As I explored the charming town of El Mirage, Arizona, I couldn’t help but marvel at its transformation from a remote cattle outpost to a burgeoning suburb of Phoenix. This city, once considered distant, is now experiencing rapid growth at an unimaginable pace.
Nestled in the northwest corner of the Valley of the Sun, El Mirage finds itself in close proximity to some of the largest retirement communities in the country. Sun City, Sun City West, and Sun City Grand are just a stone’s throw away, offering a vibrant and active lifestyle for residents.
But El Mirage’s appeal extends beyond its convenient location. It is surrounded by sprawling parks that showcase the stunning beauty of the Sonoran Desert. These parks span thousands of acres, treating visitors to some of the most breathtaking scenery they could ever hope to encounter.
Now, let’s delve into 15 remarkable things to do in El Mirage that deserve a spot on your must-visit list.
1. Challenger Space Center
If you have a fascination with space and all the wonders it holds, you’ll be thrilled to visit the Challenger Space Center in nearby Peoria, Arizona. It serves as the state’s hub for everything related to space, space travel, and the vast universe that surrounds us.
As I stepped into the center, I was greeted by a captivating blend of education and entertainment. The museum brims with engaging exhibits, captivating relics, and fascinating memorabilia. What truly sets it apart is the opportunity to hear firsthand accounts from individuals who played pivotal roles in the exploration of space.
While space is the center’s main focus, they also offer instructional classes in various fields of popular science. From delving into the secrets of electricity to exploring the wonders of magnetism, there’s something for everyone to learn and discover.
Stepping into the cool, air-conditioned environment of the Challenger Space Center provided a welcome respite from the relentless Arizona sun. It was the perfect place to not only escape the heat but also expand my knowledge and understanding of the cosmos.
For specific details and upcoming events, I highly recommend checking out their their website.
2. The Heard Museum
Hands down, the Heard Museum in downtown Phoenix is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in delving into the rich tapestry of Native American art, culture, and history in Arizona.
As soon as I stepped through the doors, I knew I was in for a unique and unparalleled experience. The Heard Museum stands as a beacon of cultural preservation, not just within Arizona, but on a global scale.
Established back in 1929 by the Heard family, the museum has been a steadfast guardian of Native American heritage ever since. Its mission is clear: to protect and promote the vibrant art and diverse cultures of the Native American communities that call Arizona and the Southwest home.
Wandering through the museum’s halls, I was captivated by the extensive collection of artwork and artifacts that beautifully showcased the talent and craftsmanship of Native American artists. From intricate pottery to stunning textiles and breathtaking sculptures, the displays offered a glimpse into the rich artistic traditions passed down through generations.
The Heard Museum isn’t just a treasure trove of art and history—it’s a comprehensive experience. I took the time to browse through the incredible gift shop, where I found a myriad of authentic Native American crafts and keepsakes. When hunger struck, the on-site café provided a delightful space to relax and savor some delicious cuisine.
What truly sets the Heard Museum apart is its dedication to hosting a variety of art shows and festivals throughout the year, all centered around the theme of Native American culture. These events offer an immersive and interactive way to engage with the vibrant traditions and stories of indigenous communities.
3. Sahuaro Ranch Historic Area
Arizona’s rich history of cattle ranching has shaped the state’s economy and left its mark on the landscape. It’s fascinating to discover that many of the areas now part of metro-Phoenix were once sprawling deserts where herds roamed freely.
One such place that offers a glimpse into this ranching heritage is the Sahuaro Ranch Historic Area, nestled on nearly 20 acres in Glendale. As I stepped onto this historic site, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of awe knowing that I was standing on what is believed to be the oldest ranch in Maricopa County, with a documented history dating back to the mid-1800s.
The ranch has undergone careful restoration, breathing new life into its buildings, gardens, barns, and orchard. Exploring this expansive area was like stepping back in time. From the rustic charm of the buildings to the serene beauty of the gardens, every corner of Sahuaro Ranch had a story to tell.
The dedication to preserving the valley’s ranching legacy is evident throughout the site. Knowledgeable guides offer tours that transport visitors to a bygone era, sharing captivating tales and insights. For those eager to dive deeper into the ranching lifestyle, hands-on activities provide a unique opportunity to experience the daily tasks and challenges faced by early settlers.
The displays and exhibits at Sahuaro Ranch are informative and engaging, bringing the history to life. It’s fascinating to see artifacts and photographs that depict the hardships and triumphs of those who worked the land. The ranch also hosts special events and workshops, further enriching the experience and creating lasting memories.
As I left the Sahuaro Ranch Historic Area, I felt a deep appreciation for the pioneers who shaped Arizona’s ranching heritage. Their perseverance and dedication to this way of life have left an indelible mark on the state’s identity. It’s through places like Sahuaro Ranch that we can gain a deeper understanding of our past and carry these stories forward for future generations to appreciate.
4. Castles ‘n Coasters
If you’re seeking an action-packed adventure in the Phoenix area, look no further than Castles ‘n Coasters, conveniently located just off Interstate 17 north of downtown Phoenix. This amusement park is the ultimate destination for thrilling rides, exciting slides, boat rides, and an array of games.
I must admit, this park is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. During peak times, such as weekends and holidays, it can get quite crowded. However, fear not! I’ve discovered a secret to enjoying all the park has to offer without the overwhelming chaos. Consider planning your visit on a weekday or arriving in the morning before the crowds gather. This way, you can fully immerse yourself in the excitement without the hustle and bustle.
Castles ‘n Coasters offers a wide range of activities that cater to all ages and preferences. Whether you’re a fan of mini-golf or an adrenaline junkie seeking exhilarating roller coasters, this park has something for everyone. Oh, and did I mention the wet and wild water area? It’s a refreshing oasis that guarantees hours of splashing fun.
The vibrant atmosphere, filled with laughter and excitement, created an unforgettable experience. From challenging friends to a round of mini-golf to braving the twists and turns of the roller coasters, there was never a dull moment.
If you’re up for a fun-filled day of adventure, Castles ‘n Coasters should be at the top of your list. It’s a place where memories are made and laughter echoes throughout the park.
5. Pioneer Living History Museum
If you’re intrigued by the rich history of Arizona’s pioneers, The Pioneer Living History Museum, also known as Pioneer Village, is an absolute must-visit. Conveniently located on West Pioneer Road in Phoenix, just off Interstate 17, this museum offers a glimpse into the past with its collection of 30 meticulously restored buildings from the 1800s.
As I strolled through the museum’s grounds, which span nearly 100 acres, I couldn’t help but be captivated by the authentic atmosphere that transported me back to Arizona’s territorial days. It’s truly one of the best places in the area to immerse yourself in the captivating stories and remarkable achievements of the state’s pioneers.
The roots of this remarkable museum stretch back to the 1950s when a group of passionate and community-oriented individuals became deeply concerned about the destruction of the town’s historical buildings. Motivated by a shared desire to preserve the legacy of Arizona’s pioneers, they worked tirelessly to establish the museum we know today.
Every building in the Pioneer Living History Museum has been carefully restored to near-original condition, providing visitors with a truly immersive experience. From rustic cabins to the charming schoolhouse, each structure offers a glimpse into the daily lives, struggles, and triumphs of those who paved the way for Arizona’s development.
The Pioneer Living History Museum is more than just a collection of buildings; it’s a living testament to the spirit of Arizona’s pioneers. Through engaging exhibits, interactive demonstrations, and informative guided tours, the museum brings history to life, allowing visitors to step back in time and gain a deeper appreciation for the challenges and triumphs of the past.
6. Thunderbird Conservation
If you’re craving a refreshing escape into nature and stunning landscapes, Thunderbird Conservation Park in Glendale should be at the top of your list. Situated on North 59th Avenue, this expansive park encompasses nearly 1,200 acres on the northwest edge of the city.
The park’s name pays homage to the legendary thunderbirds found in Native American folklore, adding a touch of mystique to its already captivating allure. As I ventured into the park, I couldn’t help but be enthralled by the harmonious blend of urban and rural scenery that unfolded before me, a unique and mesmerizing combination found in few other cities.
To ensure a seamless exploration of the park’s diverse trails and natural wonders, a visitor’s center awaits you upon arrival. Here, you’ll find valuable information about the park and, most importantly, a trail map that will guide you through your adventure, ensuring you don’t miss any of the park’s hidden gems.
Thunderbird Conservation Park goes above and beyond to cater to its visitors’ needs. The presence of well-maintained restrooms and covered picnic areas offers a welcome respite, allowing you to recharge and savor the serenity of your surroundings. Moreover, strategically placed wildlife viewing areas along the trails provide incredible opportunities to observe the local fauna in their natural habitat.
As I hiked through Thunderbird Conservation Park, I was captivated by the diverse array of plant and animal life that thrived in this unique ecosystem. Each step revealed a new discovery, from vibrant wildflowers adorning the trails to the melodious songs of birds echoing through the trees. It’s a nature lover’s paradise that invites you to immerse yourself in the beauty and tranquility of the outdoors.
7. Catch a Ball Game or Two
If you’ve never experienced the excitement of the “cactus league,” let me introduce you to a unique sporting phenomenon that takes place right here in Arizona. The cactus league refers to the gathering of major-league baseball teams from across the United States who flock to our warm climate before the official season begins. They come here to practice, fine-tune their skills, and engage in pre-season games against one another.
To accommodate these prestigious teams, which bring substantial benefits to our local economy, Phoenix and its surrounding towns have developed state-of-the-art complexes that have become major tourist attractions during the mild Arizona winters. These world-class facilities are a testament to our passion for baseball and the ideal environment we offer for training and preparation.
It’s no surprise that in 2017 alone, these parks attracted nearly two million visitors. And it’s not just for the baseball enthusiasts; these complexes offer something for everyone. They provide an affordable and family-friendly atmosphere where you can relish in the shade, soak up the ambiance, and witness America’s favorite pastime firsthand.
From the crack of the bat to the cheers of the crowd, there’s an undeniable energy in the air as you watch talented athletes take the field. Whether you’re a die-hard fan or a casual observer, the cactus league experience is a remarkable opportunity to witness the sport at its finest. Plus, the accessibility and affordability of these games make them an enjoyable outing for families and individuals of all ages.
So, if you’re seeking a thrilling and budget-friendly activity during the mild Arizona winters, I highly recommend attending a cactus league game. It’s a chance to immerse yourself in the exhilarating world of baseball, soak up the sunshine, and join the collective excitement that fills the air. Don’t miss the opportunity to witness these talented teams up close and cheer alongside fellow baseball enthusiasts.
8. Westgate Entertainment District
As someone who enjoys a touch of luxury and entertainment, let me introduce you to the vibrant Westgate Entertainment District. Nestled near the University of Phoenix Stadium, just off Route 101 and a short distance from El Mirage, this upscale destination offers a fusion of shopping, dining, and entertainment experiences designed to cater to those with discerning tastes.
As you step into the Westgate Entertainment District, you’ll be greeted by a lively atmosphere filled with high-end shops, exquisite dining establishments, and stylish bars. The district boasts a range of options, ensuring there’s something to suit every palate and preference. From fine dining restaurants to trendy eateries, you’ll find a variety of culinary delights to satisfy your appetite.
One of the highlights of this district is the impressive courtyard, adorned with beautiful fountains, where you can unwind and enjoy the pleasant Arizona weather. Many of the restaurants offer outdoor seating in this spacious courtyard, creating a relaxed ambiance for dining and socializing. It’s the perfect spot to bask in the shade, savor a refreshing beverage, and immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere.
If you’re a savvy shopper, you’ll be delighted to discover the presence of brand name designer outlets within the district. These stores offer an opportunity to score some fantastic deals on stylish clothing and accessories. With a little exploration and a keen eye for bargains, you can update your wardrobe with fashionable finds without breaking the bank.
In addition to its shopping and dining offerings, the Westgate Entertainment District also hosts live music performances, adding a vibrant soundtrack to your experience. Whether it’s a local band showcasing their talent or a renowned artist taking the stage, you can enjoy the allure of live music in this dynamic setting.
9. Hike the New River Trail
As someone who appreciates an active lifestyle, let me introduce you to the invigorating New River Trail. Nestled between El Mirage and downtown Phoenix, this trail is a haven for fitness enthusiasts of all ages, and it’s not hard to see why Phoenix and its surrounding towns are home to some of the fittest Americans.
You can find the trail conveniently located on West Thunderbird Road in Peoria, making it easily accessible for locals and visitors alike. Stretching for nearly 13 miles, the trail closely follows the path of the New River, providing a picturesque and tranquil setting for your outdoor pursuits.
What sets this trail apart is its fully paved surface, offering a smooth and comfortable experience for hikers, walkers, and bikers. Whether you prefer a leisurely stroll or a brisk jog, the paved trail ensures an enjoyable journey throughout its entire length.
While the New River may appear dry in some areas, there are designated wildlife viewing spots along the trail that provide the opportunity to catch glimpses of the fascinating desert critters. Keep in mind that these creatures are often most active during the morning and evening hours, so timing your visit accordingly may enhance your chances of encountering them.
As you venture along the New River Trail, you’ll likely encounter fellow outdoor enthusiasts engaging in various activities. The trail attracts a diverse range of individuals, from avid hikers to enthusiastic cyclists, creating a vibrant atmosphere that exemplifies the region’s dedication to fitness and wellness.
10. University of Phoenix Stadium
Welcome to the iconic University of Phoenix Stadium, the proud home of the Arizona Cardinals football team. Nestled in close proximity to the lively Westgate Entertainment District, this state-of-the-art stadium is not only a marvel of modern architecture but also a hub of thrilling sporting events.
Since its completion in 2006, the stadium has maintained its pristine condition, exuding an atmosphere of freshness and excitement. Although securing tickets to the highly anticipated football games can be a challenge due to their popularity and demand, fear not! You can still immerse yourself in the stadium’s grandeur by embarking on an engaging tour.
With a seating capacity of nearly 65,000, the stadium offers an impressive setting for unforgettable sports spectacles. During the informative and enjoyable tours, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the various areas of this magnificent venue, gaining behind-the-scenes insights into the inner workings of an NFL stadium.
Beyond football games, the University of Phoenix Stadium hosts a diverse array of live events throughout the year. From thrilling concerts to exhilarating championship games, this versatile venue has even had the honor of hosting prestigious events such as the Fiesta Bowl and the Super Bowl, solidifying its status as a world-class destination for unparalleled entertainment.
The stadium tours provide an affordable and captivating way to experience this renowned sports facility. Led by knowledgeable guides, the tours offer fascinating tidbits about the stadium’s history, architecture, and memorable moments that have unfolded within its walls. Whether you’re a die-hard sports fan or simply curious about the inner workings of a modern stadium, these tours are guaranteed to leave you with cherished memories and a deeper appreciation for this remarkable venue.
11. Shop at Cabela’s
If you’re an avid boater, fisherman, hunter, or simply someone who loves the great outdoors, I’ve got a fantastic suggestion for you. Make your way to Cabela’s, near the charming city of Glendale. Trust me, it’s the perfect escape from the scorching sun and historical sites you may have grown tired of.
Prepare to be amazed as you step inside this remarkable sporting goods store. Cabela’s is more than just a retail establishment; it’s a haven for outdoor enthusiasts like us. Imagine a place that combines the allure of a museum, the comfort of a restaurant, and the variety of an emporium dedicated to all things outdoors.
As soon as you enter, you’ll be greeted by the sight of awe-inspiring aquariums that showcase some of the most fascinating aquatic life you’ve ever laid eyes on. It’s like having your own private underwater expedition right before your very eyes. But that’s just the beginning of what Cabela’s has to offer.
The store boasts an extensive range of products, including top-quality clothing, books, and an abundance of outdoor gear that can equip you for any adventure you may embark on. From sturdy hiking boots to cutting-edge fishing equipment, they have it all. It’s easy to get lost amidst the aisles, marveling at the vast selection of items tailored to meet the needs of outdoor enthusiasts like us.
However, a word of caution: while it’s tempting to indulge in all the amazing merchandise, it’s essential to exercise restraint. Cabela’s is a haven that can captivate you for hours on end, but it’s crucial to resist the temptation to spend more than you planned. After all, we don’t want our excitement to lead to an empty wallet.
12. El Mirage Dry Lake Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area
If you’re looking for an adrenaline-filled adventure that combines the thrill of roaring engines, mouthwatering barbecues, and the sight of powerful trucks and hotrods, then let me introduce you to the ultimate destination: the El Mirage Dry Lake Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area. Trust me, it’s the place to be for an unforgettable afternoon or weekend.
Picture this: a vast, flat lakebed that resembles the famous Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Here, amateur car and truck enthusiasts like us can let loose and push the limits of our vehicles without worrying about hefty speeding tickets. It’s a paradise for those seeking high-octane fun and a chance to showcase their driving skills.
What sets this place apart is its family-friendly atmosphere. Whether you’re an experienced gearhead or simply appreciate the raw power and beauty of these machines, there’s something for everyone. You’ll witness jaw-dropping races, marvel at the impressive trucks with their massive tires, and soak up the contagious excitement that fills the air.
If you’re eager to extend your stay and fully immerse yourself in this off-road haven, you’ll be delighted to know that RVs and camping are allowed. Picture waking up to the revving of engines and the smell of sizzling barbecues, ready to kick off another day of thrilling adventures. Just remember to come prepared with enough food and drinks, as the area is quite remote and lacks nearby amenities.
13. White Tank Mountain Regional Park
Having lived in Arizona for a decade, I can confidently say that White Tank Mountain Regional Park near El Mirage holds a special place in my heart. This hidden gem spans across approximately 30,000 acres of pristine desert landscape, offering a tranquil escape from the bustling city life just a short 25-minute drive away.
What drew me to this park time and time again was its unspoiled beauty and the sense of solitude it provided. Exploring the vast expanse of the White Tank Mountains allowed me to reconnect with nature and recharge my soul. With nearly 26 miles of trails, there was always a new path to discover and new adventures to embark on.
Whether you’re an avid hiker or prefer the comfort of an RV, the park has you covered. It offers camping facilities and RV hookups, so you can fully immerse yourself in the tranquility of the surroundings. Restrooms are conveniently available, ensuring a comfortable experience for all visitors. Don’t forget to stop by the modest visitor center, where you can gather valuable information and learn more about the park’s history and natural wonders.
While venturing into this wilderness, it’s crucial to remember that White Tank Mountain Regional Park is home to a variety of wildlife, including some potentially dangerous animals. I had a couple of close encounters with rattlesnakes during my explorations, but it was entirely my fault for straying off the marked trails. As long as you stick to the well-defined paths, you’ll be safe and able to enjoy the park’s beauty without worry.
14. Paint and Sip
In the Phoenix metro area, including El Mirage, there has been a notable resurgence in recent years, particularly in the realms of art and wine. If you’re someone who appreciates both, why not indulge in the perfect combination by paying a visit to The Painter’s Lounge on North 3rd Avenue in Phoenix? Trust me, it’s worth exploring what all the buzz is about.
Nestled in a stylish suite with a gallery-like ambiance, The Painter’s Lounge is designed to cater to artists of all skill levels, including beginners. Upon arrival, you’ll find everything you need to unleash your creativity: an array of vibrant paints, high-quality brushes, and a canvas ready to be transformed into your personal masterpiece. Don’t worry if you’re not an experienced artist; the lounge provides helpful instruction to guide you through the process.
As an added bonus, rumor has it that The Painter’s Lounge is a great place to mingle and connect with like-minded individuals. So, if you’re on the lookout for potential romantic interests, this artistic haven might just be the perfect spot to meet new people. Though I haven’t personally confirmed this claim, it’s worth considering if you’re open to the possibility.
Immerse yourself in the artistic atmosphere, let your imagination run wild, and see what masterpieces you can create at The Painter’s Lounge. It’s an ideal destination to unwind, express your artistic side, and perhaps even make new connections with fellow art enthusiasts. So, grab a brush, let your creativity flourish, and enjoy the unique experience that awaits you at The Painter’s Lounge.
15. Surprise Community Park
Just a quick drive away from El Mirage, you’ll find Surprise Community Park on North Bullard Avenue in Surprise. This hidden gem offers a fantastic and free outdoor space where you can engage in various activities, from tennis and volleyball to fishing and jogging.
What I particularly love about this park is its prime location in downtown Surprise. It’s conveniently situated near a public pool and aquatic center, making it an ideal destination for families looking to beat the heat and have a splash of fun with the little ones.
As you explore the park, you’ll discover well-maintained paved walking trails, perfect for a leisurely stroll or invigorating jog. If you’re seeking a moment of relaxation, you’ll find covered gazebos scattered near the serene lake, providing a peaceful retreat where you can unwind and take in the beauty of the surroundings.
For me, the park holds a special charm during sunset when the sun begins to descend behind the western mountains, painting the sky with hues of orange and pink. It’s a breathtaking sight that adds an extra touch of magic to the already picturesque setting.