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Downtown Phoenix Travel Guide

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

By Scott Daniels

Have you ever just sat in your room and thought or said out loud to yourself that there’s nothing to do around the fifth biggest city in America?

For the first few days I thought the same.

Then one day, I actually went outside of my room. Crazy idea, right? Well, I’ll tell you that exploring the area that you actually live in is actually worth it.

I remember that my first stop was a cafe.  Most of us should’ve already heard about or even been to The Grand.

Themed like an industrial nightclub and open 24/7, The Grand is one of the most popular cafes in the area.

Though it is a little over the average pricing for coffee or food, their high-variety menu and closeness to campus make it a viable choice for daytime or nighttime study sessions. 

It also occasionally hosts an open mic for people willing to perform their material.

When dusk came around a couple of weeks ago, I was with a couple of friends on our way to a fashion show at the Trunk Space, a venue south of Taylor Place. 

We passed by an intriguing modern building made from the white adobe. I came back the morning after to see what this place really was.

Palabra is not that much further than The Grand, but is one of the newer cafes around and acts as a triple threat: cafe, art gallery and hair salon all in one.

If lively, active cafes like Jobot by Roosevelt Point or any Starbucks around are too noisy, then there are two others in the same direction for less of a walk.

Songbird is a cozy, almost nostalgic coffee shop with lovely service and top-tier playlists.

Feeling like an actual living space, Songbird is definitely a good coffee shop for small group seating and first dates.

On the other end of the atmospheric spectrum, Fillmore Coffee Co. on Fillmore Ave. is the most corporate cafe I’ve been in, and in a surprisingly good way.

The mood is professional, clean, and every time I’ve been there, I overhear at least one fascinating conversation between entrepreneurs networking an idea into a product.

It’s not all just cafes though. There is a strip mall along 2nd St. with a vintage clothing store, an ice bar, arcade, and film lounge.

As a secret about Antique Sugar, the vintage store, they have half off of everything on the last Saturday of each month.

And with the Urban Outfitters down on Washington St., I think I’ll be due for a shopping spree after winter break.

With the new Fry’s that opened up conveniently close to campus, college kids have a larger selection to buy groceries from than just the P.O.D. at Taylor Place or Safeway by Taco Bell.

I’ve also been meaning to try the sushi bar or Starbucks inside the store.

When we’re done shopping at Fry’s, my friend and I occasionally stop at the restaurant right across from it, The Arrogant Butcher.

It’s a fair price for the quality meats, and it’s not a bad idea to carry those groceries back on a full stomach.

I know it may sound like an odd adventure, but I sometimes check out the convention centers around the city and check if they have any upcoming events.

If one is going on, like a street race car convention, I went to about a couple of months ago, then great, sign me up.

If not, the architecture itself would make for a great Instagram post. Coming back from the convention center, I was not dressed for the downpour and was trapped in the Arizona Science Center outdoor pavilion.

I just journaled waiting for the rain to stop but it was a really serene moment.

I think that’s proof enough that going outside of your comfort zone, or at least your dorm, could have an amazing payoff whether you stumble upon a speakeasy-like I have, or just end up exercising your legs.

There’s a lot more to this city than meets the eye, so use your eyes and take in one of these suggestions or find something new for yourself.


What’s your favorite place to visit in downtown Phoenix? Let us know on Instagram and Twitter!

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