John’s note: The Local’s Take is a series where I interview some of my favorite travel bloggers and turn the tables, asking them to share their hometowns with us. After all, what better way is there to learn about a destination than from a travel writer who calls it home? So join along and learn how to make the most of a visit to Phoenix, Arizona with Jon of Tantric Traveler.
About: Jon is a travel & personal growth writer, filmmaker, musician, scuba diver, public speaker, part time yoga teacher and occasionally acts as a tour guide. He has a passion for both inner and outer exploration, enjoys learning about people and places and inspiring creativity and vision. He has been on his own personal vision quest & traveling internationally since 2000 and has worked as a filmmaker on 3 continents.
Tell us about Phoenix: Phoenix has a lot of hidden gems. The challenge, even for a “local”, is that everything is so spread out and it’s a real effort to find and enjoy those gems. I’ve lived in a a few great cities like San Francisco, Austin & L.A. so Phoenix for me still feels like a baby trying to figure itself out. I’m a musician and I have always been appalled by the lack of support for the music scene here. Having said that, It’s much better than when I left in 2005 and there are plenty of other great things to enjoy in the “Valley of the Sun”.
What can visitors do to make the most out of a visit to Phoenix? Rent a car, make a list of your personal interests and map everything for maximum efficiency. Since it’s so sprawled out, you’ll get to enjoy a lot more of this beautiful city if you plan well. If you’re staying in the downtown areas of Mesa, Phoenix or Scottsdale, definitely hit the museums in each respective area. They are all worth the visit.
What’s a unique experience that can only be had in Phoenix? Even though it’s not Phoenix, I have to say the Grand Canyon. If you are in Arizona and don’t visit this magnificent spectacle of nature, you’ve wasted a trip. Second I would say Sedona. I’d highly recommend doing a hot air balloon trip in either the Cave Creek area or Sedona. Also the Musical Instrument Museum is a must in my opinion. But I’m a musician so I may be a bit biased.
What is Phoenix best known for? The HEAT! It’s also a big sports town so people who are into that know it for that. Golf as you might imagine is huge and there are some world class golf events that take place during the cooler season. One of the things that I love about Arizona is the sunsets. I have traveled all over the world now and I still think Arizona sunsets have a particular look that is just magical to me. I never tire of them.
What are the can’t-miss sites? The can’t miss sites for me have to be Arcosanti about an hour north of Phoenix on I17, The Music Instrument Museum – to my knowledge there is nothing like it anywhere! A drive to Sedona is a MUST! The Out of Africa Wildlife Park is also very cool and on the way to Sedona. The Desert Botanical Gardens is quote nice as well.
When is the best time to visit? The one thing that’s hard to beat here are the winters which are mostly mid 70s during the days and cool off at night to upper 40s. When you hear from relatives in other more northerly states you thank your lucky stars you live where you live and get to walk around in shorts and flip flops for most of the winter.
What’s the best way to get around? You pretty much have to rent a car around here. If you stay in downtown Phoenix you
can use the light rail to get around a little bit but it’s not gonna do if you really want to see the place. The buses are not efficient at all if you need to cover a lot of ground in a short time.
What is the best restaurant/food experience? A favorite of mine is Pizzeria Bianco, It has been rated the best pizza place for a number of years, has a great ambiance and solid wine selection.
Where is the best place to grab a pint/cocktail/glass of wine? If you’re a beer snob like me the best place to grab a beer is Papago Brewing in Scottsdale. They have the most variety of quality import beers. They’re sort of a cross between pub and retail store which is why they have such a variety. But don’t let that put you off. it’s very “pub like” inside. If you want to chill in a vibey space and enjoy some solid mixology, well crafted dishes and a good glass of vino check out Lux on Central.
Are there any good day trips from your town? If so, where/what are they? Day trips around the area are great because in a short distance you can some some real highlights of the state. I do some tour guiding on the side and one of my favorite routes (this is a great route for motorcyclists by the way) to take my out of town guests is I17 north out of Phoenix to 74 and head north west to Wickenburg.
I usually make a short stop at great little place called Bedoian’s Bakery for some quiche and a pastry and then head out to a cool old gold mine just outside of town called Vulture Mine. It’s beat down and dirty with much of the original, lets just say, “stuff” still laying around. It has got a we-stopped-taking-care-of-this-museum quality to it that is actually pretty cool by my standards.
It’s also a very cheap entry fee so why not. It’s truly a step back in time and they say that if you happen to find any gold there laying about you get to keep it! So hey…win/win!
Where is the most iconic view? I’d make my way to South Mountain Park. At night is especially good. You can drive all the way up to the top and overlook the whole valley. Too easy!
What is the best aspect of living in Phoenix? I really enjoy the fact there are mountain preserves in the middle of the city where you can get out and hike. I also love the fact that you can drive for about an hour in any direction and not see a soul. I’d say most would agree it’s the winters that you cant beat.
What is the worst aspect of living in Phoenix? Phoenix lacks the cultural aspects of other major cities. They’re here, mind you. But it’s a lot of effort to find and keep track of them. Also the 120 degree summers are not fun, which is why I stay mobile and try to avoid summers here.
Thanks again to Jon for his participation in the The Local’s Take. If you’re a travel writer and are interested in participating in a future edition of The Local’s Take, get in touch!
Images granted courtesy of Jon Prophet, Frank Vitale, and Greater Phoenix CVB
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