For photographer , there’s no place like home — which, for her, is sunny Phoenix, AZ. “I can’t imagine living anywhere else,” she says. Born and raised in the Phoenix desert, she’s still happily living in the same suburban neighborhood of Arcadia that she grew up in (which is small and culturally-rich). When Heather’s not rehabilitating her 1960s ranch-style home with her husband or spending time with her kids, she can be found gardening, cooking, or at a rela beach getaway — a must during the 2-3 months of scorching heat that even she finds nearly unbearable. “But the other 9-10 months of perfection totally redeem that little nuisance!” she adds, “And the desert is a really gorgeous place, as long as you stay away from the jumping cactus.”
To introduce you to the best of what Phoenix has to offer, Heather has narrowed the playing field to central Phoenix (namely the neighborhood of Arcadia) with a splash of Paradise Valley and Scottsdale thrown in the mix. “And since we’re all about the local love around here,” she explains, “most of the places mentioned here are locally owned and operated.” Enjoy!
Photography by Heather Kinkel
PLACES TO EAT
I’m a sucker for a good burger. And tacos. The Stand is owned locally and offers both, so it’s an automatic win for me! The burger with jalapeños is my go-to, and I think having a veggie taco (pictured) is a sweet move for a burger shop. Considering the dulce de leche shake? Don’t even hesitate.
Brad and Kat Moore know their way into a fellow Phoenician’s heart. Gourmet coffee and fancy, delicious donuts are a guaranteed smash hit, but they added a quaint little historic home and a yard with croquet. So, it’s a perfect sunny morning spent with your peeps, big or small. We tried a few of their current flavors on our visit there recently, and by far the maple bacon stole our hearts and our tastebuds.
The iconic pizzeria lives up to its reputation, trust me. The wait times aren’t my favorite, but nothing a bottle of wine shared with a friend can’t fix. Wood-fired pizza and a cozy setting make a great date night.
Authentic, spicy Mexican food that I’ve loved for as long as I can remember. If you happen to pop in on a Friday night, there’s a solid chance you’ll see me there with my family after a long, hard week. We’re the ones with the loud kids and tired-looking grown-ups sucking down Coronas.
Local restaurateur Sam Fox did us a huge favor creating this “clean eating” style joint. Everything’s organic, locally grown and seasonally offered, and they serve kombucha on tap.
Fresh, authentic tacos (my personal fave is the Chicken Tinga), some Mexican street corn and a tasty cocktail (try the Cucumber Mint!) is a combo you just can’t go wrong with. Oh, and this place is super kid-friendly, if that’s your situation.
Amazing wine selection, local, fresh food on a menu that embraces seasonal changes is my idea of a perfect spot for a date night. Stay for dessert, they have Chocolate-Dipped Bacon S’mores.
In my opinion, the first real wine bar in the neighborhood. The wine selection is carefully curated and the bites are perfect for sharing. If you hit the weather right, their patios are amazing.
Located in the Melrose district downtown, Copper Star Coffee is an old gas station that has been converted into the cutest little coffee shop. Get your caffeine pick-me-up while you’re scouring the area for vintage finds.
Get the Campfire S’mores Sundae. It has a homemade marshmallow on it that they char right before your eyes. It’s divine. If you’re dairy-free they always have tons of options, including my personal fave: basil lime sorbet.
PLACES TO SHOP
The cutest little boutique in Arcadia, carefully curated by owners Brian & Ana Wells, this store has literally perfected what your everyday girl (or guy!) needs to entertain. The selections are modern, cool and I want to buy everything in the store while I’m there. Throwing a birthday party? Swing by and grab a gift, and then the perfect tassels and “happy birthday” sign. Voila! Done.
Okay, so this little gem is so much more than a flower shop. Created, owned and operated by the floral goddess that is Teresa Wilson (who got her floral training in France for goodness sake), this is by far one of my fave spots in town. Watching the flower artisans create their masterpieces in the middle of the room (not in some secret back-room situation) is awe-inspiring, and the unique selection of florals is nothing like you have ever seen before.
Don’t need flowers? No worries, Camelback Flowershop carries all the little goodies your heart desires — vessels, succulents, greeting cards for every occasion, unique candles and other sundries. For the love, stop in there.
A phenomenal open-air market (think farmers’ market) open on Thursdays and Saturdays. The produce selection is vast and the artisans there run the gamut from ceramics to jewelry to body scrubs.
Want to just eat your way through the market? Yeah, me too. The prepared foods offered are delicious — spicy pickles, anyone? — and there’s always a couple of food trucks on hand. Pop into the cafe next door for even more shopping options (mostly local vendors, which is awesome) and grab a homemade PopTart. You’re welcome.
Vintage shops in the Melrose district:
If you wander down 7th Avenue between Indian School and Camelback, you will find there’s no shortage of impressive vintage shops. Here are my favorites that I am pretty sure you should pop into: Figs Home & Garden, Zinnias, Modern Manor, Melrose Vintage. There are so many more, so if the name or the storefront piques your interest, pop in! You won’t find a friendlier crowd of people than the Melrose peeps.
An upscale, outdoor mall with shops ranging from the Apple store to Saks 5th Avenue to Pottery Barn and Lululemon Athletica, this is my favorite place to shop on a perfect, sunny day. Add in the fact that they have some amazing eateries and a few local boutiques, and it’s an easy sell.
So you’re traveling and didn’t make time for a blowout, or your roots are just a mess. Give Leidan Mitchell a try, you won’t be disappointed. I’ve been seeing Dixie there for 10 years, so book with her and tell her I said hi!
PLACES TO STAY
Located at the base of Camelback Mountain, this quiet boutique hotel is my favorite spot to stay. It’s won award after award, and never fails to deliver the perfect experience with cozy rooms and casitas, fireplaces dotted throughout the property, cobblestone paths, and a tranquil and inviting courtyard. Brunching? Pop into T. Cooks bar for The Ultimate Bloody Mary — it has a crab leg and a slice of bacon, so it’s basically a meal in a glass.
Colorful, quirky and decidedly mid-century, this boutique hotel has a rich history with Arizona. Originally built in 1956, it was a major hotspot for the era’s celebrities. When it re-opened in 2005, it did so with its individual style intact. This hotel is fun and has a pool party on the weekends during the warmer months, complete with a DJ and drink specials. The spa is one of my absolute favorites, their signature Icelandic Moonflower scent is rela and complements the modern vibe they channel.
Hotel San Carlos is a bona-fide Historic Hotel of America. It opened in 1928 and was one of the first luxury accommodations in the entire southwest. It’s been updated since, but has totally retained all of its original architecture and roaring 20s feel. It’s worth mentioning that Hotel San Carlos is said to be haunted, room 704 in particular, if you’re into that kind of thing. Boo!
If you’re looking for the most luxurious and lavish accommodations in Phoenix, this is it. Cozy casitas that look at Camelback Mountain and have amazing views of the city, coupled with one of the best spas in town — this is your best bet if you’re looking for the ultimate in pampering. Hit Jade Bar for a drink and catch some great live music while you watch the city glitter below. It’s an amazing experience that won’t disappoint.
Kimpton hotels are always a shoo-in, and this boutique spot is no different. Located in the heart of downtown Phoenix, it’s the perfect spot to stay and experience everything central Phoenix has to offer. The rooftop bar is perfect for city-gazing, and Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails is one of the coziest cocktail lounges I’ve ever been to.
PLACES TO VISIT/SEE
The possibilities to explore here are endless. A state-of-the-art IMAX theater and corresponding planetarium inspire wonder in everyone who visits, young and old alike!
The Children’s Museum operates on the belief that “learning is a joy” and is the perfect spot for just that. With more exhibits than you can count, there is an opportunity for every age to learn and experience it through fun!
Cool, hip and thoroughly modern, the Phoenix Art Museum in downtown Phoenix is one of my favorite places to go. Exhibitions range from sculptures to paintings, and are ever-changing — making membership a practical option if you’re a local.
Wander the oldest original residential block in Phoenix and transform yourself back to the early 1900s. The Rosson House Museum offers tours of a fully restored 1895 Queen Anne Victorian home and offers a plethora of information on the early lives of Arizonans. Explore the rose gardens and grab a drink and lunch at Rose and Crown Pub (totally kid-friendly) for a rela day downtown.
Intimate and quiet, not unlike the resort itself, this spa blows me away every time I visit. Their signature Neroli scent (orange blossom oil) is the perfect homage to Arizona’s rich history with citrus groves. In 2015, USA Today ranked them the number one spa in Phoenix, just in case you need any more convincing.
If live music, local craft beer and tasty burritos are your jam — as they are mine — this joint in downtown Phoenix is your go-to spot. They feature music artists in a small and intimate concert setting.
Hiking & Desert exploring in central Phoenix:
What’s a visit to Arizona without a little hiking? My favorite area that’s great for all ages and abilities is . There are multiple areas for hiking there, including a summit trail and some fun nature walks. Make sure you take water even if it’s not a super warm day. The sun here in PHX can be brutal!