Catch a Mariners or Padres game during spring training in Peoria — Photo courtesy of City of Peoria
Sure, you’ve heard of Peoria, Ill. but you may not know that four of its residents moved out west in 1886 and named their new Arizona settlement after their hometown.
Peoria, Ariz. is only about a half-hour northwest of Phoenix and Scottsdale, yet it’s flown under the radar as a tourist destination – until recently.
Home to the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres, baseball fans have been heading to Peoria for spring training for 25 years, but now non-sporting travelers are starting to recognize the area for its natural beauty and growing arts scene.
“Located in the heart of the North Valley, Peoria is more than just a place on a map,” said Peoria Mayor Cathy Carlat. “We are a deeply connected community, enriched by a wonderful sense of culture and amazing amenities. Whether it’s spending a sunny day on our hiking, biking or equestrian trails, at the top-rated Peoria Sports Complex, taking in the beauty of the Sonoran Desert at Lake Pleasant or enjoying a meal at one of our chef-driven restaurants, Peoria is an exceptional place to create lasting memories.”
Here are 10 Peoria sights that hit it out of the ballpark.
Lake Pleasant Regional Park
Lake Pleasant at sunset — Photo courtesy of Keith Dines
Surrounded by the Sonoran Desert, this surprising oasis is one of the most scenic outdoor recreation areas in the Valley.
With more than 23,000 acres of water and desert landscape, Lake Pleasant is a great place to go boating, scuba diving and even scorpion hunting. Go Paddle AZ offers stand up paddleboarding and paddleboard yoga on the calming waters, and you can take a moonlight kayak tour or take in one of those breathtaking Arizona sunsets on a dinner cruise.
The Social on 83rd
You may want to order one of everything at The Social on 83rd — Photo courtesy of The Social on 83rd
Executive Chef David Duarte has elevated comfort food to a whole new level, using the freshest ingredients sourced from local farmers.
This is not your mother’s grilled cheese – here, it’s “Loaded,” with gruyere, white cheddar, grilled tomato and bacon on toasted brioche – or the mac and cheese you remember from childhood (add the bestselling 24-hour braised short rib for a grown-up, out-of-this-world palate pleaser). Bring the people you love, bond over a memorable meal and create new memories of your own.
Castle Hot Springs
Castle Hot Springs — Photo courtesy of Paul Markow
This historic resort – located in a remote area that requires seven miles of unpaved roads to reach – just re-opened after 40 years and it’s definitely worth the trip.
Renowned for their healing properties, the hot springs themselves are gorgeous. You can just sit and absorb their magic while you take in the stunning views all around. Or take a hike, indulge in a massage and tour the gardens which supply the freshest veggies for the artful meals included with your stay. The unparalleled hospitality and serene surroundings will nourish your soul – and Executive Chef Chris Brugman’s seed-to-plate creations will nourish the rest of you.
Arizona Broadway Theatre
There’s so much history in the lobby mural at the Arizona Broadway Theatre — Photo courtesy of Arizona Broadway Theatre
Now in its second decade, Arizona Broadway Theatre has been bringing Broadway shows to Peoria since 2006. Best of all, each show is accompanied by a delicious meal. This unique dinner theater provides tableside service from a full menu, which changes to reflect the theme of the production.
Come early to check out the massive lobby mural which pays tribute to 1930s Broadway. Painted by Penelope Elyse Brown Klaphake, it features 38 theaters, nine skyscrapers and 100 people, and is a fascinating look at the icons of the field.
Cibola Vista Resort & Spa
Cibola Vista Resort & Spa — Photo courtesy of Bluegreen Vacations/Cibola Vista Resort and Spa
Named after “the Seven Cities of Cibola,” which were believed to hold endless treasures, this Bluegreen Vacation Club property definitely lives up to its name.
All of the villas and suites are packed with amenities like kitchens, washer/dryers and soaking tubs that make them feel like home, and there are pools, a fitness center and a beautiful spa where you’re treated like royalty. You can go horseback riding across the street, enjoy a Cowboy Cookout and participate in local volunteer experiences. Don’t be surprised if you decide to become an owner.
Scorpion Bay Marina
Scorpion Bay is people-friendly and dog-friendly — Photo courtesy of Ellen Barnes Photography
With more than 300 covered and uncovered wet slips, plus all kinds of boats and water toys available for rentals, Scorpion Bay is a great place for water enthusiasts or those just looking to escape the desert for the day.
Try the chef-inspired cuisine and 365-degree mountain views at Scorpion Bay Grill, a floating restaurant serving up everything from burgers to vegetarian options and a wide variety of cocktails. Be sure to bring your best friend to take advantage of Arizona’s only lake-front dog patio.
Peoria Sports Complex
The pirate ship at Peoria Cove at the Peoria Sports Complex — Photo courtesy of City of Peoria
Catch a Major League Baseball game here during spring training, where you can take advantage of one of the many family-friendly promotions featuring giveaways, dog-friendly days and even pre-game yoga on the lawn.
Open all year, the venue is also home to some of Peoria’s signature events including the Halloween Monster Bash and Dolly Sanchez Easter Egg Hunt. Catch a movie in the ballpark, attend a car show or taste your way through the food trucks. Kids can keep cool at the Peoria Cove interactive play area, featuring a pirate ship playground equipped with misters, a splash pad and water cannons.
Breakfast of champions at Haymaker — Photo courtesy of Haymaker
This is the place for breakfast – and, luckily, it’s served all day long (although lunch and dinner are equally special, thanks to staples like Joey’s house BBQ sauce and Mama’s meatloaf). The orange glazed cinnamon rolls are big enough to share but, hey, you do you.
Happy hour is pretty much an all-day affair, too, with Haymaker featuring the best whiskey selection in the area, mason jar cocktails and mimosa flights.
Lucidi Distilling Co.
Lucidi Distilling Co. is located in Peoria’s first fire station — Photo courtesy of City of Peoria
Lucidi Distilling Co. is located in Peoria’s first fire station – which was once Peoria’s first movie theater – and it still maintains the original brick and concrete walls and “Fire Station No. 1” name in honor of the city’s first responders.
Drink a toast to these heroes with one of the specialty spirits crafted here (or sourced from somewhere else while their own age to perfection), and take a tour, which includes generous samples and a cocktail.
Peoria Center for the Performing Arts
“A Chorus Line” at Peoria Performing Arts Center — Photo courtesy of City of Peoria
Hosting more than 200 events a year, the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts brings award-winning theater to the downtown area, along with a variety of arts experiences, youth programming, summer camps and special events.
The PCPA houses a 274-seat main stage auditorium, 60-seat black box theater, two classrooms and office space for TheaterWorks. The Center also presents concerts outside on the plaza for all ages.