Sweeney Asks the Locals: Julie Cohn

Mr. TWS and I are loving getting to know our new community in the Valley of the Sun. There is so much for residents and visitors to see and do in Phoenix Metro, Scottsdale, and many other nearby places. I’ve always believed that the best way to get to know a place is by asking the locals and that’s what we’re doing in this series of posts.

Check out these favorite Phoenix and Scottsdale things to do!

Julie Cohn is a food and travel lifestyle writer and blogger. In addition to her own site A Cork, Fork, & Passport, she is also a feature hotel writer for the Telegraph. She has lived in the Phoenix area for 17 years. I asked her to share her area favorites.

Julie’s picks for Phoenix and Scottsdale area favorites

Nature and outdoor activities

Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix has activities year round, from spring wildflowers to summer garden classes to Los Noches de la Luminarias during the Christmas holiday season.

Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix -- Photo by Julie Cohn

Desert Botanical Garden — Photo by Julie Cohn

I love to go hiking in the White Tank Mountain Regional Park. The trails are safe and less difficult than some of the other Phoenix-area hikes. There are also interesting Indian petroglyphs. I also like to picnic at The Farm at South Mountain. The many pecan trees offer a cool, shady refuge from the hot desert sun with beautiful wildflowers and herb gardens to stroll through.

The Farm at South Mountain -- Photo by Julie Cohn

The Farm at South Mountain — Photo by Julie Cohn


We love cars, so enjoy the Barrett-Jackson Car Show & Auction in Scottsdale every January. Some of the most unique luxury and classic cars can be found at the show and the auction is fascinating to watch live.


Sedona -- Photo by Julie Cohn

Sedona — Photo by Julie Cohn

Sedona for hiking, art, and dining. Breathtaking views, quiet hiking trails, fun family activities (such as Slide Rock), unique art galleries, and wonderful dining make Sedona the ultimate weekend getaway.

Coronado, California is the place to get out of Phoenix to escape the heat. Thousands of Phoenicians flock to the San Diego area in the summertime, but the best place to stay and dine in the San Diego area is Coronado.


Dinner at Talavera at Four Seasons Troon North in Scottsdale, Arizona -- Photo by Julie Cohn

Dinner at Talavera at Four Seasons Troon North — Photo by Julie Cohn

For gourmet, Talavera at Four Seasons Troon North in Scottsdale. It has an incredible menu with unique flavor combinations and a spectacular view of the city at night. For casual, Chelsea’s Kitchen, just off Camelback and 40th. It is a fun casual place to go with friends, and they have the best white sangria cocktails in Phoenix.

Place for romance or nightlife

Dinner in the wine cellar at Lon’s at The Hermosa Inn. Candlelit dinner for up to 12, with gourmet food, a selection of outstanding wines, and maybe even a few ghostly guests make dinner in the wine cellar a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Insider tips

  • Four and five star hotels and resorts in the Phoenix area lower their rates to 60%+ off during the summer months, so if you can stand the heat, it is a great time to visit or have a staycation.
  • A great cultural day trip is to Montezuma’s Castle National Monument in Camp Verde, Arizona.
  • Rock Springs Cafe in Black Canyon City has the best pies in the United States!
  • The new restaurants at Phoenix International Airport are branches of some of the best restaurants in Phoenix, including Barrio Cafe, Chelsea’s Kitchen, and Matt’s Big Breakfast. It is worth getting to the airport early to grab a bite.
  • Many visitors do not understand the heat index in Arizona. Arizona has a “dry heat” with low humidity, so people do not feel as hot as they actually are. It is easy to overheat and become dehydrated, especially while hiking, jogging, etc. Keep water with you at all times and drink twice as much as you normally would, plus watch the local weather reports, as our local news will post warnings when it is too dangerous to do outside activities.

Personal anecdote

The Phoenix area has a weird weather phenomenon that happens every summer during monsoon season, the haboob. A haboob is a dust storm that comes up suddenly and sweeps across the city. Our first summer in Phoenix, we lived in Gilbert in the East Valley, which seems to get its fair share of summer storms. I was driving home from Phoenix when a haboob started and the visibility was so bad I had to pull off the highway. It is actually a wall of dust in front of you and was frightening to witness the first time. If you are caught in a haboob while driving, pull off as quickly as you can to a safe area and wait out the storm, as they usually pass through in 10-15 minutes. I-10 is an especially dangerous place to be during a haboob, as much of the surrounding area is dry desert. If the weather reports advise a dust storm or haboob, wait until it is over to continue your travels. Haboobs usually occur late in the afternoons when monsoon storms pass through the area.

Julie, thanks for sharing your Phoenix/Scottsdale favorites and insights!

Follow Julie Cohn on social media

Twitter: @CorkForkPassport
Facebook: A Cork, Fork & Passport
Instagram: @acorkforkpassport

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

7 thoughts on “Sweeney Asks the Locals: Julie Cohn

  1. Marcia

    Hi Cathy,
    I see you’re enjoying Phoenix. Great tips for things to see and do.
    i had planned to visit Sedona last fall but work got in the way.
    Interesting info on the dust storm. I’d never connected Phoenix with them or monsoons. I hope you weren’t alone when you experienced one.

  2. Sue Reddel

    There are just so many things to do in this area. We loved the Desert Botanical Gardens too. I’d add the Frank Lloyd school Taliesen. We definitely need to check out Troon on our next visit – looks very, very good!

  3. Nathalie

    Such a great area, sound like an itinerary could easily be filled with some great activities. My first stop would definitely be the Desert Botanical Garden, Thanks for sharing.

  4. Pingback: 4 Places for Family Fun in Scottsdale - Traveling with Sweeney

  5. Pingback: 4 Places for Family Fun in Scottsdale | Traveling with Sweeney

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