Phoenix, AZ City Guide

by Sabrina Smelko


For photographer Heather Kinkel, there’s no place like home — which, for her, is sunny Phoenix, AZ. “I can’t imagine living anywhere else,” she says. Born and raised in the Phoenix desert, she’s still happily living in the same suburban neighborhood of Arcadia that she grew up in (which is small and culturally-rich). When Heather’s not rehabilitating her 1960s ranch-style home with her husband or spending time with her kids, she can be found gardening, cooking, or at a relaxing beach getaway — a must during the 2-3 months of scorching heat that even she finds nearly unbearable. “But the other 9-10 months of perfection totally redeem that little nuisance!” she adds, “And the desert is a really gorgeous place, as long as you stay away from the jumping cactus.”

To introduce you to the best of what Phoenix has to offer, Heather has narrowed the playing field to central Phoenix (namely the neighborhood of Arcadia) with a splash of Paradise Valley and Scottsdale thrown in the mix. “And since we’re all about the local love around here,” she explains, “most of the places mentioned here are locally owned and operated.” Enjoy! Sabrina

Photography by Heather Kinkel


The Stand
I’m a sucker for a good burger. And tacos. The Stand is owned locally and offers both, so it’s an automatic win for me! The burger with jalapeños is my go-to, and I think having a veggie taco (pictured) is a sweet move for a burger shop. Considering the dulce de leche shake? Don’t even hesitate.



Rollover Doughnuts
Brad and Kat Moore know their way into a fellow Phoenician’s heart. Gourmet coffee and fancy, delicious donuts are a guaranteed smash hit, but they added a quaint little historic home and a yard with croquet. So, it’s a perfect sunny morning spent with your peeps, big or small. We tried a few of their current flavors on our visit there recently, and by far the maple bacon stole our hearts and our tastebuds.




Pizzeria Bianco
The iconic pizzeria lives up to its reputation, trust me. The wait times aren’t my favorite, but nothing a bottle of wine shared with a friend can’t fix. Wood-fired pizza and a cozy setting make a great date night.


TeePee Mexican Food
Authentic, spicy Mexican food that I’ve loved for as long as I can remember. If you happen to pop in on a Friday night, there’s a solid chance you’ll see me there with my family after a long, hard week. We’re the ones with the loud kids and tired-looking grown-ups sucking down Coronas.

Flower Child
Local restaurateur Sam Fox did us a huge favor creating this “clean eating” style joint. Everything’s organic, locally grown and seasonally offered, and they serve kombucha on tap.

Joyride Taco House
Fresh, authentic tacos (my personal fave is the Chicken Tinga), some Mexican street corn and a tasty cocktail (try the Cucumber Mint!) is a combo you just can’t go wrong with. Oh, and this place is super kid-friendly, if that’s your situation.

Beckett’s Table
Amazing wine selection, local, fresh food on a menu that embraces seasonal changes is my idea of a perfect spot for a date night. Stay for dessert, they have Chocolate-Dipped Bacon S’mores.

In my opinion, the first real wine bar in the neighborhood. The wine selection is carefully curated and the bites are perfect for sharing. If you hit the weather right, their patios are amazing.

Copper Star Coffee
Located in the Melrose district downtown, Copper Star Coffee is an old gas station that has been converted into the cutest little coffee shop. Get your caffeine pick-me-up while you’re scouring the area for vintage finds.

Sweet Republic Artisan Ice Cream
Get the Campfire S’mores Sundae. It has a homemade marshmallow on it that they char right before your eyes. It’s divine. If you’re dairy-free they always have tons of options, including my personal fave: basil lime sorbet.


The cutest little boutique in Arcadia, carefully curated by owners Brian & Ana Wells, this store has literally perfected what your everyday girl (or guy!) needs to entertain. The selections are modern, cool and I want to buy everything in the store while I’m there. Throwing a birthday party? Swing by and grab a gift, and then the perfect tassels and “happy birthday” sign. Voila! Done.



Camelback Flowershop
Okay, so this little gem is so much more than a flower shop. Created, owned and operated by the floral goddess that is Teresa Wilson (who got her floral training in France for goodness sake), this is by far one of my fave spots in town. Watching the flower artisans create their masterpieces in the middle of the room (not in some secret back-room situation) is awe-inspiring, and the unique selection of florals is nothing like you have ever seen before.

Don’t need flowers? No worries, Camelback Flowershop carries all the little goodies your heart desires — vessels, succulents, greeting cards for every occasion, unique candles and other sundries. For the love, stop in there.






Phoenix Open Air Market
A phenomenal open-air market (think farmers’ market) open on Thursdays and Saturdays. The produce selection is vast and the artisans there run the gamut from ceramics to jewelry to body scrubs.

Want to just eat your way through the market? Yeah, me too. The prepared foods offered are delicious — spicy pickles, anyone? — and there’s always a couple of food trucks on hand. Pop into the cafe next door for even more shopping options (mostly local vendors, which is awesome) and grab a homemade PopTart. You’re welcome.

Vintage shops in the Melrose district:

Melrose Shopping District
If you wander down 7th Avenue between Indian School and Camelback, you will find there’s no shortage of impressive vintage shops. Here are my favorites that I am pretty sure you should pop into: Figs Home & Garden, Zinnias, Modern Manor, Melrose Vintage. There are so many more, so if the name or the storefront piques your interest, pop in! You won’t find a friendlier crowd of people than the Melrose peeps.


Biltmore Fashion Park
An upscale, outdoor mall with shops ranging from the Apple store to Saks 5th Avenue to Pottery Barn and Lululemon Athletica, this is my favorite place to shop on a perfect, sunny day. Add in the fact that they have some amazing eateries and a few local boutiques, and it’s an easy sell.

Leidan Mitchell Salon & Spa
So you’re traveling and didn’t make time for a blowout, or your roots are just a mess. Give Leidan Mitchell a try, you won’t be disappointed. I’ve been seeing Dixie there for 10 years, so book with her and tell her I said hi!

LeidanMitchellSalon3 LeidanMitchellSalon2


The Royal Palms Resort & Spa
Located at the base of Camelback Mountain, this quiet boutique hotel is my favorite spot to stay. It’s won award after award, and never fails to deliver the perfect experience with cozy rooms and casitas, fireplaces dotted throughout the property, cobblestone paths, and a tranquil and inviting courtyard. Brunching? Pop into T. Cooks bar for The Ultimate Bloody Mary — it has a crab leg and a slice of bacon, so it’s basically a meal in a glass.




Hotel Valley Ho
Colorful, quirky and decidedly mid-century, this boutique hotel has a rich history with Arizona. Originally built in 1956, it was a major hotspot for the era’s celebrities. When it re-opened in 2005, it did so with its individual style intact. This hotel is fun and has a pool party on the weekends during the warmer months, complete with a DJ and drink specials. The spa is one of my absolute favorites, their signature Icelandic Moonflower scent is relaxing and complements the modern vibe they channel.

Hotel San Carlos
Hotel San Carlos is a bona-fide Historic Hotel of America. It opened in 1928 and was one of the first luxury accommodations in the entire southwest. It’s been updated since, but has totally retained all of its original architecture and roaring 20s feel. It’s worth mentioning that Hotel San Carlos is said to be haunted, room 704 in particular, if you’re into that kind of thing. Boo!


Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa
If you’re looking for the most luxurious and lavish accommodations in Phoenix, this is it. Cozy casitas that look at Camelback Mountain and have amazing views of the city, coupled with one of the best spas in town — this is your best bet if you’re looking for the ultimate in pampering. Hit Jade Bar for a drink and catch some great live music while you watch the city glitter below. It’s an amazing experience that won’t disappoint.

Hotel Palomar
Kimpton hotels are always a shoo-in, and this boutique spot is no different. Located in the heart of downtown Phoenix, it’s the perfect spot to stay and experience everything central Phoenix has to offer. The rooftop bar is perfect for city-gazing, and Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails is one of the coziest cocktail lounges I’ve ever been to.



Arizona Science Center
The possibilities to explore here are endless. A state-of-the-art IMAX theater and corresponding planetarium inspire wonder in everyone who visits, young and old alike!

The Children’s Museum of Phoenix
The Children’s Museum operates on the belief that “learning is a joy” and is the perfect spot for just that. With more exhibits than you can count, there is an opportunity for every age to learn and experience it through fun!

Phoenix Art Museum
Cool, hip and thoroughly modern, the Phoenix Art Museum in downtown Phoenix is one of my favorite places to go. Exhibitions range from sculptures to paintings, and are ever-changing — making membership a practical option if you’re a local.

Heritage Square
Wander the oldest original residential block in Phoenix and transform yourself back to the early 1900s. The Rosson House Museum offers tours of a fully restored 1895 Queen Anne Victorian home and offers a plethora of information on the early lives of Arizonans. Explore the rose gardens and grab a drink and lunch at Rose and Crown Pub (totally kid-friendly) for a relaxing day downtown.

Alvadora Spa at Royal Palms
Intimate and quiet, not unlike the resort itself, this spa blows me away every time I visit. Their signature Neroli scent (orange blossom oil) is the perfect homage to Arizona’s rich history with citrus groves. In 2015, USA Today ranked them the number one spa in Phoenix, just in case you need any more convincing.

Crescent Ballroom
If live music, local craft beer and tasty burritos are your jam — as they are mine — this joint in downtown Phoenix is your go-to spot. They feature music artists in a small and intimate concert setting.

Hiking & Desert exploring in central Phoenix:

What’s a visit to Arizona without a little hiking? My favorite area that’s great for all ages and abilities is Piestewa Peak. There are multiple areas for hiking there, including a summit trail and some fun nature walks. Make sure you take water even if it’s not a super warm day. The sun here in PHX can be brutal!

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  • So excited to see Phoenix featured here! I moved here almost 4 years ago from the east coast and have been raving about this town to my friends back east. I feel like this whole city is a hidden gem!

  • So excited to see the Tee Pee Tap Room in this list of amazing Phoenix originals! My grandparents were the original owners of the Tee Pee before they retired and sold it to, what I believe, are the current owners. Even though they were Hungarian and Czech by birth, they made some killer Mexican food.

    • I’m in my 50’s and live in SF now, but I grew up in Phx, and Tee Pee Tap Room was my family’s favorite place. I think my father probably paid half of your grandparent’s mortgage, he was there so often. Thanks for sharing the story about them. They created a wonderful place and I’m thrilled to know it’s still there.

  • I saw Phoenix for the first time last year and I thought it was beautiful. It reminded me so much of Southern Orange County in CA only with less traffic. You have everything I need in a place to live. Costco, Kohls and In & Out Burger and of course the natural beauty of the Desert. It’s much different than the California Desert. Phoenix, see you again this May.

  • Giant Coffee is a must if you’re visiting Phoenix. I think I’ve single-handedly driven up the stock for those guys. Lol. #thereeveryday#lifer

  • Really nice blog and helpful. Being somewhat familiar with the Phoenix area I knew some of the places but I am really happy to find some I don’t know listed here. Now we have some new places to visit. Try Peixoto coffee in downtown Chandler also, great coffee!

  • You’ve just brought my Phoenix memories. Last year in the summer when I visited my my aunt and cousins in Phoenix, one Saturday we visited Phoenix Open Air Market. I really liked it, probably more so because my mom sells produces at farmers market here Des Moines.
    Although Phoenix Open Air Market was bigger in size, the atmosphere was the same. I really loved it.

    And thanks for the great post.

  • That donut with a strawberry looks amazing. Now, isn’t 3 donuts is a bit too much for a 1 cup of coffee? :) Great pics of Phoenix.

  • A pacific northwest staple is now in the valley. Look for Dutch Brothers Coffee. I know one is in Mesa and I think another in Chandler. All that food is making me hungry, thanks!

  • Every time I’m in Phoenix, I make it a point to visit TeePee! They just make it such a fun environment for everyone. Great list :)

  • really great guide. i run a business in the Arizona east valley and will be sure to tell my clients about a few of these. -Kevin

  • Looking forward to my trip to Phoenix, I am a DJ in North Carolina and doing my friend’s wedding in AZ. Gonna be spending a month in the hot state of Arizona. Thanks for sharing your tips!!

  • Went to Phoenix on a little vacation over Memorial Day weekend and had a chance to visit Postino. They had a great selection of wine and it was the perfect way to end our getaway. Nice article!

  • Great list and I’ve been to a bunch of these places. One that I did not see in your list which is fairly new and I really love is a place called Backyard Tacos! Amazing food! This is one of those MUST VISIT places!

  • Great article. Rollover Donuts is the bomb! There is a similar chain popping up, mostly in college towns, that is equally as lethal called Duck Donuts. They are a custom donut shop that was started by a couple out of Duck, NC. They have since franchised the business and there is one near us in Boca Raton, Florida. Just an fyi…….MAPLE BACON IS TO DIE FOR! Thanks for all the great info!

  • I can attest to the serenity and beauty of Piestewa Peak. We went on a romantic hike/picnic and had a blast. Thanks for reminding me of that great day. Wonderful article.

  • There’s a donut place in my home town called Pauls Doughnuts, I think Brad and Kat Moore should look at their website if they need any inspiration for future donut creation. They have one called the “Vanilla long john” and it is to die for.

  • I adore Phoenix! For so long there wasn’t a real downtown, but that’s changed! The city has so much culture, amazing food, and 9 months of the year, the weather is heavenly. Wouldn’t trade it for the world!