Backpacking Phoenix

In response to “YOU NEVER WRITE ABOUT YOUR TRIPS!!!!11one”, I am posting about my trips. I’m a little tired this morning and my brain is fuzzy, but I’ll do my best.

If it’s pictures you’re after, they’re all on my Facebook album which, if I’m not mistaken, is viewable by anyone.

I think I’ll go with a review format for this one, so if you’re planning on visiting Phoenix in the company of your backpack (or if you live in Phoenix and want to hear what an outsider has to say), this post is for you.


As far as I know, there is only one hostel is Phoenix. That’s ok, because that Hostel, the Metcalf House, or HI-Phoenix, is a fantastic place to stay. Definitely one of the best hostels I’ve ever stayed in.

It’s a small hostel, and they use their small size to their advantage. On most nights, there are community dinners that cost about 5$. The food is really good, we sit around one round table and talk. I hadn’t even been in Phoenix for 2 hours that I already felt like I’d made 10 friends.

On top of the dinners, there are events held pretty much every day, from city tours to pub crawls to shows. Even if you’re a timid, first-time traveler who isn’t familiar with Phoenix, actually, especially if you’re a timid, first-time traveler who isn’t familiar with Phoenix, you’ll get to experience some of the great stuff Phoenix has to offer with a fun group of people, safely, and without spending a lot of money.

All of the staff is super knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their city. If you have any questions, whether it be how to get to a certain place, or restaurant recommendation, you’re sure to get a very helpful answer.

Getting Around

You hear the words “urban sprawl” at lot in Phoenix. I bet they’re common first words for children born in the city. If you’re going to Phoenix without a car, make sure you stay near the light rail.

The train is great for getting around. It goes through downtown, up to the northern part of the city, as well east to Tempe (which is a fun place to visit as a traveler) and Mesa. It runs every 5 to 15 minutes and it’s not too crowded. Most of the interesting museums and a lot of great restaurants are close to the rail, so it’s pretty easy to get around.

For areas not covered by the rail (for example, if you’re a desert fan like me and want to go to the Desert Botanical Gardens), there is a pretty extensive bus system. The busses don’t run very often, though, and the schedules aren’t posted at the stops (there is a number you can call to know when the next bus will come, but I couldn’t get it to work) so make sure you’re wearing sunscreen. You might find yourself waiting at the stop for a long time.

The only place I had trouble reaching was the Amtrek station in Maricopa. When I did my research for the trip, there was a connecting shuttle, but when I got there… I discovered that they had JUST terminated the service. If you can’t find someone to give you a ride, you can take shuttles from the airport or a taxi, but they’re ridiculously expensive. Using the Amtrek to go to/from Phoenix is nasty.

Flying, however, is lovely (the light rail stops at the airport) and I believe the Greyhound station is near the airport. A few other inter-city bus companies also serve Phoenix, but I’m not familiar with them.

Phoenix in a Nutshell

I found Phoenix very interesting in spite of, or maybe because, at first glance it doesn’t look like much.

It’s actually really hard to get Phoenixy pictures because the roads are wiiiiiide and half the lots are empty (as you can see from the above picture). It’s also very dark at night, even downtown. (I was told afterward that there’s a huge telescope near the city so it has to obey restrictions on light pollution.)

But if you take a closer look, there are lots of interesting buildings, museums, creative restaurants, original concept bars and more.

One thing that stood out to me, being from the bitter, rainy north and all, is how much stuff goes outside.

Look! A washer, dryer and storage locker! ALL OUTSIDE!

I was shocked when I saw it, then I stopped and thought “Right. They don’t get much rain and it’s never very cold.” I’ve always lived in places where it rained more often than not, so the realization that there are places that get so little rain that they can have WASHERS and DRYERS outside just blew my mind.

There was another site that made me stop and think too:

This actually isn’t a very good picture, but it illustrates what I want to highlight. Many parking lots, and not just apartment building parking lots like this one but grocery stores, schools, ect, have roofs. Parking lots in Canada do not have roofs. Makes you realize how strong the sun is here and how locals have learned to cope with it.

Food and Drink

Phoenix has great food. Which, as regular readers know, is a huge deal to this hedonistic explorer.

I wasn’t here long, but some of the highlights were:

Pizzeria Bianco: This is apparently one of the best pizza places in the US. I loved, loved, loved it. And I don’t even normally like pizza.

Gallo Blanco: Serves somewhat upper-end Mexican food. I had some sort of cheese fondue (I’m trying to find it on their menu, but I can’t, so I don’t know what it’s called) and it was one of the best things I ate my entire trip. I also went back the hostel crew for Wednesday night Flamenco on the roof.

Jobot: This was my breakfast place! Crepes aren’t as common south of the border as they are here in Canada, so I was excited to find some right near the hostel, and good ones at that. It’s actually a coffee shop, and they have pretty good wireless.

The Lost Leaf Bar: This was one of the places I went on the pub crawl with the hostel crowd on my first night in Phoenix. I’m a huge fan of beer and wine bars, as well as live music bars, and bars with nice decor. The Lost Leaf is combination of all that. I was served!

Final Words

And yeah, that was the gist of my impressions of Phoenix. In parting, please enjoy this picture of a cactus:

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3 Responses to Backpacking Phoenix

  1. Apple says:

    And not just any cactus! A saguaro, which is pretty endangered and only grows in a pretty small area, mostly located in Arizona and a bit of Mexico. Love me my saguaros.

    Anyway, yes, that is most definitely Arizona. Ah, the joys of desert living. 😐

    (really though, that person with their washer/dryer outside is insane – who wants to go out in the heat of summer to do laundry?)

    • Ophelie says:

      It was at the hostel. It only takes a few seconds to put clothes in the washer, so it can’t be THAT bad! You have to be outside to hang your clothes to dry anyway and that’s way worse than starting up a washing machine.

      I’m surprised to hear that Saguaros are endangered. When I went to the Grand Canyon as a teenager they were EVERYWHERE! I even bought some seeds then and tried to grow some at home. They grew to about an inch tall, but didn’t survive too long.

      • Apple says:

        The problem with saguaros is that they grow so slowly, they die easily when they’re young, and they have an EXTREMELY small area where they grow, considering how big the world is. And because of urban expansion and stuff, they have less and less space to grow.

        Also people are stupid and shoot them sometimes so they had to outlaw that.

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