Where to stay in Phoenix/Tucson?
December 27, 2017 2:45 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for recommendations for where to stay in Phoenix/Tucson this month.

The cold here in Calgary is killing me right now, so my wife and I thought we would spend a few days somewhere warm in the US that was reachable by a short direct flight.

We are thinking Phoenix/Tucson, mainly because we want to see Saguaro National Park. But Phoenix has attractions of its own like the Yayoi Kusama at the art museum, and Taliesin West. AskMe has provided other Phoenix recommendations like the botanical garden.

Any recommendations as to where we should stay? Is it feasible to stay in one spot, or should we divide the trip into Phoenix and Tucson? In Phoenix, do we want downtown or some suburb?

We are thinking 4 nights, and we are bringing our 10 month old baby. Ideally there would be non-chain restaurants around the hotel that we could bring a baby to. Also we like to walk around and will be bringing a stroller.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe to Travel & Transportation around Arizona (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You could absolutely spend all that time in the Phoenix area. There's lots to do there. I'd probably rather go up to Sedona or somewhere scenic than down to another flat city like Tucson.

Phoenix is an incredibly sprawly city and all the main sites are spread out. Downtown is a business hub, there's not much going on there at night (although there's a new outdoor mall thingy by the stadium since I left, so that situation may have changed). There are good restaurants but they are scattered and few hotels would be within walking range of multiple good ones. There are slightly more pedestrian friendly areas in downtown Tempe and Scottsdale but FYI the former is filled with college students and the latter with retirees. Scottsdale is expensive and geographically isolated (not light rail accessible) but has great restaurants (some probably not baby friendly) and lots of boutique shops to walk around. Tempe is on light-rail, has a lovely town lake area (man made) and last I was there it was a solid mix of cheaper non-chains and chains (all aimed mostly at ASU kids). The ASU campus pretty much runs right into the Tempe downtown area so it has very much a college town feel. I'd probably stay somewhere on light rail in Tempe.

My Favorite Things in the Phoenix Area:
fry bread/carne asada fries/expensive Mexican fusion food
Popago Park/Botanical Garden
Cosanti/Taleisin West
Drive/Hike in Superstition Wilderness (even the drive is nice)
Four Peaks Brewing
Camelback Mountain (probably too steep to hike with baby carrier, but I bet tons do.
The Kusama room is very cool

Edit: In case it wasn't clear, Scottsdale and Tempe are cities within the greater Phoenix area
posted by cyphill at 4:05 PM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Assuming you're flying into Phoenix? Based on your plans to head to Saguaro, I'd spend 3 nights in Phoenix and one in Tucson. Phoenix is a big city with lots more to do and Tucson is more of a laid back, small town feel. I'm not crazy about Scottsdale but if you're wanting to go somewhere in the Phoenix area that's walkable and you like shopping and restaurants, it's a perfectly fine place to spend an afternoon. I've spent more time in Tucson than Phoenix so I can't help much with Phoenix recs, but there are some great places to eat in Tucson (and it's cheaper than Phoenix overall). Mi Nidito is my fave, as well as Welcome Diner, Mariscos Chihuahua, La Indita, and Seis.
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 5:04 PM on December 27, 2017

Tucson's pretty great, and is surrounded by Saguaro National Park. I prefer Tucson to Phoenix, but I don't like big sprawly cities, so that's my thing - Tucson's still sprawly, but it's smaller. Either way you go, prepare to spend an unhealthy amount of time driving from thing to thing, particularly Taliesin West, which is awesome but is also in a relatively remote corner of Phoenix's sprawl.

Tucson has tons of good food - Little Cafe Poca Cosa is probably the best Mexican you'll find anywhere, Maynard's is good for wine and cheese-type stuff (and there's a cool view from their back deck), and you'll never go wrong going to Casa Molina for basic Mexican food (their salsa is amazing). At any Tucson restaurant, if the menu features carne seca, get it, in whatever form it arrives - tacos, burritos, whatever. Barrio Brewing's a good brewpub in a cool building, as well.

If you can, stay at the Lodge On the Desert. It was built in the 30's and the rooms still maintain that character and style. It's a resort without the over-the-topness of most resorts.
posted by pdb at 5:07 PM on December 27, 2017

Nthing pdb’s suggestions including the hotel (stayed there twice, it’s lovely) and restaurant. I liked the desert museum; the Pima air and space if that’s your thing; and the Titan missle museum was fun even though I’m not highly inclined toward the subject matter. In Phoenix, the musical instrument museum was better than expected. Tucson has a nice botanical garden, too. All would be fine with the kiddo.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 7:24 PM on December 27, 2017

I'm actually pretty fond of Old Town Scottsdale and Mill Ave (in Scottsdale and Tempe respectively), both places have a decent mix of chains to non-chain restaurants although the non-chains probably are tucked back from the street a bit. Both areas are fairly walkable, but since I've lived here my whole life I can't really recommend any hotels.

The only issue with the Valley is that we have "pockets" of interest, like the downtown Core with various museums and the newer outdoor shopping, then OT Scottsdale with it's billion art galleries and high end restaurants, or Mill with its college town vibe and the lake, but going from one to another is not super convenient, so if you haven't been convinced to just explore and relax in Tucson the whole time, I'd use trip advisor to figure out the things in the Phx area you'd really like to see, then map out travel time between those things to make a loose itinerary.
posted by sharp pointy objects at 1:21 PM on December 28, 2017

Here to recommend the Musical Instrument Museum as well - I was highly skeptical because I don't play any instruments and am not a huge history fan, but it was actually really enjoyable and interesting. We only planned 2 hours for it but could have spent 3-4, we ended up having to rush through the Europe/some of the America section (it's organized by region).
posted by jouir at 6:07 PM on December 28, 2017

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