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.
Arizona Science Center, 600 E Washington St, ☎ +1 602 716-2000, . 10am-5pm. This center features 350 permanent hands-on exhibits as well as regularly hosting nationally acclaimed traveling exhibits. Also features a 5-story IMAX threater and Planetarium.
Orpheum Theatre, 203 W Adams St, ☎ +1 602 262-6225, . Be sure to take a walk around this amazing piece of historic architecture set in downtown Phoenix. Built in 1929 in the Spanish Baroque style, this building feature intricate murals and moldings.
USS Arizona Memorial at the Arizona State Capitol, 1700 W Washington, . Pay your respects to the victims of Pearl Harbor at the Arizona State Capitol's memorial to the USS Arizona. One of the two 19,585-lb anchors of the Arizona is displayed.
Cityscape, One East Washington, ☎ 480-947-7772, . Mixed use urban project which includes retail, shopping and entertainment such as a pub, comedy club, bowling alley and various restaurants.
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.
Arizona Diamondbacks, 7th St and Jefferson, ☎ +1 602 514-8400, . Take in a baseball game at this unique stadium. Formerly known as Bank One Ballpark (The BOB), the home of the 2001 World Champion Arizona Diamondbacks, capacity 49,033, with a retractable roof and air conditioning. You can get decent tickets for $12.50.
Phoenix Suns, 201 E Jefferson St, ☎ +1 800-4NBA-TIX, . Very popular NBA team featuring stars such as Steve Nash.From $25.
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.
Alice Cooper'stown, 101 E Jackson St, ☎ +1 602 253-7337, . Alice Cooper themed sports bar with rock music and plenty of merchandise. $10.
Pizzeria Bianca, 609 East Adams Street (SW Corner Heritage Sq, 7thSt/Monroe), ☎ (602) 528-3699, . Winner of numerous awards. The chef, Chris Bianco, no longer cooks all pies (asthma...), but is on premises most of the time. Small restaurant, expect lines at popular eating times (6:30-8pm Fri/Sat). Review at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pizzeria_Bianco. $$.
Majerles Sports Grill, 24 N. 2nd street, ☎ 602-253-0118, . Sports grill and lounge owned by former pro basketball player Dan Majerle.
Portlands Restaurant and Wine Bar, 105 W Portland Street, ☎ 602-801-1652, . Serving lunch and dinner with a wine list available. Happy hour 5 to 7 PM (Mon-Fri).
The Duce, 525 South Central Avevue, ☎ 602-866-3823, . Large warehouse with vintage design that contains a restaurant (food served from 1965 streamline trailer), soda fountain, bar, ice cream shop, boxing ring and clothing shop.
The Breadfruit, 108 E Pierce Street, ☎ 602-267-1266, . Serving Jamaican cuisine for dinner and also has a rum bar.
The Lost Leaf, 914 N. 5th Street-, ☎ 602-258-0014, . 5pm to 2am. Bar that features art and live music nightly with no cover charge. A large variety of beer and wine selections available. In 2011 the Phoenix New Times named The Lost Leaf as the best neighborhood bar in downtown Phoenix.
The Turf Irish Pub, 705 N. 1st Street, ☎ 602-296-5043, . Irish pub with Irish food (including Irish breakfast Sat/Sun 8am to 1pm) and happy hour Mon-Fri (4-7PM)
Rose and Crown Pub, 628 East Adams Street, ☎ 602-256-0223, . British pub with over 50 local and import beers and English and American food. In 2011 the Phoenix New Times named it the Best English pub in Phoenix.
Quality Inn and Suites Downtown, 202 E McDowell Rd, ☎ +1 602 528-9100, . $50-70.
Hyatt Regency Phoenix, 122 N Second St (&th St & Van Buren.), . Very central, across street from Convention Center. Glass elevator to 13th floor popular with locals for views. Rotating restaurant on top floor ($$$$). $100-130.
Hostelling International Phoenix (The Metcalf House), 1026 N 9th St, ☎ +1 602 254-9803, . Office hours 8AM-10AM and 5PM-10PM; 24 hour access once checked in. Wifi available for $1. Closed during July.$21 dorms, $35-45 privates. Non-HI members charged an extra nightly $3 fee.
Take the light rail to Tempe for nightlife and shopping along Mill Avenue.