One look at omnipresent Camelback Mountain and you might think the northeast Phoenix neighborhood known as Arcadia is on the outskirts of town where tumbleweeds blow effortlessly. But you'd be wrong — very, very wrong. Arcadia is where you'll find twentysomethings hanging out at recently opened gastropubs, young families walking to nearby parks, mini-malls with pizzerias and dive bars featuring Skee ball and foosball. This might sound like Los Angeles, but one glimpse of a helmet-less biker cruising down Campbell Avenue and you'll know you aren't in California. The tab for this: about $400 for room, meals (but not the gasoline to get here).
Hotels aren't cheap in the Arcadia area. But a round-trip drive from Los Angeles won't break the bank, so you'll have extra money to spend on a stay at the Royal Palms Resort & Spa (5200 E. Camelback Road;  840-3610. Rooms from about $350 a night.) This 9-acre hotel at the foot of Camelback Mountain features 119 guest rooms, casitas and villas, a Spanish Colonial aesthetic and 20,000 square feet of meeting space. This is the desert, so during the day you'll want to be by the pool (lined with mother-of-pearl tile) or playing croquet. At night you can relax inside a common area complete with a library, fireplace and a bar, which is as close to heaven as you'll find on Earth.
Are there dive restaurants in Arcadia? If so, Tee Pee Mexican Food is it (4144 E. Indian School Road;  956-0178. No item more than $13.50 The burro — that's what the menu calls it — is about $8). The place has been in operation for about 40 years, so customers sit in the same red pleather booths as did their grandparents, enjoying tacos, tostadas and a soufflé-inspired chile relleno. If you want something a bit more posh, head to Postino Wine Café (3939 E. Campbell Ave.;  852-3939. No item more than $14), where old-school skateboard decks from Duane Peters, Tony Alva and Christian Hosoi serve as wall-hanging art, and an array of bruschetta and panini mixes perfectly with a wine selection that includes local, national and international offerings.
Ask Arcadians about which local hike you should take and they will answer, "Camelback Mountain." This popular trail closed Jan. 28 for renovation, and a re-opening date has not yet been set. Thankfully, these same Arcadians know this and will direct you to 32nd Street and Lincoln Drive, where you'll find the 32nd Street Trailhead. It offers a panoramic view not often found within city limits. The terrain is easy to moderate and includes numerous stops that allow hikers to look down on the vast urban landscape.
The lesson learned
Everything in Arcadia is pretty cool — except the weather.