14 Best Things to Do in Carefree (AZ)

Written by Bart Meeuwesen
Updated on
Our travel recommendations are based on our personal experiences and research, written by locals and travel experts with deep familiarity with the destination. When you book a hotel or tour that we link to, we may earn a commission.

Carefree is a small city of around 3,000 people, located in Maricopa County in the state of Arizona. It was built in the mid-1950s by K.T. Palmer and his business associate Tom Darlington. The selling of land began in 1955, while the building process started in 1958. In order to avoid being annexed to Scottsdale, Carefree was incorporated in 1984.

This city prides itself on having the third largest sundial in the Western Hemisphere. It’s made from steel and covered in copper, with a diameter of 27 meters.

Now let’s take a look at some of the best things to do in Carefree.

1. Take a Hike in the Cave Creek Regional Park

Cave Creek Regional ParkSource: jmenard48 / Flickr
Cave Creek Regional Park

If you like to admire the beauty of nature, incredible plants, cactuses and wild animals, then taking a hike in the Cave Creek Regional Park can make a great outdoor activity. It has multiple trails that you can take, depending on your level of fitness.

Make sure to wear suitable clothes, shoes and a hat, and to have enough water with you, as it can get quite hot in the Arizona desert. The trails are well-marked and maintained, so you can’t get lost here. The park also contains nice campsites, good picnic areas and some spectacular scenery with unique cactuses of various sizes.

2. Visit the Carefree Desert Gardens

Carefree Desert GardensSource: Roger Siljander / shutterstock
Carefree Desert Gardens

An amazing oasis in the desert, this place is one of the only 2 public botanical gardens in the area. It is located in downtown Carefree and it includes a wide variety of native plants, sculptures and fountains.

It is a really beautiful place to admire and take photos. Even though it’s small, it still has a lot of interesting plants and many unique cactuses. All plants are labeled, so you know exactly what you are looking at.

And besides this, there are many bars, restaurants and shops nearby, so you can stop for refreshment when you are finished admiring the gardens.

3. Also See the Spur Cross Ranch

Spur Cross Ranch Conservation AreaSource: Joel Hensler / shutterstock
Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area

Yet another beautiful area for a hike, the Spur Cross Ranch also features multiple trails of various difficulty and lots and lots of cactuses. It’s a nice outdoor experience for the entire family. It’s best to go early in the morning or late in the afternoon, to avoid the hot sun.

You can choose to hike or to ride a bike or a horse. You might also encounter plenty of birds and other animals. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water with you.

4. Be Amused by the Phallic Rock

The Phallic RockSource: Jason J. Corneveaux, User:Caddymob (talk) / Wikimedia
The Phallic Rock

While it’s not something easy to explain to the kids, adults will have a good chuckle at this rock that resembles a male phallus. But you don’t need to go there just for the funny looking rock, as there are plenty of other things to admire in the area.

Stop by, enjoy the nature, take a picture of the funny boulder and then continue your journey through Carefree.

5. See the Huge Carefree Sundial

Carefree SundialSource: marada / Flickr
Carefree Sundial

As we mentioned earlier, Carefree prides itself on its huge and unique sundial. It is located in the center of the city and it is surrounded by lots of shops, restaurants, art galleries and various exhibitions, depending on the time of year.

It’s a nice and relaxing place to just walk around and admire. Check out the sundial, take some photos, and then grab some food and a souvenir.

6. Visit the Enchanted Pumpkin Garden

Carefree Pumpkin FestivalSource: Sean Leonard / shutterstock
Carefree Pumpkin Festival

A seasonal display that takes place every year in October, this place is packed with lots of interesting, unique and spooky carved pumpkins. They are cleverly aligned with the surrounding environment, performing various activities.

For example, you will see 2 pumpkins fishing, one sitting on the toilet, another one jumping off a trampoline, another one riding a carriage pulled by another pumpkin, and many more other interesting tableaus.

Depending on when you arrive, you might also be able to watch the carving masters in action. You can easily spend a couple of hours here before moving on to the nearby stores or local eateries.

7. Visit the Cave Creek Museum

Cave Creek MuseumSource: Marine 69-71 / Wikimedia
Cave Creek Museum

Located pretty close to Carefree, the Cave Creek Museum is a great place to visit for the entire family. You will get a better understanding of the history of the area and the way people used to live in the past.

The museum has four main areas and it includes a variety of exhibits such as ranch devices and tools, the earliest church of Cave Creek, the last original Tubercular Cabin in the State, a mill for pressing ore and much more.

There is also a great Museum shop, where you can find history books about the Southwest and gifts from Arizona.

8. Also Visit the M & E Art Gallery

M & E Art GallerySource: M & E Fine Art Gallery / Facebook
M & E Art Gallery

If you are passionate about art and want to admire some beautiful paintings, sculptures, textiles, pottery and more, then definitely stop by this place. The name M & E comes after the artists who created everything, Michael and Ekaterina Stoyanova.

They are two very talented Bulgarian artists and they’ve created this art gallery for everyone to admire their work and passion. If there is anything that you particularly enjoy, you are able to buy it. The work of these artists is highly appreciated and sought after in the area.

9. Admire The Frontier Town

Frontier Town, Cave Creek, ArizonaSource: tishomir / shutterstock
Frontier Town, Cave Creek, Arizona

The Frontier Town is a one-of-a-kind western town and also the first western entertainment destination in Arizona. It presents life just like it used to be in the past, and visitors can also watch various shows and stunts.

Everything looks and feels just like in the old west, and tourists of all ages and nationalities are very pleased by this place. The center also includes music, events and lots of stores where you can get some unique gifts, so you can easily spend a few hours here.

10. Mountain Bike the Brown’s Ranch Trailhead

Brown’s Ranch TrailheadSource: Ray Redstone / shutterstock
Brown’s Ranch Trailhead

You can choose to hike this trail, but we suggest riding a bike instead. You can just rent a bike and ride it wherever you want, or you can get a guided tour with an expert who will take care of everything.

There are trails for all levels in the area and they are not too rocky, making them easy to cycle or walk on. Just make sure to wear proper clothes and to have plenty of water with you. Along the way you will also find information boards that present the history of the area, as well as fascinating plants, cactuses and rocks.

11. Get a Book from the Desert Foothills Library

Desert Foothills LibrarySource: Desert Foothills Library / Facebook
Desert Foothills Library

If you like reading and want to get a good book for that long road back home, then make sure to stop by the Desert Foothills Library. The place is quite large and it includes a library and a resource center, with plenty of staff and volunteers.

You will find a wide selection of books, movies on DVDs, music, magazines, toys and more. There are also “story times” and other activities for kids, so they will be occupied while you explore the bookshelves.

12. Wear a Costume at Debs Wild West Memories

Debs Wild West MemoriesSource: Debs Wild West Memories / Facebook
Debs Wild West Memories

Ever wondered how you would look like in a cowboy outfit? Then make sure to stop by this place and try one. They have plenty of cool costumes for men, women and kids, and you can take lots of photos with the old west décor as your backdrop.

Deb is very friendly and will help you get immersed in the background in various scenes, so that the photos will look as authentic as possible. She will then print the photos for you, so you can have some great memories from Carefree, Arizona.

13. Get some French Antiques from Un Jour En France

Un Jour En FranceSource: Un Jour en France / Facebook
Un Jour En France

If you are tired of the same items that can be found in most gift shops with an old west theme, then feel free to stop by Un Jour En France, a store specializing in genuine antiques, furniture and art objects from France.

Each of the items has its own story and contains a bit of French history. Isabelle, the owner, is very friendly and will gladly tell you everything about each one of the items displayed.

14. Relax at the Boulders Resort & Spa

The Boulders Resort & SpaSource: theboulders
The Boulders Resort & Spa

If you’re exhausted from all the hiking, mountain biking and shopping, now you can head on to this spa and completely relax your body and mind.

This is a large spa that offers a variety of relaxing and stimulating services such as massages, therapeutic baths, saunas, a swimming pool and all sorts of body treatments.

The staff is professional and friendly, and the place also includes a hotel, a tearoom, a restaurant and a golf course. You will definitely feel refreshed and ready to travel some more and experience more wonderful places.

14 Best Things to Do in Carefree (AZ):

  • Take a Hike in the Cave Creek Regional Park
  • Visit the Carefree Desert Gardens
  • Also See the Spur Cross Ranch
  • Be Amused by the Phallic Rock
  • See the Huge Carefree Sundial
  • Visit the Enchanted Pumpkin Garden
  • Visit the Cave Creek Museum
  • Also Visit the M & E Art Gallery
  • Admire The Frontier Town
  • Mountain Bike the Brown’s Ranch Trailhead
  • Get a Book from the Desert Foothills Library
  • Wear a Costume at Debs Wild West Memories
  • Get some French Antiques from Un Jour En France
  • Relax at the Boulders Resort & Spa