Adoration 4 Adventure’s budget travel guide for visitors to Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.A. by A4A guest writer, Cameron Cobb. Find out the fun things to do in Phoenix on a budget, from an Arizona local.
To locals, Phoenix is known as the Valley of the Sun. It gets HOT in the summer so be aware when planning a vacation here. Reaching temperatures of 120 F (50 C) already in June this year, Phoenicians can be found escaping the heat in our air-conditioned homes and offices for much of June through August.
Fortunately, there are a lot of swimming pools and barbecues to ease the pain when we do head outdoors in the warmer months. There are also a number of hotels with shaded areas for relaxing for summer visitors or those who want to take a stay-cation.
Fun things to do in Phoenix, Arizona on a budget
5. Seasonal activities
If it’s the middle of summer, head to Scottsdale Fashion Square to stay cool. Check out the huge number of shops, grab a happy hour at one of the many great restaurants and people watch.
If it’s in the spring months, check out the Renaissance Festival southeast of downtown Phoenix where you can be transported back in time.
4. Sports and games
Sports teams include the Suns, Diamondbacks, Cardinals, and Coyotes. Tickets are all available during their respective seasons. If watching sports isn’t your thing, Phoenix has a large variety of public golf courses, tennis courts, indoor swimming pools and other ways of staying active.
The First Fridays Art Walk is held downtown every month and showcases a vast number of local artists. It’s one of the busiest evenings each month. Mix with locals and check out the downtown hipster scene. Try to take a taxi if you can as parking may be tough. The art walk is free.
The Phoenix Art Museum is also free to enter on the first Friday of each month and has free admission Wednesday nights. The Herd Museum focuses on Arizona’s Native peoples. The new Musical Instrument Museum is also supposed to be very good.
2. Watch a sunrise and sunset
Ask any local and they’ll tell you that the sunrise and sunset Arizona provides are some of the most beautiful you’ll find. Any of the hiking spots below will provide a great view. Another one of my favorite spots is from the top of the Clarendon hotel’s rooftop bar.
1. See the desert
The outdoors are beautiful for hiking during the cooler months or early mornings in summer. Camelback Mountain is in a protected area that will allow hikers to see the local wildlife and cacti as well as provide a great view of the valley from the top. Other great hikes include Piestewa Peak and the short hike to Hole in the Rock in Papago Park. The trails are free. Avoid longer hikes during the day in summer months and make sure to bring lots of water.
Another great way to get outdoors is to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s former Arizona residence, Taliesin West, in Scottsdale.
Cheap restaurants in Phoenix
Phoenix is known for its Mexican food. It’s one of the best cuisines on a budget that you’ll find. Taco shops such as Atoyac Estilo Oaxaca has some of the best fish tacos around ($2.30 each), as well as delicious quesadillas and the massive tlayuda con carne ($10).
Another new local favorite is Tacos Chiwas with namesake tacos of carne asada, ham, peppers, and cheese ($2.50 each). The gordita with hatch chilis is also incredible for $3.
Local family-owned restaurant Los Dos Molinos is an absolute must. They’re known for traditional Mexican food with a bit of spice. Order the carne adovada ($9) and try both the red and green sauces. You won’t be disappointed.
For pizza, head to nationally recognized Pizzeria Bianco or check out nearby Cibo, a quaint spot inside a historic home. If you like Chicago style, head to Spinato’s and try their thin crust. Each is around $15-25 per person.To splurge on food, check out Durant’s Steakhouse for a Goodfellas-style steak and fine wine or scotch. Or, enjoy the city’s best sushi at James Beard Award-winning chef Nobuo at Teeter House.
To splurge on food, check out Durant’s Steakhouse for a Goodfellas-style steak and fine wine or scotch. Or, enjoy the city’s best sushi at James Beard Award-winning chef Nobuo at Teeter House.
For drinks, stop by Hanny’s for classic cocktails and local DJs with mini martinis for $5 all night, or catch a live act at Crescent Ballroom. If it’s Monday or Tuesday night, check out Postino’s plate of bruschetta and any bottle of wine for $20 after 8 pm. It’s one of the best deals in town, and a great place to people watch.
Getting around Phoenix
Phoenix is spread out and doesn’t have the greatest public transportation. The Phoenix Light Rail is good for the downtown area or linking to Tempe to the east, but it only has one line. For this reason, it’s usually best to rent a car or take an Uber wherever you plan to travel the area.
Boutique hotels in Phoenix
My favorite place to stay is a locally owned boutique hotel, the Clarendon. Their pool, décor, restaurant and rooftop bar will make it hard to leave and see the rest of what the city has to offer. Book them directly for the best rate. Ben Bethel, the owner, may even be the one who answers the phone.
Hotel Palomar is also beautiful and has great views and is in close proximity to a number of bars and restaurants.
Fun day trips from Phoenix
Phoenix has a lot to offer but anyone who has time during their visit should consider a day trip to Sedona to see the beautiful red rock mountains. Sedona is only about 2 hours north of Phoenix by car and offers a number of jeep tours, hiking, restaurants, and hotels.
3. Slide Rock
Natural formations make Slide Rock a fun place to enjoy natural water-slides and a chance to cool off in warmer months. Slide Rock is very close to Sedona.
Further north is Flagstaff for skiing during winter months. This city is very laid back and is much cooler than Phoenix during the summer.
1. Grand Canyon
A 4-hour drive north of Phoenix lies the Grand Canyon, a must-do for every traveler’s bucket list.
A4A guest writer – Cameron Cobb
I’m an Arizona native who has lived in Phoenix for most of my life. I recently traveled around the world for a year documenting my favorite street food, budget restaurants, and travel tips. Now I’m back home continuing to write locally about great food and travel.
All photos in this article are the property of A4A guest writer, Cameron Cobb, except for the Pinterest image which is by David Mark from Pixabay.
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