One day in Phoenix
January 29, 2016 1:12 PM   Subscribe

I unexpectedly have one day in Phoenix, AZ next week. Feb 5, 2016. What should I do? I like art, history, and culture.

I unexpectedly have one day in Phoenix, AZ next week. Feb 5, 2016. What should I do? I like art, history, and culture.
posted by Flood to Travel & Transportation around Phoenix, AZ (18 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
The Musical Instrument Museum is very cool - much more interesting than you might imagine.
posted by Redstart at 1:23 PM on January 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: An option if the weather is good: Desert Botanical Garden is really nice!

I have heard the Musical Instrument Museum is neat so I will +1 the suggestion (though I have not been there).
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 1:31 PM on January 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

You have a lot of options.

Heard Museum, it's really neat, a bit depressing and there's a special exhibit of Frieda Kahlo photos.

The Casa Grande Ruins are pretty cool, America's Stonehenge!

Cosanti in Scottsdale, Paolo Solari's windbell foundary

Phoenix Art Museum has a few nice pieces. It's pretty close to the Heard, so you can do both easily.

Talliesin West is also worth the trip, especially if you're into architecture.

Torva Castle is a thing I'd like to see, since it was not open to the public when I lived in Phoenix.

Do make time to have a meal at Ponchos, on Central, between Baseline and Southern (not the Panchos at the mall.) My order is: Red Chili Burro (how we say it in Phoenix) Enchilada style with extra sauce and extra lettuce. Also, order a cheese crisp. You can't get them outside of Phoenix, which is a damn shame.

Enjoy your trip!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:31 PM on January 29, 2016

Best answer: (seconding the) Desert Botanical Gardens - it's a stunningly lovely place.
Hole in the Rock - free, will not take a lot of your time, just a neat little thing.
La Santisima - fantastic tacos and horchata.

If you happen to be with a Phoenix local, have them pick up a Culture Pass from the library, which will give you free admission to the Musical Instrument Museum (among other places).
posted by everybody had matching towels at 1:42 PM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Desert Botanical Garden is really nice, and February is the ideal time of year to walk its grounds. In addition to desert plants, the garden also hosts different art installations. Check their web site to learn more about their current exhibit, "Sonoran Light", featuring works by artist Bruce Munro.

Upon preview: Uh...apparently I'm thirding the above suggestion.
posted by mosk at 1:43 PM on January 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

The Phoenix Art Museum is absolutely fantastic. It's a gem in the desert. There is nothing more magical than going up to the second floor and enjoying this Kusama installation.

It's located in a great location for some of the other awesome things Phoenix has to offer. The art museum is on Central Ave which runs North/South, Phoenix's grid system makes it easy to navigate from there. Anything to the East will be a numbered street, anything to the West will be a numbered avenue. Roosevelt Row is full of art galleries, coffee shops and more (if it's still there, I like Cibo pizza and Lola Coffee, and a quick meal at local chain Pita Jungle) and is very near to the art museum (you could walk south on Central easily this time of year to get there or take the light rail a few stops down).

An absolutely fabulous coffee shop (this is coming from a Seattleite) is Giant coffee, right down the street from the art museum on 1st St. Their pastries are delicious. There's a tiny boutique called Bunky there with cool stuff, too. It's located next to the worst statue of all time of some kids so that's a bonus.

If you're looking for a solid meal, head north on Central and take a right on Camelback, St Francis does brunch really well but I've enjoyed many a lovely dinner there.

The Desert Botanical Gardens are very lovely this time of year (well, they're lovely year round), and I wouldn't miss going to the Hole in the Rock right next to them for lovely view/pics at Sunset. It's as easy of a hike as you can find in Phoenix with a good payoff! The Botanical Gardens are also a nice area to go for a drive—I love the alien looking Papago Mountains—but be warned, the bus system is horrible and taking it to the Gardens is...the worst. If you don't have a car then I highly recommend sticking to places along the light rail or taking Lyft/Uber to places further out.

I also agree that Talliesin West is worth the trip, but if you only have one day in Phoenix that might be a bit of a treck. It's also ridiculously pricey (worth it, but holy crap, so expensive.)

Please feel free to MeMail me for more recommendations. Phoenix is a wonderful place to visit (not so much to live, but that's a whole other question!) I could go on for days.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 1:44 PM on January 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh, and, duh, maybe the most important thing: you simply MUST visit La Santisima or Barrio to enjoy Mexican food. They're both very different and located very close to one another. La Santisima has a style of quesadillas that will blow your mind—I took probably 10 different out of towners there over the years I lived in Phoenix and every single one reminisces about them. You can also enjoy the Ranch Market down the street from those restaurants. It's a huge Mexican grocery store with many delicious treats.

Also, Pizzeria Bianco is considered by many to be among the best or THE best pizza in the United States. It's located downtown (not far from Roosevelt Row and the Art Musuem!) and though you will have to wait in line because they don't take reservations for less than six people, it may be worth it if you love pizza. If you can't get a table there, the beautiful and fancy Nobuo is right next door and serves exquisite Japanese food.

And now I have to go book a ticket to Phoenix so I can just visit all my recommendations myself.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 1:52 PM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Phoenix's FilmBar will be showing ROCK -N- ROLL DAMNATION: Revisiting the Satanic Panic of the 1980’s on February 5th, if that's up your alley. The bar across the street has a lengthy beer list and if you get a flight, it's served in a muffin tin.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 2:00 PM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Musical Instrument Museum is very cool - much more interesting than you might imagine.

I have been. It's a little bit of a schlep but so so worth it. Lots of weird things to look at, listen to and PLAY. I also loved the Desert Botanical Gardens. Not a huge place but a great way to get a feel for AZ. I went to them both in one day. They each cost money (not a ton but what seems like a lot for "just" a garden or a museum) but I think they are worth it.
posted by jessamyn at 3:05 PM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I went to a place to get a windshield for my van, called affordable German. It was on Broadway, then I asked the guys about getting food nearby. They directed me right onto Broadway and left at 19th (I think,) and one door up was a carniceria with a smoker out front, and the cleanest and most amazing burrito/taco/salad deli EVER. I have never, anywhere, had better food, smoked pork ribs, (a couple,) and a fresh smoked carne asada burrito. Really. It lasted al the way back to Monument Valley, Utah. It is still the benchmark to better.
posted by Oyéah at 4:04 PM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oyéah, I think that may have been Carniceria Mexico, 4450 S 19th Ave.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 4:11 PM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

You MUST eat at

Pizzeria Bianco is terribly over-rated.
posted by therealshell at 4:26 PM on January 29, 2016

There is even a Barrio Cafe in the airport !!blank/kfi5j

[Sorry, I can't figure out how to do links.]
posted by therealshell at 4:50 PM on January 29, 2016

I have to second recommendations for museums.

A couple months ago I had a Saturday to spend in Phoenix. Started with the Phoenix Art Museum - it's not large, but has some great collections. I recommend spending time in the ancient China exhibit, and the Phillip C Campbell exhibit.

The Heard museum was interesting, but overpriced. On the other hand, it was kind of worth it to be startled by the Spielberg racism.

The Museum of Musical Instruments was far better than I had any reason to expect. I've never spent so long in a single museum, and had no idea I had such an appreciation for musical instruments. Probably the only museum I'll revisit when I get a chance.
posted by BenevolentActor at 9:32 PM on January 29, 2016

Um... Alternately...

I've also spent a day at the lakes along the Apache trail. They get crowded in summer, though. If you have an SUV you can follow the trail to lakes that are less populated. I kept going long past the paved road and had a change to wander around and see some regional desert wildlife. A very fun and memorable day.

I also once spent a day with a girlfriend there, going to an old mining town tourist trap and then searching for a Sonorran hotdog. Highly recommended if you want to find out quickly if your SO is racist and should ride home in silence. "No, now you need to use your inside voice. Meaning, the voice inside your head. Talk to it, not me." That was a long drive...
posted by BenevolentActor at 9:38 PM on January 29, 2016

The forecast for February 5th is sunny and 71 – gorgeous! I recommend spending as much time as you can outdoors: golf, hike South Mountain Park or Piestewa Peak, walk along Mill Ave and Tempe Town Lake or Old Town Scottsdale (or both). You’ll also find we have lots of options for outdoor dining & drinks. The earlier advice for the Desert Botanical Garden is perfect, but plan your visit for the evening; in addition to the Sonoran Light Show referenced by Mosk, there will be live jazz in the garden from 7-9 pm.
posted by kbar1 at 12:10 AM on January 31, 2016

If you do go to the Phoenix Art Museum, I recommend checking out the work of Philip Curtis - they have a really nice collection of his paintings.
posted by kristi at 10:33 AM on February 2, 2016

Response by poster: I went to the Desert Botanical Gardens. It was really amazing. Not only the gardens, but the bird life there. Saw lots of hummingbirds, a road runner, and a woodpecker. Really amazing place. thank you for that suggestion.
posted by Flood at 10:47 AM on February 17, 2016

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