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Southwest Flight Ops Employees Share Their Favorite ‘Hidden Gems’ Spots in the Phoenix, AZ Area


Southwest now serves 100 destinations across the U.S. and 10 additional countries, so if you’re looking to get away, there are always places to go and experiences to be had! Nobody knows a city and its hidden gems better than the Employees who live and work there. Check out a few of our Flight Ops Employees' favorite places in the Phoenix area and share your hidden gems in our comment section below!


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Heard Museum, Desert Botanical Garden, Heritage Square, Phoenix Art Museum, South Mountain Park, North Mountain Preserve and Shaw Butte, Taliesin West, Mystery Castle, Papago Park


     Heart     Interested in sharing your travel inspiration? Leave a comment below or visit our Travel Inspiration Discussion Forum to share your knowledge with Southwest Customers.  


Dining in Old Town Scottsdale

Old Town Scottsdale is a wonderful place for locals and tourists alike. There are wonderful, hard to find local restaurant gems like The House Brasserie, Cafe Monarch, and Virtu. There’s also a delicious favorite Italian restaurant in Phoenix, Italian Grotto, which has been in Scottsdale for 30 years and is run by a bunch of guys from Bronx, New York! If you’re looking for a wonderful dessert place, then head on over to Sugar Bowl. This old-style ice cream shop has been around since the 1950s and has even been featured in the cartoon strip Family Circus, as the cartoon’s creator—Bill Keane—used to bring his kids there! Old Town is a “can’t miss” for food and entertainment!


Fun in the Water

West Fork Trail is one of the most beautiful hikes on Earth. Not that I'm a huge hiker, it's just that this area is so scenic ... I love to share it with visitors. The West Fork Trail is in Oak Creek Canyon, near Sedona, Arizona—an easy two-hour drive north of Phoenix. The trail is an easy hike that crosses a stream at least 13 times as it winds through this wooded canyon. The canyon is surrounded by beautiful red rocks and red cliffs. The trail is dog friendly too. Our dogs absolutely love playing in the water. To quench your thirst after the hike, there are tons of outdoor breweries and wine bars a few miles down the road in Sedona.


—Todd Watts, Captain


Cool off from the desert heat at one of the lakes near Phoenix.Cool off from the desert heat at one of the lakes near Phoenix.

 Hiking the Canyon

Two places that my entire family really enjoys here in Phoenix are Lake Pleasant and the Salt River. The biggest misconception about our desert is the lack of water, but Phoenix actually has four major lakes with plenty of water sports to enjoy. Living on the north side of Phoenix, we frequent Lake Pleasant nearly every week during the summer. It has two large marinas and two restaurants where you can dock your boat. It has house boat rentals, jet skis, fishing guides, and booze cruises on a nightly basis. Lake Pleasant also has a biology and ecology center for our local elementary schools to explore.


Another fantastic summer tradition is floating down the Salt River on tubes. All you do is take in the sun, enjoy the cool water, and float for several hours with family and friends down the river. It’s always a great time and is very relaxing. Those are just a couple of fantastic summer gems we have here in beautiful Phoenix.


—Nancy Martin Belitz, Captain


Engaging with Nature

A great family outing in the East Valley is a trip to the Riparian Reserve located behind the Southeast Regional library on the SE corner on Greenfield and Guadalupe. The Riparian Reserve is an urban recreational oasis with nearly 200 bird species, rabbits, owls, and ducks that have nested in a maze of hiking trails that navigate across its seven lagoons and scenic water streams. It's a great place to have a family picnic or fish in the stocked lake. Also located in the Reserve is an observatory that offers star and planet gazing on certain nights of the month. Entrance is free!


—Todd Tofaute, Captain