How to spend 24 hours in Phoenix

How to spend 24 hours in Phoenix

The Sonoran Desert, near Phoenix.

Phoenix. The bird, that long-lived bird that obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor? No. This Phoenix is a city that gets its name from pioneer Phillip Darrell Duppa, who saw the ruins of the Hohokam and believed another civilisation would rise from the ashes. No, there is no ash scattered here. The landscape is brown, the rocks red, the cactus tall, the people affable, the to-do things countless, and the city has a rocky neighbour called the Grand Canyon. Emma Stone studied here and legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright called Phoenix his home. 

In Phoenix, my first thought was to shut up the ticking clock. I had 24 hours in the capital of Arizona. I wanted it stretched to eternity. I sure could not. This is what I did in the sixth most populous city in the US that has the country’s highest per capita spa.   

Breakfast at Ahnala Mesquite Room: It is little off-town but in the desert, a berry-morning in the We-Ko-Pa Resort is the best way to get off the bed. The tall ‘berry happy day’ juice packs a punch. You can ‘meet the Benedicts’ (the egg benedicts), dig into prickly pear cactus pico, or opt for ‘cowboy skillet’. Wash it down with ‘tipsy tea’, ‘bacon bloody mary’ or a Kahlua B52. 

High adrenaline at Fort McDowell Adventures: Slather buckets of sunscreen. The dry Phoenix heat can singe one tan. The real western adventure unfolds in a setting of 25,000 acres of a spectacular open desert where one can horseback, go on land/river tours, balance a Segway or go offroading, gather dust - and adrenaline — in green zebra Tomcars. 

Musical Instruments Museum (MIM): A square drum. An instrument shaped like a snake. Steel pans. Surbahar. Instruments made out of trash. The world’s only global musical instruments museum houses more than 13,000 musical instruments from nearly 200 countries. Perhaps the most unusual is a 12-foot octobass that was invented in 1850 by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaumehas, and there are only seven octobasses in the world. This giant bass produces a sound so low, some of the notes fall outside the range of human hearing — these vibrations can only be felt. MIM also has a corner dedicated to Pandit Ravi Shankar.

Lunch at Windsor Restaurant: Before you eat, head towards the washroom. Not for emptying your bladder, but for the ‘cassette wall’. Yes, the music-themed restaurant has a wall made of old-fashioned cassettes. And before you order, remember it is OK to ‘lick the plate’. Go on. We won’t judge. That’s the restaurant’s proclaimed edict. Order ‘loaded chips’ (potato chips with caramelised onion, bacon, blue cheese & chipotle crèma) or the ‘Greek god’ (pita, hummus, Greek yoghurt & tarragon-mustard marinated veggies) for starters. Burgers/sandwiches, pork ribs, just-out market fish are the staple mains.  

Afternoon museums: Pick your afternoon museum depending on whether you want to play with fire, poke yourself with desert thorns or count the kachina dolls. Or, walk around the house of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The Hall of Flame has the world’s largest collection of fire-fighting equipment; the Desert Botanical Garden is home to thousands of desert plants; and the Heard Museum, which opened in 1929, is the largest repository of Native American artefacts. Known as Taliesin West, the Wright estate was established in 1937 as the architect’s winter home and the bustling headquarters of the Taliesin Fellowship.  

Coffee & murals: Take a coffee break at Roosevelt Point and walk around Roosevelt Road staring at beautifully painted walls.

Dinner at La Hacienda, Fairmont: Here, there’s a ‘Tequila Goddess’ who brings tequila shots with a snake called Bob. There’s a server named Igor who could pass off as a flame-thrower — he makes flaming coffee tableside. At La Hacienda in Fairmont Hotel, the ambience is ritzy, the food, the best — Mexican, the ceiling — wood-beamed ceilings, and its chef is the legendary Richard Sandoval. 

Gamble or walk: End the night with slot machines in Fort McDowell Casino or walk around downtown to breathe the crisp air and gape at outdoor sculptures.