What to see and do in Phoenix
This gorgeous garden wows you right from the start of your visit into this arid entry garden, with an impressive glass sculpture resembling a huge cactus and created by famous glass sculptor Chihuly to blend into the desert environment. The cool thing about exploring the various desert themed gardens are the diversity of non-cactus, Mediterranean plants and succulents that can thrive so well in this harsh environment.
You enter a variety of garden rooms with themes incorporating the Sonoran landscape, a kitchen garden, herb garden and even a colorful butterfly garden. I enjoyed walking through these various gardens which also integrated wonderful western styled architecture done in vignettes as though you would enter someone’s home. Along your walk you find a lot of well-placed artwork, information displays and colorful walkway features that pique your curiosity on what may be ahead on the trails and continue despite the extreme heat outdoors. Fortunately there are many covered areas, shaded garden spots and resting areas with water fountains in case you get dehydrated which is very easy to do in this desert landscape.
Beautiful Chihuly glass entrance
Sculpture and water features at the Desert Botanical garden in Phoenix
I love that this area of Papago Park incorporates both the Botanical Garden, Zoo an many hiking and recreation areas of the Park. I visited one of the most popular spots in the park called the Hole in the Rock, where you climb through some Flintstone inspired natural red formations and boulders through an opening in this huge rock. Once you climb through, you get to see a panoramic view around the park and skyline to downtown Phoenix. The park is dotted with these impressive red rocks and formations that you can hike through extensive trails and explore some of the wonderful landscape on your own. I ended up extending my stay to explore more trails and then climbed up a strategic hill to watch the sunset over the downtown area.
Checking out the Hole in the Rock at Papago Park
A late afternoon hike at Papago Park
A very close drive to Papago park is Scottsdale and I heard so much about the excellent art and food scene here so I planned an late afternoon visit to explore the area and find a cool dining spot for the evening. The Old Town area of Scottsday is where you will find where most of the diving, entertainment and a slew of fine art galleries located on E Main street. With a world class mix of traditional Southwestern themed galleries to more modern and other popular artwork for sale, Scottsdale draws in a lot of visitors who are interested in western art and other creative art mediums. It was fun to walk through many of the covered galleries and check out what each gallery would feature in terms of local or international sculpture, artwork, craftwork or collectibles that are fore sale. Fortunately, I only traveled with a small hand carry so I wouldn’t be tempted with a bringing home a pricy souvenir.
Checking out the art gallery scene in Scottsdale
Apache Trail at Apache Junction
I’ve heard so much about this historic trail just outside of the Phoenix metropolitan area and was pleasantly surprised by how much of the landscape, history and monuments have been well preserved or still in its natural condition. This was scenic road trip covers an area with many scenic vistas, desert terrain, man made reservoirs with stunning views and colorful villages tucked into hidden bends around the trail. You’ll be driving past mining communities, ghost towns and other unusual attractions with unusual names like “Superstition Mountain”.
After driving along a fun two lane road and passing through the small village of Tortilla Flats, the paved road becomes a packed red dirt road slowly crawling through rough graveled roads all the way to Roosevelt lake. It’s worth continuing as long as you can on the drive because the scenery is truly breathtaking. I enjoyed the fact that once you get past the popular Canyon lake reservoir, there are few visitors traveling through this remote area and you practically have all this amazing landscape for yourself to explore. This can be a 1/2 day to full day trip depending if you want to take the slow drive all the way to Roosevelt lake and back or around until you hit some paved roadways.
Views at Canyon Lake reservoir
Desert landscape on the Apache Trail
Driving through Superstition Mountain on the Apache Trail
My dining options around Phoenix
Accommodations at the Holiday Inn, Chandler
Overall Experience at the Holiday Inn Chandler
For more posts on exploring around Arizona, check out my posts below
Disclosure – There are affiliates links on this posts which provide a small commission to support this site at no extra cost to you. Thank you for reading, and happy travels