Two days in Phoenix is plenty of time to explore all of the city’s major attractions, making it one of the best weekend getaways in the United States. You can explore downtown on day one and South Mountain Park on day two and feel satisfied. But you should definitely consider extending your trip one extra day to get out into the desert and get a taste of what life was like back when this part of the country was still considered the Wild West. So on your third day in Phoenix, leave all the modern attractions to step back in time at Lost Dutchman State Park and the Goldfield ghost town. You’ll even have time to walk through Old Town Scottsdale, one of Greater Phoenix’s most popular neighborhoods, to grab a drink and pose under the iconic cowboy sign.
Stop for breakfast at First Watch — a reliable breakfast and lunch chain — at the Park Central location where you can grab a speedy bite before setting off into the mountains. The healthy fare includes dishes like a power breakfast quinoa bowl, coconut milk chia seed pudding with fresh fruit, and classic smashed avocado toast.
After breakfast, head out of town towards Apache Junction to Lost Dutchman State Park, about 45 minutes from Downtown Phoenix. Stop at the visitor center and learn about the Lost Dutchman — who wasn’t Dutch — and his gold mine, which is still lost (if it ever existed). Walk the short Native Trail, and learn about the plants of the desert, then take a hike around the base of the mountain on the Crosscut Trail (rated easy) and enjoy some beautiful vistas of the Superstition Mountains.
Drive up the road about a mile to the Goldfield Ghost Town and have an old-fashioned Western lunch at the Mammoth Steakhouse and Saloon, which basically means meat, meat, and more meat — and homemade apple dumplings for dessert.
After lunch, walk out in the Main Street and look around Goldfield Ghost Town. While it’s certainly a gimmicky (but very fun) tourist attraction nowadays, back in the 1890s it was a thriving gold-mining town. The mines faulted, and by the mid-1920s, the town was dead, leaving behind its three saloons, general store, blacksmith shop, brewery, and meat market.
While kids will get a huge kick out of the ghost town, any adult with an interest in Wild West history and a secret desire to be a cowboy will enjoy Goldfield. Visit the Historic Museum and pan for gold at the Prospector’s Palace. Take a zip-line over the town, then ride the narrow-gauge train — a 20-minute ride where the conductor will tell your stories about the surroundings. Don’t miss the 25-minute narrated tour through the Gold Mine responsible for the existence of the town. If you happen to be there on a weekend, you’ll even witness a gunfight in the center of the town (free show every hour, Saturdays and Sundays). You could also visit the OK Corral Stables to take a one-hour horseback tour through the Superstitions.
After businesses close at 5:00 PM, head back towards Old Town Scottsdale.
Since it’s your last day in Phoenix, you deserve a treat. Dine in Old Town Scottsdale at the exquisite Sel Restaurant for an experience you won’t forget. Based on the freshest seasonal ingredients, the menu features a contemporary American cuisine like grilled watermelon salad and prime filet mignon with a bone marrow-white truffle “explosion” (their words). You can order a la carte, but it’s well worth springing for the prix-fixe five-course meal.
After dinner, stroll through the historic Old Town Scottsdale where you can find turquoise jewelry and souvenir magnets by the truckload but also a nice selection of art galleries, a beautiful mission church, and the lovely Scottsdale Civic Center Park nearby.
For a late-night Martini and live music, pop into the classy cocktail bar AZ/88, which overlooks the Civic Center’s lush lawns, public art installations, and the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Or go for the total opposite vibe and head to the local dive, the Rusty Spur Saloon for a shot of whiskey and a cold beer.