Plenty of tourists are in town for Spring Training -- your aunts, uncles and boyfriend's parents included -- who are often far too excited to see the sun (and faded from a few pre-game pitchers) to make any trips to local attractions.
But it's nice outside, baseball games don't run around the clock, and there's plenty to see in metro Phoenix beyond the ballpark. Here are a few of our favorite Phoenix attractions -- whether you're a tourist, with a tourist, or pretending to be a tourist for a day.
7. Japanese Friendship Garden If you're looking for a Zen experience, look no further than the Japanese Friendship Garden. The 3.5-acre park is a symbol of friendship between Phoenix and her sister city Himeji in Japan, and took 50 architects from Japan more than 60 trips to Phoenix to build since 1987. Here, you won't find Sakura, the popular Japanese cherry blossom trees, but you will spot purple leaf plums, Japanese maples, and evergreen pears that provide plenty of shady spots to take a zen moment.
6. Buffalo Chip Saloon Buffalo Chip Saloon is well off the beaten path, but this Cave Creek staple is a must-see on a Friday night. Dust off your spurs and grab your cowboy hat, the Buffalo Chip hosts live bull riding every Friday in the back rodeo pin and has pints of beer for rock-bottom prices. For an equally authentic and stereotypical Southwest experience, you'll want to drag your visitors (or your thirsty self) through the bar and up to one of the stadium benches to get a seat for the show.
5. Tovrea Castle You can't miss the sight of Tovrea Castle, which rests just off of the Loop 202. The Castle looks like a wedding cake and is surrounded by well-placed cacti and whitewashed rocks. It was built in 1928 by Italian entrepreneur Alessio Carraro and named after meat-packing magnate Edward Tovrea, who bought it for his wife Della in 1931. You can currently take tours of the building and of the Carraro Cactus Garden, which are scheduled intermittently throughout the year.
4. Desert Botanical Garden The Botanical Gardens are a standard for any weekend or day-trip through Phoenix, but if you're staying the night (or forever) and want to take a cooler walk through the desert landscape, you'll want to see what the natural reserve has on the calendar. Through September staff members give flashlight tours where viewers can check out desert blossoms and bugs after the sun goes down.
3. Phoenix Art Museum Phoenix Art Museum is easy to find, just follow the light of Josiah McElheny's The Last Scattering Surface -- a handblown glass, chrome plated aluminum, electric, hanging installation that lights the entrance to the museum on Central Avenue in downtown Phoenix. We could spend hours perusing the modern art collection on the second floor, the latest couture exhibition curated by the sharp and careful eyes of Dennita Sewell, the sculpture garden, or the museum's current contemporary show (and grab lunch or drinks between at the museum's restaurant).
2. Cosanti Cosanti is a Zen arts and nature compound in the middle of town. This historic site in Paradise Valley (and home of Italian architect, educator, and designer of the Arcosanti community near Cordes Junction, Paolo Soleri) features several eco-friendly buildings, artist studios, garden walkways, and most famously, countless Soleri Wind Bells. The word Cosanti is a combination of two Italian words: cosa (things) and anti (against). Property construction began with Soleri's house in 1956, and expanded over the years to include student dorms, a pool, a gift shop, and an "Earth House" that's partially underground. These buildings are designed with a combination of architecture and ecology, and take advantage of natural solar power and shaded cooling.
1. A Mural Tour In the past few years, we've seen hearts pasted, mural projects started, huge dripping landscapes painted, and stencils galore mark the sidewalks and corners of the city. There's beauty in artwork on the streets -- it's a clear message of no hesitation, no regret, and a passion for creating for public view.
Though some treasured pieces have faded and others have been destroyed, there still are plenty of examples of local artists creating work on the streets. Some of our favorites include the extensive work of the Calle 16 crew (from Thomas Road to Roosevelt Street along 16th Street), including Gennaro Garcia, Lalo Cota, El Moises, Thomas Marcus, Nomas, and Jenny Ignaszewski. Francisco Garcia, Joseph "Sentrock" Perez, Averian Chee, Jeff Slim, PRUF, KEISR, SINEK, Martin Moreno, Armando, DETOR, Angel Diaz, DUROK, SRVNT, and Ser. V One just put up a huge piece behind Barrio Cafe on 16th Street that is a must-see.
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Along Grand Avenue, from Roosevelt to Van Buren streets, Luster Kaboom created oozy landscapes that carefully frame work by El Mac on the Chocolate Factory, as well as giant monsters and fly traps on the walls of studios and galleries. A few of the empty parking lots have been taken over by crews of painters who've transformed the back half-walls. And if you're on a street art hunt, you can't miss Roosevelt Row, which is full of pastes by Nomas, murals by Carrie Marill, Tara Logsdon, Laura Best, Andy Brown, JB Snyder, Cota, Marcus, Joe Pagac, and, of course, those who prefer to remain nameless
A few of our other favorites: - 10 Favorite Hikes in the Valley - Seven Favorite Spots to See a Film in Phoenix - Ten Favorite Neighborhood Bars in Metro Phoenix - Ten Favorite Places to Geek Out in Phoenix - 10 Favorite Gay Bars in Greater Phoenix - 10 Favorite Street Art Sightings in Phoenix - Ten Favorite Arcades in Metro Phoenix - 10 Favorite Bike Shops in Metro Phoenix - 10 Favorite Strip Clubs in Metro Phoenix (NSFW) - Five Favorite Haunted Houses in Metro Phoenix - 10 Favorite Water Parks, Pools, and Watering Holes in Metro Phoenix