Although there isn't a lot of nightlife in downtown Phoenix, in the 'center' of downtown Phoenix is a nice outdoor mall called 'Arizona Center'. On days when there is something going on downtown, say at Bank One Ballpark, America West Arena, or at the Herberger Theater, Arizona Center is full of people.
The center is full of restaurants such as Mi Amigo's mexican (which is awesome), Hooters, Copper Square Grill and lots more. There are great shops, many of which specialize in selling southwestern or native american items.
The center is a great place to park for games because it is much cheaper than at the ballpark and it is a nice walk up 3rd street several blocks south to the ballpark. On the way you will pass some nice Phoenix architecture and get a look at downtown. Don't worry, it's a very safe neighborhood (Copper Square).
If you want to get a look at downtown Phoenix, start your journey at Arizona Center.
It is a string of shops, mostly all lower end and tourist type gift appeal. The concept was to have upscale shops and draw and large crowd of tourism and locals to the center. It has not worked out well for the city, which is trying to help it hang on yet.
That has not worked out well, and may retail places have closed. Hooters may be the anchor tenant, and do you go there for the food? I suppose one could take shopping in as a venture, but so many places are simply trinkets and toys.
A fun place to visit with the kids or without! My mom and I visited when the Titanic exhibit was there-it was one of the best exhibits I have seen on that subject and very well presented. They always have new exhibits here and it is a great way to spend a day!
Very funny for Dutch people. Reading Arizona Center offers an extensive list of services for the tourism industry, you forget the USA distances are more than endless. Working around the corner is not a short walk, though a long drive by car. Strange not to see people walking down the street and begging them to move away from the background in the located area for our fashion pic ... as you can see here at Phoenix Plaza