I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was heading to Arizona to celebrate my birthday. I love traveling to Arizona during the winter months. Even when the temperatures drop below what the locals prefer (as they did on my trip), they are far preferable to what Idaho has to offer during February and there is so much fun to be had in and around Phoenix.
I should probably mention that winter is Phoenix’s busy season. While the rest of the country is hunkered down under snow and cold, snowbirds and tourists are living it up under the Arizona sun. So while winter can be a lovely time to visit Phoenix, it can also be a little more busy and costly (although we are not talking Disneyland-on-the-4th-of-July here). Just keep in the mind the pros and cons; winter’s lovely weather attracts a lot more people whereas summer’s almost unbearable temperatures come with steals on golfing, spas and hotels. Take your pick.
Since I hate the heat, I much prefer to deal with a few more people and get out of snowy Idaho. It does not hurt that I have a couple of really great girlfriends who take very good care of me every time I visit their home state. Below is a list of some of my favorite things to do while visiting the Phoenix area.
Eat at Oregano’s
Dining at least once at Oregano’s Pizza Bistro has become the activity I cannot leave Arizona without doing. I am note sure why I love this place so much, but I do. They have several locations, but sadly, none are located outside of Arizona. So you have to go there to get your fix. Everything from the salads to the pasta to the pizza is delicious. But make sure you save room for dessert and order the Pizookie. Trust me.
Eating in general is a pretty fun thing to do in Arizona. There are a plethora of great restaurants. Mexican food is practically a requirement for visitation rights to the state. I have no complaints about the places we tried out. It was particularly delightful to visit The Farm at South Mountain, a farm-to-table dining experience where our lunch was served to us in baskets and we ate under the old pecan trees. We also headed to Gilbert one night, a mecca for all the great eats in Arizona. The night ended just right with a Salt River Bar from Liberty Market.
It is Arizona…get outside!
All that eating is going to require some exercise. Thankfully, winter is a wonderful time to get outside in Arizona. It is hard to recommend this in the middle of summer, but in the middle of winter, I cannot recommend it enough. My girlfriend lives near a canal that hosts a very nice bike path. Simply walking on it with the sun shining is one of my favorite things to do whenever I visit (again, during the wintertime). The path runs by a park with a disc golf course and there are always people out there enjoying themselves.
On this last trip, we took a hike. There are some great trails around Phoenix and for years I have been wanting to try one out. However, it has always been too hot on my previous trips. This time, the temperatures cooperated and we had excellent hiking weather. The girls and I headed to South Mountain, which provided a plethora of hiking options for all fitness levels. We went a little bigger than expected but I had a great time. I will say though, the trails are not marked well so make sure to download a trail map and use basic safety precautions (e.g. drink plenty of water). My friends were telling me about all the people who injure themselves hiking every year because they are unprepared for the Arizona trails.
Side note: if you are a golfer, it does not get much better than Phoenix in the winter. I do not do much more than embarrass myself at the driving range. However, if I was any good, you can bet a round of golf would be on the list of things to do in Arizona.
Visit a spa
There is no lack of spas and resorts in and around Phoenix. As I mentioned earlier, it will be tough to find spa deals in the dead of winter. But if you are there any other time of the year, especially summer, look for a Groupon or Travelzoo deal. Even without a really good deal, I find a trip to the spa worth my time and resources. It is an excellent way to treat yourself and really feel like you are on vacation.
We decided to forgo the spa day on my last trip because it was a little too cold to sit around the pool in our swimsuits. But in the past, quality girl time and pampering has been had at the Boulders Resort and Spa in Scottsdale. I highly recommend it.
Watch a movie in luxury
I am pretty sure luxury cinemas are popping up all over. But we do not have them in Idaho yet, so catching a movie in one while visiting Arizona is a fun idea. For us, it was a great way to get out of the rain (yes, it sometimes rains in Arizona…although judging by the way people stared at it, I would say it does not happen often). In the summertime, a movie in a luxury theater would be a great way to get out of the heat. Either way, make sure you pick up your tickets ahead of time. Seats are limited and you want to reserve before you show up.
In general, I do not consider myself a big shopper. But I find myself doing a lot of it whenever I visit Phoenix. Perhaps it is because they have such great shopping centers. And when the heat gets to you, malls make a nice place to cool off. On this last trip, we spent some time wandering around the shops in Old Town Scottsdale. The area is really cute and the shops sell everything from tourist knickknacks to local handmade items.
In the wintertime, I recommend you check out the local farmers markets. You can probably check them out in the summer as well, but it does not have quite the appeal that wandering around outside does when you know everyone back home is holed up inside avoiding the cold.
Take in a sporting event
So I have not done this as much as I would like now that I think about it, but there are a lot of great options for sporting events in Phoenix. Of course, there are the professional teams like the Arizona Cardinals and Arizona Diamondbacks, but there are also sporting events for the local universities and those can be a lot of fun. And do not forget, Arizona is home to spring training for MLB. So take advantage of that if you can.
There is more to Phoenix than 100 degree days. They have plenty of those! But they also have a lot of really fun things to do. I recommend you visit during the winter months and soak up all the sun you can.