Phoenix Travel Guide

USA  #4 in Best Places to Visit in Arizona
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Best Things To Do in Phoenix

Phoenix has more to offer than simply resort life. Use each part of town for what it does best. Shop in Scottsdale, then party in Tempe. Check out the museums in downtown Phoenix, then hike in Carefree. Catch a major league baseball spring training game in Mesa, then watch football and hockey in Glendale. A stroll through the Desert Botanical Garden and a hike up Camelback Mountain are also musts. Laid-back travelers can spend money at the city's outdoor and indoor shopping malls. And those who are feeling lucky can try their hands at one of the reservation casinos.

How we rank Things to Do

Updated February 1, 2018

  • #1
    Desert Botanical Garden
    View all Photos
    #1 in Phoenix
    Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

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

    ...Read More »
  • #2
    Camelback Mountain
    View all Photos
    #2 in Phoenix
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    As one of the highest peaks in Phoenix, Camelback Mountain is among the most scenic hiking spots in the city. Soaring more 2,700 feet in elevation, Camelback's summit offers spectacular views of Phoenix and Scottsdale and can be reached from the 1.2-mile (incredibly steep) Echo Canyon Trail. If you're looking for a slightly easier trek, the 1.5-mile Cholla Trail on the east side of the mountain offers a more gradual incline, at least until you near the summit. You can also try one of the several beginner-friendly trails that circle Camelback's base, such as the Bobby's Rock Trail. Hiking Camelback Mountain is best attempted earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon when the desert heat is bearable. But no matter when you decide to climb, make sure you have plenty of water and sunscreen.

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  • #3
    Musical Instrument Museum
    View all Photos
    #3 in Phoenix
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Musical Instrument Museum, located about 20 miles north of downtown Phoenix, invites visitors to check out its collection of more than 6,000 instruments from around the world. On the first floor of the museum, guests will find instruments, concert footage, clothing of renowned musicians and more. Visitors can see how instruments are preserved and restored in the first-floor Conservation Lab before actually playing instruments in the Experience Gallery, also on the first floor. Many parents said their children especially enjoyed experimenting with the instruments in the Experience and Encore galleries (the latter of which is geared toward kids prekindergarten to second grade), advising future visitors to make it the last stop in the museum because the kids will not want to leave.

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  • #4
    Phoenix Zoo
    View all Photos
    #4 in Phoenix
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Phoenix Zoo is a great place to enjoy nature without your little ones dying of boredom. There are four trails (measuring 2½ miles in total) that wind through the numerous habitats represented on this 125-acre chunk of land. The zoo houses a variety of animals, including baboons, Sumatran tigers, Asian elephants, Galápagos tortoises and Komodo dragons. Take younger tots to the Red Barn petting zoo or to the giraffe encounter where they can get some face time with the animals. When their little legs start to tire, consider the 25-minute narrated safari train tour, which only costs a few extra dollars and provides a good orientation of the zoo.

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  • #5
    Phoenix Art Museum
    View all Photos
    #5 in Phoenix
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Housed within a prime example of contemporary architecture is one of the largest art museums in the Southwest (with more than 18,000 works of art, some of them dating as far back as the Renaissance). From Diego Rivera to Frederic Remington, Georgia O'Keeffe to Frida Kahlo, the Phoenix Art Museum's permanent collection caters to a wide variety of tastes, and often welcomes top-notch traveling exhibits. Be sure to check out the popular Thorne Miniature Collection, and if you're traveling with kids, make sure to take advantage of the museum's youth-oriented activities.

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  • #6
    Heard Museum
    View all Photos
    #6 in Phoenix
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

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

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  • #7
    Taliesin West
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    #7 in Phoenix
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Frank Lloyd Wright loved the Sonoran Desert, and he used these 600 acres at the base of the McDowell Mountains as his winter home and school. With the help of his art and architecture students, Wright constructed apartments, studios and theaters using local materials to help the camp blend with its natural surroundings. This National Historic Landmark is still used as an educational space for budding artists and architects.

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  • #8
    Golf Courses
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    #8 in Phoenix
    Golf, Recreation
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Golf, Recreation
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

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

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  • #9
    Chase Field
    View all Photos
    #9 in Phoenix
    Sports, Tours
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sports, Tours
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Watching the Arizona Diamondbacks play at Chase Field is a worthwhile experience, even if you aren't a die-hard baseball fan, according to recent visitors. Reviewers appreciated the kid-friendly atmosphere, air conditioning and retractable roof, and the park's unique amenities, including the lifeguard-staffed pool and hot tub that sits 415 feet from home plate. Even if you aren't in town for a game, you can still see the ballpark on a tour, which are available three times a day Monday through Saturday throughout the year. After, grab a bite to eat or a cold one at Chase Field's beer garden.

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  • #10
    Spas
    View all Photos
    #10 in Phoenix
    Spas
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Spas
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

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

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  • #11
    Arizona Science Center
    View all Photos
    #11 in Phoenix
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

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

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  • #12
    Pueblo Grande Museum and Cultural Park
    View all Photos
    #12 in Phoenix
    Museums, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

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

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  • Children's Museum of Phoenix
    View all Photos
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Boasting more than 300 play experiences across three floors, the Children's Museum of Phoenix is a hit with kids. Spanning more than 48,000 square feet, the museum offers a range of exhibits suitable for infants and kids up to age 10. Exhibits include a miniature market, a noodle forest, a child-sized cafe and a fort-building area, among other activities.

    ...Read More »
  • Papago Park
    View all Photos
    Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

  • South Mountain Park
    View all Photos
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

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