By Jeremy Steckler
May 23, 2024

If you’re reading this article because you have only one day in Phoenix to experience all this city has to offer, then you’ve come to the right place! Whether you’re exploring the town for vacation or trying to decide on renting an apartment in Phoenix or even buying a home in Phoenix, ApartmentGuide can help you plan the ideal day.

Below, you’ll find a wealth of restaurants, activities, and parks handpicked by Phoenix locals. Your task is to look through the list, selecting one item from each step to create your ideal itinerary. Feel free to choose more than one option if you wish! Think of this as a “Choose Your Own Adventure” for exploring a new city. The goal is for you to get a crash course in what it’s like to live in Phoenix

Hot Air Balloon

Step one: Try a new experience

During your stay in Phoenix, try out some of the new activities the city has to offer. Below is a selection of experiences, from coffee classes to skydiving to cowboy towns. Choose one or a few to explore during your stay.

Take a class at Infusion Coffee & Tea Crafters: “Not to plug ourselves, but our International Barista and Coffee Academy is a great valley find. We offer classes on coffee roasting, tea, and more.” – Leo of Infusion Coffee & Tea Crafters.

Attend the VNSA Book Sale: “If you’re a book lover or know one, you must plan to attend the annual VNSA Book Sale at the State Fairgrounds held every February. Each year, VNSA will sell five semi-trucks full of books and media that they collected from donations all year long. With no paid staff, all proceeds benefit human service charities in Maricopa County. When you’re finished with those books, donate them to VNSA anytime using dropboxes located all over the Valley.” – VNSA Volunteer Staff.

Phoenix Skydive Center: “Visit the upscale Skydive Center in AZ. Our staff is experienced and certified by the United States Parachute Association. We offer a first-time skydiving experience to all adults: No experience or training required. We offer student and military discounts and holiday specials all year. Video and Photos available to share with friends and family.” – Phoenix Skydive Center.

Commemorative Air Base AZ: “You can see, touch, and hear the aircraft that made America safe. You can feel the history and the energy of our Airforce heroes from the past. It’s very affordable and free to vets and Gold Star Families. If you want to step it up you can even book a flight on one of these historic warbirds.” – Phoenix Skydive Center.

Rainbow Ryders Hot Air Balloon Ride: “Take a hot air balloon ride over Phoenix and Scottsdale with Rainbow Ryders. The best view of the Sonoran Desert and the Phoenix Skyline. The sunrise flight is like no other flight you’ve ever had. The cool Phoenix mornings with the sunrise over the desert is the best way to start a day.” – Phoenix Skydive Center.

Cave Creek: “This area is second to none being one of AZ’s most authentic cowboy towns to this day! Be sure to visit Harold’s Corral to experience their live music, fundraisers, sporting events, and more! If you’re feeling spunky, pop over to the Buffalo Chip for their bull riding nights. Enjoy endless views of the surrounding mountains and hike the various trails like those at Spur Cross.” – Haleigh Shelly of Paseo Homes AZ

Visit one of Phoenix’s farmer’s markets: “You can find unique gifts, delicious food, and many handmade products. Go out and soak up the beautiful Arizona sunshine on Saturday markets and don’t forget to visit us while you are there!” – Absolutely Delightful Honey

Plant Stand of Arizona: “This is a great place to check out. It’s not often you see so much greenery in Arizona. They have a plethora of plants: small and large, everything in between. If you’re new to Arizona and you’re looking for a place to get some plants to warm up and liven your space, Plant Stand of Arizona is the place to go.” – Leo of Infusion Coffee & Tea Crafters.

Three tacos

Step two: Enjoy the local food

If you’re kicking around the idea of renting a home in Phoenix, you have to get acquainted with the local food. Though Tucson may get all the attention for being a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, Phoenix is not to be overlooked for all the great food selections.

Word Of Mouth Grill: “Located in the heart of South Tempe, this black-owned BBQ spot offers a casual modern dining experience, serving amazing food with a sociable and inviting atmosphere. It’s a family-owned and operated spot with the owner being the pitmaster and his wife overseeing the guest experience. YELP just added Word Of Mouth Grill to their “TOP 100 BBQ SPOTS” and ranked them #72 in the nation!” – Demetrious & Jacque of Word Of Mouth Grill.

Chico Malo: “Located in downtown Phoenix, this elevated Mexican cuisine & cocktail bar is inspired by the rich heritage of celebratory dining throughout the different regions of Mexico, showcasing unique cooking techniques and local ingredients in a lively, upscale environment. This chef-driven concept is a great place to experience especially when attending the Footprint Center, Chase Field or the Phoenix Convention Center!” – Demetrious & Jacque of Word Of Mouth Grill

ZuZu Restaurant: “One recommendation I would make for someone that wants a delicious meal with a great ‘60s vibe, is ZuZu Restaurant inside of the Hotel Valley Ho. ZuZu provides upscale comfort food & cocktails with a very Instagrammable 60’s atmosphere. If you are not interested in eating, Hotel Valley Ho allows you to purchase a day pass to their pool if you are not a guest of the hotel so you can spend your day lounging by their pool.” – Andrew Brigida of Digital Perception Photography

Giuseppe’s on 28th: “If you are looking for classic Italian cuisine, Giuseppe’s is the perfect place. One of the must-try dishes is the Suppli di Riso (also known as arancini). These are delicious risotto rice balls that you are sure to talk about afterwards. And you cannot forget about the gnocchi in a cream and tomato sauce.” – Therese Lau of Gator Girl – Out of the Swamp.

The Kettle Black:“Look for the restaurant with the big red door! It’s like being in an English pub. If you like bourbon and whiskey they have plenty of choices. Looking for something delicious? Try the Philly cheesesteak fries. The fries are covered in shaved ribeye steak, sauteed peppers and onions, and a creamy cheese sauce. The ribeye is so tender and juicy you might think you’re in Philly!” – Therese Lau of Gator Girl – Out of the Swamp.

Ajo Al’s Mexican Cafe: “If you are in the mood for Mexican food, a classic restaurant is Ajo Al’s Mexican Café. In the valley since 1986, Ajo Al’s can handle large parties and can provide family-style dishes on request for large celebrations, or if you just like to eat a lot of good Mexican food. Don’t want to leave the house for your birthday? They can also provide catering services directly to your door.” – Andrew Brigida of Digital Perception Photography.

Step three: Get fueled up

Phoenix is also home to several eclectic coffee shops featuring innovative decorations and displays. Kaylie of the travel blog Run Away With Kay is the perfect person to scour the city for the best coffee shops and come back with her recommendations. Here are three of her favorites:

Sip Coffee: “Located in the Arcadia neighborhood, Sip Coffee & Beer Garage is the perfect spot to spend a summer day. The baristas know their stuff, and the vibe is super calm and chill. I highly recommend ordering their cold brew on tap with a splash of almond milk (it’s addicting!). I’ve spent an entire day sitting quietly working on my laptop, as it is a great place for creatives to connect and get work done. But beware, when the clock strikes 4 p.m., this coffee shop can get a bit rowdy as their downstairs turns into a tiki-style cocktail bar. A coffee shop that serves coffee and alcohol – I know, sounds too good to be true! Whether you are looking to order a basic latte, craft beer, or liquor-infused espresso martini, Sip will have the drink for you.”

Luci’s At the Orchard: “If you are looking for a unique coffee experience, look no further than Luci’s At the Orchard. This place could not be any cuter! From the moment you walk on their grounds, you’ll be surrounded by outdoor seating, a splash pad, and an ice cream parlor. Inside, there are so many fun trinkets, games, and random Arizona-based gifts you can purchase. Not only do they have great tasting coffee options, but they also serve smoothies, brunch food, and bloody Marys that will keep you coming back time and time again.”

The Henry: “As if I don’t talk about The Henry enough, it has to make my top list for coffee. Many locals know The Henry for their delicious food but inside is their own coffee bar that will satisfy any caffeine craving you may have. This is one of my favorite places to “work from home” as it keeps me fueled all day long. Their menu is extensive, offering espresso, smoothies, and chai. Everyone seems to be addicted to the Wildflower, but I have yet to try it. I truly think you can’t go wrong with any of their options. Be sure to order the Caramel Apple French Toast if you start to get hungry!”

Step four:
Explore a park or two

Part of Phoenix’s allure is the multitude of outdoor recreational activities. With so many beautiful parks to explore, the hiking culture here is incredible. If you enjoy the outdoors, choose one of the activities below to explore.

Papago Park: “This is an excellent spot for many things. It is a photographer’s dream with the beautiful sunrises or sunsets depending on when you are going. There are also picnic tables if you want to have a small gathering with family and friends. There is not a bad spot in Papago Park for a photo opportunity. – Andrew Brigida of Digital Perception Photography.

Phoenix Zoo: “Located in Phoenix just East of the Sky Harbor Airport, this non-profit zoo cares for over 3,000 animals with nearly 400 species represented, including many endangered species. The zoo offers daily activities and private events. They offer zoo tours such as the ‘Backstage Adventure’ where you can get a glimpse of the animal habitats, the ‘Tropics Trail’ a lush rainforest landscape with animals or the ‘Native Plants and Animal’ tour, to name a few. The Phoenix Zoo is great for all ages and interests!” – Demetrious & Jacque of Word Of Mouth Grill

Tonto National Forest: “So many options to stay busy in the Tonto National Forest! Spending the day out on Bartlett Lake with a boat or ski rental is a great way to stay cool during AZ’s hottest months. You can even enjoy various options of guided tours to experience the desert firsthand! If you’re feeling extra adventurous, take a trip to Apache Junction for the Goldfield Ghost Town experience!” – Haleigh Shelly of Paseo Homes AZ.

The Superstition Mountains: “The Superstition Mountains are the best mountains to explore around the Phoenix area! They hold some of the best views, diverse landscapes, and even historical tales of lost gold. The most notable hikes for beginner to moderate levels are Hieroglyphic Trail, Wave Cave, and Hackberry Springs Loop.” – Kara Grimes of Karabou Adventures, LLC.

Lake Pleasant: “There are so many things to do at Lake Pleasant, especially during the summer. The opportunities are endless: kayaking, scenic cruises with Lake Pleasant Cruises, boat rentals, and sliding down the H2-WHOA floating slide. Oftentimes my friends and I will park along the shoreline in Scorpion Bay to hangout, float in the water, and grill food!” – Kara Grimes of Karabou Adventures, LLC

Desert Botanical Garden: “For plant and bird lovers I highly suggest the Desert Botanical Garden! Their collection of desert plants is impressive. A lot of them bloom in the spring time and bring in all types of birds and butterflies. The gardens even hold special seasonal events, so take a peek at their calendar!” – Kara Grimes of Karabou Adventures, LLC.

Explore the Valley area: “Phoenix has some of the finest dining options in the valley like the infamous Wright Bar at Arizona Biltmore (named after Frank Lloyd Wright)! You can also experience many great works of art and architecture like viewing Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home. And there is nothing like witnessing firsthand a beautiful Arizona sunset atop one of the most desirable hikes at Camelback Mountain for those who can handle the challenge!” – Haleigh Shelly of Paseo Homes AZ.


Step five: Grab a drink and reflect

Now that you’ve explored Phoenix in a whirlwind of a day, it’s time to get a drink at one of the local breweries and reflect on the day you’ve had today. What did you like? What did you not like? Could you see yourself renting a house in Phoenix or buying a home?

The Phoenix Beer Co.:“The Phoenix Beer Co. is another great place to explore. The brewery has great beer and a variety of things to do. There’s shuffleboard, giant Jenga, cornhole, and more! – Leo of Infusion Coffee & Tea Crafters

Huss Brewing: “Looking for a great place for craft beers? Huss Brewing is the perfect spot conveniently located next to the Phoenix Convention Center. They have great shareable appetizers to enjoy while sampling the local brews.” – Therese Lau of Gator Girl – Out of the Swamp.

Tombstone Brewing Company (North): “Located in a small strip mall in the north of Phoenix, this brewery was a lot of fun. I sat at the bar where a super-friendly bartender was happy to talk with me about the beer selection.” – The Beer Thrillers.

Wren Brewing House: “There are a lot of little nooks where you can find an intimate spot and a large space near the bar if you want to be part of the taproom vibe. A small courtyard is near the side of the bar for sitting outside.” – The Beer Thrillers.

OHSO Brewery and Distillery: “Fun, warm and welcoming vibes. Most of the bar is located outside and has a wonderful lay of the area.” – The Beer Thrillers.