Today we have a travel installment from our sometimes roving reporter, sometimes relationship expert, always amazing contributor Megan McCarty. She recently took a trip to Phoenix – not a spot on the tippy top of my wanderlust wishlist, but her stay is giving me desert wishes and pool-day dreams. As we wave so long to summer, I’m going to take this guide and pack it away for safe keeping! I highly recommend you do too.
Phoenix, admittedly, was never very high on my Must Visit list. I figured I’d get there someday, probably in the dismal winter months when I’m willing to hop on a plane just to see the sun again. Well, someday came, right as my vitamin D levels were dropping dangerously low, and I’m so glad it did.
What I knew of Phoenix – the heat, the snowbirds, the golf – and what I now know of Phoenix – the design, food and art scene – combine to make for a perfect quick trip for the style-minded. (You, me.) So pack your swimsuit, wide-brimmed hat and not much else for a fall/winter/spring getaway of any kind.
Summertime? Forget about it. Leave desert summers to the professionals.
WHERE TO STAY
Hotel Valley Ho
…is about as historic as buildings in the western end of the new world get. Its mid-century art deco decor gives off a Palms Springs vibe – minus the pretension. The suite I stayed in featured a full kitchen, a balcony with mountains views and a bathroom that was bigger than apartments I’ve lived in. No Arizona stay is complete without lounging by a pool, and Hotel Valley Ho has two pools for two moods: the quiet and relaxing one and the not-so-quiet one with a bar and DJ. Your choice.
If glitz and glam is more your hotel speed, stay at The Camby, located near the hubbub of downtown Phoenix. It’s cheeky art, sleek furniture and jewel tones add an air of elegance without taking itself too seriously. Be sure to look up, down and all around – the art is everywhere, including on the ceiling of your room. A rooftop pool doesn’t hurt the cool factor either.
Can we talk about that pool view? What else is there to say? Oh, I suppose something about how Mountain Shadows, originally built at the foot of Camelback Mountain in 1959 and then rebuilt to all its modern glory in 2017, is a sleek, modern retreat. The neighboring mountains make for a shield against the rest of the world – the to dos, the emails, the anything that isn’t that pool – but a quick 10-minute drive will put you back into the buzz of the city.
WHERE TO GO
At first glance, Agritopia is a modern-day, environmentally conscious version of Pleasantville, a tight-knit community with an urban garden at the center of it all. At second glance, it’s still that, but so much more. Built in Gilbert, a half-hour drive outside of Phoenix, Agritopia is a planned community surrounding 11 acres of urban farmland, with Barnone – a one-stop shop with a brewery, letterpress shop, florist, you name it – at the heart of the neighborhood. My favorite stop was Garage-East, where we indulged in a wine tasting and gossip session with an amiable bartender over various Arizona vinos and a charcuterie board. If possible, take home a few cans of Garage-East’s Breakfast Wine, a delightful house-made concoction of wine white mixed with seasonal juices.
Desert Botanical Gardens
I somehow end up at botanical gardens in nearly every city I visit, and this one tops the list. Weave in and out of the 140 acres of cacti to get a sense of what survives and thrives in desperate desert conditions. The textures, the colors, the height and volume – it’s all glorious. Feeling small next to nature is one of life’s greatest kick-in-the-ass, and Desert Botanical Garden gave me that feeling on a whole new level. Go.
I could talk about Frank Lloyd Wright all day – did you know his son invented Lincoln Logs? – and visiting Taliesin West, Frank’s winter home (the warm-weather counterpart to his home, Taliesin, in Spring Green, Wisconsin) and the main campus of the School of Architecture at Taliesin, hasn’t done me any favors. Now I’ll never shut up about Frank! There’s a hushness at Taliesin West, knowing big, bold things have happened there, as if you don’t want to tempt the fates by speaking a titch too loud. Though rumor has it old Hollywood greats spoke a titch too loud at Taliesin West, during wild parties Frank hosted. The compress and release from one room to the next feel like little Frank hugs. See, he’s not the strict, rigid Old Man Architecture you thought he was.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
Breakfast Start your day right at the Phoenix Public Market, where they host an open air market every Saturday and healthy, farmer-sourced fare inside the rest of the week. Plot your day over a cup of coffee, veggie-packed quinoa bowl and a house-made Pop-Tart, for good sugary measure, like I did. You could also satiate your coffee need at Press Coffee Roasters or Cartel Coffee Lab, both cool, caffeinated spots with locations throughout the Phoenix area.
The Henry has a little bit of everything. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Coffee shop, seated restaurant and event space. It’s where you’d want to shoot off emails early morning, grab lunch mid-afternoon and belly up to the bar come happy hour. Its industrial components are brought down to earth with dad’s chic office decor. Think textured walls, horse paintings and a lush mix of hunter green and navy blue.
What happens when a chef, an artist and a restauranteur join forces? Taco Chelo, that’s what. In the cool arts district of downtown Phoenix, chef Suny Santana, artist Gennaro Garcia and restaurateur Aaron Chamberlin recently opened the taqueria that gives equal attention to the menu as it does the interior design, making for the ultimate eating experience. (Especially when you add a margarita to the mix.)
Life motto: if Oprah loves it, I love it. And if Rachael Ray, Andrew Zimmern, Bon Appetit and Vogue all love Pizzeria Bianco too, even better. Getting a table at the tiny 42-seat restaurant may require some patience, but it’s worth the wait. While there stroll around Heritage Square, the oldest remaining residential block in Phoenix.
Hey Postino, how about adding 100 more locations across the U.S., eh? I’ve been thinking about their cozy patio and bruschettas ever since visiting. High fives to the Highland location for their wall of matchbooks (love), engaging server and letting me laugh a little too loud on the patio. I’ll be back ASAP.
And did you catch that Apartment 34 has been nominated for a Domino Magazine 2018 Design Blog Award – for best Lifestyle Blog! To say I was thoroughly shocked by this news is quite the understatement. It’s kinda like a Christmas, birthday and 10-year blog anniversary present all rolled into one.
But the final winner of each category is up to you. All winners will be determined by popular vote. You can vote for your favorites one time per day from NOW through Sunday, September 23. After the people have spoken, the 2018 class will be celebrated at a party at Hotel Zachary in Chicago, courtesy of the sponsor of the award, Tribute Portfolio Hotels, and each winner will receive a feature profile on Domino. No biggie.
For more city guides, CLICK HERE.