After what has felt like forever, Lauren and I were finally able to escape the grind and make another trip outside of Ohio for the first time in over four months. This time, we wanted to change things up a bit and decided to go west – further than either Lauren or I has ever gone before – to Phoenix, Arizona. The decision was made easier since we had several friends and family there who graciously offered up their residences for us to stay at and we were able to procure some cheap (by United States standards) plane tickets over there.
Phoenix is one of the fastest growing cities in the entire country and is a collection of merged cities in the heart of the Sonoran Desert. The city is surrounded on all sides by hills and mountains which are covered with tall green saguaro cacti – the kind everyone thinks of when they think of cacti – along with various types of short shrubbery.
Our first full day in the city dawned bright and warm with not a cloud in the sky, a trend that would continue for our entire first week in Phoenix. We left our hosts Nick and Amanda’s apartment on our way to two neighboring towns on the outskirts of town called Cave Creek and Carefree, driving down palm tree-lined boulevards past the light-brown stucco buildings that are characteristic of the region.
After making a quick stop at the Cave Creek Brewing Company, the first of many Arizona breweries we were to try on our adventure, we headed to the center of Cave Creek to a place they call Frontier Town. Frontier Town is a little town straight out of the Wild West and is designed to look exactly like how an Arizona town from the 1870s would look. The town puts on many interactive entertainment events including stunt and acting shows which we did not partake in, though you may find enjoyable if that is your thing. As of now, the town consists of just a few buildings and souvenir shops but there are new and exciting things on the horizon according to their website. Though bordering on kitschy, Frontier Town is one of the few of its kind and was a great first stop for us on our first visit to the west.
After we got our hokey taste of the west we decided to explore the unique landscape that that part of the country has to offer as we took a little drive along the Apache Trail north of town. The trail is named after the Apache Indians who used to travel along this route through the winding roads of the Superstition Mountains and the Tonto National Forest. The road is mostly unpaved so while we did get to see some wonderful views of the cactus-covered mountains and the deep blue Canyon Lake, we could not travel the entire trail as we were afraid to damage Amanda’s car that we had borrowed for the day. Still, we had a great time cruising along to some tunes while enjoying the warm weather and taking in some of the spectacular views.
Being the fat kid I am, while in Arizona we undoubtedly had to find some of the best food and craft beer that this region of the country has to offer. Thanks to some help by our gracious hosts, we were able to try some of the best places in Phoenix to eat, our favorite being Little Miss Barbecue. Though initially put off by the nearly two-hour wait in line just for the place to open, the wait was absolutely worth it. The food was not only the best BBQ either of us has ever had but was also among the best food I have ever eaten, PERIOD! Be warned though, if visiting Little Miss Barbecue, get there before the doors open. Once they run out of food, they close for the rest of the day!
Of course, no trip out west is complete without a visit to In-N-Out Burger, a first for both of us. The beauty of this fast-food chain is that it knows what it does well – burgers, fries, and shakes – and sticks to those foods exclusively. After asking around to find THE best way to order an In-N-Out burger, I went with a double burger and fries, animal style. An animal style burger has pickles, onions, and extra “spread” which tastes suspiciously like Thousand Island dressing, and animal style fries have the same but without the pickles. I was enamored by the 60s diner aesthetic inside the restaurant but I was sadly disappointed in the burger. It was really good but by no means worthy of the praise that gets heaped on it. I have to say I like Five Guys and Shake Shack better though I probably just lost a lot of friends on the west coast. Sorry, guys.
We did a number of other fun activities in and around the Phoenix area before we headed up north toward the Grand Canyon, many of them revolving around our favorite pastime, drinking. Along with visiting several of the cities wonderful breweries, we visited an awesome little breakfast spot which had, besides your standard craft beer flights, a mimosa flight, a bloody mary flight, and even a bacon flight which included eight different types of bacon! Later in the week, we even attended our first ever beer festival called Novembeer with Nick and Amanda and a friend we met a couple of years ago in Columbus, Eric. We had a great time trying some new and different beers from several states along the west coast but had just as much fun people watching as the festival went on and people got progressively more intoxicated.
Later in the week, we took the car south of Phoenix to South Mountain Park where we took the scenic drive up South Mountain to Dobbins Lookout and its beautiful views of the city below and the surrounding mountains. We were lucky to visit when the sun had just fallen below the horizon and the city was basked in the dull orange glow of dusk.
We had such an amazing time hanging out in Phoenix with Nick and Amanda and experiencing some of their favorite spots in the city. It was wonderful being able to spend some good quality time with them and experience a new city that we grew to love. They were such incredible hosts and I am really looking forward to seeing them again soon. Thanks, guys!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Arizona trip as we drive north to the Grand Canyon! Thanks for reading!