Phoenix   Travel Guide

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20 Best Things to Do in Phoenix, Arizona

Begin your introduction to the Valley of the Sun with a visit to downtown Phoenix, home to some of the city's top attractions, including the Phoenix Art Museum , Heritage Square and the Heard Museum . Travelers on the hunt for a more laid-back

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phoenix arizona travel

Desert Botanical Garden Desert Botanical Garden

U.S. News Insider Tip:  Springtime is a particularly colorful season to visit the Desert Botanical Garden. Visitors who arrive mid-February through mid-June will see an abundance of blooming cactus just begging for attention. – Jill Schildhouse

The desert may seem like the last place you'd expect to find flora. Yet the Desert Botanical Garden is home to thousands of species of cacti, trees and flowers from all around the world. The garden's brightly colored plants sharply contrast the Sonoran Desert's cinnamon-red buttes, and numerous hiking trails – like the Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert and the Harriet K. Maxwell Desert Wildflower Loop trails – allow you to experience the region's natural wonders the way early settlers once did. The Desert Botanical Garden also hosts numerous events, including culinary demonstrations and outdoor concert series.

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Camelback Mountain Camelback Mountain free

As one of the highest peaks in Phoenix, Camelback Mountain is among the most scenic hiking spots in the city. Soaring more 2,700 feet in elevation, Camelback's summit offers spectacular views of Phoenix and Scottsdale and can be reached from the 2.5-mile (incredibly steep) out-and-back Echo Canyon Trail. If you're looking for a slightly easier trek, the 2.6-mile out-and-back Cholla Trail on the east side of the mountain offers a more gradual incline, at least until you near the summit. You can also try one of the several beginner-friendly trails that circle Camelback's base, such as the Bobby's Rock Trail. Hiking Camelback Mountain is best attempted earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon when the desert heat is bearable (in fact, it's closed from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on days with excessive heat warnings). But no matter when you decide to climb, make sure you have plenty of water and sunscreen. For a unique perspective of the mountain, consider a sunrise hot air balloon ride (one of the best Arizona tours ).

Recent travelers who scaled the mountain said the arduous journey is well worth the incredible views, though they do warn this experience is not for the faint of heart. Reviewers also suggested bringing your camera, as the views at the summit and along the way are photo-worthy. Visitors also warn that you should be prepared to share the trails with lots of other hikers.

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Musical Instrument Museum Musical Instrument Museum

U.S. News Insider Tip: When hunger strikes, visit the on-site Café Allegro, which tantalizes customers' taste buds with a seasonal menu showcasing local produce, regional dishes and cuisines from around the world. There are plenty of vegan, vegetarian and kid-friendly options, too. – Jill Schildhouse

The Musical Instrument Museum, located about 20 miles north of downtown Phoenix, invites visitors to check out its collection of more than 8,000 instruments from around the world. Travelers will find instruments, concert footage, clothing of renowned musicians and more. Visitors can even see how instruments are preserved and restored in the Conservation Lab before actually playing instruments in the Experience Gallery. Many parents said their children especially enjoyed experimenting with the instruments in the Experience and Encore galleries (the latter of which is geared toward kids who are prekindergarten to second grade), advising future visitors to make it the last stop in the museum because the kids will not want to leave.

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Small-Group or Private Grand Canyon with Sedona Tour from Phoenix

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Heard Museum Heard Museum

If you're a history buff or an art aficionado (or both), take advantage of the spectacular exhibits – and air conditioning – housed in the Heard Museum. According to many, the Heard Museum is one of the country's finest Native American museums and offers a comprehensible introduction to Arizona's original residents. With the help of pre-Colombian to contemporary art and a variety of traditional artifacts, the Heard Museum conveys the life and culture of Native Americans in the Southwest. On-site facilities include a gift shop, a cafe and outdoor sculpture gardens. 

Recent visitors recommend setting aside at least half a day to see the exhibits housed here. Many also praised the docents and suggested joining a free tour to get the most out of your time here. You'll also want to take a spin through the gift shop, according to reviewers.

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Phoenix Art Museum Phoenix Art Museum

Housed within a notable example of Modernist architecture (it was partially designed by Frank Lloyd Wright) is the largest art museum in the Southwest United States (with more than 20,000 works of art, some of them dating as far back as the Renaissance). From Diego Rivera to Frederic Remington, Georgia O'Keeffe to Frida Kahlo, the Phoenix Art Museum's permanent collection caters to a wide variety of tastes, and often welcomes top-notch traveling exhibits. Be sure to check out the popular Thorne Miniature Rooms, and if you're traveling with kids, take advantage of the museum's youth-oriented activities; you can pick up a guide for navigating the museum with kids (which includes a scavenger hunt) at the front desk.

Recent visitors praised the museum's size and layout, and its ability to appeal to a variety of age groups. Reviewers also offered kudos for the on-site restaurant and gift shop, and say this is a great place to beat the heat on hot summer days. Those without a taste for modern art may not enjoy their visit as much; despite its diverse collections, expect to see a lot of more recent artworks. If you'd like a little guidance navigating the museum's collection, consider signing up for one of its docent-led public tours, which are offered every day that the museum is open.

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South Mountain Park South Mountain Park free

Arizona offers a seemingly endless array of outdoor experiences. And Phoenix's South Mountain Park is no exception. The park, which spans more than 16,000 acres and is one of the country’s largest municipally managed parks, boasts three mountain ranges and more than 50 miles of trails. Hikers should consider the Dobbins Lookout summit, which is accessible by major hiking trails and Summit Road. Standing at 2,330 feet, the lookout provides panoramic valley views. If your feet need a break, the park's trails are also open to horseback riding and mountain biking. Along with its hiking trails, the park is also home to an education center that interpretive exhibits. From the center, you can embark on the Judith Tunnell Accessible Trail, which comprises two barrier-free, half-mile loops. Mystery Castle is another must-see. This 18-room home was built in 1945 by Boyce Gulley for his daughter Mary Lou. It's open for tours between October and May.

Recent visitors loved the scenic trails at South Mountain Park. The views and plant life were popular. Some travelers also praised the beautiful drives. Note that the roads are very popular with cyclists – drivers should prepare to share the road and keep an eye out for two-wheeled transport.

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Papago Park Papago Park free

Home to the Desert Botanical Garden and the Phoenix Zoo , Papago Park is popular with locals and visitors alike thanks to its proximity to downtown Phoenix (less than 10 miles east) and its massive red butte formations. There are options for all activity levels, from the west side trails to the east side trails to the popular Hole-in-the-Rock trail . Dogs are welcome, too.

Before it was a park, this land served many purposes. It was a reservation for Indigenous tribes, a fish hatchery during the Great Depression, a prisoner-of-war camp during World War II and a veterans affairs hospital.

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Hole in the Rock Hole in the Rock free

Papago Park features several hikes – perhaps the most distinctive is Hole in the Rock. Nestled in and among the red butte formations of the park, this short but spectacular hike (it is only 0.3 miles out and back) features a dramatic endpoint. After hiking up 200 feet of steps, visitors arrive at a lookout onto nearby lagoons and the more distant city. Historians believe the Hohokam civilization, which was present in this area, may have used the rock formation to track the position of the sun through a hole in the top of the rock.

Recent visitors raved about the views from the hike’s summit. Many recommended timing your visit to appreciate a beautiful Arizona sunset. Several noted that the hike is busy with visitors, but well-appointed. There are public restrooms, picnic areas and a nearby parking lot. What's more, the trail is just a half-mile from the Phoenix Zoo .

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Grand Canyon with Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon Van Tour

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Guided Arizona Desert Tour by UTV

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Phoenix Zoo Phoenix Zoo

The Phoenix Zoo is a great place to enjoy nature without your little ones dying of boredom. There are four trails that wind through the numerous habitats populated by more than 3,000 animals living east of downtown Phoenix. The zoo houses a variety of animals, including cheetahs, monkeys, Asian elephants, three-toed box turtles and Mexican gray wolves. Take younger tots to the Red Barn petting zoo or to the giraffe encounter where they can get some face time with the animals. When their little legs start to tire, consider the 25-minute narrated safari cruiser tour, which only costs a few extra dollars and provides a good orientation of the zoo.

Recent visitors (especially those with kids in tow) had fun at the zoo, and praised the clean grounds and abundant activities. However, some travelers were disappointed with the added costs for activities, as well as the high admission price overall. Those who visited in the hot summer months warned that some of the animals may not be as active/visible due to the heat. However, if you visit in the summer you'll be able to take advantage of the zoo's water features (it's home to multiple splash pads).

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Taliesin West Taliesin West

U.S. News Insider Tip:  While the audio tour is nice, taking a guided tour with a passionate docent reveals more intimate stories about Frank Lloyd Wright and provides exclusive access to his private living spaces. These tickets often sell out in advance, so plan ahead. – Jill Schildhouse

Renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright loved the Sonoran Desert, and he used these nearly 500 acres at the base of the McDowell Mountains as his winter home and school. With the help of his art and architecture students, Wright constructed apartments, studios and theaters using local materials to help the camp blend with its natural surroundings. This National Historic Landmark and UNESCO World Heritage Site is still used as an educational space for budding artists and architects. What's more, it's considered one of the top things to do in Arizona .

phoenix arizona travel

Tee off at one of Phoenix's golf courses Tee off at one of Phoenix's golf courses

Despite its desert surroundings, Phoenix is emerging as a premier golf destination. In fact, the Valley of the Sun is home to nearly 200 courses with difficulty levels ranging from beginner to expert.

Finding the right course may be a feat in itself, thanks to all of the options. For an authentic Phoenician golf experience, follow in the footsteps of movie stars and politicians and head to the Arizona Biltmore Golf Club. Constructed in 1928 and known as "the granddaddy" of Phoenix country clubs, the Arizona Biltmore is home to two 18-hole PGA Championship courses, as well as a driving range, a putting green, a pro shop and a full-service restaurant. Because of its reputation, you'll want to reserve tee times well in advance, plus, you should plan your tee time for early morning or later in the evening to avoid the Arizona heat. The club is part of the Arizona Biltmore Resort in downtown Phoenix. Reserve your tee times online at the course's website . Prices and availability may vary.

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Indulge in a spa treatment Indulge in a spa treatment

U.S. News Insider Tip: The world-renowned Sisley-Paris Spa resides within Well & Being Spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess — there are only three U.S. locations and this is the largest. These ultra-luxe European-style facial treatments and body rituals are a highly sensorial experience. – Jill Schildhouse

If hiking or golf isn't really your cup of tea, consider a day spent wrapped in seaweed or soaking in mud. Alongside its luscious green golf courses, Phoenix is also known for its outstanding day and resort spas , which are often set among jaw-dropping desert scenes. When winter strikes or everyday life becomes too overwhelming, many weary travelers head to the Valley of the Sun for hot rock massages and salt scrubs. And since many spas incorporate botanicals sourced from the Sonoran Desert (like prickly pear and cactus flower) into their treatments, a visit to the spa can be as educational as it is restorative. 

phoenix arizona travel

Arizona Science Center Arizona Science Center

Seek refuge from the broiling Phoenix weather in the Arizona Science Center, one of the top things to do in Arizona . Here, interactive displays teach kids about everything from electricity to weather patterns to outer space. Other topics covered across the center's four levels of exhibits include sound, gravity and psychology, among others. An Imax theater also offers family-friendly, educational entertainment.

Recent visitors were pleased with the activities offered here, especially the temporary exhibits. However, some felt the tickets were pricey, especially for families. Reviewers also suggested purchasing your tickets online in advance to avoid having to wait in long admission lines. 

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Phoenix Hot Air Balloon Ride at Sunrise

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Pueblo Grande Museum Pueblo Grande Museum

History and archaeology buffs should put a trip to Pueblo Grande, a National Historic Landmark and the largest preserved archaeological site within Phoenix, at the top of their list of things to do. This site features the ruins of an ancient Hohokam village, which was occupied for more than 1,000 years until around A.D. 1450. Walk among what's left of houses, storage facilities, play areas and cemeteries on a short, accessible trail. You can also view artifacts found during the site's excavation at the small on-site museum.

Recent visitors called this site a "hidden gem" and praised the well-maintained grounds, as well as the small museum. Reviewers recommend setting aside at least an hour to enjoy the attraction, though some reported spending more than two hours here. Though there are a few interactive exhibits in the museum for children, most said this attraction is best enjoyed by adults.

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Children's Museum of Phoenix Children's Museum of Phoenix

Boasting more than 300 play experiences across three floors, the Children's Museum of Phoenix is a hit with kids. Spanning more than 48,000 square feet, the museum offers a range of exhibits suitable for infants and kids up to age 10. Exhibits include a miniature grocery store, a noodle "forest" made from suspended pool noodles, a climbing structure and a fort-building area, among other activities.

Recent visitors loved the museum, saying it was a great place for kids to burn off energy. Many families said they spent several hours here thanks to the variety of exhibits. Others appreciated the museum's efforts to cater to infants and toddlers with designated spaces. Some reviewers said it was the best children's museum they'd ever been to.

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Heritage Square Heritage Square free

Visitors to Arizona may not associate the southwest with Victorian-era history and architecture. Heritage Square will change that. Located downtown, this walkable area dates back to the 1800s. Fans of delicate Queen Anne architecture will enjoy the restored Rosson House Museum, which features period decor, while others will delight in the tasty restaurants and attractive views in the area. Note that the 1895 Rosson House Museum is accessible exclusively by guided tour. Tours visit all areas of the home, including several bedrooms, a nursery, a bathroom and a doctor's office (the home's original owner was a doctor who occasionally saw patients at the house).

Recent visitors enjoyed this trip back in time, praising the historic preservation of Heritage Square and the many eateries. Many were intrigued by the history of the square, but some noted that it could be easily seen in a short period of time. Consider adding a stop at the Arizona Science Center as the two attractions sit within walking distance of each other.

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Butterfly Wonderland Butterfly Wonderland

U.S. News Insider Tip:  Want to increase the chances of having butterflies land on you? Wear brightly colored clothing – reds, yellows and oranges are more likely to attract them. Just don't reach out for them or handle them in any way, as they are fragile. – Jill Schildhouse

Unbeknownst to most visitors and even some locals, there's a rainforest in the Scottsdale desert – and it's home to the largest butterfly conservatory in the United States. Here, visitors will find some of the only humid terrain in the state (around 80% humidity and 80 degrees year-round), making this enclosure the perfect habitat for thousands of butterflies across up to 70 different species. Before entering the conservatory, visitors begin with a viewing of "Flight of the Butterflies" in the 3D theater to gain a better appreciation for a monarch butterfly's intense annual migration. Next, stop by the Butterfly Emergence Gallery, where live chrysalis morph into beautiful butterflies right before your eyes. Once inside the conservatory, be sure to look at all the foliage high and low, because the magical butterflies flit about everywhere.

phoenix arizona travel

Wrigley Mansion Wrigley Mansion

Back in 1932, chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. designed the Wrigley Mansion as a winter getaway home and a 50th anniversary gift to his wife. Set atop a hill overlooking 360-degree views of the entire Phoenix Valley, this property is a stunning mixture of Spanish, California Monterey and Mediterranean architectural styles. Today, it's been lovingly restored into a premier fine dining and special event venue. Docent-led tours of the mansion, which take about 45 minutes to an hour, cost $20 per person; advance reservations are recommended. Between the grand staircase, the Switchboard Room and the hand-painted ceiling, you'll definitely feel as though you've stepped back in time.

In 2021, the property became the much-anticipated site of James Beard Award-winning chef Christopher Gross' latest concept, Christopher's at Wrigley Mansion. The all-glass space features an eight-course tasting menu (think: wagyu carpaccio, foie gras soup and scallops with caviar) with optional wine pairings. For a less grand, but equally delicious experience, enjoy small plates (such as escargot, smoked salmon BLT and Moroccan lamb sausage with couscous) and cocktails on the patio, overlooking the city (especially impressive near sunset). Another on-site restaurant, Geordie's by Chef David Brito, is the ideal spot to enjoy a special Sunday brunch or live jazz with dinner. Wine enthusiasts will be impressed by the Wrigley Mansion's wine program, which has earned the "Best of Award of Excellence" from Wine Spectator magazine for multiple consecutive years.

phoenix arizona travel

3-Hour ATV and Shooting Combo

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Self-Guided Centipede Desert UTV Rental

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Sedona and Grand Canyon Full-Day Tour

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McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park free

In the heart of Scottsdale lies the 30-acre McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park. Part municipal park, part railway museum and part kid-friendly fun zone, this unique site brings together a functional railroad, carousel, shops and even quintessential park space. There are a variety of activities offered here, from traditional playgrounds to an enormous model railroad building – not to mention frequent special events like a holiday lights display and summer concert series.

Recent visitors enjoyed their time at the park. Many noted it was a family-friendly destination, and budget-friendly to boot. Often some attraction or area is closed on a given day, but most travelers found that there were still enough activities available to happily pass a few hours. This attraction appealed to everyone from solo adult travelers to families visiting town.

phoenix arizona travel

Chase Field Chase Field

Watching the Arizona Diamondbacks play at Chase Field is a worthwhile experience, even if you aren't a die-hard baseball fan, according to recent visitors. Reviewers appreciated the kid-friendly atmosphere, air conditioning and retractable roof, and the park's unique amenities, including the lifeguard-staffed pool and hot tub that sits 415 feet from home plate. Even if you aren't in town for a game, you can still see the ballpark on a tour, which are available three times a day Monday through Saturday throughout the year. Tours, which last 75 minutes, visit the press interview room, the 20th Anniversary Experience (which features artifacts and memorabilia), the dugout and more. Note: The tour does not go on to the field. After, grab a bite to eat or a cold one at the Four Peaks Draft Room.

Chase Field is located one block south of the Arizona Science Center in the downtown area. Tours cost approximately $20 for adults, $16 for seniors and $14 for children 12 and younger.

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phoenix arizona travel

Phoenix is the capital city of Arizona and is located in the central region of the state. People may know it for its year-round sun, desert beauty, and world-class resorts and golf, but as the fifth-largest city in the U.S., it also offers sophisticated urbanscapes, southwest culture and lots of outdoor adventure.

Sometimes, bigger really is better. Phoenix (the "Valley of the Sun" to locals) invites you to enjoy major destinations for recreation and relaxation, must-visit venues in the culinary and cocktail kingdoms, and long-standing arts, civic and cultural institutions. And that just scratches the surface of things to do in Phoenix.

Be a good sport(s fan)

The Valley Metro public light rail system pulls up right outside Chase Field , the downtown Phoenix ballpark that's home to MLB's Arizona Diamondbacks. Footprint Center , the arena that's home to the NBA's Phoenix Suns, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the IFL's Phoenix Rattlers, is just a few blocks west. On any game day, you'll find flocks of fans pre- and post-gaming at nearby sports bars, upscale eateries and neighborhood taquerias.

Get back to nature

South Mountain Park Preserve , the nation's largest municipally managed park, is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts to experience Phoenix activities. Hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders have more than 50 miles of trails, while bicyclists can test their endurance on the roadways that climb across three mountain ranges. On "Silent Sundays," the park even closes its main road to motor vehicles, allowing cyclists and hikers to enjoy the roadways without the buzz of automotive traffic.

Discover next-level relaxation

The luxury resort scene in Phoenix includes a long list of historic and modern properties that go big. Families enjoy epic-sized pools with monumental play features. Wellness travelers find spa treatments and fitness programs that add euphoria to vacation days. And for those who find their bliss on a golf course , many of the area's top resorts boast some of the best year-round courses in the country.

Whet your palate …

Some of the country's most innovative restaurateurs hone their culinary creations and prowess in Phoenix. The best-known restaurants in Phoenix have racked up regular plaudits from national newspapers and magazines and nominations from the James Beard Foundation. In 2022, local chefs and restaurants were named semifinalists in eight different categories.

… Then wet your whistle

The city's cocktail and craft brew culture are as strong as some of the pours you'll find therein. While beer and cider drinkers sample flights and drafts at a local microbrewery or meadery, those in search of higher spirits can content themselves with a well-composed tipple in one of the city's many other popular gathering spots.

Embrace creative culture

The galleries and exhibits at the Musical Instrument Museum draw from a collection of more than 8,000 instruments from around the globe, including opportunities to see and hear the instruments played … and sometimes play them yourself. Those who might prefer to leave the playing to the professionals, meanwhile, can reserve tickets for a Phoenix Symphony or Arizona Opera performance at Symphony Hall, one of many performance venues that make downtown a cultural center with a vibrant arts scene all around.

Discover more about desert life—then and now

One of Phoenix's first cultural institutions, the Heard Museum has grown into an international destination to learn about Native American art and history, while the Pueblo Grande Museum and Archeological Park is a must-see Phoenix attraction that takes visitors on a path to remnants of a ballcourt and platform created by the Hohokam people who lived in this area from A.D. 450 to 1450. And at the 140-acre Desert Botanical Garden , more than 50,000 desert plants illustrate the beauty and variety of desert plant life.

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American Family Fields of Phoenix

American Family Fields of Phoenix

American Family Fields of Phoenix is the spring training home to the Milwaukee Brewers. Formerly known as Maryvale Baseball Park the...

3805 N 53rd Ave Phoenix, Arizona 85031

Amerika Motorradtouren

Amerika Motorradtouren

Your specialist for German-speaking motorcycle tours in Arizona.

Apex Balloons

Apex Balloons

Apex Balloons offers hot air balloon rides daily at sunrise and sunset above scenic Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona. Your balloon flight...

21705 N 19th Ave Phoenix, Arizona 85027

Aravaipa Rides

Aravaipa Rides

2401 S. 24th Street Phoenix, Arizona 85034

Archwood Exchange

Archwood Exchange

Archwood Exchange was conceived in 2016 and put in motion in 2017 by four concerned community members that wanted to make a difference. The...

610 E. Roosevelt Street, 144 Phoenix, Arizona 85004

Arcosanti & Cosanti Foundation

Arcosanti & Cosanti Foundation

Arcosanti is an urban laboratory focused on innovative design, community, and environmental accountability. Our goal is to actively pursue...

13555 S Cross L Rd Mayer, Arizona 86333

Arizona Boat Rentals

Arizona Boat Rentals

At Arizona boat rentals we work hard to offer the best quality boat and jet ski rentals on the market at any lake in the state. Enjoy the...

2130 W Van Buren St Phoenix, Arizona 85009

Arizona Broadway Theatre

Arizona Broadway Theatre

7701 W. Paradise Lane Peoria, Arizona 85382

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From the abundance of Saguaro cactuses and unique wildlife in the Sonoran Desert to the high country and forests of the White Mountains to the breathtaking Grand Canyon, Arizona’s regions are full of experiences that don’t disappoint.

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10 Best Things to Do in Phoenix

By Chris Malloy

10 Best Things to Do in Phoenix From Bars to Bookstores

The list of best things to do in Phoenix is an expansive one. There’s no place quite like this city—a rapidly growing, 517-square-mile sprawl in the middle of the Sonoran Desert with Apache street art, 150-year-old cacti, ultra-fresh  Mexican seafood , and giant sunsets. Many people come to the Valley of the Sun for golf, work, nightclubs, or sports, but those who leave the usual bubbles are rewarded. More so than other American cities of similar size (Phoenix has 1.6 million people, making it the fifth-most populous city in the U.S.), you need to know where to look.

On the gastronomic end, Phoenix is an example of a destination that excels when its chefs embrace local producers. Growers benefit from 300-plus days of annual sun to produce incredible citrus, beans, squash, and flour. It's so good that Arizona exports to Italy, fueling incredible tortillas and pizza. The art scene is everywhere, most visibly manifested as murals swirling across downtown facades. Casual galleries and refreshingly original museums—like the Heard and its Native American collection—are ever-evolving and always worth (re)visiting. 

And despite the urban sprawl, the wonders of the world’s most vibrant desert are never far. Here’s where to get started if you really want to taste, see, feel, and experience the best of what the rising city has to offer today. 

phoenix arizona travel

Musical Instrument Museum Arrow

This expansive museum in the desert right off of the North Phoenix highway is a paean to world music. Inside the Musical Instrument Museum's tall sandstone walls, 8,000-plus instruments from some 200 countries await, all packed into galleries forking from a central corridor. As you stroll through wearing headphones, you hear the sounds of the instruments you pass. Videos play, too, showing how people play instruments in their countries of origin. Other highlights: The museum has rooms for kids, displays instruments actually played by artists like Johnny Cash, and hosts concerts. 

phoenix arizona travel

Century Grand: Platform 18 Arrow

This bar is in a long room designed to resemble a luxury railroad cabin from a century ago. Thanks to strategically spaced TVs playing synchronized footage of a passing snowy landscape, you might feel like you’re in motion, actually winding through the Rocky Mountains. The cocktails made on the “train” are among the most progressive and celebrated in Arizona. Tailored to adventurous drinkers with lofty cocktail standards, Century Grand uses all kinds of outlandish ingredients in cocktails, like smoked tea and kefir. One cocktail that conjures flavors of a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich comes with a sleeve of Campari cotton candy. Sip thoughtful punch or dig into boozy ice cream. Bartenders use a wide range of spirits, liqueurs, and fortified wines. Flavors are carefully considered and often balanced on a tightrope. 

A park bench overlooking South Mountain Park and Preserve at Dobbins Lookout Phoenix AZ USA

South Mountain Park and Preserve Arrow

In a famously sprawling city, the 16,000 acres of South Mountain Park allow people to disappear into the natural world. Hiking, running, biking, and even driving, you might see roadrunners and loping coyotes. And oftentimes the trail will bend, and there rises the towers of downtown Phoenix, rising from its bowl of mountains. Keep your eyes peeled for petroglyphs. These are rock carvings etched by ancient desert communities, like the Hohokam. There are hundreds of petroglyphs scattered through the park: spirals, animals, and suns—all incredible to witness and ponder. 

phoenix arizona travel

Pizzeria Bianco Arrow

Chris Bianco is a giant in the pizza world and his handiwork hasn’t slipped an inch over the decades. Famously, he says he doesn’t do much, delegating praise to the farmers, ranchers, and other producers. But he truly excels at giving premier local ingredients—flour, pistachios, cheeses, herbs, citrus—the exact touches they need to express themselves as ideally as pizza, salad, and pasta dishes can. Bianco’s pizza defies category, embracing hard-way methods like blending select local flours. The Rosa, a white pie crowned with pistachios, red onion, rosemary, and Parmigiano Reggiano, is his Mona Lisa. His simple marinara is a dark horse that showcases his technique. Too many people often overlook the pasta specials at the Town & Country location, so be sure to consider them when you make your inevitable pilgrimage.

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A view of the Heard Museum of Native Cultures and Art Phoenix Arizona circa 1962.

Heard Museum Arrow

This central Phoenix museum showcases pieces from Indigenous people all over the world, but with a focus on the American Southwest. The goal: to allow Indigenous people from across time to tell their stories through their own words, art, and artifacts. Founded in 1929, the Heard has earned a global reputation and should be a  must  on any visitor’s to-do list. The museum has some 44,000 objects in 12 exhibit galleries, including more than 1,200 Hopi Katsina dolls. 

phoenix arizona travel

Valley Bar Arrow

Raw and grungy with nothing to distract from the flow of canned beers and music, this low-slung underground hall packs 250 people—mostly standing room. The bands that take the minimal stage tend to be local standouts. Many of the people in the crowd know them well, for this is a pillar of Phoenix’s homegrown music scene. Come here for sweat and sound. In addition to the music room, Valley Bar has others spreading below the downtown streets. Play billiards in one and eat taquitos or sip a cocktail named after an Arizona politician in another. Don’t miss the Rose Room—an intimate half-hidden library stocked with couches and vintage reading material. 

phoenix arizona travel

Desert Botanical Garden Arrow

The Sonoran Desert is often called the world’s most vibrant desert, and this garden’s 140 acres of wondrous plants show why. Sure, visitors know the Sonoran’s wavy-armed signature—the Saguaro cactus—but what about the dozens of other Seussian species: the organ pipe cactus, the barrel, the hedgehog? The house restaurant, Gertrude’s, is far better than any botanical garden eatery should be. Gertrude’s cooks higher-end seasonal dishes using local ingredients: House cocktails prioritize Arizona spirits, like Tucson whiskey smoked with mesquite and Sedona gin made with foraged juniper. 

phoenix arizona travel

Bacanora Arrow

his Grand Avenue nook has heart and vibe unlike any other downtown Phoenix restaurant. That’s thanks to Rene Andrade, whose Sonoran roots shape an electric menu of Sonoran Mexican specialties, many of them charred on a smoky, giant Santa Maria-style grill in the music-packed room’s corner. Bacanora is a cool spot. People drink agave spirits out of bone luges, tuck into Flinstonian steaks ringed with flour tortillas and salsas, and enjoy bracing raw seafood plates like limey shrimp aguachiles. Flavors are huge and uncompromising. The fruity heat of chiltepin pepper scorches nearly everything, even cocktails and desserts. Andrade plays by no rules but his own, and that’s what makes this young-but-now-classic Phoenix restaurant so great.

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Since 1975, Xico has elevated Latinx and Indigenous artists, who are the backbone of Phoenix’s art and culture scene. The gallery relocated to a handsome century-old brick building with original walls and a high exposed industrial ceiling in 2020. Pieces displayed in the humble, intimate space span local, national, and international. It's also practically on Roosevelt Row, downtown Phoenix’s bustling enclave of new bars and eateries. And if you get thirsty, Xico Gallery abuts Barcoa , a watering hole that pours a dizzying range of tequilas, mezcals, and other Mexican spirits. 

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Palabras Bilingual Bookstore Arrow

Palabras is an independent bookstore that rigorously curates its vibe and selection to elevate under-represented voices. Just about all communications from the bookstore are in English and Spanish, right on down to the text on its website. Within Palabras’ shared space, there are also a few other literary businesses, including a micro publisher and literary zine purveyor. The rigorously curated selection of books alone makes this one of the coolest small bookstores in the country. Try to time your visit with one of many incredible workshops, maybe an open mic session, a Diné creation story, or an author leading a multi-lingual reading. A reading area out back of the shop is little more than a patio, fostering an intimate environment. Owner Chawa Magaña has won a strong following of regulars—he customer base is diverse, with plenty of Latin and Indigenous representation. It’s a place where anyone who loves books and has an open mind can feel at home.

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The Global Ambassador: First In

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36 Hours in Phoenix

By Abbie Kozolchyk Updated Feb. 15, 2024

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A view of a small but sprawling city, with skyscrapers rising in the center. A mountain range is visible in the background, and the sky is a dramatic pink-purple.

February heralds baseball and bachelorette season in greater Phoenix, Arizona’s sprawling capital and the nation’s fifth-largest city, where 15 Major League teams gather for spring training and innumerable bridal parties descend on the local clubs and cabanas . Not that you need be a baseball fan or bridesmaid to want to visit this time of year: Highs in the 70s and wildflowers in bloom make a persuasive case for hitting the city’s trails, dining patios and — several stories up — a new rooftop restaurant with panoramic mountain and skyline views. Another notable addition: Waymo ’s driverless electric cars (which have not been without hiccups ). Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport allows them to pick up and drop off at the airport train station, and is now ramping up curbside service at the terminals. Strap in for a psychologically wild ride, though the actual driving is shockingly smooth.

Recommendations

  • Papago Park , known for its otherworldly red rock buttes, offers a mix of trails, historic sites and botanic gardens, among other attractions.
  • The Heard Museum houses an expansive collection of Native American art — from beadwork and basketry to murals and multimedia installations — that spans cultures and centuries.
  • Roosevelt Row is a walkable exception to Phoenix’s car-town rep — an artsy downtown enclave where you can stroll among galleries, cafes, bars and boutiques.
  • Barrio Café , a regional Mexican restaurant and local institution, serves beloved stuffed chiles, a 12-hour pork (cochinita pibil) and, during happy hour, excellent tacos.
  • Camelback Mountain , named for its hump, is the tallest peak in town and the biggest lure for hardcore hikers from around the world who scramble up for the 360-degree views on top.
  • Piestewa Peak is Phoenix’s second-tallest mountain, and its Summit Trail makes for a less technically challenging (though still strenuous and gorgeous) hike than Camelback.
  • The Judith Tunnell Accessible Trail offers a low-key desert stroll along a paved path with plenty of room for mobility devices and easy parking lot access in South Mountain Park and Preserve .
  • Musical Instrument Museum (often called MIM) is home to thousands of instruments from around the world as well as a special theater that warrants an after-hours visit.
  • Phoenix Art Museum , one of the largest art museums in the Southwest, sparkles anew with the artist Yayoi Kusama’s recently restored infinity mirror room and the sequin-spangled fashion galleries.
  • Taliesin West , in a secluded swath of Scottsdale desert, served as winter home and studio for the architect Frank Lloyd Wright and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site open to tours.
  • Théa is a new rooftop restaurant that serves Mediterranean specialties like spicy Greek whipped feta and herby Turkish flatbread against the backdrop of Camelback Mountain.
  • Morning Glory Café , an alfresco breakfast spot within the Farm at South Mountain , sources many ingredients directly from the surrounding fields and hen coops.
  • Fry Bread House , a Native-owned, family-run restaurant, uses soft, steaming fry bread in tacos as well as in honeyed, sugar-coated treats.
  • Huarachis Taqueria , a kitschy new spot from a nationally acclaimed local chef, woos carnivores with tongue-and-short-rib tacos, and vegetarians with mushroom and potato versions.
  • Cocina 10 is a Mexican restaurant that offers creative dishes, like jackfruit al pastor, and live music in a century-old garage.
  • McArthur’s is the place to go for pancakes and eggs before touring the historic grounds and architectural highlights of the Arizona Biltmore , a Waldorf Astoria Resort.
  • The Nash is a vibrant downtown jazz club that serves wine, craft beer and snacks.
  • Antique Sugar is a pilgrimage-inspiring vintage shop with more than a century’s worth of wares that include 1920s flapper dresses, midcentury rockabilly finds and 90s nostalgia-wear.
  • Made Art Boutique sells embroidered mini-canvases, enamel pendants, wood carvings and other eminently portable works by Arizona artists.
  • Phoenix General is a design-forward take on an old-school Arizona general store, where the likes of rattlesnake-adorned hoodies are displayed alongside cactus-scented soaps and chic tote bags.
  • The Global Ambassador is a new luxury hotel in east Phoenix with five onsite restaurants and an outdoor pool. The guest rooms and spa are meticulously appointed (think plush Frette robes and Dyson hair dryers).The hotel also offers guided hikes up the neighboring Camelback mountain. Rooms in February start at $730.
  • The new Moxy Phoenix Downtown is a fun hotel (the reception desk doubles as a bar with candy and board games on hand) that makes sure even the smallest rooms are well stocked: The help-yourself “Stash” cabinet on every floor contains backup blankets and towels, toothbrushes and toothpaste and all-important post-hike soaps. Rooms in February start at $244.
  • The Egyptian Motor Hotel is a recently reborn historic icon, and remarkably kitted out (with everything from cute retro fridges to Southwestern fleece shawls in each room) for lodgings that are so inexpensive. There’s an excellent onsite Mexican restaurant, Chilte , and a lot of live events in the courtyard (this is not a quiet place to drift off before 11 p.m. on weekends). Rooms in February start at $169.
  • For short-term rentals , look in the quiet and atypically lush Arcadia neighborhood, where orange trees and palms shroud its many ranch-style homes. The area is an easy drive to most attractions.
  • Though Phoenix has walkable neighborhoods here and there, cars reign supreme in a city so sprawling. The new and ever-expanding Waymo driverless electric car service is a clean alternative. The city also has a public bus , rail and streetcar system.

A hole in a red geological rock formation reveals a view of a desert environment in the daytime.

An earlier version of this article misstated the start time for guided tours at Taliesin West. It is 10 a.m., not 10:40 a.m.

An earlier version of this article misstated the entry fee for the Desert Botanical Garden. It is $29.95, not $24.95.

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Maui: The beauty and hospitality of this Hawaiian island, still recovering from last year’s wildfires, remain as vibrant as ever .

Toronto: Savor the diversity of this lakefront city through its hidden bars, small-but-fascinating museums and vibrant restaurants .

Cape Town: Take a food and storytelling tour, cruise one of the world’s most beautiful coastal drives and see contemporary African art  in this city with stunning views in every direction.

Sarasota:   Kayak through mangroves, take a Black history trolley tour and spot dolphins  from a white-sand beach on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Mérida:   Rich in culture and history , this young and artsy Mexican city is an antidote to the wall-to-wall all-inclusive resorts of the Yucatán coast. ​​

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