaurants.
- Roosevelt Row: This downtown Phoenix arts district is centered around Roosevelt Street and is home to numerous galleries, studios, and cultural events.
Do you need a car to get around Phoenix?
Yes! Unless you plan on staying in one particular area, a rental car will be nice to have to get around town. You can also use ride share apps, but it can get pricey and there are parts of town that won’t have service.
What can you do in Phoenix without a car?
While Phoenix is a car-dependent city, there are still plenty of things you can do without a car. Here are some suggestions:
- Explore Downtown Phoenix: Many of the city’s cultural and entertainment venues, such as the Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona Science Center, and Talking Stick Resort Arena, are located within walking distance of each other in Downtown Phoenix.
- Ride the Light Rail: The Valley Metro Light Rail provides a convenient and affordable way to explore the city, with stops at popular destinations such as Arizona State University, Tempe Town Lake, and the Phoenix Convention Center.
- Visit Local Parks: Phoenix has an abundance of parks and outdoor spaces, many of which are accessible by public transportation or bike. Papago Park, Encanto Park, and South Mountain Park are just a few of the city’s many beautiful outdoor areas.
Any other activities we need to add to our weekend in Phoenix itinerary?
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Esther + Jacob
Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.