Nobody loves the referees, it has been suggested, except by their families and friends -- and that's assuming those officials stay away from working a game involving a favorite team of those loved ones. If so, Wild Bunch Desert Guides owner and operator Laurel Darren is a notable exception – and for one very good reason after one of the Phoenix mountain bike tours she guided recently.
Date Night ideas in Phoenix? Try Phoenix adventure tours
“My wife and I were in town for a family event, and she surprised me with a guided mountain biking tour (I’m a New England biker, and have always wanted to try some desert riding). We have very different experience levels, but despite that, the guides were able to select a loop of trails that not only bridged our experience gap and gave us both good excitement and challenge, but also showed us some of the prettiest parts of the Sonoran Desert. Good equipment, great guides, awesome experience.” – William on Tripadvisor, Dec. 2019
(COVER) A husband and wife pause for a photo with a beautiful mountain vista as their backdrop on a Phoenix adventure tour with the Wild Bunch
Desert Guides. (TOP) Another couple smile for picture with Sonoran Desert flora behind them during one of the Phoenix mountain bike tours from
the Wild Bunch Desert.
For me and my boyfriend Brett, the latest restaurant craze in Phoenix features a steady stream of food delightfully moving past us on different colored plates.
The concept is called “conveyor belt sushi” -- and the passengers we choose from this edible train are how we manufacture a quick, efficient, affordable, and delicious meal full of variety.
The competitor in me has learned to be quick on the draw and decisive when taking what you wish – otherwise another guest can snag your favorite dish and leave you waiting or wanting.
This fun dining experience has not only become our perfect “Date Night” – but also perfectly sums up our hectic schedules October to May during the Phoenix adventure tours season.
I own and operate the Wild Bunch Desert Guides – a five-star rated outfit offering Phoenix hiking tours and Phoenix mountain bike tours. My favorite mechanic keeps the fleet of all-terrain vehicles rolling through the Sonoran Desert at Stellar Adventures.
Same as the food at our new favorite restaurant, everything seems to come at us at once – so there is not a whole bunch of opportunity much less advanced planning in our seven-days-per-week work existence.
We don’t even have a steady “Date Night” until we go on vacation every summer to Colorado. The formula that works best for us is to remain flexible and spontaneous – and let plans come together at the last minute when one of us arrives home and is delighted to find our significant other already there early enough to do something outside of the house.
If not conveyor belt sushi, our go-to because it is close to home here in Scottsdale is the local neighborhood bar The Dubliner. But more often than not, we are so busy or tired at the end of most days that we just end up on the couch watching Netflix and ordering takeout or delivery from our favorite Chinese place or another great neighborhood stop called Uncle Sam’s.
So, we are pretty boring -- just like the Steve Carell and Tina Fey characters at the start of the movie “Date Night” – and I am sure how many couples are when they are home and in their work routine.
But when you are on vacation in the Valley of the Sun? You better be ditching the streaming service and takeout menu to take full advantage of all that is possible in this fun-in-the-sun paradise.
Here are some Date Night ideas in Phoenix to make sure you are having the same sort of break-out-of-the-routine romantic adventure as the fictional Phil and Claire Foster do in the madcap movie.
A sunset mountain bike tour with the Wild Bunch Desert Guides is both a thrilling and beautiful romantic experience for couples.?
Things to do in Phoenix for couples
Lately, Brett and I have been going to a lot of concerts with some great musical acts we have always wanted to see visiting town.
For example, we enjoyed a special night together in November with Stevie Nicks – one of my all-time favorites. Brett got the tickets for my birthday present.
So, that is something to pay attention to when you come to Phoenix. This is one of the largest areas in the country – so we normally see a lot of big musical tours performing here – so that might be an unexpected treat during your visit.
Full disclosure: I am not a “foodie” – so I am not the best person to ask about the can’t-miss restaurants in town. But in an area as big and diverse as Phoenix, it is not hard to find a place that caters to any palette or offers you a chance to try something you have always wanted to taste.
One recommendation I would make, though, is take advantage of the authentic Mexican food here in the Valley of the Sun. There are a plethora of places serving Southwestern fare here in the old Southwest – and as the cliché goes -- when in Rome, do as the Romans.
In other words: Don’t eat at the chain restaurants or fast-food joints you can find anywhere. Don’t do what you can do any day at home. Go where the locals go and experience the best their area has to offer. That is where the real memories happen.
For instance, definitely go to Cien Agaves and have a prickly pear Margarita. This is something we tell every guest to do on our Phoenix hiking tours or Phoenix mountain bike tours because that place offers the best of that authentic and unique Arizona treat.
Cien Agaves is conveniently in Old Town Scottsdale, which also is a destination for anybody looking for a great night out on the town because of all the restaurants, bars, and nightlife there.
And as they say: If you are on the coast, you better get to the ocean. So, if you are in Phoenix, it follows that you go into the Sonoran Desert.
Just make sure you do something out of the ordinary here because the desert is a real treat – with beautiful landscapes you can’t experience anywhere else.
So, whether or not it is with my Wild Bunch Desert Guides, definitely take one of the many guided Phoenix adventure tours offered here in the Valley of the Sun.
After all, anybody can go swimming in a pool on vacation. Not everywhere can you do a Jeep tour or a horseback ride in the desert to experience one of those unforgettable Arizona sunsets.
A couple is all smiles posing in front of a Sonoran Desert rock formation with a wide variety of cactus also in the picture.
Romantic things to do in Phoenix
While restaurants are hardly my expertise, Phoenix adventure tours are definitely in my Aaron Judge-like wheelhouse.
So, allow me to pass along some real grand slam suggestions for things to do in Phoenix for couples.
The big questions I ask every guest for the Wild Bunch Desert Guides is who you are and what you want to do – and most importantly, what you are physically able to manage.
For instance, are you an avid hiker?
If I was in town for the weekend on a couples’ getaway and only had 72 hours to experience Phoenix, for sure I would want to book a trip with My Arizona Guide.
David has permits to some of the coolest spots in the country -- like in the Tonto National Forest or the Superstition Mountains or the Four Peaks Wilderness Area (including the amethyst mine) that a lot of companies don't get access to. His back country hikes are amazing.
I also understand the allure of Camelback Mountain hikes for the average tourist flying into Phoenix and seeing our local landmark for the first time. However, pump the brakes, sport -- this challenge is not for everyone as detailed in this previous blog.
For those readers still determined to “Ride the Camel,” Wild Bunch actually refers guests to our loyal guide Matt and his sister outfit – Mad Desert Trekking.
While those are the high-end hikes – both in terms of the altitude and physical challenge – Wild Bunch offers Phoenix hiking tours on more than 200 trails to help fit the ability level of any guest. Included are Handicap Accessible ADA hiking trails in Phoenix (if interested, read here for our in-depth blog).
Sometimes if Brett goes into work early at 6:30 a.m. -- and gets off early at 3 p.m., and I happen to be home -- we go and hike together with Waylon our Plot Hound. We will do a sunset hike together over at the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, which is about 2 miles from our house, so it is both easy for us to get to and always a really nice time.
That is why I highly recommend as romantic things to do in Phoenix the sunset hikes offered by my Wild Bunch (see the blog here).
However, surprisingly enough, many visitors fail to utilize sunset hiking or mountain biking for a romantic outing. Instead, they use the sundown tours more for the two-for-one convenience when they book another activity in the morning and want to squeeze in another adventure in the afternoon.
The one detail to be aware of is the crush of traffic on Phoenix roadways in the afternoon and evening. That can add time in getting to and from the trailhead – so make sure to plan on leaving early to meet your guide and then also allow yourself extra time to get to your next activity before making any dinner reservations.
I say this not to scare anyone away from any sunset adventure tours in Phoenix – because they truly are amazing, and any extra driving time is totally worth it.
Instead, I share this as a travel tip to make any of our guests better informed and happier in the end.
A happy pair pose with a Saguaro Cactus -- the trademark of the Old West -- during one of the sunset Phoenix adventure tours with the Wild Bunch.
Date night ideas in Phoenix
As a Midwestern girl transplanted to Phoenix more than a decade ago, I learned about the traffic the hard way.
However, I have also figured out there are a number of great Phoenix adventure tours available in a memorable way by experiencing them all.
Among my other favorite Date Night ideas in Phoenix: They offer all sorts of really cool tours, showing you around Old Town Scottsdale in electric carts. Included are special wine or beer-tasting tours; a dive bar tour for lounge lizards; a historical tour for history buffs; and even an Instagram Tour for visitors looking for the best and most memorable photos. JoyridesAz knows every cool nook and cranny – which makes this one of the best-kept secrets. The tours are a fun and easy way to soak up a lot of local atmosphere in a short amount of time. I honestly think if I could only pick one thing to do, flying over the desert floor at sunset in a hot air balloon with my significant other would be my choice. This is easily one of the most romantic things to do in Phoenix – but especially at sunset when you feel like you can reach out and touch a cotton candy-colored sky. I even had the privilege of seeing snowcapped mountains thanks to a storm the night before one balloon trip. Their journeys are truly breathtaking. With nearly 30 years in the guiding business, this is inarguably the best horseback riding tour in the desert. During my rides, I have seen some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever experienced – and that is saying something considering I practically live in the desert. Like the Wild Bunch, Windwalker is a small mom-and-pop shop -- so they offer a special, personalized touch with a truly fantastic experience Brett and I have thoroughly enjoyed. Stellar offers every conceivable off-road vehicle in the desert. Included in the joy-riding fun are H1 hummers, KM1009 Blazers, ATVS and UTVS. They also combine the off-road experience with gun shooting in the desert with an NRA-certified safety instructor. Instead of gunning for flora or fauna, though, you are shooting at standing targets – but talk about having a major adrenaline rush going all day with your significant other. If you are into mountain biking? Wild Bunch Desert Guides is the place to be. We hook you up with a guide and a skill-specific trail challenge. However, even if you have never jumped on a mountain bike, this is where you will learn to love riding off-road on our desert trails. Wild Bunch takes the time to tailor the experience to your skills and your desired thrill-ride. We can take anyone who can ride a bike without training wheels on guided Phoenix mountain bike tours lasting between 90 minutes and 2 hours, or a longer 3–4-hour option. Each journey is completely private and limited to you and your travel party. We provide the guides, the bikes, and the bike helmets. You provide the shrieks and smiles.
One new addition to the local fun menu I have yet to try -- but am looking forward to doing with Brett soon (assuming I can talk him into it)?
My loyal guide Matt also offers standup paddle-boarding now at Mad Desert Trekking.
A lot of visitors fail to realize there is water here in the desert – and so there are a number of under-utilized aquatic activities beyond swimming in the pool at your resort or hotel.
A nightly dip is a great way to end your day here in Phoenix. Just don’t waste your time poolside baking in the sun with so many fun things to do in Phoenix for couples.
Wild Bunch Desert Guides owner/operator Laurel Darren (left) is all smiles seated next to her longtime boyfriend Brett during one of their many memorable
experiences -- this an off-road "date night" during their annual summer vacation to Colorado.