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One City, Five Hours: Phoenix

Author Michele Laudig Illustration Oliver Jeffers

1 Slather on some SPF 50 and head to the Desert Botanical Garden (1201 N. Galvin Pkwy.; www.dbg.org), a quiet oasis of exotic plants and towering cacti smack in the middle of America’s fifth-largest city. ( 0:45 )

2 Cool down with a glass of Pinot at Postino Central (5144 N. Central Ave.; www.postinowinecafe.com). On a nice day (note: they’re pretty much all nice) the back patio is a prime spot for people watching. Count 10 cowboy hats and get ready to shop. ( 1:25 )

3 There’s a hip retail cluster tucked into a strip mall a couple blocks away where you can try on some quirky jewelry at Frances Vintage (10 W. Camelback Rd.; www.francesvintage.com) and listen to Bob Dylan’s Christmas album at Stinkweeds before grabbing two handfuls of old-fashioned penny candy at Smeeks. ( 1:50 )

4 One stop south on the light rail, sit down for a mozzarella, tomato and basil sandwich at Pane Bianco (4404 N. Central Ave.; www.pizzeriabianco.com). People wait hours for a table at James Beard Award–winner Chris Bianco’s downtown pizzeria, but here, it’s counter service and picnic table, in case you need your tomatoes more sun-dried. ( 2:20 )

5 Pop into one of the cavernous (and cool) galleries at the Phoenix Art Museum (1625 N. Central Ave.; www.phxart.org), then get your caffeine fix and a pastry a block away at Giant Coffee. While there, resist the urge to check your email; the clock is ticking. ( 3:20 )

6 Do a lap around Ro Ho En, the Japanese Friendship Garden (1125 N. 3rd Ave.; www.japanesefriendshipgarden.org) where architects from Himeji, Japan, have designed a wabi-sabi koi pond surrounded by artfully pruned trees. ( 3:45 )

7 Stop at the Civic Space Park (424 N. Central Ave.; www.phoenix.gov) and have a gander at the art floating above. Is it a jellyfish? A blooming desert flower? Whatever it is, internationally renowned artist Janet Echelman’s sculpture Her Secret Is Patience is Phoenix’s most buzzworthy piece of public art. ( 4:10 )

8 Your last stop is the Phoenix Ranch Market (1602 E. Roosevelt St.; www.prosranch.com), a wonderland of Mexican culture with an in-house tortilleria, a bustling food court and a jaw-dropping produce section. Pick up a cold agua fresca and fill your carry-on with cilantro before heading back to the airport. You’ve found the perfect souvenir. ( 5:00 )

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