Phoenix Is A Oasis In The Desert

So you have a layover or are visitng the Phoenix area for a while. You could stay in the airport, eat something and relax with their free wi-fi, or you can head out into the surrounding area and see what Phoenix has to offer.

Phoenix has Papago Park

I won’t lie. I am originally from Los Angeles and never thought much of the Arizona desert. Like most, I believed it to be just hot, and I was totally right on the temperature in the summer, but it has so much more to offer.

Well the weather can be very hot and extreme during a few months of the year. Be prepared for days in the triple digits from June to September. We have some of the most dramatic sunsets because of our storms, being dry in climate, and from small particles in the air. So have your camera ready.

Watch out for dust storms called “haboobs”. They can cause the airport to shut down, as well as other things. In addition, they make great photo opportunities. Just be careful of your lens, there will be dust coming your way. 

Take It From Us Since We Live Here

My wife and myself have lived in the Phoenix area for many years. We are lucky to have so many food options and activities that can be done at such a close proximity. The weather is great most of the year with sunny day, which are great for exploring. Since we  travel so much, we understand when you have a layover somewhere and want to get out to try what they have to offer.

Lucky for you, the Phoenix airport is in a perfect location with many options for amazing food and activities close by. Try to get out and see some of the Sonoran Desert if you have the time. 

Helpful Tip
A little tip for going back through TSA in terminal 4 is to use the B security side, which usually has a shorter line and can take you to all of the American gates as well as some of the Southwest ones.

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Things To Do

Papago Park

  • located 3.6 miles from the airport and less than 10 minute drive
  • is free and great place to see a Sonoran Cactus and get in a hike that can range from easy to difficult
  • open daily 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. for trails and the parking lot closes at sunset
  • Dog and family friendly
  • Trailheads are: Papago Park and Papago West Park
  • Click Here to see a map and trail descriptions

Want to know more about Papago Park? Then check out our guide to Papago Park, located in the heart of the city. 

Desert Botanical Gardens

  • located 4.6 miles from the airport and only a 10 minute drive
  • open daily 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. May – September and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. October – April
  • free the 2nd Tuesday of every month, otherwise will cost $24.95 per adult and $12.95 for ages 3-17, while children under 3 are free
  • has a dinning option on site, Gertrude’s , which focuses on food that is farm to plate
  • Some things to see when they are available are the Fall Butterfly ExhibitSunday Concerts In The GardenChiles & Chocolate Festival, and the Electric Desert A Light And Sound Experience By Klip Collective.
  • great place if you have a family that needs a few hours to keep busy
  • takes about 2-3 hours to walk through

Phoenix Zoo

  • located 4 miles from the airport and less than a 9 minute drive
  • open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • general admission is $24.95 per adult, $16.95 for ages 3-13, and free for children under 2 (you can save $2 per ticket if you purchase them online)
  • can upgrade your ticket to also include the 4-D Theater, Safari Cruiser, Camel Ride, Stingray Bay, Giraffe Encounter, and the Endangered Species Carousel
  • discount on tickets for Military, Seniors, Students, and AAA
  • takes about 3 hours to walk the whole zoo

Camelback Mountain

  • located 7.7 miles from the airport and take less than 20 minutes to drive or you can hop on a bus that goes straight down 44th St
  • open daily sunrise to sunset
  • you can hike either the Echo Canyon Trail, which is steeper, or the Cholla Trail that is longer in length
  • you are not allowed to be dropped of at the Cholla trailhead, you must walk up the street, otherwise your driver can be fined
  • Camelback has an elevation of 2,704 feet, which makes it perfect for pictures and views of the city
  • you can hire a guide to take you up and will cost about $120 for one hiker and another $30 per person after
  • Caution: this is a difficult hike and it can be common to see a helicopter rescuing people from this mountain. (My wife, Cam has been rescued off of the mountain) Be warned, it can get very hot and is rocky in places, so take extra water
    • If you are looking for an easier hike you can do with the kids, then head to Hayden Butte Preserve Park “A” Mountain

Heard Museum

  • located 8.1 miles from the airport and is a 15 minute drive or 45 minutes when taking the light rail (get on at 44th St/Washington St station and take to Central Ave/Encanto Blvd)
  • open Monday to Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Free on first Fridays of the month, otherwise it is $18 per adult, $13.50 for seniors, $7.50 for students/children and children under 5 as well as American Indians are free
  • can take 3-4 hours

Tempe Town Lake

  • located 4.4 miles from the airport and will take either 9 minutes if driving and 36 minutes if you take the light rail from 44th St/Washington St station to Mill Ave
  • you can rent outdoor gear to go kayaking, paddle boarding, boating or biking
  • they also offer opportunities to pay for Segway tours around the lake and fishing
  • it is a short walk from Mill Ave where you can find countless restaurants and ice cream shops for the family

Other Things To Consider


Science Museum 

Children’s Museum

Instrument Museum

Baseball Game at Chase Field

Places To Eat

Angel’s Trumpet Alehouse

  • located north of the airport, in Phoenix and is a 10 min uber/lyft drive down 44th St
  • open 11 a.m. to Midnight
  • Dog friendly patio
  • over 25 different local and national beers on tap, which do change
  • Food is excellent and voted best bar in Az in 2015
  • price range is $9-30
Little Miss BBQ
  • located 1 mile from the airport and will take about 5 minutes for a uber/lyft driver
  • open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m (or until sold out)
  • people line up early, around 10 a.m. but the line dwindles down around 1 p.m.
  • the wait can sometimes reach over 2 hours on certain busy days and their parking lot is small, so be prepared
  • BBQ is Texas style meat that can be combined with some of their sides
  • price range is $11-30
  • Worth the wait! 
Rúla Búla Irish Pub
  • located in Tempe on Mill Ave, near Arizona State University
  • you can take the light rail at 44th St & Washington St station going towards Mesa Dr/Main St, which will take you to Mill Ave/3rd St (a 10 min ride)
  • open daily 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
  • they have live music towards the evenings and on Wednesdays they have a Pub quiz from 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
  • price range is $10-30
Pizzeria Bianco
  • they have two locations, one that you can take the light rail to off of 3rd St stop, which will take a good 35 minutes, with the other one being on 20th St and will be around a 20 minute drive
  • open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • some of the best pizza in Phoenix and some consider the best in the country
  • price range is $15 – 30
Four Peeks Brewery
  • located 6.8 miles in Tempe, it will take you 9 minutes to drive or 45 minutes by taking the light rail from 44th St station to Rural/University stop then walk east down 8th street for 10 minutes
  • open daily 9 a.m. to 2 a.m.
  • they offer free tours of the brewery on Saturday’s
  • price range $11 – 20

Other Food To Consider

The Mission Modern Latin Cuisine

Matts Big Breakfast

Ra Sushi Bar Restaurant

Rositas fine Mexican Food   ~some great cheap Sonoran Mexican food (our favorite)

Have you visited Papago Park? Did you enjoy the park and would you go again? Have any other parks that we should try? Let us know in the comments section. Thanks for visiting our site and check back for other destinations.

The information on this website has come from research and by experiencing it ourselves. Opening hours, trail closures, prices, etc. are always subject to change. We try to keep up to date on any new information, or tips to help make your adventure more enjoyable. ​


  1. I live in Phoenix myself. Last year a friend and his mom had a flight canceled at Sky Harbor, and since I work not far from the airport, we met up and had lunch at Lo-Lo’s Chicken & Waffles on S. Central just south of Buckeye. It’s close enough to the airport to merit a mention. They also have a location in Terminal 4 at Sky Harbor, but I prefer the ambiance at the S. Central location.

    Liked by 1 person

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