The pool was packed. Bronzed swimmers smacked beach balls over the turquoise water. They swam to the edges and sipped cocktails. An international cast of young partiers cavorted at each table, wearing flipflops and wrapped in towels, but also gnoshing on skewered meats and fish tacos.
It looked like Spring Break, but it was the Fourth of July. We weren’t by the beach; we were standing on a rooftop in the middle of the desert. Beyond the railings, the sun was slipping behind the violet ridges of South Mountain. All around us rose the hotels and office towers of downtown Phoenix. And in a couple of hours, fireworks would explode right next to us, lighting up the cloudless sky.
The truth is, Phoenix is fun. Yes, there’s sprawl. Yes, the heat can be withering. And yes, most tourists head to the Grand Canyon the second their plane hits the tarmac. But Phoenix is an unlikely yet literal oasis of food, nightlife, and entertainment options.
Whether you drive or take the light rail, downtown Phoenix is a straight shot from Sky Harbor International. The weather is sublime six months out of the year, and even at the height of summer, you’ll find ubiquitous misters, air-conditioners, and swimming pools to tame those 100-plus-degree temperatures. The biggest shocker for newbies: downtown Phoenix has wide sidewalks and fresh pavement, which goes against the city’s car-first reputation and makes for a surprisingly walkable urban core. You can even hop a Grid Bike and pedal around all day.
Phoenix also knows how to treat a guest. Hotels are comfy, easy to find, and reasonably priced. Hotels are such a local institution that the bars and restaurants attract lots of locals as well, and lots of Phoenicians will buy day passes to swim in hotel pools or visit onsite spas. So if you’re jonesing for some pure blue Southwestern sky, it may be time to give Phoenix a chance – and try an overnight in one of the city’s coolest hotels.