The best neighborhoods in Phoenix – Lonely Planet

In the middle of the arid mountains and landscapes of the Sonoran Desert lies Phoenix, the most populous capital of the United States. Right behind this desert metropolis are its sister cities and towns, which make up the extensive urban area of ​​Greater Phoenix.

The culture of the American Southwest is everywhere, but each neighborhood in Phoenix and the cities around it has its own vibe – artistic, family-friendly, and historic.

Here are the best neighborhoods of Greater Phoenix to explore.

Downtown Phoenix

Best neighborhood for culture and history

Skyscrapers are sprouting around downtown Phoenix, where, aside from the brisk clerks and students, the streets are remarkably quiet.

There are plenty of opportunities in this neighborhood to immerse yourself in the city’s many different cultures. Learn how each group established themselves in Phoenix at the African American-run George Washington Carver Museum and Irish Cultural Center. Relax with a stroll along trees, ponds, and Japanese architecture in the Japanese Friendship Garden, or visit the Heard Museum, which not only houses stunning Native American art, but also shows emotional accounts of Native American boarding schools – an important part of American history .

Take a break from the heat west of downtown at the Arizona State Capitol with its copper dome. Here, learn how Arizona Territory became the last state of the Lower 48 and learn about the historical impact of the bombed USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor. In front of the Capitol is the huge Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza with numerous war memorials commemorating veterans.

Arizona State University‘s downtown campus displays the eccentric public works of art, Your secret is patience. Made of twine and shaped like spiral summer monsoon clouds, it floats in the sky and sways when the wind blows. Nearby are colorful, crazy murals along Roosevelt Street (known locally as Roosevelt Row), perfect for photography.

The Phoenix Hostel and Cultural Center hosts local social justice events such as political poetry readings and documentary screenings that raise awareness of women, people of color and queer people.

Pedestrians walk down a busy street in Old Town Scottsdale, known for its souvenir shops © Getty Images

Old Town Scottsdale

Best neighborhood for the arts

Further north there is more – the legendary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright built his winter home Taliesin West on the outskirts of Scottsdale, which is now accessible. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its historical influence on modern American architecture and the Arts and Crafts movement. Wright was also the mentor of an Italian architect, Paolo Soleri, whose earthy works (the most famous being the ceramic and bronze bells) can be found in the Cosanti Gallery.

The Musical Instrument Museum has a collection of over 4,300 musical instruments from around the world, including Vanuatu log drums and Croatian bagpipes. You can even see live concerts from one of the 300 seats in the museum’s theater.


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Woman looking at musical instrument abstract sculpture in musical instrument museum in Phoenix
A woman admires a sculpture in the courtyard of the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix © Getty Images

Downtown Tempe

Best neighborhood for night life

Mill Avenue in downtown Tempe shines at night with its many lively restaurants and bars and here, too, you can satisfy your shopping thirst in specialty stores. North of Mill Avenue, walk or cycle along the oasis of Tempe Town Lake, where the city lights illuminate the water at night. Take a moment to admire the strange juxtaposition of a large lake at the foot of desert mountains and shiny modern office buildings.

During the day, join the casual hikers as you climb Oidbad Du’ag or Mount ‘A’, sacred to the indigenous people of Akimel O’odham and Piiposh. From above, you’ll have elevated views of Tempe Town Lake, shiny modern buildings, and planes taking off from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.

Southern mountain village

Best neighborhood for sightseeing

Get in touch with the desert that Phoenix calls home by staying in the foothills of South Mountain Park, one of the largest urban parks in the United States. Head to Dobbins Lookout for expansive views of metropolis Phoenix, or explore the park’s many hiking and biking trails that weave through cacti, desert scrub, and rock piles.

Mystery Castle at the base of South Mountain is full of quirky family history. An eccentric Seattle businessman built it for his daughter in the 1930s, inspired by memories of building sandcastles with her on the beach, and now tours of the knick-knack-filled rooms are open to the public.

As you drive through South Mountain Village, you’ll notice Phoenix’s vast system of canals that run parallel to the road and feed many local farms. At the Farm at South Mountain, guests can stroll through the orchards and vegetable gardens and dine in the on-site restaurant.

Since South Mountain Village is a residential neighborhood, affordable homestay accommodation is your best bet.

Mysterious castle in Phoenix.
Visitors explore the strange and wonderful Mystery Castle in Phoenix © Stephen Osman / Los Angeles Times / Getty Images

West Mesa

Best neighborhood for families

A variety of museums along Mesa Main Street are very kid-friendly. The Arizona Museum of Natural History features artifacts from ancient civilizations across America and the towering Dinosaur Mountain with lifelike models that roar and move. Nearby is the Museum of Ideas, where toddlers can be artistically active in a colorful play city.

For the sports-loving family, Sloan Park is a must as baseball fans can watch the Chicago Cubs’ annual spring practice session. Older kids will enjoy the nearby Riverview Park, which has a massive rope climbing frame.

In the Golfland Sunsplash, families can cool off on the water park rides in summer or play on the mini golf courses all year round. Five minutes’ drive away, Organ Stop Pizza is a great place for a family dinner with live music as an organist leads a huge ensemble, complete with theatrical special effects from flag displays to soap bubbles.

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