Editor’s note: TravelQ, a series that documents travel through the eyes of stylish queers, returns this week with a new feature by Caroline and Erin, web designers, freelance photographers and writers for the travel blog Authentic Asheville.
Phoenix, in the past, might not have received a lot of attention as a tourist destination, but in the last couple of years it’s steadily been making a name for itself. In addition to being a place for people to visit in the winter to escape snow and cooler temperatures (when we visited in November the weather was a beautiful 82 degrees and sunny), it’s got a burgeoning food scene and world class attractions such as the Desert Botanical Garden and the Musical Instrument Museum. We found Phoenix to be a most welcoming city and a fun place to visit and we wholeheartedly endorse it as a great getaway for the LGBTQ+ community.
Below are our recommendations of the best things to do, see and eat if you are visiting Phoenix!
THE BEST PLACE TO STAY IN PHOENIX
Graduate Tempe |www.graduatehotels.com/tempe 225 E Apache Boulevard, Tempe, AZ
Why not let your hotel be an extension of your experience rather than just a place to crash? We recommend staying at the Graduate Tempe. This University themed boutique hotel is located directly across the street from Arizona State University (which means a couple of things: access to campus, lots of food and drink options and also a great place to go for a run). It was mid-November and the pool was open. Oh, and they make a great margarita at Tapacubo, the restaurant and bar that’s located on the first floor.
BEST PLACES TO EAT IN PHOENIX
The Normal Diner | www.graduatehotels.com/tempe/restaurant/the-normal-diner | 225 East Apache Boulevard, Tempe, AZ
The Normal Diner is conveniently attached to the Graduate Tempe hotel, making it a great place to stop on your way out the door in the morning before exploring. They open early (5 am for coffee, 6 am for dining) and stay open for lunch. We packed in a hearty breakfast of lacy pancakes, eggs, bacon, a veggie omelet, and (don’t judge) the Cereal Killer ice cream shake. The retro vibe matches that of the hotel and is sure to put energy into anybody’s step, especially those who love 8-track tapes, the 80’s and great diner food.
Fire and Brimstone Eatery | www.firebrimstoneeatery.com | Barnone AZ, 3000 East Ray Road, Building 6, Suite 101, Gilbert, AZ
The pizza at Fire and Brimstone Eatery isn’t just any ordinary pizza. For one, many of the ingredients are pulled right out back, from the Farm at Agritopia. The crispy crust takes 48 hours of fermenting before it’s tossed and thrown into the oven. It comes out with just the right amount of char. Our favorite was their most popular pizza, which is also their namesake, Fire and Brimstone. It’s made with spicy tomato sauce, housemade merguez sausage, fresh mozzarella, jalapenos, and cilantro. Oh, and go ahead and order the modern wedge salad while you’re at it. The lettuce was super tender and sweet and the dressing was the perfect cooling agent for the the spiciness of the pie. Pro tip: This is a BYOB restaurant, so do just that (we brought in Wedge Brewing Company’s Iron Rail IPA from Asheville) or walk across the aisle to 12West Brewing for a pint.
Beckett’s Table | http://beckettstable.com | 3717 East Indian School Road, Phoenix, AZ
Beckett’s Table anchors the neighborhood around it. Restaurants and bars have opened up all around it. We were lucky enough to be able to try nearly the entire menu (or so it seemed!) Everything we tasted was delicious. We suggest ordering the noble toast…thick sliced toast, a smear of silky ricotta cheese, crispy mixed mushrooms, chewy figs, and a drizzle of honey. We believe anything that comes out of a wood oven tastes better. Next up? Wood oven roasted brussel sprouts. Smoky, bright, meaty, sweet, salty – who doesn’t love their vegetables this way? The pan seared sea scallops were cooked perfectly, then set on a saute of chorizo, potatoes, green beans and spinach. Beckett’s Table loves desserts and does them perfectly. If you love bacon you must try their version of s’mores. They’ll bring you chocolate covered bacon. Chocolate. Covered. Bacon. Enough said.
BEST THINGS TO DO IN PHOENIX
Desert Botanical Garden | www.dbg.org | 1201 N. Galvin Parkway
Any cactus lovers out there? If so, you’re not going to want to miss this place. It’s packed with all different kinds of cacti and the volunteers are super-friendly and eager to help you understand what you’re looking at. There are several different trails and exhibitions for you to explore as well as rotating exhibitions so even if you’ve been there before, it’s worth revisiting. On site while we were there were the large and colorful sculptures by Japanese American Jun Kaneko.
Fort McDowell Adventures |www.fortmcdowelladventures.com | 14803 N. Hiawatha Hood Rd, Fort McDowell, AZ 85264
Hop in the car for about a 40 minute drive and explore the southwest on an off-road Segway tour, on horseback or even in a Green Zebra (an open-air vehicle that sits low to the ground that you can drive.) We chose the Segways and I have to admit, it was an awesome experience. Our guide’s name was Don and if he’s available, definitely go with him. He’s informative, patient and funny. He also made us a back-country snack. I think I smiled for two hours straight and am already looking forward to getting on another Segway.
Musical Instrument Museum | www.mim.org | 4725 E Mayo Blvd, Phoenix, AZ
This museum is one of a kind: it’s literally the world’s only global musical instrument museum. There are all kinds of instruments on display, one’s we’d never seen or even heard of before and every country is represented. The headphones they give you automatically play music as you approach different displays and we couldn’t help but dance to the music we really liked.
If Phoenix isn’t already on your radar as a place to visit, consider adding it. In addition to being an LGBTQ+ friendly city, it’s got great food, great people, fun things to do and, of course, lots of sunshine.
About the authors: Caroline and Erin are freelance web designers, photographers and writers for the travel blog Authentic Asheville. When they’re not on the road, they hang their hats in Asheville, North Carolina. Follow their adventures on Instagram at @e.mcgrady + @carolineperdue + @authenticasheville