It wasn't long ago that Downtown Phoenix used to be thought of as a ghost town. Although home to various bank headquarters, law firms, and government buildings, at 5PM weekday evenings the place became quite deserted as all of the folks who worked downtown would head home. This is still relatively the case, with traffic seldom being a problem, and streets often being empty.
Downtown Phoenix is clean, with wide streets and tall, modern, solidly built buildings. At night, the stylist lighting gives the place a futuristic aura, especially around the winter holidays when the trees are lit up by electric light garlands. On the downside, shops and other small commercial establishments are rare when compared to the downtowns of San Francisco or Manhattan.
Sports anchor the scene downtown, with the Suns and Mercury playing basketball, Diamondbacks playing baseball, and for those culturally inclined, the Herberger Theatre Center, Symphony Hall, and the Arizona Science Center are all within walking distance.
Downtown Phoenix can be accessed most directly via I-10 Freeway. Drive your car to a parking lot and go it by foot from then on.
By Light Rail
The Valley Metro Light Rail runs through downtown along Central/First Ave., and along Washington/Jefferson. From Sky Harbor Airport, take the free shuttle to the light rail and then the light rail into downtown.
Downtown Phoenix is served by the highly convenient DASH buses that circle the area connecting the major attractions. DASH buses run approximately every 5-10 min until 11PM and are free.
The cultural, governmental, and business center of the city is Copper Square. Quickly becoming one of the southwest's most distinctive urban centers, Copper Square was built around the original Phoenix historic town site. It's boundaries extend from Fillmore to south of Jackson Street, 7th Street to 3rd Avenue. Recent and planned revitalization in Copper Square, including more than $4 billion in public and private sector development, increased arts, cultural and entertainment activity, and the presence of two state universities (ASU and U of A) and new convention center are resulting in significant physical and economic growth for the Phoenix downtown area.
Roosevelt Historic District
This area has retooled itself from a run-down, drug infested area to the epicenter of the Central Phoenix art scene. This emerging neighborhood has become home to artist live/work spaces, gallery spaces and studio spaces. Since 1994 the monthly First Friday's artwalk has grown to become the largest monthly artwalk in the U.S. Increasing interest in this area has prompted Rooselvelt Row to becoming more pedestrian-friendly and is supportive of small local independent businesses that give downtown Phoenix character.
Downtown and Central Phoenix are home to several historic neighborhoods. These range from turn of the century Victorian to mid-century modern architecture. Some of the more well-known districts include Coronado, Encanto-Palmcroft, FQ Story, Willo and Woodlea. The historic homes in these districts are private residences and not normally open to the public, but the neighborhoods are very pleasant to walk around. Some districts hold annual home tours when several houses in a neighborhood are open to the public, all covered by one ticket usually costing about $10. For example the FQ Story home tour is normally held shortly before Christmas.
Note that convenience stores are few and far between. For example, the closest Safeway to the Sheraton hotel is one mile away. The local equivalent to 7-11 is called "Circle K". There are some Walgreens and CVS stores, but generally, the downtown area is not very shopper friendly.