Take in the vintage homes, garden gems, new cafés, and more
Explore Phoenix, Arizona’s historic Willo district
Gabriela Hasbun

Why go now: Historic streets have gotten a shot in the arm, thanks to new cafes, shops, and the just-opened Metro Light Rail.

The scene: Vintage homes, postage-stamp gardens, and 1920s-era public buildings feel like a time warp ― in a good way.

Number of homes: About 950

1990: When Willo became an official Phoenix Historic District.

About the name: It’s a contraction of the area’s two voting districts, Wilshire and Los Olivos.

Neighborhood serendipity: Easley’s Fun Shop (closed Sun; 509 W. McDowell Rd.; 602/271-9146), opened by a magician in 1947, sells clown makeup and Whoopee Cushions.

Picnic spot: Head to 68-acre Encanto Park (Encanto Blvd. at 15th Ave.) for lunch or a spin on the 1950s carousel ($2.20).

Spend the night:  The Clarendon Hotel (from $199) has a retro art collection and rooftop bar.

Photo gallery: Phoenix Willo

Eat at Willo’s new guard

Sweet Thang Bakery This year-old bakery and coffee shop is the best sugar fix in town. Stop in for a latte and one of its famous cupcakes ― caramel and red velvet are the most popular flavors, but we love the lemon chiffon. $; closed Sun; 503 W. Thomas Rd.; 602/222-8818.

Arcadia Farms Café Stroll through the modern, sweeping spaces of the Phoenix Art Museum, then refuel on vegetable tarts and fresh salads at its restaurant, where many dishes are organic and locally farmed. $$; 1625 N. Central Ave.; 602/257-2191.

Switch Since 2007, the pretty set has come here for creative cocktails (lime cosmos, sangria martinis, and spiked Italian sodas) and French-inspired comfort food. Order the ham-and-Swiss galette or the lobster roll. $$; 2603 N. Central Ave.; 602/264-2295.

Wild Thaiger Nab a seat by the open kitchen or on the patio at this small but edgy Thai eatery. Best bets: green papaya salad, wild boar with red chile sauce, or corn fritters and cucumber chutney. $$; 2631 N. Central Ave.; 602/241-8995.

Photo gallery: Phoenix Willo

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