Phoenix attractions range from the beautiful outdoor Desert Botanical Garden to the incredible Musical Instrument Museum. The city is also known for the incredible murals in and around the Roosevelt Arts District and Chase Field, which is the home to the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team.
Some of the other highlights on our list of the top 25 attractions to see include the family-friendly Phoenix Zoo, the incomparable Heard Museum, the awe-inspiring heights and views from both Papago Park and South Mountain, and much more. For car buffs, you'll want to check out the Penske Racing Museum.
Read on for more details about each one including tips on what to expect from each one during your stay in the Valley of the Sun.
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The Desert Botanical Garden is one of my favorite outdoor Phoenix attractions during any season of the year. This garden encompasses more than 140 acres of land (with more than 55 under cultivation) and includes more than 50,000 plants, many of which are rare or endangered. Along with the plants, you can often see rabbits, lizards, and many different types of birds.
It is perfect for everyone and you could easily spend a whole day here and not see everything. It is especially wonderful to come in the evening to watch the sunset over the valley. The botanical garden includes 5 major walking paths, 2 restaurants, a library and a gift shop.
The Heard Museum is an internationally known and respected museum focusing on everything related to Native American peoples. The museum has been newly renovated and has distinct exhibits for each of the different tribes and cultures. This allows you to travel through them and see the similarities and difference between the cultures. It is quite incredible to see how some tribes, who were only miles away from each other, have such different art and belief systems.
With over 21,000 square feet, this museum is able to have both permanent exhibits, and traveling exhibits from other museums, and from artists that you would not be able to see anywhere else. If you are looking to take a break as you walk through the Heard, they have a café, an outdoor courtyard, and museum shops. You are welcome to enter the gift shop, café, or the stores even if you do not purchase a ticket to the Heard Museum.
Located in the hip and fun Roosevelt Row Art District, you will find an amazing collection of murals. These murals are primarily produced by local artists. Many focus on cultural and political statements about what is happening to this area, the city, and the world. Something that we love about this area is that many of the murals are painted over by the artists, so you can often find something new and different whenever you go there.
The most famous area is the 1 1/2 Street murals which have a whole block full of murals from many different artists. It makes it very easy to see a lot of them, and different styles, all in one small area. Also, something else we love is that there are so many murals around this area since they are hidden behind houses, in alleys, and behind buildings. The nice thing is that you can still see them and take photos no matter where the murals are in this district.
In case you are hungry or thirsty, there are lots of great restaurants and bars around this area too. It's one of my favorite Phoenix Attractions.
If you like hiking, then this Phoenix attraction is a perfect place to go out and see everything this beautiful desert has to offer. There are two trails on Camelback Mountain, with Cholla being one and the other being Echo Canyon. The mountain tops out at about 2,700 feet so it is not going to take you a long time to get to the summit. However, they are both difficult climbs, so you'll want to be prepared before you head out on them.
If you want to tackle them, they are very much worth it since the summit offers 360-degree views and can see from miles. I would suggest you bring a water bottle, some food, and a good hat since the temperatures in the appropriately named Valley of the Sun can get quite hot.
Camelback Mountain is about 20 minutes from downtown Phoenix, so it is easy to get there no matter where you are at in the city. Parking is only allowed from sunrise to sunset, so you'll want to plan accordingly.
This is a must visit for art lovers of all types. With over 20,000 pieces of art, from all over the world, you will be sure to find many pieces that will enthrall and enchant you. There are 9 areas, ranging from Latin American, to Asian, to European and pretty much everything in-between. These include photography, paintings, sculptures, and other types of art.
Both first time visitors and those returning for a second or third time will love their traveling exhibitions. Some of my favorites have included ones on Japanese bowl and ceramics, Ansel Adams' exhibit on how he made his prints, and "Sweet Land of Funk" which is based on the Funk style of art. Trust me, there is always something new and fun! It's another of the Phoenix attractions that you do not want to miss!
As the song says, "It's all happening at the zoo" and they are right about that as this is one of the best family-friendly Phoenix attractions. It is almost impossible to explain how much there is to do at here, so I've collected just a small glimpse of your choices.
You can check out the African area which has lions, rhinos, and tigers just to name a few. The Tropics Trail has orangutans, jaguars, elephants and more. The Arizona Trail has local species like bobcats, parrots, javelinas (they are really ugly but fun to see!) and other creatures. Last but not least, there is the Children's Trail which lets the little ones get up-close and personal with animals like emus, an ocelot, and my favorite, the golden lion tamarins.
We really love that kids of all ages can check out the petting zoo to really get the feel of the zoo. There are tours, events, a restaurant and a gift shop. There is also the "Cruise the Zoo" tour where you can drive your car through the zoo to see it in a very different way. It is a fun way to see the animals while keeping nice and cool if it is too hot outside.
If you want to get outside, and into a bit of nature, then Papago Park is the place for you. It is very close to downtown Phoenix and easy to get to anytime of the day. One of the things that we love is that most the trails are very easy, and they don't take a lot of effort to get up or go down them. You can get great views all around and you'll be enthralled by the massive buttes that jut up from the ground as you hike through the park.
If you want to do something more than just hike at the park, there is an archery range, a lake where you can go fishing, the Papago Park golf course and many other activities. You will see lots of hikers, runners, and mountain bikers here as it is such a popular place and so easily accessible for all.
This is also where you will find two other Phoenix attractions on my list: Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Garden.
The park is open from sunrise to sunset, but you can hike the trails from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. These hours may change depending on the season, so you'll want to check ahead.
Simply stated, there is no other museum like this anywhere else in the whole world. As one of the top Phoenix attractions, it has basically every type of musical instrument from around the globe that you can imagine! Not only do they have musical instruments, they have memorabilia from musicians too. Some of these pieces include Elvis Presley's actual military uniform, masks from different parts of Africa, full outfits from Asia, and so much more than we can even being to tell you about here!
The beauty of this museum is that are instruments from 5,000 BC and continuing up until today and they are constantly having new exhibits and shows. There is also a special kid's room where they can play music and explore what different instruments sound like as they become musicians of the world.
There is a very cute gift shop, where all the pieces for sale are specially made by the artists and certified, to support them. There is also a restaurant in case you are hungry and an outdoor area to eat at or just relax.
The name seems to say it all, but there is so much more here than just butterflies. Like the name states, you truly will experience being in the rainforest when you walk into this massive greenhouse. The Butterfly Wonderland is home to over 70 different species of butterflies and in total there are many thousands of them flying around you! Not only are there butterflies, but there is a Koi fishpond, a few cute chickens, and a bunch of sleepy tree frogs just hanging out.
There is a short movie explaining the life of the butterfly if you want to learn more about the butterflies after or before walking around the area. It is very educational and fun. There is the Rainforest Reptile Exhibit, which lets you get up close and personal with these slithering beauties (don't worry they are behind glass so you are safe), a totally fun honey bee exhibit where you can see them work constantly making honey, and so much more.
If you get hungry, there is an "Edible Insect Station" where you can actually eat chocolate covered ants, scorpion lollypops, and other "delicious" things. As for us, we tend to prefer normal food, so we tend to go the "normal" café that is located on the grounds.
Most people think of Phoenix as being new and hip, which it is. That being stated, if you want to travel back in time, to the late 1800s, then Heritage Square is the place for you. You can just walk around the area, but if you really want to experience the olden days, you'll want to go to the visitor center, check out the displays, and then buy tickets to the Phoenix attractions all around the square.
There are galleries to view so you can experience what it was like living in this area back in the day, tours of the Rosson House, and The Bungalow, where you can eat some snacks and buy some memorabilia. They also have traveling exhibits and a few restaurants if you need a break after walking around and seeing the neighborhood.
Now, I've left the best for last as you'll definitely want to go into the Rosson House. This almost 3,000 square foot mansion is amazing and perfectly preserved. Also, if you are into a bit of the supernatural, you just might be able to go to their "Seances and Spiritualists" tour depending on the day and date of your visit. SPOOKY!!!!!
"CHOO CHOO AND ALL ABOARD!!!!" is what you'll be saying when you visit this fun and one of a kind place. This is one of our favorite Phoenix attractions because it is fun for kids, but for kids of all ages (like us). You can learn just about everything regarding trains in this old-time train park. After that, make sure to grab a train at Stillman Station and cruise around the park. You can also ride a carousel where you can go around and around and check out loads of displays including ones where they show how to build a model railroad.
Something that we love is that you can visit this park for free anytime you want. You will have to pay for the train ride, and the carousel, but that is only if you want to take one. If you just want to hang out, go ahead and do that. If you want a bite to eat, head over to "Hartley's General Store" and grab some ice cream, a hot dog, or something else that looks good.
If you are looking for a little privacy in the outdoors of the Valley of the Sun, then South Mountain is the place for you! With over 16,000 acres of land, this park is one of the largest in the whole United States of America. There are three main mountain peaks and loads of trails for walking, running, mountain biking, horseback riding, and more.
Cresting at 2,300 feet, Dobbins Peak is the highest part of the park where the public is allowed because of safety reasons (you are not allowed to climb any higher). We love Dobbins Peak since we can walk up to it, but if we are feeling lazy, we can also drive up it on the appropriately named Summit Road.
You will get an amazing view of the whole valley when you are up here, and it is absolutely worth the time to go there especially if you want to see a magical sunset. Hours are usually from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. but sometimes extend out to 11 pm, so you'll want to plan accordingly and check the schedules.
There are some Phoenix attractions that just are impossible to describe and OdySea Aquarium is one of them. This massive aquarium is unlike any that we've seen anywhere on our travels around the globe. It houses more than 10 exhibition areas, ranging from oceans and lakes all over the world, and each one is spectacular. Some of these include the Deep Ocean exhibit where you take an escalator down UNDER the sea and walk through a glass tunnel as if you were actually there. Another favorite is the Bizarre & Beautiful. I won't even try to explain that, but you can just imagine what might be there.
We love that they have special programs like the "The Penguin Encounter" where you can hang out and pet a bunch of cute furry friends in their habitat. Trust me, you've seen them before, but touching them is totally different because their feathers are so soft, and they are so happy for you to do that to them! Another favorite is the "Shark Tour" where you get to walk around a pool full of sharks and see them up close (don't worry, you won't touch them and they won't touch you!).
As mentioned above, this is just a bit of what is here, since it is impossible to go "in-depth" on everything that the OdySea Aquarium has without running out of space on the page!
Taliesin West was designed by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1937 and is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The house was incredibly advanced for its time and it was his winter home to escape the brutal Wisconsin winters. It was specially made to contour with Arizona's landscape and formations.
It was built with local desert rocks, with wood laid on top of that, and then covered with concrete. This may sound boring, but it amazing and majestic compared to almost any other buildings anywhere in Arizona. The colors, the angles of the building, and the glass covered main areas are so interesting.
Not only was this a home for Wright and his wife, but is has now become a teaching center, home to a cabaret studio, outdoor music pavilion, and so much more inside and outside the house that are spectacular in design and artistic elegance.
Note: You cannot buy public tickets individually. The only way to visit Taliesin West is to go on the guided tours that last 1 to 3 hours. We suggest booking them in advance as they are very popular and sell out quickly.
This is one of the premiere Phoenix attractions and is entirely dedicated to all art and culture from the Western United States of America. Not only is this a museum, but it is also an educational center so visitors can learn about the different cultures, peoples, art styles, and how the west came to be up to until today. It houses 8 exhibit areas, a a gift shop and restaurant, and a 135-seat multimedia auditorium.
Some of the art includes paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe, Will James' Cowboy Artist and Author, pottery art created by the Hopi Native People and much more. The museum is open every day of the week except Monday. It also is closed during most holidays.
This impressive baseball park will amaze you when you go for a tour. It opened in 1998, which was the first day of the Arizona Diamondbacks becoming a Major League Baseball team. It also became the first stadium to have a retractable roof since it can get incredibly hot in Phoenix or there can be a monsoon which will flood the field in just a few minutes.
You can learn about all of this, and more like the dbTV which is one of the largest high-definition TVs in the world, the D-Backs pool in right field, and other information about this gorgeous stadium. Fun fact: The massive roof takes only 4.5 minutes to open or close and costs just 2 or 3 dollars because it was built to glide perfectly.
Chase Field is home to the MLB Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team. It is always a great experience to watch a game there since the weather is perfect underneath their retractable roof. As well as the Arizona Diamondbacks playing their home game there, there are also other sporting events and concerts. Some of the bands that have played here include Billy Joel, Kenney Chesney, and others.
Located in the heart of downtown Phoenix, The Arizona Science Center has almost 400 permanent exhibits that allow you to get up close and fully interact with them. Some of these include fun ones such as Solarville, where you can learn all about solar energy. One of our favorites is the Forces of Nature. This is where you are in a fully immersive studio where storms are all around you by screens, a moving platform beneath you, and you can hear and feel the wind. There are also traveling exhibits and many different demonstrations and programs while you visit here.
This center is very spacious since it is over 40,000 square feet, has a massive planetarium, an IMAX theater, a gift shop and a restaurant if you get hungry or thirsty. Every time we go, we always learn something new and are amazed at how incredible science can be and what it can do in our lives.
If you have kiddies, with ages starting from a few days to 10 years old, this is a must visit for you and them. This museum is ranked as one of the top three children's museums in the USA. The museum is proud of that and that they want your kids to touch everything you can here. Their whole point is to help kids feel secure and to learn, enjoy, and experience things for the first, or depending if you've been here before, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 100th time!
Something we love about this museum is that not only do they have over 40,000 square feet for your kids to play in, they have over 300 play experiences that your kid can experience on 3 different floors. They also have fun programs and classes that will help expand your child's mind such as yoga, music, how to become an artist, and so many more that you will never run out of things to do, or learn, no matter how many times you visit with your little ones!
Also, if you are a kid at heart, there will definitely be fun things for you to do also, so don't be afraid to experience all that the Children's Museum has to offer you and your family.
Unlike many museums that want you to stay back and not interact with the exhibits, this one is set specifically to encourage you to do just that. It is set both indoors and outdoors since they want you to experience what life would have been back in the years of 450 AD to 1450 AD.
This museum holds 4 different areas with the first being the indoor exhibit dedicated to the Hohokam people. There are pieces of artwork, blueprints for the massive canal systems they built, and other amazing structures like the Big House where they studied the sky using astronomy.
The other main sections of the museum are outside and allow you to walk around, and sometimes inside, places such as The Adobe Compound, The Pit Houses, the Desert Oasis, and our personal favorite, The Ball Court.
It really is amazing to see what the Hohokam people's lives would have been like and experience a bit of their culture even in today's world. If you bring your little ones along, there is a special hands-on children's gallery called, "Dig It!" And, trust me, they will dig it. If that isn't enough, they also have changing exhibits so you can always see something new.
Drop the flag and away we go to one of the fastest Phoenix attractions! This museum is going to rev up your engines and get your heart pumping as you'll want to race away with one of the many gorgeous cars on exhibit here. Even though we love the cars, we love that this museum is so much more than just them. It has many of the awards and trophies that Penske racing team has won, including 17 Indianapolis 500 championships!
Some of the cars on display include a replica of that 1963 Pontiac Catalina that Roger Penske drove to win the 1963 Riverside 250. All that speed usually tires us out, so we need to take a moment to grab a bit to eat at the Penske Racing Museum pit stop called the Turn 4 Café on the 2nd floor.
Feel free to eat or drink whatever you want as you overlook the test track and check out the sites. There is also a store if you want to take home some toys or books. You can even buy hand-signed shirts and memorabilia from people who have driven for the Penske Racing Team!
If you've never heard of Tovrea Castle, you shouldn't be surprised as many locals have no idea this incredible, and strange, structure even exists near Phoenix. This castle was originally going to be a casino, but then became a home, and finally was bought by the Phoenix parks system. It has over 5,000 cacti, and over 100 different varieties, all around the castle and the 44-acre area surrounding it.
Originally constructed in 1928, the castle was built in a three-story style that resembled a wedding cake (we told you it was strange) and is made of pine wood and stucco. It had fallen into disrepair and that is why the park system took it over as they knew it was too special of a building to let die. Now it has been fully restored and is the majestic residence it was back when it was first built.
Note: Tours are limited, and it is incredibly difficult to buy tickets. There is a lottery system and you must apply far in advance of your trip. So, if you can't get tickets, you should be able to drive by loop 202 near Van Buren and 52nd Street to see it from the road.
Since we are on the subject of castles, Castles N' Coasters is one of our favorite Phoenix attractions whenever we want to get out in the sun and have some fun! This is the perfect place for kids, and kids of all ages, since there is so much to see and do. Just a sample of your choices include a mini golf course ranging from 4 - 18 holes, over 150 arcade and pinball games, 20 rides and attractions, bumper cars, and loads more to experience.
Now, since we talked about the castles, we have to talk about the coasters, and this is where it really gets fun. One of our favorites is the Desert Storm which takes you on not just one, but two loops, as you ride around it. Another is the Splashdown, which you can guess what happens to you on that ride.
If you really want to test your fear of heights, you can try the Sky Diver where you are dropped from way up in the sky and start falling instantly. Once you get your feet back on the ground, and your legs stop shaking, you might to grab a bite to eat or a drink. Since they have 5 food and drink bars, you are going to find a place to sit no matter where in the park you are at that time.
You might not think that you can find peace, serenity, and calm in the middle of downtown Phoenix, but this is the perfect place for that. The city of Phoenix, and the city of Himeji in Japan, are sister cities and wanted to share a piece of Japan here to show their love for each other. The garden was built in 1996 and has only become more beautiful and enjoyable since then. If you just want to get away for a bit, this is a perfect place for that as walking around the garden, and the lake, will give you that peace of mind on your busy trip.
There is so much to do beyond just relaxing in this beautiful garden. Some of the choices included in a stop at this relaxing garden are taking part in one of the tea ceremonies, moving slowly in a tai-chi class in the afternoon, or even an Ikebana Japanese floral arrangement class.
We love all three of these as it takes us away from the hustle and bustle of the city. There are many more, so you'll want to check the schedule and plan ahead. You can also take guided tours if you want to learn more about this garden from a trained docent.
Known as SMoCA by locals, this museum opened in 1999 and has been flourishing ever since. When you first see the building, you'll be amazed by the beauty and artistry of its exterior. Then when you enter, you'll be able to visit the 4 exhibit areas that include the museum's permanent collection and the traveling exhibits that are changing throughout the year. So, no matter how many times you visit, you will see something new among the most contemporary art from around the globe.
Speaking of something new, we love that this museum is home to the always enjoyable "Knight Rise " by the famous artist, James Turrell. His work seems to be very simple, but it is the simplicity and grace which makes it so special and unique. It is a permanent piece that allows you to see the sky through a large hole above you. Because of the way it is designed, it almost looks like the sky is falling towards you. There are also colored lights in the walls that give you have a different perspective compared to the sky's the natural colors.
It really is something to behold and we like to just relax and spend some time sitting under it and watching the world, or sky, go by. Another reason we love "Knight Rise" is that it is free for anyone to visit during museum hours.
There are so many kid friendly Phoenix attractions that you will, and your little ones, will be hard pressed to figure out which one(s) they will want to do! Jill and I think that The Valley is one of the best vacation spots for parents and their kids. This is because there are many museums, parks, fun places to hike and climb, and loads of other things to do and explore.
Some of our favorites include the OdySea Aquarium, Butterfly Wonderland, Castle N' Coasters, the Musical Instrument Museum which has a specific area just for kids to play music, the Phoenix Zoo, and last but not least, the Children's Museum of Phoenix.