Star: Heard Museum
Founded in 1929 and located in the city's center, the privately held Heard strives to be the world's leading museum devoted to American Indian art. It does not disappoint. A dozen galleries mount thought-provoking historical and contemporary exhibits, such as the newly updated Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories, which chronicles the U.S. government's attempts to assimilate Native children into "civilized" society. Special events, including the Indian Fair & Market (March 1–3 this year) and First Fridays (all other months), underscore the cultural experience, as does the well curated Heard Museum Shop, which sells lacquered pottery, silver jewelry, and kachina dolls.
Secret: Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve
Delve into the symbolism of ancient carvings at the Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve in the northwest valley suburb of Glendale. Early inhabitants etched more than 1,500 petroglyphs into black boulders on the hillsides here, some of them viewable from a quarter-mile trail. The images and stories date from a.d. 300 to 1450 and include rock art made by the Hohokam people, such as curvilinear shapes thought to represent Quetzalcóatl, the feathered serpent deity. Exhibits in the on-site museum shed light on the culture of the Hohokam, and of other indigenous people who left marks here.
Star: Roosevelt Row Arts District
Downtown Phoenix’s arts district, Roosevelt Row, is abuzz with galleries, shops, nightclubs, and restaurants—so much so that the area draws more than 100,000 visitors a year. Everyone, it seems, wants to tap into the creative vibe of the neighborhood, a mile-long stretch of Roosevelt between Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street. Head there to check out art at the Lost Leaf, an edgy gallery, bar, and live music venue with staff-painted murals in the alleys; catch a set at the Nash, a club inspired by eminent drummer Lewis Nash that’s the place to see jazz performances; and marvel at contemporary works by emerging and midcareer artists at Modified Arts. End your stroll at Cobra Arcade Bar, a no-kids emporium of vintage arcade and video games, from pinball to Centipede.