Phoenix is Arizona’s state capital, and North America’s 6th largest city. It is well known for its balmy weather, standing 1,117 feet above sea level. The city has an average temperature of 75.05 degrees and more sunny days than any other metropolis in the U.S., earning its name the Valley of the Sun. Situated within the Sonoran Desert, one of the country’s wettest and greenest deserts, it boats approximately 16 million visitors a year and is particularly popular for its golf courses – all 200 plus of them!
The city offers some fascinating attractions for both locals and visitors, and listed below are the 25 best things to do things to do in Phoenix:
1. Be at one with nature at the Japanese Friendship Garden
Shake off any stress and enjoy the nature based offerings available at the Japanese Friendship Garden, the Ro Ho En. Home to more than 50 varieties of plants, 1,500 tons of handpicked rock, a backdrop of delicate sculptured landscape and a fantastic half acre Koi pond, the garden is just the place to relax. The Garden was built with the shared cultural vision of the Sister Cities of Phoenix and Himeji, Japan. Finish off your visit with a trip to the Japanese Tea House for a cup of refreshing afternoon tea.
2. For all you budding composers out there
The Phoenix Musical Instrument Museum is home to more than 6,000 instruments gathered from over 200 countries. Here at this educational attraction you will have the chance to not only learn all about the fascinating variety of instruments and how they are played and constructed, but you can also find out all about their history, with an opportunity to try them out yourself in the museum’s Experience Gallery. On display in the Artist Gallery are some of the instruments played by musical legends such as Elvis Presley, John Lennon and Carlos Santana.
3. American Indian Arts at The Heard Museum
The Heard Museum was established in 1929 by Dwight and Maie Heard, who were eager to showcase the absorbing American Native culture. The Museum has successfully combined local personal stories with outstanding artwork. There is plenty of opportunity to learn all about the Native American culture, primarily those from the Southwest of the country. From the Museum’s many festivals and traveling events to top notch exhibitions, you will be spoilt for choice. Take anything from a few hours to a whole day and immerse yourself in the fascinating and colorful regional history.
4. Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium
But if you change your mind you can do just that at the Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium. As one of the nation’s top five zoos, enjoy making friends – at a distance of course! – with some of it’s most exotic residents. From feeding a giraffe, hitching a ride on an elephant or even petting a stingray, the whole family will have plenty of fun visiting this attraction.
The non profit zoo opened in 1962 and is home to more than 1400 animals. Some of its residents include over 30 threatened or endangered species from all parts of the world. The zoo also has plenty of educational adventures together with interesting and absorbing family-oriented programs, with the opportunity to sponsor an animal of your choice.
5. A horse with your name
Fancy being Jesse James for the day? Saddle up and mosey on down to Ponderosa Livery Stable situated in South Mountain Park. The livery stable is the only guided horse rental team in the area offering the choice of 50 miles of trails. As you make your way over 18,000 acres of immaculate Sonoran Desert, you will have the time of your life exploring this area. Riding one of the livery’s first rate horses, enjoy pretty desert flowers and awesome Saguaro cacti, while desert rabbits play along your path. As you climb higher and slowly leave the city behind, you can experience the true feeling of western life.
Horse rides are available to everyone, whatever degree of expertise.
6. Fairytale? No, it’s a real castle.
Tovrea Castle is one of the city’s most well known structures. Built in the shape reminiscent of a wedding cake and constructed of three tiers, Tovrea Castle sits at the top of a hill, affording unobstructed views of stunning desert landscape, all 44 acres of it. The Castle was originally designated as a resort centerpiece and then private residence, finally became a park, and is now on the designated list of Phoenix Points of Pride. The castle grounds boast an impressive collection of over 5,000 individual cacti, in 100 varied varieties.
7. Shop till you drop at Kierland Commons
Or, failing that, enjoy an ice cream and cool off by one of the sparkling fountains in
Kierland Commons, Phoenix’s mixture of outdoor shops and smart restaurants, situated in an attractive, palm tree lined venue. Shopping here is an al fresco experience due to the city’s balmy climate, with more than 70 retailers including lots of unique shops to keep you busy. If you’re here with your kids, even better,as they can enjoy a splash around in the fountains. After a productive day’s shopping, enjoy the animated evening atmosphere of friendly bars, generous choice of high end eateries and live entertainment.
8. Be dazzled with science at The Arizona Science Center
Learn something new, and be amazed! The Arizona Science Center has more than 350 hands-on exhibits which are permanent, as well as traveling exhibits. Whether you are an adult or child (and there’s always a bit of youngster in us) have fun making a functional paper airplane or design and print out an object with a 3D printer. Daily exhibitions are fun for the whole family and, to round it all off, move on to the planetarium or see a movie at the IMAX theater next door. Finish a fun day with something to eat at the many available on site eateries.
9. Phoenix Art Museum
More than simply a museum, the Phoenix Art Museum offers stunning contemporary art collections in a light and spacious building as well as interesting and varied exhibitions. Surrounded within the thoughtfully landscaped Dorrance Sculpure Garden, the museum is now the largest art center in America’s south west, hosting educational programs, live performances and colorful festivals. Your kids can enjoy the interactive PhxArtKids gallery, and remember to visit the Art Museum gift shop and pick up some mementoes. Round off your visit with a meal or beverage at the museum’s Palette restaurant.
10. Some facts to chew on, The Wrigley Mansion
The iconic Wrigley Mansion was built between 1929 and 1931 by chewing gum pioneer William Wrigley, Jr. He commissioned architect Earl Heitschmidt to design the fabulous $1.2 million mansion, which was created in a mixture of styles. The mansion is made up of 24 rooms, 12 bathrooms and is approximately 16,000 square feet large. William Wrigley died shortly after its completion, and it was eventually bought out in 1952. It has been made available for conventions and meetings, together with a fine dining restaurant. Sitting upon a 100 foot mount, it offers stunning views of greater Phoenix.
11. The Desert Botanical Gardens
The Desert Botanical Gardens have an enormous variety of unique desert plants. From tiny cacti to those twice the height of an average person, there is a lot to enjoy and a place to reconnect with nature. The Botanical Gardens also hosts local shows, against the impressive desert backdrop. Take a tour, ask advice from the knowledgeable guides and even learn how to create a butterfly garden. Relax afterwards at the patio Café or Gertrude’s restaurant, if you’re after something more substantial. You can also pick up some local fare such as jams, honey, and chili peppers. There are plenty of shady areas within the garden, but it’s always a good idea to bring some head protection too.
12. Enchanted Island Amusement Park
If you are here with young children, Enchanted Island Amusement Park is a perfect day out. Home to the well known Encanto Carousel and offering a variety of other fun rides, the park will keep you and your kids busy and amused. Geared towards kids 1 – 10, they will love the fish filled lagoons, pedal boats and fun filled arcade. Bikes and carts are available to rent too, as well as train rides and a park with ponds, with resident ducks and geese. Relax as you stroll along the sidewalks and open grassy areas. There are also open tables with charcoal grills so the whole family can have barbeque fun.
13. Hall of Flame Fire Museum
Learn all about the history of fire fighting at the National Historical Fire Foundation, a museum devoted to the preservation of historical fire fighting equipment. The museum hosts five bays which exhibit the tools used around the world over the years. Also integrated are the Hall of Flame Fire Museum and the National Firefighting Hall of Heroes, which honors firefighters who perished in the line of duty dedicated for heroism. There are over 90 pieces of fire apparatus that has been fully restored, dating from 1725 to 1969, from all over the world.
There is also a gallery in the museum dedicated to the history of America’s wild land firefighting.
14. How the West was won (and preserved)
Come and relive the good old days at the Pioneer Living History Village. Made up of original and historically accurate recreated buildings from the late 1800’s with workers in period costumes depicting cowboys, lawmen, and Victorian ladies, this 90 acre village will certainly take you back in time. See the Opera House where Lilly Langtry once sang, visit an actual cabin that had survived Arizona’s range war and browse through an 1890’s dress shop. All of this together with a sheriff’s office and jail, blacksmith shop, an old west gun fight reenacted for visitors, and one of the largest collections of frontier artifacts makes for a fascinating day out for all the family.
15. Wells Fargo History Museum
This free museum is one of several across the United States, telling the story of the Wells Fargo origins from its original stagecoach days. The absorbing exhibits will delight and interest both young and old, and includes fascinating attractions and interactive exhibits such as an authentic 19th century stage coach in which you can climb aboard, an interactive telegraph to try your hand at sending some morse code, and a glittering silver rush exhibit to marvel over. There is also an art gallery holding the biggest display of N.C.Wyeth’s western-themed work.
16. Children’s Museum of Phoenix
This delightful museum is home to over300 interactive play areas, delighting both babies and kids up to the age of 10. There are lots of fun things to see, do and learn, that range from play to school readiness. Included in the exhibits are the Desert Den, Noodle Forest, various art projects and kitchen role playing with beautifully made faux food, riding bikes, growing plastic flowers in the garden, riding tricycles through small tunnels to learning how gravity works in the ball track area, and even a supervised art class. There are plenty of seating areas for the adults to rest and relax too.
17. Hole in the Rock
Accurately described, this attraction makes for a fun little hike up a cool natural formation that overlooks the city. Hole in the Rock is actually a series of entrances comprised from eroded arkosic conglomeritic sandstone. It appears that the sandstone was first formed sometime between 6 –15 million years ago.
It has been documented that the Hohokam, who were early regional inhabitants, had recorded the sunlight position when it shined through the openings and had used the information to mark the equinoxes and solstices seasons by carving their findings into the rock. A pleasant and not difficult enterprise for both adult and children alike. Remember to bring water with you!
18. Chase Fields
Chase Fields is one of Arizona’s most popular attractions; whether you are a baseball fan or just want to visit an awesome sports ground! Home to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the arena boasts not only a retractable roof and full on AC, but also a swimming pool, plenty of child friendly family activities and many outlets where you can purchase a tasty bite to eat. The field is all real grass, too, which is always popular with athletes. The stadium is multifunctional so if baseball isn’t your bag, look out for the other events on offer.
19. Aji Spa
For a relaxing change from shopping and sightseeing, treat yourself to a desert spa. Famous for using ingredients from the botanicals sourced from the Sonoran Desert, Phoenix spas are well known for their incorporation of tribal cultures too.
Some of the native elements such as the Gila River red clay and cholla cactus buds are integrated using hints and insights from Native America treatments which are varied and successful in releasing all the ordinary day to day tensions normally experienced. There’s even a traditional roundhouse available for the enjoyment of guests.
20. MAGIC, MYSTERY & OOOH LA LA!
This is what the popular and high rated “Revitalizing Magic” show is known as! Bring a bit of magic into your life by attending this Vaudeville motivated road show. The show successfully offers old world magic in an intimate parlor, where the performers transport you away from every day life. Experience the Carnival of Illusion presented with humor and skill. It’s an excellent family show and a bit of something for every member of the family to enjoy as the two stars of the show, Roland and Susan, do a lovely job of including audience members into their demonstrations.
21. Phoenix Symphony
The Phoenix symphony was founded as recently as 1947, when the city at that time consisted of approximately 100,000 residents. Initially born from an occasional group of musicians, it now serves over 300,000 subscribers and music lovers every year, with at least 275 concerts and presentations, and is now known as a major United States symphony orchestra.
The Phoenix Symphony offers both classical and pop concerts in downtown Phoenix as well as symphonic and community events in Mesa, Scottsdale and Prescott and has something for all ages and tastes. Look out for the family day too. Dress is casual to smart, whatever suits your mood.
22. One for the road
Phoenix is proudly home to over 30 breweries, some of whom are relatively new. To get a flavor and taste (!) of some of them join a Road Dogs Tour, who offer a three hour brewery tour showing some of the best breweries in the area. Your guide Ben will explain all about each brewery and there is plenty of opportunity to taste some of the best craft beers on offer. Included on the tour is a T-shirt and souvenir pint glass. Though food is not provided on the tour you do have the options of ordering it at your stops.
23. Coffee, company and concert
The Fiddler’s Dream Coffeehouse is a lively mixture of music and good coffee! Renowned for hosting both local and national musical performances, spend an evening in this friendly atmosphere and enjoy a tasty meal and some voluntary music. Having just celebrated its 26th anniversary, the Fiddler’s Dream Coffeehouse is firmly on the tourist map for a good night out. Mostly busy on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, you can look forward to a fun evening of music, friendly staff and decent food.
24. A taste of the East in the Southwest
The Chinese Cultural Center offers an interesting opportunity to stroll through an authentic Chinese scholar’s style garden. It was created in 1997 by the COFCO Group, which is a state-run enterprise of the People’s Republic of China. Designed as a walk thru educational display, the paths are framed by colorful statues of Asian mythological characters, as well as having a striking koi pond. There is also a shopping mall which has lots of local produce and merchandising. A great outing for fans of Chinese cuisine. Drop into one of the restaurants for an authentic Chinese meal.
25. Martin Auto Museum
Mel Martin founded his remarkable Martin Auto Museum in 2005 to showcase his collection of vintage vehicles with a strong commitment to the preservation of collectible automobiles for educational purposes.
The Museum houses five showrooms of at least 60 vehicles, some of which date back almost a century. Take a tour that is sometimes conducted by the owner’s son himself who will show you his father’s amazing collection, ranging from a 1965 Shelby Cobra once belonging to legendary American car designer Carroll Shelby, to a former Bonneville Salt Flats race car which, in 2000, took the Pontiac Bonneville SSEi four-door to the Utah flats to set a 204 mph world record for a front-wheel-drive sedan. There is also a restored Deusenberg on display. A great attraction for anyone with an interest in cars and their history.