26 Fun Things To Do in Phoenix – Ultimate Valley of the Sun Guide

Phoenix, AZ, is a fantastic city for people who love the outdoors. The sun shines almost every day, the temperatures are perfect for pool parties and outdoor activities, and the nightlife is always vibrant.

Not to mention, there’s no shortage of excellent restaurants, shopping experiences, and cultural attractions.

Whether you’re looking for a cultural experience or just a place to relax in the sun, Phoenix is the perfect destination. 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

Things to do in Phoenix, visit the Desert Botanical GardenPin
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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 get away from the busy city life 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. Be sure to bring comfortable walking shoes, as you will be walking almost 2 miles to take in all the beautiful scenery.

Visitors can enjoy an after-sunset stroll through the garden. Take your time and gaze at the enchanting lights and vibrant exhibits.

The Desert Botanical Garden also regularly hosts special events and exhibitions, so check out their calendar to plan accordingly. You don’t want to miss out on 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

Phoenix Japanese Friendship GardenPin
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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 and find your inner zen.

The garden offers a bright and colorful insight into Japanese cultures and communities with various plants, flowers, and rocks. Different flowers bloom every month, so the natural beauty of the gardens is constantly changing.

The Koi pond with over 1,000 eye-catching fish will surely highlight your trip. Also, keep an eye out 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. It is recommended to 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 is home to charming shops, delicious restaurants, and lively nightlife venues. In addition, you can spend hours exploring the narrow streets and admiring the historic architecture.

For those that love a shopping spree, check out Scottsdale Fashion Square for stores ranging from Dior to Apple to Harkins Theaters. You can also find unique art galleries and exhibits to inspire you, such as Wonderscapes Arizona and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

Don’t be afraid to try out the 60-minute self-guided Historic Old Town Walking Tour, which is free and brings you through 15 of the most historical sights in town.

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. In addition, there are countless restaurants to choose from 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

If you are into watersports, paddle boarding is a great way to enjoy the beautiful scenery surrounding Phoenix and get a workout. Arizona is home to many refreshing lakes, such as Lake Pleasant, Canyon Lake, and Saguaro Lake. The lakes are located within stunning Arizona canyons, and you might spot a few mountain goats.

Bring water, life vests, and sunscreen to stay hydrated and protected from the harsh sun.

Spending a morning or afternoon at the lakes is popular, but an evening paddle will offer you 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.

Everyone can have a blast paddling around on the water, whether young or old, beginner or expert.

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

Exploring Papago Park is a fun thing to do in PhoenixPin
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Papago Park is one of the most popular parks in the Phoenix metro area, and for good reason. With over 10 miles of trails for hiking and biking, a lake for fishing, and an assortment of beautiful gardens, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

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 for lovers of the outdoors, with a chamber outlooking the park’s scenic views and an Instagram-worthy photo-op. 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, 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 an international spectacle with over 285,000 square feet packed with exhibits of European, Asian, Latin American, and Western American art and designs.

The museum also has a fashion design wing that features rotating exhibits of contemporary designs. So whether you are into photography, fashion design, or contemporary art, there is something for everyone.

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 a collection of 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 on weekdays from 8am to 3pm.

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 are looking for 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.

If you want 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.

There are many rooftop bars in the Phoenix area, so you will definitely be able to find a vibe that fits you.

Golf Like a Pro

Golf course in PhoenixPin
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Thanks to the many sunny days and beautiful courses, golfing is popular in Phoenix. There are many different golf courses throughout the state, 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 2 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.

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 definitely worth a visit.

There are plenty of great golf courses to choose from, so you’re sure to “hole” in on one you love. Make sure you check with each course beforehand to see the fees, and you’ll be set.

Tubing on the Salt River

Salt River, AZPin

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 located about an hour outside Phoenix, making it the perfect spot to escape the city heat.

The river offers a variety of activities, including swimming, fishing, and kayaking. But tubing is by far the most popular activity. Tubing is fun for the whole family (as long as your kids are over 48″ tall) and is open from May 1 to late September. You can bring your own tube or rent one from the many companies near the river.

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.

Moonlight Hike

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 truly gets 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. The Apache Vista Loop Trail and Piestewa Park are beginner-friendly hikes under 3 miles round trip. However, if you are looking for a more challenging night hike, Black Top Mesa offers a 12-mile round trip experience that will give you a magical moonlit adventure.

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, as there are hands-on activities and exhibits for kids of all ages. This interactive museum offers something for everyone, from exhibits on natural history to the latest technology.

Some of the most beloved permanent exhibits are the Dorrance Planetarium and CREATE Makerspace, where you can build your own projects and collaborate with others. The other attractions are constantly rotating, 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 of 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

If you have the opportunity, cheer on one of Arizona’s professional sports teams in their home stadium. The state is home to the NFL’s Cardinals, the NHL’s Coyotes, the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, the MLB’s Diamondbacks, and more.

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 definitely 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, so do your research to find the best one for you. 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. There is something for everyone, 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 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 type of cuisine you’re craving, from Mexican and Italian to Japanese and Thai.

Visit Chelsea’s Kitchen for American comfort food and a stunning view over the canal. With a wood-burning grill, an impressive craft beer and wine selection, and an extensive brunch, lunch, and dinner menu, this is a must-visit for any foodie in the Phoenix area.

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 and can be enjoyed by anyone, from toddlers to adults.

Tickets cost $20 for adults, $15 for teens, and $10 for children, although a special exhibition can be viewed for an additional $10.

Butterfly Wonderland

If you are looking for some 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 take a stroll through the conservatory and enjoy the beauty of nature. 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 a must-see for anyone visiting Phoenix because it is a National Historic Landmark and 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 his death 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

Tempe Town Lake at night is a fun thing to do in PhoenixPin
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If you’re looking for cool things to do in Phoenix, take a day trip to Tempe Town Lake. This man-made lake is a great place to take a walk, go for a run, or just relax and enjoy the view.

There are also restaurants and cafes along the lake if you need to grab a bite to eat. You can enjoy live music while surrounded by a beautiful setting.

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 alike.

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 are $29.95 per person, and children’s are $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 for all, 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 shopping centers under the guidance of a free tour.

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 the American Indian art and exhibits.

The Mall’s Got It All

If you are feeling blue during your visit, take yourself shopping. Retail therapy is the best therapy.

The Scottsdale Fashion Square is the place to be 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, 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 at once. 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. 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.

At the Phoenix Opera, you can experience delightful voices, powerful performances, and exquisite costumes. From romance to action to comedy, there are performances for everyone.

Night Life

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.

For a more lively experience, check out Scottsdale’s nightclubs. 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 to not have a good time.

Wrapping It Up

There’s just something about Phoenix that makes it irresistible. The weather is fantastic, the food is delicious, and the people are friendly. From award-winning dining and bars to scenic desert views, you will surely find attractions that you enjoy.

We hope this article helped you learn about the top things to do in Phoenix, Arizona. So get out there and explore the many great things that Phoenix has to offer.

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About the author
Steve
Steve is the owner of Paddle About, a blog that's all about helping people get out and enjoy nature. He loves to kayak, camp, hike and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not out exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.