As one of the largest cities in the U.S., there are a variety of activities and attractions for visitors to do in Phoenix. We have gathered up the top things to do while you are visiting this vast and diverse city. From hiking to sporting events to museums galore, you’ll be sure to find an attraction that peaks your interest.
Looking for a guided tour? Visit https://destinations.rei.com/arizona/day-tours
Desert Botanical Garden
Desert Botanical Garden is a 140-acre botanical garden located in Papago Park. Founded by the Arizona Cactus and Native Flora Society in 1937 and established at this site in 1939, the garden now has more than 50,000 plants in more than 4,000 taxa, one-third of which are native to the area, including 379 species, which are rare, threatened or endangered.
Go to dbg.org/ to plan your visit.
Since 1962, the Phoenix Zoo has inspired and motivated guests from all over to care for the natural world. Nestled on 125 acres within beautiful Papago Park, the Zoo is a one-of-a-kind place for adventure, discovery and lots of fun. Featuring over 3,000 animals, including Bornean orangutans, Asian elephants, Sumatran tigers, Komodo dragons, Masai giraffes and many more — it is like no other attraction in the Valley! With outdoor cafés, shops, lush gardens, water landscapes and exciting up-close animal encounters like Stingray Bay and Camel Rides, your visit will be memorable for the entire family. Other not to be missed activities include the Safari Cruiser and the Endangered Species Carousel. For more information and to purchase tickets in advance, visit phoenixzoo.org.
Horseback Riding at Ponderosa Stables
Saddle up and explore South Mountain Park the cowboy way with guided horseback tours from Ponderosa Stables. Trail rides wind through pristine desert scenery on the preserve’s vast network of trails. On Saturdays, the stable also offers rides to get up-close with ancient petroglyphs throughout the park.
10215 S. Central Ave.
Camelback Mountain, with an elevation of 2,704 feet, is an excellent hike or climb in Arizona. Hiking Camelback Mountain is perfect for a tourist activity in Phoenix, because the hike is quick and is located in the middle of the Phoenix Valley with great views. Camelback Mountain is a hiking destination for both locals and tourists in the Valley and is located in the Camelback Mountain Echo Canyon Recreation Area between Phoenix, Scottsdale and Paradise Valley. There are 2 hiking trails, Echo Canyon and Cholla. Both trails are difficult, while Echo Canyon is steeper and Cholla is longer. Parking for both trails is only allowed from sunrise to sunset so plan accordingly.
Papago Park is notable for its many distinctive geological formations and its wide variety of typical desert plants, including the giant saguaro cactus. The park also features the Desert Botanical Garden, a large zoo (the Phoenix Zoo), picnic areas, several small lakes, hiking trails, bicycle paths, a fire museum, as well as Hunt’s Tomb, the pyramidal tomb of Arizona’s first governor, George W. P. Hunt. Tempe Papago Park includes baseball and softball fields, picnic ramadas, a small lake and other features. Rolling Hills Golf Course is within the park between its Phoenix and Tempe extremities.
The trails in Papago Park are typically smooth with little elevation gain, providing easy access for walking, hiking, mountain biking or trail running. The park is split into east and west sides by Galvin Parkway.
West Side Trails
You can take an accessible, paved pathway as well as a series of trails and loops around a big butte and small butte. Try the 2.3-mile Double Butte Loop for a full experience of the park. The parking lot on Papago Park Drive has a drinking fountain, bike rack and picnic ramada, and no restrooms.
Hours: Gated roadways and parking areas are open from sunrise to sunset or 7 p.m., whichever comes first, but trails are open until 11 p.m.
East Side Trails
Trails include an interpretive nature trail to learn about Sonoran Desert flora and fauna, as well as a short hike inside Hole-in-the-Rock, the park’s most popular scenic viewpoint and one of Phoenix’s best hikes. Restrooms, drinking fountains, picnic ramadas are available on this side.
Hours: Gated roadways and parking areas are open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m, but trails are open until 11 p.m.
This intriguing formation on the park’s east side features a main chamber that looks out over nearby lagoons and the distant downtown skyline, and is great for views (especially at sunset). The trail to the chamber consists of steps that rise 200 feet in just a short 1/10 of a mile. The formation is thought to have been used by the ancient Hohokam civilization to track the position of the sun through a hole in the rock “ceiling.”
Distance: 0.3 miles
Trailhead: 625 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, parking lot directing you to the formation. If parking is unavailable, there are plenty of other parking lots within easy walking distance.
South Mountain Park and Preserve
At over 16,000 acres, South Mountain Park and Preserve is one of the largest municipal parks in the country. Start a visit at the South Mountain Environmental Education Center, hike, bike and ride more than 58 miles of trails, or follow the road to the top of the mountain for spectacular views. Trails are accessible from several park entrances/parking lots listed below.
Every Sunday, South Mountain observes “Silent Sunday,” where the park’s main roadway will be closed to motor vehicle traffic at the one-mile mark into the park from 5 to 10 a.m. on the first, second, third and fifth Sunday; and from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. (park operating hours) on the fourth Sunday. During those times on those days, the park’s roadways are reserved for non-motorized activities such as walking, cycling, jogging, hiking, etc.
– Park Main Entrance: 10409 S. Central Ave.
– 19th Ave Trailhead: 10500 S. 19th Ave.
– Mormon Trailhead: 8610 S. 24th St.
– Beverly Canyon Trailhead: 8800 S. 46th St.
– Pima Canyon Trailhead: 9904 S. 48th St.
– Telegraph Pass Trailhead: 14251 S. Desert Foothills Parkway
Hours: 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Gated entrances will close at 7, but trails remain open until 11 p.m.
Since its founding in 1929, the Heard Museum has grown in size and stature to become recognized internationally for the quality of its collections, world-class exhibitions, educational programming and its unmatched festivals. Dedicated to the advancement of American Indian art, the Heard successfully presents the stories of American Indian people from a first-person perspective, as well as exhibitions that showcase the beauty and vitality of traditional and contemporary art.
The Heard Museum sets the standard for collaborating with American Indian artists and tribal communities to provide visitors with a distinctive perspective about the art of Native people, especially those from the Southwest. For more information and to plan your visit to the Heard museum, go to heard.org
Phoenix Art Museum
Considered the largest art museum in the southwestern United States, the Phoenix Art Museum is home to a collection of more than 20,000 objects and engage more than 300,000 guests, lifelong learners, and art lovers each year, both within the walls of the Museum and through their multidimensional community programs. For more information and to see the current installations, visit phxart.org.
Rosson House Museum
Saddle up and explore South Mountain Park the cowboy way with guided horseback tours from Ponderosa Stables. Trail rides wind through pristine desert scenery on the preserve’s vast network of trails. On Saturdays, the stable also offers rides to get up-close with ancient petroglyphs throughout the park. For tour information and to purchase tickets, visit heritagesquarephx.org/rossonhouse/
Tours of Taliesin West , Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home, offer insight on how the masterful architect was inspired by the desert surroundings. Visitors walk through rooms, gardens, walkways and Wright’s entertainment pavilion on the grounds while learning about his organic architecture. Taliesin West was inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage List on July 7, 2019, after being submitted for nomination by the National Park Service in November 2018. Find out more here.
Arizona Science Center
Come discover the world of science and imagination at Arizona Science Center. Events and attractions including the Dorrance Planetarium, and The W.O.N.D.E.R. Center, give audiences and guests the chance to embark in hands-on learning and create a memorable experience. Located in the heart of downtown Phoenix, the Arizona Science Center is a great place to visit for both family-friendly and adult-only events. Find out more at www.azscience.org.
Go to www.visitphoenix.com/plan-a-trip/deals/ to access deals to use during your stay in Phoenix.