It’s not just seniors that have all the fun in the Valley of the Sun! Phoenix is a great place for people of all ages. Whether you want to spend time with your family or friends or explore solo, there are tons of things to do and fun and exciting happenings in the city, no matter what your interests. You can be active outdoors or see some amazing sites indoors, Phoenix has it all!
First, let’s get real. Phoenix has three good weather seasons: fall, winter, and spring. As for things to do in Phoenix in the summer, I’ve got you covered too! Phoenix is a great location for family travel, girlfriend getaways (sure, guys too!), and couples travel. In an effort to make this list as comprehensive as possible and an all-in-one resource, I’ve provided indications when an activity is especially good for kids, whether an activity is seasonal, or if it is something you can do during the summer.
Also, since Phoenix is so spread out and encompasses several other cities, I’ve included anything within a 1-hour radius of Phoenix, for 65+ things to do between 1 and 4 hours of Phoenix, check out my day trips from Phoenix post!
Here are 70 ideas to make your day, weekend, or weeklong trip in the sun even better, and start planning now.
Let’s get started!
Use these quick links to jump to the sections that interest you the most!
- A Myriad of Museums
- Other Indoor Activities
- Parks and Gardens
- Other Outdoor Activities
- Water Activities
- Other Miscellaneous Activities
A Myriad of Museums!
Phoenix has a lot of wonderful museums and it is one activity that you can do all year round, but they are especially good escapes from the summer heat! These are a few of my favorites:
1. Arizona Science Center
[Kid-friendly!] [Summer-friendly!] Arizona Science Center: Arizona’s largest hands-on science center, the museum is home to more than 600 interactive exhibits and a planetarium. The 100+ permanent exhibits are designed with kids in mind but also offer plenty of discoveries for adults too! Don’t miss their IMAX theater or laser shows at night! Saturday is Kids’ Day at the Arizona Science Center, so bring your children and spend the day exploring!
If you’re looking for something more on the dark side, then be sure to visit “The Thing” at Arizona Science Center! The Arizona Science Center also has plenty to do for the kids. The Challenger Learning Lab at the ASU Science Museum is an awesome way to explore STEM! Make your own rocket or learn about robotics and more in this hands-on exhibit that’s appropriate for all ages. Its downtown location is perfect and the center has more than 300 hands-on interactive exhibits.
Address: 600 E Washington St, Phoenix
2. Arizona Museum of Natural History
[Kid-friendly!] [Summer-friendly!] If you’re looking for a great place to go with kids, this museum is a good choice. The more than 60,000 different objects of natural history, anthropology, history, and art available at the museum are diverse and offer lots of opportunities for exploration. Your kids will find plenty of activities to keep them busy including learning about dinosaurs, panning for gold, and watching a flash flood inside the gallery.
Address: 53 N. Macdonald, Mesa
3. Children’s Museum of Phoenix
[Kid-friendly!] [Summer-friendly!] Children’s Museum of Phoenix is another spot for the little ones with more than 300 play exhibits located in the heart of downtown. The experiences are both educational and interactive mainly for children between the ages of 0-10. Much like my love for Pima Air & Space Museum in the Tucson area where you can get in and around the planes, kids can touch everything in this 48,000 square foot museum!
Kids can touch, play and have fun while learning. There is also plenty of space for parents to sit down while their little ones explore!
Address: 215 N 7th St, Phoenix
4. Heard Museum
[Summer-friendly!] The Heard Museum is a great way to learn about American Indian culture focused on American Indian art. It’s an important part of Arizona history that shows how Native American culture is still prevalent today. The preservation and display of American Indian art from all over North America is its core mission. It is the largest solely American Indian museum in the United States. Some of the pieces in the permanent collection are paintings, textiles, and architectural elements, masks, and jewelry made by Native Americans. These pieces represent Native American culture throughout history.
Address: 2301 N Central Ave, Phoenix
5. i.d.e.a. Museum
[Kid-friendly!] [Summer-friendly!] The i.d.e.a. Museum (imagination, design, experience, art) has art-inspiring activities for the whole family. It encourages critical thinking and creativity. Dedicated to design thinking, project-based learning, it’s a whole lot of fun and a great way to reinforce the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math).
Address: 150 W Pepper Pl, Mesa
6. Musical Instrument Museum
[Kid-friendly!] [Summer-friendly!] The Musical Instrument Museum is very unique. If it wasn’t for my experience with filming a campaign for a rental car company, I am pretty sure I would have missed the chance to visit this fantastic museum. The Musical Instrument Museum has a huge collection of over 15,000 instruments that you can explore on your own or with tour guides. It’s a very interactive experience, as you can play the instruments while you tour. Learn about different types of music as well as how to play an instrument!
Address: 4725 E Mayo Blvd, Phoenix
7. Phoenix Art Museum
[Summer-friendly!] The Phoenix Art Museum has incredible collections from all over the world and is the largest art museum in the southwest. These collections span various mediums including painting, sculpture, photography, mixed media, and fashion design. The museum continually hosts photography exhibitions. Mr. Misadventures and I visited often to check them out. The museum store is great and there is an extensive library that includes a variety of books, magazines, and other publications. Lastly, don’t miss the Instagram photo opportunity inside the lobby called the Black Cloud by Carlos Amorales depicting a swarm of black butterflies!
Address: 1625 N Central Ave, Phoenix
8. Arizona Capitol Museum
[Summer-friendly!] The state of Arizona has many accomplishments to be proud of and there is no better place to celebrate them than the Capitol Museum in Phoenix. This museum is a must-see spot for anyone who wants to know more about the history of this great state, as well as exploring collections from around the world. (For example, I loved seeing the exposition on the Merci Trains, which were trains filled with gifts from France to show their appreciation for the US’s help during WWII.)
The museum allows visitors to delve deeper into Arizona’s past by walking through interactive exhibits inside five galleries that explore different periods in time: 1867-1876 (the first territorial capital of Arizona), 1877-1912 (the second territorial capital of Arizona, and the precursor to today’s Capitol Museum) 1912-1969 (a time when Phoenix was on a fast track to becoming one of America’s premier cities); 1969 – present-day (Arizona has enjoyed remarkable growth in recent years).
Address: 1700 W Washington St, Phoenix
9. Hall of Flame Fire Museum
[Summer-friendly!] The Hall of Flame Fire Museum is the world’s largest collection dedicated to firefighting. The museum includes many artifacts and has interactive exhibits that will help you understand the history of firefighting. The museum is open year-round for self-guided tours, with extended hours during the summer months.
10. Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeology Park
Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeology Park feature an extensive collection of pottery, baskets, and tools from the Hohokam people. The Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve is one of the largest collections of prehistoric petroglyphs in the Phoenix Valley.
Address: 4619 E Washington St, Phoenix
11. Pioneer Living History Village
[Kid-friendly!] Pioneer Living History Village is run by a non-profit organization that offers an educational experience in an open-air living history museum on 90-acres in North Phoenix. The organization’s mission is to “inspire young minds with the story of westward expansion and pioneer life in early America.” The Village has close to 30 historic original and reconstructed buildings from the 1880s and early 1900s.
Address: 3901 W Pioneer Rd, Phoenix
12. Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
[Summer-friendly!] The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is a popular tourist attraction that has been ranked as one of the top ten museums in Arizona by the Phoenix New Times. The art on display at this museum includes some of the most influential and important artists from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and specializes in contemporary and modern art, architecture, and design. The museum has four galleries and 9 to 12 exhibitions each year and has approximately 2000 works in its permanent collection.
Address: 7374 E 2nd St, Scottsdale
13. Scottsdale’s Museum of the West
[Summer-friendly!] Scottsdale’s Museum of the West is located in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale and houses almost every imaginable western artifact. The museum features exhibits on everything from cowboy culture to Native American art, even a large collection of John Wayne memorabilia! In addition to the museum’s many exhibits and artifacts, they also offer guided tours of their exhibit halls as well as lecture series highlighting different aspects of Western history. The permanent exhibit is called History of the West, and it includes a collection of over 450 items from Arizona’s history.
Address: 3830 N Marshall Way, Scottsdale
14. ASU Art Museum
[Summer-friendly!] The ASU Art Museum in the Nelson Fine Arts Center on ASU’s Tempe campus (right across the street from Papago Park and the Botanical Garden if you are looking to bundle activities) has an ongoing gallery of (mostly) contemporary artwork by Arizona artists. It is a newly renovated building that has state-of-the-art equipment. The museum also supports international exhibitions. It’s a great place to learn about and experience art.
Address: 51 E 10th St, Tempe
Other Indoor Activities
Temperatures in the Phoenix area can soar to dangerous extremes. It is important to know that summer does not have to be unbearable. There are many indoor activities available to you and your family during the warmer months. From sports and indoor games to places with water games, air-conditioned malls, or even movie theaters. All these options exist for when you need a break from the heat!
15. OdySea Aquarium
[Kid-friendly!] [Summer-friendly!] OdySea Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the Southwest! It is a marine aquarium with a square footage of 200,000 square feet which gives them ample room to represent different ocean environments and showcase various species of sea animals. You can see sharks, penguins, and otters. It is a fun place to go to learn about all the different fish and animals that live in our waters.
The OdySea Aquarium is an excellent destination for families with kids. It is very hands-on and they can watch the tank feedings. It is also an excellent destination for couples who are looking to have a date night out on the town. They sometimes have live music playing in the background.
Address: 9500 East Vía de Ventura Suite, Scottsdale
16. Taliesin West
It was so enlightening to visit the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright. The organic architecture of Taliesin West, located in Scottsdale, was so different than what I’ve seen with commissioned work like the Guggenheim in New York. The tour and tour staff is phenomenal. The docents shared tons of information and anecdotes about Mr. Wright’s life and work. You can sit on the furniture, touch walls, feel textures, and be immersed in the world of this brilliant architect. (There is a portion of the tour that is outdoors as well.)
[Summer-friendly!] Take part in some of the evening activities that they do during the hottest months of the year. Otherwise, taking a tour in the middle of summer is not great, lots of glass that heats up!
Address: 12621 N Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd, Scottsdale
17. Butterfly World
[Kid-friendly!] [Summer-friendly!] I generally don’t seek out zoos – even though Phoenix has a pretty good one. But I could not resist a visit to Butterfly World in Scottsdale. An interactive museum slash zoo, it is a really fun and informative place. We decided to watch the monarch butterfly movie and left the session armed with knowledge about the death-defying feats these butterflies go through every year for their migration and what I/we/people can do to help.
Then, of course, there is the butterfly area where you can walk around and get up close to hundreds of butterflies – that was pretty cool!
Address: 9500 East Vía de Ventura, Scottsdale
18. LEGOLAND Discovery Center
[Kid-friendly!] LEGOLAND Discovery Center is the go-to spot in Tempe for family fun. The indoor theme park has over 50 interactive rides, games, and activities. One of the most popular attractions is the MINILAND area where families can explore landmarks from around the world in miniature form, including Paris’ Eiffel Tower to New York’s Statue of Liberty.
Address: 5000 S Arizona Mills Circle, Tempe
19. Sea Life Arizona
[Kid-friendly!] [Summer-friendly!] The aquarium inside the Arizona Mills shopping center has more than 5,000 different animals in 30 displays. You’ll find rays, jellyfish, octopus, and more in residence. They also have a 360-degree ocean tunnel.
Address: Interstate 10 and Baseline Road, Tempe
20. Great Arizona Puppet Theater
[Kid-friendly!] This Phoenix company produces wonderful shows for children! There are multiple shows running at a time and they change often, so check the schedule on their website.
Address: 302 W. Latham St., Phoenix
21. Ice Skating at AZ Ice
[Kid-friendly!] [Summer-friendly!] The desert seems like a strange place for an ice rink, but trust me, when it’s 100+ degrees outside, you’ll want to sit on the ice! (And there are actually ice bars in the Phoenix area where you can do that…) If you want to rent some skates and cool off with some twirls around the ice, there are 3 rinks in Phoenix where you can do it.
- AZ Ice Arcadia (3853 E Thomas Rd) in Phoenix
- AZ ICE Gilbert (2305 E Knox Rd) in Gilbert
- AZ Ice Peoria (15829 N 83rd Ave) in Peoria
22. Roller skating
[Kid-friendly!] [Summer-friendly!] If ice skating is not your thing, how about wheels? USA Skateland also has 3 rinks in the Phoenix area, but of the roller skating variety! You can use regular or inline skates in their rinks and there are plenty of classic accompaniments like arcade games, snacks, and music. There are different events throughout the week for families including themed activities, teen skate, and more.
- USA’s Skateland Chandler (1101 W Ray Rd) in Chandler
- USA’s Skateland Mesa (7 E. Southern Ave) in Mesa
- Great Skate Glendale (10054 N 43rd Ave) in Glendale
23. Crayola Experience
[Kid-friendly!] [Summer-friendly!] The Crayola Experience provides a great opportunity for children to explore the creative process of color and art. Children are able to try their hand at creating some pretty awesome works of art while learning about the history of crayons and color. There are plenty of activities to entertain kids as well as events geared toward adults such as where you get your hands on some popcorn, a drink, and enjoy some movies!
Address: 3111 W Chandler Blvd, Chandler
24. Wonderspaces Arizona
[Kid-friendly!] [Summer-friendly!] Wonderspaces Arizona is a creative space for all ages. Explore their interactive exhibits designed to stimulate creativity and imagination. They have hands-on workshops that help you unleash your inner artist.
Address: Scottsdale Fashion Square, 7014 E. Camelback Road, Scottsdale
25. Ceretta Candy Co. Tours
[Kid-friendly!] The Ceretta Candy Co was founded by Italian immigrant Crescenzo Ceretta, who came to America fleeing poverty and war in Italy. He started his new life as a confectioner selling homemade candies from the trunk of his car before he opened up this fascinating place where visitors can watch how old-fashioned candy is made in a 30-minute guided tour. The tours are free, but you can build your own chocolate pizza afterward for a fee.
Address: 5345 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale
26. See the Suns, the Diamondbacks or the Cardinals
There are several professional sports teams in the Phoenix area that you can watch, including the Suns (basketball), the Diamondbacks (baseball), and the Cardinals (football).
- The Arizona Diamondbacks. They have been around since 1998 when they came into existence following the purchase and relocation of the Seattle Mariners and their AAA affiliate, the Tucson Sidewinders. The Diamondbacks are named for Arizona’s nickname of “The Grand Canyon State.”
- The Phoenix Suns! They play in the National Basketball Association (NBA) and were created right here in 1968 as an expansion team following a move from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Phoenix by owner Walter Brown. They are named for their home city, Phoenix (which is also where they play).
- The Arizona Cardinals! Fun fact about the Cards – They were founded in 1898 as part of a league that was originally called the American Professional Football Association but then became known as the National Football League in 1922. Their colors are red and white and they are named for the bird, cardinals which are often seen in the area (it is not the state bird which is the Cactus wren).
Parks and Gardens in the Phoenix Area
Beautiful oases exist throughout the Phoenix area. The desert may be hot, but it sure is pretty when there are wildflowers blooming on the hillsides. And with all the parks, gardens, and outdoor spaces within a few miles of downtown, there’s plenty to see if you’re looking for something to do in Phoenix that doesn’t involve air conditioning.
In addition to being great places to get some exercise or walk your dog, these parks have so much more going for them – from sculptures and water features that offer cooling relief during summer heatwaves, to shady spots where you can enjoy reading a book or taking a nap while listening to birds chirping.
27. Desert Botanical Garden
[Kid-friendly!] The Desert Botanical Garden has 140 acres of grounds and exhibits to explore including the world’s largest cactus garden made up of over 20,000 plants. There is a rotation of new artists every few months, so return visits to the gardens certainly won’t be boring. Plus all the plants bloom at different times of the year so there is always something different to see. There are plenty of walks, and a very nice restaurant and shop. There are lots of events (including a food festival!) continually happening. Plus seasonal activities like a holiday light show and Flashlight Nights in the summer.
Address: 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix
28. Japanese Friendship Garden
If you’re looking for a break from the Phoenix desert, the Japanese Friendship Garden is the place for you! As soon as you enter, it feels like you’re no longer in the desert but has been transported to an authentic Japanese garden. The garden, named Ro Ho En, is a 3.5-acre garden in a lush and tranquil setting. It includes features like a Koi pond with more than 300 fish, lanterns, stone footbridges, and even a tea house offering ceremonies. Educational tours are offered for those who want to learn more about this beautiful and serene place.
The Japanese Friendship Garden was created through a joint project between Phoenix and Himeji, its sister city in Japan since 1976. The two cities join together for cultural and educational exchanges and this project is a great example of the bond between the cities. Sit and be enchanted by the rushing water of the 12-foot tall waterfall, close your eyes and enjoy this lush oasis. Now you know where to find me when I need a break from the desert!
Address: 1125 N 3rd Ave, Phoenix
Contributed by Sam of My Flying Leap
29. McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park
[Kid-friendly!] Take the kids for a ride on a vintage train at the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale. Kids can also explore the train museum or romp on the playgrounds here. It is home to the world’s largest operating steam locomotive! This 475-acre park offers a wide variety of attractions including train rides and exhibits.
Address: 7301 E Indian Bend Rd, Scottsdale
30. Heritage Square
[Kid-friendly!] Speaking of railroads, one of the must-see attractions in Phoenix is a trip through Heritage Square. This park features historic buildings, shops, and restaurants set up to represent different periods in Phoenix’s history from 1912 when railroads connected Arizona with other parts of the country.
Address: 113 N 6th St, Phoenix
31. Tempe Beach Park
[Kid-friendly!] Tempe Beach Park is a great place for families with children of all ages. There are lots of activities and the park is open from sunrise to sunset, so you have plenty of time to enjoy the beach, playgrounds, picnic areas, or fitness equipment.
The picnic areas have grills available for use if you want to cook your own food then head over to one of the covered tables where there’s often live music playing in the background. Things like this make it easy for visitors and locals alike to relax and enjoy themselves while enjoying some family time together. In addition, Tempe Beach Park has what many consider one of the best dog parks in Phoenix that offers off-leash space for people with dogs.
The kids will enjoy the playgrounds, and if it’s not too hot out you can get some exercise in by playing on one of the fitness hoops or using a punching bag to work up your boxing game. If this isn’t enough there are plenty more attractions worth checking out like walking paths that wind through
At night in the summer, make sure to check out Glow Kayaking Fridays!
Address: 80 W Rio Salado Pkwy, Tempe
32. Boyce Thompson Arboretum
The Boyce Thompson Arboretum is the oldest botanical garden in Arizona and actually west of the Mississippi as well. It has been open to the public since 1928 and was founded by mining magnate Charles Boyce Thompson. The arboretum is home to a variety of plants from around the world and offers activities such as summer concerts, themed hikes, and more.
Address: 37615 E Arboretum Way, Superior
33. Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch
When you first enter the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, it feels like a whole new world. The dry desert is suddenly replaced by lush green trees and plants that make your eyes water from the beauty of this 110-acre oasis. There is a lake and 7 ponds. The water provides visitors with an escape from the heat of Phoenix’s summer-time sun while also giving them a chance to explore nature in its purest form. It’s a great place to bike. They are allowed on trails and sidewalks.
At night head to the Gilbert Rotary Centennial Observatory in the park on Friday and Saturday during the summer for a peek through their telescope.
Address: 2757 E. Guadalupe Road, Gilbert
34. San Tan Mountain Regional Park
San Tan Mountain Regional Park is a great place to spend time outside with your family. The park is a popular spot for bikers, hikers, and equestrian trail riders alike. It is home to the Peridot Cove Nature Preserve, which features open meadows and lakes perfect for waterfowl viewing. This is a great place to enjoy nature in Phoenix, especially if you are looking for some peace and quiet away from the hustle of city life.
During the summer, the park offers nighttime biking adventures on Wednesdays.
Address: 6533 W Phillips Rd, Queen Creek
35. Ahwatukee Park
Ahwatukee is the Crow Indian word that means ‘House of Dreams’ and this little town backing up against South Mountain Park began when a few houses sprung up and quickly grew into a really cute community. There are 2 recreation centers situated on the property, which feature playgrounds, picnic areas, grills, splash pads, and more. The park also has a water park with slides for kids, and bike trails like those you find at Camelback Mountain.
Address: Ahwatukee Park is located in South Phoenix, off of 48th Street and Chandler Boulevard.
36. Cave Creek Regional Park
One of the best things to do right outside of Phoenix is to go camping at Cave Creek Regional Park. This campground is so special because there are Saguaro cactus on every campsite! Waking up in the morning right next to a Saguaro is a really special experience. It’s also a great place to sit around a fire in the evening and watch the sunset surrounded by towering Saguaros! The campground is located about 40 minutes north of downtown Phoenix, making it a perfect weekend destination!
To camp at Cave Creek, you must make reservations in advance. The campground fills up pretty far in advance, especially on the weekends, so it is recommended to make reservations as soon as you know you want to visit. One other fun thing to do in the area is to hike one of the many trails in the park. There are also a few ranches nearby that you can go on a sunset horseback ride. The park also hosts different events such as native seed collections, bird walks, and guided ranger hikes.
Address: 37019 N Lava Ln, Cave Creek
Contributed by Jessica of Unearth the Voyage.
37. Papago Park
Spreading across both cities of Phoenix and Tempe, Papago Park covers an area of 6 square kilometers and offers many hiking trails, bicycle paths, picnic areas, lakes, as well as a large zoo, a fire museum, and a Desert Botanical Garden. When I visited Phoenix last May, my favorite activity among all the free things to do in Phoenix was to explore the park’s many fantastic geological formations, especially the Hole-in-the-Rock. In fact, the Hole-in-the-Rock is a naturally eroded rock formation of conglomerate sandstone. But it is also an archaeological site.
The local people who lived in the Salt River Valley from around 1 AD to 1450 AD, also called Hohokam, used this geological feature as a calendar devise. They realized that the ray of light coming through the hole in the ceiling of the rock-shelter changed its position on the floor throughout the year. So, to mark the summer and winter solstices, as well as the equinoxes, the Hohokam people ground a bedrock metate slick at the exact location where the ray of lights fell. When standing on the top of this geological and archaeological site, you also get to catch a wonderful panoramic view of the surrounding area.
So if you’re in Phoenix, make sure to go to the Hole-in-the-Rock. If you don’t feel like hiking around, you can park your car at the foot of the site. The Hole-in-the-Rock is less than a 10-minute walk from there.
Address: 1000 N College Ave, Tempe
Contributed by Mei & Kerstin of Travel with MK.
Trails in Papago Park
- Hole-in-the-Rock ( 0.2 miles)
- Double Butte Loop Trail (2.3 miles)
Also in Papago Park
- Hunt’s Tomb: a small white pyramid at the top of a hill where Arizona’s first governor is buried (his wife was buried there first).
Other Outdoor Activities
Phoenix is a land of contrasts. From its canyons and cacti to its golf courses and shopping malls, the city has something for everyone. You’ve seen the list of the abundant parks and gardens in the area, now let’s take a look at some other indoor places to escape the hustle and bustle.
38. Phoenix Zoo
[Kid-friendly!] The Phoenix Zoo is the largest privately owned, non-profit zoo in the United States. Operating without government funding, the zoo relies on amounts received through admissions, membership, concessions, special events, and donations. The Phoenix Zoo has 125 acres of natural habitat, with more than 200 species of animals. There are four main trails to explore: the Africa trail, Arizona trail, Tropics Trail, and Children’s Trail, that house over 1,200 animals.
Besides wandering from habitat to habitat to view the animals, there are some great activities to take part in. For an additional cost, you do not have to travel to Egypt to experience a camel ride, or Africa to feed a giraffe. Also, at Stingray Bay, you can touch and feed stingrays. For those with young children, barnyard animals are waiting for your love and petting at the Red Barn. The safari cruiser takes you on a 25-minute narrated tour of the zoo.
The Phoenix Zoo is open 364 days a year; it is closed on Christmas. The hours can range from a 7:00 am opening during the summer to being open until as late as 10 pm during the winter. The temperatures are milder during the Fall, Winter, and Spring for a more comfortable visit.
The Phoenix Zoo does a great job of accommodating guests who have special needs. “Quiet Zones” help accommodate guests with sensory processing needs. “Headphone Zones” are located in areas where the noise is loud. Also, visitors can rent sensory bags that include noise-canceling headphones and fidget tools.
Address: 455 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix
Contributed by Debbie Fettback of WorldAdventurists.com.
39. Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park
[Kid-friendly!] I passed this park all the time while living in the Phoenix area, except I saw it from the backside while on the 303 Interstate! You can see the bison hanging out there as you drive by! The Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park has 600 species of animals, plus a baby animal nursery, amusement park rides, big cat exhibits, and a kangaroo walkabout.
If you go there, have a meal at Dillon’s KC BBQ, it has a shark tank connected to the park and it is fun to have a meal in front of it! (P.S. you don’t have to pay for a park entrance to eat there!)
Address: 16501 W. Northern Ave., Litchfield Park
40. Spring Training
[Seasonal] If you are a fan of any kind of sport, they have a professional team in the Phoenix area. But what drives the heart and soul of most people during the month of March is spring training! From Mesa to Peoria, Surprise to Salt River, and everywhere else in between, there are 15 professional baseball teams at play in the Cactus League. Cheaper tickets, closer access to the players, I love spring training. Even my I-am-not-sure-about-this-sport French husband enjoyed himself far more at spring training than at an Oakland A’s game at the Coliseum.
41. Mural Hunting in Roosevelt Row
There are so many murals in Phoenix, it would be impossible to list them all! One of my favorite areas for mural hunting in Phoenix is Roosevelt Row. The history of this area is rich and fascinating. Originally called “the Cornfield” in the 1880s, it was the site of Arizona’s first cotton field and a hub for socializing for Phoenix’s pioneer farmers. From the 1920s onward, it became a commercial district that spanned sixteen blocks from Buckeye Road to Fillmore Street.
In 2002, just two blocks east of Garfield Street were designated as an arts district with zoning designating the following as creative uses: visual art galleries, live performance art theaters, screen-based media production workshops and studios, and low-impact microbusinesses.
It is now home to galleries, live music venues, restaurants, art studios, independent fashion boutiques and more! It’s a true destination for art lovers in Phoenix or those looking for something new to do on the weekend.
Address: 333 E Roosevelt St, Phoenix
42. First Fridays Art Walk
Downtown Phoenix has a cool monthly event called First Fridays Art Walk that provides unique opportunities for tourists and locals alike. The event takes place every first Friday of the month from 6 pm-9 pm with creates vibrant art displays to explore both indoors and outdoors. Activities include live performances, food trucks, drinks, art galleries, and artist showcasing their work to name a few.
Address: There are three main areas of interest in downtown Phoenix: Civic Space Park, Steele Indian School Park, and Central Arts District.
[Kid-friendly!]Agritopia is a sustainable urban agricultural park in Gilbert. Its vision is to create a community where sustainability and food security intersect. Agritopia is not just an idea of implementing sustainable practices; it’s an entire neighborhood of living laboratories that are part of the living museum of Agri-ville. Visitors can learn about the latest innovations in renewable energy and solar power while they visit our Historic Farmstead to see how renewables were used on the farm in the 1890s and 1900s. There are also great opportunities for residents who want to grow their own produce or buy from local farmers at the onsite market, The Market at Agritopia.
Address: 3000 E Ray Rd, Gilbert
44. Queen Creek Olive Mill
[Kid-friendly!] The Queen Creek Olive Mill is a great place to stop for an afternoon of family fun. The farm grows and presses olives for high-quality extra virgin olive oil which you can buy on location along with extra virgin olive oils, Balsamic vinegar, olives, and more. Plus it is Arizona’s only working olive farm and mill!
There is a constant stream of events as well with live music, food trucks, and food tours.
Address: Queen Creek Olive Mill is located at 25062 S Meridian Rd in Queen Creek.
45. Adobe Dam Recreation Area
[Kid-friendly!] The Adobe Dam Recreation Area features a variety of activities including hiking, camping, fishing, horseback riding, and mountain biking. There are also two lakes: Lake Pleasant which is over 2000 acres and Adobe Reservoir which covers about 1800 acres. Both have excellent fishing opportunities. There are also various types of wildlife that call this place home like deer, javelina (AKA peccary), coyotes, wild donkeys, and other small animals.
Address: 23280 N 43rd Ave. Glendale
Hiking is a great pastime for all the family. It’s perfect for keeping fit and healthy, and it can be lots of fun too. But hiking here is a bit different. Hiking in the Phoenix area has many different opportunities to suit your needs – from hiking at night to hiking with kids, you’re spoiled for choice! The possibilities are endless when it comes to exploring Arizona on foot. These are some of my favorite spots.
46. Camelback Mountain
One of my favorite things to do in Phoenix is hike Camelback Mountain. Visitors can find Camelback Mountain about 25 minutes northeast of downtown Phoenix near the resort town of Scottsdale. The best thing about an early morning hike up Camelback Mountain is the incredible view from the top. The highest point stands at 2,706 feet. Once you reach the peak you’ll be able to see the surrounding desert landscape for miles. It’s gorgeous up there, so be sure to take some pictures before you make your way back down.
There are two popular trails that lead up to the peak. The first is the Echo Canyon Trail, which is 1.14 miles. The other trail is the Cholla Trail which is 1.4 miles. No matter which trail you choose, the hike will take anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours, depending on your fitness level. Both trails are considered strenuous and will require that you climb over boulders and up a lot of steps. Appropriate hiking shoes are a must as is plenty of water. A hike up Camelback Mountain is the perfect way to see a different side of Phoenix. Not to mention, it’s a great workout.
Contributed by Eden of Rock a Littel Travel
47. South Mountain Park
South Mountain Park is an outdoors lover’s paradise! Phoenix South Mountain Park with Camelback Mountain and Papago Park as your backdrop is where you’ll find a hidden gem that mimics Bryce Canyon National Park. It is one of the Phoenix’s most popular hiking spots with more than 20 miles of trails for all levels of difficulty and lots of scenic views from different peaks that take you through cacti forests, rolling grasslands, and towering peaks.
Address: 10919 S. Central Ave. Park East Entrance – Pima Canyon at 9004 S. 48th St
48. Pinnacle Peak Park
Pinnacle Peak Park is a popular destination for hiking and outdoor activities. The park is northeast of downtown Phoenix near Scottsdale. The best thing about an early morning hike up Pinnacle Peak Park is the incredible view from the top. The highest point stands at 2,706 feet. Once you reach the peak you’ll be able to see the surrounding desert landscape for miles. It’s gorgeous up there, so be sure to take some pictures before you make your way back down.
Address: 26802 N 102nd Way, Scottsdale
49. Phoenix Mountains Preserve
The Phoenix Mountains Preserve is another top destination for those who love the outdoors. Visitors can go there to enjoy hiking, cycling, and wildlife. What’s so unique about the Phoenix Mountains Preserve is that it has more than 1,400 acres of desert landscapes in 63 moderate trails that are perfect for an afternoon or morning walk. One of my favorites is Piestewa Summit Trail which is 2 miles.
Address: 2701 E Squaw Peak Dr, Phoenix
50. McDowell Sonoran Desert Preserve
The McDowell Mountains situated in the northeastern corner of Scottsdale are a big draw for their tranquil beauty and natural wonders. It’s a great spot for hiking and walking through scenic trails that wind up into the McDowell Mountain Preserve. This preserve includes many different types of vegetation and wildlife as well as some amazing views. It’s also great for sunset and moonrise shooting.
My 2 favorite trails:
- Gateway Loop Trail (4.4 miles)
- Tom’s Thumb Trail (4.0 miles)
Address: 18333 N Thompson Peak Pkwy, Scottsdale
51. Thunderbird Conservation Park
The Thunderbird Conservation Park in Glendale is comprised of more than 2,000 acres of desert landscape. Visitors come here to enjoy hiking and wildlife viewing in addition to scenic views of the Phoenix metropolitan area. The conservancy offers visitors a chance to explore various natural elements such as rock formations, grasslands, woodlands, and native plants. It also has paved walking/bike trails that are perfect for those who don’t want a strenuous hike yet still want an outdoor adventure. My favorite trail is the Cholla Loop which is 3.5 miles.
Address: 22800 N 59th Ave, Glendale
52. Desert Vista Trailhead
If you are looking for a relaxing and adventurous walk, the Desert Vista Trailhead is the place to go. The trails are usually fairly quiet and it’s easy to hike. It follows a ridge with great views that are perfect for sunsets. You can do the Dixie Mountain Loop (3.8 miles) or the Desert Tortoise Trail (1.1 miles).
Address: 1901 W Desert Vista Trail, Phoenix
53. Superstition Mountains
When Mr. Misadventures and I were full-time RVing we spent a month near this mountain range. We had a great time visiting Goldfield Ghost Town and then heading to Tortilla Flats, doing the Dolly steamboat tour, and then hitting the rest of the Apache Trail (parts of which are now closed). But one of the best things to do in this beautiful little range is hiking. There are many different hiking trails to explore including:
- Lost Dutchman Trail – This is the most famous and challenging trail with miles of steep paths that feature switchbacks up the side of Camelback Mountain to its peak at 2,704 feet above sea level. You can do the trail as a day hike or an overnight backpack trip.
- Goldfield Trail – This trail is located in a remote, beautiful area of Superstitions Mountains that are so rugged they’re practically uninhabited by humans other than hikers on this path which winds through two mountain ranges.
- Bumble Bee Canyon Trail this trail offers many different options for hiking including an easy walk or something more strenuous that includes a challenging scramble up some steep rocks.
Address: 4650 N Mammoth Mine Rd, Apache Junction
54. Usery Mountain Park
It’s hard to drive through the Phoenix area and not notice the dramatic Usery Mountains, a 3,648-acre park where the US Forest Service offers a variety of activities for visitors including hiking (there are 29 miles of multi-use trails some scenic wind caves too), biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, and more. One of the most popular places to visit at Usery Mountain Park is Saguaro Lake which features a beautiful, serene lake with saguaros that are hundreds of years old.
Address: 3939 N Usery Pass Rd, Mesa
55. Other Trail suggestions:
- South Mountain Trails (several locations on 19th and Central Ave) 0.5-3 miles, easy to difficult
- North Mountain & Shaw Butte Trails (several locations on N 7th Street) 1-4 miles, easy to moderate
- Phoenix Sonoran Preserve Apache Wash Loop (1600 E. Sonoran Desert Dr.) has several trails 0.5-5 miles, easy to difficult
- Phoenix Sonoran Preserve Desert Hills Trailhead (705 W. Carefree Hwy.) has 2 trails 6 and 7 miles, moderate to difficult
- Phoenix Sonoran Preserve Desert Vista Trailhead (1900 W. Desert Vista Tr.) has several trails 1-4 miles, easy to difficult
- Hayden Butte Preserve (“A” Mountain) near ASU university is not even a mile 0.7, is steep but has great views. (Mill Ave. and 5th St. in Tempe)
56. Night hiking trails
Nighttime hiking takes a bit of practice, but it is a matter of survival in the summer months! Here are some good trails for enjoying the cooler temperatures in the evening:
- Cave Creek Regional Park
- Estrella Mountain Regional Park
- Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area
- Usery Mountain Regional Park
- White Tank Mountain Regional Park (make sure to check out the ranger-led scorpion hunts!)
Year-round sunshine and warm weather means plenty of water activities and it is one you can definitely count on to still enjoy in the summer! There are many options for those who enjoy spending time in or on the water, and this includes a variety of indoor and outdoor attractions that are perfect for families. Water parks are also available for those looking to get out into the sun! Plus all the amazing resort hotels also have amazing pools!
Kayaking is a great way to see Phoenix and to cool off when it gets hot. There are a couple of spots where you can do this and multiple guides and tours that can help ensure you have a good time on the water! Try kayaking
- Lower Salt River (watch for wild horses!)
- Canyon Lake
- Saguaro Lake
- Lake Pleasant
- Tempe Town Lake
- Bartlett Lake
58. WaterWorks at Arizona Falls
Managed by the local water utility company (SRP) Arizona Falls was formed from a natural 20-foot drop along the Arizona Canal between what is now 56th and 58th streets. This site dates back to the 1800s, was closed for a while but it reopened in 2013. It has a cool history (read more about here). It is a restored hydroelectric plant where you can sit in the “water room” which feels like being behind a waterfall!
Address: 56th Street and Indian School Road, Phoenix
59. Six Flags Hurricane Harbor
[Kid-friendly!] Six Flags Hurricane Harbor is a water-based amusement park in Glendale with more than 30 rides and attractions.
Address: 4243 W. Pinnacle Peak Road, Glendale
60. Golfland Sunsplash
[Kid-friendly!] Golfland Sunsplash in Mesa has a wave pool, Caribbean Water Works, Splash Water Harbor Slides, Master Blaster, and Storm Rider water features.
Address: 155 W Hampton Ave, Mesa (they have seasonal openings/closings so check before you go!)
61. Tempe Marketplace Splash Pad
Tempe Marketplace is a shopping mall, but also home to a splash pad where kids can run through them with beads flying everywhere or water guns spraying at targets! There is also a giant slide to cool with.
Address: Tempe Marketplace, Loop 202 and McClintock
62. Foothills Recreation & Aquatics Center
Foothills Recreation and Aquatics Center is a sports complex with 2 indoor pools, one for kids and one for adults. It offers two giant slides, a zero-depth leisure pool with spray features, an aquatic playground, and a lazy river. There is also a diving well and two diving boards, water aerobics, lap swimming, pool rentals, private and group swim lessons, and special events that can be found online.
Address: 5600 W. Union Hills Drive in Glendale.
63. Big Surf
[Closed for the 2021 season] [Kid-friendly!] The Big Surf park in Tempe has water features for everyone. The park has a wave pool (the oldest in the US!), lazy river, splash pad, and more! Big Surf has a really cool history like being named a Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark, having Pink Floyd performed there as part of their Dark Side of The Moon tour in 1972, and having a world champion surfer consult and ride the first man-made wave! This family-friendly venue is perfect for a day at any time of year.
Address: 1500 N McClintock Dr, Tempe
64. Kiwanis Wave Pool
[Summer-friendly!] The Kiwanis Wave Pool is a great place to spend the day with family and friends if you’re looking for some fun summer activities in Phoenix! The pool is indoor and has a water slide and artificially generated waves.
Address: 6111 S. All-America Way, Tempe
65. Superstition Shadows Aquatic Center
The Superstition Shadows Aquatic Center features an Olympic-sized pool, a kid’s play area with slides and water games, lifeguards on duty at all times.
Address: 1091 W. Southern Ave., Apache Junction
66. Resort Pools
The resorts boast in the Phoenix area have many pools in all shapes and sizes. There are a constant series of poolside activities including temporary beaches, movie nights, etc. along with exceptional dining and spa experiences.
Resorts I KNOW I have deals:
- The Camby (2401 E Camelback Rd)
- Copperwynd Resort & Club (13225 N Eagle Ridge Dr, Scottsdale)
- JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa (5350 E Marriott Dr)
- The Phoenician (6000 East Camelback Road, Scottsdale)
- Point Hilton Squaw Peak Resort (7677 North 16th Street)
- Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort (5700 E McDonald Dr, Paradise Valley) is on my personal bucket list
- Hilton Phoenix Resort at the Peak The Hilton Phoenix Resort at the Peak’s water park, which is open year-round, has expanded hours over the summer. In addition to its North and South Pointe pools, the resort is home to the River Ranch Water Park, which has a lazy river and water slide. For day passes, go to ResortPass. (7677 N. 16th St.) Phoenix
- Westin Kierland Resort & Spa (6902 East Greenway Parkway) in Scottsdale
- Maya Day + Nightclub (7333 E. Indian Plaza) in Scottsdale
- Oasis Water Park at Arizona Grand (Arizona Grand Resort & Spa) has an 8-story slide and wave pool. (8000 Arizona Grand Parkway) in Phoenix
- Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch, you will find 10 pools, 45 waterfalls, and a three-story high-speed water slide. For day passes (7500 E. Doubletree Ranch Road) in Scottsdale
If pool parties are more your style (they’re not mine) then head to:
- The OH Pool at the Valley Ho Hotel (6850 E Main St, Scottsdale) it’s open to the public every day but Saturday
- Maya Day & Nightclub (7333 East Indian Plaza, Scottsdale) a Vegas-style party pool
- The Release pool party which is 21 and up at the Talking Stick Resort (9800 Talking Stick Way)
- Lustre, the poolside bar at the Hotel Palomar in downtown Phoenix, has lots of action this summer. There are DJs on Saturday nights and live music on Sunday afternoons. Cabanas and day beds are available to rent. (2 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix
- Fairmont Scottsdale Princess has a gorgeous spa and if you purchase a spa service you get access to the rooftop pool! (7575 E Princess Dr, Scottsdale). I spent 36 hours at the hotel and enjoyed that pool!
- The Phoenician Resort also has a beautiful spa with rooftop pool. I went to an invite there and the pool is lovely.
- Lake Havasu State Park: At nearly 11,000 acres, Lake Havasu State Park is by far the largest of western Arizona’s parks.
- Patagonia Lake State Park: Tucked away amid the rolling hills of southern Arizona, Patagonia Lake State Park is a shimmering oasis in the high desert.
- Cattail Cove State Park: This park protects a long piece of scenic shoreline on the southern edge of Lake Havasu. Swimming is allowed in the roped-off area adjacent to the beach.
There are, of course, plenty of day trips from Phoenix, but Mesa should absolutely be considered in the running. There are a ton of amazing things to do in Mesa no matter what you’re interested in – outdoors, local shopping, plenty of unique and sustainable initiatives to support, eateries to check out, creative street art, and seasonal events. There are a lot of unique activities to do in Mesa. Agritopia is a modern, village-like community that includes its own neighborhood, school, citrus groves, public gardens, coffee shops, restaurants, and more.
Head downtown and check out the street art, vintage stores, and unique shops like Mezona Market. Drive out to Schnepf Farms to pick your own veggies or peaches, eat at their restaurant, buy some canned goods, or attend one of their many events. Mesa is the 3rd largest city in Arizona and is only 15 miles east of Phoenix making it a perfect and easy day trip! It’s actually really easy to get from Mesa to Phoenix even without a car. You only have to hop on the Valley Metro Light Rail which takes you all the way for only $2 one way. Pretty sure that’s one of the best deals ever.
Contributed by Ashley of Wild Hearted.
Miscellaneous Things to Do
I am not going to list every shopping possibility under the sun, the Phoenix metropolitan area has NO shortage of shopping available to you, but here are a few unique places that are more of an experience than “regular” shopping.
69. Antique shopping in Cave Creek
Cave Creek is a small town in Arizona that has a lot to offer. One of the most interesting things to do in Cave Creek Arizona is antique shopping. There are several different antique shops including Saguaro Peddler and Antique Trove. These two particular stores have been around for decades, offering everything from furniture and paintings, to kitchen items and vintage clothing. It’s worth the trip for any lover of history, art, or vintage goods. Don’t miss the Town Dump, otherwise known as “one of the world’s most unusual stores.” There are unique knick-knacks and lots of Southwestern-themed specialties.
In the summer, hit the Grotto Cafe is a great place to stop for breakfast and coffee. They have an outdoor patio that offers shade, as well as WiFi so visitors can easily work while they enjoy their morning meal or cup of joe.
70. Old Town Scottsdale
Old Town Scottsdale has a variety of really cool antique shops, art galleries, and restaurants that make it worth exploring. It is a family-friendly area that has fun activities for all ages and tastes. You can also find popular clothing stores, art galleries, restaurants, and bars in the district.
However you spend your time in Phoenix, make sure there’s something new every So why not go on an adventure in Phoenix?
How about you? Do you have something to add to my list of things to do in the Phoenix area? Do share!
More [greater] Phoenix Stories
- Visiting in the summertime, here are things to do in Phoenix in the summer.
- Get your cowboy on! There are rodeos all year round!
- Check out Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home, Taliesin West.
- Best tamales in Phoenix, yum!
- Cool down with the best ice cream in Phoenix.
- I don’t have kids but there is a lot of good stuff on Travel Mama’s Scottsdale with Kids guide. When you are finished with the Phoenix area with kids, head into Northern Arizona which also has awesome things to do with teens.
- Have an insanely fun weekend in Tempe!
- 60+ Day Trips from Phoenix
For a visual summary of this post, check out my Things to Bring to Phoenix web story!
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