Everyone likes a bucket list, a lot of people like Phoenix… so here we are. Like any list I am sure someone will want to add something so please let me know in the comments! Phoenix has a ton to do being the 5th largest city in the USA and 13th largest metro population. Whether you like the outdoors, food, to party or a unique experience then Phoenix has it all for you.
Even locals don’t know everything thus there are some secrets sprinkled throughout that hopefully can let you appreciate all of what Phoenix as to offer. With year round great weather there are endless bucket list options making it hard to keep the list small but… Without further ado, here is the list and please feel free to add more to it!
16. Pat’s Run
Nothing screams American more Pat Tillman. As you probably know Tillman left a dream job playing in the NFL to serve his country. Regardless of your views on way, his service and sacrifice is clearly incredible and one of the most honorable things you can think of. Unfortunately Tillman was killed serving in Afghanistan but his memory lives on. Tillman was an Arizona icon playing for ASU and then being drafted and playing for the Arizona Cardinals. Every year thousands of people participate to honor his legacy and fundraise for the Pat Tillman Scholars Foundation.
15. Visit The Bat Cave
Who knew Arcadia was full of blood suckers… According to Atlas Obscura, Every year from May to October approximately 10,000 to 20,000 Mexican Free-tailed bats flock to Phoenix on their migration south to Mexico. During the day, they gather within the “cave” to rest and sleep. But at night, they emerge and fill the sky.
To get to the tunnel, walk north west from 40th Street and Camelback on the northernmost end of the Arizona Canal Trail. Google maps does have a location labeled “Batcave Parking”. If this cannot be found, use Chelsea’s Kitchen as a waypoint. Parking can be found at either of these two locations, or at the office buildings surrounding the area.
14. Do A Brewery Crawl
Phoenix has been a growing brewery hub with a ton of breweries popping up each year throughout the state. From beer to spirits you are surely able to locate something for your tastes. The big names to stop by are Four Peaks Brewery, SanTan Brewery, Huss Brewing Company and O.H.S.O. is another great one to try! There is a smaller growing brewery that is terrific as well called Helio Basin Brewery. If you are into beer than Phoenix is a good spot to try some new great things!
13. Visit Christmas At The Princess
While a little pricey, it is a great spot to find Christmas in the middle of the desert. If you want to get in the festive spirit there is no better place to do it then at The Princess. There is a skating rink, train that takes you through christmas lights, s’mores village, a ferris wheel, liquored up hot chocolates & coffees and more! A tip to save money is if you eat at a restaurant on the site then you get to park for free thus skipping the $50+ parking fee.
12. Watch The Cactus League Spring Training
Even if you don’t like baseball, Spring Training is a must do as it is a certified good time. Spring Training in Phoenix isn’t about the baseball as it is about the people watching and being outside with some drinks in the perfect weather catching some rays.
Find a nice spot on the grass with your drink, friends and enjoy the viewing. I highly suggest getting bikes and making a day out of it with a visit to the Scottsdale Stadium in Old Town. Grab some brunch, head to the game and then bike to the old town bars if you want some extra fun. Some of the more popular stadiums are the aforementioned Scottsdale Stadium, Salt River Fields and Sloan Park.
11. Eat Mexican Food At Barrio Queen or Los Taquitos
If you are in Phoenix than Mexican Food is a must. There are a ton of great Mexican restaurants like the swanky Mission, fusion places like Sumo Maya, trendy spots like Blanco Tacos and Tequila or the more authentic spots like Barrio Queen, Barrio Cafe or legendary Los Taquitos.
10. Float Down The Salt River
Floating the Salt River might be the most underrated activity in Phoenix. Cool off from the desert heat floating down a river, drink in hand, music playing and watch hundreds to thousands of people enjoying the perfect day on the water.
9. Check out First Friday in downtown Phoenix
First Friday sneaks in here as it is a local favorite. It is a street festival for families and date nights where you can enjoy a night of walking around, street performers, art, shopping and some next level people watching. The event continues to grow yearly and it is definitely something to checkout for a couple of hours, grab some food or even a drink from the many bars along Roosevelt Row.
8. Go To A Secret Local Bar
Phoenix has a plethora of hidden bar gems outside of the typical sites you see in old town or on Mill ave. Go get local and checkout some of the lesser tourist destinations. Whether it is Valley Bar down an alley, the speakeasy Honor Amongst Thieves, Undertow down the stairs of Sip Coffee House or the hidden Straight Up Whiskey Bar at Hotel Adeline there are a plethora of places in Phoenix to escape the ordinary. A couple other great options are The Duce or Cobra Arcade Bar to see a great spot local love.
7. Watch A Show At the Orpheum Theatre
The historic Orpheum Theatre is over 90 years old and is the place to see the Phoenix Opera, Broadway Musicals and more. The building is stunning inside and out and is a must do when visiting Phoenix. There have been significant renovations upgrading the building while keeping its historic charm.
6. Pretzel Fondue at a Fox Concept Restaurant
There are so many great places to eat in Phoenix such as my favorites Ristorante Giuseppe or Lolo’s Chicken & Waffles but to pick something iconic I decided to go towards Phoenix’s own Sam Fox who started his Fox Restaurants that took Phoenix by storm and are branching out all over the US. The main dish that everyone is a sucker for is the Pretzel Fondue, however you will enjoy most anything on the menus. Culinary Dropout locations and Arrogant Butcher are restaurants where you can indulge on this simple yet taste treat.
5. See A Desert Dwelling Nightmare Giver
Phoenix is the desert and the desert is home to some interesting species as you can imagine. While it is on the creepy side surely a bucket list items means seeing one of the main three chill-givers out on the desert on a hike. While scary it is unique and interesting to run into a rattlesnake, scorpion or a tarantula. They aren’t seen often however if you are lucky or unlucky enough… you can check that off the list.
4. Party like it is Vegas, in Old Town Scottsdale
No trip is complete without getting absolutely train-wrecked in Old Town Scottsdale. What started with a few bars has turned into a strip of debauchery and all-day and night fun. If you like drinking games, country music, pools or just going hard in a nightclub, Old Town has it all for you. It is known as the vortex for good reason as once you get sucked in, it is impossible to get out.
3. Ride A Bull At Buffalo Chip Saloon & Steakhouse
That’s right… I said ride a bull… and not a mechanical one. If you are into country then the Chip in Cave Creek is the best time. You can watch bull-riding, be outside, by the fire pits, eat s’mores or BBQ and do some dancing inside. The Chip can be a great dinner and pre-game spot as well, head up there from 7-10 and then head back down to Old Town. They have a BBQ buffet dinner up there, which is solid and it’s indoor/outdoor making it a great space for AZ. Friday night is when they have the amateur and pro bull riding making them the days to go. If you want to ride you need to call the Monday week of to reserve a spot.
2. Hike Camelback Mountain
Hiking in Phoenix and Arizona is in general something you have to do when visiting. While you can hike multiple great trails in the area, Camelback takes the cake as the #1 place to go if you have to choose one. Camelback is trendy and a place to be seen or take your token Scottsdale Instagram picture. It is Phoenix’s version to Runyon Canyon as the people watching is great and it is a hell of a workout. Be prepared, if you are not local then wear proper footwear, bring lots of water and do not go when it is hot as people die on Camelback each year.
1. Waste Management Phoenix Open
Billed as the greatest party on grass, the WMO doesn’t disappoint even if you hate golf. The WMO can be compared to the Kentucky Derby or Indy 500 and should definitely be a bucket-list item. Each year this event gets more ridiculous adding more bars along the fairways, people, food and more chaos. Fun can be had whether you get a general admission ticket or spend some cash to get into the coveted 16th Green Skyboxes or the Greenskeeper area.
The WMO also doubles down with the Coors Light Birds Nest, which is a set of great nightly concerts showcasing top level artists and bands nightly. If you didn’t have enough fun at the event then head over to the Birds Nest and keep the party going. If there are any negatives it is that it is getting too popular with Saturday being chaos, lineups and significant growing prices each year.
Time go get other there and check things off your list! If you want to add something to this list please let me know in the comments!