26 Things to Do in Phoenix: Hikes, History, and Museums
From hikes to historical sites, you'll certainly find no shortage of things to do in Phoenix.
If you're craving clear skies, then it's probably time to book a trip to Phoenix. Nicknamed "The Valley of the Sun," the city experiences about 3,870 hours of sunshine each year, securing its place as one of the sunniest metropolitan areas in the world. You don't have to travel far to reach number one on that list, either. Yuma, Arizona, located just three hours from Phoenix, has secured the top spot. And if tons of sun isn't exactly your idea of a good time, don't worry. There are plenty of things to do in Phoenix that don't involve spending time outdoors. Below, we'll walk you through some of the most popular attractions in the city. Whether you're looking for something fun, something weird, or something to do with the kids, we've got you covered.
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Things to Do in Phoenix, Arizona
Check out the list below before booking your trip. We've researched the best of what Phoenix has to offer so that you don't have to!
The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix is one of the most famous attractions in all of Arizona. Spanning over 140 acres, it contains over 50,000 plants on display, including 485 rare and endangered species.
In addition to its exhibits, the garden offers hands-on, instructional workshops for kids and adults. These specialized classes are designed to help individuals pursue an active interest in their environment. Family nature walks and activities are also offered year-round. Other onsite attractions include a garden shop and a full-service restaurant.
The garden also grants access to the Sonoran Desert Nature Loop Trail, which provides fantastic views of the surrounding mountains. The trail operates as an exhibit, lined with desert plants that the native population once relied on for food, medicine, and building materials. Hikers will also encounter cultural examples of Tohono O'odham, Western Apache, and Hispanic households during the trek.
Don't forget to check out the Butterfly Pavillion before you go, either. The 3,200-square-foot open-air structure contains thousands of butterflies for visitors to interact with. It also contains a water feature, garden plantings, and some nursery space that's worth checking out.
Address: 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, AZ
If you're looking to get out of the sun, look no further than the Phoenix Art Museum. In addition to its climate-controlled interior, the museum presents over 20,000 works, making it the largest art museum in the southwestern United States.
Its nine collecting areas house historic items, contemporary pieces, and photographs, along with artwork representing American, Latin America, Asian, European, and indigenous cultures.
The museum also hosts a series of events throughout the year. Lectures, workshops, films, and performances help provide a more immersive and hands-on environment for visitors hanging around the museum.
Address: 1625 North Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ
South Mountain Park contains over 16,000 acres, making it one of the largest municipally managed parks in the nation. Once inside, you'll find three mountain ranges, the Ma Ha Tauk, Gila, and Guadalupe, and over 50 miles of trails for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking.
Keep an eye out for some "rock art" during your trek. The area is home to thousands of petroglyphs left behind by the ancient Hohokam people.
Dobbins Lookout is another popular destination within the park. At 2,330 feet, it remains the highest point in the area available to the public. Visitors can hike to the top or make their way up by car for unobstructed, panoramic views of the Valley.
There's also a hidden attraction down below. Located in the foothills of South Mountain Park is Mystery Castle, a sprawling 18-room, three-story structure. The home was built by Boyce Luther Gulley back in the 1930s, who had relocated to Phoenix after getting diagnosed with tuberculosis. His daughter, Mary Lou Gulley, inherited the property after his death and continued to "share" the home by giving guided tours of the castle up until she passed in 2010.
Address: 10919 S. Central Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona
The Enchanted Island Amusement Park has a little bit of something for everyone, from kids' carousels to bumper boats, thrill rides, and more. There's also an entire section dedicated to toddlers, so parents traveling with small kids don't need to worry about running out of things to do. If it's really hot out, you can always start off at the Splash Zone, which was specifically designed with this age group in mind.
Rest assured, there are plenty of activities for adults as well. The Enchanted Island Amusement Park contains 7.5 acres of scenic waterways, with pedal boat adventures available for individuals interested in spending some time on the water. Though the park is filled with new rides and equipment, the attraction actually dates back to 1935, when construction initially began.
Address: 1202 W. Encanto Blvd., Phoenix, AZ
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The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix contains over 8,000 musical instruments from more than 200 world countries. Its founder, Bob Ulrich, was determined to refocus conversations surrounding musical history to include instruments from all cultures, not just those inherited from Western classical traditions.
Visits to the museum are intended to be sensory in nature. With the help of state-of-the-art, interactive media, guests will have the opportunity to observe these instruments, hear how they sound, and witness them being played in their original contexts.
In addition to the many concerts and musical programs hosted throughout the year, the Musical Instrument Museum also hosts kid's programs and professional development workshops to help educators improve their musical curriculum.
Address: 4725 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix, AZ
Phoenix's Wildlife World Zoo contains the largest collection of exotic and endangered animals in Arizona. In addition to the main zoo, the property contains an aquarium and safari park, where visitors can spot animals including white alligators, baboons, monster fish, and more.
In total, the zoo contains 600 animals, though it offers a whole lot more than that. Access to roller coasters, ziplines, daily shows, and a petting zoo are all included in the price of admission. Other popular perks include the baby animal nursery, giraffe feeding station, and other wildlife encounters.
Address: 16501 W Northern Avenue, Litchfield Park, AZ
It may not be the most obvious stop to pencil into the itinerary but it does serve as one of the city's more interesting attractions. Each year, thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats migrate from Phoenix to Mexico. The journey, which takes place anywhere between May and October, kicks off at an abandoned storm drain, which locals have dubbed the Phoenix Bat Cave.
Arrive just before dusk for the best chances of seeing the bats. This is when they're most likely to emerge, whirling, chirping, and diving after insects. You can also scan the area for signs providing more information on these amazing creatures, an addition provided by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Address: Intersection of 40th Street and Camelback Road
The Arizona Science Center has definitely secured a top spot on the best things to do in Phoenix with kids. Considered a premiere education destination, the center contains a series of permanent exhibits surrounding the science of flight, physics, and the forces of nature. There's also a planetarium and theater available to show films in 2D or 3D format.
Be sure to check out the schedule before you visit. While the center's permanent programs are well worth the admission, it also hosts a series of rotating exhibitions that may appeal to a certain someone in your group. Events also take place at the center throughout the year, from STEM programs to engineering fairs, and more.
Address: 600 East Washington Street, Phoenix, AZ
Walking around Downtown Phoenix is a great way to get familiar with the city. With over 200 bars and restaurants, 45 coffee shops, and 10 live music venues, you'll certainly experience no shortage of things to do.
There are also tons of events taking place at any given time. Concerts, karaoke, and historic tours are always available, so it can't hurt to do a little research before you venture out. You'll also find some of the city's most popular attractions located downtown, including the Arizona Science Center, the Children's Museum of Phoenix, and the ASU Mercado.
While Phoenix's downtown area is considered one of the most walkable parts of the city, some prefer to bike or use the light rail to get around.
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The Pueblo Grande Museum was first established back in 1929, having been in operation for over 90 years. The main attraction revolves around its Archeological Park, which features a short trail encircling the remains of the prehistoric Hohokam people's ballcourt and platform. The area is believed to have been settled sometime before 500 A.D. and abandoned around 1450 for reasons that are still unknown.
Other museum attractions include a variety of native plants, walk-in replicated dwellings, and an interpretive agricultural garden growing cotton, corn, beans, squash, and amaranth.
There are also three galleries where visitors can learn more about the Hohokam people and their relationship to the surrounding environment. One of those exhibits was specifically designed with children in mind, using hands-on and interactive exhibits to detail the archaeological process.
Address: 4619 E. Washington Street, Phoenix, Arizona
The Butterfly Wonderland is located in nearby Scottsdale and contains over 70 different species of butterflies. The man-made tropical paradise actually accounts for one of the largest butterfly conservatories in North America.
In addition to the butterflies, the attraction also houses a few Koi fish, some tiny tropical finches, and a couple of chickens. There's also a reptile exhibit where guests can get up close and personal with reptiles and amphibians that naturally coexist with butterflies out in the rainforest.
Other must-see stations to check out before you go cover edible insects, tropical fish, honey bees, and arthropods. Oh, and there's also a 3D theater worth checking out!
Address: 9500 E. Via de Ventura Scottsdale, AZ
If you like your explorations of nature bundled with the strange and unusual, this next stop is for you. Located in downtown Phoenix, this fine science and natural history emporium offers everything from ethically sourced taxidermy, to skulls, and bones, exotic plants, collectibles, and more.
Those interested in learning more about what they mean by "ethically sourced" can rest assured knowing that all taxidermy mounts died a natural death, and none were hunted or killed for sport. All the artists and suppliers they work with strictly collect animals that have expired naturally on a farm or out in the wild. Similarly, most bones and skulls found within the shop are byproducts of the farming industry or cultural practices.
Address: 5032 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ
Tempe Town Lake is the second-most popular public attraction in all of Arizona (unsurprisingly, the Grand Canyon ranks as the top attraction in town). The two-mile stretch was created by damming a portion of the dry Salt River and adding water.
Today, the lake provides a variety of recreational activities as well as trails where people can walk, jog, and bike around. While swimming isn't an option because of the water quality, there is ample opportunity for kayaking, paddleboarding, rowing, walking, and fishing.
Annual concerts, picnics, and festivals like the Tempe Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade, Innings Festival, and Aloha Festival also take place in the area.
Address: 550 E. Tempe Town Lake, Tempe, AZ 85281
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Located less than 30 minutes away from Phoenix, Old Town Scottsdale provides lots of historical contributions worth exploring. Self-guided excursions will introduce you to some of the oldest buildings in town, from the Little Red Schoolhouse, built in 1909 to the Blacksmith Shop which opened up back in 1910. You'll also take in some original signage and storefronts during the tour.
Other spots worth scouting out include hidden speakeasies and spas. Seriously, don't skip out on the latter—Scottsdale contains more destination spas per capita than anywhere else in the nation. Once you're done there, you can visit any one of the area's many museums, tap rooms, or shopping centers.
You can either venture out by car or use the trolley to get around. There's no charge to ride and the loop takes you to some of the most popular areas in the city.
The Wildlife World Zoo isn't the only one of its kind in town. The Phoenix Zoo has welcomed more than 42 million visitors since it originally opened back in 1962. Today, it remains one of the largest non-profit zoos in the United States, with over 3,000 animals from nearly 400 different species.
The zoo is also widely regarded for its conservation efforts. In addition to research and fieldwork, the organization's conservation scientists help raise and breed native species that they will later release into the wild. The zoo also participates in conservation projects taking place around the world.
In addition to animal encounters and presentations, the zoo offers a series of activities including carousel rides, splash zones, and farm areas. Education programs and tours are also available all year long.
Address: 455 North Galvin ParkwayPhoenix, AZ
The Legoland Discovery Center in Phoenix is one of our favorite places to bring the kids. Seriously, be sure to bring the kids—you won't be allowed in without some little ones in tow!
Once inside, you'll find a LEGO replica of Arizona's most infamous landmarks, creative workshops, rides, a space to meet your favorite LEGO characters, along with a 4D cinema.
Check the schedule to see if there are any special events taking place during the time of your visit. There's also a coffee shop onsite for when you start running out of steam. And, of course, a gift shop for anyone who wants to bring home some souvenirs.
Address: 5000 S. Arizona Mills Circle, Ste. 135 Tempe, AZ
Papago Park is one of the most popular open-air attractions near Phoenix. Known for its red butte formations, the park contains several hiking trails which vary in difficulty. The Hole-In-The-Wall Trail is likely the most famous, thanks to an intriguing rock formation once used by the ancient Hohokam civilization to track the position of the sun.
The area also contains seven acres of stocked fishing lagoons and easy access to several nearby attractions including the Phoenix Zoo, the Papago Golf Course, and the Desert Botanical Garden.
Address: 625 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ
Goldfield Ghost Town is located on the historic Apache Trail and was once celebrated for its gold-mining operations. Today, visitors can get a glimpse of what life was once like here through costumed interpreters and walk-in replicated buildings.
Other attractions include the Goldfield Historic Museum, gold panning activities, staged gunfights, a shooting gallery, narrated railroad adventures, and guided tours of the Apache Trail. There's even a saloon and steakhouse onsite where you can enjoy some food and drink before heading home.
Address: 4650 N Mammoth Mine Rd, Apache Junction, AZ
Camelback Mountain is one of Phoenix's most stunning outdoor attractions. Located just 20 minutes outside of the city limits, it provides some of the best hikes in the area. The two most well-known paths are a little arduous, so you shouldn't try to attempt the trek with anyone who isn't up for the challenge.
Both Cholla Trail and Echo Canyon Trail are extremely steep, and rocky, but well worth it for the 360 views you'll enjoy from the summit. Handrails are available to help individuals climb to the top. Hikers should also prepare for exposed rock and sections of hand-over-hand climbing. In total, these excursions take about two to three hours to complete.
Of course, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the mountain without breaking a sweat. There are lots of restaurants, patios, and pools scattered around the area that provide great views and other amazing experiences.
Address: 4925 E. McDonald Drive, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253
The Taliesin West House once served as a winter home and desert laboratory to famed American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. The structure is nestled in the desert foothills of the McDowell Mountains, about 20 minutes outside of Phoenix.
The home, which is now preserved by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, was first established in 1937 by Wright and his apprentices. Having taken great care to embed the structure within the desert landscape, the team was able to use local materials to expand and alter the space.
Over the years, a drafting studio, dining facility, workshop, private living quarters, and three theaters were added to the property. Wright used a series of walkways, terraces, pools, and gardens to connect the buildings. He also designed all of the interior furniture and decorations, which were almost entirely on-site by his apprentices.
Today, the structure is a UNESCO World Heritage site and National Historic Landmark. Guided tours are available year-round to explore the home, inside and out. Book clubs, screenings, and wellness programs are also hosted on the property throughout the year.
Address: 12621 N Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ
If you haven't yet gotten your architectural fix, then be sure to make this your next stop. The site was launched by Paolo Soleri, who had originally come to the area to study under Wright as an apprentice.
Though it originally served as a workshop where Soleri would create pots, platters, and light fixtures to sell to local galleries, the area was soon dedicated to architectural trials. Eventually, these efforts lead to the construction of the experimental city, Arcosanti.
Today, the community has attracted around 70 full-time residents. The individuals there are all committed to the principle of Arcology, the fusion of architecture and ecology. Guided tours are available to give visitors a better sense of how the people coexist. Workshops, lectures, and private events also take place on the property. And, hey, if you're really ambitious, you can even spend the night!
Address: 13555 S Cross L Road, Mayer, AZ
Founded back in 1929, the Heard Museum has become internationally recognized, most celebrated for its focus on American Indian culture and contemporary art. Its permanent collections range from ancestral artifacts to more modern paintings, jewelry, and more.
Outside, you'll find a series of courtyards with different landscapes, water features, and sculptures. That also includes an amphitheater where music and dance performances typically take place. Visitors will also enjoy opportunities to participate in different hands-on activities, from bead weaving to Apache burden baskets and other forms of wearable art.
Address: 2301 North Central Avenue Phoenix, AZ
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Another one of Phoenix's great outdoor spaces, the Japanese Friendship Garden stretches over three acres. The area also includes an authentic tea garden and tea house. Once inside, visitors will encounter over 50 varieties of plants and 1,500 tons of hand-picked rock, stone footbridges, and lanterns. There is also a 12-foot waterfall and a Koi pond with over 300 colorful fish to take in.
The idea for the garden first emerged back in 1987 as a way to cement the bond between the people of Phoenix and residents of their sister city in Himeji, Japan. All the decorative features housed in the garden, which is officially named RoHoEn, are actually gifts from the City of Himeji and its citizens.
Address: 1125 N. 3rd Avenue, Phoenix, Az
The Hall of Flame Fire Museum in Phoenix contains over 130 wheeled pieces and 10,000 other objects, all related to firefighting. Some of the pieces date as far back as 1725.
The museum was inspired by the personal collection of its founder, George F. Getz, Jr., who first took up an interest in fire apparatus after his wife gifted him a 1924 American LaFrance fire engine one year for Christmas. Together with their two sons, the couple continued to collect similar items from all around the world.
Today, the collection includes everything from motorized pieces to fire alarms, to extinguishers, helmets, and more. There's also a "Hall of Heroes" to pay tribute to firefighters who have died in the line of duty and recognize those for certain acts of valor.
Address: 6101 E Van Buren St, Phoenix, AZ
Recognized as one of the best of its kind throughout the nation, the Children's Museum of Phoenix provides over 48,000 feet of interactive space for children to exercise their imagination, inspiration, and creativity.
Spanning its three floors, visitors will find over 300 play experiences along with special events surrounding music, yoga, math, and science.
Exhibits are designed with certain ages in mind, so you don't have to worry about your kids encountering anything they aren't quite old enough to handle. Baby zones are also incorporated into each exhibit so that individuals with older kids don't have to juggle their time between two exhibit spaces.
While nursing is allowed throughout the entire museum, there is a dedicated nursing area on the third floor for those looking for a little more privacy.
Address: 215 N 7th St, Phoenix, AZ
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Phoenix may not be the land of NASCAR, but it does contain one of the best racing teams in the country. The Penske Racing Museum was established to celebrate the sport's history and influence on the area. Today, its collection contains cars, trophies, and racing memorabilia chronicling over 50 years of racing experience and 500 major wins.
Some of the most notable vehicles on display include a replica of the 1963 Pontiac Catalina which Roger Penske drove to victory in the 1963 Riverside 250. There are also a number of Indianapolis 500-mile race winners, including the 1985 March Ford that Danny Sullivan drove to victory during that year's Indy 500.
Address: 7125 E Chauncey Ln, Phoenix, AZ
That's a wrap on the best things to do in Phoenix, but check back with us soon! Travelicious, supported by Best Life, is committed to helping you find your next adventure. Sign up for our newsletter to enjoy expert-backed tips for navigating our favorite U.S. destinations!
What is the top attraction in Arizona?
The Grand Canyon remains the top attraction in Arizona, though there are a few things in Phoenix that come in a close second. Tempe Town Lake is the second most visited public attraction in the state. The Phoenix Mountains also bring in millions of visitors each year, along with its world-class museums, and areas dedicated to Native American heritage.
What is unique about Phoenix?
The city's climate remains one of its most unique aspects. Not only is Greater Phoenix located in the Sonoran Desert—one of the wettest and greenest desserts in North America—but it is also incredibly sunny, with about 3,870 hours of sunshine each year.
What are the best things to do in Phoenix with kids?
Phoenix is a great place to visit with kids. In fact, it contains some of the most acclaimed attractions for little ones throughout the nation. Some of our favorite places to visit include:
- The Children's Museum of Phoenix
- Legoland Discovery Center
- Tempe Town Lake
- Enchanted Island Amusement Park
- The Musical Instrument Museum
- The Wildlife World Zoo
- Goldfield Ghost Town
- The Arizona Science Center
What are some things you can do in Phoenix with your grandparents?
Phoenix contains some of the most incredible landscapes in the country, but not all are accessible to individuals with limited mobility. Still, the city provides plenty of activities for senior visitors to enjoy.
- The Heard Museum
- South Mountain Park
- The Pueblo Grande Museum
- Old Town Scottsdale
- The Taliesin West House
- The Japanese Friendship Garden
- Papago Park