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Layover in Phoenix – the ultimate guide 2021

4 September, 2021by Bounce

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport serves as a domestic hub as well as catering to flights from Canada, Mexico and Europe. This can easily lead to your finding yourself there on a short or long layover. Fortunately, getting from the airport into the downtown area is a doddle with a choice of cheap taxis or the even cheaper Metro Rail.

The first thing you are going to want to do is to store your bags so that you are not burdened by them during your adventure. After that, the city belongs to you, at least for a few hours.

Phoenix is a sprawling city that has grown dramatically over the last few years. Its new residents are often attracted by the generous dry climate of the Sonoran Desert but there are plenty of other reasons to visit this modern city.

6 hour layover in Phoenix


Being realistic, six hours is quite a short layover, and after collecting your bags and then storing them with a secure luggage storage service, plus getting to and from the airport, time is going to be precious. Under these circumstances, you are probably wise to opt for just one tourist destination.

If you are an art or history fan, the Heard Museum may make for an ideal between-flights visit. Created in 1929, it contains the finest collection of Native American art in the US. It houses more than 44,000 items in twelve galleries, so even in the museum, you are going to need to plan your visit carefully. 

In the two to four hours that you will have to play with, you should be able to see much of what this iconic museum has to offer.  There is also a garden café and shop so you will be able to grab a bite and a few curios without needing to venture further afield and complicate your schedule even more.

  • On a short trip be sure to keep track of time and allow for airport security clearance when you board your next flight.

  • The Heard offers a fascinating insight into both Native American art and culture.

  • Don’t ruin a Phoenix layover by trying to do too much.

8 hour layover in Phoenix


With a little more time to spend in the city, you can branch out and see a little more. Just a short walk from the Heard Museum, you’ll find the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix. This desert city may seem like an unlikely setting for a traditional Japanese garden, but that’s exactly what you’ll find in this 3.5 acre park. There’s even a 12 foot waterfall, a Koi pond, and a tea garden. Spend an hour or two wandering through this well-tended garden and you’ll feel recharged and rejuvenated for your next connection.

  • Take a short walk from the Heard Museum to the Japanese Friendship Garden.

  • Take a walk through the gardens and enjoy a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.

10 hour layover in Phoenix


If you are on a long layover and you are traveling with kids in tow then remaining in the airport can easily turn into something of a nightmare. An ideal alternative would be a visit to the Phoenix Zoo.

Set in 250 acres of grounds, the zoo houses everything from Komodo dragons to Sumatran tigers. There are four walking trails that wind through different habitats and when the kids (or the adults) become tired you can ride the safari train which takes twenty-five minutes. There is also a 4D theatre. 

Depending on how you choose to tackle it, a visit to the zoo can last from two hours to half a day, leaving you time to consider another tourist attraction and still make it back in time for your connection.

A great visit for kids and adults alike is the Arizona Science Center. What’s more, it is cool, which might come as something of a relief if you have been outdoors in the heat of the Sonoran Desert for any length of time. 

As well as permanent exhibits as diverse as a planetarium and Making Sense of Your Dollars and Cents, there is a constantly changing display of temporary exhibits to keep the family occupied and entertained.  

  • Phoenix has plenty on offer for the young traveler as well as the adult.

  • If you choose an outdoor activity, bear in mind the heat you may encounter.

  • Both the zoo and the science center offer interesting stopover attractions for families.

12 hour layover in Phoenix


With a whole day ahead of you, you can start to think about some slightly different activities. Old Town Scottsdale is an eclectic mix where the Old West meets trendy modern America in a way that is at once both charming and unusual. 

You could easily spend a whole day wandering through the streets of this area, but half a day will probably have to suffice given your tight schedule. If you fancy trying on a pair of those snakeskin cowboy boots you have always wondered about or a turquoise and silver ring then this is the place you will probably find it. 

There are plenty of small boutiques and coffee shops and finding somewhere to eat will be a cinch.

After that, why not visit the Musical Instrument Museum? Describing itself as the only global music museum in the world, here again, there is something for every age. They hold a collection of over 4000 musical instruments from around the world, but there is much more to them than that.

In their three hundred seat theatre they host regular music events of every variety you can imagine and then more. During the course of a year, they tend to host a least two hundred different artists.

Alongside the mechanical musical gallery, the experience gallery and the geographical instruments gallery there are also many fascinating visiting events.

  • With a whole day to fill, think about doing a couple of visits and enjoying a good meal.

  • Old Town Scottsdale is a good mixture of both new and old where you can pick up those last-minute gifts.

  • The Musical Instrument Museum is very different and can easily use up several hours.

12 hour layover in Phoenix


With a whole day ahead of you, you can start to think about some slightly different activities. Old Town Scottsdale is an eclectic mix where the Old West meets trendy modern America in a way that is at once both charming and unusual. 

You could easily spend a whole day wandering through the streets of this area, but half a day will probably have to suffice given your tight schedule. If you fancy trying on a pair of those snakeskin cowboy boots you have always wondered about or a turquoise and silver ring then this is the place you will probably find it. 

There are plenty of small boutiques and coffee shops and finding somewhere to eat will be a cinch.

After that, why not visit the Musical Instrument Museum? Describing itself as the only global music museum in the world, here again, there is something for every age. They hold a collection of over 4000 musical instruments from around the world, but there is much more to them than that.

In their three hundred seat theatre they host regular music events of every variety you can imagine and then more. During the course of a year, they tend to host a least two hundred different artists.

Alongside the mechanical musical gallery, the experience gallery and the geographical instruments gallery there are also many fascinating visiting events.

  • With a whole day to fill, think about doing a couple of visits and enjoying a good meal.

  • Old Town Scottsdale is a good mixture of both new and old where you can pick up those last-minute gifts.

  • The Musical Instrument Museum is very different and can easily use up several hours.

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