One Day in Phoenix Itinerary – How to Spend a Perfect Day in Phoenix, Arizona

Ready to enjoy the hot sun of Arizona? The city of Phoenix is a sprawling metropolis nestled in the Valley of the Sun, essentially in the middle of a desert. However, despite this, we are talking about a thriving community here and a city with a long tradition of tourism. As a matter of fact, tourism is Phoenix’s oldest industry, so you can be absolutely sure the place has a lot to offer. Unique natural surroundings, loads of culture to explore and excellent food guarantee that your one day in Phoenix will be a day to remember. Read on and see what this wonderful city has to offer! 

One day in Phoenix Itinerary 2

Plan your trip to Phoenix

1. What’s the best time to visit Phoenix?
2. A few facts about Phoenix
3. One Day in Phoenix Itinerary
3.1. Have some coffee and breakfast to start your day right
3.2. Explore the Desert Botanical Garden
3.3. Continue through Papago Park
3.4. Check out the Phoenix zoo
3.5. Hike up the Camelback Mountain
3.6. Have some very special lunch
3.7. Enjoy the art in Roosevelt Row
3.8. Learn about the native cultures at the Heard Museum
3.9. Phoenix nightlife
4. Where to stay in Phoenix?
5. Day trips from Phoenix
6. Extra tips for visiting Phoenix

What’s the best time to visit Phoenix?

You may already be aware that Phoenix is not exactly the coldest place on Earth. As mentioned earlier, the city is located in a desert, and for many Americans, the hot sun is the first thing they think of when someone starts talking about coming here.

Indeed, the summers are extremely hot, so you may want to avoid them when planning your trip, especially because they are also the monsoon season. With that in mind, anywhere between the end of September and May would be a great time to visit Phoenix. The chances are you’ll come across an interesting festival or event while in town.

Arizona Renaissance Festival is one such festival. This huge amusement park that you can visit from February to April will transport you back in time allowing you to enjoy jousting tournaments, arts and crafts, and much, much more. M3F Music Festival is a great choice for music lovers, and foodies will love Spring Arizona Restaurant Week in May or the Fall version in September. And this is just scratching the surface – Phoenix is a vibrant city with something going on all year round.

Hole in the Rock
Hole in the Rock, Author: Don DeBold, Source: Flickr

A few facts about Phoenix

Phoenix is the capital city of the state of Arizona and the only state capital in the US with more than one million people. As a matter of fact, with its 1.6 million people, it is the fifth city in the United States.

The first settlers came to what would become Phoenix in 1867, and the settlement officially became a city in 1881. However, before that, this area was home to the Hohokam for more than two millennia.

Due to the climate, the city is always among the top holiday destinations for Americans, and it has certainly taken advantage of that, as you will now see.

Phoenix Skyline
Phoenix Skyline, Author: Always Shooting, Source: Flickr

One Day in Phoenix Itinerary

You are about to spend one day in Phoenix, the city of sun. Plan your activities carefully so that you can make the most of your time here. This itinerary full of useful info is ideal for that! The following suggestions are the best sights you can visit for a perfect day in Arizona’s capital!

Have some coffee and breakfast to start your day right

The coffee scene in Phoenix has developed quite a bit recently. This means you will have a variety of types of coffee and coffee shops to choose from. All kinds of blends, brews and roasts are at your disposal, but why not accompany that with a great breakfast?

Dutch Bros at the crossing of East McDowell and North Scottsdale roads is the perfect location. They offer excellent coffee, you can grab a bagel just across the street, and several major Phoenix attractions are very close by. You will be close to the town of Tempe, but from Tempe to Phoenix takes literally minutes, so you’re essentially still in the city.

Explore the Desert Botanical Garden

After you finish your breakfast, head slightly east to that huge green patch of land. Desert Botanical Garden is the first thing to see here, and it sure is something special. Due to the specific climate of the area, you’ll feel like you’re in a cowboy movie.

Cacti, trees, and wildflowers are set against towering rocks to give you a true feeling of life in the Sonoran Desert (the desert surrounding the city). Everything is beautifully designed and many festivals take place here, so do check if there’s an event when you’re in town because the experience is absolutely magical. No wonder both tourists and locals adore this place.

Desert Botanical Garden Cactus
Desert Botanical Garden Cactus, Author: Allie_Caulfield, Source: Flickr
Desert Botanical Garden
Desert Botanical Garden, Author: Corey Taratuta, Source: Flickr

Continue through Papago Park

The incredible scenery does not end once you leave the botanical garden. Another thing to do in Tempe, visiting Papago Park will bring you close to incredible red buttes, and the various trails provide more enjoyment and beautiful views.

Just a short and easy hike away is Hole in the Rock, a fascinating formation and an excellent photo opportunity. The pictures you take here will make all your friends jealous. This is arguably the number one free thing to do in Phoenix.

After your photo session, take a moment to just look around and soak everything in. Should you come here in the evening, you won’t regret it – the view at sunset is simply mesmerizing.

Papago Park
Papago Park, Author: Taro the Shiba Inu, Source: Flickr

Check out the Phoenix zoo

Right next to the park is the Phoenix zoo, another very popular destination. In fact, this is one of the best things to do in Phoenix (Tempe) with kids. There are almost 1500 different species to see, and you can enjoy some interaction with some of them – you can feed the giraffes, for example.

Keep in mind that this is a non-profit organization and one of the largest such zoos in the country. When you see how much work was put into this, you will surely appreciate the dedication these people have when it comes to helping and preserving animals. Get an admission ticket in advance here.

Zebra at the Phoenix Zoo
Zebra at the Phoenix Zoo, Author: jen_hobbs, Source: Flickr
Giraffe at the Phoenix Zoo
Giraffe at the Phoenix Zoo, Author: jen_hobbs, Source: Flickr

Hike up the Camelback Mountain

If you still haven’t had enough of the unique nature and sights this city provides, head straight up north via 64 Street from the botanic park. You will soon reach Camelback Mountain, a location that is among the favorite recreational places for people here. It gets particularly busy during weekends.

There are two trails you can hike, and the view of the Phoenix Mountains on one side and the city on the other is something really special. Once again, this is a great place to visit at sunset, but given that you have only one day in Phoenix, you may want to head there now.

Camelback Mountain
Camelback Mountain, Author: bobistraveling, Source: Flickr

Have some very special lunch

All this nature has probably made you hungry by now, so it’s time to take a break for lunch. Head to Phoenix downtown to Taco Guild, a unique restaurant specializing in Mexican cuisine. It’s unique in that it’s actually in a small chapel from the late 19th century, so you are guaranteed an unforgettable atmosphere.

But if you want some unconventional food and don’t mind driving across the Salt River, Rustler’s Roost has some great rattlesnake appetizers in store for you. Yes, rattlesnake! Apart from that, though, they offer a wide selection of barbecued meat, so you can skip the snake if that’s not your cup of tea.

Enjoy the art in Roosevelt Row

If you’ve stayed for lunch in downtown Phoenix, this next attraction on your itinerary is very close by. Roosevelt Row is the city’s art district full of galleries and studios, all wrapped in some very colorful street art.

And if your one day here happens to be the first Friday of the month, you will be able to enjoy a First Fridays Art Walk from 6 to 10 p.m. Shuttles will be free, so everything will be very easily accessible.

Downtown Phoenix
Downtown Phoenix, Author: Ms. Phoenix, Source: Flickr

Learn about the native cultures at the Heard Museum

Just north of Roosevelt Row is the Heard Museum, one of the most important museums in Phoenix. This place is important to many American Indian artists as it contains a myriad of traditional and contemporary pieces of art. Therefore, you can learn a whole lot about the culture of these people just by spending an hour or two in this fascinating museum. You can also grab a snack and buy some great souvenirs here, which only adds to the tourist experience.

Heard Museum
Heard Museum, Author: Jay Cross, Source: Flickr
Heard Museum
Heard Museum, Author: Mark B. Schlemmer, Source: Flickr

Phoenix nightlife

If you still have the energy to experience Phoenix nightlife, just head back to Phoenix Downtown. There are plenty of bars, clubs, and even concert venues you can visit there, so there really should be something for everybody.

Gypsy Bar is a great club and a place where you can mingle with the locals with some fancy drinks while a DJ is playing in the background. Bar Smith, however, is a rooftop bar from which you can enjoy a view of this amazing city at night. Oh, and if you find yourself craving a snack, get a Sonoran hot dog. This local delicacy is sure to satisfy your taste buds!

Where to stay in Phoenix?

Royal Palms Resort & Spa

Royal Palms Resort & Spa-in the Unbound Collection by Hyatt

5200 East Camelback Road, Camelback East, Phoenix

If you want to combine the incredible nature of this city and five-star accommodation, Royal Palms Resort & Spa is the perfect choice for you. Located right below Camelback Mountain and very close to the botanical garden and zoo, this hotel is beautifully designed with citrus trees and lush greenery all around it. The place looks like a Spanish villa and the courtyards and fountains will make you feel like you’re in another world.


Kimpton Hotel Palomar Phoenix Cityscape

Kimpton Hotel Palomar Phoenix Cityscape

2 East Jefferson Street, Downtown Phoenix, Phoenix

Booking a room at Kimpton Hotel Palomar Phoenix Cityscape means that you will be staying at the very heart of this magnificent city. The hotel offers a concierge to help you find the best Phoenix attractions, plus you also get access to the fitness center, business center, and an outdoor pool. The rooms are well designed with spacious bathrooms and free toiletries, plus there is a bar and a restaurant at the hotel, too.


Drury Inn & Suites Phoenix Happy Valley

Drury Inn & Suites Phoenix Happy Valley

2335 West Pinnacle Peak Road, Deer Valley, Phoenix

If you’re coming here with a car and don’t mind staying slightly out of town, Drury Inn & Suites Phoenix Happy Valley is the best value you can get for your money. Free breakfast is served daily, and snacks and beverages await you in the evening. An exceptionally cozy establishment, the hotel has a pool, fitness studio, and a business center. The rooms are warm and well equipped, with a microwave, coffee machine, fridge, and a flat-screen TV in each of them.


La Casita, Phoenix

Comfort Suites Scottsdale Talking Stick Entertainment District

9215 E Hummingbird Lane, Scottsdale, 85250 US

Looking for affordable accommodation around Phoenix? Comfort Suites Scottsdale is really hard to beat! Not only does it look good and serve continental breakfast, but it also has an outdoor pool. Free parking and a fitness center are also included in the offer. The rooms are fairly big and comfortable, plus you have plenty of shops nearby. The neighborhood is also very nice and quiet, so you can count on a good night’s sleep. An excellent choice if you don’t need to stay close to the city center!


Day trips from Phoenix

If you have more than one day in Phoenix or you’d simply like to explore the city’s surroundings, don’t worry – you’ll have plenty of options. There are so many wonderful places to visit in Arizona, especially around Phoenix.

From the amazing nature that is the Grand Canyon to the atmosphere of the Wild West, you can enjoy some amazing guided tours. Follow the footsteps of the Apache tribe, visit the infamous town of Tombstone where the legendary battle of O.K. Corral took place, and much more. As a matter of fact, there is a whole article dedicated to day trips from Phoenix on this website. Click here and learn all about them!

Extra tips for visiting Phoenix

While the public transport system does exist and includes buses and light rail, you should seriously consider renting a car if you don’t have one with you when you visit Phoenix. It will be quicker and quite possibly cheaper if you want to visit as many places as possible. You can rent a car for as little as 10$ a day, so it’s really worth it.

Due to the heat, water is an absolute must no matter where you go. Always drink more than you think you need, especially if you’re not used to weather like this back home. Also, if you plan on using a car DO NOT leave your pets or children inside, no matter how short your stop is.

When it comes to tipping in bars in restaurants, 15% is the standard here. A dollar or two per bag is also a customary tip if a bellboy helps you out in your hotel.


Best of Phoenix - What to do and where to stayHow to spend a perfect day in Phoenix

If you have any other propositions for this One Day in Phoenix Itinerary, feel free to share it in the comments below!

Make sure you have everything you need

What to pack for your next trip?

Make your next trip as simple and as enjoyable as possible by packing smart. It’s amazing how much stress top travel items can save you, so choose carefully.
Things like lightweight travel backpacks, for example, are ideal for short trips and allow you to move around with ease, and a passport holder will make sure you keep your documents safe at all times.
Check our travel checklist guide for 2021 to make sure you haven’t missed anything, and travel to your next destination in style and with maximum comfort.

Anca One Day Itinerary
Anca B.
Travel writer at One Day Itinerary

Anca is a travel writer and the founder of One Day Itinerary - the biggest collection of travel itineraries for those who are time-limited or just want to maximize their time while traveling. Although she easily becomes homesick for Croatia, she thinks travel is essential to her happiness. She has traveled to more countries than she is years old and doesn’t plan on changing that fact. In her travel guides she aims to inspire people to travel whenever they have a spare day (or two).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.