Phoenix, Arizona Visitors Guide: Beat the Crowds and See the Highlights

Phoenix, Arizona is the perfect escape, especially for those of us in the Pacific Northwest. When the sun is hiding in Seattle, you are sure to find it in Phoenix! Not only that, Phoenix has plenty of outdoor adventure, the perfect combination of city life and lots of southwest culture. You can easily balance a quick trip with relaxation and plenty of recreation making it the perfect vacation destination. It's always important for me to make the most of my trip and beat the crowds. Read on for the best tips on how you can do that!


Phoenix, Arizona Visitors Guide: Beat the Crowds and See the Highlights

phoenix arizona visitors guide beat the crowds

When to Visit Phoenix

Phoenix is known for it's more than 300 days of sunshine a year! A true delight from the dreary grey gloom in the Pacific Northwest. Phoenix has some extreme temperature swings to be aware of. It gets hot in the summer {the average high in July is 106 degrees!} so keep that in mind. Spring and Autumn are the best times to visit if you want warm dessert days. Though be aware that it can get cold in the mountains during those times. October-May are generally great months for weather, keep in mind that during the winter months, it could be a bit cold for lounging poolside. Spring is the high season and prices for plane tickets and hotels/accommodations often reflect that. There's nothing more special than seeing the cactus bloom though!

Monsoon Season

Arizona's monsoon season runs from June-September. It's often a quick heavy rain but it can also bring flash flooding which can be dangerous if you are hiking in unfamiliar territory. 

phoenix visitors guide thats less crowded

How Many Days To Spend in Phoenix

You can easily get a good taste of Phoenix over a long weekend. Three-five days will allow you time to rest and explore the area. You can add extra days if you want to continue to explore more of Arizona and road trip to the Grand Canyon or head down towards Tucson or even the Mexican border.

Beat the Crowds

If you are flexible, you can beat the crowds by visiting mid week and not over a weekend. Not only will flights be less expensive, so will accommodations. 

How to Get to Phoenix

The Phoenix Sky Harbor airport {PHX} is your best option if you are flying in. There are a few small airports in the area, but you'll find the most options flying into and out of PHX. Renting a car is easy and often most helpful if you want to explore the city. Phoenix is the fifth largest city in the US, but it's not really great at public transportation, so you'll likely need a car to get around.

Where to Stay in Phoenix

Downtown Phoenix is an easy choice if this is your first visit to the city. It's close to lots of activities and restaurants. Tempe is close to Papago Park and is a good option if you are combining a visit to Arizona State University. Scottsdale is another favorite area with lots of great dining and unique shopping as well as historic districts to explore. Mesa is home to the Superstition Mountains and a great place if hiking is at the top of your to do list.

backyard pool in arizona

Private pool with hiking in the backyard? Yes please! Favorite sunscreen for teens is Coola. It smells great and doesn't break them out!

Beat the Crowds

If you want to stay close to Phoenix for a quick visit in but not be in Phoenix proper, consider Chandler or Goodyear. Both are about a 30 minute drive from the city, but these are great options if you want more family-friendly affordable options with less people!

We stayed in Goodyear a few years ago, and rented a house with a private pool. It had hiking out the back fence with plenty of trails to explore. It's a good option if you want to spread out a little but still benefit from the landscape and beauty of the desert.

Find a VRBO in Phoenix and surrounding areas!

Pro Travel Tip

If you are traveling to the Phoenix area and are booking a home with a pool, make sure that the pool is heated. You won't think that you need it when the days are in the 80's, but you do! It makes an incredible difference having a heated pool to swim in. It's often noted in VRBO listings, but it's worth inquiring about if it's not. And it is often an extra charge to have the pool turned on. Again, it's totally worth it and needed with the exception of summer.

beating crowds in phoenix

Things To Do In Phoenix

Desert Botanical Garden

I'm a big fan of the Desert Botanical Garden. Not only is it one of the most Instagram worthy spots in all of Phoenix, it's got plenty of opportunities for you to learn more about the variety of desert plant life. There are more than 140 acres and 50,000 plants and plenty of room to wander. It does get hot, so pack some water! Plan to spend a few hours wandering the gardens and don't miss the Gertrude's, probably my favorite restaurant in the city! You'll find seasonally grown farm to table favorites on the menu. Don't miss the garden 'rita! I still drool when I think about it!

Beat the Crowds

Go early! Get to the Botanical Garden just after it opens or right before it closes for fewer crowds. Head to the back of the Garden property and work your way to the front to beat the slow moving crowds.

Hike the Trails

There are plenty of popular hiking spots like Papago Park, which is actually very close to the Desert Botanical Garden so you could combine a trip! Piestewa Peak or Camelback Mountain both have amazing views and can be a bit more challenging. South Mountain is a more urban trail you can't go wrong on! North Mountain is paved but steep and makes a great place to watch the sunrise in the morning.

Beat the crowds

I enjoy some of the lesser known hiking options since the popular ones can get busy! Check out Pinnacle Peak Trail for a less popular hike. And if you drive further out to Estrella Mountain, there are great hiking and biking trails that are very well marked and less trodden. 


Find a Game

Baseball fans will love catching a Cactus League Spring Training game. Every February and March, more than 200 games are played by 15 major league teams all within a 45 minute drive! Games can sell out, so make sure you buy tickets early if there's a game you want to catch!

Beat the Crowds

Not going to lie, it will be harder to beat the crowds at a spring training game. There are people who intentionally come to Arizona only to see a game. Skip this option if you want to miss the crowds.

Wander in Old Town Scottsdale

Walking the streets in Old Town Scottsdale is such a great way to explore this neighborhood. There are great restaurant options, fun boutique shops and public art sprinkled throughout. 


This is my favorite option! I love soaking up the vitamin D and sitting poolside in the sunshine. There are plenty of luxury resorts and even retreat-like backyards in VRBO rentals! Keep an eye out for resorts that offer spa treatments. You can often use the resort amenities if you are getting a treatment even if you aren't a guest. 



Things on My List Next Time I Visit Phoenix

Hot Air Balloon Ride
Taliesin West-Frank Lloyd Wright's winter home and desert lab
Musical Instrument Museum-doesn't sound super exciting, but gets great reviews!
Salt River Tubing
Heard Museum-Lots of southwestern Native American Art
Day trip to Sedona

Phoenix is the perfect getaway for most of the year. You can often find flight deals and sunshine making it a quick getaway if you are trying to escape less than ideal weather in your hometown. 

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