Phoenix, AZ, is a fantastic city for people who love the outdoors. The sun shines just about every day, and the temperatures, although hot in the summer, are perfect for pool parties and outdoor activities. In addition, the nightlife is always vibrant.
And there’s no shortage of excellent restaurants, shopping, and cultural attractions. In this blog post, we will explore both famous and lesser-known things to do in Phoenix.
Take a Stroll Through the Desert Botanical Garden
One of the most popular Phoenix attractions for nature lovers is the Desert Botanical Garden. With thousands of cactus species, trees, flowers, and other desert plants, this is a perfect place to escape and enjoy Mother Nature.
Tickets are $24.95 for adults and $12.95 for children, but every second Tuesday of the month, admission is free for everyone. Bring comfortable shoes; you will walk almost 2 miles around the gardens.
Visitors can also enjoy an after-sunset stroll through the garden. Take your time and gaze at the enchanting lights and beautiful exhibits.
The Desert Botanical Garden also regularly hosts special events, so check their calendar to plan accordingly. You don’t want to miss the activities, including gardening classes, dog-friendly days, and live music.
Related: Check out things to do in Tucson
Find Your Inner Zen at the Japanese Friendship Garden
Finding inner peace can be challenging for some, but the Japanese Friendship Garden in Phoenix is a great place to start. With meticulously landscaped gardens and tranquil ponds, it’s easy to forget about the stresses of everyday life.
The garden offers insight into Japanese cultures and communities with various plants, flowers, and rock formations. Different flowers bloom every month, so the natural beauty of the gardens is constantly changing.
The Koi pond, with over 1,000 fish, is a highlight. Also, watch for the many bridges dispersed throughout the garden; they are a perfect photo op.
Admission is $12 for a general ticket, but students, seniors, and military members receive a $2 discount. Buy tickets online beforehand because the crowded ticket stands may interrupt your calm state of mind…
Explore Old Town Scottsdale
Scottsdale’s Old Town district has charming shops, delicious restaurants, and lively nightlife. Visitors can spend hours exploring this hotspot.
Try the 60-minute self-guided Historic Old Town Walking Tour, which is free and brings you through many historical sights.
When you get hungry, there are plenty of places to stop for a bite. If you’re looking for something quick and easy, try one of the many food trucks parked along the street. There are countless restaurants for a sit-down meal, such as The Mission, Cafe Monarch, and Grimaldi’s.
Heading to other places in Arizona? Check out things to do in Flagstaff
Give Paddle Boarding a Try
Paddle boarding in Phoenix? If you are into watersports, paddle boarding is a great way to enjoy the scenery surrounding Phoenix. Arizona has many refreshing lakes, such as Lake Pleasant, Canyon Lake, and Saguaro Lake. Canyon Lake, in particular, is located within steep canyons, and you might spot a few mountain goats.
Bring water, life vests, and sunscreen to stay hydrated and protected from the sun.
Spending a morning or afternoon at the lakes is popular, but an evening paddle offers more shade and a spectacular view of the Arizona sunsets. Phoenix, the “Valley of the Sun,” is one of the best places in the world to catch an unforgettable sunset while paddle boarding.
If you’re new to the sport, plenty of places offer paddle board rentals and lessons, such as Riverbound Sports, No Snow Paddleboard Shop, and Go Paddle AZ.
Also, check out some of Arizona’s best kayaking spots.
Wander Through Papago Park
Papago Park is one of the most popular parks in the Phoenix metro area. The park has multiple trails for hiking and biking, a lake for fishing, and an assortment of beautiful gardens.
For beginner hikers, Crosscut Canal Path and Double Butte Loop Trail are around 2 miles and easily accessible by a parking lot. But don’t forget to stay hydrated, no matter how short your hike may be.
Hole-In-The-Rock is an essential stop, with a chamber overlooking the park’s scenic views and an Instagram-worthy photo-op. In addition, you can also stop at the fishing lagoons, take your pooch to the Papago Dog Park, or play a round of golf at Papago Golf Course.
Visit Hunt’s Tomb, where Arizona’s first governor is buried (creepy, I know), for a historical sight. You can hike up to the tomb, a relatively unknown attraction, for beautiful views of Phoenix.
The park is free and open from 5 am to 11 pm.
Related: Arizona National Parks
Check Out the Phoenix Art Museum
If you are into visual art, the Phoenix Art Museum is your place. It is the largest art museum you’ll find in Arizona. The museum is a spectacle with over 285,000 square feet packed with exhibits from all over the world.
The museum also has a fashion design wing that features rotating exhibits of contemporary designs. If you are into photography, fashion design, or contemporary art, the Phoenix Art Museum is a must-see.
Stop by the Museum Store for unique gifts, books, jewelry, and souvenirs.
Tickets are $23 for adults and $5 for children, but the museum offers free and reduced fee days if you check their calendar.
Speed on Over to the Penske Racing Museum
If you’re looking for a “wheely” good time, the Penske Racing Museum is the place to be. The museum is home to rare race cars and collectibles from some of the most iconic moments in racing history.
The museum displays 20 of the most honored cars in Penske Racing history, with detailed information on each car’s history and influence. Danny Sullivan’s famous “spin-to-win” car and The Catalina are some fan favorites.
You can also learn about Penske Racing’s contributions to the sport and see behind-the-scenes footage of what goes into being a professional racer.
If you need a bite to eat, check out Turn 4 Cafe on the museum’s second-floor weekdays from 8 am to 3 pm.
Quench Your Thirst at Rooftop Bars
Phoenix is a hot desert city, so it’s no surprise that locals love rooftop bars to escape the heat. And what goes better with a cold drink than a spectacular view?
If you want a hip and urban bar, check out From The Rooftop or Don Woods’ Say When to enjoy tasty cocktails and modern music. The ever-changing weekly events and local DJs will have you hooked for sure.
For a view of the city skyline, check out the Floor 13 Rooftop Bar. Or, if you want to pretend you’re on a beach vacation, order a frozen drink and soak up the sun at any of Phoenix’s many rooftop pools, like the LUSTRE Rooftop Bar or Outrider Rooftop Lounge.
Golf Like a Pro
The many sunny days and beautiful courses make golfing popular in Phoenix. There are many courses, each with unique features and challenges. So whether you are a beginner or an experienced golfer, there is a course for you.
If you’re looking for excellent service and two quality courses, check out Troon North. “Pinnacle” is recommended for those that like to play fast, while “Monument” offers a more scenic course. Another great course is the We-Ko-Pa Golf Club, an oasis featuring (2) 18-hole courses against a lush green backdrop.
The TPC Scottsdale is home to the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Phoenix Open, the loudest tournament on tour.
Finally, if you’re up for a drive, check out the Quintero Golf Club. It was among the top 40 golf courses in the US in 2019 and is worth a visit.
Tubing on the Salt River
Tubing on the Salt River is one of the best things to do in Phoenix if you’re looking for a relaxing and fun day, especially during the summer. The river is about an hour outside Phoenix, making it the perfect spot to escape the city heat.
The Salt River river offers a variety of activities, including paddle boarding, fishing, and kayaking. But tubing is by far the most popular activity. Tubing is fun for the whole family and is open from May 1 to late September. You can bring a tube or rent one.
The tubing experience ranges from 2 to 6 hours, depending on the speed of the water and how often you stop. You can also go kayaking on the Lower Salt River if that’s your thing.
If you go on a weekend, get there early to avoid the crowds. And don’t forget to pack plenty of sunscreen and water.
Hiking is a great way to escape the city and enjoy nature, but the Phoenix summers are brutal sometimes. What if you could still enjoy the beauty of nature under the stars without having to stress about the heat? The desert has a second life during the night, and that’s what moonlight hiking is all about.
Moonlight hiking can be done anywhere with a good sky view, but some trails are better than others. Piestewa Peak offers amazing night views and the trail is open until 11 pm. The Apache Vista Loop Trail at Phoenix Sonoran Preserve is an easy hike with excellent views.
Bring a flashlight and plenty of water. Moonlight hiking can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors and get some exercise, but it can also be dangerous if you’re not prepared.
Explore the Arizona Science Center
The Arizona Science Center is perfect for families, with hands-on activities and exhibits for kids of all ages.
Some of the most beloved permanent exhibits are the Dorrance Planetarium and CREATE Makerspace, where you can build projects and collaborate with others. The other attractions constantly rotate, so there is always something new and exciting to learn.
The Science Center is open daily from 10:30 am to 4 pm, and it takes about 3 to 4 hours to explore all the attractions.
Adult general admission tickets cost $19.95, and children’s tickets are $14.95. Special exhibits like the Irene P. Flinn Giant Theater require additional tickets.
Support the Home Team
Cheer on one of Arizona’s professional sports teams if you can. The state is home to the NFL’s Cardinals, the NHL’s Coyotes, the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, and the MLB’s Diamondbacks.
There is nothing like experiencing a live game with thousands of other fans. The energy in the stadium is electric, and you can’t help but get caught up in it.
If there aren’t any games during your visit, you can still tour many of the stadiums, which is a fun, family-friendly activity. Check out State Farm Stadium and Chase Field tours for a backstage view. The pricing and scheduling for these tours vary depending on the day, so check their websites beforehand.
Hot Air Balloon Expedition
If you are feeling adventurous, take things to a new level by checking out Phoenix’s many hot-air balloon tours. This is a bucket list experience as you float above the city and get a bird’s eye view of the desert.
Several companies offer hot air balloon rides, and prices range from $100 to $500 per person, depending on the tour package. Some popular hot air balloon agencies are Rainbow Ryders, Hot Air Expeditions, and Aerogelic Ballooning.
Phoenix also hosts hot air balloon festivals, where you can watch hundreds of balloons float through the evening sky. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you don’t want to miss out on.
Jam Out To Some Good Tunes
Rock on at one of Phoenix’s various music venues, from country to metal. You can see some of the biggest names in music or discover up-and-coming artists.
Check out The Van Buren, a hip concert venue in Downtown Phoenix, for all the different genres and a great vibe. The Marquee Theatre in Tempe is also great for catching a show. It’s one of the largest music venues in the Valley and has hosted some world-renowned acts, such as Metallica, Muse, and Ariana Grande.
For a unique concert experience in the Phoenix metro area, head to Celebrity Theater and enjoy its rotating circular stage. You will have a good view no matter where you are in the audience.
Dine at a Local Restaurant
Phoenix is home to hundreds of delectable restaurants for any occasion, so be sure to check out a few. You can find any cuisine you crave, from Mexican and Italian to Japanese and Thai.
Visit Chelsea’s Kitchen for American comfort food and a view over the canal. This is a must-visit for foodies with a wood-burning grill, an impressive craft beer and wine selection, and an extensive brunch, lunch, and dinner menu.
Los Taquitos is a popular Mexican restaurant where you can experience generations of recipes and culture while supporting a family-owned business. This restaurant was also toured by Guy Fieri and gained his stamp of approval, so you know it’s the real deal.
If you’re in the mood for nostalgia, head over to The Duce for a Jazz-Age-themed meal. They also have a retro bar, fresh produce stand, and an old-fashioned soda machine to bring you back to the 1920s and ’30s.
Musical Instrument Museum
The Musical Instrument Museum is one of the most unique museums in the world, and it’s right here in Phoenix. This museum is dedicated to showcasing over 4,300 musical instruments and artifacts from all over the globe.
You can explore different geographic galleries and learn more about African, Middle Eastern, Asian, Latin American, and European musical cultures. There is also a hands-on section where you can try some instruments yourself.
The MIM is a very family-friendly and educational option in Phoenix. Tickets cost $20 for adults, $15 for teens, and $10 for children, although a special exhibition can be viewed for an additional $10.
If you want family fun with your kids (or even alone), check out Butterfly Wonderland. This indoor rainforest is home to over 50 species of butterflies, birds, reptiles, and fish.
You can learn about a butterfly’s life cycle in the educational exhibits or stroll through the conservatory to enjoy nature’s beauty. Visitors can expect to spend 1.5 to 3 hours exploring the exhibits. Bring a camera and prepare to take some pictures of the beautiful scenery.
Butterfly Wonderland also has a cafe where you can relax and enjoy starters, main course, and dessert.
You can purchase adult tickets for $25.95 and children for $18.95 or buy a yearly membership for unlimited visits and discounted rates at the cafe and gift shop.
Witness the Taliesin West in Person
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West is one of Wright’s most famous works. This architectural masterpiece reflects Arizona’s desert environment uniquely and artfully.
The complex includes offices, theaters, a swimming pool, gardens, a workshop, and dining facilities to explore.
Taliesin West was Wright’s winter home and school in the desert from 1937 until he died in 1959. You can take a guided or solo audio tour of the grounds and buildings to learn more about Wright’s life and work.
Taliesin West is located in Scottsdale and offers tours daily. Prices will vary depending on which tour option you choose.
Related: Things to do in Scottsdale
Tempe Town Lake
If you’re looking for cool things to do in Phoenix, take a trip to Tempe Town Lake. This man-made lake is great for walking, running, relaxing, and enjoying the view.
There are also restaurants and cafes along the lake if you need a bite. On the North side of the lake, you can rent paddle boats, kayaks, and stand-up paddle boards to get out on the water.
Tempe Beach Park, a 25-acre urban park on the South side of the lake, is a great place to relax and enjoy the Arizona sunshine. The park features picnic areas, playgrounds, a walking path, and a sand volleyball court. There is also a splash pad where children can cool off and have fun.
With its central location and amenities, Tempe Town Lake is an excellent destination for locals and tourists.
Visit the Phoenix Zoo
The Phoenix Zoo is one of the largest non-profit zoos in the United States and is home to over 3,000 animals. The zoo also has a wide variety of educational programs, events, and exhibits, displaying the animals and wildlife of Arizona.
You can see everything from lions and tigers to giraffes and gorillas at the zoo. But, if you’re looking for a more hands-on experience, take a tour through Harmony Farm to see the petting zoo and farming demonstrations.
Adult tickets cost $29.95 per person, and children’s $19.95 each.
If you live in the area, consider purchasing a Phoenix Zoo Membership for free daytime admission and park discounts.
Related: Things to do in Sedona
Learn Something New at the Heard Museum
If you are interested in experiencing Native American art, culture, and exhibitions, the Heard Museum is the place for you. The museum is an engaging and educational experience with hundreds of Indigenous works.
The Heard Museum also offers a variety of dance performances, films, workshops, and other events throughout the year. You can enjoy the art galleries, sculpture gardens, and museum shop.
You can purchase tickets for individual special events or get a membership for free and discounted admission.
Adult tickets are $20, seniors are $17, and children are $9 per person. Visitors can expect to spend 2 to 3 hours exploring American Indian art and exhibits.
The Mall’s Got It All
The Phoenix area has some great shopping, so if you need a break from the heat, hit the mall. Retail therapy is the best therapy.
The Scottsdale Fashion Square is the place for high-end shoppers in the Phoenix metro area, with over 200 specialty stores, boutiques, and restaurants.
It is among the top 30 malls in the United States and is the largest mall in Arizona. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, walking around this luxury indoor mall is a fun way to escape the Arizona heat.
For a more affordable option, check out the San Tan Mall in nearby Gilbert, an open-air shopping center with lights and an incredible evening ambiance. This mall features various stores, from Apple to H&M to Bath & Body Works.
The Promenade is another excellent shopping center where you can make all your stops simultaneously. It offers a mix of retail, with stores such as Ulta and Michaels, as well as chain restaurants, such as In-N-Out Burger and Blaze Pizza.
Wind Cave Hike
One of the most popular and classic Arizona hikes is the Wind Cave Trail in nearby Mesa. The trail is just under 3 miles long and takes about an hour and a half to complete.
At the top of the trail, visitors can relax in the Wind Cave, an alcove on the side of Pass Mountain. The hike is not too challenging and gives you spectacular views of the Valley. This is the perfect Instagram photo-op to show off your adventurous side.
You will surely see lots of lizards and desert critters, and you might even see a desert tortoise, and
There is no fee to hike the Wind Cave Trail, but there is a $7 parking permit fee per vehicle. Bring water, sunscreen, and a good group of company (or enjoy a solo hike).
Enjoy Live Performances
If you are into the arts, there are plenty of options for experiencing live performances in Phoenix.
The Phoenix Symphony offers annual concerts and events, from holiday performances to classical masterpieces. You can purchase tickets for individual shows or get a subscription for the season.
The ASU Gammage is the largest performing arts center in the state and hosts various events, including Broadway shows, concerts, and other performances. The venue also has art galleries and restaurants for pre-show meals so you can spend your entire day there. Stay up to date on the shows offered by visiting their website.
You can experience delightful voices, powerful performances, and exquisite costumes at the Phoenix Opera.
Phoenix is the place to be in the evening, with its vibrant nightlife scene and endless bars, lounges, and nightclubs.
If you want a laid-back atmosphere, try one of the many bars or lounges in Downtown Phoenix. Linger Longer Lounge has a variety of atmospheres depending on which room you are in, so you can relax in the game room or dance your heart out in the DJ room. If rock is your thing, Copper Blues is the place for you, with old-school rock music, beer, and food.
Dwntwn’s visitors can enjoy upbeat Latin American music and drinks on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. If you want to dance the night away, head to GypsyBar for a neon-lit dance floor with electric energy and confetti canons. It’s impossible not to have a good time.
Wrapping It Up
There’s just something about Phoenix that makes it irresistible. The weather and food are fantastic, and the people are friendly. From award-winning dining and bars to scenic desert views, you will surely find attractions that you enjoy.
So get out there and explore the many great things that Phoenix has to offer.