If you’re looking to get away for a few days or even a week, there are always places to go and experiences to be had—especially when you get to visit one Southwest’s 99 cities across the United States and 10 additional countries! Nobody knows a city and its hidden gems better than the Employees who live and work there. Check out a few of our Employees' favorite places in the Phoenix area and share your hidden gems in our comment section below!
Overview of Phoenix with the iconic Camelback Mountain in the background.
Heard Museum, Desert Botanical Garden, Heritage Square, Phoenix Art Museum, South Mountain Park, North Mountain Preserve and Shaw Butte, Taliesin West, Mystery Castle, Papago Park
Old Town Scottsdale is a wonderful place for locals and tourists alike. There are wonderful, hard to find local restaurant gems like The House Brasserie, Cafe Monarch, and Virtu. There’s also my favorite Italian restaurant in Phoenix, Italian Grotto, which has been in Scottsdale for 30 years and is run by a bunch of guys from Bronx, New York … like me! But if you’re looking for a wonderful dessert place, head on over to Sugar Bowl. This old-style ice cream shop has been around since the 1950s and has even been featured in the cartoon strip Family Circus, as the cartoon’s creator—Bill Keane—used to bring his kids there! Old Town is a “can’t miss” for food and entertainment!
—Bill O’Neil, Chief Pilot
Old Town Scottsdale cowboy sign in historic shopping district Scottsdale Arizona
The Scenic Route
West Fork Trail is one of the most beautiful hikes on Earth. Not that I'm a huge hiker, it's just that this area is so scenic ... I love to share it with visitors. The West Fork Trail is in Oak Creek Canyon, near Sedona, Arizona—an easy two-hour drive north of Phoenix. The trail is an easy hike that crosses a stream at least 13 times as it winds through this wooded canyon. The canyon is surrounded by beautiful red rocks and red cliffs. The trail is dog friendly too. Our dogs absolutely love playing in the water. To quench your thirst after the hike, there are tons of outdoor breweries and wine bars a few miles down the road in Sedona.
—Nancy Martin-Belitz, Captain
Oak Creek Canyon along the West Fork trail, Arizona
Floating Down the River
Two places that my entire family really enjoys here in Phoenix are Lake Pleasant and the Salt River. The biggest misconception about our desert is the lack of water, but Phoenix actually has four major lakes with plenty of water sports to enjoy. Living on the north side of Phoenix, we frequent Lake Pleasant nearly every week during the summer. It has two large marinas and two restaurants where you can dock your boat. It has house boat rentals, jet skis, fishing guides, and booze cruises on a nightly basis. Lake Pleasant also has a biology and ecology center for our local elementary schools to explore.
Another fantastic summer tradition is floating down the Salt River on tubes. All you do is take in the sun, enjoy the cool water, and float for several hours with family and friends down the river. It’s always a great time and is very relaxing. Those are just a couple of fantastic summer gems we have here in beautiful Phoenix.