24 Best Things to Do in Phoenix (from a Local!)
I have been remiss in writing about the fun things to do in Phoenix, Arizona, the place I have called home for more than ten years. I want to remedy that now as it’s really a great place to live and to visit.
There are so many fun things to do in Phoenix, from exploring top-notch museums, seeing interesting and unique architecture, learning about the beauty of the desert, hiking the many mountains in and around the city, and enjoying the resorts and spas.
While winter is one of the most popular times for visitors you can find fun all year round. And, some killer hotel and resort deals during the off-season.
This article will include things to do in and around metro Phoenix. So, without further ado, here is the list of the top things to do in Phoenix, from a local’s perspective.
Some links in this article may be affiliate links, which means that if you purchase through them, I receive a small commission. This will never cost you extra. Please read the disclosures to learn more.
My Move to Phoenix – Yes, I’m a Local!
When I moved to Phoenix, I was simply looking for a change. I wasn’t sure what I wanted and didn’t really have any requirements, except that I knew I wanted to live in a city where I could find jobs, and somewhere that was very different from where I was living near Boston.
I love Boston, and I’m always homesick for a return visit. But, as much as I love it there and it feels like home. I got tired of the snowy and cold winters. Also, my immediate family moved away as did several of my closest friends so I felt it was time for a change.
I’m glad I did decide to move as living in Phoenix has given me a great launching point to see the western part of my country. I’m not sure I would have seen as much had I not moved. As much as I enjoy living here overall, I admit I have itchy feet yet again for a change.
However, my next move will be with much more thought and will likely be international. And, I’m not expecting to live where I move for as long as I lived here but like Phoenix, it has been a good launching point for local travel.
My plan was to live in Phoenix for three to five years. I have now been here for more than 15. You can conclude I’m not great at math (truth!), but also, that the metro Phoenix area is a great place offering a lot. Both are true. I love living here and would highly recommend anyone come to visit to see what this area has to offer.
The Best of Things to Do in Phoenix
Phoenix is the fifth-largest city in the United States. It’s huge! So, there are a tremendous amount of things to see and do and I can’t possibly capture them all. I polled my friends for their favorite places and added some of my own as well. Hat tip and tremendous thanks to all of those who provided ideas!
1. Musical Instrument Museum
This unique museum is my favorite in the valley and it’s one of my top five favorite museums in the world. And, that’s saying something! It is the only global musical instrument museum in the world and is so beautifully and thoughtfully curated. The museum brings instruments from around the world to life in such an interesting way.
You get a headset when you purchase your ticket. Then, walk around the rooms representing the continents and areas around the globe so you can read about the people, and learn about the instruments while having the opportunity to watch them being played. It’s a cultural experience and a music lesson in one and fun for the entire family.
Watching the instruments being played on a video as you read about them is such a fascinating experience! They also offer concerts and even have John Lennon’s piano!
I absolutely love this unique and immersive experience. It’s a truly special place in Phoenix and should be on everyone’s must-see list. You won’t find another museum in the world like it.
Buy tickets now! When you use this special link, you not only get priority admittance without restriction, but you can also cancel if you need to. And, if you are visiting with kids, use this link to get a bundle including MIM and Legoland in one reservation process.
The Musical Instrument Museum is open daily from 9 to 5 and admission costs $27. It is located at 4725 E. Mayo Boulevard, Phoenix, AZ 85050.
2. Taliesen West
Taliesin West was the winter home of famed architect, Frank Lloyd Wright from 1937 to 1959. It is open for tours and also serves as the main campus of the School of Architecture at Taliesin and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. The home is located on the foothills of the McDowell Mountains.
The construction of the home was inspired by the natural surroundings. The walls were made from local stones and many of the angles and flows of the rooms drew inspiration from the area as well.
The home went through renovations when Wright returned annually, working with his students to carry out his design. The home is a true and unique work of art.
It took me almost a dozen years of living in Phoenix to see Taliesen West. I’m not sure why as I’m a huge architecture buff and really love his work. It is everything I hoped it would be and it was really amazing to see.
Taliesin West is located at 12621 N Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ 85259. It is open daily from 8:30 to 6:30. There are several tours to choose from ranging from 45 minutes and $38 to 3 hours and $75 and all visits are guided.
3. Dobbins Lookout South Mountain
This scenic observation point offers the best views of the Phoenix area. It is the highest point you can drive to, with an elevation of over 2,000 feet. It is located in South Mountain Park and Preserve, which is one of the largest municipal parks in the country.
On any given day you will see people hiking and biking on more than 51 miles of trails in this scenic desert park.
If you want to see some other amazing hikes in and around Phoenix, scroll on down to #6 or click here. There are a ton of mountains in and around the valley offering a wide range of hikes and views. You can even conquer a camel (ok, not literally, but it’s one of the toughest hikes in the valley and worth noting).
The Dobbins Lookout is located at 10919 S Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85042. There is no cost to see it and you have the option to drive to the top of the mountain or hike up. If you do drive, there is a short, uneven walk to get to the Lookout. The park is open from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Please check the South Mountain Park website for any information about road closures before you go.
4. Desert Botanical Garden
When you think of the desert, chances are you think of sand and shades of brown. The Desert Botanical Garden is there to debunk the myth that there is little or no green in the desert. It’s a 140-acre botanical garden with more than 50 thousand plants.
You can walk the tranquil paths through the garden, attend fun events, dine at their restaurants, and learn about life in the desert.
The Desert Botanical Garden is located at 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, AZ 85008. It is open daily from 8 to 8. Tickets may be purchased online for a specific date for $29.95.
5. Taste the Local Wine & Adult Beverages
You may or may not know this, but Arizona has two relatively large (and award-winning) wine regions less than 3 hours away from Phoenix. The good news is that many of the wineries in that region also have tasting rooms located in Phoenix, or Scottsdale to be more precise.
The best news? The wineries in Scottsdale can all easily be accessed on foot, making visiting multiple locations in one day very easy! They are all within a small area in the quaint Old Town Scottsdale neighborhood.
If you will be winery-hopping in the Phoenix area, be sure to drink plenty of water and eat before, during, and after your visits to keep it classy! Most of the tasting rooms offer small plates of food and others have full menus to keep your stomachs full.
Some Favorite Wineries in Scottsdale
- Merkin Vineyards and Caduceus Cellars
- LDV Winery
- Salvatore Vineyards
- Carlson Creek Vineyard
- Aridus Vineyards
For Beer Drinkers
if wine is not your thing, no worries! There are lots of other incredible beverage options.
Phoenix has a number of great breweries—microbrews and nano brews. If you’re interested, check out:
- OHSO—Fun, dog-friendly nano brewery with multiple locations across the valley. If you’re in town with your pup, bring him or her! They will love it!
- Fate Brewing—Popular brewery with locations in Tempe and Scottsdale. They have great beer and food.
- Wren House Brewing—Check out this small local brewer in Phoenix and Prescott.
- Four Peaks Brewing Company—You’ll love this beer as there is a selection for everyone. They offer seltzers too, for non-beer drinkers. They are in three locations in the valley and you can find it regionally as well.
Other Adult Beverages
Cider is becoming a bigger thing in the valley, and there are a couple of great options for cider lovers.
- 6 Bird Cider—This cidery is a new hit in the valley. Check out their seasonal favorites and don’t miss their slushies.
- Cider Corps—Support this family-operated and vet-owned local cider shop. What started as a hobby has become an established favorite in the Valley area.
- Superstition Meadery—This historic drink is making a comeback! Honey wine is in the Valley, in Phoenix, and in Prescott. Check it out!
6. Hike the Many Phoenix Mountain Parks
There is ample hiking in and around the Phoenix area in many state and local parks. Hiking is my preferred exercise and it’s one of my favorite things to do in Phoenix. It doesn’t really feel like a workout when you get such incredible views of the valley from the peaks.
The parks are a nice representation of the beauty of the desert. There are a lot of beautiful cacti and desert plants throughout and after the spring rains, you can see a beautiful canopy of green and wildflowers coat the ground.
One of the things I most love about Phoenix is that the mountains are everywhere and it’s really easy to get a hike in instead of going to the gym for exercise. And nothing is more rewarding than when you climb a peak and see a gorgeous view of the entire area.
- Thunderbird Conservation Park is a nice small neighborhood park area located in the NW valley at 22800 N 59th Ave, Glendale, AZ 85310. There is also an entrance on 67th Ave. It is open from 7 to 5:30. There are three hikes in the area that all are around an hour or so, depending on your speed.
- White Tank Mountain Regional Park (known as the White Tanks) is in the far west valley. There are a number of hikes ranging in difficulty and this is the only park in this list that has a fee of $6 per car to enter the park. It is located at 20304 W White Tank Mountain Rd, Waddell, AZ 85355. It’s a really pretty park and does have a waterfall when there’s rain.
- Piestewa Peak Park, also called Squaw Peak Park, is located in the north-central area of Phoenix at 7232 N Squaw Peak Dr #7200, Phoenix, AZ 85016. There are a number of hikes in this park ranging from a steep climb to a meandering wander through the desert. You can also connect to Dreamy Draw Park.
- Camelback Park is a popular hike that is not far from Piestewa peak. There are two trailheads: Echo Canyon is a steep and rocky climb, and Cholla is steep but not as rocky. Here is the link to the Echo Canyon trailhead map and the link to the Cholla trailhead map is here. This Camelback Park website offers some great information.
- North Mountain Park and Shaw Butte have two trails with two peaks to choose from. there is a main trail to hike North Mountain leading from a visitor’s center at 10608 N 7th St, Phoenix, AZ 85020. Or you can hike Shaw Butte which is located at 12950 N 7th St, Phoenix, AZ 85022.
- Phoenix Mountains Preserve is a group of parks around the Phoenix mountains near Piestewa Peak and Camelback Mountain. There are a number of trailheads and the main one is located at 2701 E Squaw Peak Dr, Phoenix, AZ 85028.
- South Mountain Park is the largest municipal park in the country. The main entrance is located at 10919 S Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85042 in the south part of the valley. There are also trails from south of the range in Ahwatukee, 19th Avenue, and 48th Street. This park has the largest number of trails to choose from ranging from easy to difficult.
- Superstition Mountains (known as the Superstitions) is located in the far east valley and in my opinion, is one of the prettiest areas to hike. There are a number of hikes including a difficult hike to the “flat iron.” According to legend, gold is buried in the mountains somewhere, so that may give you added incentive to visit.
Out-of-Town Bonus: Havasupai Hike
Though it’s a few hours’ drive from Phoenix, I do want to mention my favorite hike in the state. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I highly recommend. The Havasupai Hike is an incredible experience. It’s not an easy hike and getting hiking passes is a challenge as well, but if you plan for it, it’s amazing. I wrote a guide to the Havasupai hike that tells you everything you need to know to have a great time.
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7. Go Golfing
The Phoenix area is really popular for golfers and there are an astounding 200 golf courses in the Phoenix metro area. With over 300 days of sunshine and no snow, it very well may be the perfect place for it.
The Phoenix Open is a popular gathering for golf enthusiasts and non-golfers alike for the festive atmosphere and festive parties. But, golf is an almost year-round celebration for those that enjoy the sport.
There are some incredible private courses and the public ones are pretty impressive as well. Some of the best, according to golf aficionados are:
- Troon North Golf Club, Scottsdale
- TPC Scottsdale
- Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club
- We-Ko-Pa Golf Club, McDowell
- The Boulders, Carefree
I’m not a golfer so I can’t share personal experience. I don’t think any list of top things to do in Phoenix would be complete without adding this sport to it. It’s a really popular spot for golfing and you can do it all over the valley.
And there are top-notch courses here you won’t want to miss. So, if you are a golfer, you just might want to check these out! Some of these courses are really amazing and in truly gorgeous areas of the valley!
8. Tempe, Mill Ave, and Tempe Beach Park
Tempe is very much a college town and home to Arizona State University (ASU) near Phoenix, and it offers a lot of fun things to do. Stroll Mill Ave. with lots of interesting boutique shops and great restaurants. There are a lot of great ethnic restaurants on Mill and nearby to choose from including Irish, Ethiopian, Lebanese, Greek, and others.
Visit Tempe Town Lake to enjoy kayaking, sailing, rowing, jogging, fishing, or picnicking. There are also many festivals and events at Tempe Beach Park throughout the year that are a lot of fun.
And Gammage Theater is right off of Mill Ave with Broadway-style shows throughout the year as well as other performing arts shows.
Tempe Beach Park is located at 80 W Rio Salado Pkwy, Tempe, AZ 85281. The heart of Mill Ave. starts right across the street and continues for several blocks. Gammage Theater is located at 1200 S Forest Ave, Tempe, AZ 85281.
9. Japanese Friendship Garden
This garden provides a beautiful and relaxing break from the Phoenix desert. Where the Desert Botanical Garden celebrates the desert and indigenous plants, the Japanese Friendship Garden transports you to an authentic Japanese garden in the middle of Phoenix.
The 3.5 acres includes a Koi pond with around 300 fish, a 12-foot waterfall, stone footbridges, lanterns, and a tea house that offers traditional ceremonies. It was created through a joint project between Phoenix and Himeji, its Japanese sister city.
If you are seeking a break from the desert landscape, this is a peaceful place to enjoy.
The Japanese Friendship Garden is located at 1125 N. 3rd Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85003. It is open from 10 to 4 Tuesday through Sunday and general admission costs $10.
10. Phoenix Art Museum
This is such a fun and nice little museum that I’m not sure why it didn’t make my original list of the best things to do in Phoenix. Well, I aim to rectify that now!
Though it’s not a large art museum comparable to some of the greats in the world, it sure packs a punch. There are a lot of great works in this museum and I often go every year to visit.
When I go, it’s as much for the regular exhibits as the temporary ones, which are generally wonderful! A few years ago they an exhibit about Frieda and Diego and works by them which was pretty amazing!
There is a lot of modern art at this museum with some really fun displays. You’ll also see some well-known artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, Picasso, and others.
The Phoenix Art Museum is located at 1625 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004. It’s open from 10 to 5 Thursday through Sunday, 10 to 7 on Wednesday, and it’s closed on Monday and Tuesday. It costs $21 and you can buy tickets online or at the museum.
11. Wrigley Mansion
This stunning mansion is a landmark of Phoenix. It was built in 1932 by chewing gum personality, William Wrigley Jr. as a 50th-anniversary gift for his wife. It is located on top of a hill with amazing views of the city and the mountains.
In 1992, the city was going to tear it down to build condo’s and the late Geordie Hormel and his wife Jamie (yes, that Hormel) purchased it and restored it to its original glory.
It’s a great place to splurge on a nice dinner at Geordie’s Restaurant and Lounge or enjoy a drink and watch the sunset at Jamie’s Wine Bar. It is open for lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch. Tours are also offered for those curious to know more about the history, as well as the ghost stories, told about it.
Wrigley Mansion is located at 2501 E Telawa Trail, Phoenix, AZ 85016. It’s open from 11 to 9 Tuesday through Saturday and 10 to 2 on Sunday. Tours are offered from Tuesday through Saturday at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., and 12 p.m. for $17.
12. Heard Museum
The Heard Museum is dedicated to the advancement of American Indian art. It has a massive collection with more than 40,000 pieces of Native American art. Some of the key collections include Navajo textiles, Hopi katsina dolls, Zuni and Navajo jewelry, ceramics throughout the ages, and woven baskets.
This museum offers a distinct perspective on art and does highlight the Southwest and North America. They also have some interesting exhibits.
There is a strong Native American influence in Phoenix so this is a great museum to go to in order to learn more about the area. This is also the oldest private museum in Arizona and is a landmark having been founded in 1929.
If you want to learn more about Native American art and the Native American people, this is a great place to go. It’s also a local favorite of mine.
The Heard Museum is located at 2301 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004. It is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 to 5 and Sunday from 11 to 5 and it costs $25 to visit.
13. Canyon Lake and the Dolly Steamboat
The Dolly Steamboat has operated tours on the beautiful Canyon Lake since 1983. The Grimh family has operated it since 1987 with a crew of three serving up to 142 passengers.
This ship offers sightseeing and dinner boat cruises so people can enjoy the breathtaking scenery and wildlife of the lake. There are several different cruises to choose from and they also offer private tours. It’s a unique experience in Phoenix and one you shouldn’t miss.
While you’re out in that area, there are a few other places to consider visiting in this old West stagecoach stop along the Apache Trail. (Check out #15 on the list for one of the best.)
Dolly Steamboat is located in Tortilla Flat around fifty miles east of the center of Phoenix. It is located at 16802 AZ-88, Tortilla Flat, AZ 85117. Cruises range from $25 to $65 and run from an hour and 30 minutes to 3 hours. The daytime cruises are generally at noon and the evening cruises start around sunset, with the times varying slightly throughout the year.
14. Goldfield Ghost Town
If you head to the Superstition Mountains and Canyon Lake, you won’t want to miss this treat. The Goldfield Ghost Town is a fun place to visit. When the mine closed, the town died a slow death and was vacated around 1926.
You can now enjoy a stroll down Main Street to enjoy many of the old buildings. You can also tour the mine, ride a train, and enjoy other fun activities.
And if you get hungry, check out the Superstition Saloon and Restaurant where you can sit on horse-saddle bar stools and enjoy the dollar-bill “wallpaper” while enjoying a burger with a cold brew or sasparilla.
Enjoy a prickly pear cactus gelato at the Country Store next door or go to the Mercantile to buy some fun local gifts. There is also a cute little one-room schoolhouse that you can visit nearby.
Goldfield Ghost Town is located at 4650 N. Mammoth Mine Road, Apache Junction, AZ 85119. It is open daily from 10 to 5 and there is no entrance fee.
15. Tres Rio Wetlands
The Tres Rios Wetlands are an environmental restoration project. Close to 700 acres in and around the Salt River were restored to their condition in the early 1800s. This area is a riparian habitat with more than 150 different species of birds.
There are also animals like bobcats, coyotes, skunks, beavers, raccoons, and muskrats. It’s a beautiful area with cottonwood groves, willows, and other desert shrubs that attract migratory and wintering songbirds.
The Tres Rio Wetlands are located in the Southwest Valley of Phoenix. Permits are required before visiting by going to this website and making a request. (Click the “Make a Request” button on the upper right of the page.) They are good for unlimited visits from sunrise to sunset any day of the year.
16. Hall of Flame Fire Museum
for another unique museum experience, check out the Hall of Flame Fire Museum. Part firefighter tribute and part historical collection, this museum is an acre of exhibits from 1725 to the current day.
Arizona, unfortunately, has more than its share of fire fighting, as wildfires often rampage the state during the scorching summer months. This museum pays homage to the firefighters noted for heroism or killed in the line of duty in the Hall of Heroes.
The museum has a wide array of fire-fighting apparatus like old fire engines and hydrants used around the world. If you want a really interesting historical perspective about something you may not have thought a lot about previously, this is a great museum. You’ll learn a lot and will have a great time.
The Hall of Flame Fire Museum is located at 6101 E Van Buren Street, Phoenix, Arizona, 85008. It’s open from 10 to 6 Tuesday to Saturday and costs $12.
17. Wildlife World Zoo
The Wildlife World Zoo is a 200-acre zoo and aquarium. The zoo specializes in African and South American animals and has Arizona’s largest collection of exotics.
Though I’m not generally a fan of zoos, this one does a nice job providing a natural habitat for the animals. It also offers plenty of space for the animals to roam.
Wildlife World Zoo is located at 16501 W Northern Ave, Litchfield Park, AZ 85340. Tickets cost $41.50 though there are often discounts available through Groupon and other related organizations. It is open daily from 9 to 6 and the aquarium remains open until 7.
18. View Street Art in the Roosevelt Arts District
Street art is big in the downtown area of Phoenix and particularly in the arts district around Roosevelt between 7th Avenue and 7th Street. There are also a number of murals down 7th Street and one of my favorites is the David Bowie mural located at 1755 N 7th St, Phoenix, AZ 85006. It’s fun just driving around that area to see them all.
This is my favorite area in town and I can’t rave about it enough. It’s one of the older parts of Phoenix so you’ll see a lot of smaller bungalow-style homes and historic neighborhoods.
It doesn’t have the polish of areas like you’ll see in Scottsdale, but that’s what makes it fun. And, the people are pretty amazing and interesting.
Here, you’ll find some of the best restaurants in the city like one of my favorites, Cibo. You’ll see a lot of galleries, small boutique shops, and lots of interesting finds. Go to Old Town Scottsdale, but don’t skip this area.
19. First Fridays
First Fridays is a monthly art walk in the Arts District of Phoenix around Roosevelt Avenue between 7th Ave and 7th Street. The art galleries extend their hours into the evenings and it’s a festive time for Phoenix. You can enjoy the art and revitalization of this area as well as some great Phoenix restaurants.
There is a trolley that can take you around the area and a map which shows the places to see here. It’s a fun time and worth going to when you’re visiting Phoenix.
Scottsdale has a similar monthly event on the third Thursday of each month located in Old Town Scottsdale.
20. Live Music
Phoenix is a music town and there are a lot of music venues to choose from. You’ll catch local bands and even some amazing bands you’ve caught on the radio with a national presence.
These venues from theaters with extensive seating to small clubs and are all incredible. Some of my favorite smaller venues are:
- Celebrity Theater – 440 N 32nd St, Phoenix, AZ 85008
- The Van Buren – 401 W Van Buren St, Phoenix, AZ 85003
- Marquee Theater – 730 N Mill Ave, Tempe, AZ 85281
- The Rhythm Room – 1019 E Indian School Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85014
- The Nash – 110 E Roosevelt St, Phoenix, AZ 85004
- The Womack – 5749 N 7th St, Phoenix, AZ 85014
- Copper Blues – 50 W Jefferson St, Phoenix, AZ 85003
21. Live Performances
In addition to live music, there are many venues for other cultural performances like Opera, Ballet, and Symphony. Gammage Theater in Tempe is mentioned above, and here are some other organizations with some great offerings.
- ASU Gammage – 1200 S Forest Ave, Tempe, AZ 85281
- Herberger Theater Center – 222 E Monroe St, Phoenix, AZ 85004
- Phoenix Opera – Orpheum Theater, 203 W. Adams, Phoenix, AZ 85003
- Arizona Opera – 1636 N. Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004
- Ballet Arizona and Phoenix Symphony – 75 N 2nd St, Phoenix, AZ 85004
- The Phoenix Theater Company – 1825 N. Central Street, Phoenix, AZ 85005
Off the Beaten Path Phoenix
These places are lesser-known in the valley but are highly recommended by the locals. In fact, I didn’t even know about one of them!
22. Mystery Castle
Mystery Castle is a place with quite a history! It was built in the 1930s by Boyce Luther Gulley who moved to Phoenix when he learned he had tuberculosis.
He built this 18-room and three-story home from mostly found and other inexpensive materials. He died in 1945 and his daughter moved in where she lived until her death in 2010.
Part of the home is unfinished and electricity and plumbing weren’t added until 1992. Interestingly, this home was originally built far from the city. However, with the Phoenix expansion, it is now not as remote as it once was.
It’s really interesting to see and if you have been to Watt’s Towers in Los Angeles, it reminds me of that place. You can see plates, cups, and other items embedded in the walls.
Mystery Castle is located at 800 E Mineral Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85042. Tours are available Thursday through Sunday from October to May at 11 and 3:30 and they cost $10.
23. Bat Cave
Phoenix is home to more than 10,000 Mexican bats from May to October during their migration to return home to Mexico. They sleep during the day and at night they fill the skies starting at dusk.
To see the bats, walk Northwest from 40th Street and Camelback near Chelsea’s Kitchen on the northern end of the Arizona Canal trail. Parking is available at Chelsea’s Kitchen or the office buildings nearby.
24. Native American Ruins
There are a lot of Native American ruins in and around Phoenix, as well as the rest of the state. In Phoenix, you can find the Pueblo Grande Museum. it’s a small place with a lot of great information about some of the Native Americans, the Hohokam, who lived in the area.
It’s located at 4619 E Washington St, Phoenix, AZ 85034. It’s open from 9 to 4:45 Monday through Saturday and from 1 to 4:45 on Sunday. It costs $6.
There are a number of other ruins around Phoenix and Flagstaff. Some of my favorites are right on the way to Sedona, a popular day trip from Phoenix, Montezuma’s Castle is a cliff dwelling you can visit high up on a rock wall. And Tuzigoot is a partially rebuilt site that you can climb through to see how they once lived.
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Places to Eat in Phoenix
There are an absolute ton of great restaurants in Phoenix and it would be hard to list them all. Phoenix is definitely a foodie’s destination. In fact, I’d challenge you to find something not available in the area! From 5-star dining to cozy and tasty dives, you’ll find it in Phoenix.
Here are some of my favorites by area. And if you want even more, check out my dining guide for Phoenix. There are over 100 restaurants and I’m sure you’ll find something you’ll love!
- Little Saigon – This family-owned and operated Vietnamese restaurant is an institution in Glendale. It’s nothing fancy but the Vietnamese food is the best I’ve had outside of Vietnam. Their spring rolls are packed tightly and taste amazing, and their pho keeps me coming back for more. I have been going here for years and love it. It is located at 7016 N 57th Ave, Glendale, AZ 85301.
- Lon’s at the Hermosa – Lon’s is a splurge that is so worth it! Nestled in a neighborhood area in Paradise Valley, this place is sensational and has the trifecta for restaurants — great food, service, and ambiance. The greens are mostly grown on-site, the wine list and cocktails are all amazing, and I can’t gush about this place more. It is located at 5532 N Palo Cristi Rd, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253.
- Cibo Restaurant – This pizzeria is one of my favorites in the valley. It’s a casual place in a restored bungalow with great pizza (the best in the valley in my opinion), homemade pasta, salads, and Nutella crepes. Did I mention the crepes? I love their pizza as it’s brick oven style and has incredibly fresh ingredients imported from Italy. Cibo is at 603 N 5th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85003.
- Barrio Cafe – Barrio is the best Mexican in the Valley in my opinion. Start with the tableside guacamole with pomegranate kernels, enjoy a margarita, and continue with anything on their menu. You can’t go wrong. It is located at 2814 N 16th St #1205, Phoenix, AZ 85006.
- O.H.S.O. Eatery & Nano-Brewery– This dog-friendly microbrew pub is a favorite of mine. Though I don’t drink beer, they have some great cocktails and their bloody mary is one of the best I have had. They offer huge portions (leftovers!) of great food. But truth be told, I come here for the dogs! The great food is an added bonus! There are three locations: 4900 E Indian School Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85018, 10810 N Tatum Blvd #126, Phoenix, AZ 85028, and 15681 N Hayden Rd #112, Scottsdale, AZ 85260.
Where to Stay in Phoenix
In a city as large as Phoenix, there are a lot of hotel options to choose from. The trick is to stay in a convenient area to the things you want to do when you’re there.
The Phoenix metro is a large geographic area. It takes over an hour, without traffic, to drive it from end to end. So, your best bet is to plan out what you want to do, then look to book your hotel.
If you find you’re doing things all around the valley, no worries! There are three great areas to stay in: downtown Phoenix, Old Town Scottsdale, and Tempe. Each is close to many popular things to do, and they are mostly near main highways.
Here are the top recommendations for hotels to stay at in the Phoenix area, as well as a resort that I love.
Clarendon: This fun retro boutique hotel is in downtown Phoenix. The pool is decadent, with cabanas and even underwater speakers. There are multiple room types that can accommodate whatever type of trip you’re seeking. And, the location is ideal, near some of the best restaurants in the city.
Found:Re Hotel: This hotel is also in downtown Phoenix, and not far from the Clarendon. It’s my favorite part of the valley and so convenient to my favorite places. Found:Re has a fun urban chic industrial vibe with a rotating art display in the lobby and the public areas. And, the restaurant is fantastic!
Hermosa Inn: This boutique hotel is one of my favorite spots in the valley. It’s in Paradise Valley, which is nice and central. The grounds are gorgeous and the restaurant, Lon’s, is my favorite in all of Phoenix. Don’t miss it.
The Phoenician: For the ultimate in luxury, the Phoenician can’t be beat. I stayed here before I even moved to the valley, and have never been able to forget it. The rooms are incredible, the grounds beautiful, and the restaurants divine. The spa is one of the best in Phoenix, so don’t skip it, whether you stay there or not!
When to Visit Phoenix
Phoenix is located in the low desert so winters are mild and summers are scorching hot. It’s incredible from October through April. If you’re ok with cool mornings and evenings and hot days, the cusp months of May and September are great as well.
June temperatures start to soar and from June through August the temperatures average around 105 degrees Fahrenheit (almost 41 Celcius). However, June and July in particular spike to 110 and even up towards 118 degrees Fahrenheit (almost 48 degrees Celcius).
Monsoon season is technically from mid-June through the end of September. Though, in my experience, it seems to start in mid-to-late July and go through the end of August. August is the primary month. There are scattered showers during this time that can bring the temperatures down some. However, the humidity increases as a result.
In my opinion, it’s not a fun time to be in Phoenix. Though you can get some great hotel deals, I’d come at a different time of year when the weather is better and you can go outside without risking bursting into flame. There are so many fun things to do in Phoenix outside.
If you’re looking for a road trip out of Phoenix, particularly during the scorching summer months, here is a fun list of great day trips from Phoenix and road trips from Phoenix. And for something uniquely southwestern U.S., check out the Native American ruins of Arizona.
Why You Should Visit Phoenix
Phoenix is a great city with a lot of fun things to do in and around the city. There is a little something for everyone here, with lots of activities both inside and outside.
When the rest of the country is hunkered down under a layer of snow, it’s some of the best weather in Phoenix. Come, check it out! You won’t be sorry you did.
You Might Also Like
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- The Ultimate Phoenix Restaurant Guide
- Native American Ruins of Arizona
- The Best Places to Visit in Arizona—Your AZ Bucket List
- Jerome and Cottonwood Wineries—Northern Arizona’s Top Wine-Tasting Region
- Top 7 Things to Do in Cottonwood, Arizona
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This is so helpful. Thank you!! I am so so excited for my trip 🙂
I’m so glad! Have a wonderful time on your visit.
I a m coming from Buffalo, NY to Buckeye, Arizona in Sept 2022. Looking for things to do . I am not a hiker but my sister & I will look at all you said . Thank you so much for this great information . Very helpful ! Thank you again !
How exciting! I moved here from Boston. Big change! I’m sure you’ll find lots of things to enjoy. Thank you so much.
Plan on moving there shortly. Do you have recommendations on areas to look to live?
It would be a good idea to visit and check out the different areas. It will really depend on your budget, how much land you want, and the type of area. Each part of the city is really different! I personally love downtown Phoenix in the historic neighborhoods. They are small bungalows with small plots of land, but really fun area. If you want more land, to be away from the traffic, or have a tight budget, you’ll need to look a bit further out. come to visit and look around!
Coming to visit family in the area in December
Any great ideas
The post includes a lot of great ideas for that time of year. You’ll find holiday celebrations around the valley as well. And check out the Luminaria at Desert Botanical Garden, but buy tickets in advance as they sell out. You can also go ice skating outside at Cityscape in downtown Phoenix.
This is a great list, featuring a really nice variety of places and events to see in Metro Phoenix! We lived in the Valley of the Sun for thirteen years, and are familiar with many of the things on your list. We’re glad you mentioned the Orpheum Theater in the “Performing Arts” listing ; we volunteered there before the restoration was completed. If you “revamp” your list again, you should include the Orpheum by itself (and it’s Wurlitzer theater organ), as well as historic Sahuaro Ranch Park in Glendale. Enjoyed reading this!
Thank you for the feedback and the suggestions! I haven’t been to Sahuaro Ranch Park for quite some time–perhaps I should plan a visit soon!
Great list! I’d suggest you add historic Grand Ave to your list…a quieter first Friday area. Eclectic shops, restaurants. A unique and growing area
Great idea! I haven’t been there for a while since my favorite place there closed. What are your favorites there now?
Fantastic article and very useful for first timers to Phoenix, in particular. Concise and all encompassing still! Thank you.
Thank you so much! I’m thrilled it was helpful for you.
Very nice article, it helped us a lot to explore. I am an entrepreneur by profession and a traveler by heart.
I and My friends had a great time in Phoenix. We had a wonderful time there and enjoyed the culture of the region. We are in love with the place and explored so many places. After reading your blog I would like to visit again.
This has great info. My cousin and I are going to Phoenix in February of ’22 for a getaway for three days. I love your list of 25 best things to do in Phoenix. We will definitely be checking them out. Now to just figure out where to stay that would be kind of centrally located.
I’m so glad it’ll help you plan and that’s a great time of year to visit! Phoenix is very spread out and traffic is challenging. You’ll probably want to base where you stay on what you most want to do. I personally love downtown Phoenix. It’s close to the highway (I10) and convenient to many areas.
There are so many fun things to do in Phoenix, from exploring top-notch museums, seeing interesting and unique architecture, learning about the beauty of the desert, hiking the many mountains in and around the city, and enjoying the resorts and spas. Nice information, thanks!
Hello from Boston! Heading to Phoenix in late February and your list will be my guide. Can’t wait to escape the cold weather 🙂
Hi Betsy! I’m so glad it’s helpful for your planning! I’m from Boston! Just be careful — you may not want to leave! I visited here and a few years later, after two nasty snowy winters, moved! 🙂
I’m surprised you didn’t mention the Musical Instrument Museum. We spent an afternoon there in May and it was fascinating. Lots of hands on and interactive displays, too!
You bet! It’s #2 on the list. 🙂 I love it as well. Glad you got to go!
Oh my gosh! What a coincidence that I am coming across this article. To find out you are from Boston was refreshing and comforting because I am from Boston also! Born and raised. I chose Phoenix because I am having a quarter life crisis and am on a soul searching journey to find myself. I was a little nervous but this article definitely helped. Thank you so much!
How amazing! I’m so glad you found me. Phoenix is as opposite as can be from Boston. It’ll get you out of your element which makes a great opportunity for soul searching and change. Good luck and hope you enjoy it here!
We’re going there next week and all I can say is WOW!thanks for this info now to figure out how we can fit this in during our time thanks again!
I’m so glad this will be helpful for you! Have an amazing time.
My friends and I are planning a visit in November for a birthday girls’ trip, and this list has been so helpful! Thank you from Dallas!! 🙂
You’ve made my day! <3 Have an amazing time!
Love this, reading it aloud to my husband and he kept saying “this is awesome, how did you find that.” I’m bringing my Boston guy to the desert, it’s so dreamy!! I’m a travel nurse, spent 3 months in Tucson and looking forward to checking out Phoenix. Thanks for this amazing guide, can’t wait to try Cebo and hike the desert!
What an amazing opportunity for you! I’m from Boston myself and I hope he loves it. It’s quite different here! Enjoy your time and glad the post will help. 🙂
Great lists! Thank you. We are a family of 8 visiting for 11 nights around the Christmas time this December. Any updates or additions to the list for this year (2022). Or any special events specific to this December? Thanks again!
There’s a lot of fun things to do around the holidays. The Desert Botanical Garden has gorgeous luminaria at night but you’ll have to check if you can still get tickets. It’s gorgeous! The Phoenix Zoo has a great light and music show as well. Downtown Glendale has a lot of lights and events some weekends, and you can go ice skating at Cityscape, which is lots of fun. There are a lot of great restaurants in that area. Some hotels have festivities and there’s a new one called Enchant in Scottsdale. Lots going on here and great weather! Have a blast.
I’m Im coming solo and have so many questions. Is renting a car required if so how is parking? Is it safe for solo travel?
Hi Kara, It really depends what you want to do in Phoenix. But generally, you would need a car as public transportation is limited. Yes, it’s safe for solo travel though take usual precautions as you would in any large city. There are a few posts about traveling solo on this site if you’re interested.
This is my second time living in the valley. The first was as a small child in the 1950’s! I have been here now for 29 years. So much has changed and yet so much remains the same. Your blog is such an excellent recource of old and new things to do. I read recources like this all the time when I travel, and I must say this is by far the best one I have found. Many thanks from another “Local”.
You really did a great job with this overview of things to do in the valley. I live here and find it to be a terrific recourse. Many thanks!
Thank you so much! So great to hear from a local. 🙂
What a great list. My sister in law is planning a surprise trip in July for my brother to visit me with his family. What on your list is a good choice for that time of year or is there any other thing’s that you would recommend? Also I love Indian Fry bread. I love the Navajo Tacos. Is there any Native American restaurants that serve it. We lived in Yuma Arizona for 17 year’s and the only time that I/We could get it was at the Sacred Hearts Pow Wow the 1st weekend in March.
Thank You For Your List Once Again, Janice
Hi Janice, summertime is quite hot in Phoenix as you know. I do have a post specifically on summertime activities you might want to check out. You’ll likely do outdoor activities in the early morning and then indoor or water activities during the day. Highs are generally 100+ then and often 110+. I can’t recommend any Indian fry bread places. There are a bunch around, though I’m unsure if they are Native-owned. Worth calling around to find out. Have a wonderful time! And if you find one you love, please let me know!