A tree arching over a small river in the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert, Arizona

From Hiking to Spas: Making the Most of Your Downtime in Phoenix

A tree arching over a small river in the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert, Arizona

From Hiking to Spas: Making the Most of Your Downtime in Phoenix

Whether you're visiting for a day or planning a vacation, Phoenix, Arizona, offers sunshine all year and plenty to do, from hiking to spas.

Phoenix offers sunshine, mountains, and dozens of good golf courses for sunbirds. If you’re visiting the city on business, don’t spend all your free time in your hotel room. Take advantage of the year-round warm climate to enjoy more than 200 hiking trails and 41,000 acres of parks and nature preserves in the Phoenix area.

 Then, when you need a break from the outdoor heat, visit one of the city’s many world-class spas or museums to absorb some pampering and some culture. You could also spend the afternoon sampling craft beer on a brewery tour. The city never comes up short on appealing options.

A cactus sits in the foreground on the side of a mountain, with the skyline of Phoenix, Arizona in the background during a blue and orange sunset.
Source: Shutterstock

Hiking

Camelback Mountain in the middle of the Phoenix Valley offers great views of the city and surrounding regions. Ranked as the “Best Thing to Do in Phoenix” by U.S. News and World Report Travel Guide, Camelback’s 2,704-foot summit is accessible via several trails, including the moderately difficult Cholla trail and the steep Summit trail.

The 100,000-square-mile Sonoran Desert includes the McDowell Sonoran Preserve near Scottsdale (about 12 miles from Phoenix). A 30,000-acre preserve with more than 100 miles of trails, it offers an interconnected group of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Choose from several guided tours of the preserve and surrounding areas, including jeep excursions, hot air balloon rides, and rappelling adventures.

Piestewa Peak’s Quartz Ridge trail, an out-and-back trail near central Phoenix, attracts fewer hikers than Camelback, but the moderate, 1.7-mile trail is kid-friendly and good for birding and nature trips. With an elevation of 1,300 to 1,800 feet, it starts out easy, but the terrain gets a little rugged near the top.

For a less challenging trail, the Arizona Canal walkways offer an easy stroll along the 70 miles connecting Peoria to Scottsdale. Bike, walk, jog, skate, or ride a horse along these trails. The walkways are paved and wheelchair-accessible.

Skyline of Scottsdale, Arizona with Camelback Mountain in the background
Source: Shutterstock

Parks

South Mountain Park and Preserve is the largest municipal park in the U.S. and covers 17,000 acres. Its home to the Ma-Ha-Tauk Trail, Gila and Guadalupe Mountain ranges, more than 150 animal species, and 51 miles of biking, hiking, and horseback riding trails. Drive or hike to Dobbins Lookout for a panoramic view of the Phoenix Valley or Gila Lookout for a view of the Gila River Valley.

Papago Park has something for every hiker, regardless of skill. The short nature trail features signs describing local plants and animals, and several trails have lower elevations that are suited to mountain bikers.

Spas

Relax for a few hours at a luxury spa after a morning of shopping or in between business meetings. The Alvadora Spa at the Royal Palms Hotel was named one of the “Top 10 Spas in Phoenix” by the New York Times. Pamper yourself with an Orange Blossom Body Buff, a Citrus Ritual (full body exfoliation), or a luxurious Mediterranean Manicure. The spa features a 24-hour fitness center with personal trainers and private classes.

The Well & Being Spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is a full-service health retreat run by a doctor. It features an exercise physiologist, a Tai Chi expert, and an acupuncturist to cover a variety of health and beauty needs. Take a dip in the cold-water plunging pool or revitalize yourself in the eucalyptus inhalation room. This spa also features a healthy spa menu with a Quinoa Energy breakfast, King Salmon Super Food, and other low-calorie dishes.

The Roose Parlour and Spa in downtown Phoenix offers a cozy alternative to hotel spas. Located in a historic cottage, it offers haircuts and coloring for men and women, facials, waxing, and make-up application.

Arts

Roosevelt Row Arts District, a walkable stretch of cutting edge restaurants, shops, and galleries in downtown Phoenix, offers an up close look at the best of the city’s artistic community. Watch an indie film at Film Bar, admire sculptures or paintings at Modified Arts, and end the night with coffee or a meal at one of the district’s coffeehouses. The ever-evolving area has several work/live lofts, including one made of shipping containers.

The Music Instrument Museum, the largest museum of its kind in the world, includes a geographic gallery highlighting the musical heritage of instruments from countries all over the world. The museum features kids’ programs and concerts by popular country, jazz, and pop stars.

Brewery and Winery Tours

When you think of beer, Phoenix might not immediately come to mind, but the capital and its metro area boast more than 35 craft breweries and a few wineries. Phoenix Ale Microbrewery offers tours and tastings in a converted warehouse, and Helio Basin Brewing Company was named one of the best new breweries in the U.S. in 2016 by Beer Advocate.

If you’re a craft beer connoisseur, spend your day off visiting a few of the city’s best breweries with Arizona Brewery Tours. The company offers both public and private tours of three breweries along with meals and merchandise. The best part? The tour’s drivers transport you between breweries, so you can sample the libations without any worry.

Arizona Urban Winery Tours includes three top wineries and provides transportation on its half-day tour. Eat lunch and enjoy complimentary pick-up and drop-off service with the tour. Wine tastings are extra.

Shopping

Shop for vintage clothes, mid-century furniture, and other treasures in Central Phoenix’s 7th Avenue/Melrose shopping district. The M7 Merchants Association sponsors street fairs, music, food trucks, and other events to make shopping and browsing more enjoyable. Admire the pottery at Serendipity Décor, or unearth vintage clothing from the 1920s through the 1980s at Antique Sugar. This shopping district is the fastest-growing LGBT community in Phoenix, with several bars, nightclubs, and a community center.

Nature

The Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, located in nearby Gilbert, is a 110-acre preserve dedicated to protecting natural water resources, vegetation, and wildlife. Bike, hike, or ride horses on the preserve trails or camp overnight. Fishing is permitted in Water Ranch Lake, but not in retention basins with reclaimed water. Birding docents lead “Family Bird Walks” to teach visitors about the 56 bird species in the preserve.

Phoenix is overflowing with entertaining possibilities for business travelers with a little free time on their hands. Share your favorite spots with us on Twitter.

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