AFCI | Discovering Phoenix during Creativation

When I travel for an event like Creativation 2019, my primary purpose of course is to work. But let’s be honest, we all want to have some fun when we travel to a faraway city, too – especially a new one! Convention centers all look the same. Why not enjoy some real local flavor? So in the past few years I’ve tried to make it a rule that I add in some local touring fun whenever I take a work-related trip. 

[Disclosure: This post is sponsored by AFCI and the Creativation 2019 show.]

Creativation in Phoenix

Not having been to Phoenix or the American Southwest before, I needed to do a little research to learn what my options are for the upcoming show!

(Don’t forget when you are planning your Phoenix trip – registration is now open for Creativation 2019!)

Sights to See in Phoenix

If you don’t have much time – only a few hours or a half day – there are still plenty of sights to see that are within just a few minutes’ drive (or Uber ride) of the convention center.

Musical Instrument Museum

Travel around the world through the geographically arranged galleries of the Musical Instrument Museum. In the Experience Gallery, get hands-on yourself and give instruments from around the world a try. Or in the artist gallery, see instruments used by Elvis, John Lennon, Taylor Swift, Johnny Cash, John Denver, Toby Keith, Roy Orbison, and more!

The MIM hosts regular concerts and other special musical events for the Phoenix community. Keep an eye on their special events calendar to see if there will be can’t-miss events during your time in Phoenix!

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West

Architecture fans will find a Frank Lloyd Wright gem just a 40 minute drive from the Phoenix Convention Center, in nearby Scottsdale. In Wright’s lifetime, Taliesin West was Wright’s winter home and architecture school. Today it is the home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the School of Architecture at Taliesin, and is available for the public to tour and admire Wright’s signature style.

Admission to Taliesin West is available only via guided tour, and reservations are recommended. Several different tour options are available. Visit the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s website for details.

Phoenix Art Museum

The largest art museum in the southwest U.S. can be found less than two miles north of the Phoenix Convention Center. The Phoenix Art Museum contains more than 18,000 works spread across collections that include European, American, contemporary, fashion, and photography, among other genres. Visitors to the museum can enjoy paintings by Picasso, Georgia O’Keefe, Courbet, Monet, Rodin, Delacroix, Homer, Copley, Kahlo, and other masters. In the photography gallery, you’ll find works by photographers including Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and Richard Avedon. There’s also an extensive fashion collection that includes designs by Balenciaga, Chanel, Dior, and Yves Saint Laurent (among others).

During Creativation 2019, the Phoenix Art Museum will be hosting a special exhibit of Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of FireThis traveling exhibition of artifacts from the metropolis of Teotihuacan (in what is now central Mexico) from between 100 B.C. and 650 A.D. will explore the civilization’s history through objects like sculptures, murals, and masks.

The Heard Museum

For even more art to enjoy, Phoenix visitors will find the Heard Museum just a half mile from the Phoenix Art Museum. The Heard Museum is the world’s pre-eminent destination to learn about and enjoy American Indian art. At the Heard, you’ll find tens of thousands of objects including Hopi katsina dolls, Navajo and Zuni jewelry, Navajo textiles, and Southwestern ceramics.

Two special exhibitions will be taking place at the Heard Museum during Creativation 2019. One, Yua: Henri Matisse and the Inner Arctic Spirit, focuses on the influence of Inuit culture on the art of Henri Matisse. The other exhibition, Sonwai: The Jewelry of Verma Nequatewa, is the first comprehensive exhibition of the work of the world-renowned Native American lapidary artist.

Desert Botanical Garden

If you are coming to Phoenix from a cold weather state, getting outside in the sunshine and seeing some green plants and flowers at the Desert Botanical Garden might be just what you are looking for! Hike the various trails with exhibit themes like Sonoran desert nature and desert wildflowers, or visit the cactus and succulent gallery.

During Creativation 2019, the Desert Botanical Garden will be running a nighttime exhibition called Electric Desert | A Light and Sound Experience by experiential video artists Klip Collective. The show will use light and original music against the living backdrop of the desert and the garden’s cacti to create an immersive nighttime experience.

Pueblo Grande Museum Archaeological Park

Situated not too far from Phoenix Airport, the Pueblo Grande Museum Archaeological Park focuses on the Hohokam, farmers who lived in the area from AD 450 to 1450. There are museum galleries of Hohokam artifacts, as well as outdoor exhibit trails featuring a prehistoric platform and ball court, along with a reconstructed adobe compound.

The Museum is running a special exhibit through 2019 called Fragments: Broken Bowls Tell More Tales. The exhibit teaches visitors how broken pottery sherds contribute to research on the Hohokam in ways that complete items cannot.

Day Trips from Phoenix

If you want to extend your time in Phoenix to enjoy the area (or get some unexpected bonus time thanks to Mother Nature interfering with your return home), there’s also some very exciting day trips that can be made from Phoenix.

Grand Canyon

Why not see one of the seven natural wonders of the world while you are Phoenix? The south rim of the Grand Canyon is only a 3.5 hour drive from downtown Phoenix. Depending on how much time (and inclination) you have, there is a wealth of activities to enjoy in Grand Canyon National Park: hiking, camping, rafting, and mule rides.

For those without a car or who just want to leave the driving to someone else, several companies offer day trips via coach to the Grand Canyon from Phoenix.

Sedona & Red Rocks

Closer to Phoenix (about a two hour drive), Sedona offers a wide range of activities to visitors. Whether you want to enjoy the area’s signature red rocks hiking, take an ATV tour, or enjoy the town’s famous boutique shopping and art galleries, you’re sure to find something to enjoy. If all this fun in the desert makes you thirsty, you’re in luck – Sedona is also famous for its wineries!


Are you a cowboy or cowgirl at heart? Less than three hours drive southeast of Phoenix you’ll find the historic old west town of Tombstone, Arizona. Visitors can experience an old silver mine, see a gunfight re-enactment, visit the infamous OK Corrall, and tour historic buildings in the city.

Dining in Phoenix

We all have to eat, of course, and a night out with friends can be one of the memorable ways to have fun while at Creativation! I’ve listed a few ideas below, but obviously this is just a small sampling of the variety available. If you are looking for other ideas, try asking the Phoenix Ambassadors. You can identify these roving concierges for the city of Phoenix by their bright orange t-shirts and khaki pants while walking in downtown. They can recommend restaurants, give directions, and provide all sorts of information you might need about Phoenix!

Heritage Square

This historic area is home to both some of the city’s historic treasures (like a restored 1895 Queen Anne style home that houses a historic museum) and some of the city’s best restaurants. Just a block west from the convention center, hungry diners here have a choice of the British pub food at Rose and Crown, wood fired pizza at Pizzeria Bianco, and the award-winning Japanese flavors of Nobuo at Teeter House. For those in need of something lighter, espresso and vegan pastries can be found at Royal Coffee Bar.

Cityscape Phoenix

Another Phoenix location just blocks from the convention center with multiple restaurant options, Cityscape Phoenix is a two block mixed-use urban development featuring retail, restaurants, and residences. National chains like Chipotle and Five Guys mix here with local restaurants like Squid Ink Sushi Bar and the Celtic-themed pub Tilted Kilt.

Phoenix Public Market Cafe

This vegetarian-friendly restaurant featuring local cuisine is located just a half-mile from the Phoenix Convention Center. This “urban casual” cafe serves fresh food sourced from the adjacent farmer’s market. House specialties at Phoenix Public Market Cafe for dinner include roasted cauliflower, southwestern pasta, and roasted salmon.

Matt’s Big Breakfast

This place serves – you guessed it – breakfast! (The restaurant also serves a few non-breakfast items at lunchtime for those so inclined.) Only open for breakfast and lunch, Matt’s Big Breakfast has been featured on the Food Network’s popular Diners, Drive-ins and Dives show. If you don’t get a chance to stop by Matt’s in downtown Phoenix, there’s also one in terminal four at the airport for a last bite to eat before you hit the road!

In-N-Out Burger

Fine dining it is not, but its legions of fans still flock to this cult favorite burger chain whenever they visit a city with one. You can get your In-N-Out fix about 6 miles from the convention center in Phoenix, at 4840 N 20th St.

Phoenix has a lot to offer for people who want to work hard and play hard while visiting the city for Creativation. Have you visited any of the attractions above? What did you think? Do you have any other suggestions to offer for visitors? Share them below!

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7 Responses to AFCI | Discovering Phoenix during Creativation

  1. greenpear June 26, 2018 at 1:56 pm #

    Very helpful article for planning the trip to Phoenix! Thanks for putting this together!

    • Nancy Nally June 26, 2018 at 2:50 pm #

      Thanks! Hope I’ve helped you add a little fun to your work! 🙂

  2. Kathy Whalen Dorsey June 26, 2018 at 7:05 pm #

    Hope you can work in a visit with Izzy and Noelle. How I miss Paperclipping!

  3. Gab June 26, 2018 at 8:24 pm #

    Love that cactus garden!

  4. Su June 27, 2018 at 12:05 am #

    Tempe Arts Center at Tempe Town Lake (aka Salt River) has wonderful concerts many nights and is a short walk to Mill Ave and Arizona State Univ (ASU).Lots of shopping and restaurants to see. Tempe Town Lake also has paddle boats to rent for some outdoor fun. “A” Mountain at ASU is a paved hike to the top with great views of Tempe, Phoenix, and South Mountain.
    Also a trip up South Mountain in south Phoenix gives great views of the Valley and awesome sunset photo opportunities.

  5. Jann June 27, 2018 at 1:13 pm #

    I’ve lived in Arizona since 2002. I moved to the Phoenix metro area over 10 years ago & still haven’t visited some of the spots you mentioned.. I’ve been to the Grand Canyon & rode their train which was a nice memory.

    I *DO* recommend visiting “Butterfly Wonderland” located in Scottsdale. It is peaceful & seeing a plethora of these beautiful winged insects is an unforgettable journey.

    There’s a place out in West Phoenix (Litchfield) that’s worth the trip. It’s called Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium.

    Phoenix has NHL Hockey (The Coyotes) & NBA Basketball (The Suns) happening during the timeframe. The area is also home of preseason baseball (the Cactus League) which starts the beginning if March.

    Also here in Peoria, there is a great Scrapbook Store called, Scraps of Love. They just expanded to Sun City.

    One last thing…take advantage of the abundant citrus, fresh off the trees! Lemons can grow to the size of grapefruits! Delicious oranges & grapefruit are also ready to be picked.

  6. catherine milne June 30, 2018 at 2:03 pm #

    I have been to the Musical Instrument Museum and it was a fabulous find. It is divided up into sections of the world and you “travel” though different music for different regions and their instruments. You wear a head set and as you move near an instrument music starts to play and a commentary begins about the instrument. As you move away from the exhibit the music stops automatically. It is very cool to take off the headset and look around you at other people. It is quiet and you can see people bopping around keeping time to the music they’re listening to but you don’t hear a thing.
    There are also exhibits showing how instruments are made and a whole section on different genres of music – country, jazz, band, orchestra, etc. We found MIM when we were in Phoenix in July and it was, of course, ungodly hot. We were trying to escape the heat and wanted something to do indoors. It was well worth our time and we would go again.

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