Phoenix is not San Francisco, Las Vegas or even San Diego.

It's a different type of city.

You shouldn't expect a action packed downtown - downtown Phoenix isn't filled major retail but instead it is home to smaller Arizona based stores, and is not the center of the city. Phoenix is designed for tourists, with beautifully kept highways, and it is known as one of the cleanest cities in the USA. It is also a hotspot for business conferences. This is because there are around two hundred and fifty different golf courses, a large range of hotel options, and a business friendly environment.

The most interesting areas of Phoenix are not just in phoenix, but in the surrounding cities as well. Scottsdale is known for golf, food, and shopping on a luxury scale. Phoenix is known for golf, food, shopping, hiking, and business on a above average scale. The rest of the cities are known for many different things.

The cluster consisting of Scottsdale, Tempe, Chandler and Mesa, known as the East Valley, have traditionally been the better-developed suburbs as opposed to the west suburbs, but within the last few years, places like Glendale have started to have more amenities, due to the Arizona Cardinals and Phoenix Coyotes stadiums built in that town. 

If you like fine dining, Scottsdale is the place for you, with all sorts of high end places to eat, especially near the historic downtown core known as Old Town Scottsdale. Old Town is kind of touristy, as in Fisherman's Wharf or Alamo touristy, so be ready for that (no Wax Museum, however!) In Phoenix proper, the area around 24th Street and Camelback Road has lots of shopping (Biltmore Fashion Park has Macys, Cheesecake Factory and a few boutiques) and expensive places to eat, and a little west of that are more moderately priced restaurants surrounding an open air mall anchored by a Best Buy, Staples, Mervyns, and Fry's Supermarket (owned by Kroger and looks like most newer Kroger locations around the country).

If you have to be in Phoenix for a conference downtown, you should note that after about 5pm, downtown Phoenix begins to close down except for Diamondbacks baseball and/or Suns basketball. There is one downtown "mall", Arizona Center, which was built in the 1990's to try and get something exciting downtown; it has helped but now it's the only place besides the hotels and a few places near the sports stadiums where you can get a nice sit down dinner. It has an UNO restaurant and a Mexican place called Mi Amigos, as well as a Subway, a little Italian place and a 24 screen AMC movie theater. Very little retail has survived in Arizona Center, people around here just like going to the suburban malls. In much of the south west, including Phoenix, Harkins Theaters is a popular and local theater change.

Arizona Mexican food is 2nd only to Mexico. There are many family owned Mexican restaurants across Pphoenix and it is a good idea to try at least one.

When you come here, do not expect a major downtown urban experience, because that's not how Phoenix is built. Phoenix is built for shopping, eating, hiking and golfing. You shouldn’t expect Phoenix to look like a different city as it is unique; it has the desert paradise of Las Vegas and the casinos up north. Its own unique diversity of culture. It has the quietness of a sleepy town in Wyoming, the business accommodations of New York City, the cleanliness of Singapore, and a style of its own.