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Whether you’ve lived in or near Phoenix for a month or a decade, it’s almost a guarantee that you haven’t seen everything the downtown area has to offer. Not only is Phoenix gaining notoriety for its buzzing tech scene, but it’s rich with art, community, great food, and an overall creative culture. On your next day off, treat yourself—or your family—to a fun day of downtown Phoenix tourism.
Start your day with the right cup of coffee.
You could pop a K-cup into your Keurig or run to the nearest Starbucks, but why not start your day with something different? Downtown Phoenix is rife with diverse and eclectic coffee shops. The Bicycle Nomad Café is located inside of The Velo, an independent bike shop on 2nd Street. Songbird Coffee & Tea House serves handmade beverages and pastries inside a historic Phoenix home. Futuro whips up rich espresso drinks in a modern and minimalist art gallery. No matter your preferred café vibe, there are plenty of places in Phoenix to get your morning buzz.
Learn something new.
What better way to learn and relax than by going to a museum? Metro Phoenix as a whole is home to countless museums big and small, but downtown Phoenix is known for a particular few. If you have younger kids, the Arizona Science Center is an excellent choice; the museum holds fun, interactive lessons on sharks, butterflies, outer space, and more. The Arizona Science Center includes an educational IMAX theater and hosts the annual Arizona Science and Engineering fair for grades 5-12. If your kids are older or you’re with a friend or date, try the Heard Museum (which technically sits closer to midtown). Dedicated to “advancing American Indian art,” the Heard Museum displays masterpieces by indigenous peoples from around the world. Both Phoenix museums are wonderful places to share an enlightening stroll with loved ones.
Spruce up your home with some fresh greenery.
Did you know keeping plants in your home or office can improve your overall wellbeing? (Plus, let’s face it: they simply look good.) Lucky for you, Arizona native Michael Lanier has made it easy to pick up a pretty plant or two while out on the town. The little shop sits inside MonOrchid, a coworking and event space, alongside Be Coffee + Food + Stuff, another spectacular downtown café. The Bosque is downtown Phoenix’s first plant shop and the product of Michael’s heartwarming love for nature. The tiny store is a favorite among locals and a huge hit during First Fridays on Roosevelt Row. Michael recently opened a sister store, The Pueblo, on 10th St and Pierce; this store boasts a patio with a greenhouse and even more space for vibrant succulents. No matter which store you go to, grabbing a plant from The Bosque or The Pueblo is a quintessential part of downtown Phoenix life.
Chow down at an independently-owned restaurant.
This is where you truly can’t run out of options. Downtown Phoenix’s foodie scene is guaranteed to please, regardless of what you’re craving. One great choice for larger groups or families is De Soto Central Market, an indoor “gourmet food court” of sorts made up of independent restaurants. After ordering from eateries like DCM Burger Joint, Walrus & the Pearl, The Larder + the Delta, and more, guests take a seat in the communal space to eat together. For those seeking a more traditional experience, Welcome Diner, The Arrogant Butcher, and The Duce are great options that still provide a unique downtown experience. No chain restaurants today!
Like with any other city you “visit,” you’ll need a souvenir to take home. MADE Art Boutiqueon Roosevelt and 5th Street sells a wide variety of goods handmade by local artists—often with an Arizona theme. At MADE you can pick up desert wall art, sterling silver cactus necklaces, funny Arizona postcards, and much more. Shop owner Cindy Dach (co-owner of Changing Hands Bookstore) even sells her small embroidery wall hangings at MADE. No matter your personal style, you’ll find something unique to remember your day by.
End the day on a good note.
Downtown Phoenix has some of the best nightlife in the Valley. If you’re feeling adventurous after your busy day, check out Valley Bar, a speakeasy that hides inside a notable 1949 building. (You know they’re open when the red light is on outside.) Valley Bar features a Rose Room, named after Arizona’s first female governor. Even better, cocktail menu consists of drinks named after different Arizona politicians. If the kids are tagging along or you’re not feeling the bar atmosphere, try Melt, located next to MADE. Melt makes fresh ice cream in-house, each flavor a bigger surprise than the next. A few local favorites include horchata, Captain Crunch, and iced tea. Why not finish the day with something sweet?
Just because you’ve lived in the Valley for a while doesn’t mean you can’t take a day to enjoy its quirks and points of pride. What else will you do on your day as a tourist in downtown Phoenix?