Phoenix   Travel Guide

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phoenix spots to visit

20 Best Things to Do in Phoenix, Arizona

Begin your introduction to the Valley of the Sun with a visit to downtown Phoenix, home to some of the city's top attractions, including the Phoenix Art Museum , Heritage Square and the Heard Museum . Travelers on the hunt for a more laid-back

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phoenix spots to visit

Desert Botanical Garden Desert Botanical Garden

U.S. News Insider Tip:  Springtime is a particularly colorful season to visit the Desert Botanical Garden. Visitors who arrive mid-February through mid-June will see an abundance of blooming cactus just begging for attention. – Jill Schildhouse

The desert may seem like the last place you'd expect to find flora. Yet the Desert Botanical Garden is home to thousands of species of cacti, trees and flowers from all around the world. The garden's brightly colored plants sharply contrast the Sonoran Desert's cinnamon-red buttes, and numerous hiking trails – like the Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert and the Harriet K. Maxwell Desert Wildflower Loop trails – allow you to experience the region's natural wonders the way early settlers once did. The Desert Botanical Garden also hosts numerous events, including culinary demonstrations and outdoor concert series.

phoenix spots to visit

Camelback Mountain Camelback Mountain free

As one of the highest peaks in Phoenix, Camelback Mountain is among the most scenic hiking spots in the city. Soaring more 2,700 feet in elevation, Camelback's summit offers spectacular views of Phoenix and Scottsdale and can be reached from the 2.5-mile (incredibly steep) out-and-back Echo Canyon Trail. If you're looking for a slightly easier trek, the 2.6-mile out-and-back Cholla Trail on the east side of the mountain offers a more gradual incline, at least until you near the summit. You can also try one of the several beginner-friendly trails that circle Camelback's base, such as the Bobby's Rock Trail. Hiking Camelback Mountain is best attempted earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon when the desert heat is bearable (in fact, it's closed from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on days with excessive heat warnings). But no matter when you decide to climb, make sure you have plenty of water and sunscreen. For a unique perspective of the mountain, consider a sunrise hot air balloon ride (one of the best Arizona tours ).

Recent travelers who scaled the mountain said the arduous journey is well worth the incredible views, though they do warn this experience is not for the faint of heart. Reviewers also suggested bringing your camera, as the views at the summit and along the way are photo-worthy. Visitors also warn that you should be prepared to share the trails with lots of other hikers.

phoenix spots to visit

Musical Instrument Museum Musical Instrument Museum

U.S. News Insider Tip: When hunger strikes, visit the on-site Café Allegro, which tantalizes customers' taste buds with a seasonal menu showcasing local produce, regional dishes and cuisines from around the world. There are plenty of vegan, vegetarian and kid-friendly options, too. – Jill Schildhouse

The Musical Instrument Museum, located about 20 miles north of downtown Phoenix, invites visitors to check out its collection of more than 8,000 instruments from around the world. Travelers will find instruments, concert footage, clothing of renowned musicians and more. Visitors can even see how instruments are preserved and restored in the Conservation Lab before actually playing instruments in the Experience Gallery. Many parents said their children especially enjoyed experimenting with the instruments in the Experience and Encore galleries (the latter of which is geared toward kids who are prekindergarten to second grade), advising future visitors to make it the last stop in the museum because the kids will not want to leave.

phoenix spots to visit

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phoenix spots to visit

Heard Museum Heard Museum

If you're a history buff or an art aficionado (or both), take advantage of the spectacular exhibits – and air conditioning – housed in the Heard Museum. According to many, the Heard Museum is one of the country's finest Native American museums and offers a comprehensible introduction to Arizona's original residents. With the help of pre-Colombian to contemporary art and a variety of traditional artifacts, the Heard Museum conveys the life and culture of Native Americans in the Southwest. 

Recent visitors recommend setting aside at least half a day to see the exhibits housed here. Many also praised the docents and suggested joining a free tour to get the most out of your time here. You'll also want to take a spin through the gift shop, according to reviewers.

phoenix spots to visit

Phoenix Art Museum Phoenix Art Museum

Housed within a notable example of Modernist architecture (it was partially designed by Frank Lloyd Wright) is the largest art museum in the Southwest United States (with more than 20,000 works of art, some of them dating as far back as the Renaissance). From Diego Rivera to Frederic Remington, Georgia O'Keeffe to Frida Kahlo, the Phoenix Art Museum's permanent collection caters to a wide variety of tastes, and often welcomes top-notch traveling exhibits. Be sure to check out the popular Thorne Miniature Rooms, and if you're traveling with kids, take advantage of the museum's youth-oriented activities; you can pick up a guide for navigating the museum with kids (which includes a scavenger hunt) at the front desk.

Recent visitors praised the museum's size and layout, and its ability to appeal to a variety of age groups. Reviewers also offered kudos for the on-site restaurant and gift shop, and say this is a great place to beat the heat on hot summer days. Those without a taste for modern art may not enjoy their visit as much; despite its diverse collections, expect to see a lot of more recent artworks. If you'd like a little guidance navigating the museum's collection, consider signing up for one of its docent-led public tours, which are offered every day that the museum is open.

phoenix spots to visit

South Mountain Park South Mountain Park free

Arizona offers a seemingly endless array of outdoor experiences. And Phoenix's South Mountain Park is no exception. The park, which spans more than 16,000 acres and is one of the country’s largest municipally managed parks, boasts three mountain ranges and more than 50 miles of trails. Hikers should consider the Dobbins Lookout summit, which is accessible by major hiking trails and Summit Road. Standing at 2,330 feet, the lookout provides panoramic valley views. If your feet need a break, the park's trails are also open to horseback riding and mountain biking. Along with its hiking trails, the park is also home to an education center that interpretive exhibits. From the center, you can embark on the Judith Tunnell Accessible Trail, which comprises two barrier-free, half-mile loops. Mystery Castle is another must-see. This 18-room home was built in 1945 by Boyce Gulley for his daughter Mary Lou. It's open for tours between October and May.

Recent visitors loved the scenic trails at South Mountain Park. The views and plant life were popular. Some travelers also praised the beautiful drives. Note that the roads are very popular with cyclists – drivers should prepare to share the road and keep an eye out for two-wheeled transport.

phoenix spots to visit

Papago Park Papago Park free

Home to the Desert Botanical Garden and the Phoenix Zoo , Papago Park is popular with locals and visitors alike thanks to its proximity to downtown Phoenix (less than 10 miles east) and its massive red butte formations. There are options for all activity levels, from the west side trails to the east side trails to the popular Hole-in-the-Rock trail . Dogs are welcome, too.

Before it was a park, this land served many purposes. It was a reservation for Indigenous tribes, a fish hatchery during the Great Depression, a prisoner-of-war camp during World War II and a veterans affairs hospital.

phoenix spots to visit

Hole in the Rock Hole in the Rock free

Papago Park features several hikes – perhaps the most distinctive is Hole in the Rock. Nestled in and among the red butte formations of the park, this short but spectacular hike (it is only 0.3 miles out and back) features a dramatic endpoint. After hiking up 200 feet of steps, visitors arrive at a lookout onto nearby lagoons and the more distant city. Historians believe the Hohokam civilization, which was present in this area, may have used the rock formation to track the position of the sun through a hole in the top of the rock.

Recent visitors raved about the views from the hike’s summit. Many recommended timing your visit to appreciate a beautiful Arizona sunset. Several noted that the hike is busy with visitors, but well-appointed. There are public restrooms, picnic areas and a nearby parking lot. What's more, the trail is just a half-mile from the Phoenix Zoo .

phoenix spots to visit

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phoenix spots to visit

Phoenix Zoo Phoenix Zoo

The Phoenix Zoo is a great place to enjoy nature without your little ones dying of boredom. There are four trails that wind through the numerous habitats populated by more than 3,000 animals living east of downtown Phoenix. The zoo houses a variety of animals, including cheetahs, monkeys, Asian elephants, three-toed box turtles and Mexican gray wolves. Take younger tots to the Red Barn petting zoo or to the giraffe encounter where they can get some face time with the animals. When their little legs start to tire, consider the 25-minute narrated safari cruiser tour, which only costs a few extra dollars and provides a good orientation of the zoo.

Recent visitors (especially those with kids in tow) had fun at the zoo, and praised the clean grounds and abundant activities. However, some travelers were disappointed with the added costs for activities, as well as the high admission price overall. Those who visited in the hot summer months warned that some of the animals may not be as active/visible due to the heat. However, if you visit in the summer you'll be able to take advantage of the zoo's water features (it's home to multiple splash pads).

phoenix spots to visit

Taliesin West Taliesin West

U.S. News Insider Tip:  While the audio tour is nice, taking a guided tour with a passionate docent reveals more intimate stories about Frank Lloyd Wright and provides exclusive access to his private living spaces. These tickets often sell out in advance, so plan ahead. – Jill Schildhouse

Renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright loved the Sonoran Desert, and he used these nearly 500 acres at the base of the McDowell Mountains as his winter home and school. With the help of his art and architecture students, Wright constructed apartments, studios and theaters using local materials to help the camp blend with its natural surroundings. This National Historic Landmark and UNESCO World Heritage Site is still used as an educational space for budding artists and architects. What's more, it's considered one of the top things to do in Arizona .

phoenix spots to visit

Tee off at one of Phoenix's golf courses Tee off at one of Phoenix's golf courses

Despite its desert surroundings, Phoenix is emerging as a premier golf destination. In fact, the Valley of the Sun is home to nearly 200 courses with difficulty levels ranging from beginner to expert.

Finding the right course may be a feat in itself, thanks to all of the options. For an authentic Phoenician golf experience, follow in the footsteps of movie stars and politicians and head to the Arizona Biltmore Golf Club. Constructed in 1928 and known as "the granddaddy" of Phoenix country clubs, the Arizona Biltmore is home to two 18-hole PGA Championship courses, as well as a driving range, a putting green, a pro shop and a full-service restaurant. Because of its reputation, you'll want to reserve tee times well in advance, plus, you should plan your tee time for early morning or later in the evening to avoid the Arizona heat. The club is part of the Arizona Biltmore Resort in downtown Phoenix. Reserve your tee times online at the course's website . Prices and availability may vary.

phoenix spots to visit

Indulge in a spa treatment Indulge in a spa treatment

U.S. News Insider Tip: The world-renowned Sisley-Paris Spa resides within Well & Being Spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess — there are only three U.S. locations and this is the largest. These ultra-luxe European-style facial treatments and body rituals are a highly sensorial experience. – Jill Schildhouse

If hiking or golf isn't really your cup of tea, consider a day spent wrapped in seaweed or soaking in mud. Alongside its luscious green golf courses, Phoenix is also known for its outstanding day and resort spas , which are often set among jaw-dropping desert scenes. When winter strikes or everyday life becomes too overwhelming, many weary travelers head to the Valley of the Sun for hot rock massages and salt scrubs. And since many spas incorporate botanicals sourced from the Sonoran Desert (like prickly pear and cactus flower) into their treatments, a visit to the spa can be as educational as it is restorative. 

phoenix spots to visit

Arizona Science Center Arizona Science Center

Seek refuge from the broiling Phoenix weather in the Arizona Science Center, one of the top things to do in Arizona . Here, interactive displays teach kids about everything from electricity to weather patterns to outer space. Other topics covered across the center's four levels of exhibits include sound, gravity and psychology, among others. An Imax theater also offers family-friendly, educational entertainment.

Recent visitors were pleased with the activities offered here, especially the temporary exhibits. However, some felt the tickets were pricey, especially for families. Reviewers also suggested purchasing your tickets online in advance to avoid having to wait in long admission lines. 

phoenix spots to visit

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Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Ride in Phoenix with Breakfast

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phoenix spots to visit

Pueblo Grande Museum Pueblo Grande Museum

History and archaeology buffs should put a trip to Pueblo Grande, a National Historic Landmark and the largest preserved archaeological site within Phoenix, at the top of their list of things to do. This site features the ruins of an ancient Hohokam village, which was occupied for more than 1,000 years until around A.D. 1450. Walk among what's left of houses, storage facilities, play areas and cemeteries on a short, accessible trail. You can also view artifacts found during the site's excavation at the small on-site museum.

Recent visitors called this site a "hidden gem" and praised the well-maintained grounds, as well as the small museum. Reviewers recommend setting aside at least an hour to enjoy the attraction, though some reported spending more than two hours here. Though there are a few interactive exhibits in the museum for children, most said this attraction is best enjoyed by adults.

phoenix spots to visit

Children's Museum of Phoenix Children's Museum of Phoenix

Boasting more than 300 play experiences across three floors, the Children's Museum of Phoenix is a hit with kids. Spanning more than 48,000 square feet, the museum offers a range of exhibits suitable for infants and kids up to age 10. Exhibits include a miniature grocery store, a noodle "forest" made from suspended pool noodles, a climbing structure and a fort-building area, among other activities.

Recent visitors loved the museum, saying it was a great place for kids to burn off energy. Many families said they spent several hours here thanks to the variety of exhibits. Others appreciated the museum's efforts to cater to infants and toddlers with designated spaces. Some reviewers said it was the best children's museum they'd ever been to.

phoenix spots to visit

Heritage Square Heritage Square free

Visitors to Arizona may not associate the southwest with Victorian-era history and architecture. Heritage Square will change that. Located downtown, this walkable area dates back to the 1800s. Fans of delicate Queen Anne architecture will enjoy the restored Rosson House Museum, which features period decor, while others will delight in the tasty restaurants and attractive views in the area. Note that the 1895 Rosson House Museum is accessible exclusively by guided tour. Tours visit all areas of the home, including several bedrooms, a nursery, a bathroom and a doctor's office (the home's original owner was a doctor who occasionally saw patients at the house).

Recent visitors enjoyed this trip back in time, praising the historic preservation of Heritage Square and the many eateries. Many were intrigued by the history of the square, but some noted that it could be easily seen in a short period of time. Consider adding a stop at the Arizona Science Center as the two attractions sit within walking distance of each other.

phoenix spots to visit

Butterfly Wonderland Butterfly Wonderland

U.S. News Insider Tip:  Want to increase the chances of having butterflies land on you? Wear brightly colored clothing – reds, yellows and oranges are more likely to attract them. Just don't reach out for them or handle them in any way, as they are fragile. – Jill Schildhouse

Unbeknownst to most visitors and even some locals, there's a rainforest in the Scottsdale desert – and it's home to the largest butterfly conservatory in the United States. Here, visitors will find some of the only humid terrain in the state (around 80% humidity and 80 degrees year-round), making this enclosure the perfect habitat for thousands of butterflies across up to 70 different species. Before entering the conservatory, visitors begin with a viewing of "Flight of the Butterflies" in the 3D theater to gain a better appreciation for a monarch butterfly's intense annual migration. Next, stop by the Butterfly Emergence Gallery, where live chrysalis morph into beautiful butterflies right before your eyes. Once inside the conservatory, be sure to look at all the foliage high and low, because the magical butterflies flit about everywhere.

phoenix spots to visit

Wrigley Mansion Wrigley Mansion

Back in 1932, chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. designed the Wrigley Mansion as a winter getaway home and a 50th anniversary gift to his wife. Set atop a hill overlooking 360-degree views of the entire Phoenix Valley, this property is a stunning mixture of Spanish, California Monterey and Mediterranean architectural styles. Today, it's been lovingly restored into a premier fine dining and special event venue. Docent-led tours of the mansion, which take about 45 minutes to an hour, cost $20 per person; advance reservations are recommended. Between the grand staircase, the Switchboard Room and the hand-painted ceiling, you'll definitely feel as though you've stepped back in time.

In 2021, the property became the much-anticipated site of James Beard Award-winning chef Christopher Gross' latest concept, Christopher's at Wrigley Mansion. The all-glass space features an eight-course tasting menu (think: wagyu carpaccio, foie gras soup and scallops with caviar) with optional wine pairings. For a less grand, but equally delicious experience, enjoy small plates (such as escargot, smoked salmon BLT and Moroccan lamb sausage with couscous) and cocktails on the patio, overlooking the city (especially impressive near sunset). Another on-site restaurant, Geordie's by Chef David Brito, is the ideal spot to enjoy a special Sunday brunch or live jazz with dinner. Wine enthusiasts will be impressed by the Wrigley Mansion's wine program, which has earned the "Best of Award of Excellence" from Wine Spectator magazine for multiple consecutive years.

phoenix spots to visit

3-Hour ATV and Shooting Combo

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Guided UTV Sand Buggy Tour Scottsdale - 2 Person Vehicle in Sonoran Desert

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phoenix spots to visit

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park free

In the heart of Scottsdale lies the 30-acre McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park. Part municipal park, part railway museum and part kid-friendly fun zone, this unique site brings together a functional railroad, carousel, shops and even quintessential park space. There are a variety of activities offered here, from traditional playgrounds to an enormous model railroad building – not to mention frequent special events like a holiday lights display and summer concert series.

Recent visitors enjoyed their time at the park. Many noted it was a family-friendly destination, and budget-friendly to boot. Often some attraction or area is closed on a given day, but most travelers found that there were still enough activities available to happily pass a few hours. This attraction appealed to everyone from solo adult travelers to families visiting town.

phoenix spots to visit

Chase Field Chase Field

Watching the Arizona Diamondbacks play at Chase Field is a worthwhile experience, even if you aren't a die-hard baseball fan, according to recent visitors. Reviewers appreciated the kid-friendly atmosphere, air conditioning and retractable roof, and the park's unique amenities, including the lifeguard-staffed pool and hot tub that sits 415 feet from home plate. Even if you aren't in town for a game, you can still see the ballpark on a tour, which are available three times a day Monday through Saturday throughout the year. Tours, which last 75 minutes, visit the press interview room, the 20th Anniversary Experience (which features artifacts and memorabilia), the dugout and more. Note: The tour does not go on to the field. After, grab a bite to eat or a cold one at the Four Peaks Draft Room.

Chase Field is located one block south of the Arizona Science Center in the downtown area. Tours cost approximately $14 for adults, $12 for seniors and $10 for children 12 and younger. Tours are offered at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, check out Chase Field's official website .

phoenix spots to visit

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Phoenix Attractions: 25 of the Most Popular Spots to Visit

Updated: October 27, 2022

Phoenix attractions range from the beautiful outdoor Desert Botanical Garden to the incredible Musical Instrument Museum.

The city is also known for the incredible murals in and around the Roosevelt Arts District and Chase Field, which is the home to the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team. 

Some of the other highlights on our list of the top 25 attractions to see include the family-friendly Phoenix Zoo, the incomparable Heard Museum, the awe-inspiring heights and views from both Papago Park and South Mountain, and much more.

For car buffs, you'll want to check out the Penske Racing Museum.

Read on for more details about each one including tips on what to expect from each one during your stay in the Valley of the Sun.

Disclaimer: I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.

1. Desert Botanical Garden

Funky cactus at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix

The Desert Botanical Garden is one of my favorite outdoor Phoenix attractions during any season of the year.

This garden encompasses more than 140 acres of land (with more than 55 under cultivation) and includes more than 50,000 plants, many of which are rare or endangered. Along with the plants, you can often see rabbits, lizards, and many different types of birds.

It is perfect for everyone and you could easily spend a whole day here and not see everything.

It is especially wonderful to come in the evening to watch the sunset over the valley. The botanical garden includes 5 major walking paths, 2 restaurants, a library and a gift shop.

>> More about visiting this outdoor gem

2. The Heard Museum

Jewelry inside the Heard Museum

The Heard Museum is an internationally known and respected museum focusing on everything related to Native American peoples.

The museum has been newly renovated and has distinct exhibits for each of the different tribes and cultures.

This allows you to travel through them and see the similarities and difference between the cultures.

It is quite incredible to see how some tribes, who were only miles away from each other, have such different art and belief systems.

With over 21,000 square feet, this museum is able to have both permanent exhibits, and traveling exhibits from other museums, and from artists that you would not be able to see anywhere else.

If you are looking to take a break as you walk through the Heard, they have a café, an outdoor courtyard, and museum shops. You are welcome to enter the gift shop, café, or the stores even if you do not purchase a ticket to the Heard Museum.

>> Learn more about this wonderful Phoenix gem

3. Roosevelt Row Murals

One of the many beautiful Roosevelt Row murals.

Located in the hip and fun Roosevelt Row Art District, you will find an amazing collection of murals. These murals are primarily produced by local artists.

Many focus on cultural and political statements about what is happening to this area, the city, and the world.

Something that we love about this area is that many of the murals are painted over by the artists, so you can often find something new and different whenever you go there.

The most famous area is the 1 1/2 Street murals which have a whole block full of murals from many different artists.

It makes it very easy to see a lot of them, and different styles, all in one small area. Also, something else we love is that there are so many murals around this area since they are hidden behind houses, in alleys, and behind buildings.

The nice thing is that you can still see them and take photos no matter where the murals are in this district.

In case you are hungry or thirsty, there are lots of great restaurants and bars around this area too. It's one of my favorite Phoenix Attractions.

4. Camelback Mountain

If you like hiking, then this Phoenix attraction is a perfect place to go out and see everything this beautiful desert has to offer.

There are two trails on Camelback Mountain, with Cholla being one and the other being Echo Canyon. The mountain tops out at about 2,700 feet so it is not going to take you a long time to get to the summit.

However, they are both difficult climbs, so you'll want to be prepared before you head out on them.

If you want to tackle them, they are very much worth it since the summit offers 360-degree views and can see from miles.

We suggest you bring a water bottle, some food, and a good hat since the temperatures in the appropriately named Valley of the Sun can get quite hot.

Camelback Mountain is about 20 minutes from downtown Phoenix, so it is easy to get there no matter where you are at in the city.

Note: Parking is only allowed from sunrise to sunset, so you'll want to plan accordingly.

5. Phoenix Art Museum

This is a must visit for art lovers of all types.

With over 20,000 pieces of art, from all over the world, you will be sure to find many pieces that will enthrall and enchant you.

There are 9 areas, ranging from Latin American, to Asian, to European and pretty much everything in-between. These include photography, paintings, sculptures, and other types of art.

Both first time visitors and those returning for a second or third time will love their traveling exhibitions.

Some of our favorites have included ones on Japanese bowl and ceramics, Ansel Adams' exhibit on how he made his prints, and "Sweet Land of Funk" which is based on the Funk style of art.

Trust us, there is always something new and fun! It's another of the Phoenix attractions that you do not want to miss!

6. Phoenix Zoo

A massive Mandrill at the Phoenix Zoo

As the song says, "It's all happening at the zoo" and they are right about that as this is one of the best family-friendly Phoenix attractions.

It is almost impossible to explain how much there is to do at here, so we've collected just a small glimpse of your choices.

You can check out the African area which has lions, rhinos, and tigers just to name a few. The Tropics Trail has orangutans, jaguars, elephants and more.

The Arizona Trail has local species like bobcats, parrots, javelinas (they are really ugly but fun to see!) and other creatures.

Last but not least, there is the Children's Trail which lets the little ones get up-close and personal with animals like emus, an ocelot, and my favorite, the golden lion tamarins.

We really love that kids of all ages can check out the petting zoo to really get the feel of the zoo. There are tours, events, a restaurant and a gift shop.

There is also the "Cruise the Zoo" tour where you can drive your car through the zoo to see it in a very different way. It is a fun way to see the animals while keeping nice and cool if it is too hot outside.

>>   F ind out more about the Phoenix Zoo

7. Phoenix Attractions: Papago Park

If you want to get outside, and into a bit of nature, then Papago Park is the place for you.

It is very close to downtown Phoenix and easy to get to anytime of the day. One of the things that we love is that most the trails are very easy, and they don't take a lot of effort to get up or go down them.

You can get great views all around and you'll be enthralled by the massive buttes that jut up from the ground as you hike through the park.

If you want to do something more than just hike at the park, there is an archery range, a lake where you can go fishing, the Papago Park golf course and many other activities.

You will see lots of hikers, runners, and mountain bikers here as it is such a popular place and so easily accessible for all.

This is also where you will find three other great Phoenix attractions here: Phoenix Zoo, the Hole in the Rock , and Desert Botanical Garden.

The park is open from sunrise to sunset, but you can hike the trails from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. These hours may change depending on the season, so you'll want to check ahead.  

8. Musical Instrument Museum

Drum in Musical Instrument Museum

Simply stated, there is no other museum like this anywhere else in the whole world.

As one of the top Phoenix attractions, it has basically every type of musical instrument from around the globe that you can imagine!

Not only do they have musical instruments, they have memorabilia from musicians too. Some of these pieces include Elvis Presley's actual military uniform, masks from different parts of Africa, full outfits from Asia, and so much more than we can even being to tell you about here!

The beauty of this museum is that are instruments from 5,000 BC and continuing up until today and they are constantly having new exhibits and shows.

There is also a special kid's room where they can play music and explore what different instruments sound like as they become musicians of the world.

There is a very cute gift shop, where all the pieces for sale are specially made by the artists and certified, to support them.

There is also a restaurant in case you are hungry and an outdoor area to eat at or just relax.

>>   Learn more about the amazing Musical Instrument Museum

9. Butterfly Wonderland: Rainforest Experience

A beautiful butterfly at the Butterfly Wonderland: Rainforest Experience

The name seems to say it all, but there is so much more here than just butterflies.

Like the name states, you truly will experience being in the rainforest when you walk into this massive greenhouse.

The Butterfly Wonderland is home to over 70 different species of butterflies and in total there are many thousands of them flying around you!

Not only are there butterflies, but there is a Koi fishpond, a few cute chickens, and a bunch of sleepy tree frogs just hanging out.

There is a short movie explaining the life of the butterfly if you want to learn more about the butterflies after or before walking around the area. It is very educational and fun.

There is the Rainforest Reptile Exhibit, which lets you get up close and personal with these slithering beauties (don't worry they are behind glass so you are safe), a totally fun honey bee exhibit where you can see them work constantly making honey, and so much more.

If you get hungry, there is an "Edible Insect Station" where you can actually eat chocolate covered ants, scorpion lollypops, and other "delicious" things.

As for us, we tend to prefer normal food, so we tend to go the "normal" café that is located on the grounds.

>> More about visiting this Scottsdale gem

>> More things to do on the Arizona Boardwalk

10. Heritage Square

The Rosson House Museum in Heritage Square

Most people think of Phoenix as being new and hip, which it is. That being stated, if you want to travel back in time, to the late 1800s, then Heritage Square is the place for you.

You can just walk around the area, but if you really want to experience the olden days, you'll want to go to the visitor center, check out the displays, and then buy tickets to the Phoenix attractions all around the square.

There are galleries to view so you can experience what it was like living in this area back in the day, tours of the Rosson House, and The Bungalow, where you can eat some snacks and buy some memorabilia.

They also have traveling exhibits and a few restaurants if you need a break after walking around and seeing the neighborhood.

Now, I've left the best for last as you'll definitely want to go into the Rosson House. This almost 3,000 square foot mansion is amazing and perfectly preserved.

Also, if you are into a bit of the supernatural, you just might be able to go to their "Seances and Spiritualists" tour depending on the day and date of your visit. WOOOOOOO!!!!! SPOOKY!!!!!

11. McCormick - Stillman Railroad Park

"CHOO CHOO AND ALL ABOARD!!!!" is what you'll be saying when you visit this fun and one of a kind place.

This is one of our favorite Phoenix attractions because it is fun not only for kids, but for kids of all ages (like us). You can learn just about everything regarding trains in this old-time train park.

After that, make sure to grab a train at Stillman Station and cruise around the park. You can also ride a carousel where you can go around and around and check out loads of displays including ones where they show how to build a model railroad.

Something that we love is that you can visit this park for free anytime you want. You will have to pay for the train ride, and the carousel, but that is only if you want to take one.

So, if you just want to hang out, go ahead and do that.

If you want a bite to eat, head over to "Hartley's General Store" and grab some ice cream, a hot dog, or something else that looks good. 

12. South Mountain

If you are looking for a little privacy in the outdoors of the Valley of the Sun, then South Mountain is the place for you!

With over 16,000 acres of land, this park is one of the largest in the whole United States of America. There are three main mountain peaks and loads of trails for walking, running, mountain biking, horseback riding, and more.

Cresting at 2,300 feet, Dobbins Peak is the highest part of the park where the public is allowed because of safety reasons (you are not allowed to climb any higher).

We love Dobbins Peak since we can walk up to it, but if we are feeling lazy, we can also drive up it on the appropriately named Summit Road.

You will get an amazing view of the whole valley when you are up here, and it is absolutely worth the time to go there especially if you want to see a magical sunset.

Hours are usually from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. but sometimes extend out to 11 pm, so you'll want to plan accordingly and check the schedules.

13. OdySea Aquarium

Jellyfish at the OdySea Aquarium

There are some Phoenix attractions that just are impossible to describe and OdySea Aquarium is one of them.

This massive aquarium is unlike any that we've seen anywhere on our travels around the globe. It houses more than 10 exhibition areas, ranging from oceans and lakes all over the world, and each one is spectacular.

Some of these include the Deep Ocean exhibit where you take an escalator down UNDER the sea and walk through a glass tunnel as if you were actually there.

Another favorite is the Bizarre & Beautiful. I won't even try to explain that, but you can just imagine what might be there.

We love that they have special programs like the "The Penguin Encounter" where you can  pet a bunch of cute furry friends in their habitat.

Trust us, touching them is totally different because their feathers are so soft, and they are so happy for you to do that to them!

Another favorite is the "Shark Tour" where you get to walk around a pool full of sharks and see them up close (don't worry, you won't touch them and they won't touch you!).

As mentioned above, this is just a bit of what is here, since it is impossible to go "in-depth" on everything that the OdySea Aquarium has without running out of space on the page!

>> Learn more about what you'll experience at the aquarium here

14. Taliesin West

Taliesin West was designed by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1937 and is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The house was incredibly advanced for its time and it was his winter home to escape the brutal Wisconsin winters. It was specially made to contour with Arizona's landscape and formations.

It was built with local desert rocks, with wood laid on top of that, and then covered with concrete.

The colors, the angles of the building, and the glass covered main areas are so amazing and majestic compared to almost any other buildings anywhere in Arizona..

Not only was this a home for Wright and his wife, but is has now become a teaching center, home to a cabaret studio, outdoor music pavilion, and so much more inside and outside the house that are spectacular in design and artistic elegance.

Note : You cannot buy public tickets individually. The only way to visit Taliesin West is to go on the guided tours that last 1 to 3 hours.

We suggest booking them in advance as they are very popular and sell out quickly.

15. Western Spirit: Scottsdale Museum of the West

This is one of the premiere Phoenix attractions and is entirely dedicated to all art and culture from the Western United States of America.

Not only is this a museum, but it is also an educational center so visitors can learn about the different cultures, peoples, art styles, and how the west came to be up to until today.

It houses 8 exhibit areas, a a gift shop and restaurant, and a 135-seat multimedia auditorium.

Some of the art includes paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe, Will James' Cowboy Artist and Author, pottery art created by the Hopi Native People and much more.

The museum is usually open every day of the week except Monday. It also is closed during most holidays.

16. Chase Field

Baseball bat art outside Chase Field in downtown Phoenix

This impressive baseball park will amaze you when you go for a tour. It opened in 1998, which was the first day of the Arizona Diamondbacks becoming a Major League Baseball team.

It also became the first stadium to have a retractable roof since it can get incredibly hot in Phoenix or there can be a monsoon which will flood the field in just a few minutes.

You can learn about all of this, and more like the dbTV which is one of the largest high-definition TVs in the world, the D-Backs pool in right field, and other information about this gorgeous stadium.

Chase Field is home to the MLB Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team. It is always a great experience to watch a game there since the weather is perfect underneath their retractable roof.

As well as the Arizona Diamondbacks playing their home game there, there are also other sporting events and concerts. Some of the bands that have played here include Billy Joel, Kenney Chesney, and others.

Fun fact : The massive roof takes only 4.5 minutes to open or close and costs just 2 or 3 dollars because it was built to glide perfectly.

17. Phoenix Attractions: Arizona Science Center

The entrance to the Arizona Science Center

Located in the heart of downtown, The Arizona Science Center has almost 400 permanent exhibits that allow you to get up close and fully interact with them.

Some of these include fun ones such as Solarville, where you can learn all about solar energy.

One of our favorites is the Forces of Nature. This is where you are in a fully immersive studio where storms are all around you by screens, a moving platform beneath you, and you can hear and feel the wind.

There are also traveling exhibits and many different demonstrations and programs while you visit here.

This center is very spacious since it is over 40,000 square feet, has a massive planetarium, an IMAX theater, a gift shop and a restaurant if you get hungry or thirsty.

Every time we go, we always learn something new and are amazed at how incredible science can be and what it can do in our lives.

18. Children's Museum of Phoenix

If you have kiddies, with ages starting from a few days to 10 years old, this is a must visit for you and them.

This museum is ranked as one of the top three children's museums in the USA. They are proud of that and that they want your kids to touch everything you can here.

Their whole point is to help kids feel secure and to learn, enjoy, and experience things for the first, or depending if you've been here before, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 100th time! 

Something we love about this museum is that not only do they have over 40,000 square feet for your kids to play in, they have over 300 play experiences that your kid can experience on 3 different floors.

They also have fun programs and classes that will help expand your child's mind such as yoga, music, how to become an artist, and so many more that you will never run out of things to do, or learn, no matter how many times you visit with your little ones!

Also, if you are a kid at heart, there will definitely be fun things for you to do also, so don't be afraid to experience all that the Children's Museum has to offer you and your family.

19. Pueblo Grande Museum Archeological Park

Unlike many museums that want you to stay back and not interact with the exhibits, this one is set specifically to encourage you to do just that.

It is set both indoors and outdoors since they want you to experience what life would have been back in the years of 450 AD to 1450 AD.

This museum holds 4 different areas with the first being the indoor exhibit dedicated to the Hohokam people.

There are pieces of artwork, blueprints for the massive canal systems they built, and other amazing structures like the Big House where they studied the sky using astronomy.

The other main sections of the museum are outside and allow you to walk around, and sometimes inside, places such as The Adobe Compound, The Pit Houses, the Desert Oasis, and our personal favorite, The Ball Court.

It really is amazing to see what the Hohokam people's lives would have been like and experience a bit of their culture even in today's world.

If you bring your little ones along, there is a special hands-on children's gallery called, "Dig It!" And, trust me, they will dig it. If that isn't enough, they also have changing exhibits so you can always see something new.

20. Penske Racing Museum

Drop the flag and away we go to one of the fastest Phoenix attractions!

This museum is going to get your heart pumping as you'll want to race away with one of the many gorgeous cars on exhibit here. Even though the cars totally "rev our engines," we also love that this museum is so much more than just them.

It has many of the awards and trophies that Penske racing team has won, including 17 Indianapolis 500 championships!

Some of the cars on display include a replica of that 1963 Pontiac Catalina that Roger Penske drove to win the 1963 Riverside 250.

All that speed usually tires us out, so we need to take a moment to grab a bit to eat at the Penske Racing Museum pit stop called the Turn 4 Café on the 2nd floor.

Feel free to eat or drink whatever you want as you overlook the test track and check out the sites. There is also a store if you want to take home some toys or books.

You can even buy hand-signed shirts and memorabilia from people who have driven for the Penske Racing Team!

21. Tovrea Castle at Carraro Heights

If you've never heard of Tovrea Castle, you shouldn't be surprised as many locals have no idea this incredible, and strange, structure even exists near Phoenix.

This castle was originally going to be a casino, but then became a home, and finally was bought by the Phoenix parks system. It has over 5,000 cacti, and over 100 different varieties, all around the castle and the 44-acre area surrounding it.  

Originally constructed in 1928, the castle was built in a three-story style that resembled a wedding cake (we told you it was strange) and is made of pine wood and stucco.

It had fallen into disrepair and that is why the park system took it over as they knew it was too special of a building to let die.

Now it has been fully restored and is the majestic residence it was back when it was first built.

Note: Tours are limited, and it is incredibly difficult to buy tickets. There is a lottery system and you must apply FAR in advance of your trip.

So, if you can't get tickets, you should be able to drive by loop 202 near Van Buren and 52nd Street even just to see it from the road since it is so magnificent.

22. Castles n' Coasters

Since we are on the subject of castles, Castles N' Coasters is one of our favorite Phoenix attractions whenever we want to get out in the sun and have some fun!

This is the perfect place for kids, and kids of all ages, since there is so much to see and do. Just a sample of your choices include a mini golf course ranging from 4 - 18 holes, over 150 arcade and pinball games, 20 rides and attractions, bumper cars, and loads more to experience.

Now, since we talked about the castles, we have to talk about the coasters, and this is where it really gets fun.

One of our favorites is the Desert Storm which takes you on not just one, but two loops, as you ride around it. Another is the Splashdown, which you can guess what happens to you on that ride.

If you really want to test your fear of heights, you can try the Sky Diver where you are dropped from way up in the sky and start falling instantly.

Once you get your feet back on the ground, and your legs stop shaking, you might to grab a bite to eat or a drink.

Since they have 5 food and drink bars, you are going to find a place to sit no matter where in the park you are at that time.

23. Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix

You might not think that you can find peace, serenity, and calm in the middle of downtown Phoenix, but this is the perfect place for that.

The city of Phoenix, and the city of Himeji in Japan, are sister cities and wanted to share a piece of Japan here to show their love for each other. The garden was built in 1996 and has only become more beautiful and enjoyable since then.

If you just want to get away for a bit, this is a perfect place for that as walking around the garden, and the lake, will give you that peace of mind on your busy trip.

There is so much to do beyond just relaxing in this beautiful garden. Some of the choices included in a stop at this relaxing garden are taking part in one of the tea ceremonies, moving slowly in a tai-chi class in the afternoon, or even an Ikebana Japanese floral arrangement class.

We love all three of these as it takes us away from the hustle and bustle of the city. There are many more, so you'll want to check the schedule and plan ahead.

You can also take guided tours if you want to learn more about this garden from a trained docent.

24. SMoCA: Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

Known as SMoCA by locals, this museum opened in 1999 and has been flourishing ever since.

When you first see the building, you'll be amazed by the beauty and artistry of its exterior. Then when you enter, you'll be able to visit the 4 exhibit areas that include the museum's permanent collection and the traveling exhibits that are changing throughout the year.

So, no matter how many times you visit, you will see something new among the most contemporary art from around the globe.

Speaking of something new, we love that this museum is home to the always enjoyable "Knight Rise " by the famous artist, James Turrell. His work seems to be very simple, but it is the simplicity and grace which makes it so special and unique.

It is a permanent piece that allows you to see the sky through a large hole above you.

Because of the way it is designed, it almost looks like the sky is falling towards you. There are also colored lights in the walls that give you have a different perspective compared to the sky's the natural colors.

It really is something to behold and we like to just relax and spend some time sitting under it and watching the world, or sky, go by.

Another reason we love "Knight Rise" is that it is free for anyone to visit during museum hours.

25. Kid Friendly Phoenix Attractions

There are so many kid friendly Phoenix attractions that you will, and your little ones, will be hard pressed to figure out which one(s) they will want to do!

Jill and I think that The Valley is one of the best vacation spots for parents and their kids. This is because there are many museums, parks, fun places to hike and climb, and loads of other things to do and explore.

Some of our favorites include the OdySea Aquarium, Butterfly Wonderland, Castle N' Coasters, the Musical Instrument Museum which has a specific area just for kids to play music, the Phoenix Zoo, and last but not least, the Children's Museum of Phoenix.

However, these are just a sample, check out below to find out about them and so many more!

>>   Learn more about all the kid friendly attractions in Phoenix

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Phoenix, AZ

The best things to do in Phoenix right now

The Valley of the Sun is thriving, and the best things to do in Phoenix encompass everything that makes Arizona amazing

John Bills

Phoenix has come a long way from its founding in 1881. Rapid development has been the name of the game here for a long while, but the changes in the Valley of the Sun continue to confound expectations. A city shouldn’t thrive here but thrive it does, and the best things to do in Phoenix are a thrilling ride through everything that makes Arizona amazing. Summers can be brutal, there is no getting away from that, but Phoenix knows how to stay cool. You can take that however you like, be it culturally or in terms of literal temperature, and the city is packed with fascinating indoor activities and nightlife that sizzles. Yeah, the heat puns are unavoidable. There is nowhere quite like Phoenix; long may it reign.

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🎡  The best attractions in Phoenix 🍽️ The best restaurants in Phoenix 

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Best things to do in Phoenix

Desert Botanical Garden

1.  Desert Botanical Garden

Not only does this 140-acre garden have a spectacular vista, but it is also the sunny home of an extraordinary amount of living creatures—you've just got to know how to spot them. Spend some time visiting here, and you can expect to take a flashlight tour, a group tour of self-paced trails where attendees are armed with flashlights to see and hear what dwells in the desert after dark. This is the prime spot to peep at desert plants and learn about the area’s landscape.

Tovrea Castle

2.  Tovrea Castle

Once you catch sight of this fascinating structure, you’ll want to tour it right away, which is the only way to see the inside of the 5,000-square-foot landmark. As you wander through, learn about the three different families responsible for this feat of architecture coming to fruition. A four-story castle, viewable from the freeway, that stands out like a beacon amidst the desert landscape; be sure to schedule a tour; it is well worth it.

Musical Instrument Museum

3.  Musical Instrument Museum

A state-of-the-art collection housing more than 8,000 instruments from across 200 countries, the Musical Instrument Museum is one of the cultural gems of Phoenix. Rooms take visitors around the globe with exhibits encouraging hands-on interactions; check the events calendar to see which of the world’s best musicians will be performing at the center next.

Heard Museum

4.  Heard Museum

The Central Phoenix Heard Museum was founded in 1929 and is dedicated to the appreciation and increased awareness of American Indian art. Browse through rotating exhibitions, a permanent collection, and signature events that are as fun as they are informative. Get educated on all things Native American, with a focus on artists from the Southwest. Learn about artistic traditions and evolutions through paintings, sculptures, and textiles.

La Santisima

5.  La Santisima

This Mexican restaurant strives to avoid the Tex-Mex style, focusing on healthier regional fare from Baja and Cancun. Dining in is a delight, as the room is packed with an array of paintings by contemporary Mexican artists. The food is ridiculously delish, but the salsa bar is what ups the ante. Expect all kinds of red and green varieties—boasting different levels of heat, of course—but may we suggest opting for out-of-the-box options like a fruity strawberry salsa or a creamy pecan one?

Roosevelt Row

6.  Roosevelt Row

This pedestrian area features a mix of indie shops, restaurants, bars, and galleries, but visual art is the big draw. Long-running art galleries like Modified Arts and Eye Lounge share the ‘hood with street art, pop-up galleries, and festival events. Check out the sides of buildings and wander the alleys, where you’ll see the awesome murals that originally turned this area into a destination.

S'edav Va'aki Museum

7.  S'edav Va'aki Museum

Previously called the Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park, the S'edav Va'aki Museum is the largest preserved archaeological site in Phoenix and is a must for anyone interested in history. A short, walkable trail takes visitors through the ruins of an ancient Hohokam village sitting right in the heart of the city, punctuated by uncovered artifacts and more. The Museum also hosts events and classes throughout the year for both children and adults. 

Nogales Hot Dogs

8.  Nogales Hot Dogs

Featured on the Travel Channel's  Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern , the local destination serves the Sonoran Dog, a popular Phoenix late-night, post-party snack. But since this place is open from 7pm to 12:30am, you don't need to be out dancing to enjoy one—the dogs are just as tasty after a long day at the office or following an afternoon of sightseeing. Sampling these grilled, beefy hot dogs wrapped in bacon is a must in these parts. Oh, they’re topped with pinto beans, cheese, onions, tomatoes, and mayo, are as sloppy as they are delicious, and are well worth the mess. Obviously.

Valley Bar

9.  Valley Bar

Valley Bar is one of downtown Phoenix's best and brightest spots for live music and fun events—and it is actually below street level. You’ll have to enter the premises from a back-alley door, not unlike a prohibition speakeasy, adding to the mystique. On most nights of the week, this is where to find the coolest bands playing all sorts of genres, from punk and garage to indie rock and honkytonk. On non-music nights, there is plenty to do, from trivia competitions to comedy. You can also simply hang out in the Rose Room, chatting and sipping drinks with pals. The choice is yours.

First Fridays Monthly Art Walk

10.  First Fridays Monthly Art Walk

Various neighborhoods in downtown Phoenix get extra artsy on the first Friday of each month, as thousands gather to see artworks in more than 70 galleries. A Phoenix tradition for more than 20 years, this is a great way to take in the city’s diverse art scene, as the monthly events feature rotating exhibitions by artists working with all mediums. Also, expect to see live street performers and nosh on goodies from area eateries and food trucks.

The Hive

11.  The Hive

The DIY vibe thrives at the Hive, a central Phoenix collective that brings together independent businesses and visual and performing arts purveyors. There’s just so much to do (and buy) here, and shoppers who love vintage clothes and goods will find it nigh on impossible to walk out of the Bee’s Knees empty-handed. There’s also an art gallery with rotating exhibitions and the Window Coffee Bar to keep you buzzing. 

Japanese Friendship Garden

12.  Japanese Friendship Garden

Named Ro Ho En, this 3.5-acre tea garden and tea house is a nest of calm and beauty so unassuming that it’s easy to miss even though it’s located in the heart of central Phoenix. It’s a tranquil and gorgeous getaway where you can admire lush plants, experience a traditional Japanese tea ceremony or convene with koi fish. Regular events that feature Japanese artists, dancers, food, and musicians are great ways to mingle with other garden dwellers.

Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour

13.  Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour

Consistently named one of the best bars in the country and continent, the award-winning OG of the city’s creative cocktail scene is ironically located at the former Arizona Prohibition Headquarters. Browsing the delicious, fun, and world-class drinks by flipping through the many pages of the beautiful (and a little twisted) menu is a reason to visit in its own right.

Cobra Arcade Bar

14.  Cobra Arcade Bar

Show off your gaming prowess while maneuvering Ms. Pac-Man around the screen, gobbling dots for points. That’s just one of the classic games you’ll find here, and there is a slew of others available to play with, including Centipede , Donkey Kong , and Super Mario Bros . Signature cocktails like the Krazy Kong and Death Star keep up with the venue’s theme. This is a fun destination for the 21-and-over crowd who like to mix drinking and gaming.

Phoenix General

15.  Phoenix General

This North Phoenix boutique for men and women blends a mom-and-pop feel with a chic environment, offering clothing items, home goods, and more. A relaxed desert vibe threads through the product offerings here, whether it’s a cool cactus T-shirt, copper earrings by an innovative designer, or a fancy candle ready to release its smoky, earthly scents. Get shopping.

Mary Coyle

16.  Mary Coyle

This old-school ice cream shop has been building an ever-growing fan base since opening in the 1950s. The black-and-white tile floors and old-fashioned vibe are immensely charming, and the homemade ice cream will keep you coming back. Flavors like black licorice and salted caramel cashew are on the hefty menu but fear not, classics are also available. The best ice cream in town? Mary Coyle is one of the best in the U.S.

The Phoenix Theatre Company

17.  The Phoenix Theatre Company

The oldest arts organization in Arizona has been providing world-class performances and premieres for the last century. With its geographic proximity to Los Angeles, it’s easy to skip over Phoenix as a cultural destination, but places like The Phoenix Theatre Company are proud reminders that the city’s thriving arts scene is not to be missed. Located near the Phoenix Art Museum and Heard Museum, the company packs stages with a fresh lineup of classic and new productions every season.

South Mountain Park

18.  South Mountain Park

Temperature aside, Phoenix is a premier hiking destination, with conquerable trails and mountains across the city. One of the best places to get your adventure on is South Mountain Park, a 16,000-acre urban park with outstanding views and well-preserved trails and wildlife. With over 50 different trails, you can walk, bike, or horseback through; there is a path for every level, and the views of the city are worth the effort.

Arizona Science Center

19.  Arizona Science Center

While this makes a great indoor activity for families during the height of summer, the Arizona Science Center is a fun-filled place year-round. Exhibits explore various aspects of the scientific world with an emphasis on participation, and a constantly changing lineup of programs and presentations makes each visit unique. Don't miss the outstanding planetarium, because planetariums are magnificent.

Papago Park

20.  Papago Park

This verdant park is a hiker’s dream. With various winding trails fit for every experience level, Papago Park is also known for its larger buttes. A fantastic starting spot for even the most nervous beginners, this Phoenix hiking spot offers much more than your average walk in the park. If you're looking for a more chilled-out route, the dirt and sandstone trails are easy-to-moderate and offer scenic surroundings and captivating views. Rather not spend all day on your feet? Bring your mountain bike and feel the wind in your hair. If there is wind, and if you have hair, of course.

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10 Best Things to Do in Phoenix

By Chris Malloy

10 Best Things to Do in Phoenix From Bars to Bookstores

The list of best things to do in Phoenix is an expansive one. There’s no place quite like this city—a rapidly growing, 517-square-mile sprawl in the middle of the Sonoran Desert with Apache street art, 150-year-old cacti, ultra-fresh  Mexican seafood , and giant sunsets. Many people come to the Valley of the Sun for golf, work, nightclubs, or sports, but those who leave the usual bubbles are rewarded. More so than other American cities of similar size (Phoenix has 1.6 million people, making it the fifth-most populous city in the U.S.), you need to know where to look.

On the gastronomic end, Phoenix is an example of a destination that excels when its chefs embrace local producers. Growers benefit from 300-plus days of annual sun to produce incredible citrus, beans, squash, and flour. It's so good that Arizona exports to Italy, fueling incredible tortillas and pizza. The art scene is everywhere, most visibly manifested as murals swirling across downtown facades. Casual galleries and refreshingly original museums—like the Heard and its Native American collection—are ever-evolving and always worth (re)visiting. 

And despite the urban sprawl, the wonders of the world’s most vibrant desert are never far. Here’s where to get started if you really want to taste, see, feel, and experience the best of what the rising city has to offer today. 

phoenix spots to visit

Musical Instrument Museum Arrow

This expansive museum in the desert right off of the North Phoenix highway is a paean to world music. Inside the Musical Instrument Museum's tall sandstone walls, 8,000-plus instruments from some 200 countries await, all packed into galleries forking from a central corridor. As you stroll through wearing headphones, you hear the sounds of the instruments you pass. Videos play, too, showing how people play instruments in their countries of origin. Other highlights: The museum has rooms for kids, displays instruments actually played by artists like Johnny Cash, and hosts concerts. 

phoenix spots to visit

Century Grand: Platform 18 Arrow

This bar is in a long room designed to resemble a luxury railroad cabin from a century ago. Thanks to strategically spaced TVs playing synchronized footage of a passing snowy landscape, you might feel like you’re in motion, actually winding through the Rocky Mountains. The cocktails made on the “train” are among the most progressive and celebrated in Arizona. Tailored to adventurous drinkers with lofty cocktail standards, Century Grand uses all kinds of outlandish ingredients in cocktails, like smoked tea and kefir. One cocktail that conjures flavors of a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich comes with a sleeve of Campari cotton candy. Sip thoughtful punch or dig into boozy ice cream. Bartenders use a wide range of spirits, liqueurs, and fortified wines. Flavors are carefully considered and often balanced on a tightrope. 

A park bench overlooking South Mountain Park and Preserve at Dobbins Lookout Phoenix AZ USA

South Mountain Park and Preserve Arrow

In a famously sprawling city, the 16,000 acres of South Mountain Park allow people to disappear into the natural world. Hiking, running, biking, and even driving, you might see roadrunners and loping coyotes. And oftentimes the trail will bend, and there rises the towers of downtown Phoenix, rising from its bowl of mountains. Keep your eyes peeled for petroglyphs. These are rock carvings etched by ancient desert communities, like the Hohokam. There are hundreds of petroglyphs scattered through the park: spirals, animals, and suns—all incredible to witness and ponder. 

phoenix spots to visit

Pizzeria Bianco Arrow

Chris Bianco is a giant in the pizza world and his handiwork hasn’t slipped an inch over the decades. Famously, he says he doesn’t do much, delegating praise to the farmers, ranchers, and other producers. But he truly excels at giving premier local ingredients—flour, pistachios, cheeses, herbs, citrus—the exact touches they need to express themselves as ideally as pizza, salad, and pasta dishes can. Bianco’s pizza defies category, embracing hard-way methods like blending select local flours. The Rosa, a white pie crowned with pistachios, red onion, rosemary, and Parmigiano Reggiano, is his Mona Lisa. His simple marinara is a dark horse that showcases his technique. Too many people often overlook the pasta specials at the Town & Country location, so be sure to consider them when you make your inevitable pilgrimage.

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A view of the Heard Museum of Native Cultures and Art Phoenix Arizona circa 1962.

Heard Museum Arrow

This central Phoenix museum showcases pieces from Indigenous people all over the world, but with a focus on the American Southwest. The goal: to allow Indigenous people from across time to tell their stories through their own words, art, and artifacts. Founded in 1929, the Heard has earned a global reputation and should be a  must  on any visitor’s to-do list. The museum has some 44,000 objects in 12 exhibit galleries, including more than 1,200 Hopi Katsina dolls. 

phoenix spots to visit

Valley Bar Arrow

Raw and grungy with nothing to distract from the flow of canned beers and music, this low-slung underground hall packs 250 people—mostly standing room. The bands that take the minimal stage tend to be local standouts. Many of the people in the crowd know them well, for this is a pillar of Phoenix’s homegrown music scene. Come here for sweat and sound. In addition to the music room, Valley Bar has others spreading below the downtown streets. Play billiards in one and eat taquitos or sip a cocktail named after an Arizona politician in another. Don’t miss the Rose Room—an intimate half-hidden library stocked with couches and vintage reading material. 

phoenix spots to visit

Desert Botanical Garden Arrow

The Sonoran Desert is often called the world’s most vibrant desert, and this garden’s 140 acres of wondrous plants show why. Sure, visitors know the Sonoran’s wavy-armed signature—the Saguaro cactus—but what about the dozens of other Seussian species: the organ pipe cactus, the barrel, the hedgehog? The house restaurant, Gertrude’s, is far better than any botanical garden eatery should be. Gertrude’s cooks higher-end seasonal dishes using local ingredients: House cocktails prioritize Arizona spirits, like Tucson whiskey smoked with mesquite and Sedona gin made with foraged juniper. 

phoenix spots to visit

Bacanora Arrow

his Grand Avenue nook has heart and vibe unlike any other downtown Phoenix restaurant. That’s thanks to Rene Andrade, whose Sonoran roots shape an electric menu of Sonoran Mexican specialties, many of them charred on a smoky, giant Santa Maria-style grill in the music-packed room’s corner. Bacanora is a cool spot. People drink agave spirits out of bone luges, tuck into Flinstonian steaks ringed with flour tortillas and salsas, and enjoy bracing raw seafood plates like limey shrimp aguachiles. Flavors are huge and uncompromising. The fruity heat of chiltepin pepper scorches nearly everything, even cocktails and desserts. Andrade plays by no rules but his own, and that’s what makes this young-but-now-classic Phoenix restaurant so great.

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Since 1975, Xico has elevated Latinx and Indigenous artists, who are the backbone of Phoenix’s art and culture scene. The gallery relocated to a handsome century-old brick building with original walls and a high exposed industrial ceiling in 2020. Pieces displayed in the humble, intimate space span local, national, and international. It's also practically on Roosevelt Row, downtown Phoenix’s bustling enclave of new bars and eateries. And if you get thirsty, Xico Gallery abuts Barcoa , a watering hole that pours a dizzying range of tequilas, mezcals, and other Mexican spirits. 

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Palabras Bilingual Bookstore Arrow

Palabras is an independent bookstore that rigorously curates its vibe and selection to elevate under-represented voices. Just about all communications from the bookstore are in English and Spanish, right on down to the text on its website. Within Palabras’ shared space, there are also a few other literary businesses, including a micro publisher and literary zine purveyor. The rigorously curated selection of books alone makes this one of the coolest small bookstores in the country. Try to time your visit with one of many incredible workshops, maybe an open mic session, a Diné creation story, or an author leading a multi-lingual reading. A reading area out back of the shop is little more than a patio, fostering an intimate environment. Owner Chawa Magaña has won a strong following of regulars—he customer base is diverse, with plenty of Latin and Indigenous representation. It’s a place where anyone who loves books and has an open mind can feel at home.

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The 21 Best Things To Do In Phoenix, Arizona (2023 Guide)

Wondering what activities and attractions you can’t miss in the Valley of the Sun? Our guide to the best things to do in Phoenix is just what you need!

Famous for its luxurious hotel resorts, desert gardens, championship golf courses, and decadent fine dining, Phoenix, Arizona is a top travel destination across the globe.

As one of the top fastest growing cities in the United States, Phoenix continues to grow in its attractive features that draw people from all over the world to its desert landscape. 

Full of outdoor recreational activities like hiking Camelback Mountain, and indoor attractions such as the Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix is a diverse destination that can please history buffs, art lovers, food cravers, hikers, golfers, and more! 

Phoenix, AZ is also 3.5 hours away from the Grand Canyon, one of the most famous natural features of the USA. Phoenix is a popular starting point for road trips into the Grand Canyon, and it is even possible to visit it as a day trip if you’re willing to take on a bit of driving. 

But aside from the Grand Canyon, there are lots of fun things to do in Phoenix and the city center. In fact, Phoenix is home to some of the best things to do in Arizona !

In our article, we have only the best Phoenix attractions listed for the ultimate travel vacation to experience all that Phoenix has to offer. So pack your bags. It’s time to start exploring! 

Read Next: Want to know how to make the most of your time in Phoenix? Here’s our guide to how to spend an awesome 3 days in Phoenix Itinerary !

Table of Contents

1) Glimpse Endangered Plant Species At The Desert Botanical Garden

2) go on an adventure at south mountain park & preserve, 3) visit the premier arizona science center, 4) explore downtown phoenix, 5) ignite your imagination at the phoenix art museum , 6) tour the musical instrument museum , 7) discover the history of firefighting at the hall of flame fire museum , 8) wander through old town scottsdale, 9) relish in the desert oasis of tempe town lake , 10) glimpse the resurrected species of arabian oryx at the phoenix zoo , 11) tour the david and gladys wright house, 12) bask in the serenity of the japanese friendship garden, 13) hike camelback mountain , 14) go on an adventure at papago park , 15) learn about american indian art at the heard museum , 16) golf a few rounds in paradise valley , 17) test your bravery at the goldfield ghost town , 18) walk the uss arizona memorial gardens, 19) explore the bountiful historic neighborhoods , 20) tour the mystery castle, 21) hike the apache trail through the superstition mountains, best hostel in phoenix, best mid-range hotel in phoenix, best luxury hotel in phoenix, the best things to do in phoenix, arizona.

If you’re searching for what to do in Phoenix, look no further. We have the top 21 Phoenix activities listed below! 

From mountain biking or hiking at South Mountain Park to exploring Old Town Scottsdale or checking out some interesting museums, here are the best things to do in Phoenix. 

Night View Phoenix Arizona

A 140-acre botanical garden, the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden homes 55 acres under cultivation and 50,000+ plants on display showcased in stunning outdoor exhibits. 

Marked as one of twenty-four botanical gardens accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, over 650 volunteers and 229 full-time staff members work to keep this refreshing and awe-inspiring botanical garden running. 

Half a million visitors stop by the Desert Botanical Garden to witness the beauty of the natural world presented in Arizona. 

Housing 485 rare and endangered species and 92,150 herbarium specimens, the wide variety of plant species waiting to be explored and learned about are waiting for your visit!

The Desert Botanical Garden is easily one of the best things to do in Phoenix.

  • Address:  1201 N Galvin Pkwy
  • Hours:  7 am – 8 pm every day
  • Cost : Tickets range from $14.95 – $24.95 ( Advance booking required )

READ NEXT: Looking for more ideas of what to do in Arizona? Check out our post on all the best things to do in Arizona !

The largest municipal park in the United States, South Mountain Park and Preserve has been designated as a Phoenix Point of Pride popular hiking, biking, and riding destination.

Spanning over 16,000 acres, it is also one of the largest urban parks in North America and the world! 

For the ultimate Phoenix Arizona outdoor adventure, start at the South Mountain Environmental Education Center to learn more about this enigmatic location before beginning your hike, bike, or ride. 

Stretching out with 58 miles worth of hiking trails and mountain bike trails for a fun and new activity to explore, you are sure to get a good dose of nature and exercise at South Mountain Park. 

To end your adventure, we recommend following the road at the South Mountain Environmental Education Center to the top of the mountain for superb panoramic views.

Read Next: Check out these incredible day trips from Phoenix !

One of the nation’s premier science and education destinations, the Arizona Science Center is a science museum in downtown Phoenix, in the scenic Heritage and Science Park. 

Founded in 1984, the Arizona Science Center is dedicated to inspiring, educating, and engaging curious minds through science.

The 140,000-square-foot building was designed by renowned architect Antoine Predock and combines ramps, galleries, hallways, and terraces in one and has been recognized as a unique Phoenix landmark. 

Through interactive exhibits, standards-aligned STEM education, and research-based programs, the Arizona Science Center promotes excellence in young minds. 

The state-of-the-art planetarium, immersive exhibits, and five-story giant-screen theater are all exciting ways to educate and entertain people of all ages. 

If you are looking to entertain kids, the Phoenix Children’s Museum is another great spot to visit. 

  • Address : 600 E. Washington Street
  • Hours:  10:30am – 4pm daily
  • Cost:  $21.95 adults, $15.95 kids ages 3-17

Heading west next? Check out our list of the best things to do in Los Angeles .

Loaded with fun activities, downtown Phoenix is full of significant attractions waiting to be explored.

An entertainment and business district stocked with art galleries, cocktail bars, brunch spots, hands-on exhibits, and the Chase Field baseball park, downtown Phoenix is a great place to explore various activities. 

Many people travel downtown to enjoy live music and sip on craft brews as they socialize with locals and fellow tourists. No cars are required to travel around downtown thanks to the  Valley Metro Rail , making it easy for tourists to visit historic areas like Roosevelt Row, a walkable arts district. 

Decked out with over 200 restaurants, grabbing food in downtown Phoenix is highly recommended for various decadent and scrumptious selections. In addition, the rooftop lounges and bars with live music make for a great nightlife option. 

During the day, hop over to the different art galleries, museums, and theaters to learn more about the local history and culture.

Downtown Phoenix Arizona

Featuring an expansive collection of art dating back to the Renaissance, the  Phoenix Art Museum  is centered in a bustling desert metropolis that welcomes locals and tourists worldwide!

Its world-class exhibitions and comprehensive collections have promoted a connection to the arts for over sixty years. 

As the largest art museum in the southwestern United States, the Phoenix Art Museum houses over 20,000 artifacts and welcomes over 300,000 guests annually. The museum is dedicated to igniting imagination and creating connections through an inspiring space filled with transformative art. 

From art lovers to history buffs, stepping over to the Phoenix Art Museum is a journey you’ll be delighted you took.

  • Address:  1625 N Central Ave
  • Hours:  10am – 9pm Wednesdays, 10am – 5pm Thursdays – Sundays
  • Cost:  $23

Read Next: Plan your trip to explore the red rocks with our guide to the best things to do in Sedona !

For all music lovers, visiting the Musical Instrument Museum is a must-see attraction during your time in Phoenix, Arizona!

The largest musically-dedicated museum, the Musical Instrument Museum, hones a collection of over 15,000 musical instruments and objects. 

Each represents up to 200 different countries and territories. Guests can explore music from across the globe through live performances, workshops, and other family-friendly activities.

As the world’s only global musical instrument museum, this one-of-a-kind museum presents international musical development and its impact on the history of many world cultures. 

Fondly referred to as the language of the soul, guests can explore the impact music has had on culture and history at the great Musical Instrument Museum. 

  • Address:  4725 E Mayo Blvd
  • Hours:  9 am – 5 pm daily
  • Cost:  $20

READ NEXT: Check out our post on all the best things to do in Tucson , Arizona!

Dedicated to preserving firefighting equipment historically used throughout the years, the Hall Of Flame Fire Museum is found in Papago Park, along with a few other popular Phoenix attractions. 

Homing over one hundred fully restored pieces of fire apparatus from 1725 to 2004, the museum hosts almost a full acre of fire history exhibits. 

The artifacts at the National Firefighting Hall of Fame are collected worldwide, including destinations like Austria, Japan, Germany, France, and England. 

Old fire alarm systems, loads of diverse FireMarks, and outdated fire extinguishers are on display. Lithographs, paintings, prints, and engravings cover a wide variety of subject material related to the generous efforts of firefighter history. 

Since its founding in 1961, the  Hall Of Flame Fire Museum  began with George F. Getz, Jr., who started collecting fire apparatus worldwide. 

Since his passing, his children and grandchildren have taken his mission over to promote fire safety education, recognize firefighters that have died in the line of duty or are recognized for acts of heroism, and preserve the history of firefighting. 

  • Address:  6101 E Van Buren St
  • Hours:  10 am – 6 pm Tuesday – Saturday
  • Cost:  $17

The vibrant heart of Scottsdale, Old Town Scottsdale is nine walkable neighborhoods filled with exceptional art galleries, shops, nightclubs, restaurants, top-class museums, and historical sites that date back to the 1800s. 

Combining Old Wild West charm and a chic urban vibe, this enigmatic neighborhood is an excellent stop during your stay in Phoenix, Arizona.

Located just a 20-minute drive away from Phoenix, this place is perfect for history buffs and nature lovers. There is lots of desert sightseeing and hiking to be done near Scottsdale.

A super fun thing to do is take a  half-day hiking tour   in the Sonoran Desert after exploring Old Town Scottsdale. Or head down to Salt River and go  kayaking . 

Or travel to the famous old Apache Trail used in the late 1800s from Old Town Scottsdale before or after exploring all the town has to offer! 

Old Town Scottsdale

An Arizona desert oasis, Tempe Town Lake is located near downtown Tempe. 

Many outdoor adventurers flock here as a haven for recreational activities like kayaking, rowing, stand-up paddleboarding, picnicking, walking, and fishing.

This urban environment is a perfect getaway from city life. Step out for a live concert at the outdoor amphitheater or lay down on the grassy bankside of the crystal clear lake to picnic with friends and family. Or catch a local game of baseball at Tempe Beach Park. 

As the crown jewel of Tempe city,  Tempe Town Lake  is a quick stop from Phoenix and a worthwhile destination to explore. 

Maybe you’re heading north after Arizona? Here is our guide to the best things to do in Las Vegas, Nevada !

Opened in 1962 and since recognized as the largest privately owned non-profit zoo in the United States,  the Phoenix Zoo operates on 125 acres near Papago Park. 

With more than 3,000 animals housed, many of which are endangered species, the zoo is dedicated to preserving wildlife which can be shown through their efforts to boost populations of ten imperiled native Arizona species. 

The Phoenix Zoo partners with many universities and organizations to work on conserving wildlife in Arizona and worldwide. 

One of the significant successes of this reputable zoo is its resurrection of the Arabian Oryx. This antelope went extinct in the wild in 1972. The Phoenix Zoo and Fauna Preservation Society played a prominent role in resurrecting this extinct species and reintroducing it back into the wild. 

In the present day, visitors can see the magnificence of the Arabian Oryx that would have otherwise remained extinct if not for the Phoenix Zoo’s essential role in its conservation. 

  • Address:  455 N Galvin Pkwy
  • Hours:  7am – 1pm in June – August, 9am – 5pm in September/October
  • Cost:  $29.95

Book your admission ticket to the zoo on Get Your Guide!

The David and Gladys Wright House is a historical landmark in Phoenix, Arizona. Part of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, this house was built and designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and was gifted to his son David and daughter-in-law Gladys. 

Constructed in 1950, the house is one of Wright’s most architecturally innovative and unusual creations. The home sits at the base of Camelback Mountain, and with its spectacular design, the residents can easily view the mountain and the surrounding desert. 

Most recently, the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places after being saved from demolition. 

Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation was named after the master planner of this historically unique home. A famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, is recognized as one of the greatest American architects of all time, with a career that spanned seven decades. 

  • Address:  4505 N Rubicon Ave
  • Hours : 9 am – 12 pm Thursday – Monday
  • Cost:  Free (extra cost for  audio or guided tours )

Stretching 3.5 acres, the Japanese Friendship Garden is a Japanese stroll garden part of a joint project with its Sister City, Himeji, Japan. Named RoHoEn, the garden was constructed in 1987 to present the bonds of friendship between Japan and the United States, especially between Phoenix and Himeji. 

There is also a stone garden, courtyard garden, tea garden, and the featured stroll garden. Every aspect of the decorative features seen in the garden was gifted by the City of Himeji and its citizens. 

With over 1,500 tons of hand-picked rock, lanterns, stone footbridges, and over 50 plants, the garden is a serene garden meant to be basked in. The 12-foot waterfall, flowing streams, and the koi pond stocked with over 300 vibrant koi fish transform one’s experience as if one were in Japan themselves! 

  • Address:  1125 N 3rd Ave
  • Hours:  9 am – 4 pm Tuesday – Sunday

Only twenty minutes from downtown Phoenix, Camelback Mountain is a top attraction for hikers year-round.

Rated as one of Phoenix’s best hikes, two trails ascend 1,420 feet to the summit that the mountain was named after, which resembles a camel’s back. At this summit, the panoramic view of the city can be enjoyed—it’s also a popular picture spot.

Receiving its namesake from the two rock formations that resemble the head and back of a kneeling camel, Camelback Mountain is a dedicated Phoenix Mountains Preserve and became a city park in 1968. It is next to the lively Arcadia neighborhood of Phoenix, a popular dining spot. 

On this  private hiking tour , an experienced and knowledgeable guide will take you and your group up to the summit to be rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the city. 

The hike is not recommended for beginners or young children as the hike is challenging. Don’t forget to pack plenty of water and slap on some sunscreen!

Camelback Mountain Phoenix

Home to loads of outdoor recreational activities, Papago Park is teaming with history. 

Once a reservation for indigenous tribes, a fish hatchery during the Great Depression, a POW camp during World War II, and then a VA hospital, Papago Park is a magnificent Phoenix activity for history buffs and active individuals. 

Since then, Papago Park has expanded to encompass the Phoenix Zoo, the Desert Botanical Garden, museums, and golf courses. 

Golfers can step over to Papago Golf Course to enjoy a round surrounded by Sonoran Desert plants and animals. Animal lovers can explore the nearby Phoenix Zoo or, for plant lovers, stroll the Desert Botanical Garden, all within access of Papago Park!

A private, not-for-profit museum, the Heard Museum promotes the advancement of  American Indian art . 

Founded in 1929, the museum has rapidly grown and been recognized internationally because of its world-class exhibits, collections, exceptional festivals, and high-quality educational programming. The stories of the American Indian people are told from a first-person perspective, engaging in a successful story presentation. 

The Heard Museum collaborates with American Indian artists and tribal communities to correctly display and advocate the art of Native people based on their perspectives. 

As one of Phoenix’s first cultural attractions, the Heard Museum is the perfect place to learn about the history of American Indian arts and cultures. 

  • Address:  2301 N Central Ave
  • Hours:  10am – 4pm Tuesday – Sunday

Phoenix is known for its golfing, so definitely one of the best things to do in Phoenix is hit a few rounds at places like Orange Tree Golf Resort and Stone Creek Golf Club. 

But  Paradise Valley  is the most popular place to golf, and it is settled in the heart of the desert oasis of Scottsdale and Phoenix.

Paradise Valley is surrounded by the ever-so-famous Camelback Mountain to the south, the McDowell Mountains to the east, and the Phoenix Mountain Preserve to the west. This town is full of outdoor and indoor attractions like hiking and shopping. 

As Arizona’s wealthiest municipality, this town is filled with luxury, including real estate, restaurants, golf courses, shopping, and adventurous outdoor recreational activities nearby. 

Paradise Valley Arizona

Goldfield Ghost Town and Mine Tours is a reconstructed 1890s town that offers a range of attractions, including a history museum, gold-mine tours, Old West gunfights, and much more.

Once home to a boarding house, three saloons, a blacksmith shop, a general store, a school house, a brewery, a boarding house and a meat market, Goldfield Ghost Town eventually died a slow and painful death when success in the ore industry tanked. 

Many travelers worldwide come to explore the ghost gold mining town that is settled near the historic Apache Trail. 

On this ghost town and canyon lake day  private tour , guests will experience the Old West as they tour the Goldfield Mine and other historical points of Goldfield. Lunch will be at the Old Saloon before guests can experience a scenic steamboat ride on Canyon Lake.

Created to honor the brave U.S. forces aboard the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor, the USS Arizona Memorial Gardens were designed to flourish around the boat house relic enclosed in a glass case. 

This USS Arizona Exhibit honors the 1,170 of the 1,512 crew members killed in the Pearl Harbor attack. 

One torpedo and eight bombs had hit the USS Arizona, causing a massive death toll. In the gardens, those killed are honored on metal monuments of stacked blocks with names and ranks engraved. 

In addition, some quotes have been memorialized by the survivors on benches scattered along the pathways in the gardens. 

The  USS Arizona Memorial Gardens  is designed and inspired by the USS Arizona ship’s shape and reaches the exact same size at 608 feet long. 

  • Address:  7455 N Pima Rd, Scottsdale, AZ
  • Hours : 7am – 7pm daily
  • Cost:  Free

Exploring more of the USA south? Here is our ultimate 3 days in Dallas Texas itinerary .

Phoenix has  35 historic neighborhoods  waiting to be explored by travelers.

For example, Willo Historic District was constructed through deliberate actions to encompass specific characteristics. As a result, there are over 700 homes in Willo, making it one of Phoenix’s largest historic neighborhoods. 

The neighborhood started in the 1920s thanks to Home Builders, a construction firm that built 41 residences of the same architectural style within five years in Willo. 

Another beautiful spot is the Alvarado District, home to the Heard Museum. This neighborhood is filled with olive trees and Spanish/American colonial architecture. 

Windsor Square is another lovely area that was shaped by the US’s exit from the World Wars. The ranch-style homes here are exquisite. 

Even if you’re not a huge fan of history or architecture, these neighborhoods are stunning and are definitely worth checking out. 

A unique stone castle created by a father for his princess, Mystery Castle is listed on the Arizona Historical Register and is a Pride of Phoenix Award winner.

Boyce Gully constructed the native stone castle in 1945 for his daughter. It has thirteen fireplaces, eighteen rooms, parapets, nooks, crannies, and many southwestern antiques. 

The daughter moved into the home and began giving guided tours until she died in 2010.

Present day, Mystery Castle is open for tours from October to May and has been recognized by Warner Brothers, Life Magazine, The New York Times, The National Inquirer, and many others. 

The Apache Trail is a 40-mile scenic drive that stretches through the Superstition Mountains.

Most of the Apache Trail is unpaved and full of cacti and deep reservoirs. This historical trail is named after the Apache Indians who once used the route.

Now, many people come to hike this scenic Arizona trail. 

Taking a guide is essential, so we recommend checking out this Apache Trail and Dolly Steamboat Day Trip  tour .

The guided tour will take guests through the desert, the mountains, and then over Canyon Lake by Dolly Steamboat for an informative and fun adventure.

Superstition Mountains Apache Trail

Where to Stay in Phoenix, Arizona

So now you know all the best Phoenix attractions! We focused mainly on the best things to do in the Phoenix city center, and around Scottsdale. 

We didn’t include the Grand Canyon on this list, simply because it is quite far. But you can definitely plan your trip to the Grand Canyon from Phoenix, whether you are renting a car, booking a tour, or planning an epic western USA road trip. 

But while you’re in Phoenix Arizona, here are some of the top places to stay for every budget. 

A traveling organization dedicated to catering to international travelers, tourists, and people of all ages wanting to experience the world on a budget, the  HI Phoenix Hostel & Cultural Center  is a highly accommodating hostel. 

Having won numerous awards for its unique programs, the hostel offers private rooms, family rooms, dorm spaces, reading rooms, common spaces, gardens, and more to provide for the customized needs of its guests. 

The  Clarendon Hotel  is located near all of Phoenix’s top attractions in the city center. 

Providing accommodations like free private parking and Wi-Fi, this top-quality property is the perfect hotel for your needs! 

Boasting world-class service,  JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa  is settled in the Sonoran Desert to offer its guests scenic Arizona views. 

This five-star hotel encompasses all your travel needs with two golf courses, five restaurants, an on-site Starbucks, five swimming pools and waterslides, a spa, and a fitness center. 

DISCLAIMER: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means if you book accommodation, tours or buy a product, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help us keep creating more free travel content to help people plan their holidays and adventures. We only recommend the best accommodations, tours and products that ourselves or our fantastic editorial team have personally experienced, and regularly review these. Thanks for your support, kind friend!

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About the Author - Alesha and Jarryd

Hey! We are Alesha and Jarryd, the award-winning writers and professional photographers behind this blog. We have been travelling the world together since 2008, with a passion for adventure travel and sustainable tourism. Through our stories and images we promote exciting off-the-beaten-path destinations and fascinating cultures as we go. As one of the world's leading travel journalists, our content and adventures have been featured by National Geographic, Lonely Planet, CNN, BBC, Forbes, Business Insider, Washington Post, Yahoo!, BuzzFeed, Channel 7, Channel 10, ABC, The Guardian, and plenty other publications. Follow our journey in real time on Facebook , YouTube and Instagram .

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19 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Phoenix, AZ

Written by Lana Law Updated Dec 25, 2023 We may earn a commission from affiliate links ( )

Author Lana Law has spent many winters in Arizona and Phoenix is one of her favorite cities.

Phoenix's warm, dry climate attracts sun lovers and those looking to escape the snow and cold during the winter months. The city offers abundant arts and cultural attractions, historic neighborhoods, as well as shopping, dining, and an outstanding selection of resorts and hotels .

Many people come here simply to enjoy the outdoors. Golfing is one of the top things to do in Phoenix, but you'll also find opportunities for hiking, biking, camping , and climbing.

If you are spending more than just a few days here, you may want to consider doing some day trips from Phoenix to nearby towns and tourist attractions. Within easy reach are communities like Sedona, Prescott, and Jerome. If you're up for a big day, you can even do a trip to the Grand Canyon.

The Phoenix Metropolitan Area, which includes the cities of Phoenix, Mesa, and Scottsdale, is spread out and covers a large area. Plan your sightseeing in advance to save time with our list of the best things to do in Phoenix.

See also: Where to Stay in Phoenix

1. Desert Botanical Garden

2. musical instrument museum, 3. taliesin west, 4. hiking trails around phoenix, 5. heard museum, 6. old town scottsdale, 7. south mountain park, 8. hall of flame fire museum, 9. papago park, 10. phoenix art museum, 11. phoenix zoo, 12. odysea aquarium, 13. arizona science center, 14. arizona state capitol museum, 15. north mountain & shaw butte, 16. phoenix children's museum, 17. phoenix symphony, 18. enjoy the rides at castles n' coasters, 19. pueblo grande museum, where to stay in phoenix for sightseeing, tips and tours: how to make the most of your visit to phoenix, map of attractions & things to do in phoenix, az.

Hummingbird at the Desert Botanical Garden

Located in Papago Park, the Desert Botanical Garden is a beautiful complex that combines art and nature. Art installations dot the gardens , adding another dimension to this beautiful space.

The 140-acre complex is home to tens of thousands of plants and displays examples of vegetation from deserts around the world. This is also a good place to spot hummingbirds and butterflies, with designated gardens designed to attract these creatures.

Extensive trails wind their way around the property, and you should plan on spending a significant amount of time walking. Spring is a particularly good time to visit, as the plants come to life and bloom in an array of colors.

Address: 1201 North Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, Arizona

Piano and saxophone

The Musical Instruments Museum is one of the largest of its kind in the world , with a collection of more than 8,000 instruments from almost 200 countries.

Housed in a spectacular building are five permanent galleries, including the Geographic Gallery; the Artists Gallery; the Mechanical Music Gallery; the STEM Gallery; and the Experience Gallery, where you can play some of the instruments. You can also see master craftsmen at work restoring instruments in the Conservation Lab.

The museum hosts special traveling exhibits and has a variety of Signature Events, showcasing instruments and live music from countries around the world. Catch a concert in the facility's 300-seat theater.

Address: 4725 E. Mayo Boulevard, Phoenix, Arizona

Taliesin West

Located in Scottsdale, Taliesin West was the winter home of the celebrated architect Frank Lloyd Wright . Situated in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains, this property is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also the international headquarters of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

Even if you have only the smallest interest in architecture, this is a worthwhile addition to your Phoenix itinerary. The tours offer detailed information on the architecture and Wright's life.

The buildings here were constructed out of native materials, such as rubblestone and redwood, and built entirely by Wright and his apprentices from 1937 to 1959.

Address: 12345 North Taliesin Drive, Scottsdale, Arizona

Lost Dog Wash Trailhead

Looking for something to do outdoors? A walk through the desert is always a pleasant way to spend a morning or a day, and Phoenix offers a full range of hiking trails for all levels of hikers.

At one extreme are the trails for the adventurous hiker, like the hike up Camelback Mountain , and at the other end of the spectrum are short, easy trails, perfect for birders and nature lovers. You'll find some of these at Papago Park or the Lost Dog Wash Trailhead .

Somewhere in between these are Mormon Trail and Pinnacle Peak , which offer a bit of a challenge and elevation, along with beautiful views.

For a more comprehensive look, see our list of the top hikes in the Phoenix area to plan your outing.

The Heard Museum

The renowned Heard Museum in Phoenix, dating from 1929, is devoted to the art and culture of the Indian peoples of the Southwest . The Heard is noted for its amazing displays of basketwork, pottery, jewelry, textiles, and a large collection of kachina dolls.

The museum's exhibit galleries and outdoor courtyards feature traditional and contemporary Native American art. This is a great place for families to learn about native history and see traditional arts.

Outside, you can wander through the outdoor sculpture garden or take a garden tour of the museum. The museum also has a very pleasant outdoor café with courtyard seating and a menu that changes regularly and features special dishes to complement the featured exhibit.

Address: 2301 North Central Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona

Old Town Scottsdale

For fun and quirky, one of the best places to visit around Phoenix is Old Town Scottsdale. Unique shops housed in buildings with Western-style covered walkways sell a variety of trinkets and other goods, primarily aimed at tourists.

Just up the street from the kitschy shops are some of the city's finest galleries featuring spectacular work by famous artists. Downtown Scottsdale is a fun place to see and be seen.

Old Town also has a good selection of restaurants, some with delightful patio seating, perfect for people-watching. The area is easily walkable and can be found at the intersection of East Main Street and North Scottsdale Road.

A fun way to tour the area and see the sites is on a two-hour Scottsdale Segway Tour . This will take you along the waterfront, past some of the historic sites, and through Old Town.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Scottsdale

South Mountain Park

South Mountain Park/Preserve in Phoenix is one of the largest city parks in the United States , covering over 16,000 acres of desert landscape. The miles of trails running through the park are ideal for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking . One of the most popular trails is the Mormon Trail.

Views out over the desert and beyond to the city are fabulous. If you are looking for things to do at night in Phoenix, come here after dark for an incredible look at the city lights.

The highest point in the park is Mount Suppoa at 2,690 feet, but the highest lookout, which can be reached by trail or road, is Dobbins Lookout at 2,330 feet.

Every fourth Sunday is Silent Sunday, where the park's main thoroughfare, Summit Road, is closed from 5am to 7pm to all motorized traffic. On these special days, the wide-open roadway is reserved for those human-powered activities, including walking, jogging, and cycling. On the first, second, and third Sundays, the same roadway is closed, but only to the one-mile marker.

Address: 10919 South Central Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona

Hall of Flame Fire Museum

The Hall of Flame Fire Museum is both a historical look at the profession and a tribute to firefighters who have been killed in the line of duty, or noted for their heroism.

On display at the museum are exhibits dating back to 1725, including old fire engines and some very curious types of fire extinguishers. While most of the focus is on the history of firefighting in America, you'll also see exhibits from Europe and Japan, offering a more international perspective on the profession.

The National Firefighting Hall of Heroes displays the names of those killed since 1981. There is also a memorial to the firefighters and police officers killed at the World Trade Center in 2001.

Address: 6101 East Van Buren Street, Phoenix, Arizona

Papago Park

Papago Park is a wonderful natural area in the southeast part of the city. If you're looking for activities and fun things to do in Phoenix, this park is a good place to start. Here you you can enjoy hiking along nature trails, scrambling up the red rocks that dominate the park, cycling the extensive routes, and even golfing.

This is a popular place to come for a walk, particularly in the morning before the heat of the day, and you'll see the citizens of Phoenix taking full advantage of this urban oasis.

Papago Park has a multitude of trails, but the two most popular are the Elliot Ramada and the Double Butte Loop trail . Both these trails take you up to the weird rock outcroppings that are a key feature of the park. You can sometimes see wildlife, primarily rabbits but occasionally bighorn sheep.

Also located in Papago Park are the Phoenix Zoo and the Desert Botanical Garden .

Address: 625 North Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix Art Museum

The Phoenix Art Museum has a permanent collection covering the art of the European Renaissance and Baroque periods, the Far East, and the American West. The museum also presents modern and contemporary works, fashion design, live performances, and films.

The classically progressive look of its 203,000-square-foot building is a work of art in itself. Designed by New York architects Tod Williams/Billie Tsien & Associates in the mid-1990s and expanded by them in 2006, it integrates art and architecture with the southwestern landscape.

The museum's founding in 1959 and eventual development into one of the leading art museums in the American Southwest reflects the constant commitment from the community and mirrors the growth of Phoenix from a small desert town to the current metropolis it has become.

Address: 1625 North Central Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix Zoo

While the Phoenix Zoo is home to more than 3,000 animals, including numerous endangered species, it's especially well known for its Sumatran tigers and orangutans.

The four different trails leading through the facility are the Africa Trail, Tropics Trail, Arizona Trail, and Children's Trail. The zoo also offers children's programs and events, splash pads, and play areas, so pack your bathing suits and towels.

Animal encounters are a special part of any visit and truly a highlight at the Phoenix Zoo. The Monkey Village will have you snapping pictures as your kids walk through an open exhibit with monkeys swinging by.

Another encounter that will generate squeals of delight is the Red Barn. It's a petting zoo with goats, sheep, and horses all happy to engage with little people. Other experiences include the gentle giraffe encounter, Stingray Bay encounter, and the ever-popular camel rides.

If you've had enough of the animals, take a ride on the Endangered Animals carousel, where each animal is unique.

Address: 455 North Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, Arizona

Caiman crocodile at OdySea Aquarium

Although it may seem odd to find a giant aquarium in the middle of the parched desert, somehow it all comes together in an enjoyable maritime learning experience. The OdySea Aquarium at 200,000 square feet is the largest of its kind in the Southwest and a wonderful place to step out of the arid environment into a water-based world.

The concept is that you are a raindrop falling from the sky into freshwater and then you make your way through streams and rivers before finding your way to the ocean. Over 70 exhibits, many of them interactive, line the pathway from start to finish.

Just follow the pathway through the facility, around each corner, and on each level, you'll find new and interesting exhibits along with three different touch pools including the world's only Russian Sturgeon exhibit. Over 6,000 aquatic animals exist here, ranging from penguins through to sharks, stingrays, otters, and octopuses. The Odysea even has a sloth, along with tropical birds.

Educational shows take place throughout the facility, one of the most unique being the Voyager a presentation making you feel you are in a submarine. For an additional fee, you can experience the SeaTREK® indoor, underwater helmet diving, where you descend into a pool filled with fish in a special diving suit or have an animal interaction with the penguins.

Although it may sound strange to highlight Odysea's restrooms, be sure you check them out for the glass ceiling above the sinks, complete with sharks and other aquatic creatures casually swimming by.

Address: 9500 E Via De Ventura, Scottsdale, Arizona

Arizona Science Center

The Arizona Science Center has hundreds of interactive exhibits in seven galleries, each with a unique theme. Also on-site are an IMAX theater and a 200-seat planetarium . This is the perfect thing for families to do in Phoenix, especially on a day when the weather doesn't cooperate.

The Science Center holds six signature events throughout the year, including Weird Science Halloween; Science with a Twist; and Snow Week, where Science Park hill becomes a mountain of white, covered with 75 tons of real snow.

Address: 600 East Washington Street, Phoenix, Arizona

Arizona State Capitol Museum

Set among beautiful gardens is the old State Capitol, built in 1900, which was the seat of government until 1974. The imposing state building is now a free museum focusing on the history of Arizona.

The exhibits are spread over four floors, and one of the must-see displays is the unique Arizona flag, made of 113,998 Lego bricks. Each Lego brick represents one mile in the state.

Other notable highlights include the Arizona Takes Shape exhibit, showcasing the state's development, from when it was a territory through to the present day, along with the USS Arizona exhibit.

For a thought-provoking experience, be sure to check out the Capitol Mall and Wesley Bolin Plaza memorial monuments.

Address: 1700 West Washington Street, Phoenix, Arizona

View of Phoenix from North Mountain

North Mountain Preserve is a popular recreational area with all kinds of hiking trails . North Mountain stands at an elevation of 2,104 feet, and Shaw Butte, the tallest mountain in the preserve, stands at 2,149 feet. Together these mountains are a landmark feature in Phoenix.

The more advanced hiking trails in the preserve lead to the summit, but easier hikes offer access to all levels of abilities. This is a lovely way to experience the local flora and fauna, with many plant species, including saguaro cactus.

Be sure to stop in at the North Mountain Visitors Center to get the latest updates on the trails, learn about the local history, get some insight on the flora and fauna, and top up your water bottles.

Address: 12950 North 7th Street, Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix Children's Museum

The Phoenix Children's Museum opened in 2008 and has been going strong ever since. Today it's one of the city's most popular family attractions. The 14 galleries full of fun and interesting displays are designed to engage growing minds.

Some of the galleries include the Noodle Forest, Blockmania, Pedal Power, and the Texture Café, among others. Attentive staff, called Playologists, are always on hand to help.

The Phoenix Children's Museum is just around the corner from the Arizona Science Center in downtown Phoenix; combining trips to both is easily accomplished.

Address: 215 N. 7th Street, Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix Symphony

The Phoenix Symphony , led by the talented conductor Matthew Kasper, performs classical, pop, chamber, and family programs throughout the year. As Arizona's only full-time symphony orchestra, this is a staple in Phoenix's cultural scene. If you're looking for a night out while in town, check their online calendar for a list of upcoming performances.

Be sure to note the performance venues. The Phoenix Symphony performs at five different locations: Symphony Hall, Mesa Arts Center, Pinnacle Presbyterian Church, Orpheum Church, and ASU Gammage.

Address: 75 North 2nd Street, Phoenix, Arizona

Bumper cars

A great outing that everyone in the family can agree on is Castles-N-Coasters . The 10-acre park is a mix of roller coasters, mini golf, water rides, bumper boats, bumper cars, go-carts, and arcades. No matter your age, you'll be sure to find something that gets your heart racing.

The most intense ride is the double-looped Desert Storm roller coaster. A little less frightening but still a thrill is the Skydiver, where you free-fall from 120 feet in the air. For something a bit different, head into the completely crazy Stranger Stuff Fun House. If the Phoenix heat is starting to wear you down, head on over to the Splashdown log flume water ride.

If you still have energy, wander on over to the Indy Carts, and race against your friends, or take in a nutty game of mini golf. If after that you still want to keep going, head to the bumper cars or the Sea Dragon ride, or the XD Dark Ride; the list goes on and on.

Address: 9445 North Metro Parkway East, Phoenix, Arizona

Pueblo Grande Museum

Phoenix, with its non-stop highways and modern infrastructure, may leave you pining for something historical. A stop at the Pueblo Grande Museum is the solution. Here, you'll find the well-preserved ruins of a Hohokam village dating from 500 BCE.

Tour the site along a two-thirds-of-a-mile trail and discover the remains of this once-thriving settlement, including irrigation canals, a ballcourt, and replicas of the homes these ancient people used to live in.

The museum has done a good job of providing information on the former inhabitants using display panels strategically located throughout the site. Be sure to climb to the main lookout for a bird's-eye view of the entire site.

The Pueblo Grande Museum is located in the southern part of Phoenix near the airport.

Hotel Valley Ho

Phoenix has a vibrant downtown with many tourist attractions, and this is one of the best places to stay if you're interested in sightseeing. Another option is to stay in downtown Scottsdale, near Old Town. Below are a number of highly rated hotels in convenient locations.

Luxury Hotels:

  • One of the new luxury hotel options in downtown Phoenix is the Kimpton Hotel Palomar , located at the new CityScape development. This contemporary hotel features large rooms and suites and a beautiful rooftop pool.
  • For hip and sophisticated, look to the Found:Re Phoenix . Located in the heart of Phoenix near numerous attractions, this boutique hotel offers 104 unique rooms featuring industrial-chic décor.
  • For a quaint, luxury experience in the desert, you can't beat the comfort and hospitality of the Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North . In the foothills of Pinnacle Peak and next to the Troon North Golf Club, this is the perfect place for a relaxing escape.
  • Another Scottsdale option is the ultra-cool, mid-century modern Hotel Valley Ho . This unique restored hotel, once the haunt of Hollywood celebrities, maintains a 1950s theme, from the music to the décor. Walking distance to Old Town Scottsdale, the location here is hard to beat, with shopping, dining, and numerous things to do in the vicinity.

Mid-Range Hotels:

  • A consistently good choice in downtown Phoenix is the Hilton Garden Inn . Housed in a restored 1932 Art Deco building, the hotel offers modern, comfortable rooms and is within easy walking distance of the Convention Center.
  • In the heart of the city center, the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel is an upper-end mid-range option with a heated rooftop pool.
  • The Fairfield Inn and Suites Phoenix Midtown is within walking distance of the Heard Museum and the Phoenix Art Museum and offers free parking, unlike many downtown hotels.

Budget Hotels:

  • Budget-minded travelers can find some deals in the city, although prices can vary depending on what is going on in Phoenix during your stay. Near downtown is the Comfort Inn West Phoenix at 27th Ave And I-10. This hotel provides decent rooms and good prices, and breakfast is included.

Sightseeing Tour:

  • See the sights in four hours with this Half-Day Phoenix Highlights Tour . This tour will take you to the State Capitol, Old Town Scottsdale, Camelback Mountain, South Mountain Park, and more. The tour includes hotel pickup and drop-off, transportation, a guide, and free time to explore on your own.

Day Trip to Sedona and the Grand Canyon:

  • One of the greatest attractions in Arizona and America is just a day trip away from Phoenix. If you haven't seen the Grand Canyon, taking a tour from Phoenix should be on your to-do list. The Small-Group Deluxe Grand Canyon Day Trip offers the perfect opportunity to see some of the incredible Arizona landscape. This tour includes transportation in a luxury van to the Grand Canyon, including a stop in the picturesque town of Willams along famous Route 66.
  • If flying over the Grand Canyon is on your wish list, the Grand Canyon Helicopter and Ground Tour from Phoenix is a must-do. This tour offers a scenic drive to the Grand Canyon and includes a 45-minute helicopter ride over the canyon.

Day Trip to Tombstone:

  • For a glimpse of the Old West, take a Day Trip to Tombstone and San Xavier Mission , where you can see this historic town, including the OK corral, and stop at the beautiful mission at San Xavier de Bac.

More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com

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Day Trip Destinations: If you only have time for one trip outside of Phoenix, consider heading out to see the red rocks and top sites of Sedona , just two hours away. Here, you can hit some of the top hiking trails or ride the mountain biking trails .

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Explore the Best of Arizona: To get you started planning your trip, see our list of top attractions and places to visit in Arizona . If you know you want to get active and see some of the state's most beautiful scenery, have a look at our recommendations for the best hiking trails in Arizona . Campers looking for ideas should browse through our list of top campgrounds in Arizona . Other recommended hot spots that may not be on your radar but should be, include Prescott and Flagstaff .

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Home » Travel Guides » United States » Arizona (AZ) » 55 Best Things to Do in Phoenix (AZ)

55 Best Things to Do in Phoenix (AZ)

Decking the Valley of the Sun is an unending grid system that bleeds into contiguous cities like Scottsdale , Glendale , Tempe , and Mesa .

Abrupt rocky clumps at Papago Park, Camelback Mountain, South Mountain Park, and Piestawa Peak break up Phoenix’s sprawl and bring a Western-style desert scape to the middle of the city.

The appeal of Greater Phoenix lies in these pockets of desert wilderness, the year-round sunshine, and the many chances to study Arizona’s indigenous cultures. You can indulge every whim at Phoenix’s opulent resorts, tee off at innumerable golf courses, watch big sporting moments at heavyweight arenas, and brush up on America’s greatest architect at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West architecture lab.

I am a travel enthusiast and a resident of Arizona who has visited the City of Phoenix several times. Visiting this vibrant city can be overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time. So to help, I recommend you these 54 best things to do in Phoenix.

1. Desert Botanical Garden

Desert Botanical Garden

If you want to be near nature and discover a myriad of plant species you’ve never seen before,  I think visiting the Desert Botanical Garden of Phoenix is worth it.

At the north end of the sprawling Papago Park is a glorious botanical garden collecting desert species from around the world. Of the 4,000 taxa represented at the Desert Botanical Garden, one-third are native to the Sonoran, around Phoenix. There are 50,000 plants in all, counting large collections of cactuses and agave.

There are also desert plants from Australia , South America, and California , while species that grow in more moderate conditions are kept under shade houses. You can also witness a butterfly exhibit in a special pavilion where you can find out about their lifecycle from the Start of March to the end of May.

During my visit, I walked a series of themed trails, presenting brilliant desert wildflowers, delving into the topic of conservation, and revealing the plants and people of the Sonoran Desert. I was also able to witness the flowers that bloom after dark when the cactuses are also given atmospheric lighting.

2. Heard Museum

The Heard Museum, Phoenix

If you want something educational and worthwhile, visit the Heard Museum, one of the top museums for American Indian art in the country. The best way to learn about the many indigenous tribes native to Arizona is by visiting this great place.

The Heard Museum is famed for its award-winning exhibits, both permanent and temporary. It was founded in 1929 by the collector and philanthropist Maie Bartlett Heard and her husband Dwight, who a few years before had acquired Phoenix’s La Ciudad Indian Ruin, which yielded many of the pieces in their collection.

When I visited there, I marveled at the seven-meter mural serving as a cultural portrait of the Yaqui people or the full-sized Navajo hogan. I also admired the collection of more than 2,000 works, among them textiles, jewelry, pottery, basketry, beadwork, and ritual items.

The Heard Museum has also made a name for its events, like the Hispanic El Mercado de Las Artes in February and the Indian Fair and Market in early March, showcasing hundreds of Native American artists and drawing thousands of visitors, which I hope I can witness again next year.

3. Taliesin West

Taliesin West, Scottsdale

Posted on a mesa above Paradise Valley is Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and architecture school, now also the headquarters for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

Taliesin West was built in 1937, and much of the construction cost came from the deep well needed to provide the campus with water. In line with his philosophy for organic architecture, Wright used low, tilting planes and materials like local desert sand and rocks so the complex could coexist with its environment.

Wright also oversaw the finest details, designing the furniture to measure and even taking a hammer to parts that he wanted to change when he arrived each year after a summer in Wisconsin .

Before my visit to this historic and revolutionary place, I booked in advance as the only way to visit Taliesin West was by guided tour. I took the standard 90-minute Insights Tour, visited the drafting studio, music pavilion, and Wright’s personal quarters, and chose a more in-depth experience like the three-hour Behind the Scenes Tour.

4. Camelback Mountain

Camelback Mountain

An official Phoenix Point of Pride, the 825-meter Camelback Mountain looks like the hump and head of a kneeling camel and soars over the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. This reddish granite and sandstone mass rises between Arcadia and Paradise Valley to the northeast of downtown.

It lies within the Camelback Mountain Echo Canyon Recreation Area and attracts a steady stream of hikers, despite the steep, rugged ascents. The two ways to the top are the Echo Canyon Trail and the Cholla Trail, and both paths are less than 1.5 miles but aren’t for the faint of heart.

The Echo Canyon Trail has handrails to help you up and benches for hard-earned breaks; while the Cholla Trail is smoother, it requires some scrambling over large boulders towards the end.

I chose the Echo Canyon Trail, which was steeper, but thankfully, I was able to rest and chat with some fellow hikers from time to time. By the trails, I witnessed some mesquites and prickly pears. All my efforts paid back tenfold with the 360° views from the top.

If you decide to visit, I advise bringing your camera as you might come across a desert tortoise, cottontail rabbit, or chuckwalla lizard. You also have to be careful as rattlesnakes occupy the area. I also recommend going early in the day and packing lots of water as it can be hot.

5. Phoenix Zoo

Phoenix Zoo

I recommend this place for a nice and unforgettable bonding with your loved ones. The highly-rated zoo in Papago Park opened in 1962 and has been oriented towards conservation since it opened. As you’d hope, the zoo only keeps species that are comfortable in Phoenix’s hot desert climate.

The main areas are organized along four different “trails”: Arizona Trail, Africa Trail, Tropics Trail, and Children’s Trail. Arizona Trail has animals native to the Sonoran Desert, like coyotes, bobcats, cougars, and turkey vultures.

On the Africa Trail, I encountered lions, giraffes, cheetahs, and gazelles, while the Tropics Trail brought me close to jaguars, Asian elephants, orangutans, Sumatran tigers, and spider monkeys.

Moreover, the Children’s Trail introduces younger zoo-goers to smaller animals from across the globe, like wallabies, an ocelot, and golden-mantled tamarins.

One of my most unforgettable moments at Phoenix Zoo is its 4D theater, with shows using scent, wind, and other ambient effects. I also took a glimpse of its marvelous water play areas. And, of course, I never missed the chance to participate in some great animal interaction activities they have, like feeding giraffes, walking among squirrel monkeys, and touching the backs of stingrays at Stingray Bay.

Book online : Phoenix Zoo Tickets

6. Phoenix Art Museum

Phoenix Art Museum

Are you looking for something creative and inspirational? Then you don’t have to go far, as the Phoenix Art Museum, which houses modern masterpieces by renowned artists around the world, will satisfy your creative side.

The origins of Phoenix’s art museum can be traced back to a community art collection established just after Arizona became the 48th state in 1912. The museum itself was inaugurated in 1959 to house a myriad of masterpieces made by world-renowned artists.

I witnessed its wealth of modern art by the likes of Picasso, Alexander Calder, Georgia O’Keeffe, Henry Moore, and Henri Rousseau. I also contemplated the European collections of Renaissance and Impressionist paintings.

And, of course, I completed my visit by going into the museum’s fabulous cache of Latin American art, which includes works by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, but also exceptional decorative arts and furniture.

I’m also sure families will love the Thorne Miniature Rooms, as dozens of meticulously decorated interior scenes are pieced together using antique furniture on a 1:12 scale. Also, temporary exhibitions are often high quality at the Phoenix Art Museum.

7. Papago Park

Papago Park

Almost 1,500 acres of desert landscape across Phoenix and Tempe, Papago Park contains golf courses, trails, seven acres of stocked fishing lagoons, picnic areas, sports facilities, rugged hills, mesmerizing sandstone formations, and a few of the attractions on this list, like the Desert Botanical Garden and Phoenix Zoo.

In places, the vistas are awe-inspiring, like at Hunt’s Tomb, a pyramid built by Arizona’s first governor, George W.P. Hunt, for his wife in 1931 and also his final resting place when he passed away in 1934.

As I have an Arizona fishing license, I was able to try my luck at landing tilapia, carp, rainbow trout, catfish, and largemouth bass in its lagoons.

And while this may be desert terrain, I assure you that the natural diversity is immense on trails lined with mesquite, Fremont thorn bush, desert tobacco, and the giant saguaro cactus.

Related tour : Tempe Town Lake & Papago Park Tour

8. Hole-in-the-Rock

Hole-in-the-Rock

One of the most rewarding hikes in Papago Park will deposit you at this natural wonder, not far south of the Desert Botanical Garden on the east side.

Visiting this place brought me to a whole new world. I felt like I was on another planet, surrounded by unique boulders of rock. What’s more incredible is the valuable lessons I obtained from my tour. I have learned that the Hole-in-the-Rock is a low sandstone hill perforated with openings created by the flow of water over millions of years.

There’s a chamber with a wide entrance and an aperture in the ceiling. This space and its ceiling’s opening are known to have been used by the Hohokam culture (300 to 1500 CE) as a kind of calendar to mark the seasons, recording the position of sunlight on annual landmarks like the solstices and equinox. The light at sunset is out of this world, and the views of downtown Phoenix in the distance warrant the short but stiff climb.

9. Musical Instrument Museum (MIM)

Musical Instrument Museum

If you’re a music enthusiast, I assure you that your visit to Phoenix’s Musical Instrument Museum will be worth it. You will have a musical trip around the world as the MIM has instruments from almost 200 different countries.

The galleries at this grand building opened in 2010 and display more than 6,800 pieces from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Oceania, Latin America, and the United States/Canada, accompanying them with multimedia so you can explore the cultures that produced them and hear the instruments in action.

One outstanding piece I witnessed here is the “Steinweg” piano, officially the first ever Steinway, assembled by the Steinweg family in their house in Seesen in 1936.

The Experience Gallery was also a treat, as it allowed me to play many of the instruments that I’ve seen in those globe-trotting galleries, like a theremin, gong, and Peruvian harp.

I also visited the Artist Gallery that houses the instruments belonging to the likes of Elvis, Tito Puente, John Lennon, Santana, Taylor Swift, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, and Ravi Shankar. The MIM is also a performance venue, booking artists from around the world

See also :  15 Best Romantic (Weekend) Getaways in Arizona

10. Orpheum Theater

Orpheum Theater, Phoenix

Built for vaudeville in 1929, the sumptuous Orpheum Theatre has a Spanish Baroque style and can seat 1,364 for touring Broadway musicals, ballet, stand-up comedy, family shows, live music, podcast recordings, and much more. What will strike you right away is just how opulent this building is, especially following a $14m restoration in the 90s.

My trip was awe-inspiring as the  Orpheum Theater abounds in intricate moldings on the frieze and balcony outside and inside on the fan pattern over the beautiful Peacock Staircase, the proscenium arch, and the gilded Solomonic columns lining the auditorium’s walls.

The murals are also glorious and intended to evoke a shifting sky as if you’re watching a show in the courtyard of a Spanish villa. The venue was a cinema for most of its history, and there’s still a playable Wurlitzer organ for silent movies.

11. Arizona Museum of Natural History

Arizona Museum of Natural History

If you want to travel back in time, it would be great to visit the Arizona Museum of Natural History . This is the only natural history museum in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area and is a little way east of downtown Phoenix in the city of Mesa.

Founded in 1977, the museum is in what used to be Mesa City Hall, a building raised in 1934 and expanded to house extra galleries in the 80s and 90s.

The dinosaurs are the stars at the Arizona Museum of Natural History, not least at Dinosaur Mountain, where there’s a three-story waterfall and where you can see and hear the beasts of the Mesozoic Era.

I satisfied my curiosity in the Dinosaur Hall, which is filled with skeletons of theropods, sauropods, ceratopsians, and iguanodonts, while the outdoor Paleo Dig Pit lets children play the role of paleontologists, unearthing fossilized bones and eggs.

Arizona Through Time presents a complete chronology of the state’s natural history via the formation of rocks and minerals, Palaeozoic seas, Triassic forests, and Cretaceous seas. Also fascinating are the galleries devoted to the native cultures of the Ancient Americas and Western North America.

12. Grand Canyon Day Tour from Phoenix, Scottsdale, & Tempe

Grand Canyon Sunrise

When the most celebrated natural wonder in the United States is a few short hours away, I advise that you don’t miss this day trip. You could make the whole experience much more convenient by booking a tour through GetYourGuide.com .

During my  Grand Canyon Day Tour, we cruised along the historic Route 66, through the town of Williams, before skirting the south rim of the canyon.

I also had three hours to spend in the National Park and had plenty of time to marvel at this iconic mile-deep chasm. I think it would be great to take as many photos as possible, shop for souvenirs, and check out some of the man-made landmarks like Hopi House (1904) and El Tovar Lodge (1905).

Your van on this tour will be air-conditioned and equipped with captain’s seats for all passengers, while bottled water is included in the fee.

Golfing

One of Phoenix and Scottsdale’s great draws, especially in the winter, is the 200 golf courses within reach of the metropolitan area. This is a region with 300 days of sunshine and a golf industry that has gone into overdrive in the last three decades.

Award-winning 36-hole resorts accompanied by spas have infused this otherwise forbidding environment with real luxury. The dessert course is king here, at courses like Troon North at We-Ko-Pa, where you’ll play through a romantic Sonoran landscape of saguaro cactuses, prickly pear, cholla, and giant granite outcrops.

As the name might tell you, the two courses at The Boulders are even rockier, while for high luxury, the Arizona Biltmore has been played by U.S. presidents and a roll-call of Hollywood celebrities.

We can’t leave out TPC Scottsdale, of course, the venue for the PGA’s Phoenix Open. There’s a piece of history here at the 13th where the one-ton boulder moved for Tiger Woods by fans in 1999 is the heaviest loose impediment in the history of golf.

14. Scottsdale Fashion Square

Scottsdale Fashion Square

It’s appropriate that a city of casinos, nightspots, and luxury spas should have the largest mall in Arizona and among the most visited in the United States.

I was struck by the size of the mall, which has three floors and more than 225 tenants. Scottsdale Fashion Square is almost 60 years old but has constantly evolved with expansions, the most recent in 2018.

I witnessed a neat balance here between premium brands like Prada, Jimmy Choo, Gucci, Burberry, and Tiffany & Co. and midmarket stores like Gap, H&M, Zara, and Foot Locker.

Furthermore, the six anchors are Dick’s Sporting Goods, Dillard’s, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, and Nordstrom, while if you’re up for a movie there’s a branch of Harkins Theatres. For food, you’ve got fast casual big guns like Five Guys, Chipotle, Johnny Rockets, Shake Shack, and Panda Express.

15. Chase Field

Chase Field, Phoenix

One of the two most recent MLB franchises, the Arizona Diamondbacks, was formed in 1998. Their home ballpark is the unique Chase Field, completed in time for the Diamondbacks’ first season and a venue that needs to be visited even outside the baseball season (April-autumn). The Diamondbacks won the World Series just three years later, becoming the fastest expansion team in the major leagues to claim a championship.

Chase Field holds 48,686 fans and has a retractable roof to cope with Phoenix’s blazing heat and sudden summer storms. A new touch I witnessed during my visit is the APS Solar Pavilion over the plaza by the ballpark’s west entrances, providing needed shade and 75 kilowatts of solar power for the stadium.

There is also a hallmark, an open-air pool in right-center field, rented as a suite for any group of Diamondbacks fans with extra money to burn.

You can take a tour of Chase Field Monday to Saturday all year round to check out that pool, one of the largest high-definition scoreboards in MLB, and to find out about that retractable roof.

The Spa at Camelback Inn

I once visited the Spa at Camelback Inn for some relaxation after an exhausting hike or trip in Phoenix. No sooner had the city been founded in the late-19th century the Phoenix area became a honeypot for health tourists, particularly tuberculosis sufferers, for the restorative desert climate.

By the first half of the 20th century, there were health spas across the city and neighboring desert communities; these have been succeeded by a slew of high-luxury resorts, many welcoming day visitors for a few blissful hours of steaming, massages, pampering, and beauty treatments.

A few premium picks I would like to recommend to you based on my experience are Spa Avania at Hyatt Regency, Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch, The Spa at JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn, Joya Spa at the InterContinental Montelucia Resort & Spa, and the Arizona Biltmore Spa.

One harking back to the 1920s is the Mediterranean-style Alvadora Spa at Royal Palms, still among the most indulgent for its in-house herbalist crafting botanical treatments, as well as Vichy showers, hot stone massages and a watsu pool for in-water massages.

17. Pueblo Grande Museum and Cultural Park

Pueblo Grande Museum

If you want a captivating glimpse of Phoenix’s distant past, visiting the Pueblo Grande Museum and Cultural Park preserves the largest archaeological site in the city, should be on your itinerary.

Belonging to the Hohokam culture and occupied from 450 CE to 1450 CE, Pueblo Grande is a sophisticated network of irrigation canals, a platform mound, and the remnants of ballcourts on the north bank of the Salt River. There’s an interpretive trail, 2/3 of a mile long, winding around the site and taking in these remains, as well as reconstructed and furnished houses.

During my visit here, I had a stroll in its three galleries showing off artifacts like pottery and tools recovered from this site and more than 350 other prehistoric settlements in the region.

The museum also puts on a lively schedule of workshops, talks, markets, demonstrations, tours, and auctions, shedding light on Hohokam and other local indigenous cultures.

18. Arizona Science Center

Arizona Science Center, Phoenix

Like all the best science museums, the Arizona Science Center is as hands-on as possible. I experienced its four levels of fun exhibits demonstrating natural forces like gravity, magnetism, friction, and electricity, Earth’s relationship with the sun, information technology, and the science behind the human mind and body.

Forces of Nature meanwhile uses immersive technology to synthesize tornados, wildfires, a monsoon, and volcanic eruptions. Also located here is the Dorrance Planetarium, one of the largest and most advanced in the United States.

19. McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

A wonderland for any train aficionado, the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park is on a piece of a ranch donated to the City of Scottsdale by Anne and Fowler McCormick in the 1960s.

Anne’s son, and Fowler’s stepson, Guy Stillman, was a rail enthusiast and had constructed a complete narrow gauge railroad, the Paradise & Pacific Railroad, on the property.

This ridable line was the basis for the park’s array of rail-themed attractions and exhibits and is still running today, with more than 1.1 kilometers of track, a tunnel, and six locomotives (three steam and three diesel).

One static attraction that I think deserves your attention is the Magma Arizona Railroad Engine #6, built in 1907, as does the Roald Amundsen Pullman Car, dating to 1928 and used by Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower. Also charming is the working Charro Carousel, built by the Allan Herschell Company in 1950.

20. Children’s Museum of Phoenix

Children's Museum of Phoenix

A trip should not just be fun for the adults but for the children as well. It would be great to bring your kids to the Children’s Museum of Phoenix , where they can learn through play. It is opposite Heritage Square and the Arizona Science Center

The museum’s highly interactive exhibits are designed to engage little ones’ minds, imaginations, and muscles for open-ended, creative play. My visit here reminded me of the i.d.e.a Museum I once visited.

Kids can scramble to new heights and gain physical confidence on the Schuff-Perini Climber, build something extraordinary at BlockMania, have fun with grownup interactions at The Market, negotiate the wacky wilderness of the Noodle Forest, go to work at the Texture Cafe and ride tricycles to their hearts’ content at Pedal Power.

21. Goldfield Ghost Town

Goldfield Ghost Town, Arizona

On the east flank of the Valley of the Sun is the old mining town of Goldfield, where you can take a day trip back to the Old West.

The town was established in 1893 when gold was discovered in the surrounding Superstition Mountains, which look like a backdrop from a John Ford Western.

It wasn’t long before the gold vein faulted, and Goldfield slipped into a slow death. The reconstructed town is a bit touristy, but anyone enchanted by the history of the Southwest will be caught up in the joy of the Superstition Narrow Gauge Railroad, a tour of the historic Mammoth Gold Mine, and an Old West gunfight with talented re-enactors.

Included in (top-rated tour) : Apache Trail Small Group Tour with Canyon Lake Cruise

22. Tempe Town Lake

Tempe Town Lake

A desert oasis at the heart of the Phoenix Metropolitan Area, the two-mile Tempe Town Lake was formed in the 1990s by damming a section of the dry Salt River and replenishing it with water from the Colorado River.

For recreation, people flock to Tempe Beach Park, which has been around since the 1920s and was renovated when the reservoir was filled in 1999. Tempe Town Lake’s circumference is about five miles, and the way is paved for cyclists, walkers, rollerskaters, and joggers.

I highly recommend you sign up for a Segway tour if you’re in the mood. Since I had an Arizona fishing license, I was able to cast a line for sunfish, catfish, bass, tilapia, and trout. And after dark, I marveled at the Tempe Town Lake Bridge’s little LED light show every time a Valley Metro train passed over.

23. Tempe Beach Park

Tempe Beach Park

The recreation base for Tempe Town Lake is a grassy 25-acre park on the south shore, opposite Papago Park, and a lovely spot to watch the sun go down.

My visit here at Tempe Beach Park was filled with fun-filled bicycle rides within the five-mile trail and hitting the water on kayaks, rowboats, pedal boats, and paddleboards.

There’s also a splash playground in the park for smaller children and an amphitheater holding 5,000 people and hosting all sorts of concerts and shows throughout the year, like the Independence Day celebrations on 4 July. On the west side, the Tempe Center for the Arts is a modern venue for plays, live music, dance, and live comedy. Also, the baseball diamond at Tempe Beach Park harks back to the 1930s and hosts little league and softball games.

24. Roosevelt Row

Roosevelt Row Mural, Phoenix

Do you want an outdoor art exhibit where you can take great selfies and memories? I highly suggest you visit Roosevelt Row Mural. This walkable arts district in downtown Phoenix is on Roosevelt Street, from 7th Avenue in the west to 16th Street in the east. It’s an area of head-turning murals, thriving local restaurants, bars, intriguing one-of-a-kind shops, artists’ studios, and galleries.

The concrete for some of the sidewalks on Roosevelt Row was poured in 1909 before Arizona had become the 48th state, and for much of Phoenix’s history, this strip has been a hub for local businesses.

Re-zoning in the 1970s brought about a steep decline, but the neighborhood has bounced back since the 1990s as artists moved into the cheap boarded-up buildings and former crack houses.

Something else I loved about Roosevelt Row is the line-up of quirky gatherings and festivals, like the Chile Pepper Festival in September and the Pie Social in November.

25. First Friday

First Friday, Phoenix

Over 80 galleries and studios in downtown Phoenix’s various arts districts throw open their doors on the first Friday of the month for an art extravaganza. More than a simple art walk, First Friday involves lots of live music, street performers, and outdoor vendors while all sorts of quirky boutiques join in the fun.

When I went here, the official event took place from 6 pm to 10 pm, but there were lots of after-hours happenings at bars and restaurants. Artlink, the organizers, encourage people to leave their cars at home with free hop-on/hop-off shuttles that run three routes linking Roosevelt Row, Grand Avenue, the Warehouse District, and Mid-town Phoenix.

Also check out my guide on the best day trips from Phoenix .

26. State Farm Stadium

State Farm Stadium, Glendale

A monumental piece of sports architecture and the home of the Arizona Cardinals, Glendale’s State Farm Stadium is one of the top NFL venues in the country and the stage for Super Bowl XLII (2008), XLIX (2015), and LVII (2023). This $500m stadium can seat 64,400 for regular season games and has no obstructed seats, while the capacity can be boosted by another 8,800 for the biggest events.

The State Farm Stadium is one of the few in the NFL with a retractable roof and the only one with a roll-out grass field. You may find it tricky to get to one of the Cardinal’s eight regular season home games, but there are three tours a day from Wednesday to Saturday, outside of game days.

The Behind the Scenes tour guide took me to the press box, the visiting team’s locker room, and out onto the field to gauge the amazing dimensions of this marvel of engineering and design.

27. Tovrea Castle

Tovrea Castle

This theatrical stuccoed building off the southwest corner of Papago Park went up in the middle of the Great Depression in the early-1930s and was supposed to be the anchor for a desert resort that never followed.

It was then bought by Della Gillespie Tovrea, wife of cattle magnate Edward Ambrose, and would be her home until she passed away in 1969. For decades Tovrea Castle nicknamed the “wedding cake house,” was left to decay but is now part of the Phoenix Parks System and was restored along with its terraced cactus gardens in the 2000s.

Since 2012 it’s been possible to take tours of this curiosity perched atop a granite outcrop. I was able to savor the Art Deco interiors decorated by the same Italian artisans who worked at the Orpheum Theater and took a glimpse at Della’s possessions. One that fascinated and scared me a bit was a bullet hole in the ceiling created during an armed robbery when Della was 80 years old.

28. Castles N’ Coasters

Castles N’ Coasters

Right by the Metrocenter Mall, where scenes from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) were shot, there’s an endearing theme park with lots to keep the family on board.

The headline ride is Desert Storm, a double-looping rollercoaster, while the smaller Patriot is a gentler ride around a massive Stars and Stripes, and Splashdown is a log flume with two sharp splashdowns. There’s a small world of other amusements, like a huge video arcade, bumper cars, bumper boats, a swinging Viking shop, a 40-meter drop tower, a go-kart track, and four fun-packed miniature golf courses.

29. Japanese Friendship Garden (Ro Ho En)

Phoenix Japanese Friendship Garden

This is one of the most memorable places I would recommend to you. This is a collaborative project between Phoenix and its sister city, Himeji, in Japan. The Japanese Friendship Garden is a peaceful escape just north of Downtown Phoenix.

This 3.5-acre garden, rich with birdlife, was laid out by landscape architects from Himeji starting in 1987. On a rambling path, you’ll stroll past 50 plant varieties, lanterns, and more than 1,500 tons of rock shaped by human hands.

There are bubbling streams crossed by little footbridges, as well as a four-meter waterfall and a large pond with more than 300 koi. Every third Saturday of the month outside summer, there’s an authentic Japanese tea ceremony at the Musoan tea house, while the garden hosts regular craft workshops, tai chi sessions, and flower arrangement classes, as well as a summer jazz night in June.

30. South Mountain Park

South Mountain Park, Phoenix

First plotted in 1920s, South Mountain Park is one of the largest urban parks in the United States and is listed as an official Phoenix Point of Pride. The park boasts more than 16,000 acres of unadulterated desert terrain, navigable by almost 60 miles of trails for hiking, cycling, and horseback riding.

I highly recommend this for your Wild West adventure. On my visit, I enjoyed my horseback tour with Ponderosa Stables (10215 S. Central Ave), which arranges special trips to see petroglyphs on Saturdays.

The desert environment at South Mountain Park is noted for its elephant trees and unusual abundance of chuckwallas (large lizards). You may be curious about the Sonoran desert as a habitat, in which case South Mountain Environmental Education Center (10409 S. Central Ave) is full of information about its plants, animals, and human history, as well as tips for recreation in the park.

31. Dobbins Lookout

Dobbins Lookout

The highest accessible point in South Mountain Park is this heart-lifting vantage point at 710 meters. The Dobbins Lookout is named for J.C. Dobbins, a member of the three-strong park committee and chairman of the Phoenix planning commission.

Equipped with a toposcope to identify the many visible landmarks, the Dobbins Lookout faces north, with a clear line of sight to downtown Phoenix and the city’s surrounding ranges like Camelback to the northeast. There’s also a stone ramada that allowed me to marvel at the views out of the glaring desert sun.

32. Talking Stick Resort

Casino

South-east Scottsdale borders the Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Reservation. There’s a high-end casino right here, within an easy trip of downtown Phoenix.

Talking Stick Resort incorporates a luxury hotel, a 650-seater showroom, a capacious Grand Ballroom, two golf courses, and a casino with hundreds of slot machines and more than 50 table games.

On the 14th floor, I had a great time at one of the best spas in Scottsdale, set in the open air and graced by invigorating views of The Valley. I also felt a sense of the heritage of the Pima and Maricopa people at a cultural center in the hotel lobby with an exhibition of paintings, jewelry, and photography.

Being a big-hitting resort, there’s a big helping of entertainment, and Jay Leno and Foreigner were a couple of the names on the bill in the summer of 2019.

33. Heritage Square

Heritage Square, Phoenix

To have the best trip in Phoenix, I suggest you don’t miss out on the grandeur of Heritage Square Phoenix.  In this place, you’ll get an idea of what Phoenix looked like in its earliest days.

Ensconced in greenery, Heritage Square has an assortment of residences and business properties raised between 1881 (Forest Burgess Carriage House) and 1923 (Hughes-Stevens Duplex). This is the last surviving set of buildings from the original Phoenix town site, and these interesting pieces of heritage have been put to use as bars, restaurants, gift shops, and museums.

I once went to the Visitor Center in the Carriage House, and it has a worthwhile exhibit on Phoenix’s history, while the Stevens-Haustgen Bungalow hosts the Heritage Gallery, showing how early Phoenix’s original 98 blocks became the dynamic downtown of today.

34. Rosson House Museum

Rosson House Museum

This elegant Queen Anne-style Victorian house on Heritage Square is an early example of a building constructed in Phoenix with fired bricks rather than adobe. Rosson House , dated 1895, was built for physician and surgeon Dr. Roland Rosson and designed by San Francisco architect A.P. Petit.

This place has long been on my list.  Paying a visit and admiring its period woodwork, furniture, decorative art, wallpaper, and curtains on a guided tour was all worth the wait and saving. I assure you that your guide is well-versed in both the history of this residence and Phoenix at the turn of the 20th century, sharing facts that might even surprise long-term Phoenicians.

35. Old Town Scottsdale

Old Town Scottsdale

On Scottsdale’s original town site, dating back to the 1920s, Old Town Scottsdale is an exciting neighborhood of bars, restaurants, nightclubs, design shops, fashion boutiques, and art galleries.

For a bit of culture, I dropped by the Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, exploring the art and history of 19 states in the American West. The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is in a minimalist concrete building and puts on temporary exhibitions that also branch out to design and architecture.

There’s a farmers’ market on Saturdays outside the summer months and lots of events that celebrate Scottsdale’s Native American heritage and Western traditions but also show off the city’s contemporary side, like a Thursday Art Walk.

The best way to start an evening is under the stars on a patio with a prickly pear margarita in hand, while if you’re on the hunt for something unique to take home, you’ll surely find it at the scores of independent shops and art galleries on Main Street.

36. Piestawa Peak

Piestawa Peak

The mountains on Phoenix’s horizons hold an undeniable allure for walkers, and you may find your eye drawn to the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, a brief drive along the Piestawa Parkway from downtown Phoenix.

In this small massif is Piestawa Peak, which at 796 meters is the second highest point in the Phoenix Mountains after Camelback. The only route to the top is the Summit Trail, which is 1.2 miles to the top and down again.

That might sound short, but this is not a climb to take lightly. I attest that the trail can be rocky, and the calf-shredding path is as steep as they come. Despite this, I’m still happy to brave the hike and be compensated with a complete panorama of Phoenix down to South Mountain Park.

Piestawa Peak is named in honor of Lori Ann Piestawa (1979-2003), the first Native American woman to be killed in combat in the U.S. Military.

Related tour : Sonoran Desert Guided Hiking Adventure

37. Wrigley Mansion

Wrigley Mansion, Phoenix

The chewing gum industrialist and owner of the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, William Wrigley Jr. (1861-1932), ordered this labyrinthine Italianate mansion just south of Piestawa Peak. Despite having 24 rooms, this was actually the smallest of Wrigley’s properties and was only used for a few weeks of the year.

It rests atop a 30-meter knoll gazing over the Phoenix Metropolitan Area, which sweeps out to the south. The mansion, now an event and fine dining venue, is lauded for its tile work, which was produced at Wrigley’s tile factory on Catalina Island off the coast of California, and then carried hundreds of miles by mules. You can learn the story of its construction and the lifestyle of the Wrigley Family on your tour.

38. Cosanti Originals

Cosanti Originals

In 1955 the Italian-American architect Paolo Soleri (1919-2013) set up his studio and home on a plot in Paradise Valley. Solieri had been a student under Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West and created his own headquarters just a few miles away.

Looking like the houses on Tattooine in Star Wars, Cosanti is a complex of experimental, earth-cast concrete structures, all imbued with Soleri’s sense of creativity and positioned partly underground for natural insulation.

Well, I think this is ahead of its time. Cosanti has lots of sustainable elements, like south-facing apses to collect sunlight in the winter and deflect it when the sun is higher in the sky in summer.

Soleri also used a modified earth-casting technique to craft his popular ceramic and bronze wind bells, which helped fund his architectural projects and are still produced and sold at Cosanti.

39. Arizona Capitol Museum

Arizona Capitol Museum

The oldest wings of the Arizona State Capitol building are maintained as a museum telling the story of the state and presenting artifacts from Arizona’s state-owned collections. The Neoclassical statehouse was completed in 1900, 12 years before the territory became a state.

My visit here helped me learn about the sinking of the USS Arizona battleship at Pearl Harbor in 1941 and view the silver service from the ship. There’s a detailed timeline explaining how Arizona became a state, and you can enter the Governor and Secretary of State’s original offices or take a seat at the Historic House Chamber.

One captivating exhibit deals with the “Merci Train,” a trove of objects gifted by the people of France in return for a shipment of fuel and food during the country’s reconstruction following the Second World War.

40. Mystery Castle

Mystery Castle, Phoenix

Blending with the northern foothills of South Mountain Park, Mystery Castle is a bizarre 18-room, three-story mansion, like a cross between a Gothic castle and a hacienda. The story behind this monument, a Phoenix Point of Pride, is fascinating.

On learning that he had tuberculosis in the 1930s, the Seattleite Boyce Luther Gulley fled his family for Phoenix without telling them, purchasing a mining stake and spending the next 15 years constructing this property on it.

Mystery Castle was built with whatever Boyce could get his hands on, be it stone, adobe, rail tracks, automobile parts, or telephone poles. When his family received news of his death in 1945 they were shocked to discover that he had built this castle for his daughter, Mary Lou Gulley.

In his will, Boyce stipulated that if his family lived there for three years they could open a trap door in the house. This was revealed to contain two $500 bills, a gold nugget, and a Valentine’s Day card Mary had made for her father years earlier.

My visit to Mystery Castle allowed me to hear its wonderful story, tour its premises made with love, and enjoy the supreme views of downtown Phoenix.

41. Desert Belle Cruise Sightseeing Cruise on Saguaro Lake

Saguaro Lake

Saguaro Lake is walled by the steep, rust-colored slopes of the Tonto National Forest and high on the Salt River. One unforgettable way to soak up this evocative desert scenery is on the Desert Belle (1964), a restored sightseeing boat making gentle 90-minute cruises on the lake.

I once traveled in a shaded upper deck with an air-conditioned cabin and had lots of time to view the cactus-strewn desert terrain and catch sight of some of its wildlife.

You may also see bald eagles swooping overhead or bobcats, bighorn sheep, and coyotes in the brush. There’s also live narration by the captain, calling your attention to landmarks and animals you might have missed, and a concession stand if you get thirsty.

Also read :  25 Amazing Hidden Gems in Arizona

42. Hall of Flame Fire Museum

Hall of Flame Fire Fighting Museum

This attraction on the west side of Papago Park chronicles the history of firefighting but is also the setting for the National Firefighting Hall of Heroes, which pays tribute to firefighters who have died in the line of duty or have been decorated for feats of heroism.

In the museum’s galleries, I witnessed more than 90 preserved pieces of antique firefighting equipment, the oldest dating back to 1725. These pieces come from as far afield as Japan, Germany, and England and include beautiful horsedrawn carts and motorized engines up to 1969.

There’s also an absorbing collection of arms patches and a gallery documenting the history of firefighting in the wilderness in the United States.

43. Desert Ridge Marketplace

Desert Ridge Marketplace

I also recommend following up a visit to the Musical Instrument Museum with a shopping expedition at this palm-shaded outdoor mall in North Phoenix.

Desert Ridge Marketplace is as much about entertainment and dining as stores. There’s a plush, 18-screen AMC cinema, street performers on weekends, and upwards of 30 dining options, from In-N-Out Burger to Islands and Dave & Buster’s.

CB Live blends dining with entertainment as a full-service eatery and bar combined with a stage for nightly DJ sets, live comedy, and up-and-coming bands.

As for shops, there’s a broad selection, including H&M, Target, Old Navy, Kohl’s, Hot Topic, Barnes & Noble, and other major chains. When things heat up in summer there’s a water feature in front of the cinema where kids can play and cool off, while an outdoor fireplace takes the edge off the cool desert nights in winter.

44. Sahuaro Ranch Park

Sahuaro Ranch Park

The finest public park in Glendale is a reminder of the city’s agricultural beginnings. Set up as a commercial operation by the rich Illinois businessman William H. Bartlett in 1886, Sahuaro Ranch was planted with pecan and citrus orchards and raised cattle, horses, and hogs.

Bartlett constructed an ensemble of buildings for the workers employed here, many of which are still standing. There’s an authentic 1890s outhouse, a smithy, a wagon and early automobile garage, a pump house, a good house, along with the handsome Main Mansion.

The ranch was bought up by the City of Glendale in the 1970s, which preserved these structures, as well as the orchards and historic irrigation ditches. Peacocks wander the grounds, while there are picnic areas, playgrounds for youngsters, sports fields and courts, and a dog park.

Related reading :  15 Best Things to Do in Downtown Phoenix

45. Talking Stick Resort Arena

Talking Stick Resort Arena

Not far from Chase Field in downtown Phoenix, Talking Stick Resort Arena is the home court for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and a stage for some of the city’s top concerts.

The arena was completed in 1992 and has been renovated a couple of times, with more work announced in 2019. One thing you say about the Suns, formed in 1968, is that they are normally competitive: Remembered for the likes of Charles Barkley, Steve Nash, Paul Westphal, and Dan Majerle, this franchise has the second-highest win percentage of a team never to win an NBA Championship.

The arena holds 18,422 and is also the home of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury. In summer, the major recording artists play a date or two at the Talking Stick Arena on nationwide tours. Some performers who have been here are Jennifer Lopez, Ariana Grande, Paul McCartney, and Queen + Adam Lambert.

46. Phoenix Fan Fusion

Phoenix Fan Fusion

Like all the top comic conventions, Phoenix Fan Fusion (formerly Phoenix Comic Fest) has widened its scope to encompass a big swathe of pop culture from the worlds of movies, video games, television, anime, horror, or fantasy novels.

Phoenix Fan Fusion started out as a humble gathering at the Best Western Hotel in Ahwatukee in 2002 and has grown year after year into a massive event at the Phoenix Convention Center, pulling in upwards of 100,000 fans and inviting ever more famous guests.

Stan Lee was a regular in the late-2000s, and the past few editions have welcomed William Shatner, Will Wheaton, George Takei, Jeff Goldblum, Jason Momoa, Elijah Wood, and Christopher Lloyd.

Visiting Phoenix Fan Fusion was so thrilling for me as there were celebrity panels, photo ops, signings, and a multitude of workshops by industry experts in everything from costuming and cosplay to writing.

47. Luhrs Tower

Luhrs Tower

This gorgeous 56-meter Art Deco tower on West Jefferson Street made an appearance at the beginning of Psycho (1960) when Marion Crane gets ready to take flight with the deposit she was supposed to make for her boss.

The Luhrs Tower was commissioned by George Luhrs Jr., a member of a family whose past is entwined with Phoenix’s early years. The tower opened in 1929, was designed by El Paso’s Trost & Trost architects, and may have been a template for El Paso’s O.T. Bassett Tower, completed in 1930 and designed by the same firm.

48. Luhrs Building

Luhrs Building

The Luhrs Tower’s neighbor on West Jefferson is this handsome L-shaped Beaux-Arts-style block completed five years earlier in 1924. At that time, the Luhrs Building, ten stories high with a brick facade, was the tallest building in the city and believed to be the largest building between El Paso and Los Angeles. From the streets, I marveled at the fine marble moldings on the upper floors, with a corbelled balustrade, rosettes, cornice, and garlands.

49. Salt River Fields

Salt River Fields

It’s not just the snowbirds who fly to Phoenix for its warmer climes. Half of Major League Baseball’s 40 teams are based in the Greater Phoenix area for Spring Training before the start of the new season in April.

During this time, teams compete in the Cactus League, usually beginning around the end of February and lasting for a month. Talking Stick’s Salt River Fields, the first MLB park to be built on Native American land, opened in 2011 and is the spring base for the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies.

There’s a game scheduled every day at Salt River Fields for these four weeks at a time when the big MLB fields are still painting their lines. The stadium broke its attendance record in March 2019 when 14,030 people came to watch the Diamondbacks against the Cubs.

More on Arizona : 15 Amazing Waterfalls in Arizona

50. SEA LIFE Center Arizona

Lined Seahorse

As I always wanted to explore the sea, visiting Sea Life Center and having an easy day out with its 2,415-cubic-metre aquarium, keeping sharks, rays, green sea turtles, and all sorts of colorful tropical fish was a memorable experience.

The stars at SEA LIFE Arizona might be the seahorses, which have their own exhibit, Temple of the Seahorse, and are bred at the aquarium as part of a worldwide breeding program.

The Shoaling Ring is impressive, with hundreds of barred flagtails in one silvery mass, while the Interactive Tidepool lets you touch rockpool species like starfish and sea urchins. Try to catch one of the many talks and feeding times, especially at Ocean View, for a better look at the whitetip reef sharks, rays, and sea turtles.

Book online : SEA LIFE Arizona Aquarium Tickets

51. Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Casa Grande Ruins

If Phoenix has piqued your interest in the Ancient Puebloan Hohokam culture, you could make the comfortable drive to this riveting adobe archaeological site to the southeast of the Metropolitan area.

The Casa Grande Ruins National Monument was preserved as a walled farming compound established around 1350 CE and abandoned about a century later.

As for my experience, the most substantial portion of the ruins is the Great House or Casa Grande, protected under a large canopy. It is not known whether this monolithic structure was a gathering place or simply a waymarker in a vast network of irrigation canals.

The surrounding desert is rich with ironwood, mesquite, and palo verde, as well as barrel, prickly pear, and hedgehog cactuses. I advise you to go carefully, and you may see round-tailed squirrels, cottontails, and even great horned owls, which are huddled in ruins.

52. Lake Pleasant Regional Park

Lake Pleasant Regional Park

Almost half of this mountainous landscape in the Northwest Valley is taken up by the 10,000-acre Lake Pleasant reservoir, which was dammed in 1927. On the southeast shore sits Go Paddle AZ, which rents out kayaks and paddleboards and arranged experiences on the water like paddleboard yoga.

When things get really hot in Phoenix you’ll see people lazing in the water on tubes and rafts around Fireman’s Cove, Humbug Cove, and Coles Bay. If you plan on swimming, a life vest is recommended, as the water temperature can fluctuate suddenly.

There’s an educational Visitor Center outlining the history of the reservoir and the wildlife on the shores and in the water. You can also walk a light half-mile interpretive trail from the Visitor Center or take the more challenging but very scenic Roadrunner Trail to lookouts on the shore.

53. Biltmore Fashion Park

Shopping

In the district of the same name, the Biltmore Fashion Park is a snazzy open-air shopping plaza with roots going back to 1963. In those early days, A-listers like Princess Grace, Sophia Loren, and John Wayne would shop here, and all sat for photographs at the Gittings Portrait Studio.

The mall was redeveloped in the 1990s when it gained its lawns, fountains, and trees. Saks Fifth Avenue has been around since the 1960s and is accompanied by Macy’s and brands like Ralph Lauren, Sephora, L’Occitane, and J. Crew.

To dine, you’ve got a choice of full-service restaurant chains like Cheesecake Factory, True Food Kitchen, and the Capital Grille.

54. Security Building

Security Building, Phoenix

If you’re yearning for another historic visit, checking out Phoenix’s Security Building will be worth it. A property magnate Dwight B. Heard (1869-1929) of the Heard Museum, was the president of the Security Improvement Company, which commissioned this distinguished landmark in downtown Phoenix.

On the National Register of Historic Places, the Security Building is in the Second Renaissance Revival style and is composed of copper and hand-molded bricks on a steel frame with marble hallways.

It was designed by Claude Beelman, who conceived a wealth of landmarks in Los Angeles, like the Board of Trade Building and the Garfield Building. Look up, and you’ll see the loggia-style arches of the penthouse on the ninth floor, added in 1958.

To sum it all up, my travels in Phoenix were filled with adventures, humbling moments, and lessons. I was able to meet great people, discover places, and learn more about myself.

55 Best Things to Do in Phoenix (AZ):

  • Desert Botanical Garden
  • Heard Museum
  • Taliesin West
  • Camelback Mountain
  • Phoenix Zoo
  • Phoenix Art Museum
  • Papago Park
  • Hole-in-the-Rock
  • Musical Instrument Museum (MIM)
  • Orpheum Theater
  • Arizona Museum of Natural History
  • Grand Canyon Day Tour from Phoenix, Scottsdale, & Tempe
  • Scottsdale Fashion Square
  • Chase Field
  • Pueblo Grande Museum and Cultural Park
  • Arizona Science Center
  • McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park
  • Children's Museum of Phoenix
  • Goldfield Ghost Town
  • Tempe Town Lake
  • Tempe Beach Park
  • Roosevelt Row
  • First Friday
  • State Farm Stadium
  • Tovrea Castle
  • Castles N' Coasters
  • Japanese Friendship Garden (Ro Ho En)
  • South Mountain Park
  • Dobbins Lookout
  • Talking Stick Resort
  • Heritage Square
  • Rosson House Museum
  • Old Town Scottsdale
  • Piestawa Peak
  • Wrigley Mansion
  • Cosanti Originals
  • Arizona Capitol Museum
  • Mystery Castle
  • Desert Belle Cruise Sightseeing Cruise on Saguaro Lake
  • Hall of Flame Fire Museum
  • Desert Ridge Marketplace
  • Sahuaro Ranch Park
  • Talking Stick Resort Arena
  • Phoenix Fan Fusion
  • Luhrs Tower
  • Luhrs Building
  • Salt River Fields
  • SEA LIFE Center Arizona
  • Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
  • Lake Pleasant Regional Park
  • Biltmore Fashion Park
  • Security Building

Four Spots to Visit in Portugal in 2024 with Laura McMurchie

McMurchie (middle) with friends Dawn Gilbertson and Serena Unrein

São Bento Railway Station Portugal may be a picturesque country of russet red roofs and seaside enclaves, but to McMurchie, the crown jewel was a train station: São Bento railway station in Porto. Adorned with China blue tiles depicting figures and scenes from Portuguese history, it’s considered one of the most stunning stations in the world. “It feels like it should be in a museum,” McMurchie says. porto.pt

Sunset at Cais de Ribeira in Porto

  • Experience Scottsdale
  • Laura McMurchie
  • Livraria Lello
  • Manteigaria
  • São Bento Railway Station
  • Taberna dos Mercadores

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KNXV - Phoenix, Arizona

Eight Arizona restaurants land on Yelp's 'top 100 restaurants to visit in 2024' list

phoenix spots to visit

PHOENIX — Eight Arizona restaurants have landed on Yelp's Top 100 Places to Eat list for 2024!

Tucson and Phoenix continue to live up to their reputation of being "foodie" towns with flavors all across the board! The Valley has three spots on the list while Tucson has four. One restaurant in Kingman also made the list.

See the full list below:

1. Tumerico: Tucson, Arizona

Tumerico.jpeg

Yelpers calls Tumerico a great restaurant that just happens to be vegetarian. According to chef-owner Wendy Garcia, her goal for Tumerico was to offer traditional Mexican food but to make it vegetarian and vegan.

14. De Babel: Scottsdale, Arizona

De Babel is described as offering Middle Eastern cuisine with authentic taste and large portions at a reasonable price.

36. Worth Takeaway: Mesa, Arizona

Worth Takeaway

Yelp says Worth Takeaway offers scratch-made sandwiches, wraps, salads, and bowls as well as housemade mac and cheese. Worth Takeaway also has an annual Halloween pop-up called Jim Bob's Burgers that celebrates the sitcom "Bob's Burgers."

39. Buendia Breakfast & Lunch Cafe: Tucson, Arizona

Buendia Breakfast & Lunch Cafe is described as a bright and homey Mexican cafe that offers enchiladas, chilaquiles, and a family atmosphere. Yelpers appreciated the cafe's little touches that show that no detail is ignored by the husband and wife team.

50. Baja Cafe: Tucson, Arizona

Baja Cafe is a destination spot for elevated breakfast dishes! Yelp says Baja Cafe goes through more than 375,000 eggs a year and often has at least an hour-long line for weekend breakfasts. Their creative dishes like 13 variations of eggs Benedict and Brioche Cinnamon Roll French Toast are fan favorites.

52. Cocina Madrigal: Phoenix, Arizona

Cocina Madrigal - Jared V Yelp

Cocina Madrigal isn't a stranger to Yelp's Top 100 list, as it was ranked number one in 2022! The elevated Mexican food comes from the mind of Chef Leo Madrigal who is from Oaxaca, Mexico. It boasts a list of elevated comfort dishes with southwest flavors. Cocina Madrigal also has more than 3,000 five-star reviews showing that it is a Valley favorite!

68. La Chaiteria: Tucson, Arizona

La Chaiteria is described as a Latin-influenced cafe owned by James Beard Award semifinalist Wendy Garcia, who also owns this year's number-one restaurant, Tumerico. La Chaiteria offers traditional Mexican food as well, but includes meat-based cuisine like al pastor tacos, huevos rancheros, and Cuban tacos!

85. Sirens’ Cafe & Custom Catering, Kingman, Arizona

Sirens’ Cafe & Custom Catering is the only Arizona restaurant north of the Valley to make this year's list! It's the perfect spot for a quality sandwich if you're driving through Kingman and want to check out its historic downtown district. Yelpers say the sandwiches, as well as homemade soup and beer cheese, make it the perfect stop if you're doing some shopping and exploring in the area!

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Plan a Trip with Our App

Plan your trip with our Visit Phoenix app! Easily find and keep track of places to stay, local dining, unique experiences and tours, and even find events happening during your trip.    Start Planning

Travel Guide

Email signup, trail guide, book your next meeting in greater phoenix, downtown phoenix.

Culture, commerce and college life coalesce in the epicenter of Phoenix. This is where you’ll find indie restaurants, live music, pro sports, craft brews and cocktail culture. Historic neighborhoods like Roosevelt Row and Grand Avenue share an urban footprint with modern marvels like CityScape and the Phoenix Convention Center. No car is required here, thanks to Valley Metro Rail. 

Downtown Districts

Roosevelt row arts district, heritage square, historic grand avenue, warehouse district, things to do in downtown phoenix.

When the business day ends, the fun begins in downtown Phoenix.

This is where you’ll find sports arenas, live music, rooftop lounges, museums, theaters, art galleries and more than 200 restaurants. Downtown is also home to the Phoenix Convention Center and Arizona State University’s downtown campus. And it’s all served by one of the newest light rail systems in the nation.

Pro sports are almost always afoot at Footprint Center (home of the Phoenix Suns  and Phoenix Mercury ), or Chase Field (home of the Arizona Diamondbacks ), and Roosevelt Row is the place to go for coffee shops, craft beers and First Friday Art Walks .

Things to Do in downtown Phoenix

Things to do in downtown phoenix, first friday art walk, larger-than-life mural walls in phoenix, late-night eats in (and around) downtown phoenix, phoenix public market, phx stories: japanese friendship garden, cobra arcade bar, bitter & twisted cocktail parlour, downtown phoenix pizzerias.

Free things to do in Las Vegas during Super Bowl 2024, from Bellagio to Fremont Street

phoenix spots to visit

With top-dollar entertainment and attractions, hotels that charge resort fees and prices going up for restaurants and buffets, a trip to Las Vegas isn't for the budget-conscious.

That's with or without Super Bowl 2024, which will be played on Feb. 11 at Allegiant Stadium, with Usher performing the halftime show .

But those looking to save a little on their visits can find numerous free attractions and things to do in Las Vegas, from iconic landmarks to shows to a chocolate shop tour.

Some of the attractions listed here are among Tripadvisor’s top things to do in Las Vegas, free or paid.

Here are 14 free things to do in Las Vegas.

Fly, drive or ride the bus: Best way to get from Phoenix to Las Vegas

Fountains of Bellagio

Sure, Adele at Caesars Palace or U2 at the Sphere might be among the most popular (and costly) tickets in town. But what is perhaps the most iconic show in Las Vegas won’t cost you a dime.

Every afternoon and evening at Bellagio on the Strip, the Fountains of Bellagio erupt with water that reaches as high as 460 feet. Light and music enhance the show, whose look and feel were inspired by the romantic spirit of the fountains of Paris and Rome.

The Fountains of Bellagio show runs every 30 minutes from 3 to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 6:30 p.m. on weekends and holidays. It happens every 15 minutes from 7 p.m. to midnight daily. Be aware that the display is subject to cancellation due to inclement weather.

Details: 3600 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas. 888-987-6667, bellagio.mgmresorts.com .

Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens

While the fountains are the Bellagio’s most famous free attraction, they’re not the only one. The hotel also has a 14,000-square-foot conservatory and botanical gardens that change with the seasons.

During Super Bowl week, the Bellagio Conservatory will feature a Lunar New Year-themed display inspired by 2024 being the Year of the Dragon . A video of the garden showed towering cherry blossom trees, gushing waterfalls and intricate animatronic dragons.

Fremont Street Experience

This pedestrian mall in downtown Las Vegas is an entertainment hub known for its Viva Vision light shows on the world’s largest LED canopy screen, as well as for free concerts, including the Downtown Rocks series.

Fremont Street will host the Excessive Celebration Bowl Bash during Super Bowl 2024, including free concerts from Starship featuring Mickey Thomas on Feb. 8, future Chandler Ostrich Festival headliner Chris Lane on Feb. 9 and 2023 Tempe Innings Festival performers The Offspring on Feb. 10.

There are also two zip line courses, but they’ll cost you. Tickets for the seven-stories-high Zip-Zilla start at $49; tickets for the 11-stories-high Super-Hero Zoom start at $69.

Details: Fremont Street between Main Street and Las Vegas Boulevard. vegasexperience.com .

Silverton Casino Lodge aquarium and mermaid show

Despite the city's lack of coastline, you can find mermaids in Las Vegas.

The Silverton Casino Lodge has an aquarium with more than 117,000 gallons of water and thousands of tropical fish. It hosts daily stingray feedings and mermaid shows, the latter starring a cast of professional mermaids – some of whom are professional divers – who swim every half hour during afternoons and evenings.

Mermaid fans with more money in their budget can apply for the aquarium’s Mermaid School, a 90-minute experience that provides children and adults the chance to learn how to be a mermaid. It’s recommended only for people who are strong swimmers and costs $175 for children and $225 for adults.

Details: 3333 Blue Diamond Road, Las Vegas. 702-263-7777, silvertoncasino.com

Flamingo Wildlife Habitat

True to its name, the Flamingo has flamingos.

The long-necked, pink-feathered tropical birds are among the many creatures that roam the resort’s 4-acre gardens, coexisting with brown pelicans, hummingbirds, koi and other animals. Visit at 8:30 a.m. or 2 p.m. to hear one of the habitat’s keepers talk about the animals that live there.

Details: 3555 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas. caesars.com .

Fall of Atlantis at Caesars Forum Shops

How about shopping and a show?

What if that show included a giant winged dragon?

For that experience, visit the Caesars Forum Shops from Thursday through Monday, at the top of the hour from noon to 8 p.m. The show blends pyrotechnics, fountains and talking animatronics – oh yes, and that giant dragon – to tell a story of a mythological family feud that befalls a kingdom.

Details: 3500 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas. 702-893-4800, simon.com .

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign

This 25-foot-tall sign, installed in 1959, marks the official start of the Las Vegas Strip. It’s one of the city’s most famous landmarks and a popular spot for selfies. It’s free to see and take pictures with the sign.

Details: 5100 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas.

Ethel M Chocolates Factory Tour

Legendary chocolatier Forrest Mars, whose accomplishments include inventing M&Ms, founded a gourmet chocolate company in 1981 that he named after his mother, Ethel Mars.

Today, Las Vegas travelers can see how Ethel M Chocolates are made, plus take a stroll in the factory’s adjacent cactus garden, for free. Chocolate tastings cost extra; they’re $25 for adults ($35 if you want to include wine) and $15 for children.

Details: 2 Cactus Garden Drive, Henderson. 702-435-2608, ethelm.com .

M&M's World

Speaking of M&M's, Las Vegas is home to the first M&M's World store. Of course, it sells the iconic chocolates encased in colorful sugar coating, but it also serves up an immersive experience across four floors, where people can find life-size character displays, watch a free 3D movie and see a replica of NASCAR driver Kyle Busch’s M&M's-sponsored race car.

Details: 3785 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas. 702-740-2504, mms.com .

Seven Magic Mountains

People who choose to venture outside of Las Vegas might consider wandering into the desert for a surreal art installation.

Seven Magic Mountains, constructed by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone, displays seven towers of painted boulders stacked more than 30 feet high. The artwork represents how its location intersects between its natural desert surroundings and the artificial surroundings of highway traffic and the city.

Details: Las Vegas Boulevard between the towns of Sloan and Jean. From downtown Las Vegas, take Exit 25 off Interstate 15 southbound to get there. sevenmagicmountains.com .

What they cost: American just added Phoenix-Las Vegas flights for Super Bowl 2024

Pinball Hall of Fame

A short distance from the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign and less than 2 miles from Allegiant Stadium, the site of Super Bowl 2024, is the world's largest collection of pinball machines.

The 25,000-square-foot Pinball Hall of Fame, operated by the nonprofit Las Vegas Pinball Collectors Club, houses more than 400 pinball machines from the past and present. The collection's oldest game is a 1933 Jigsaw pinball machine from Rock-Ola that commemorated the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. Its newest is a 2023 Foo Fighters -themed pinball machine.

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. It's free to browse the collection, but it costs 25 cents and up to play the machines. Money raised from gameplay supports local charities.

Details: 4925 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas. 702-597-2627, pinballmuseum.org .

Circus Acts at Circus Circus

Every day is a carnival at Circus Circus, with a midway featuring games and circus acts. The entertainment ranges from trapeze artists to aerial dancers and jugglers, and it's all free. Performances start at 1:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 11:30 a.m. Fridays through Sundays.

Details: 2880 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas. 800-634-3450, circuscircus.com .

Mystic Falls Park at Sam’s Town

In the middle of the casino floor at Sam's Town is a lush park filled with trees and an artificial waterfall. The park's main draw is a laser light show that takes place every evening at 6, 8 and 10 p.m. (There's also a 4 p.m. show on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.)

Details: 5111 Boulder Highway, Las Vegas. 702-456-7777, samstownlv.boydgaming.com .

Shelby Heritage Center

Those who appreciate classic muscle cars may enjoy the Shelby Heritage Center. Here, people can see nearly 30 vehicles designed by the late sports car racer and automotive designer Carroll Shelby, including the AC Cobra, which was designed to compete with the Chevrolet Corvette in the 1960s.

Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the center for free, or pay $59 for a VIP guided tour to see the Shelby cars and see how the muscle cars are made. Free tours are available during normal business hours, which are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Details: 6405 Ensworth St., Las Vegas. 702-942-7325, shelby.com .

Michael Salerno is an award-winning journalist who’s covered travel and tourism since 2014. His work as The Arizona Republic’s consumer travel reporter aims to help readers navigate the stresses of traveling and get the best value for their money on their vacations. He can be reached at  [email protected] . Follow him on X, formerly Twitter: @salerno_phx .

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  4. Top 10 Places To Visit In Phoenix, Arizona

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COMMENTS

  1. 20 Best Things to Do in Phoenix, Arizona

    Begin your introduction to the Valley of the Sun with a visit to downtown Phoenix, home to some of the city's top attractions, including the Phoenix Art Museum, Heritage Square and the...

  2. Best Things to Do in Phoenix in Every Season

    Serene desert gardens, one-of-a-kind museums, award-winning dining and more: Make sure these can't-miss spots are on your Phoenix to-do list. Check out the Instagram pics below then get the details on the top Phoenix attractions. Activities and Attractions

  3. THE 15 BEST Things to Do in Phoenix

    Arizona (AZ) Central Arizona Phoenix Things to Do in Phoenix Things to Do in Phoenix, AZ - Phoenix Attractions Things to Do in Phoenix Popular things to do Hot Air Balloon Rides Self-guided Tours Parks Day Trips 4WD Tours Hiking Trails Air Tours Half-day Tours Theaters Bus Tours Hiking Tours Shopping Malls Historical Tours Airport & Hotel Transfers

  4. Phoenix, Arizona Bucket List: The Things You Must Do

    1. Try a Sonoran Hot Dog You can't come to Phoenix without trying a Sonoran-style hot dog. We're talking a grilled bacon-wrapped hot dog in a warm, soft bolillo bun, topped with pinto beans, sauteed onions, chopped tomatoes, and onions. We're salivating just thinking about it. 2. Eat Fry Bread

  5. Phoenix Attractions: 25 Must See All Around The Valley

    Phoenix attractions range from the beautiful outdoor Desert Botanical Garden to the incredible Musical Instrument Museum. The city is also known for the incredible murals in and around the Roosevelt Arts District and Chase Field, which is the home to the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team.

  6. 30 BEST Places to Visit in Phoenix

    Places to visit in Phoenix Top Things to Do in Phoenix, AZ Places to Visit in Phoenix Popular things to do Hot Air Balloon Rides Self-guided Tours Parks Day Trips 4WD Tours Hiking Trails Air Tours Half-day Tours Theatres Bus Tours Hiking Tours Shopping Malls Historical Tours Airport & Hotel Transfers Points of Interest & Landmarks

  7. THE 15 BEST Things to Do in Phoenix

    THE 15 BEST Things to Do in Phoenix Things to Do in Phoenix Explore popular experiences See what other travellers like to do, based on ratings and number of bookings. Hot Air Balloon Rides (5) Self-guided Tours (19) Parks (109) Day Trips (41) 4WD Tours (17) Hiking Trails (14) Air Tours (4) Half-day Tours (19) Theatres (15) Bus Tours (40)

  8. 20 Best Things To Do in Phoenix Right Now

    1. Desert Botanical Garden Not only does this 140-acre garden have a spectacular vista, but it is also the sunny home of an extraordinary amount of living creatures—you've just got to know how to...

  9. 10 Best Things to Do in Phoenix

    Courtesy Desert Botanical Garden The list of best things to do in Phoenix is an expansive one. There's no place quite like this city—a rapidly growing, 517-square-mile sprawl in the middle of the...

  10. The 21 Best Things To Do In Phoenix, Arizona (2023 Guide)

    The Best Things to Do in Phoenix, Arizona. 1) Glimpse Endangered Plant Species At The Desert Botanical Garden. 2) Go On An Adventure At South Mountain Park & Preserve. 3) Visit The Premier Arizona Science Center. 4) Explore Downtown Phoenix. 5) Ignite Your Imagination At The Phoenix Art Museum.

  11. 19 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Phoenix, AZ

    1. Desert Botanical Garden 3. Taliesin West 4. Hiking Trails around Phoenix 5. Heard Museum 6. Old Town Scottsdale 7. South Mountain Park 8. Hall of Flame Fire Museum 9. Papago Park 10. Phoenix Art Museum 11. Phoenix Zoo 12. OdySea Aquarium 13.

  12. 60 Best & Fun Things To Do In Phoenix (Arizona)

    1. Phoenix Zoo Gregory E. Clifford / Shutterstock The Phoenix Zoo in Arizona's Papago Park is a fantastic place to head to if you're an animal lover, or if you're coming with kids. The well-maintained grounds are home to many different animals, located across four trails on 125 acres.

  13. Top Phoenix Arizona Attractions

    Start Planning Top Phoenix Attractions As one of the largest cities in the U.S., you'll find every kind of attraction in Greater Phoenix: food, nightlife, outdoors and more fill every nook and cranny of our metro.

  14. 55 Best Things to Do in Phoenix (AZ)

    Almost 1,500 acres of desert landscape across Phoenix and Tempe, Papago Park contains golf courses, trails, seven acres of stocked fishing lagoons, picnic areas, sports facilities, rugged hills, mesmerizing sandstone formations, and a few of the attractions on this list, like the Desert Botanical Garden and Phoenix Zoo. In places, the vistas ...

  15. THE 10 BEST Things to Do in Phoenix

    South Mountain Park. This is one of several parks in Phoenix's collection of mountain preserves, all of which are marvels of natural habitat…. 7. Chase Field. Multi level vast arena filled with eats, treats and shops for the NBL fans. 8. Hall of Flame Museum of Firefighting.

  16. Visit Phoenix

    Visit Phoenix and experience outdoor adventure, high culture and relaxing resorts. Discover hotels, restaurants, events, and things to do in Phoenix.

  17. 25 Fun Things to Do in Downtown Phoenix, Arizona

    Downtown Phoenix offers fantastic attractions to visit, from museums to restaurants Known for its year-round sunny days, indie culture, breweries, and historic district, Downtown Phoenix, Arizona, is a great place to visit when your next travel itch kicks in. ... Located just a 16-minute drive from all the Downtown Phoenix attractions, the park ...

  18. 35 Absolute Best Things To Do In Downtown Phoenix

    The park is also close to the Arizona State University campus downtown, making it the perfect pop of green space in the city center. 11. Margaret T. Hance Park. 📍 Google maps. Margaret T. Hance Park, situated in the heart of downtown Phoenix, is named after the city's first female mayor.

  19. Top 20 Phoenix Attractions You Need to Visit At Least Once

    Visitors can explore exhibits such as the gallery of contemporary Native American art, traditional Native American art, and Native American basketry. In addition to its exhibits, the Heard Museum has several shops and restaurants for visitors to enjoy.

  20. 12 Most Beautiful Places in Phoenix, Arizona to Visit

    1. Camelback Mountain. Camelback Mountain, with its distinctive shape reminiscent of a resting camel, is undeniably one of the most beautiful places in Phoenix. Towering over the city, this natural wonder has become a symbol of Phoenix's rugged charm. It also captures the adventurous spirit of its visitors.

  21. 22 Cool and Unusual Things to Do in Phoenix

    Discover 22 hidden attractions, cool sights, and unusual things to do in Phoenix from Yayoi Kusama Firefly Infinity Mirror Room to Oak Street Alley Murals.

  22. Best Scenic Views in Phoenix

    Hikes Restaurants & Bars Hikes Camelback Mountain This popular recreation destination — one of Phoenix's most iconic and popular spots — is named for its likeness to a kneeling camel. And for some of the best views in the city, you'll need to clamber onto its 2,700-ft "hump."

  23. Four Spots to Visit in Portugal in 2024 with Laura McMurchie

    Four Spots to Visit in Portugal in 2024 with Laura McMurchie. McMurchie has never had a sweet tooth, but the decadently creamy pastéis de nata - Portuguese egg custard tarts - that have made Manteigaria bakery famous throughout Lisbon and Porto broke down her walls. "I will always choose a glass of wine over dessert, but these things are ...

  24. 8 Arizona restaurants land on Yelp's 'top 100 restaurants to visit in

    PHOENIX — Eight Arizona restaurants have landed on Yelp's Top 100 Places to Eat list for 2024! Tucson and Phoenix continue to live up to their reputation of being "foody" towns with flavors all ...

  25. Explore Downtown Phoenix

    Start Planning Downtown Phoenix Culture, commerce and college life coalesce in the epicenter of Phoenix. This is where you'll find indie restaurants, live music, pro sports, craft brews and cocktail culture.

  26. Best free things to do in Las Vegas during Super Bowl 2024

    Here are 14 free things to do in Las Vegas. Fly, drive or ride the bus:Best way to get from Phoenix to Las Vegas Fountains of Bellagio. Sure, Adele at Caesars Palace or U2 at the Sphere might be ...