Finding affordable digs downtown without veering into less-desirable areas can be a challenge. The Lexington Hotel Central Phoenix (1100 N. Central Ave., 602/252-2100, www.centralphoenixinn.com , $90–125 d) is a decent budget option, though. You won’t get much in the way of style, but its location next to a small park and light-rail station couldn’t be any nicer or more convenient. There’s a continental breakfast in the morning, and even a small heated outdoor pool and Jacuzzi. You’d likely pay $50 more for one of the comparable chains.
If you simply need cheap and clean, the Budget Lodge Downtown Phoenix (402 W. Van Buren St., 602/254-7247, www.budgetlodgedowntownphx.com , $50–60 d) fits the bill. Don’t expect much in the way of style, but the decent rooms, large balconies, and spotless bathrooms may outweigh the less-than-stellar neighborhood for some travelers.
Bombshells Mae West and Marilyn Monroe slept here. So did Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, and Cary Grant. The Hotel San Carlos (202 N. Central Ave., 602/253-4121, www.hotelsancarlos.com , $145–180 d) is a Valley landmark that now gives guests a taste of old Phoenix. When the Italian Renaissance-style hotel opened in 1928, it featured luxury amenities like elevators and air-conditioning, a first in Phoenix . Today, guests will find lots of charm and the idiosyncrasies of a historic hotel: tiny bathrooms, “quaint” rooms, and even a few ghosts. The bar and rooftop pool are popular spots for parties on the weekend, and despite its having lost its golden age luster, you won’t find this much character in any other downtown hotel.
If you prefer fresh and modern over historic and quirky, try the new
Sheraton Phoenix Downtown (340 N. 3rd St., 602/262-2500, www.sheratonphoenixdowntown.com , $225–300 d). The $350 million, city-owned hotel is part of a massive revitalization of Copper Square, which includes a brand-new convention center. It’s also an ambitious attempt to revamp the Sheraton brand, thanks to its hip lounge and contemporary rooms that are styled with neutral furnishings, warm dark woods, and modern touches like flat-panel televisions. You’ll find a small outdoor pool and on-site fitness center at this 1,000-room, 31-story hotel, the largest in Arizona. It’s the best bet for most who want to stay in the heart of downtown.
A $6 million remodel has given the Wyndham Phoenix (50 E. Adams St., 800/359-7253, www.phxhotel.com , $225–300 d) a contemporary makeover. Its large rooms are terrific for business travelers looking for free Wi-Fi, ergonomic Herman Miller Aeron desk chairs, and an on-site Starbucks. The rooms are clean, the bathrooms are large, and the service is top-drawer.
Next door, the Hyatt Regency Phoenix (122 N. 2nd St., 602/252-1234, www.phoenix.hyatt.com , $225–300 d) is highlighted by a soaring atrium and panoramic views of Phoenix  from its 712 rooms. The small outdoor pool and spa are pretty ordinary, though be sure to make some time to have a meal or even just a drink at its revolving restaurant, The Compass. You won’t find a better way to take in the city.
Situated just north of downtown and about 10 minutes from the airport, the Hilton Suites Phoenix (10 E. Thomas Rd., 602/222-1111, www.hilton.com , $150–200 d) is a terrific selection for business travelers looking for value and convenience. The handy light-rail stop just outside the front door makes commuting to the convention center and downtown’s restaurants rather easy, though guests can also take advantage of the complimentary shuttle service. The hotel’s 11-story atrium provides a light-filled retreat, complete with a pleasant garden and small pond, and its tasteful all-suite rooms, which were remodeled in 2008, feature large bathrooms, flat-panel televisions, and wet bar areas with a microwave and refrigerator. Many also offer views of the downtown skyline.
The Holiday Inn Phoenix Downtown North (212 W. Osborn Rd., 602/595-4444, www.ichotelsgroup.com , $110–160 d) breaks out of the beige-on-beige corporate mold with comfortable, modern rooms decorated in crisp whites, chocolate browns, and bold reds. Parking can be challenging, but once you get to your room, you’re able to select a pillow that suits your preference, from firm to fluffy down. The recently renovated property also features a small pool, gym, and business center.