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City Review: Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix is one of those places that I feel like I've visited before yet have no recollection of doing so. You know what I mean? Like those cities where you swear you've been but it turns out it was just the connecting airport on your way to your final destination.

After spending a couple days in Phoenix I'm fairly positive that's the longest amount of time I've ever spent there but I'm happy to report that I would definitely be open to a longer visit in the future! Phoenix is the 5th largest US City and as such it has lots to offer visitors no matter your age or area of interest.

As the 4th or second to last stop of our two week cross-country road trip, we were most looking forward to warmer temperatures and lots of time outdoors in Phoenix. While it's a two hour drive from Phoenix, Sedona was also on our list of must-visit destinations so we decided to spend some time in the beautiful Red Rock Country as well.

Comparatively speaking, we didn't do a whole lot while in Phoenix. As we near the end of our road trip and move Westward back home, we've not only been met by more restrictions due to COVID-19, but we've found ourselves slowing down a bit and spending more time in nature than anywhere else. Phoenix was no exception to that.

That being said, here is my City Review of Phoenix, Arizona.

On our first official morning in Phoenix, we stopped by Foxy Fruit Acai Bowls and Smoothies located in The Churchill, which is essentially a modern food court offering a variety of food and drink in an industrial, open-air building. Our diet has been all out of whack over the course of the last two weeks, as expected during travel, so we were quite looking forward to an açaí bowl and/or smoothie to start the day. Not only is The Churchill a fun place to grab some delicious food or enjoy a drink at one of the bars but Foxy Fruit has an incredible offering of healthy bowls, smoothies and additional snacks. Everything is so beautiful and vibrant too! Highly recommend making Foxy Fruit and The Churchill a stop during your next Phoenix visit.

Once our açaí bowl craving was satisfied, we made the drive to the Echo Canyon Trail at Camelback Mountain. Based on my research of Phoenix, Camelback seemed to be the most popular trail and hike for tourists and locals alike and being that we were desperate to get outside, we were eager to check out this local hotspot. Keep in mind that we were visiting during the off-season but it was still fairly busy. Not unbearably so but we were definitely never alone during our climb and/or descent. As someone who is VERY afraid of heights, I will tell you that I felt extremely safe and secure while hiking Camelback Mountain. It's definitely not for the faint of heart being that you spend most of the time ascending actual rocks but boy is it worth it. It took us about 4 hours round trip to complete the hike but bear in mind we spent some time at the top enjoying the views and definitely took our time both climbing and descending, allowing other, perhaps faster hikers to pass. Should you want to hike Camelback, I would recommend getting to the trailhead as early as possible. The parking lot was completely full when we arrived just before noon and we had to circle a couple times before finding a spot. Being that it's a longer hike too, I wouldn't recommend starting too late in the day either as it closes at sunset time - rightfully so.

After working up a sufficient appetite, we were excited to indulge at the ZuZu Restaurant at Hotel Valley Ho in Phoenix. This "retro-chic" restaurant has an incredible offering of traditional American eats and inventive drinks including their over-the-top milkshakes which is of course what we were most looking forward to. In addition to the seasonal Show Stopper milkshake which I would definitely recommend, I would also recommend their Parmesan Truffle Fries. You know I'm a sucker for fries and these ones did not disappoint! Located at the Hotel Valley Ho in Phoenix, the ZuZu Restaurant also has a great vibe and offers both indoor and outdoor seating.

Our second day in Phoenix was dedicated to Sedona. Before making the two hour trek we stopped at Kream Coffee for our morning pick me up. Located quite close to ARRIVE Phoenix, this little coffeeshop came highly recommended. We picked up our morning drinks from the ordering window and hit the road. In my opinion the coffee was okay but I'm not sure I would visit again.

The drive from Phoenix to Sedona is not bad at all. It was a quick 2 hours before we found ourselves surrounded by the beautiful red rocks. In navigating we drove straight to the Devil's Bridge Trail. There is a parking lot located at the start of the trail and while it was busy, we only looped around once before claiming our spot. The Devil's Bridge Trail and Camelback Mountain are pretty much on opposite ends of the spectrum. The Devil's Bridge Trail is a mile of flat walking on red dirt and rocks before you encounter more of a hike up, ascending some rocks before reaching the top. While very easy, I would say given the dirt and the trail, Devil's Bridge did feel a bit more treacherous than Camelback.

Once we made it to the bridge, there was a line of about 15 or so people in front of us waiting to make the walk out on the bridge and have their photo taken. That was the moment when my stomach completely dropped. As someone who is DEATHLY afraid of heights, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to walk out and have that coveted photo taken truth be told. Standing there, waiting, watching other people make the walk out had my heart racing and I was fully prepared to turn around and walk back, however I had made it all that way and wanted to push myself to conquer my fear. I'm happy to report that the scariest part was actually waiting to make the walk out. As long as you don't look down LOL, the bridge itself is actually not scary at all. It's quite wide and you can easily forget you're standing on this suspended rock bridge. Definitely worth the hike and conquering the fear should you share a fear of heights with me. The views from this hike are just spectacular in general. Pictures truly won't do this one justice.

After recovering from the Devil's Bridge Trail hike, we visited Tlaquepaque Arts and Shopping Village in Sedona. Recommended as the shopping destination in Sedona, Tlaquepaque is home to beautiful local art, jewelry and other gifts. The shopping center itself is beautiful and a joy to walk around but I will say that most of the items found there appeared to fall on the higher end as far as prices go so if you're looking to invest in a gift or item to commemorate your experience in Sedona, then look no farther!

We concluded our afternoon in Sedona with smoothies from Berry Divine which has a robust offering of both smoothies and açaí bowls, before making the trek back to Phoenix.

We left around 4pm from Sedona and what a perfect and beautiful time to depart. We were surrounded by the beautiful red rocks before experiencing the setting sun as we said goodbye to Sedona.

Being that we only spent a matter of hours in Sedona, I would definitely want to go back and experience more of this magical city. Those few hours were of course incredible but I know there's lots more to see and do in this beautiful destination so I look forward to returning to Sedona at some point in the future.

Once back in Phoenix we grabbed dinner at Lylo Swim Club located at ARRIVE Phoenix. The ambiance in this Japanese-Hawaiian inspired restaurant is sublime. In addition to the bar area, they have great outdoor seating where you can sit and enjoy the view of the pool and/or a warm, Phoenix evening. While we didn't indulge on that particular night, Lylo has an incredible offering of cocktails. While I can't recommend any cocktails in particular, I would highly recommend the Albacore Tataki starter which was absolutely delicious! To be quite honest, I don't believe I've ever had a poke bowl prior to visiting Lylo so I'm not sure I'm exactly the expert when it comes to this type of food so please take my opinion with a grain of salt. I had the spicy tuna bowl which was not exactly what I was expecting/hoping for. After our experience with the delicious Albacore Tataki starter, I was hoping the tuna in my bowl would mimic that however it was more along the lines of the texture of tuna you eat from a can. The starter at Lylo was delicious but the meal itself was not necessarily something I would order again. Well worth visiting for a drink and starter though given the ambiance!

Prior to departing Phoenix for our final stop in Palm Springs, we made a couple last minute stops including one to Frances which was recommended as one of the top shopping destinations in Phoenix - and for good reason! This gift shop has something for everyone. From jewelry and apparel to local gifts, Frances is a must-visit.

Lastly, when I was doing my research on Phoenix I was quite excited to find that they have Half Price Books, one of my favorite places to visit while I'm home in Sacramento. We of course made a stop and boy am I glad we did. The location we visited was absolutely spectacular with a wide array of books, magazines, music and more including beautiful classic editions of books. If you haven't visited a Half Price Books yet and have one in your area I highly recommend visiting. Just to give you an idea of the wonder that is Half Price, we purchased six books for $48. I know, it's incredible.

While we didn't do a ton of things in Phoenix compared to the other cities we've visited, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in this thriving metropolis and will definitely be back for an extended trip. As you know, Phoenix is a place that can (and often) gets quite hot so I would definitely recommend considering scheduling a visit during the off-season as we did when you can enjoy some milder temperatures.

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