There are four nutrition conferences coming up in the valley: ASPEN in March, the 35th Annual Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition (SCAN) Symposium in April, Today’s Dietitian Spring Symposium in May, and the Arizona Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AZAND) Annual State Conference in June!
I never knew where to go when visiting other cities during conferences, so thought I’d write a post from my perspective – a dietitian who also loves to eat, exercise, and find fun things in new cities.
I can’t say this enough! Many people just focus on Scottsdale when visiting; Scottsdale is overrated, and I am biased, having lived in downtown Phoenix for almost eight years and Scottsdale for a brief stint for about a year. I also lived in the east valley for almost two years, and currently am in Uptown Phoenix. Downtown Phoenix is welcoming to all, has unique events, and has a variety of events, restaurants, and more.
Downtown Phoenix has come a long way since I moved there in 2010, when it was just starting to emerge as a cool place. There are numerous bars, restaurants, events, and really cool historical neighborhoods! Downtown Phoenix has a more casual and real vibe, versus Scottsdale spots. The Light Rail is an easy way to get around.
For the younger crowd (I’m almost 38!), Mill Avenue in Tempe has the best bars where collegiates spend their Thursday and Saturday nights. Rula Bula is an old favorite there.
Favorite Places in Downtown Phoenix
The Original Angel’s Trumpet Ale House is a fun bar, with delicious interesting ciders, the BEST big pretzels, salads, and more. They have a lovely patio, perfect for the spring time weather. There is a second location in Arcadia off 44th St. I haven’t been to this one.
Bitter & Twisted is not only a bar, but they serve interesting foods, like sriracha popcorn! This is further downtown and has a chill classy vibe. Note: This place can get packed, and they won’t allow you to wait in the area near the door.
Pita Jungle has a location off 3rd Ave and Roosevelt, right near my previous apartment building! Pita Jungle has numerous locations across the valley. This is good for vegetarians and meat lovers both. They have delicious hummus, pita, and other unique Mediterranean dishes. It’s a casual spot, with good service and even better music.
Cibo Urban Pizzeria is in an old home, with a beautiful patio, and sometimes includes live music. I love all the food here but especially love the ambiance.
Lola is a fun hipster place for pastries, coffee, tea, and working on a laptop with really good music.
The Vig has locations in four spots in the valley. The one downtown – The Vig Fillmore – has a cool patio for socializing. There is also The Vig Uptown, near 16th St and Bethany Home. There are locations in North Scottsdale and McCormick Ranch also. They have tasty brunch foods, delicious guac, and crisp fresh cocktails.
Matt’s Big Breakfast is as great as people say, with unique flavors and a local vibe. There are three other locations, including one in Terminal 4 at Sky Harbor Airport. There is usually a line at the downtown location. I love the eggs, potatoes, and waffles.
The Phoenix Public Market Cafe has tasty dishes. I love the vegetable salad with interesting aioli sauces. This is also the site of the Saturday morning downtown Phoenix farmer’s market.
Valley Bar is a chill cool bar, and it’s a bit tough to find if you are new. It’s not right on Adams, but you go into the alley to get to the entrance. They have cocktails and snacks. This is where you can hear cool independent bands and sometimes local bands. No Maroon 5 here! Beware: they will not allow Hydroflask or water bottles inside, and late Friday and Saturday nights can be a bit rowdy according to Valley Bar regulars.
The Crescent Ballroom off 2nd Ave and Van Buren is a slightly larger music venue with great music and other events, like trivia on Sunday nights.
The Van Buren is yet another concert venue which is slightly larger than Crescent and hosts bands that are popular and what is considered indie, along with other events. The drinks are not great, so I would recommend drinking at The Crescent, which is a couple blocks east before coming to The Van Buren.
Midtown and Uptown
SCAN Symposium attendees may not want to come all the way downtown, so here are some recommendations for Midtown and Uptown.
Postino Wine Cafe! Not Postinos – is a favorite wine bar with the most delicious bruschetta with unique toppings, like almond hummus and tomatoes, or brie and fig jam with apples. Postino offers super quick service, and a lovely patio at the Missouri location. There are locations all over! Today’s Dietitian attendees may want to visit the Postino location off Scottsdale Road and Highland. The Postino off Central / near Missouri is near other Upward Projects eateries. Postino is my favorite, but I like Federal Pizza, Joyride, and Windsor also! Note: Do not park in the neighborhoods near the restaurants; these neighborhoods have specific resident parking stickers.
Speaking of pizza, Phoenix and Scottsdale have a lot of delicious pizza restaurants (unless you’re from New York; I haven’t heard the end of it from NY friends!) Spinato’s Pizzeria has unique toppings, but the pizza sauce is better than others I’ve had. There are five locations, so all attendees from the various conferences could enjoy! This article provides more suggestions.
Seafood lovers will love Chula Seafood; there is also a small location in way south Scottsdale.
Verdura Plant-Based Eatery is a new spot for vegan and vegetarian food – and a huge plus – they have amazing music. I enjoyed a meal there on the day of the grand opening. I heard Bjork, Bowie, and some other great tunes. The whole restaurant is music themed.
Another vegetarian/vegan place that serves veggie-based comfort food is Green New American Vegetarian. They have a location off 7th St (warning: Parking is a pain), and another location in Tempe. Both locations are closed on Sundays.
The cool place to be for hipsters, coffee lovers, and breakfast aficionados is Lux Central. Lux also has a patio, where I have spent many times hanging out with friends, sipping on tea or coffee, enjoying Lux’s decadent desserts.
Beckett’s Table is technically in Arcadia, but a great choice. It is a trendy unique place with fancy comfort foods. I love the grilled cheese, tomato soup, and the sangria!
Another Arcadia favorite (near 40th St and Campbell) is La Grande Orange Grocery & Pizzeria. Besides delicious pizza and salads, the homemade English muffins are just right. I buy a package every now and then. My hair stylist also says their iced tea is one of a kind and will go out of her way to pick some up prior to work.
True Food Kitchen has two locations in the valley: Camelback East (just east of Uptown Phoenix) and North Scottsdale at the Scottsdale Quarter. True Food also has locations in California and Texas, and the menu includes delicious healthy eats. I love the Farmers Market Crudités, which includes chilled raw vegetables, tzatziki and black olive dips. If you’re with a large group, order 2-3 of these (the bowl includes a lot of ice, ha!)
Flower Child is not special to Phoenix; they have locations in other states. It has a variety of healthy eats, though rather pricey for what one gets. I love a lot of their meals, especially the pick three sides.The avocado hummus is creamy with a small amount of spice, delish!
This is nowhere near any of the conferences, but if you love pho, make the trek to Unphogettable, with locations in Mesa and Chandler (east valley). The Unphogettable locations are some of the only I have found that have vegetable-only broth. There may be some in the west valley (Glendale, Peoria), but I’m focusing on Central and North.
The good news? If you don’t have a chance to enjoy some of these places, Sky Harbor Airport has some of the local restaurants within Terminal 4!
Work It Out!
Some of my favorite local places include Urban Yoga (midtown Phoenix), Reformed Pilates (multiple locations), Sutra Yoga (several locations), Sweatshop on Central (uptown), and Blaksteel Fitness in Arcadia area. Yoga teachers Tara Martell and Beck (Bex) Richards are two of my favorites. Tara teaches at both Urban and Sweatshop. Brooke is my favorite instructor at Reformed Pilates. Andi O teaches a fun bootcamp kinda class Friday mornings at Blaksteel and teaches cycle at Sweatshop.
For Today’s Dietitian participants who stay further up north, there are some great options. Life Power Yoga is off the 101 and Shea and usually offer first class free. Check out Becki or Jenn Chiarelli’s classes!
We have chains such as CycleBar, CorePower Yoga, Lifetime Fitness (very few locations), Club Pilates, LA Fitness, and likely more. I love CycleBar McCormick Ranch, which is off Indian Bend and Scottsdale Road.
If you already belong to LA Fitness, there are some excellent seasoned instructors at some of the locations. LA Fitness uptown – near 7th Ave and Camelback has great cycle classes with Natasha (Tasha) Mendoza (who also teaches at Sweatshop on Central). The LA Fitness off 32nd St and Camelback features cycle classes with Carolyn Paulson, whose classes fill up and people fight over bikes (really!) She is one of the best cycling instructors!
For a tough up hill climb, check out Piewesta Peak. There are several nice options here. The main one is like climbing up stairs constantly, but the reward includes beautiful views and a nice cardiovascular workout. This is very challenging and offers lovely views. This is more north Central Phoenix. Parking can be a huge pain.
For a North Scottsdale spot, I love Lost Dog Wash. It’s very easy, but there is ample parking, lovely views, and it’s not crowded. Plus, there are real restrooms, friendly staff, and people who watch out for each other.
Note: This does happen – there are rattlesnakes on the trails at times. Most hikers will warn you. I have had a few friends who have spotted them, based on the warning rattles. Do not wear headphones, so you can any warning signs!
I don’t hike as much as others, but here are some recs.
Walking and Running
Many neighborhoods are safe in the valley; some are not, though.
If you are staying closer to downtown Phoenix, there are many homeless individuals, just like many other large cities. I have never had any issues, but it’s important to note that. Near Hance Park, there have been times where there are drug issues.
If you are you further north (way north Scottsdale or Anthem), Javelinas may make an appearance. I have only seen them early in the morning, before the sun has risen. They can be violent towards small pets and sometimes to humans, especially if they have babies.
People enjoy running the canals and near Granada Park (north Central).
Scottsdale Fashion Square is an amazingly huge mall, with designers and normal stores (affordable!) They recently remodeled, so there are more skylights making it more appealing.
Kierland Commons and Scottsdale Quarter include some great shops, along with being able to walk outside in between stores.
Old Town Scottsdale has more of the tourist-type shops, including art, jewelry, and southwest related items.
The Biltmore Shopping Center is ok. It does have True Food, the delicious restaurant described above.