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Best Things to do in Pine Top - Lakeside, Arizona

my guide for all things good

Preface: I am not a travel blogger, but, it feels wrong not to share the goodness that Pine Top has to offer, especially as it has a different charm than what most people look for in a planned vacation. 

If I had to sum it up in one sentence: Pine Top - Lakeside is a mountain top version of Disney's Radiator Springs. Lesson re-learned: don't judge a building by its paint job, neon signs, parking situation, or rusty exterior - or else you'll be missing out on something worth doing.

So if you're looking for a place to visit in Arizona that isn't overwhelmed with tourists, has items to check off any agenda, and leaves you with the relaxed feeling you really want from a trip - make way for Pine Top - Lakeside.

p.s. I'll have links provided for each restaurant, shop, and all else mentioned below

1. Eateries and Such

The Bistro at Annie's

This was the place that made me realize that parking in Pine Top is weird, but the food made it worth the confusion. Like most businesses in this town, the bistro is set up in a house with some additions throughout the years (there are very few local shops and eateries that are in newer buildings here) and is lined with unique interior design (for example, there are paintings by local artists in every "room" that you can purchase). I got the Reuben panini, and to my not-so-surprise, it was the best pastrami on earth, served with their house chips and a pickle spear. They also have a boutique located on site, if you wanted to pick out something for yourself or a friend. Before I forget - grab some pie.

The House (Show Low, AZ)

I'll be blunt, here: If you were to choose one place to eat out, let it be The House. From the food and service to the outdoor area and the next door creamery and treats shop ("Red Barn") - it can't be beat. It's a family friendly restaurant with a large grassy outdoor area with corn hole available, lined with picnic and round tables for a party of any size. If you happen to be disgusted by family restaurants and loud children - don't be fooled: this is for everyone - believe me. I don't know how they were genius enough to create such an atmosphere, but my friend, it exists. They have vegan menu options, and savory meat lover eats as well (and might a mention, a donut burger?). I got the the Wanderer Wrap and added grilled shrimp. Just look at the menu. It's all things good in the world. 

Los Corrales

Hot take: this place serves better food than a majority of Mexican food restaurants in Arizona. The food and drinks are incredible (and friendly to the wallet). this is a family friendly atmosphere, with birhgt energy at every corner. I got some tacos with a side of beans and rice and a strawberry margarita (they are massive, by the way) - anything I eat after this will be a disappointment. Also - if you're up to it after your meal - walk a few feet next door to The Lounge sports bar and grill to play some pool, chat it up with locals who don't look like they hate you, or embarrass yourself at some Karaoke on a Tuesday night. 

If you're craving a legit bratwurst and live in America - this is one of the few places to go to (because let's be honest, there are restaurants who claim to be the real deal, and though the food doesn't taste terrible, they aren't the authentic German goods you want). Whatever you get is sure to impress your taste buds - but if you want to be classy, get the bratwurst and top it off full of warm sauerkraut and the haus mustard (you can add toppings that suit your fancy at the condiments table once they make the brat fresh in the kitchen). You can sit inside or out - and I highly recommend wearing your stretchy pants. You're welcome.

Nurd Berger (Globe, AZ)

On your way to or from the valley, drive the 60 toward the city of Globe (the view is phenomenal, and also, so is this food). Here, you'll find an obvious affinity for Mario, Star Wars, Marvel and other nerd-ventures on the menu, walls of the restaurant, books and magazines at disposal for all to read during their stay, and arcade games (which are free to play, by the way). Also, don't be fooled - their menu goes beyond burgers and fries (but please, do try the cajun fries - amazing). 

2. Coffee Stops (duh)

I wont' lie to you - this is the only coffee shop worth going to in all of Pine Top -Lakeside. We tried a few others during our time there, and none can surpass the menu variety, flavors and atmosphere at Cycleogical (am I biased based off of the name? Just a little). There are spaces where you can sit on your own, unbothered, or open settings where you can gather with friends (or be like me and take over an entire couch for yourself in the back room). They have books, games, and a mini shop - literally all you can want, it's there.

Common Grounds (Payson, AZ)

If you happen to take the 87 to and/or from Pine Top - Lakeside and pass through a little town called Payson, please do yourself a favor and grab a beverage or pastry (or both, who's stopping you?) from Common Grounds. They have plenty of seating (inside and out - hello fresh pines) and they have a "little library", where you can take a book if you leave one in its place.

3. Where to Shop (antiques, gifts & more)

If you need to get someone a gift from your trip - this is it. That's all.

They're tag line is "a lil' something for everyone" - and if you walk through their massive two level store, you'd find that to be true. From serious collectors on a hunt for something specific to someone just trying to find something that catches their eye, there is really something for anyone who walks in. Out of the several antique shops we walked through, both Jason and I would say this was the best one. We left with a few items, but I'm sure if we lived just a little closer, we'd drop by at least once a month. Be ready to get lost for at least an hour - it's well worth it.

Something to know about me: I am a sucker for all things health and herbs, especially when they come in the form of tea and vitamins. This little shop has in house tea blends and supplements, popular skin care and fresh pantry staples and literally so much more packed into a little space. I grabbed some of their tea blends (Ruby, De-Stress, Detox and Gut Happy) as I "oo-d" and "aaah-d" at the rest of the store. They don't do online orders, but you can call them and place an order that way.

4. Time to Unwind

In the words of my masseur "as hick as this town is, it's amazing that there's a 5-star spa right at the center". I've only ever had a massage and experienced going to a spa twice before - and they lowered the bar for me (I left not feeling rejeuvinated and a little disappointed). Spa Estique renewed my hope in the experience of being "pampered" (and truly getting your money's worth). If you want a spa spa - my friend, this is it. They have a variety of services that are sure to fit the bill for what you're looking for. I went for the heated stone massage to try something different and I would recommend (be warned: the rocks are hot. Go figure.).

Trails on Trails on Trails

You're in the mountains - don't you think it's time to find a good trail? There are limitless options in this area - and you're also not too far from the West Baldy Trailhead. A couple local trails that are worth checking out (and not very difficult to trek) are the Spring Trail Trailhead and Billy Creek Trailhead. Get out, move that body, and breathe in that fresh air.

Personal opinion here: Airbnb is the only way to go when exploring a new town. Here's why: 1) the host almost always has recommendations on where to eat and what to do - if it's not in a guide book at the home, they are almost always glad to answer your questions; 2) it has the home-like feel you want, and it's likely more clean than a hotel, too. We stayed at this cozy cabin and loved it. Nothing too flashy, and it had all the amenities we needed (and who can beat a front patio in the woods and being across the street from an antique shop? Probably nobody). 

If that's not your favorite thing to do, there are plenty of hotels in and around Pine Top - Lakeside, including Best Western and Hampton Inn & Suites.

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