By Bill Malcolm
I have been to Phoenix 4 times in recent years but could never find the gayborhood. Indeed, the local travel guide said they didn’t have one. Wrong. You will find it at 7th Avenue near Melrose in midtown, and you will not need a rental car if you stay and play in Midtown and use the light rail to get around.
Springtime in Phoenix is perfect for a visit. The desert is in bloom. Temperatures are in the ‘80s. You will wonder why you don’t move here.
WHAT TO DO
The Desert Botanical Garden features a great display of native cacti. You can reach the garden and the nearby Zoo via a light rail/bus connection. The garden is located In Papago Park just northeast of the airport. After a hike through the gardens, continue on the light rail east to Tempe, home of the beautiful Arizona State University campus. There are lots of restaurants and shops in downtown Tempe, which is very walkable.
Image credit: @thegaytraveler
Work out at the LA Fitness, Camelback at 7th Avenue. It’s where the boys are.
Phoenix’s Pride Parade Festival is in April (phoenixpride.org) and turned 40 in in 2020.
Don’t miss the new Arts District just north of downtown.
Make your first stop Stacy’s at Melrose (4343 7th Avenue @ Melrose). Sunday night is the drag show, Stacy’s Follies. It is packed. Nearby is the Pat O’s Bunkhouse (4428 N. 7th Avenue), which is also a lot of fun. The lesbian-owned Boycott Bar (430 N. 7th Avenue) welcomes everyone. Charlie’s (727 W. Camelback) has fun karaoke and 2 for 1 specials on Tuesdays. Wear your cowboy gear.
Image credit: Bill Malcolm
WHERE TO EAT
The Wild Thaiger (2631 Central) has great Thai food. The Mexican restaurant at 7th Avenue at Osborn, Mi Patio, is also very good. Durant’s Fine Food is a Phoenix tradition (also on Central).
I took American to Phoenix and Southwest home. Fares can be lower on American (which has a huge hub here) and the service is better, but Southwest doesn’t charge ticket change fees or bag fees.
From Sky Harbor, hop on the Valley Metro Light Rail (44th Street Station) for the short ride to downtown or midtown. Rental car or Uber not needed.
Image credit: @everywherepodcast
WHERE TO STAY
I stayed at the Extended Stay Midtown (Metro stop: Osborn at Central). It’s a doable walk (or bus ride) to the gayborhood and there is a 24-hour Walgreens nearby if you need anything. The Ramada is another option as is the Wyndham. I would recommend also The Clarendon, but they charge a “resort fee” (which I avoid).
Other hotel options include the new Cambria Hotel in the Arts District. Downtown has a lot of great hotels. I like The Sheraton and the Residence Inn. Downtown too is very walkable and a short light rail ride up to the bars.
FOR MORE TRAVEL TIPS
Phoenix has two excellent LGBTQ+ publications. Ion Arizona Magazine (ionaz.com) is one. See their Navigation map for a listing of the bars and other attractions. Echo Magazine is the other publication (echomag.com). They too have a great map of Phoenix bars. Phoenix NewTimes is their weekly and also lists lots of stuff to do.
Image credit: @fontes_four_pack
The fabulous Arizona Highways has ideas of where to visit around the state. Head up to the Grand Canyon National Park or Sedona if you have time or down to Tucson. Arizona is an amazing and beautiful state and Phoenix is a great city that is surprisingly gay-friendly. It’s the New West. You can’t beat the spring weather. You may want to even move here.
*Bill Malcolm has lived in Phoenix but currently resides in Indianapolis. His syndicated LGBTQ+ value travel column runs in publications from Charlotte to Los Angeles. He focuses on affordable vacations, which utilize pubic transit and he tries to go where the locals go. He does travel writing as a hobby although he thanks Visit Phoenix for their travel tips and recommendations.
Featured image by @letmebefrankwithyou923