20. Enjoy great city views via Hole-in-the-Rock at Papago Park

City views from Hole in the Rock at Papago Park in Phoenix AZ

Papago Park offers a number of activities for anyone looking to get out there and enjoy the desert scenery, including beautiful trails, a small lake stocked with catfish and trout, an exercise course, a golf course, and baseball fields. The dramatic sandstone buttes set the scenery apart from other recreational areas in town. However, the real reason you come to Papago is to check out Hole-in-the-Rock, a unique sandstone rock that has eroded, and thus, now provides a great lookout into the city. Plan your hike around sunset for the most fabulous views!

21. Test out some local cuisine

Chicken alfredo pasta at Va Bene in Chandler AZ

Yes, Phoenix is most well known for being home to unending suburbia with endless options for feasting at standard chains. And really, you cannot drive down one street without seeing all the familiar favorites. However, you will also find endless original restaurants, if you can just bypass the common chains. For breakfast, Scramble is a wonderful choice. Elements at Sanctuary at Camelback Mountain is another great choice, with the added bonus of wonderful mountain views.

Phoenix has many great Italian restaurants. Check out Cibo Pizza downtown (fantastic outdoor dining!) or Va Bene. If you are on a special diet, you must try out Picazzo’s Organic Italian Kitchen, a wonderful regional Italian chain with a 100% gluten-free menu! Basically, you can find a great ethnic restaurant just about anywhere! Also, there is an unending supply of fabulous Mexican restaurants – try Barrio for starters.

22. Challenge yourself to a stair climbing workout like no other

Nice views of the city from the Piestewa Peak trail in Phoenix

Even hard core fitness buffs like myself will find Piestewa Peak the ultimate challenge. Really there is no other hike like it in the area. A mile plus of unending climbing (including many rough rocky sections and scary steep sections) leads you to some pretty amazing overlooks, where you can feast your eyes on both urban and desert scenery. Out of all the hikes, this one offers the most scenic view of the Phoenix skyline.

Elevation gain is 1200 feet, although the hike feels much rougher than others with the same gain. This really is a hike where you need to do some preplanning including being prepared with extra water (I recommend a camelbak) and snacks. Take plenty of breaks along the way to appreciate the amazing vistas! Avoid this hike at all costs during the summer season – it is challenging enough during the cooler winter months!

23. Spend a hot summer day cooling off at a mega waterpark

Lazy river at Sunsplash waterpark in Mesa, Arizona

Sometimes, the weather outside is just too hot to do much outside. When the temp crawls past 100, the best option is to skip the outdoor recreation, that is unless you consider a water based activity. This is when a waterpark becomes even more attractive! Phoenix is home to several large waterparks, so you can find one no matter where you are staying.

Golfland/Sunsplash in Mesa is my favorite as they have multiple tube and body slides, a really fun water roller coaster, a fantastic lazy river, and a huge wave pool. All the attractions make it feel almost more like a theme park than a simple water park, which is great because Arizona is sorely lacking in the theme park department. Special Night hours are just an added bonus. They also are home to the area’s best mini golf course.

24. Take advantage of all the great outdoor patio dining

Cibo in downtown Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix is known for having some of the best patio dining in the country, which really is not a surprise considering that the weather is perfect for outdoor dining for more than half the year. Almost every restaurant has a patio area, with some being better than others. The resort restaurants typically offer the most spectacular setting.

One of the best choices is Cibo Pizza downtown. They have a gorgeous little garden seating area with twinkle lights at night. The woodfired pizza is terrific and it’s nice to get out in the city for a change. Other top rated choices include Chelsea’s Kitchen, House of Tricks, Olive & Ivy, and Orange Sky at the Talking Stick Casino.

25. Enjoy endless outdoor recreation at South Mountain

The peaceful Kiwanis Trail at South Mountain Park in Phoenix, Arizona

South Mountain is the favorite hiking hotspot of most locals. This is because there are so many trails to choose amongst, from a 1/2 mile nature loop to a 14 mile all day adventure. Really, it’s impossible to ever run out of new hiking options. With over 16,000 acres, the park is one of the largest city parks in the world!

Over 51 miles of trails will keep even the most intense hikers busy all year round. Not into hiking? The trails are also open to mountain bikers and horseback riders. Plus, there is a nice scenic drive with various overlooks. Note: Like all other hiking areas, it is not recommended to hit the trails when the temp reaches triple digits. Also, dogs are prohibited on trails on days where temps reach 100 or higher.