Desert Botanical Garden#1 in Best Things To Do in Phoenix
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.
Recent visitors said the garden is fascinating and highly recommended seeking out the special exhibits when available. Several reviewers suggested visiting after the sun sets to see the garden illuminated, while others appreciated the groomed paths and well-marked signs. However, some travelers bemoaned the entrance rates and were disappointed the zoo and the garden do not offer a combined admission since they sit less than 2 miles from one another.
The garden, which sits about 4 miles south of downtown Scottsdale, welcomes visitors daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. October through April and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. May through September. Admission costs $24.95 for adults and $12.95 for kids 3 to 17. Children younger than 3 enjoy free admission. On-site facilities include a garden shop and a restaurant. For more information about special events, tours and activities check out the Desert Botanical Garden website.
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#2 Camelback Mountain
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.
Recent travelers who scaled the mountain said the arduous journey is well worth the incredible views, though they do warn this experience is not for the faint of heart. Reviewers also suggested bringing your camera, as the views at the summit and along the way are photo-worthy. Visitors also warn that you should be prepared to share the trails with lots of other hikers.
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