Ever since Elizabeth Arden opened a spa on Camelback Mountain in the 1930's, Phoenix (and its tony satellite sister, Scottsdale) has been a prime R&R destination for the wealthy and well-bred-and not much else. (Cue the local joke: What's the difference between Phoenix and yogurt? One has culture.) While the Valley of the Sun still has its priorities straight-warm desert breezes, swaying palms, chaise longues by the pool-something has shifted of late. The city's contemporary arts scene has finally achieved critical mass. Cool boutiques are launching; chefs are redefining southwestern cuisine; and-although malls and fairways continue to overtake the surrounding desert-civic-minded residents have preserved plenty of evocative landscape for nature enthusiasts. (Pinnacle Peak, a beloved local hiking spot, reopened after being closed for eight years.) And although Arden's spa is long gone, the resort scene is rife with ever-revamping hotels and state-of-the-art spas.
Scrambling to the top of Camelback Mountain’s red rocks for a challenging hike with a payoff: a view of the entire city.
Sipping hibiscus juice, sampling tres leches (three milk) cake, and watching hundreds of tortillas roll off the assembly line at Phoenix Ranch Market—the most authentic Mexican market in town.
A stroll through Bentley Projects, a funky downtown warehouse and outpost of one of the city’s most popular galleries.