Phoenix has finally grown up. With the new Valley Metro light rail you can enjoy the city without having to rent a car or take UBER. There is lots to do. Note the weather in December and January can be cool. It was only in the 60s when I was there (with lows in the 40s) so pack a jacket, however, there is plenty of sunshine year round.


I took Southwest nonstop. Sky Harbor Airport is also the hub of American Airlines. Then hop on the people mover over to the Valley Metro Light Rail for a quick trip to your downtown hotel. An all-day rail pass is just $4.


I stayed at the new Residence Inn Downtown (113 S. Central) and paid $110 for a Saturday night stay. They offer free use of the Eos Health Club, a full service gym nearby. It is in the same building as the Courtyard. Both are close to the downtown shops and restaurants. Other great downtown choices including the Sheraton and The Palomar by Kimpton.  


Hop back on the Light Rail and connect to the #56 bus for a trip to the Desert Botanical Garden. Enjoy the incredible display of cacti, succulents, and desert wildflowers. I took a guided tour which was worth it. They also have 2 cafes if you get hungry.  Starting at 6pm, check out the Electric Desert Installation which includes a light and video display of the desert plant.  Through December 31, don’t miss the nightly Las Noches de las Luminarias at the Garden which includes music, a buffet, and more. 

Close by is the zoo. You can also hike up into the nearby hills. 

The Heard Museum can be accessed at the Encanto-Central Avenue light rail station.  Now through February 3 see the Henri Matisse and the Inner Arctic Spirit display.

Another day trip idea is nearby Tempe and the ASU campus (also right on the light rail).

The Herberger Theater Center offers great evening options.  

Meet the locals and go for a run or walk with the Front Runners.


The Chico Mayo (50 W. Jefferson) has great Mexican food and overlooks the downtown outdoor skating rink. Enjoy a healthy salad or rice bowl (and a fresh carrot juice) at Grabagreen (also at 50 W. Jefferson). There are numerous shops and restaurants at the downtown Cityscape area (1 E. Washington) as well as Arizona Center (400 E. Van Buren).


There are no bars downtown nor does the city have a gay village. 

However, the popular Charlies country western bar (727 W. Camelback) can be accessed using the Camelback-Central light rail stop on Valley Metro. The Diablos Bar, which features Margarita specials and serves food, is not far from the Indian School – Central light rail stop. 

For a map of the bars and a listing of nightly bar events, check out or pick up a copy of Echo Magazine. Another great resource is ION Arizona Magazine. (

For more information on your visit to the Valley of the sun and the rest of the state, check out the Pride Guide Arizona.  

You can’t go wrong with a vacation in Arizona. The booming metropolis has a large LGBTQ community and is very welcoming.  Plus the sunny days cure the winter blues.

Bill Malcolm is an Indianapolis-based freelance writer whose LGBT value travel column has appeared in publications throughout the country. He also has a  column in the Broad Ripple Gazette and writes for ALL ABOARD INDIANA. All or part of this column may appear elsewhere.