Phoenix at one time was metropolis that fit into the valley and was fairly easy to get around. That really isn't the case at this point in time. The total population of Kansas and Oklahoma is less than the number of people that live in the Phoenix metro area. If you travel at the wrong time then you will end up stuck on a freeway for a period of time, a journey that should take 15 minutes will take you an hour or longer.
For those traveling from Kansas to Arizona via our nation's by-ways. Things you can do on the way there and back:
- In Amarillo there is the Big Texan, while in Albuquerque or NM in general you can enjoy a green chili burrito at quite a few places (yelp indicates the Burrito Lady is tasty, call ahead)
- In AZ itself you can enjoy the Petrified Forest / Painted Desert (NE AZ), The Grand Canyon (north central AZ), Ski at the Arizona Snow Bowl in Flagstaff, tour Hoover Dam or visit the Sonora Desert Museum in Tuscon.
- One thing to note about I-40, you are traveling through high desert and the high plains from Flagstaff to OK, check the weather and have your winter survival pack ready to go. If the weather is bad take I-35 (between Austin and Dallas I-35 is at times a parking lot) to I-10 before heading west.
Once you are in Phoenix decide if you are going to stay on the east or west side of town, or the north or south for that matter. Traveling to and from the east and west side isn't necessarily a quick trip, especially at rush hour (5:30a - 8ish and 4:30a - 6:30 or later on workdays). I've been in traffic jams at 2:00 in the afternoon on a weekday that delayed me by an hour or so.
The good news is that the metro area is for the most part laid out in a grid pattern. If traffic starts to back up, have your co-pilot check google traffic to see how much of a delay is occurring then if it is more than a mile ahead of you exit the freeway and use one of the parallel roads to continue to your destination. I never use the freeways in Phoenix before checking the traffic conditions, it can be much faster to travel the side roads than to sit in traffic.
On the east side of town there is Joe's Farm Grill that is worth visiting, on the west side I never did find that tasty little place that wowed me. Some of the Mexican food places will wow you, but for the most part the Mexican food you get in Phoenix will be better than 70% of the places you visit in KS. I never found one that was horrendous in AZ during my last stay there but I also used the internet ratings and co-worker's recommendations. We tended to eat at Oaxaca since it was close to work but it looks like the place changed ownership and isn't as good as it was.
The same restaurant chains with only a slight regional variation are found throughout the valley. If you like Olive Garden and want to eat at Olive Garden, then you can do that in Phoenix. For myself, I'd check out a website like tvfoodmaps.com to see if there are places that aren't chains that are worth visiting. If you want to travel a bit, head to Eloy, AZ and visit Nico's, definitely a dive but decent semi-traditional Mexican food. For those that like BBQ, Kansas City won't disappoint you, Phoenix will.
Other than the golf and hiking at this time of year, the Phoenix Metro is the same as any other metro area in the U.S. as regards things to do. For golfers, I'll let you do the research and find the perfect course since I always have trouble with the windmill hole. For hiking you have South Mountain, Estrella and Skyline parks that you can visit. Just be aware of the dangers of the desert before you decide to hike farther than you can crawl.
Litchfield Park, Avondale and Goodyear
are were smaller towns that have grown into the metro area, but for the most part traffic isn't as bad. And there are some remains of when the towns were not connected. That area of the valley is about 10-30 minutes from the stadium and up to an hour from the pep rally (and airport). Again the chains and shopping areas will be about the same as any other area in the valley with slight locally owned shop variations.
I can't comment on the east side of the valley except to note that it could take you a while to travel to the west side. And that it has about the same things as the west side of the valley. Mills Ave near the ASU campus appears to be the Aggieville for the students, but I never stopped as I was driving through there. Scottsdale is the Leawood of the valley, but I was never that impressed with it, the few times I visited.