Summer is typically the slow season in metro Phoenix, but this isn’t a typical year. People are feeling more free to travel as the pandemic recedes, and the Phoenix Suns are playing in their first NBA Finals since 1993.
That means lots of people are out and about. If you’ve come to the Valley of the Sun to follow the games, treat yourself to a stay at a nice resort or use Phoenix as a jumping-off point for adventures around Arizona, you may be wondering what there is for a first-time visitor to do here.
There are so many options that it can be hard to choose. We’re here to help. Here’s a roundup of the top restaurants, bars, day trips, hikes and public art throughout metro Phoenix.
Best metro Phoenix restaurants and bars
If this is your first time in Phoenix, here are five restaurants that are absolutely worth visiting.
Pizza fans will be well satisfied at either (or both!) of these classic Phoenix pizza restaurants.
The Sonoran hot dog — wrapped in bacon and topped with beans, onions and salsa — is an Arizona classic. Try this Sonoran dog for yourself and decide if it’s worth $18.
Need a beverage to cool off from the heat? Or perhaps a libation to celebrate the Suns making it to the NBA Finals? There are seven new bars in downtown Phoenix to check out. Some are right near the Phoenix Suns arena.
When it’s not blazing hot here, which is most of the year, people here like to grab a seat at an outdoor bar and unwind. Here’s a guide to the best patio bars in metro Phoenix.
Where to hike in metro Phoenix
Although Phoenix summer temperatures sit firmly in the triple digits, that doesn’t necessarily exclude hiking as an activity. You just have to be extra smart and safe about it, and get a super early start. Here’s a guide to popular hikes that can be completed before it gets really hot.
For hiking inspiration from one end of the Valley of the Sun to the other, explore this guide to hikes for every ability and interest, from super challenging to barrier-free.
And if you’re in the mood for a mellow outing, try one of these easy day hikes in metro Phoenix.
Art, murals and public gardens
The Valley of the Sun has a robust lineup of public art. To see the best of it, take a self-guided tour of public art in Phoenix and public art in Scottsdale. Tip: Don’t miss the iconic “Love” sculpture in Scottsdale and “Her Secret Is Patience” in downtown Phoenix.
The mural scene is equally hot here, with talented artists painting on concrete canvases in cities throughout Maricopa County. Here’s a roundup of some of the best murals in metro Phoenix. This downtown Phoenix mural represents the original people who lived here. And this mural series will represent Latin and Indigenous artists all through 2021.
If being outdoors is more your style, explore the diverse plant life at these Phoenix-area botanical gardens.
Get a hotel day pass, sit by the pool
You don’t have to get a room to enjoy the amenities of Phoenix and Scottsdale resorts. You can buy a day pass or rent a cabana at popular hotels including Arizona Grand, Fairmont Scottsdale Princess and the Westin Kierland.
Explore a farmers market
Growers in metro Phoenix and throughout Arizona bring their harvests to farmers markets all around town. You can also support local makers of jewelry, crafts, candy, international foods and more. Here’s a roundup of 15 farmers markets in and around Phoenix.
Easy day trips from Phoenix
Want to escape the city? These easy day trips from Phoenix offer history, scenic drives and the chance to get out in nature.
Tortilla Flat is a former stagecoach stop on the Apache Trail in the Superstition Wilderness east of Phoenix. Visitors flock there for a meal, souvenirs and an authentic taste of the Old West. Our guide has directions and the best things to do at Tortilla Flat.
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument in Coolidge, south of Phoenix, protects the largest building still standing from the ancient Hohokam culture. The “Big House” is believed to have been built in the 1300s. Visitors can also explore a museum and see other structures at the site. Want more ideas? Here are more easy road trips from Phoenix.
When it’s hot out, locals head to the Salt River for a day on the water. Salt River Tubing offers tube rentals and shuttle service. Here are other ways to beat the heat of a Phoenix summer.
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