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DTPHX Itinerary: Your Perfect Day Planned From Start To Finish

by Mer Norwood
Arts & Culture Bars & Nightlife Community Sports Spotlight Travel, Shopping & Leisure Mer Norwood August 12, 2020

Day or night – I love exploring Downtown Phoenix, discovering new places, tasting new things, and taking in all this beautiful city has to offer. (Photo: Kyle Niemier)

Originally written for the DTPHX Directory in early spring 2020, things have changed a lot since then. But this itinerary is packed with great ideas, and some of these spots are still open for business — like the Japanese Friendship Garden, and many of the restaurants are open as well. Try grabbing a coffee or takeout from one of these local spots: Cartel Coffee, Centrico, Harumi Sushi, Monroe’s Hot Chicken, Serafina Coffee Roasters, Pizzeria Bianco or Blue Hound Kitchen and Cocktails.

And to reward people for supporting downtown small businesses during this difficult time, Downtown Phoenix Inc. will send you cool stuff (like Bird Shirts, Hats and Masks) just for spending $10 or more. Click here to find out more.

Downtown Phoenix Itinerary

Centrico’s San Carlos burrito includes papas, applewood-smoked bacon and aged cheddar. (Photo: Mer Norwood)


Known for its dedication to quality, and a local mainstay for java lovers, Cartel Coffee is the perfect place to start your day. Try a tasty homemade pastry and get your caffeine fix—the Black Market Cold Brew keeps you cool on a hot day. Then take a stroll to the famously-haunted Hotel San Carlos, where a quaint Mexican restaurant, Centrico, and maybe a ghost or two, await you. Order the San Carlos burrito, which includes papas, applewood-smoked bacon and aged cheddar— a hearty dish that hits the spot.


Take in the splendor of the Japanese Friendship Garden, an urban oasis adjacent to Margaret T. Hance Park. (Photo: Taylor Bishop)

Now it’s time for daytime fun. Head over to the Arizona Science Center to check out a laser show at one of the nation’s largest planetariums. Or find some Southwestern and Mexican art at the Phoenix Art Museum by famous painters Georgia O’Keeffe and Frida Kahlo. Take a walk through the Japanese Friendship Garden, where you can take a workshop like Composing Haikus. Or watch the Arizona Diamondbacks with a foot-long hotdog at Chase Field. Afterward, take in some skyline views at Lustre Rooftop Bar.

For dinner, Blue Hound Kitchen and Cocktails is a local favorite, with delicious New American fare like seared tuna. (Photo: Mer Norwood)

When you get hungry, grab a lunch special at one of Phoenix’s favorite sushi bars, Harumi, known for its antioxidant-rich purple rice. With most lunch specials costing around $10, getting a rainbow roll, dragon roll and miso soup is an absolute steal. If you’re not in the mood for sushi, walk over to Monroe’s Hot Chicken. Get a fried chicken sandwich and ramp up the spice to “What Da Cluck.” Hot—even for spicy lovers. Before you go into a food coma, grab a specialty latte next door at Serafina Coffee Roasters.


A little work mixed with play: my day planner, a craft cocktail and gourmet tacos at Chico Malo, located in CityScape Phoenix. (Photo: Mer Norwood)

As the day winds down, it’s not over yet. Arizona is known for its sunsets, and the best place to catch one is at the newly-renovated Compass Arizona Grill, located on the 24th floor of the Hyatt Regency Phoenix. The restaurant rotates so you have a 360-degree view of the sky. For happy hour, try Little Rituals, located on the fourth floor of the Residence Inn/Courtyard by Marriott. Enjoy a unique “Big City Nights” cocktail, and discover how the mixologist can fit a colorful mural into a tiny cocktail.

The “Big City Nights” cocktail at Little Rituals actually has an edible mural printed on top. Mind: blown. (Photo: Kyle Niemier)

For dinner, head over to Heritage Square or CityScape Phoenix. At Heritage Square, delight in dishes prepared by award-winning chefs. Get an artisan pizza by Chef Chris Bianco at Pizzeria Bianco, or choose a multi-course, Japanese omakase experience at Nobuo at Teeter House, by the James Beard-awarded chef Nobuo Fukuda. Be in the center of it all at CityScape, and chow down on elevated tacos at Chico Malo, or delicious New American fare at Blue Hound Kitchen and Cocktails.


Follow me to one of downtown’s best bars, Pigtails Cocktails and Seafood Bar, located in CityScape Phoenix. (Photo: Kyle Niemier)

Downtown Phoenix’s nightlife is filled with hidden gems. Want oysters? Want cocktails? The speakeasy-style joint Pigtails Cocktail and Seafood Bar has got both. Just follow the neon pink “Cocktails” sign and order a Pebbles Flipstone, a drink with real Fruity Pebbles. Afterwards, go to an underground live music venue with hipster-filled vibes: Valley Bar. End the night at speakeasy Melinda’s Alley. There’s no sign, just look for the beautiful mural, “Malinda,” by Hugo Medina and Darrin Armijo-Wardle in the Renaissance Hotel alley.

About the author: Founder of the local food blog She Moves PHX, Mer Norwood loves to showcase all the city has to offer, from local spots to creative business owners, and the community that supports them. Follow her at @shemovesphx.