There’s something mystical about the Arizona desert at night. The relief from the scorching sun nudges nocturnal animals into motion. Humans, too. January visitors also can take advantage of pleasant daytime temperatures averaging 69 degrees—perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who like to hike Sonoran Desert trails and explore special events at local landmarks. The sun sets before 6 p.m. this month, so you’ll feel more inclined to step out for a leisurely happy hour. Stylish new downtown cocktail bars near the Metro light rail, such as Bitter & Twisted and the Lustre Rooftop Bar at the Hotel Palomar, allow you to sip and travel with ease.
Upend your image of the desert as hot and vacant by looking at it through night-vision goggles. In 10-person Hummers, Explore Arizona Tours ferries groups deep into the cool Sonoran Desert to view starry skies and nighttime inhabitants via high-tech telescopes and thermal-imaging devices ($125 to $150 per person). Learn about the habits of other exotic creatures at the Phoenix Art Museum exhibit “Emphatics: Avant-Garde Fashion 1963-2013.” Nearly 100 ensembles highlight designers such as Alexander McQueen, Thierry Mugler, and Jean Paul Gaultier, through Jan. 16 ($3 to $5). Experience the Night Lights Tour on Fridays at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West ($35). The 25th anniversary celebration of ZooLights at the Phoenix Zoo continues through Jan. 8 ($13 to $20).
Tacos Chiwas is a favorite among local chefs and features the flavors of Chihuahua, Mexico, where the founders have roots. Deliciousness is piled into meaty tacos of smoked, shredded pork carnitas, chewy-crispy tripe, and the namesake taco’s blend of spicy beef, ham, and melty queso asadero ($2.50 each). Lunch at Clever Koi offers a build-your-own-bowl option ($5 and up) and “crispy pig-face dumplings” as part of the small-bites menu ($4 to $8). End a day of shopping at Biltmore Fashion Park with happy hour at Christopher’s and Crush Lounge. In the lounge and kitchen bar, wines by the glass, beer and well drinks, plus a menu including wild mushroom or goat cheese pizzas (normally $14 to $16), are half-price from 3 to 6 p.m.
The Arizona Biltmore is masterfully landscaped with light, sparkling dramatically at night. After a $35 million renovation, the 1929 Frank Lloyd Wright landmark dazzles with new poolside cabanas, refreshed guest rooms (from $379) and villas, and the enduring high-tea service in the sunny lobby lounge. Nearby, The Camby, a stylish, year-old hotel ($299 and up), is geared for lively relaxation with a rooftop pool, two bars serving craft cocktails, and Zest, a boutique spa where busy travelers can ease stress
with efficient 20-minute “treats,” or longer, leisurely services. Your mountain-view room provides comfort, but it’s only a four-minute walk to the upscale shops at Biltmore Fashion Park.