If all you know of succulents and cacti is that they are easy, slow growing additions to a desk or a bedside, you are gravely unprepared for Arizona. Prickly pear, agave, and saguaro cacti line highways, grow wild in the desert, and are the foundation for many a home’s hardscaping. These, in combination with citrus trees and skyscraper-level palm trees, make for a vacation for the books.
Within an hour of arriving at Anne’s aunt and uncle’s house in Scottsdale, I nearly crashed my bike as I ogled the biggest barrel cactus I had ever seen. Little did I know this was just the beginning. Our trip was filled with time at the pool, delicious food, cool museums, Cubs spring training games, and a lot (A LOT) of plants. If you’re planning a trip to the Phoenix area, I cannot recommend the following enough. Some of these suggestions originally came from Sarah Rhodes (@arrowandapple) and Jayme Henderson (@hollyandflora). Thanks you two!
To-Dos in Arizona
Desert Botanical Garden | The Desert Botanical Garden is filled to the brim with native plants and wildlife, but it’s unlike any other botanical garden I’ve ever been to. Saguaro and organ pipe cacti reach 70 feet into the sky, and the agave will measure close to your wingspan. Be sure to carve out at least half a day here in order to walk all of the trails, eat at the relaxing restaurant, and browse the gift shop for plants. Oh, and don’t forget to go home with a few saguaro seeds from a volunteer. Mine are germinating, and if all goes well, they’ll grow 1-2 inches in the first year!
Phoenix Public Market | This open air market is definitely worth adding to your list. It’s open on Saturdays from 8a-1p, and is the perfect spot to meet local farmers, artisans, and bakers. One of our favorite booths was Radish, a fresh-pressed juice company with pretty amazing juice combinations.
Musical Instrument Museum | “Anyone with a love of music should be legally bound to make a pilgrimage to this museum, missing out on it would be a crime.” MIM hosts the largest collection of musical instruments in the world, and it is awe-inspiring to say the least. The exhibits are attainable for any visitor, and their headset technology allows you to hear all of the instruments they have on display. Is hearing them not enough, though? Visit the Experience Gallery for a chance to play a curated selection of instruments.
Changing Hands Bookstore | Do you like books? Do you like beer? Changing Hands is not only a bookstore, it’s home to First Draft Bar. Roam the aisles with a beer in hand, or sit and meet other bookworms over a drink. Changing Hands offers an excellent selection of new and used books. I almost lost Anne forever here.
Baseball games | Spring in Arizona wouldn’t be complete without a little baseball! The Cactus League is what brought Anne and her family down from Chicago in March. We went to a couple of Cubs games and enjoyed lounging on the outfield lawn.
To-Eats in Arizona
Vovomeena | Portuguese for “Grandma Meena,” this is a great place for breakfast or brunch. Cute decor, friendly staff, and good coffee.
Joyride Taco House | Just know that you probably won’t want to leave. Besides the jaw-droppingly good tacos, enjoy a prickly pear margarita on the patio and take in the hip and well-curated vibe. The veggie tacos were delicious.
FnB | The chef at FnB isn’t called the “veggie whisperer” for nothing. We ordered what felt like the better half of the menu and indulged in our dinner there for over two hours. Each plate had incredible depth and a unique combination of ingredients. We left asking ourselves, “Do you think they’d cater our wedding in rural Wisconsin?” It was that good.
Sweet Republic | Even if you think you don’t have enough room left for dessert, you’ll have enough room left for Sweet Republic. They’ve been featured in Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and Time Magazine for good reason. I ordered the black sesame ice cream just to try something different, and was not disappointed. Their ice cream is all-natural, local, and homemade.
(Other spots that were recommended to us but our bellies were too full: Lux, Federal Pizza, St. Francis, Fame, Rollover Doughnuts, Nami, Ollie Vaughn’s Kitchen and Bakery, Short Leash Hot Dogs, Welcome Chicken and Donuts, Max’s Mukhaase, Angel’s Trumpet Ale House)
Clearly, a return trip is in order.
PS) Did you participate in the 30-Day “Reset” Challenge in March? How did it go? Leave a comment and share your experience–I’d love to hear what worked and didn’t work for you.