If you’re trying to figure out the best things to do in Phoenix, I have you covered. I’m a Phoenix area local and I’m here to make sure you don’t miss out on what Phoenix has to offer.
From tubing down a river to discover to exploring Old West ghost towns to some of the best museums in the Southwest USA, there’s something on this list for every type of traveler. We’ll cover all the popular sites & attractions plus a few hidden local gems of the capital city!
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32 Best Things to Do in Phoenix
Desert Botanical Garden
Explore 140 acres of natural Arizona beauty
Located less than 10 minutes from the airport, you’ll easily be able to fit this must-see attraction into your itinerary. At the Desert Botanical Garden, you can learn about the Sonoran Desert and the plant life that makes it so unique.
See hundreds of beautifully landscaped scenes full of gorgeous cacti, flowers, trees, and more. This is the perfect place to spend the day with family and friends among the desert plants, or even take that special someone on a romantic date.
👉 Pro Tip: Visit during the spring to see the vibrant desert in bloom. You can also spot these plants in the actual Sonoran Desert while on a guided hiking tour!
Phoenix Art Museum
Admire an expansive collection of acclaimed artwork
The Phoenix Art Museum is the perfect attraction for art lovers, history buffs, and general admirers of beauty. It’s the largest art museum in the Southwest, with over 20,000 pieces by both internationally renowned and local artists.
But you won’t just be perusing framed works on the walls. The Phoenix Art Museum features interactive art that you can literally step into, such as the infinity mirror room. You can spend days in this museum and never get bored!
👉 Chasing Exhibitions? Make sure to check the Phoenix Art Museum website before going to find out which traveling exhibitions are on display when you visit.
Wildlife World Zoo
Feed giraffes and see exotic animals
If you’re looking for fun for the whole family, the Wildlife World Zoo is the place to be! Boasting Arizona’s largest collection of exotic animals, you’ll gasp at the sheer magnitude of this place.
Here, 215 acres of wildlife exhibits lie just west of the greater Phoenix area. The baby animal nursery will surely pull on your heartstrings, and the giraffe feeding exhibit will give your little ones a thrill. From rare sea creatures to scaly reptiles to massive mammals, this safari park makes for a fantastic family outing!
Wander exhibits featuring animals from around the world
As the largest privately owned zoo in the US, the Phoenix Zoo speaks for itself! This 125-acre property houses everything from playful sea creatures to majestic cats to massive beasts.
Whether you’re taking the little ones out or simply enjoying a peaceful afternoon, the Phoenix Zoo is a great place to spend a day in Phoenix. Don’t forget to check out the tropical bird aviary and the petting zoo for hands-on fun!
📚 Related Reading: Check out the Phoenix Zoo blog for a closer look at how the animals live.
Peruse the nation’s greatest collection of Native American art
Calling all history and art lovers! The Heard Museum is a testament to the importance of Native American history in Arizona. The museum showcases rare American Indian art collections with stunning displays and presentations. If you appreciate culture, history, and art, you can’t miss the Heard Museum.
Take me out to the ballgame
If you’re a baseball lover like me, you don’t want to miss out on a Diamondbacks game at Chase Field. This facility is beautiful, and it’s airconditioned (a big plus in the summertime), so you can see a game no matter the weather.
Tickets are usually super affordable, so you can take the whole family or a group of friends for a day of excitement for cheap. Enjoy an MLB experience like no other!
Salt River Tubing
Float down the natural lazy river of Phoenix
This is by far one of the most fun things to do in Phoenix. Tubing is an absolute must if you’re visiting during the summertime. When the desert sun reaches its hottest temperatures, native Arizonans and visitors alike flock to the banks of the river.
Here, you can take a refreshing float down the cool waters, solo or on a guided tour. Just make sure to wear plenty of sunscreen so you don’t get cooked along the way! Learn more about tube rentals in my day trips from Phoenix article!
🚗 How to Get There: Park in the free lot at the bottom of the river if you plan to take the bus via the tube rental agency.
Old Town Scottsdale
Shop the grandeur streets of one of the top luxury areas in the country
Similar to Downtown Phoenix, Old Town Scottsdale as a whole serves as an excellent starting point if you want to hit many attractions in one day. This area is well known for its luxury resorts, so if this is your choice for where to stay in Phoenix, you should take advantage of a pool day!
When out on the town, check out Scottsdale’s exquisite bars and restaurants. You can also go to Whiskey Row, a section of Old Town Scottsdale where you can go club hopping until the wee hours of the night. This is an adult vibe, so leave the kids at home when you visit here!
📚 Related Reading: Check out my favorite Scottsdale recommendations in my article about where to stay in Phoenix.
Phoenix Sites & Attractions
Arizona Science Center
Learn about Earth, Space, and everything in between
The Arizona Science Center is one of the most highly visited museums in the greater Phoenix area. With so many exhibits, hands-on demonstrations, and fascinating attractions, you could spend a week in this museum. And even then, you’d only scratch the surface of what it has to offer.
This is a great stop to add to your Phoenix to-do list as it offers fun for the whole family. Whether you’re a science fanatic or have never laid eyes on a science book, you’ll find something that interests you at the Arizona Science Center. Make sure to check out the Dorrance Planetarium for an out-of-this-world experience!
See the best ballers in Arizona
If you’ve been keeping up with the NBA over the past few years, you know that the Phoenix Suns are a legitimate team. With Devin Booker and Chris Paul leading us through multiple incredible seasons, it’s no wonder the Footprint Center fills up for every game.
Fear not – if you book your tickets in advance, you should be able to get a decent price for your seats. And isn’t a chance to see one of the best teams play in the NBA priceless anyway?
Tempe Town Lake
Kayak or paddle board the day away in the heart of Greater Phoenix
Who doesn’t love a day on the lake? If you’re into boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, rowing, and other leisurely water sports, the lake is calling your name.
Located less than 10 minutes from Sky Harbor International Airport, Tempe Town Lake is easily accessible from anywhere in the Central Phoenix area. Instead of driving an hour outside of town to Canyon Lake or Lake Pleasant, this nearby attraction offers a city beach setting.
Rentals are available at Northshore Water Rentals if you don’t have your own equipment. Make sure to stay for sunset so you can see the brilliant Arizona colors reflect on the water.
Japanese Friendship Garden
Stroll through these serene gardens to escape the city chaos
Need a day of relaxation? We all need to slow down from time to time, and what better place to do so than in the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix? Located downtown, this 3.5-acre plot of trickling streams, relaxing waterfalls and flowing trees is living art.
There is also a tea house onsite, so you can grab a freshly steeped beverage before strolling the gardens. I am a huge fan of the Japanese Friendship Garden and would recommend it to locals and visitors alike. There’s something very inviting and calming about this place, so it adds great balance to a busy Phoenix itinerary.
👉 Love Tea? Experience “The Way of Tea” at this professional demonstration
Experience authentic desert architecture
If you don’t know who Frank Lloyd Wright is, you haven’t seen true Arizona history! He designed over 1,000 structures, incorporating Mother Earth into the very foundations of his designs. Taliesin West is one of his most beloved and popular works in the Greater Phoenix area.
An architect visionary until his death in 1959, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation keeps this master’s influence alive in Arizona. Art and architecture students hail his inspirational work. You simply cannot miss his stunning creations!
👉 Pro Tip: Visit during the summer months for cheaper tickets!
Goldfield Ghost Town
Go back in time to the Wild West days
If you’ve ever seen the movie Tombstone, you’re going to be a fan of Goldfield Ghost Town. This reconstructed mining town from 1890 will make you feel like you just stepped into a time machine to the Wild West.
Quirky shops, historic buildings, a restored train, and a history museum line Main Street. This is where you’ll see a gunfight reenactment performed by the famous Goldfield Gunfighters! The family will get a kick out of spending the day immersed in Wild West history.
McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park
Take a train ride on a restored iron horse
Are you a train fanatic? Even if you’re not, the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park is a fascinating Phoenix attraction. With 30 acres of vintage locomotives to explore over a vast number of time periods, this train park will give anyone a thrill. You can even take a train ride on a restored train around the park!
Mesa Grande Cultural Park
Explore the intriguing Mesa Hohokam ruins
Yet another must-see for history buffs, Mesa Grande Cultural Park is a fascinating place. Here, visitors discover how ancient native people lived in Phoenix.
During the Classic Period hundreds of years ago, the Hohokam civilization thrived in the region. Even today, their preserved structures are still in fantastic shape. You could spend hours envisioning a way of life so foreign from today at this interesting park.
Phoenix Museums & Culture
Musical Instrument Museum
Listen to music and see thousands of instruments from around the world
If you’re a music lover, you can’t miss the Musical Instrument Museum, the largest museum of its kind in the world. This impressive collection of over 15,000 instruments will expand your music knowledge tenfold. The museum also hosts concerts with talents from around the world.
I haven’t been there yet, but this is one of the most raved-about attractions I’ve been told to visit by friends and family in Phoenix. It’s at the top of my list, and it should be on yours, too!
👉 Pro Tip: Check out upcoming concerts before you visit here.
Pueblo Grande Museum
Travel back in time to ancient Sonoran Desert life
The Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park was donated to the city nearly a century ago. It self-labels as “the gateway to the cultural history of the Phoenix area.” On a less-than-a-mile trail, you’ll learn about the fascinating remains of the Hohokam people. See replicated dwellings and agricultural settings to better understand what it was like living in the Sonoran Desert centuries ago.
This museum is both indoor and outdoor, so you’ll likely want to visit during the cooler months so you can take your time wandering outside. This is a cultural experience like no other in Phoenix.
Flame Fire Museum
Examine the interesting changes in firefighting history
This is a firefighter’s paradise! See this unique display of historical firefighting equipment collected from around the world. A seemingly obscure attraction in Phoenix, this museum is highly rated and reasonably priced. There is also a fun children’s section for the little ones to learn about and interact with firefighting equipment.
Phoenix Free Things
South Mountain Park
Hike the desert landscape in one of the biggest municipal parks in the world
One of the largest urban parks in the world, South Mountain Park offers a great opportunity to spend a day in the desert without leaving the city. Take a hike to the top of Dobbins Lookout, a challenging trek to the highest summit in the park. Bring lots of water and sunscreen and wear good hiking shoes!
South Mountain Park is a wonderful place to enjoy a day in nature. Think of it as the Central Park of Phoenix! With over 50 miles of trails to mountain bike, hike, and horseback ride, you’ll certainly get your outdoor kicks here.
💭 Keep In Mind: Take heed of Silent Sundays, which you can read about here.
Fill your day with a variety of outdoor activities in this beautiful park
Papago Park is a one-stop shop for some of the best attractions in Phoenix. Looking for some exercise? Hike, bike, or walk the smooth trails dotted with desert plants located throughout the park. Getting into the swing of the weekend is easy at Papago Golf Course.
There are plenty of fun attractions nearby, as well, such as the Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix Zoo, and the AZ Heritage Center!
📚 Related Reading: Find out more in this helpful Phoenix Trail Guide.
Hike your way to breathtaking views of Phoenix
Camelback Mountain is the most famous Phoenix landmark. Red rocks in the shape of a single-humped camel form this scenic spot. There are several hiking trails to popular viewpoints like Echo Canyon Trail. Some are more difficult than others, so make sure to look up which ones suit your expertise before hitting the road!
👉 Pro Tip: Wear solid hiking shoes for this trip. This area is extremely rocky!
Enjoy a day at the beach in a beautiful canyon setting
Located less than an hour from Phoenix, Canyon Lake is one of the most picturesque manmade lakes in the Greater Phoenix area. High canyon walls tower over the cool water, and the desert heat is substantially cooler in this oasis. Head to my article about day trips from Phoenix to learn more about the watersports and rentals you can check out at the lake.
👉 Pro Tip: Slather on the sunscreen and drink plenty of water before heading to the beach!
Spend a day on the water in a boat, on a pool toy, or on a lake cruise
Also less than an hour from Phoenix, Lake Pleasant is the largest of the manmade Arizona lakes. This body of water is seriously huge, surrounded by tons of beaches accessible from different park entrances.
Rent a speedboat, jetski, or kayak, or take a sunset cruise when you visit the rental shop at the dock. There’s also an inflatable obstacle course at Scorpion Bay that offers hours of beachy fun!
👉 Pro Tip: If you plan on drinking at the beach, do not operate a watercraft of any kind. The lake sheriffs are extremely strict!
Cruise a scenic road through superior mountain views
Named after the Apache Native Americans who once used this same route, the Apache Trail makes for a gorgeous drive. Pass by sparkling lakes and dense forests of cacti on this winding, mostly unpaved road.
You’ll need a decently sturdy vehicle for this road trip in case the path is mangled from bad weather. If you have the transportation, though, you should definitely check out this gorgeous drive!
🛎️ Need a Hotel? Stay at Hyatt Place in Mesa if you want to be conveniently located closer to the Superstition Mountains.
Wander this bustling area for a full day of attractions
Downtown Phoenix is one of the most hopping areas of Phoenix. If you don’t want to devote your day to one attraction, you can simply make your way to the middle of downtown and go from there.
This square mile of overflows with fun opportunities. Enjoy street art, shops, restaurants, bars, museums, and entertainment. Get to know Arizona in a condensed area and make the most of the Phoenix nightlife or enjoy some of the top places to eat in Phoenix.
You can also catch a Suns basketball game or a Diamondbacks baseball game if you want to experience Arizona sports. The Footprint Center and Chase Field are excellent facilities that any major sports fan will appreciate.
🛎️ Need a Hotel? I recommend staying at Found Re Hotel if you want to have a unique stay close to the best attractions.
Swing the day away in this golfer’s paradise
Are you a golf fanatic? Paradise Valley is calling your name. Hit the greens at PV Country Club for a standard 18-hole course. Or take on faster greens at Camelback Golf Club just east of the former. There are several other public golf courses located here. However, these two draw golfers from around the country for their pristine fairways.
Aside from golfing, this is a wonderful area to shop, relax at luxury resorts, or dine at high-end bars and restaurants. This area is a more residential version of Scottsdale, which is just a short drive south.
💡 Good Idea: Phoenix is home to over 200 golf courses, so if you end up outside of the Valley, there is likely a stellar course near you! Check them out on the city website.
Phoenix Things To Do With Kids
Enchanted Island Amusement Park
Ride thrilling amusement park attractions with the whole family
Enchanted Island Amusement Park is one of the most wholesome things to do in Phoenix. Named one of the top parks in America by Forbes, you won’t be disappointed by this family-friendly amusement park.
This place features fun-yet-safe rides for even the smallest kids and is located in beautiful Encanto Park. This is a fantastic stop during your Phoenix trip if you’re celebrating your kiddo’s birthday.
👉 Pro Tip: Check out the park’s regular discounts and deals here.
Children’s Museum of Phoenix
Give the little ones a thrilling day of play
The Children’s Museum of Phoenix is the perfect place to visit if you have children anywhere from newborns to 10 years old. There are over 300 exhibits to intrigue your little ones, giving them an educational experience while they play.
This is an especially good idea if you plan to have a solo night out later in the day. The youngins will be so tired after such a jam-packed day that they’ll crash as soon as they get home!
Legoland Discovery Center
Experience the world of Legos like never before
This is a must-do if you have a little one who’s a fan of Legos. This timeless plaything has been a part of American childhoods for decades. It’s truly fascinating to wander the exhibits of intricately built Lego creations. There are plenty of interactive building areas for the kids, and there’s even a 4-D movie theater for the whole family to enjoy.
Legoland Discovery Center offers a day of exciting amusement for the kiddos in the family, and a blast of nostalgia for the grown-ups. Make sure to check out the Lego factory tour!
Immerse the whole family in a rainforest of butterflies
This is one of the most special things to do in Phoenix, great for the whole family. This impressive facility is the largest butterfly conservatory in the country. When you step inside, you’ll completely forget you’re in Arizona. The rainforest landscape is breathtakingly beautiful. You’ll be in awe of 60-70 butterfly species fluttering about the exhibit.
While enjoying this tropical paradise, learn all about where the butterflies are from and what makes them special. There’s also a reptile and insect exhibit for those who like creepy crawlies. You’ll come away from this place feeling butterflies in your stomach from the excitement of it all!
Experience sea life in the desert
Welcome to the largest aquarium in the Southwest United States! This place is truly incredible. You’ll be able to spend hours perusing the different exhibits, including dolphins, a touch tank, and playful sea lions.
Although this attraction is slightly more expensive than others in Phoenix, it’s totally worth it to wow the whole family. You’ll be in awe of this incredible facility… even the bathrooms are impressive (Hint: you’ll have an aquatic audience).
🏜️ Read Next: 27 Top Places to Travel in Arizona
FAQs About What to Do in Phoenix
Should I go to Phoenix or Scottsdale?
You should go to Phoenix and Scottsdale. The two are only 20 minutes apart, so it’s easy to visit both with or without a car. Phoenix has tons of attractions, restaurants, and bars, while Scottsdale has a more high-end vibe in a resort environment. You’ll get the best of both worlds no matter where you stay because it’s easy to arrange transportation between the two.
What is the best month to visit Phoenix?
The best month to visit Phoenix is either November or March. These are the sweet spots between the extreme heat and cold. If you want to make the most of holiday activities, November is the best month to visit. But if you want to take in the spring weather, March is a gorgeous time to see Phoenix in bloom. Just beware of allergies!
What is Phoenix best known for?
Phoenix is best known for its luxury resorts and award-winning golf courses. Visitors from around the world come here to experience the grandeur of some of Arizona’s finest hotels and resorts. You can explore the best options in my article about where to stay in Phoenix. You can also perfect your swing at the city’s beautifully landscaped golf courses.
Is there anything fun to do in Phoenix?
There are so many fun things to do in Phoenix. From exploring local art to bar hopping to hiking, you will never get bored in this bustling city. For more ideas on things to do in Phoenix and beyond, check out my article on the best day trips from Phoenix.
How can I spend 3 days in Phoenix?
You can spend 3 days in Phoenix any number of ways since there is so much to do in Phoenix. I recommend taking one day to explore the local museums and attractions, one day to hike the surrounding desert mountains, and one day to take a day trip.
My favorite day trip from Phoenix is to Sedona, the red rock getaway only a 2-hour drive from the city. If you don’t have access to a vehicle, take a guided tour!
With so many things to do in Phoenix, you’ll fill your vacation up with exciting outings in no time. I hope this guide helps you build the perfect Phoenix itinerary, no matter if you’re a local or a visitor. You can also check out all my Arizona travel guides. Happy exploring!
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