Phoenix, Arizona, is a bustling city in the Valley of the Sun known for its year-round sunny skies, high culture vibe, and outdoor recreation possibilities. Whether you’re looking to explore interactive museums, see some incredible architecture, explore desert or mountain landscape, you’ll find it in Phoenix, Arizona.
Go for a hot air balloon ride for an epic sunrise view over the desert and make it downtown by breakfast. Visit one of the largest nonprofit zoos in the United States and explore more than 14,000 different types of cacti in the same park. Hike to a hole in the rock or go panning for gold in the legendary Superstition Mountains.
No matter what you like to do, you’re guaranteed to have a unique jam-packed adventure in Phoenix. Keep reading to learn the best things to do in Phoenix, Arizona!
A visit to Phoenix would be incomplete without a visit to the Phoenix Zoo! The Phoenix Zoo opened in 1962, and still to this day it is one of the largest non-profit zoos in the United States.
The zoo features over 3,000 animals and is split into four main areas to walk through: the Arizona Trail, Africa Trail, Tropics Trail, and Children’s area. Spend the day enjoying the Arizona sunshine while venturing the trails to admire all the different exotic flora and fauna.
Whether you have kids or not, be sure to check out the petting zoo in the children’s area to get up close and personal with different small animals from around the world.
Looking for more fun in Phoenix? Try one of these awesome activities!
- Take a guided self-drive ATV/UTV Tour in the desert. Enjoy an exciting day in the famous Sonoran desert, off-roading in your single-passenger ATV or 4-Seater UTV. You drive as your guide leads the way through adventurous, mountainous trails that are sure to impress even experienced riders!
- Reach new heights on a Hot Air Balloon Flight with Champagne. Drift peacefully through the sky, suspended in air as you look over the Arizona desert in a hot air balloon. At least in Phoenix this dream can come true. Come along and, if you want, help inflate the balloon as a member of the crew.
- Enjoy a Grand Canyon with Sedona Day Tour from Phoenix. See the amazing ancient landscapes of the Arizona desert on this spectacular Grand Canyon Tour. Spend the day exploring this true natural wonder with a visit to Sedona along the way.
- Take the kids to LEGOLAND Discovery Center Arizona. Enjoy the ultimate indoor LEGO® playground at LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Arizona.
Taliesin West is a desert laboratory and former winter home of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It is a true work of art that was built and maintained by Wright and his team themselves, and constructed using mostly local materials.
After Wright’s death in 1959, Taliesin West was expanded upon and certain materials were replaced in order to be more durable, as the buildings proved to be more permanent structures. You can visit Taliesin West to learn more about Frank Lloyd Wright and explore a broad range of different experiences.
Reservations are not required, but strongly recommended.
Desert Botanical Garden
The Desert Botanical Garden is a 140-acre botanical garden located in Phoenix that features more than 50,000 plants, including nearly 20,000 that are native to the surrounding Sonoran Desert. The most popular plants to visit among the trails include the vast collections of cacti and agave. Spend an afternoon strolling through the garden to learn more about nearly 14,000 different types of cacti.
The Garden also hosts some great tours, workshops, and events throughout the year including nature art and photography workshops, health and wellness classes, and The Luminarias Festival. This festival is a one of a kind acoustic concert series art festival mash-up that you have to experience at least once in your life!
Visit the Desert Botanical Garden on your trip to Arizona to learn more about cacti or just take a stroll and experience the great energy. You’ll love the desert landscape here.
Hike Camelback Mountain
Camelback Mountain is probably the most popular hike in Phoenix, and for good reason. The trailhead is just a short drive away from downtown and the hike itself offers gorgeous views of the Valley of the Sun and surrounding Sonoran Desert. But be warned — this hike is considered difficult.
There are 4 trails on Camelback Mountain, so if you’re not feeling up for the whole hike you can shorten it down and still get in a solid nature walk with great views. If you’re up to reach the summit, there are two trails you can take: The Echo Canyon Trail or The Cholla Trail. The Cholla Trail is slightly less steep than the Echo Canyon Trail but is a little bit longer to make up for it.
If your lungs are prepared for a steep climb, take the Echo Canyon Trail. Both trails are a little under 2.5 miles long, are out and back, and have 2000-2500m of elevation gain. Dogs are not allowed, but the views are worth leaving the pooch at home for!
Papago Park is a free hiking and recreational area covering nearly 1,500 acres across Phoenix and Tempe, Arizona. It is an important piece of Arizona’s history, as it has served as a reservation for Indigenous peoples, a POW camp during the second World War, and more.
Nowadays, it is most popular for housing The Desert Botanical Garden, The Phoenix Zoo, and many hiking trails, including the famous Hole in the Rock Trail.
Hole in the Rock Trail is a very short, easy hike that leads up to a giant hole in a red rock formation where you can see the downtown areas of both Phoenix and Tempe.
Visitors will park in the lot that is accessed via the Phoenix Zoo. You’ll head north to the north side of the butte to access the easy walk up to the hole where you’re greeted with the Hole in the Rock picture frame view.
It is believed that this spot used to be used for early tribes to tell time from the sun, but nowadays it’s the most popular viewpoint in Papago Park. I recommend arriving early for sunrise if you’d prefer to beat the majority of the crowds.
Dine at Wrigley Mansion
The Wrigley Mansion is a stunning building that was constructed in Phoenix by William J. Wrigley as a gift to his wife for the couple’s 50th anniversary in 1932. It’s a gorgeous building sitting at the top of a hill overlooking Phoenix and the surrounding desert. It is now used as a fine dining and special event venue.
If you’re looking for great food and epic views on a night out, the Wrigley Mansion is the place to be. Make a reservation at Geordie’s Restaurant and Lounge or Jamie’s Wine Bar to enjoy a delicious meal while admiring the 360 degree views all around you. Or for the absolute best views of Wrigley, make sure to stop by Christopher’s, where you can enjoy a tasting menu or prix fixe dinner.
The Heard Museum is a massive nonprofit museum in Phoenix that is dedicated to the advancement of American Indian art. It collaborates with different American Indian artists to present the stories of Native American people from an inside perspective through various festivals, workshops, and exhibits. The goal is to learn more about American Indian cultures and art from a first person perspective.
The Heard Museum has some really unique exhibits and fun events, so you should definitely check out what’s happening when you’re in the area!
Stroll Goldfield Ghost Town
The Goldfield Ghost Town has an interesting history. It was founded in 1893 after gold was found in the nearby Superstition Mountains. Miners flocked the town and abandoned it twice after the mine veins faulted. It was purchased by a private investor who turned the entire town into a tourist attraction to showcase what life was like in the Wild West during the Gold Rush in the 1890s.
Goldfield Ghost Town is a stop on the Apache Trail. Other stops include Superstition Mountain Museum and Elvis Presley Chapel, Canyon Lake and Tortilla Flat, one of the original stagecoach stops.
Explore the Superstition Mountains
Just east of Phoenix lies the Superstition Mountains, a rugged, volcanic mountain range encompassing approximately 160,000 acres of land where the desert meets the mountains. Not only is it a gorgeous place to hike, it also has a unique history.
Legends of The Lost Dutchman Mine, a hidden mine in the Superstition Mountains rumored to be full of gold, have been circling since Native Americans inhabited it.
You probably won’t find any gold on your visit, but you should still follow the Apache Trail through the mountains anyway. Along the route you’ll find the Superstition Mountain Museum, Tortilla Flat, and other fun stops along the way.
S’edav Va’aki Museum (Pueblo Grande Museum and Cultural Park)
The S’edav Va’aki Museum (formerly the Pueblo Grande Museum and Cultural Park), is an archaeological site, ruins, and museum that you have to visit when you’re in Phoenix! It is located just east of downtown Phoenix and is a unique way to get perspective on Southwest Hohokam culture.
Spend an afternoon walking along the paved outdoor trail through the ruins and irrigation canals to see how the native Hohokam people lived. Walk away with a deeper appreciation for the things you have, and deeper understanding of a new culture.
You can check out more about the ancient Hohokam culture from this online exhibit.
Phoenix Art Museum
The Phoenix Art Museum is the largest museum for visual art in the American Southwest, containing more than 20,000 works of art from all around the world. It displays photography exhibitions, hosts festivals and live performances, several educational programs, and more. It also features a unique interactive display for children to learn more about visual art.
Everyone can find something they love in the Phoenix Art Museum and a visit is sure to spark your creativity! Plan 1-3 hours to admire all the art and learn more about it.
Dobbins Lookout is a scenic overlook in South Mountain Park and Preserve that offers fantastic views of downtown Phoenix and the surrounding mountains of Arizona.
Take a drive up on a hot summer day for the best sunset views over Phoenix you’ve ever seen. If the weather’s cooler, hike to the lookout. At the top, you’ll find a watch tower that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. Visit for a quick sunset drive before a night out on the town!
Musical Instrument Museum
The Musical Instrument Museum in downtown Phoenix cost over $250 million to build and is the largest museum of its kind. It houses over 15,000 musical instruments from around the world organized into different galleries, highlighting notable musical artists, countries, and more.
The museum has a lab where visitors can see how the musical instruments are maintained, a cafe, a store, and a museum hall. Stop by for a concert, to visit different galleries, or learn how to play a new instrument.
Hot Air Balloon Ride
If you’ve never seen the desert from a hot air balloon, you need to cross it off your bucket list in Phoenix! Taking in the sunrise from a hot air balloon and watching the desert expand as you take off really is a special sight to see. If you’re a photographer, they provide a beautiful and unique vantage point for photographs.
The best time to go on a hot air balloon ride is just after sunrise. During other times of the year when it’s warm, go for a hot air balloon ride in the evening for a romantic sunset experience.
In Phoenix, you’ll find Rainbow Ryders Hot Air Balloon Company available to give you a ride, just be sure to book a reservation well in advance! For other ways to explore the Sonoran Desert whether by air, land or water, check out these outfitters.
Kayak Saguaro Lake
Saguaro Lake is a 1,200-acre lake located about 40 miles east of Phoenix in Tonto National Forest. It was the last of four reservoirs to be created by damming the Salt River for irrigation purposes. Today, it’s an excellent spot to visit on a hot summer day for a variety of recreational activities such as paddleboarding and kayaking.
If you have your own kayak, you can launch it in the Butcher Jones Recreation Area. If you do not have your own kayak, you can rent one nearby or sign up for a guided excursion where a kayak is provided. Permits are not required and the lake is stunning, so you have no excuse not to see at least one sunrise or sunset from the water!
Float on a Dolly Steamboat Tour
Canyon Lake is a beautiful lake located at the end of the Apache Trail, just outside of Phoenix at the base of the Superstition Mountains. If you’re looking to admire the views in a unique way that requires way less effort than hiking or climbing, hop aboard for a tour on the Dolly Steamboat.
Take in the gorgeous alpine views while enjoying a romantic dinner cruise or just sit back, relax, and take in the scenery. When you’re on board, expect to be treated like a king or queen.
These tours are known for their quality of service matching the quality of the views to create an overall incredible experience. The staff really goes above and beyond to make sure you find the cruise both entertaining and educational. You have to book a tour when you’re in town!
Arizona Science Center
The Arizona Science Center is an excellent place for people of all ages to visit. Explore and learn more about the sciences in an entertaining way from over 300 hands-on exhibits, interactive displays, and many different unique events and educational programs throughout the year.
Visit top attractions like the Dorrance Planetarium, to not only see incredible photos of our solar system, but immerse yourself into it with different art and music components for a truly inspiring experience.
Other permanent displays in the Science Center include areas where you can learn more about the forces of nature, money, the digital world, airplanes, different W.O.N.D.E.R displays, and more! Plan to spend at least 3-4 hours here to see all the exhibits. There’s so much to see that you don’t want to miss!
The Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix
The Japanese Friendship Garden, named RoHoEn, is a joint project of the City of Phoenix and their Sister City of Himeji, Japan. The garden is an authentic Japanese stroll garden, meaning you’re meant to stroll the path and uncover the beauty of the garden along the way.
Enjoy the gardens, visit the koi pond, or stop by the Chanyou tea house, where authentic tea ceremonies are held. Special events and workshops are held here throughout the year.
The garden is open everyday except Mondays. They participate in voluntary donation admission on the first Friday of each month, which makes that a great time to visit.
Best Day Trips From Phoenix
Day Trip To The Grand Canyon
Distance: 4 hours
If you have a day or whole weekend free, take a short road trip to Grand Canyon National Park to view the vast, rocky canyon from up above, down below, and everywhere in between. The good thing about this national park is that most viewpoints are just a short walk away from the main road, so you can see a lot of major viewpoints in a single day without having to go on any strenuous hikes.
Visit top attractions like Ooh Aah Point or venture either the North or South Rim Trails. Opt for bike rentals or a kayak tour if you’re looking for a fun and unique way to explore the area. Be sure to stop in Grand Canyon Village for a post summit burger and beer after a jam-packed day of adventure in the park!
Tip: If you don’t want to have to navigate the park by yourself, consider an organized day tour. It’ll help you see top attractions while taking the stress of planning your day away.
Day Trip To Sedona
Distance: ~2 hours
Sedona, Arizona, is playfully known as the actual happiest place on earth for outdoor adventure enthusiasts. If you’re just itching for adventure in the sunshine, take a quick day trip to Sedona to explore one of Sedona’s two state parks or nearly 2 million acres of national forest by foot or by wheels.
See the majestic red rock scenery and green twisted trees for yourself. Hike to the famous subway cave, rent a mountain bike, or take a Jeep tour to get up close and personal with views you wouldn’t believe.
Sedona is full of scenic hikes and viewpoints. Some of the best sights to see are the Chapel of The Holy Cross, Bell Rock, and Cathedral Rock. Some hikes you absolutely cannot miss include The Cathedral Rock Trail, Boyton Canyon to Subway, and Courthouse Butte.
Day Trip To Scottsdale
Distance: ~25-30 minutes
Whether you’re a sports fan, outdoor enthusiast, art lover, or foodie, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in Scottsdale, Arizona. Scottsdale is another community in the Valley of The Sun and is just a short drive away from Phoenix. The best time to visit is in the spring, when the flowers are in full bloom but the weather isn’t so hot you’ll feel like you’re melting.
If you love hiking, you have to cross Pinnacle Point off of your bucket list! It is a moderate trail that offers typical Arizona views complete with lots of cacti.
The majority of restaurants are going to be right at the bottom of Camelback Mountain in the Old Town Scottsdale area. Stop here to refuel before heading out on your next adventure. Visit different museums or the Scottsdale stadium.
If you like art and shopping, check out Scottsdale’s fashion square or Waterfront District. If you love wine, check out many of Arizona’s award-winning wines by walking the Scottsdale Wine Trail. There’s something for everyone in Scottsdale!
Is Phoenix worth visiting?
Phoenix, Arizona, is a great place to visit! You’ll find year-round sun and beautiful desert landscapes, along with plenty of outdoor activities, great hotels and restaurants, cultural attractions, family-friendly activities, historical sites, and more.
What is Phoenix best known for?
Phoenix is best known for its year-round sunny weather and amazing natural beauty. Outdoor activities abound in Phoenix! As the 5th largest city in the United States, you’ll also find plenty of action in the city, as well.
Is the Grand Canyon near Phoenix?
Grand Canyon National Park is about 3.5 hours by car away from Phoenix, making the park a great day trip destination from the city.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO ARIZONA
- YOUR ARIZONA VACATION
- DAY TRIPS: 14 Phenomenal Day Trips From Phoenix You’ll Love
- TEMPE: 10 Great Things to Do in Tempe AZ
- SCOTTSDALE: 19 Best Things To Do In Scottsdale AZ To Make Long-Lasting Memories
- FLAGSTAFF: 15 Amazing Things To Do In Flagstaff For Year-Round Fun
Where To Stay In Phoenix
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