Things To Do In Phoenix
There is no shortage of things to do in Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun area. Not surprising, since Phoenix is the fifth largest city in the United States.
In addition to stunning desert landscapes and mountains, there are also great cultural options. To help you decide, here are our picks for the 15 best things to do in Phoenix.
1. Desert Botanical Garden
Located at the northern end of Papago Park, the Desert Botanical Garden features a huge collection of desert plants. Spanning 140 acres, there are more than 50,000 plants from around the world in the garden.
There are five themed trails in total. Two of the trails are dedicated to the Sonoran Desert around Phoenix. Other trails deal with conservation, desert living and desert wildflowers. Look for art installations as you wander the trails.
Visit later in the day to see flowers that bloom after dark. The garden also hosts many seasonal exhibits, special events and family activities. There’s also a cafe, restaurant, plant shop and gift shop onsite.
2. Camelback Mountain
Enjoy stunning views and wildlife at Camelback Mountain. It’s one of the most iconic hiking spots in Phoenix. Located in the Echo Canyon Recreation Area, Camelback Mountain is a popular spot for hiking and rock climbing.
Two popular but difficult hiking trails, the 1.5-mile Cholla Trail and the 1.2-mile Echo Canyon Trail, lead to the summit and incredible panoramic views. There are also several other small hiking and mountain biking trails available.
As you explore, keep your eyes out for the native flora, including saguaro, cholla and prickly pear cacti, and fauna, including snakes, lizards and rabbits. Guided hiking tours make it easy to explore.
3. Phoenix Zoo
The Phoenix Zoo is one of the best things to do in Phoenix for animal lovers and families with kids. Located in Papago Park, the zoo is home to more than 1,400 animals, including more than 30 endangered species.
The zoo features four different trails: Arizona Trail, Africa Trail, Tropics Trail and Children’s Trail. Animal encounters are a big part of the experience here. Walk through the Monkey Village with monkeys swinging around.
Then pet sheep, goats and horses at the Red Barn. Meet a giraffe or stingray. Or ride a camel. The zoo also offers 4-D movies, play areas, splash pads and a variety of programs and events for kids.
4. Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park
Learn all about the ancient Hohokam culture at Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park. They lived in the area from 450 AD to 1450 AD and then mysteriously disappeared.
It’s one of the best things to do in Phoenix for history buffs. The large site is a National Historic Landmark. See the ruins of a Hohokam village. Walk along the trail and see the remains of a ball sports arena, ceremonial mound as well as reconstructed and furnished dwellings.
The museum houses artifacts that have been found on the site and from other prehistoric settlements in the region. In addition, the museum hosts many talks, workshops, demos and tours about Hohokam and other local indigenous cultures.
5. Papago Park
Exploring Papago Park is one of the best things to do in Phoenix to enjoy the outdoors. Spanning nearly 1,500 acres, the park offers a great network of trails, rugged hills and unique sandstone formations.
There are also seven acres of lagoons stocked with fish, golf courses, picnic areas and sports facilities. It’s also home to the Desert Botanical Garden and the Phoenix Zoo.
Don’t miss the iconic Hole-in-a-Rock, an intriguing rock formation that offers great views. Hunt’s Tomb also offers sweeping desert vistas.
Popular trails include the Double Butte Loop Trail and the Elliot Ramada Trail. Both will lead you past some of the stunning red rock formations that are typical of the park.
6. Heritage Square
See what Phoenix used to look like at Heritage Square. It’s the best preserved historic area in the city. Explore the last set of buildings from the original town site.
Built between 1881 and 1923, these buildings have been preserved and now house gift shops, restaurants, museums and bars. Find an exhibit on Phoenix’s history at the Visitor Center in the Forest Burgess Carriage House.
The Heritage Gallery can be found at the Stevens-Haustgen Bungalow. Don’t miss the Rosson House Museum. You can explore this elegant Queen Anne style Victorian house on an informative guided tour. Afterwards, grab a bite to eat or drink and pick up some souvenirs.
7. Play Golf
The desert may not seem to be a great place to play golf at first. But Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun region is home to more than 200 golf courses.
And with 300 days of sunshine, there are plenty of days to play. The desert course is the most common. Many golf courses are set in fancy resorts that also offer spas. For the ultimate experience, head to the Arizona Biltmore Golf Club. Home to two 18-hole PGA Championship courses, US presidents and Hollywood celebrities have all played here.
Other top choices include TPC Scottsdale, Papago Golf Course, and the Phoenician Golf Club. Located at the base of Camelback Mountain, it’s considered the best public course in the area. For an easy day out, book a custom golf excursion and leave the planning to someone else.
8. Heard Museum
Learn all about indigenous art and culture at the Heard Museum.It’s one of the top cultural things to do in Phoenix.
Dedicated to promoting a better understanding of the native peoples of the Americas, the renowned museum has hundreds of individual artifacts, jewelry, pottery, baskets, textiles, beadwork, katsina dolls and more.
There’s also a full-scale replica of a traditional Navajo hogan. There are 12 exhibition galleries, a contemporary art gallery, an outdoor sculpture garden, a cafe and a gift shop.
In addition to the permanent and rotating exhibitions, the museum also hosts special programs and festivals throughout the year. Book a skip-the-line ticket for faster entry.
9. Musical Instrument Museum
See a wide range of instruments at the Musical Instrument Museum. One of the largest such museums in the world, its impressive collection features more than 15,000 musical instruments and artifacts from nearly every country around the world.
Explore across five permanent galleries. High-end displays include audio and visual, so visitors can see and hear the instrument being played. Visitors can also play different instruments for themselves in the Experience gallery.
See instruments that belonged to musicians such as Elvis, John Lennon and Ravi Shankar in the Artists Gallery. There’s also a 300-seat theater which hosts concerts throughout the year. Book your ticket ahead of time for a hassle-free experience.
10. Visit the Spa
Ever since Phoenix was founded, the area has been a top draw for visitors interested in health and wellness.
Taking advantage of the restorative desert environment, many health spas were built across the region. Today, there are many high-end luxury resorts that offer a range of spa services. Whether you want a hot rock massage, a mud bath, a seaweed wrap, or pampering beauty treatments, you can find it all here.
Top choices include the Boulders Resort, Arizona Biltmore Spa, Spa Avania at the Hyatt Regency and the Well & Being Spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. Custom private spa experiences are also available.
11. Taliesin West
Located at the base of the McDowell Mountains, Taliesin West is an architectural masterpiece. It was the winter home and school of renowned architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.
True to his organic architecture philosophy, Wright and his students used natural and local materials to construct the complex, which blends in to the natural surroundings. Taliesin West can only be explored on a guided tour.
A number of options are available, ranging from one to three hours and focusing on different aspects of the complex. A number of special events, including music concerts and art shows, are also held here from time to time.
12. Phoenix Art Museum
The Phoenix Art Museum is one of the best things to do in Phoenix for art lovers. It’s the largest art museum in the southwest, and features more than 18,000 works of American, Latin American, European and Asian art.
The museum also shows contemporary and modern works of art, fashion design and photography. An interactive children’s gallery encourages future artists. Don’t miss the Thorne miniature rooms and the beautifully landscaped sculpture garden.
Enjoy fine dining at the onsite restaurant. The gift shop offers a variety of art related items. The museum also hosts numerous classes, films, live performances and festivals throughout the year.
13. Arizona Science Center
The Arizona Science Center offers a day of learning and fun for the whole family.
Located in Heritage and Science Park downtown, the center offers more than 300 interactive exhibits over four stories. The exhibits are organized into seven themed galleries that explore topics such as human physiology, computers and applied sciences.
The center offers daily shows in their planetarium and 5-story IMAX theater. There are regular “Adult Nights Out” with special exhibits, lectures and adult beverages.
x`The center offers six signature events a year, as well as a range of other classes, camps and other learning programs.
14. Roosevelt Row
Hip and creative, Roosevelt Row is downtown Phoenix’s arts district. Stretching for about a mile between Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street, the area is full of art galleries, studios, boutiques, restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
The area is very walkable. As you walk around, keep an eye out for some fantastic street murals. Pop-ups are also common here. Highlights include monOrchid gallery, MADE Art Boutique, Revolver Records, FilmBar and The Nash.
The area hosts numerous art and cultural events throughout the year. Don’t miss the self-guided monthly ArtWalk on the first Friday of the month.
15. Castles N’ Coasters
Enjoy a day of thrills and fun at Castles N’ Coasters. It’s one of the best things to do in Phoenix for families and thrill seekers.
Spanning 10 acres, the theme park offers many rides and attractions. Top options include two steel roller coasters, a drop tower, obstacle course, zipline and log flume ride.
An old fashioned carousel and carnival rides will appeal to younger kids. Play more than 150 games in the 3-story arcade. Or enjoy a round or two at one of four miniature golf courses. A number of ticket options are available, including unlimited rides and season and annual passes.
There are so many things to do in the Phoenix and Sun Valley area. But when you are ready to explore outside the city, check out our list of the 15 best day trips from Phoenix.