Mike’s Travelogue: It’s easy to have a good time in Phoenix

Jun 14, 2022, 4:19 PM | Updated: Jan 11, 2023, 2:32 pm

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SPONSORED POST – No city has risen in my personal power rankings through the years more than Phoenix. Between spring training, golf trips, business meetings and now my parents snow birding there, I’ve spent a lot of time in the desert in the past few years. It’s hard to beat the combination of sun, heat, golf, and food. And I could spend an untold amount of time just staring at the saguaro cacti. Like a good vacation, each one is unique!

Plus, a trip to watch football there can lead to an especially good time. Remember, their fans are as casual as it gets (most of them have another team they grew up with). So this is your chance to out-cheer the locals.

Since I’ve been spending more time there, I’ve started to branch out from my normal routine of golf, dinner, repeat. In fact, I found some really amazing hikes that show off the scenery.

The obvious hiking spot is Camelback Mountain where you will climb to the top alongside runners and all kinds of outdoor types. But if you want a little more solitude, try the Cone Mountain Loop Trail in North Scottsdale. It’s 3.8 miles of fairly flat ground that will expose you to all kinds of local nature. There are saguaros for days and plenty of cool desert wild flowers as well. It’s also great for kids and you may see some folks riding horses in the area.

On the way there, make a reservation at the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center. They rehabilitate lots of different species of animals there and your kids will love a tour.

Yes, you will need to bring your clubs with you because the Phoenix/Scottsdale area has become a golf mecca. There are courses at nearly every price point, but here are a few of my favorites:

Verrado – 36 holes (I prefer the Founders course) set 45 minutes away in Buckeye. This is desert golf at it finest but for a more reasonable price than its Scottsdale brethren.

Greyhawk – 36 holes and none are easy. It’s not cheap, but the course is often used for college tournaments and championships.

Camelback – Another option with two 18 hole courses, but these two have very different personalities. The Padre course is a fun parks course that should provide plenty of scoring options. And Ambiente is a rare desert links course which is a challenge for any golfer.

Sun City West – No, it isn’t fancy. At all. It is one of a few courses that sits on a retirement community near Peoria. But it is a great value amid high priced options and I’ve had fun picking up with the local retirees!

Boulders Resort – 36 holes (are you noticing a theme?) set among a natural outcropping of boulders in North Scottsdale. The views are spectacular but the greens are small so make sure your accuracy is on point that day.

Boulders is also a cool place to stay, with small rental cottages and a pool heated year round. I also recommend the Hotel Valley Ho in Old Town. They renovated an old 50’s style motel (it looks like it might have been a Howard Johnson’s) and turned it into a hip, trendy and comfortable hangout with a mid-century vibe. This is where Don Draper would have stayed for sure!

If you aren’t a golfer (or you are sick of getting frustrated on the course), there are some interesting options to spend a day.

Try the Musical Instrument Museum (4725 E Mayo Blvd) in Phoenix. It has instruments from the last 6,000 years of music and plenty of interactivity.

And if you are in Old Town, you can learn more about the area and challenge your mental acuity with a Puzzle Ride. It’s essentially an escape room on wheels, where you’ll solve puzzles while being driven around the neighborhood in a modified golf cart. It’s the best kind of scavenger hunt! Fun with kids but they also have adult themed rides as well.

Let’s get to the food. There are a dizzying array of options so choosing a meal might be as simple as choosing a cuisine. But here are a few of my favorites:

Richardson’s (6335 N 16th St) and its neighbor Rokerij. Richardson’s is famous for New Mexican fare and the Rokerij is a meat-lover’s paradise.

Pizzeria Bianco (4743 N 20th St) has gourmet pizza that you shouldn’t miss.

Mastro’s (multiple locations): As good a steakhouse as you’ll find.

Sumomaya: The perfect fusion of Japanese and Mexican cuisine in a hip atmosphere.

Americano: Upscale Italian food with some of the most impressive drinks I have ever seen.

Los Dos Molinos (8646 S Central Ave). It is a hike but the authentic Mexican food and homemade tortillas are worth the ride!

Consider Culinary Dropout (multiple locations) and OHSO Brewery for casual fare. And for lunch, find an Original Chop Shop for healthy, organic salads and wraps. You’ll want to save those calories for a big dinner!

After a few days of sun, golf, food and fun, you’ll be ready to head to Glendale to watch the game. Just remember to leave some extra time to return the rental car because the rental center might be closer to SeaTac than it is to PHX!

Stadium: State Farm Stadium
Stadium Food: Churro Donut Sundae (obviously)
Seattle haunt: Skeptical Chymist (we met tons of Seattleites there in January 2015)

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