Nicknamed the Valley of the Sun, the city of Phoenix, Arizona is known for its warm year-round weather, historical sites, and its awe-inspiring desert landscape. As the capital of Arizona, Phoenix is also the most populated city in the state and the fifth largest city in the country, with just over 1.6 million residents.
Phoenix is a bustling multi-cultural city with a diverse foodie scene and incredible natural beauty and scenery. It also has a great mix between urban living and nature.
Being the capital city comes with some major perks. There are some incredible shopping opportunities There are always live events and entertainment, so there’s never a shortage of Phoenix things to do.
For nature lovers, the Phoenix area has countless hiking trails and endless natural beauty. The desert landscape is the perfect place to mountain bike or ride an ATV. And don’t forget to bring your camera along with you on your desert adventures.
The Phoenix Metropolitan area also includes the cities of Scottsdale, Tempe, and Mesa. I would highly recommend checking out these towns while visiting Phoenix for their own unique landmarks and attractions.
The best time of year for touring Phoenix is November through April, when the temperature ranges from the upper 60s to the low 80s. Summer gets pretty warm, usually in the mid-90s and above, but if you can stand the dry heat, you can find amazing deals on beautiful luxury resorts like The Hermosa Inn.
Keep on reading to discover our list of the best things to do in Phoenix. Whether you’re looking for natural landscapes, exciting city life, or fascinating museums, you can indeed find something on this list to spark your interest.
Table of Contents
- Fun & Best Things to do in Phoenix, Arizona
- 1. Desert Botanical Garden
- 2. South Mountain Park
- 3. Mystery Castle
- 4. Phoenix Art Museum
- 5. Arizona Science Center
- 6. Papago Park
- 7. Hall of Flame Fire Museum
- 8. Nightlife in Downtown Phoenix
- 9. Musical Instrument Museum
- 10. Japanese Friendship Garden
- 11. Tempe Beach Park
- 12. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West
- 13. Phoenix Zoo
- 14. Heard Museum
- 15. Camelback Mountain
- 16. Echo Canyon Trail
- 17. Pueblo Grande Museum Archaeological Park
- 18. Enchanted Island Amusement Park
- 19. USS Arizona Memorial Gardens
- 20. Wildlife World Zoo
- 21. Children’s Museum of Phoenix
- 22. Phoenix Fan Fusion
- 23. Tonto National Forest
- 24. Penske Racing Museum
- 25. Old Town Scottsdale
- 26. McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park
- 27. Hot Air Balloon Flight over Phoenix
- 28. The Phoenix Symphony
- 29. Heritage Square
- 30. Canyon Lake
- 31. Go on an ATV Tour of the Bradshaw Mountains
- 32. Goldfield Ghost Town and Mine
- 33. Apache Trail
- 34. Roosevelt Row Arts District
- 35. Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West
- 36. Castles N’ Coasters
- What is Phoenix known for?
- What is Phoenix nightlife like?
- What are some fun things to do in Phoenix when it’s too hot?
- What’s the best way to get around the Phoenix Metropolitan Area?
- Most significant landmark – Phoenix Art Museum
- Best park – South Mountain Park
- Best free activity – Camelback Mountain
- Best activity for kids – Children’s Museum of Phoenix
- Best activity for adults – Papago Park
- Best food – La Santisima
- Best nightlife – Central Avenue, Downtown Phoenix
- Best all-around accommodation – Hyatt Regency Phoenix
Fun & Best Things to do in Phoenix, Arizona
1. Desert Botanical Garden
Address: 1201 North Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, Arizona 85008
The Desert Botanical Garden is one of the best Phoenix attractions to experience the flora of southwestern North America. The garden covers 140 acres and features several trails, art exhibits, and an interactive butterfly pavilion.
Start your visit at the butterfly pavilion, which is sure to be a treat if you’re traveling with kids. Over 2,000 butterflies pass through the open-air building every year, all of which are native southwest butterfly species. Visitors can see butterflies in all stages of life, from caterpillar to chrysalis to fully-grown adult butterflies.
The Desert Botanical Garden offers five loop trails ranging in length from 0.1 miles to 0.3 miles, so you can definitely fit in more than one trail during your visit. The Sonoran Desert Nature Loop Trail takes you on a cactus-lined trail with stunning views of the mountains that surround Phoenix.
The Harriet K. Maxwell Desert Wildflower Loop Trail is one of the longer trails but certainly worth the walk. The trail is lined with beautiful native wildflowers and often attracts three native species of hummingbirds.
This charming one-story home is located just outside the Desert Botanical Garden in Old Town Scottsdale. It’s a wonderful, quiet place to base yourself if you’re traveling with your family or a group.
2. South Mountain Park
Address: 10919 South Central Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona 85042
South Mountain Park is the largest municipal park in the United States and has the great designation as a Phoenix Point of Pride.
The Phoenix Points of Pride are 33 landmarks throughout the Phoenix area that are supposed to represent the best places for both visitors and residents to visit. You will find many more of them on our list.
As one of the largest urban parks, it covers over 16,000 acres and includes over 58 miles of trails that go through the Phoenix mountains. The park is the perfect place if you’re looking to do some hiking, mountain biking, and even horseback riding.
Trails in the park range from easy to difficult and are easy to find. Make sure to stop at a ranger station or the education center for a map of the trails. The Judith Tunell Accessible Trail is paved and accessible for all levels of hikers. Water stations, benches, and covered areas are available on this 0.5-mile-long trail.
If it’s your first time visiting South Mountain Park, I recommend going on a guided hike like this one. This 3-hour guided hike happens in the evening, the perfect time to catch the sunset over the horizon. It’s a great way to explore endless hiking trails and figure out which ones you’d like to return to.
Your knowledgeable guide can also tell you about native plants and the geology of the area.
See Related: Best Things to do in Prescott, Arizona
3. Mystery Castle
Address: 800 East Mineral Road, Phoenix, Arizona 85040
Located within the South Mountain Park is the uniquely-designed Mystery Castle. The one-of-a-kind mansion was built by Boyce Gulley for his daughter, Mary Lou. He was inspired by their time building sand castles on the shores of Seattle.
Sadly, Boyce left his family in 1927 after contracting tuberculosis. He did not want to infect them nor allow them to witness his demise, so he left Seattle for Phoenix and made the Mystery Castle his main objective.
His family did not find out this information until they received a telegram notifying them of his death in 1945. Unfortunately, he passed away right before the castle was complete.
The Mystery Castle took 20 years to build. When the mansion was completed in 1945, Mary Lou moved to Arizona to give tours of the unconventional home and did so up until she passed away in 2010.
The three-story mansion includes 18 bedrooms, 13 fireplaces, a chapel, and a dungeon, among many other funky features. The design of the interior and exterior gives a nod to southwestern style while incorporating downright strange things you’d never dream of having in your own home.
Some parts of the exterior wall are made of wagon wheels, old glass plates, and mirrors held together by mortar made with goat’s milk. Inside, a few walls were made of blackboards from an old schoolhouse and other strange items.
Overall, the Mystery Castle is an extremely interesting place to visit and high on the list of must-dos in Phoenix. Pictures simply can’t do it justice; you just have to see it in person.
For a side trip, check other top cities in Arizona. Book the Sedona Sights, History, and Shopping Open-Bus Tour.
See Related: Best Things to do in Arizona & Places to Visit
4. Phoenix Art Museum
Address: 1625 North Central Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona 85004
The Phoenix Art Museum is the largest art museum in the Southwestern United States. The museum has a revolving door of temporary exhibits, so there’s always something new to see and admire.
The museum has 20,000 works of art and historical artifacts in its trust ranging from the Renaissance to the present day. Works include paintings, sculptures, fashion design, and photography, mainly from North America, Latin America, Asia, and Europe.
If you plan to visit the Phoenix Art Museum, you must check out the Fireflies Infinity Mirror Room, one of the permanent interactive exhibits at the museum.
Created by world-renowned artist Yayoi Kusama, the exhibit’s official name is actually “You Who Are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies,” which really sums up the illuminating experience.
The museum is open on Wednesdays from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm and Thursdays to Sundays from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. I highly recommend taking advantage of their “pay what you wish” admission policy which happens on Wednesdays from 3:00 pm to 9:00 pm.
The Phoenix Art Museum is in the central corridor of Downtown Phoenix, which is a great place to base yourself if you’re looking to stay in the heart of the city.
Check out the hip Cambria Hotel Downtown Phoenix, which is located just a ten-minute walk away from the museum. This hotel features modern art in each room and the common areas.
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5. Arizona Science Center
Address: 600 East Washington Street, Phoenix, Arizona 85004
The Arizona Science Center is a science museum located in Downtown Phoenix. There are so many permanent exhibits on a variety of subjects, including astronomy, natural history, technology, and more. It’s a great place to check out if you’re visiting Phoenix with kids.
Though this attraction is great for children of all ages, adults can also learn a thing or two while visiting.
The All About Me exhibit teaches kids about how our organs function together to make our body work every day. You can walk through a “working” stomach that lets visitors experience the digestive experience or hear your actual heartbeat translated into sound on a bass drum.
Another permanent exhibit not to miss is the American Airlines Flight Zone, where kids can become engineers and try to figure out how to improve airplane and helicopter designs. There is an actual fuselage in the exhibit that visitors can walk through and explore.
Plan to spend around three to four hours here at the museum to really experience everything the Arizona Science Center has to offer.
The Arizona science center is open daily from 10:30 am to 4:00 pm, with the last entry at 2:45 pm.
Note that entry to the Flinn Giant Screen Theater and the Dorrance Planetarium are not included in the general admission ticket and must be purchased separately.
See Related: 18 Fun & Best Things to Do in Cave Creek, Arizona
6. Papago Park
Address: 625 North Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, Arizona 85008
Papago Park is a municipal park and is included in Phoenix’s list of Points of Pride. It’s free to enter and explore the multiple trails that run through the park. It’s a great place to view and take photos of Saguaro cacti, which are only found in Arizona’s Sonoran desert.
Stunning sandstone rock formations can be found throughout the park and are excellent subjects for photography lovers. The trails in Papago park are much easier than the ones found in South Mountain Park, so you might opt for this area if you’re looking for more accessible hiking trails.
The most scenic spot in Papago Park is Hole-in-the-Rock, which is a sizeable cave-like rock formation that looks over a beautiful lagoon. The trail to get here is just 0.3-miles starting from the main parking lot, and the views are spectacular.
Many of Phoenix’s top attractions are located near Papago Park, including the Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix Zoo, and the Hall of Flame Fire Museum.
If you’re looking to only spend a short amount of time here, check out this fun Private Photography Tour that includes stops in Papago Park, Camelback Mountain, old town Scottsdale, and Phoenix. You can also explore Papago Park on a Scottsdale Greenbelt E-Bike Tour.
This tour includes transportation, and the guide is also a photographer who will take great photos of you and your group in these gorgeous spots.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to do in Page, Arizona
7. Hall of Flame Fire Museum
Address: 6101 East Van Buren Street, Phoenix, Arizona 85008
Just a short walk across the street from Papago Park, you will find the Hall of Flame Fire Museum. It is the world’s largest museum of firefighting history and includes old firefighting artifacts from all over the world, including England, France, Peru, and Japan.
Artifacts in the museum’s collection date back to as early as 1725 and have been beautifully restored to their former glory.
The museum has over 10,000 artifacts that are divided into six galleries. Each gallery is organized by type, including fire alarm systems, fire extinguishers, helmets, horse-drawn apparatuses, and motorized fire vehicles.
The Hall of Flame Fire Museum also includes a National Hall of Heroes that is dedicated to firefighters all over the nation. The Hall of Heroes contains a touching tribute to the 343 FDNY firefighters and NYPD officers who died in the line of duty during 9/11.
The museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.
8. Nightlife in Downtown Phoenix
Phoenix is just teeming with amazing bars, nightclubs, and restaurants that are great for unwinding after a long day. Whether you’re looking for great food, great drinks, or to dance the night away, Downtown Phoenix has something for you.
I think it would be criminal to visit the Southwest and not try some southwestern-style food. La Santisima is known for its tacos that pack a flavorful punch!
There are over 50 different flavored fillings to choose from for your tacos, including al pastor mahi mahi and street carne asada. The restaurant is decorated with art by contemporary Mexican artists.
For unique cocktails and craft beer, check out Little Rituals in the center of Downtown Phoenix. Go for aperitivo (a.k.a. happy hour) from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm every day for 20 percent off cocktails and 50 percent off small plates. I highly recommend the crunchy asparagus and a honeysuckle spritz.
If you’re looking to get on the dance floor, DWNTWN is Phoenix’s #1 Latin club dance club. It’s open every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday night with two dance floors and two live DJs. Each room has its own bar and different music styles.
If you’re planning to party in Phoenix, I recommend staying close to Central Avenue, where most of the top restaurants, bars, and clubs are located. The Hyatt Regency Phoenix is just one block away from Central Avenue and features its own great bar.
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9. Musical Instrument Museum
Address: 4725 East Mayo Boulevard, Phoenix, Arizona 85050
The Musical Instrument Museum first opened its doors in 2010 and is the largest museum of its kind. It’s home to over 15,000 musical instruments and related artifacts sourced from every inhabited continent.
The Experience Gallery is one of several interactive exhibits within the Musical Instrument Museum. Visitors can play fun and interesting instruments from all around the world.
The family center is just nearby and offers a great space for kids to play and relax throughout your time at the museum.
The Conservation Lab is a unique experience where you can watch a master instrument restorer repair and restore fragile instruments. It’s crucial to preserve these instruments that would otherwise be lost in history. In the lab, professionals also perform tests on instruments to find out more about their past.
The Musical Instrument Museum is open every day from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. In addition to the musical instrument collection, the museum also has a 300-seat theater that hosts many performances throughout the year.
10. Japanese Friendship Garden
Address: 1125 North 3rd Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona 85003
If you’re looking for a tranquil spot to relax in the middle of the city, check out the Japanese Friendship Garden. In 1987, the garden was proposed as a gift by the mayor of Himeji, Japan, which is Phoenix’s Japanese sister city, as a way to strengthen the bond between the two cities.
The Japanese name for the garden is RoHoEn. Ro is the Japanese word for Heron, a symbol of Himeji, Ho is the word for the fictional Phoenix bird, and En is the word for garden.
The garden was completed in 1996 and features a tea house with a lovely tea garden. The friendship garden covers 3.5 acres and has one continuous path that goes throughout the entire area.
At the center of the garden is a peaceful lake with pebble shores. Pavilions surround the lake with benches, making it a lovely spot to stop and take in your surroundings.
One Saturday of each month, visitors can experience a traditional Japanese tea ceremony at the tea house. It’s a lovely 30-minute experience and definitely a unique thing to do. Reservations are required for the tea ceremony; available dates can be found on the Japanese Friendship Garden’s website.
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11. Tempe Beach Park
Address: 80 West Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe, Arizona 85281
The town of Tempe is located just 15 minutes from the heart of Phoenix. It’s so easily accessible by car and the Valley Metro Rail and perfect for a day trip. The Tempe Town Lake is a manmade reservoir and Arizona’s second most-visited attraction.
There are so many great outdoor activities at Tempe Town Lake, like fishing, boating, biking, and paddle boarding. If you’re looking for a great place to cool off, check out Tempe Beach Park.
The beach park is a 25-acre area perfect for picnicking and relaxing. Several concerts and events are held at Tempe Beach Park throughout the year, like the Tempe Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade, so you can always find something fun and exciting to do.
This Tempe Town Lake E-bike Tour is a perfect way to see the lake and surrounding areas. Your guide will give you lots of useful information and interesting facts about the Phoenix Metropolitan area.
Tempe Beach Park is open daily from 5:00 am to 12:00 am.
12. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West
Address: 12621 North Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard, Scottsdale, Arizona 85259
Frank Lloyd Wright was a famous American architect who designed over 1,000 structures during his amazing seven-decade career. His life mission was to make the world a more beautiful place and to give meaning to life. He is considered to be the greatest American architect of all time.
Taliesin West was Lloyd Wright’s desert winter home and is now the headquarters of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. It also once served as a campus for art and architecture students who worked directly under the famed architect.
Some of the most well-known buildings in the United States were designed here, such as the Guggenheim Museum of New York City. Taliesin West was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1982 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019.
Today, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation gives public tours of the grounds and home. It’s one of the best Phoenix attractions for those interested in architecture and history.
Public tours are available Thursday through Monday from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm, with the last tour beginning at 10:40 am.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to do in Pine, Arizona
13. Phoenix Zoo
Address: 455 North Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, Arizona 85008
The Phoenix Zoo is the largest privately-owned, non-profit zoo in the United States. It’s home to over 400 species and 3,000 individual animals, many of whom are threatened or endangered.
There are four different trails that divide the park into four large exhibit areas: Arizona, Africa, Tropics, and Children’s. The children’s trail is the shortest and allows kids to get up close to many small animals, including sloths, gibbons, and emus.
At the end of the trail, you will get to Harmony Farm, which features many farm animals and the Red Barn petting zoo. It’s certainly one of the best Phoenix activities for kids.
The Arizona trail is designed to look like the natural landscape of the Sonoran desert and features many animals found in the state, including coyotes, mountain lions, turkey vultures, and the Mexican gray wolf.
The zoo spans over 125 acres, so I would plan at least three hours to enjoy the zoo if you’d like to see every exhibit. You may possibly want more time if you’re planning to stop at the petting zoo, stop by the gift shop, or grab a bite to eat at one of several cafes and snack bars located throughout the zoo.
The zoo is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, with reduced hours from June 1st to August 31st from 7:00 am to 1:00 pm due to high afternoon temperatures.
Purchase your general admission ticket here.
14. Heard Museum
Address: 2301 North Central Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona 85004
The Heard Museum is a non-profit museum that primarily features American Indian art. It’s located right in the heart of Downtown Phoenix, making it a convenient stop during your trip to Phoenix.
There are over 40,000 objects in the museum’s permanent collection, including 4,000 pieces of fine art.
Many pieces at the Heard Museum are from tribes located in the greater Southwest area, including the Navajo tribe and the Zuni tribe. There are 12 exhibit galleries, a wonderful outdoor sculpture garden, and a trading post-style shop.
Besides the usual fine art, pottery, and textiles, the museum features beautiful beadwork, baskets, fashion pieces, and jewelry.
I found the jewelry to be the most interesting display at the Heard Museum, as you can really see the hard work that has gone into all the intricacies and materials used to make them.
I highly recommend visiting the Heard Museum to truly get a sense of the daily life of the American Indian people and their beautiful rich cultures and history.
The Heard Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, and your admission ticket includes a guided tour of the museum.
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15. Camelback Mountain
Camelback Mountain is known as one of the most scenic spots in all of Phoenix and the best place to go for a day out on the hiking trails. Trails throughout the mountain range from beginner-friendly to difficult.
If you’re looking for a beginner-friendly trail, I recommend Bobby’s Rock Trail. The trail is a 1.1-mile loop trail and is suitable for kids. It’s a fun and easy way to enjoy gorgeous mountain views without the difficulty of other trails in the area.
Echo Canyon Trail and the Cholla Trail are the two main trails on Camelback Mountain. These trails are difficult and should be done by experienced hikers only. However, the views are worth it as both trails will lead you to the summit of the mountain, where you’ll have stunning views of the city.
Whichever trail you choose, don’t forget to pack lots of water, a hat, and sunscreen. The trails are best early in the morning before the heat of the day sets in. On days with excessive heat warnings, the trails will be closed from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm.
At the base of Camelback Mountain, you’ll find The Phoenician, a Luxury Collection Resort, probably the most stunning resort in Arizona. It features an astounding nine pools and is an incredible place to relax and unwind under the Southwest sun.
16. Echo Canyon Trail
Address: 5700 North Echo Canyon Way, Phoenix, Arizona 85018
As we mentioned earlier, Echo Canyon Trail is one of the main trails within Camelback Mountain. It deserves its own spot on this list because it’s the most popular trail to get to the summit of the mountain. It’s a great stop for nature lovers and avid hikers in the Phoenix desert.
The 1.2-mile-long Echo Canyon Trail is short but steep. In this short hike, you will ascend 1,280 feet, and at the top of the summit, you will be 2,704 feet above sea level.
The trail starts off as a well-marked path before you will hit the first of two sets of railroad ties. The first set of railroad ties is steep, so be sure to take your time and focus on your foot placements.
After the second set of railroad ties, there will be a steep, rocky incline that lasts about 0.7 miles until you are at the summit. While the path may be difficult, the views are beyond worth it. Don’t forget to bring a camera to capture this wonderful memory!
Make sure to bring lots of water and sun protection. Though the trail is short, most hikers take about two to three hours to go up and back down.
See Related: Best National Parks in the USA to Visit
17. Pueblo Grande Museum Archaeological Park
Address: 4619 East Washington Street, Phoenix, Arizona 85034
The wonderful Pueblo Grande Museum Archaeological Park is an amazingly-preserved 1,500-year-old archaeological site. It is believed to have been inhabited by the Ancestral Sonoran Desert people known as the Hohokam people.
The prehistoric village site is fully accessible and includes a 0.66-mile walking trail. Along the trail, you can see excavated areas of real prehistoric buildings along with replicas of what houses and daily life would have looked like during the time of the Hohokam people.
A replica garden filled with corn, beans, squash, and cotton shows what sort of farming the people would’ve done. It is believed the Hohokam people lived in the area from 450 AD to 1450 AD. They were also known for their extensive canal systems that ran throughout what is now modern-day Phoenix.
The museum also offers many events and hands-on activities throughout the year, including an archaeology class for kids and a native art & rug auction.
The Pueblo Grande Museum Archaeological Park is open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 am to 4:45 pm and Sundays from 1:00 pm to 4:45 pm. Reduced hours go into effect during the summer months, with the museum closed on Sundays and Mondays from May to September.
Book a Historic Oatman Mining Town Tour for more history adventures in Arizona.
18. Enchanted Island Amusement Park
Address: 1202 West Encanto Boulevard, Phoenix, Arizona 85007
The Enchanted Island Amusement Park is located within Downtown Phoenix in Encanto Park. It features 13 main attractions for children and adults of all ages. Some of the most popular attractions include the C.P. Huntington Train, Encanto Carousel, Parachute Tower, and Pedal Boats.
The C.P. Huntington Train is a mini-replica of the original train by the same name. This train played an important role in building the western segment of the first Trans-Continental Railroad in North America.
Today, the original steam engine train is on display at the California State Railroad Museum, but Phoenix visitors can ride this mini-version on a seven-minute tour of Encanto Park.
The pedal boats are a personal favorite of mine. This ride allows visitors to go on a scenic pedal boat ride through 7.5 acres of waterways that flow through the park. The lagoon is quite peaceful, and you can enjoy wildlife like swans, ducks, and geese.
The Enchanted Island Amusement Park is open Friday through Sunday from 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm. Admission is free, but you must pay for each individual ride or buy an all-day ride pass.
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19. USS Arizona Memorial Gardens
Address: 7455 North Pima Road, Scottsdale, Arizona 85258
The USS Arizona Memorial Gardens is a stunning display of remembrance created by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian community. It’s definitely a stop to add to your must-do list in Phoenix.
The garden spans the exact length and width of the USS Arizona and is outlined by bright, white columns. Each lit-up column represents a soul that perished during the attack on Pearl Harbor, while each column that is not lit represents those that survived.
The relic room is a comprehensive USS Arizona Exhibit. The exhibit features a detailed timeline of the events that happened before, during, and after the Pearl Harbor attack. There is even a piece of the USS Arizona’s boathouse that is part of the exhibit.
The USS Arizona Memorial Gardens at Salt River is free to visit and open every day from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.
The Tru By Hilton Scottsdale Salt River is a great nearby hotel to base yourself at. Salt River is a great, lively district of Scottsdale and the hotel includes a lovely pool and breakfast.
20. Wildlife World Zoo
Address: 16501 West Northern Avenue, Litchfield Park, Arizona 85340
The Wildlife World Zoo is located just 30 minutes to the west of Phoenix and near Luke Air Force Base. The zoo has an expansive collection of exotic animals and also includes an aquarium and safari park.
The zoo boasts the largest collection of exotic and endangered animals in Arizona, with over 600 different species.
My personal favorite thing to do at the Wildlife World Zoo is to check out the baby animal nursery. Here, you can see the cutest baby animals ranging from lions to hyenas.
The new residents at the nursery change monthly, so you can almost always catch a different adorable animal at the nursery.
There are also various animal feeding stations throughout the zoo, including giraffes, parrots, and stingrays.
The 15-acre safari park is also a must-do at the zoo. Visitors can choose to walk through the safari park or take a tram ride to see all the animal exhibits.
The zoo is open daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, and the aquarium is open daily from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Scottsdale, Arizona
21. Children’s Museum of Phoenix
Address: 215 North 7th Street, Phoenix, Arizona 85034
If you’re looking for the best activity in Phoenix for kids, look no further! The Children’s Museum of Phoenix features over 300 interactive experiences for kids ranging in age from under one year to age ten.
Activities in the museum range from art to textures and from food preparation to block play. All exhibits are open-ended, allowing kids to use their imagination and have meaningful experiences.
I love the concept of the children’s garden, located right outside the entrance of the museum. It’s filled with seasonal flowers, herbs, and vegetables. Children are free to explore the garden independently or learn from a program facilitator.
The museum is truly an enriching experience for kids of all ages and should be at the top of your list if you’re traveling to Phoenix with your family.
The Children’s Museum of Phoenix is open daily from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.
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22. Phoenix Fan Fusion
Address: Phoenix Convention Center, 100 North 3rd Street, Phoenix, Arizona 85004
Looking to discover your inner nerd?
Check out Phoenix Fan Fusion! Formerly known as the Phoenix Comic Fest, Phoenix Fan Fusion is an annual event held to celebrate pop culture.
Phoenix Fan Fusion began as a one-day comic book convention and has now grown to a four-day event held every summer, usually at the end of May.
The pop culture event features an exhibition hall, fandom activities, panels, and meet and greets.
In the exhibition hall, you can meet hundreds of vendors and artists along with some of your favorite characters. It’s a great place to purchase merch and memorabilia from your favorite shows and movies.
Many attendees choose to dress as their favorite characters and heroes, so don’t be afraid to do the same! Events like Phoenix Fan Fusion can often be the best way to meet your favorite actors and get an inside look at some of your favorite shows, movies, and books.
If you’re in town specifically for Phoenix Fan Fusion, you have several nearby hotel options. I recommend the Holiday Inn Express & Suites – Phoenix Dwtn. I love the Holiday Inn Express brand because they always have friendly staff and a free breakfast.
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23. Tonto National Forest
Address: Chandler, Arizona 85224
The breathtaking Tonto National Forest is located just 30 minutes away from Phoenix in Chandler, Arizona. It is the ninth largest forest in the United States and the largest national forest in the state of Arizona.
The forest encompasses over 600,000 acres of the wild west and is arguably the most rugged but beautiful landscape in the country. Here, you will find lakes, dense pine forests, and seemingly endless deserts.
It’s truly an incredible place to experience the raw, natural beauty of the Southwestern United States.
This is definitely the place if you’re looking to have amazing outdoor adventures. Mountain biking, camping, and hiking are all great things to do in this national forest.
One of the most scenic spots in this national forest is the Fossil Creek Wild and Scenic River. The river is 17 miles long and has the most incredibly clear water you’ve ever seen.
Along the river, you may also see several diverse native species of plants and animals.
The Four Peaks Wilderness Area is another popular spot within the national forest. The Four Peaks is one of the most recognizable landmarks in central Arizona and can be seen from miles away.
24. Penske Racing Museum
Address: 7125 East Chauncey Lane, Phoenix, Arizona 85054
The Penske Racing Museum hosts a vast collection of Penske race cars and other racing memorabilia. The Penske Racing team has had over 500(!) lifetime wins over 50 years, so you can imagine how extensive the collection is.
There are 13 race-winning cars on display, including several winners of the Indy 500.
The Indy 500 is an annual race held in Indianapolis, Indiana. As its name suggests, the closed-course race goes on as drivers compete to become the first to drive 500 miles on the course. The event is one of the largest and most popular sporting events on the planet.
The Penske Racing Museum is a great place to visit for all car fanatics and those interested in the sport of car racing.
The Penske Racing Museum is open every day. The hours on Monday through Saturday are 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, and on Sundays, it is open from 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
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25. Old Town Scottsdale
Scottsdale is one of the smaller towns located within the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. It’s a great area to visit and also a place that many people in the area choose to live, due to its low crime rate and great school system.
Scottsdale is most well-known for its lovely old town, vibrant art scene, and amazing golf courses. Old Town Scottsdale is truly reminiscent of the wild west and embodies that rugged western spirit. This part of town is located near East Main Street.
While the buildings may look like they’re straight out of a country western movie, they’re home to some amazing restaurants, fun bars, and beautiful art galleries.
When strolling through Old Town Scottsdale, you must stop to admire the Old Adobe Mission.
The mission was built by Mexican settlers in 1937 using adobe, which is a mixture of earth and other organic materials. The mission features stunning stained glass windows, which is certainly a sight to behold.
I highly recommend going on a small group tour of Old Town Scottsdale with an experienced and knowledgeable guide who can give you a lot of the background and history of the area.
If you’re looking for a little more fun, check out this Party Bike Pub Crawl of Old Town Scottsdale. This is such a unique and fun way to see a new city, and you’ll be able to stop at at least three different bars during your tour.
If the beauty of Scottsdale has you hooked, consider basing yourself in this beautiful desert town. The Saguaro Scottsdale is a beautiful hotel located right in Old Town Scottsdale. The property boasts two amazing outdoor pools and is less than one mile from the Continental Golf Course.
26. McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park
Address: 7301 East Indian Bend Road, Scottsdale, Arizona 85250
The McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park is a 30-acre park that features several different railroads and trains for visitors to ride and explore. In addition to the trains, the park also features the Scottsdale Railroad Museum.
Within the museum, there are several interesting permanent exhibits. My favorite exhibit is the merci train car, which was given to Arizona from France in 1948 after the conclusion of World War II.
When the war was over, France sent over a train car full of donated items to each state to thank the US for its participation and support in the war.
Another popular exhibit in the museum is the Magma, Arizona Railroad Engine. This engine was used to move copper ore between Superior and Magma, Arizona. It was in service for 54 years before being retired.
There are several trains that take visitors throughout the park. The Arboretum Train takes riders throughout the park’s two-acre desert area and is a great hidden gem within the railroad park.
The McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park is open every day from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm.
See Related: Useful Tips for Long Distance Train Travel
27. Hot Air Balloon Flight over Phoenix
Address: 702 West Deer Valley Road, Phoenix, Arizona 85027
Looking for a unique way to see Phoenix?
Try a Hot Air Balloon Flight!
The beautiful landscape of the Sonoran Desert is best appreciated from above, where you can see just how far the desert stretches. A hot air balloon is an exhilarating way to get the best views of the desert, no hiking required.
In the air, you’ll be able to see famous landmarks such as Camelback Mountain, the Sonoran Desert Preserve, and Downtown Phoenix. It’s truly a magical experience and definitely one that you’ll look back on and remember fondly for years to come.
This tour takes off in the morning while the air is still cool and crisp. It’s the perfect time to enjoy the scenery before the sun warms up the day.
The flight will last about one hour and is controlled by an FAA-certified licensed pilot.
Once you’re back on the ground, you’ll be treated to a fabulous breakfast complete with champagne. Really, could there be anything better?
28. The Phoenix Symphony
Address: 75 North 2nd Street, Phoenix, Arizona 85004
If you’re interested in some beautiful live music, check out The Phoenix Symphony.
The Phoenix Symphony is the city’s only full-time, professional symphony and orchestra and the largest performing arts group in the entire state of Arizona.
The symphony was first founded in 1947 as a small, part-time symphony practicing and performing in the town’s high school and has since grown to a full-time symphony complete with its own symphony hall.
Throughout the year, the symphony hosts world-renowned guest conductors and artists. The symphony primarily performs classical, chamber, and pop concerts but also occasionally performs special shows for families and children.
The Phoenix Symphony performs several concerts each month, so there’s almost always something to see at Symphony Hall.
This is a great activity if you’re looking for amazing live music performances in the evening or just a great indoor activity in the middle of the afternoon.
See Related: Best Music Festivals to Attend This Summer
29. Heritage Square
Address: 115 North 6th Street, Phoenix, Arizona 85004
Heritage Square is a lovely place to visit to discover the Victorian past of Downtown Phoenix. The square dates back to the late 1800s and is home to a museum, restaurants, and a science park.
The Rosson House Museum is the crown jewel of Heritage Square. It is a beautifully restored Victorian home that was originally built in 1895. The museum details the rich history of Phoenix and is only accessible on a guided tour.
Tours of the Rosson House Museum last approximately 60 minutes and includes all areas of the home. The visitor center is open on Fridays and Saturdays from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm and Sundays from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm; tours happen every hour on the hour.
There are five other main buildings within Heritage Square, including the Baird Machine Shop, Thomas House, Teeter Carriage House, Silva House, and Bouvier-Teeter House. Each building has its own unique style typical to the time it was constructed.
This is one of the best historic neighborhoods in the Southwest to visit and to get a feel of what life was like back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The Heritage Square Foundation does a wonderful job at preserving artifacts and educating visitors about the area.
30. Canyon Lake
Located just 45 minutes outside of Phoenix, the beautiful Canyon Lake is a wonderful place to escape the bustling city and relax on the water. The lake is extremely large, spanning over 900 acres, so there’s certainly a lot to see and explore in the area.
Start off by checking out Canyon Lake Marina and Campground, which rents out an assortment of water toys, including canoes, kayaks, and jet skis. The lake is amazing for all sorts of water activities, but jet skiing is definitely one of my favorites.
Fishing is also a great activity to do at Canyon Lake. The lake is teeming with various species of fish, including rainbow trout, bluegill, catfish, and smallmouth bass. There are places at the marina that will rent out fishing poles and sell bait.
If you get hungry, check out Tortilla Flat Saloon in the small nearby town of Tortilla Flat. They serve classic all-American dishes, including burgers and chili.
There aren’t any accommodations nearby unless you are traveling in an RV or planning to camp out in a tent. For this reason, it would be best to rent a car if you would like to visit Canyon Lake.
If your looking for more water-related activities, check out Willow Beach Emerald Cave and Lake Mead Kayaking Tour.
See Related: Best Day Trips from Phoenix, Arizona
31. Go on an ATV Tour of the Bradshaw Mountains
Riding an ATV can be one of the most thrilling ways to explore a new place. An ATV is a great mode of transportation to explore the desert landscape of Arizona without a lot of hiking.
The Bradshaw Mountains are located just north of Phoenix and are known for their extreme beauty. The scenery here is absolutely wild, with lush mountains contrasting against bright desert flora.
This Guided Arizona Desert Tour by ATV is a great option if you’d like to visit the area. Your highly knowledgeable guide will take you on rugged rocky trails through the Arizona desert.
You’ll be able to enjoy the surrounding natural beauty and wildlife without having to hike for hours and hours under the hot sun.
Don’t forget to pack your camera, sunscreen, and sunglasses because you’ll definitely need them. The tour will provide water, but I would also recommend bringing your own because you can never have enough water while you’re in the sun.
32. Goldfield Ghost Town and Mine
Address: 4650 North Mammoth Mine Road, Apache Junction, Arizona 85119
The Goldfield Ghost Town and Mine is a fun and cool way for the whole family to experience life in the wild west. Located just 45 minutes away from Phoenix, the town of Goldfield was once a bustling town for those looking to make a pretty penny on the surrounding gold mines.
The town was at its peak in the 1890s but slowly became a ghost town over the next few decades, when the grade of the ore became too poor to be worth much.
Of course, the most popular thing to do in Goldfield is to visit the abandoned gold mines. Tours go every 10 minutes and last approximately 25 minutes.
The tour takes place underground within the mine, where you will learn about the history of mining from a knowledgeable tour guide while observing real mining artifacts.
Another great activity for the whole family is to take a ride on the Superstition Narrow Gauge Railroad. The 1.5-mile long track takes approximately 20 minutes to tour. While on the train, the engineer will tell you the history of Goldfield and the nearby Superstition Mountains.
After these two amazing tours, check out the saloon, merchants, and bakery, which are all open every day with varying hours.
See Related: Best Museums in the US You Need to Visit
33. Apache Trail
Address: Arizona State Route 88
The famous Apache Trail is one of the most significant attractions in all of Arizona.
The breathtaking trail gets its name as it was originally used by the Apache tribe to move throughout the Superstition Mountains. Today, the “trail” is 40 miles long and is officially known as Arizona State Route 88.
The road begins in Apache Junction and ends at the Theodore Roosevelt Dam. Once you get to the end of the trail, you can choose to go back the way you came or continue on the loop route, which will take you through the town of Globe.
Along the road, there will be many scenic places to stop. Some places like Canyon Lake, Tortilla Flat, and the Goldfield Ghost Town will probably be longer stops. Lost Dutchman State Park is a great place to get out of your car and stretch your legs on several hiking trails.
The winding road includes a lot of sharp turns and switchbacks, so if you aren’t comfortable doing this kind of driving, I recommend this Apache Trail Day Tour. This tour encompasses several activities throughout the 7-hour tour.
Besides driving the Apache Trail, you’ll be able to take a steamboat ride through Canyon Lake, make a stop in Goldfield, and tour the Lost Dutchman Museum.
34. Roosevelt Row Arts District
Address: East Roosevelt Street, Phoenix, Arizona 85004
As we mentioned earlier, Phoenix has a fantastic art scene. The best place to experience this is in the downtown area of the Roosevelt Row Arts District.
Not only will you find amazing murals and unique art galleries, but the district is also home to some of the best restaurants in Phoenix. If you’re looking for the perfect brunch spot, check out Matt’s Big Breakfast, known for its iconic giant pancakes.
You will often find local artists creating intricate street art on Roosevelt Row. Stroll by The Churchill to find the 1 1/2 street mural project, which is filled with a ton of street art made by several local muralists.
Feeling thirsty? Pop into Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. for some refreshing artisanal beer.
Each month, Artlink hosts the First Friday Art Walk, which is a great way to get familiar with Phoenix’s thriving art scene. The event happens each first Friday of the month from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm and is free and open to all ages.
If you’re looking for somewhere hip in Phoenix to base yourself on, check out this great one-bedroom apartment right in the arts district!
See Related: Best Places to Travel in December on a Budget
35. Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West
Address: 3830 North Marshall Way, Scottsdale, Arizona 85251
Located in Old Town Scottsdale, the Western Spirit Museum highlights life in the Old West as well as how the history of the Western United States has shaped the way of life in the region today.
The museum includes artwork from all 19 states across the West. Exhibits include paintings, drawings, sculptures, pottery, clothing, and jewelry. Each artifact tells a story of the place where it was created and the person or people who created it.
One of the most eye-opening permanent exhibits, in my opinion, is the “Women of the West” exhibit. It focuses on female artists in the late 1800s and early 1900s who lived and worked in Arizona.
Art resources and education opportunities were few and far between at this time, so these women truly persevered to make their passion a reality. These women thrived and had a major impression on the art culture of the Southwest.
Visitors are free to do their own self-guided tour or join a docent-led tour. Self-guided audio tours are available to download directly to your phone.
The museum is open from Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm and Sundays from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm.
36. Castles N’ Coasters
Address: 9445 North Metro Parkway East, Phoenix, Arizona 85051
If you’re looking for a fun way to spend the day with the whole family, check out Castles N’ Coasters! The park offers so many attractions, including rollercoasters and four 18-hole mini golf courses.
The most popular rollercoaster in the park is Desert Storm, which features huge vertical drops and several 360 loops. The Splashdown combines the thrill of a rollercoaster with the fun of a water ride. Watch out for the water cannons!
Other popular rides include the Patriot, Skydiver, Skywire, and the On the Ropes Challenge ropes course.
If coasters and mini golf aren’t your things, the giant arcade offers over 150 games spanning three levels. Or check out some amusement park classics like go-karts and the fun house.
The amusement park has seven restaurants and snack bars located throughout the park. Food options range from pizza to churros to shave ice. Check out Coaster Cakes for one of my all-time favorite amusement park classics: funnel cakes!
Castles N’ Coasters is open every day from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm.
What is Phoenix known for?
Phoenix is known for its year-round warm weather and desert landscape. It’s the fifth largest city in the United States.
What is Phoenix nightlife like?
Phoenix has great nightlife! Check out Central Avenue in Downtown Phoenix to find the best clubs and bars like DWNTWN and Little Rituals.
What are some fun things to do in Phoenix when it’s too hot?
Temperatures soar into the high 90s and 100s during the summer months in Phoenix. If it’s too hot out, check out the Phoenix Art Museum and the Arizona Science Center.
What’s the best way to get around the Phoenix Metropolitan Area?
Renting a car is my preferred way of getting around Phoenix. There is ample parking at most of the tourist attractions. However, the Valley Metro Rail (also referred to simply as the Light Rail), is a great and reliable way to get around within Phoenix and some of the surrounding cities.
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