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25 Things to Do in Phoenix: My List of the Most Popular Activities

Our list of the 25 best things to do in Phoenix offers you the chance to explore the best of The Valley! Some of our favorite activities include watching the local sports teams play, taking hikes out in the beautiful desert that is just minutes away from the downtown metro area, and checking out all the different ways to make music from all over the world at the Musical Instrument Museum.

When we just want to relax, we usually will hit one of the many breweries here, maybe go wine tasting, or just kick back and watch a sunset from one of the many locations around the city.

There is so much to do here that you could spend months and months and not even get close to seeing it all and that is why we've put together this list of our top 25.

Disclaimer: I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.

1. Sporting Events

Outside sign at Diamondback's Stadium

The Valley of the Sun is famous for its many professional sports teams and you will be able to find one, or more, of the local teams playing all throughout the year. Our teams include MLB's Arizona Diamondbacks, the NHL's Arizona Coyotes, the NFL's Arizona Cardinals, and the NBA's Phoenix Suns.

Some of the other sporting events you can find here include the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and numerous sporting events being played by the University of Arizona. Of course one of the biggest draws, is the Cactus League, which is MLB's Spring Training action. It's a great time to watch the pros get ready and you can see them up close and in person.

2. Go Take a Hike

Hiking the Hole in the Rock in Papago Park in Phoenix

Jill and I love to go hiking no matter what the season here is here in Phoenix. There are so many parks, mountain ranges, and desert areas that you can explore. Almost all these parks and hikes are within 20 - 30 minutes of downtown Phoenix, so it is incredibly easy to get out and go.

Some of our favorites include Papago Park, Camelback Mountain, South Mountain, and the Phoenix Mountain Reserve. There are so many others that it is hard to keep track of them all! We would specifically suggest that you check out the "Hole in the Rock" hike since you can get a photo of yourself inside a massive vertical hole that is inside a carved-out piece of the mountain!

Sometimes Jill and I just drive out there for no reason other than just to experience it. Watching the sunrise, or sunset, when we are on our walks are some of our favorite things to do in Phoenix.

3. Desert Botanical Garden

Yellow flower in the Desert Botanical Garden

Going to the magical wonderland of the Desert Botanical Garden just a few minutes east of downtown is one of our favorite things to do in Phoenix. With over 140 acres (55 under cultivation) of gorgeous flora and fauna, and over 450 rare and endangered plants here, you can easily spend hours and still not see anywhere close to all of it!

Aram and I love that there are loads of trails that are all based in different Arizona environments. Some of these include walking through massive Saguaro cacti, seeing thousands of wildflowers and butterflies that glide above them, and just taking in the sights, sounds, and smells from so many species. On top of that, they often have special exhibits and artwork collections set up for visitors. Last but not least, we locals love to show up right before sunset and then watch the sun as it slides behind the mountains and you see a glow unlike anywhere else in the world.

Fun Fact: You can easily get to the "Hole in the Rock" hike that I mentioned above from here. If you don't want to go all the way up to it, you can get great photographs of it when you are on the trails. It really is magical either way.

>> Everything you need to know to visit

4. The Heard Museum

Hidden History Exhibit at the Heard Museum in Phoenix

The Heard Museum's mission is "Advancing American Indian Art" and that is exactly what they are doing here every single day. With one of the world's most extensive collections of Native American art, this museum is unlike any other you’ve seen before. It is different from most museums, where you look at the exhibits from the outside, this one tries to give you an "insider's" view of what living here was like starting many centuries ago and continuing up until today.

We love to just hang out and check out the exhibits. We tend to learn something new no matter how many times we visit it. There are exhibits from numerous tribes, artwork, audio and video presentations, and much more.

Being that it is dedicated to Native people, there is a large exhibit that shows what it was like when these people were forced to leave their land, go to schools, and not allowed to practice their way of life. They also have traveling exhibits, which just adds to the experience.

If you love Native American art, this is definitely one of the best things to do in Phoenix.

>> More about this popular Phoenix museum

5. Dinner Out with a View

If you are like us, and love to go out to dinner, then you definitely want to get a seat that gives a great including one with a sunset. There are loads of great bars and restaurants that will give you a chance to do just that. We usually like the ones facing west, as that will allow for the best view of the sun and sky as they change colors and you get the chance to see down to the last glimpse of them as the sun sets below the horizon.

Some of our favorite places include the Compass Bar & Grill, Elements at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain, Jade Bar, and Top of the Rock Restaurant. That being stated, there are loads of great views from venues that range from inexpensive to the top of the line bars and restaurants. We could give ideas all day long and we'd still never run out of recommendations for you!

Trust us, we will help you find something that fits your budget and gives you a delicious meal and view.

6. Things to Do in Phoenix: Golfing

Simply stated: Phoenix is a golfer's paradise. You may wonder how we know this. Well, it is one of our favorite things to do in Phoenix, so we make sure to check out the courses and keep trying to lower our scores.

There are so many golf courses in Phoenix, and the surrounding areas, that you will be able to choose a new one every day you visit no matter how many times you come to the Valley of the Sun.

Some of our favorites include Troon North Golf Club, the TPC Scottsdale, the Greyhawk Golf Club which actually has two courses on one site, and Westin Kierland Resort and Spa. Those are just the ones in Phoenix. If you want to venture out a bit further, you will find even more incredible golf courses and resorts.

Little secret here: Jill has a much lower handicap than I do no matter how much I practice. I'm not embarrassed to admit that...well, maybe a little embarrassed. The things you do for love.

7. Hot Air Balloon Rides

Hot Air Balloon flying near Phoenix

Do you want to wake up and watch the sun rise over the desert? How about float below it in the afternoon? Maybe you'd prefer one while the sun sets? Maybe surprise your loved one with a magical journey to celebrate a special day? Have some wine or champagne after you land? Well, these are just some of the many things to do in Phoenix when you decide to go up, up, up into the sky!

We love to go up on a balloon ride and just watch the changes over Phoenix, and the surrounding areas, as often as we can since there is so much happening here. Not only do we see the city skyline evolve, as the new buildings are being built and it is growing, but we get to see for miles out into the desert.

Now, a desert may sound barren and empty, but that is only because you haven't seen it from up in the sky and with a hot-air balloon guide telling you all about the secrets and mysteries from anywhere between 2,000 to 5,000 feet above the ground!

8. Day Trip to Sedona

Just about two hours, or 120 miles, north of Phoenix is the magical city of Sedona. "Sedonians" like to tell others that they live in "The Most Beautiful Place on Earth" and, although we are biased towards Phoenix, it is hard to disagree with them. It is located in the mountains, surrounded by beautiful red rock formations, and you will think you've gone back to the days of the dinosaurs since it is so perfectly preserved and peaceful. But don't worry, they won't jump out and eat you...I think!

Jill and I love going up for a day, or maybe spend the night, and just take a hike on the trails, grab a bite to eat, check out their cool festivals and events, and whatever else grabs our fancy. There are also lots of fine art galleries, museums, and two wildlife parks where you can really feel like you are in the wild. Whenever we go to Sedona, we have a hard time wanting to leave since it just feels like home.

9. Concerts

The Valley of the Sun is the perfect place to take in some live music and dance the night away. There are loads of smaller venues that are available to see local bands and smaller touring bands, but the big names ones are sure to impress you when you see the lists.

One of our best venues is The Phoenix Theater. Some of bands that have played here include The Backstreet Boys on their One World Tour, Alicia Keys: The World Tour, Alan Jackson, Five Finger Death Punch, the Foo Fighters, and even 80s rockers like Adam Ant! There are so many that it is almost impossible to even get a decent list going here.

Trust us, no matter what your musical tastes are, you will be sure to find something to keep your toes tapping and your hands a clappin'! Going out on the town and rocking out is one of our favorite things to do in Phoenix! Heck, you might even see us out there. Say hi and we can all rock out together!

10. Breweries

Sometimes you want to go where...everybody loves a brew, enjoys some bites to eat and maybe they know your name. If that sounds like you, then it sounds like us too. You might even see us sitting or standing beside you since we love checking out the best breweries when we are out finding exploring around The Valley.

There are a lot of old breweries that have been around decades or longer, but there are more and more opening up all the time. In fact, sometimes it feels like there is a new one every single day! How do you imagine we could know that? Well, we can just leave that to your imagination...

Now, I know that you are thinking this is a horrible job and how can Jill and I do it day after day? Well, we just want you to know that it is a sacrifice we are willing to make so that you can have the best time while you are in The Valley. We want you to find just the right place for you no matter if you want to relax, hang out with a group of people, or watch your favorite team on TV as you sip some brews. Call it a labor of love.

Again, hard job, but somebody has to do it and we decided it might as well be us. Cheers!

PS. If you do see us, feel free to come over and say hi as we love meeting new people!

11. Musical Instrument Museum

Colorful drum at the Musical Instrument Museum

Have you ever wanted to see basically every type of musical instrument from around the world? Play some of them? See memorabilia from the most famous musicians and see their words written in their own handwriting, and then see them play and sing them in front of you? If so, you must visit the Musical Instrument Museum.

This museum has over 15,000 instruments, from pretty much every area of globe, and is over 200,000 square feet in dimension. Some of the cool instruments they have include a drum from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, one of Johnny Cash's guitars and some signed records, Tito Puente's beautifully painted Timbales, massive conch shells horns from people on the islands, and 10 feet long Swedish Alp horns and so much more.

There are also loads of memorabilia like Elvis' actual military uniform, song lyrics written on the original pieces of paper from numerous artists, and costumes and outfits that musicians and dancer wear throughout the 200 countries represented here.

There is also a special area for kids to learn about and play musical instruments during your stay. They have a nice café and an excellent gift shop with art made by artisans from around the world.

>> Learn more about visiting

12. Food Tours

Since we love to be out and about all the time, you can probably guess that going on food tours in The Valley is one of our favorite things to do in Phoenix. You might be surprised to hear this, but we think the dining options here rival San Francisco, Paris and NYC. Of course, we are a bit biased, but we've been to all three of those and we think The Valley matches up quite well.

Being that there are so many restaurants to choose from, ranging from the inexpensive to the top of the line, we like to take food tours so we can get a better idea of which fits our style and budget. Some of these include "Taco Tuesdays" where you go to different areas and various tacos places around the city and food trolley tours which are so fun since you cruise along instead of having to walk everywhere.

That being stated, our favorite thing to do with family and friends is the "Party Bike" food tour which allows up to 15 people on one single bike machine that looks like a bar than anything else! We highly recommend one like these when you visit here during the really hot summer months since you'll have shade and can just kick back.

13. Taliesin West

Designed and built by one of the foremost and foreword thinking architects of the 19th century, Frank Lloyd Wright, he wanted a home where he and his wife could escape the cold Wisconsin winters. After visiting Phoenix and seeing the layout of the land and how warm the winters were here, he decided that this location just north of Phoenix would be it.

Since Mr. Wright and his wife, Olgivanna, have passed away, his house has become a beloved tourist attraction because it was built in a way that provides for the most energy efficient means of that time. There is also an indoor cabaret, a teaching center, and an outdoor theater area since Mr. and Mrs. Wright wanted people to enjoy the arts in the nature of Arizona and overlooking The Valley of the Sun. You will learn so much about this gorgeous and eccentrically designed house, the history of it, and what it is being used for today, that we consider this a must-do for anyone coming here.

Note: Tours are required, and they often sell out well in advance, so make sure to plan ahead for your trip here.

14. Old Town Scottsdale

Sign in Old Town Scottsdale

Since Phoenix is thought of as such a new and hip city, you may not realize that there is a place called, "Old Town Scottsdale" in it. When Aram and I are looking to have a night on the town, a few drinks or dinner, see some art, or just do something spur of the moment, then this is definitely one of the things to do in Phoenix for us.

This cute area has numerous restaurants and food choices, and even a food tasting tour if that is more your style, golfing clubs, loads of nightlife with bars ranging from rock n roll, to country, to pretty much anything you could desire. It is also a great starting point for hikes and walks around the area. In fact, we love taking the Riverwalk/Arizona Canal and just enjoying the peace and quiet while still being only a block or two away from the nightlife and everything else this wonderful area has to offer.

Even though it still looks like Old Scottsdale, it is totally new and exciting in the present!

15. Broadway and Theater Performances

Jill and I love that there are great Broadway shows and theater performances throughout the year in Phoenix. Some of these are smaller shows and venues, while others are the best theaters which are playing the top musicals and dramatic plays anywhere in the world. Many of the more famous traveling Broadway shows are at the Orpheum Theater downtown. You will also find other shows straight from Broadway at the ASU Gammage in Tempe.

We are lucky enough to have a good amount of shows each year and this is no exception. There are smaller ones like "Clue" and others of that size with small audience spaces. Other shows that have graced our stages include "Hamilton," "Waitress," and "Jersey Boys." 

16. Chase Field Tours

"THE DIAMONDBACKS STRIKE FIRST WITH A MASSIVE HOME RUN!!!!

Well, since this is a tour, you probably won't hear the announcers say that as there isn't a game going on while you take it. However, you will still love taking a tour around the magnificent Chase Field which Major League Baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks call home.

This tour is perfect for kids and adults as you'll be taken through the stadium, learn about where the Dbacks (as we locals call them) have played through the years, and then to our personal favorite, the swimming pool on the right side of the outfield, among other secrets.

Fun Fact: The MASSIVE roof only takes 4.5 minutes to completely open or close and it only costs $2 to $3 because it was designed with energy efficiency in mind. I use that much energy just turning on my computer to write a page for this website! WOW!!! 

Jill and I try to take these tours at least every few months to see what has changed and what is new since watching and learning about baseball is one of our favorite things to do in Phoenix.

Note: The stadium is located right in the heart of downtown and there are loads of mass transit options, while parking is scarce and quite expensive. So, we'd suggest using public transport instead.

17. The Phoenix Symphony

Like Chase Field, the Phoenix Symphony is close to downtown and easy to get to from anywhere. You might think that the symphony sounds like it would be a stuffy and boring way to spend the night depending on what you've seen or where you've seen it. Well, this symphony is here (pun intended) to change your point of view on just that. The building is gorgeous, both inside and out, and perfectly acoustically designed for maximum enjoyment and pleasure.

The Phoenix Symphony is known for the classics, but also for playing some of the more up to date songs like the music of ABBA from the 70s disco days! Who could have imagined that when you think about going to a symphony? I know I wouldn't have before seeing it. The theater holds over 2,000 people with the main floor and balcony. There are also 4 loge sections on the side walls for a more personal experience. Depending on the show, we now think of this as one of the best things to do in Phoenix depending our mood and what is being performed that night.

18. Phoenix Art Museum

With a collection of art that encompasses over 20,000 pieces, ranging from into the furthest depths of history, and up to the most contemporary, the Phoenix Art Museum is an art world lover's paradise. These collections include Asian, Latin American, North American, European, African and more. It is awe-inspiring when you walk in and see so much beauty created from all over the world right here in The Valley.

Being that this is more than just a classic art museum, we want to point out some of the more obscure pieces of art that they have here. These include cool exhibits like the Fashion Design with over 6,000 pieces of clothes, jewelry and anything else you could imagine.

There are amazing "Throne Rooms" which are miniature replicas of the rooms or houses that people lived in back in the 19th century or so. They look brand new and the artwork, and steady handwork, is amazing. As you'd expect, they have traveling exhibits, educational classes, and fun special events. So, try to check ahead and see if there is anything special going on.

This museum is perfect for all ages.

19. First Fridays Art Walk

If you are lucky enough to be in the city on the first Friday of every month, then you will definitely want to hit this as it is one of the favorite things to do in Phoenix for locals and tourist alike. With over 70 galleries and locations that are directly focused on presenting the best art from around the city, this is a perfect place to spend a Friday night as you walk around and have a drink or two. There are many of the most famous museums, and lesser known art venues and galleries, that participate in this fun event.

Something that we always use to get to the First Fridays are the hop-on/hop-off shuttles since they are free, and you don't have to worry about traffic. First Fridays is located in Downtown Phoenix, and with the nightlife and possible sporting events, there can be a lot of people and the shuttles allow you to ignore that entirely. Also, you never know what the weather will be like and shuttle can help you get out of the rain in a hurry if you need to do so.

20. Papago Park

Cheetah eating breakfast at the Phoenix Zoo in Papago Park

Although this is just one of the many gorgeous parks and hiking area you can go to that is close to downtown Phoenix, there is something especially magical about Papago Park. This preserve is famous for the "Hole in the Wall" section in it. The Hole is a massive horizontal open-ended cavern where you can climb up to, sit down on, and just relax. The hikes are easy so don't worry about getting burnt out. We do however recommend you bring some water and maybe a hat to keep the sun off of you.

Jill and I love going up there to watch the sunset because the views are unlike any others. The Desert Botanical Garden is very close to it so you can hit both things to do in Phoenix depending on what time you arrive or leave them.

Beyond just the hiking and climbing areas, Papago Park is also home to the Phoenix Zoo, the Hall of "Flame" Museum, the Papago Baseball and Softball Complex, and the Papago Ponds fishing lagoon. In other words, no matter what you want to do here, there will be something for everyone no matter what your age.

21. Explore Historic Grand Avenue

If you have time, check out the historic Grand Avenue here in The Valley. You will find gallerias, breweries, restaurants and even some classic vinyl shops for you audiophiles that are visiting here. Another reason to check it out is there are loads of murals around it and many that are unknown by even the locals as they are down back alleys or tucked away. In case you are wondering, you are welcome to take photos of the murals or any other street art if you want to do that.

Now, if you happen to be visiting Phoenix on the 1st or 3rd Friday of every month, that is when the Avenue really is jumping, and people are out in the streets mingling and hanging out. Most of the stores stay open late, from 6 pm to 10 pm, and you can get feel a very different vibe which is a lot of fun. There are probably about 20-30 stores that participate in this event and it is so worth it.

When Aram and I want to get out, do something a little different, and meet some new people, this is one of our favorite things to do in Phoenix for a late night event.

22. Take a Guided Bike Tour

You may have gone on guided bike tours before, but most of them are only within city limits. Since Phoenix is so large, and yet so close to the desert, you have many choices here. Some of them will take you around the city and show you murals, restaurant, bars and famous places. Meanwhile others will take you out into the desert and up into some of the hills and mountains. Others will do a combination of both.

We love the variety of bike tours we can go on since one day we'll feel like we want to take it easy and just cruise, or some other day we will want push it hard, hit the mountains, and learn about the history outside of the city. If you really want to take it easy and just enjoy yourself, there are also electric bike tours. They are cool looking also.

Last but not least there is the guided Party Bike. This is a pedal powered bike that looks like a bar more than anything else. It sits up to 15 friends and you can pedal this machine around to your destinations. There are usually more than a few alcoholic beverages imbibed while people are on this one.

Not that Aram and I would have ever had taken part of any of that, of course.

23. Other Tours and Day Trips

In addition to the cycling, walking and other tours, there are many more that will take you beyond The Valley of the Sun and into the great wide open. Some of these include hot air balloon rides over the desert, taking a guided tour to Sedona or Flagstaff, or maybe taking one down to old Tucson or the wine tasting regions of Arizona.

Most people don't realize it, but Arizona's wines are now becoming highly respected and some excellent wine makers have left California's Napa and Sonoma Valley to specifically start their own wineries here. You can expect a boom in sales of Arizona wines soon and you can be the first to say, "I knew about it when..." and impress them. Or make them jealous. Your choice.

When we really want to get out of town and experience something different, we will head up to the Grand Canyon for a tour. Now, you may think that once you've done a tour to the Grand Canyon, you've seen it all.

We are here to let you know that there is so much more to see, and do, that it will blow your mind. So far, we've seen it by car, tour bus, by helicopter and even by plane! Many of these tours have expert guides who can inform you of things that you'd never know on your own.

Some of these tours include overnight stays, wildlife excursions, and many can be customized to fit your needs. A lot of these same types of tours are available to go to Sedona, Flagstaff, Tucson, and elsewhere in The Grand Canyon State.

PS. With so many choices, it can get pretty difficult to figure out which tour is the best for you and your guests. Jill and I would be happy to personally help you if you want recommendations or support.

24. Explore South Mountain

If you want to get away from it all, but don't want to drive very far, then South Mountain is one of the things to do in Phoenix that you'll want to add to your list. This park and preserve includes a total of 16,000 acres and combines the three largest mountain ranges which include the Ma Ha Tauk, the Gila, and the Guadalupe. Being that there is so much acreage here, you will think you are hundreds of miles away from Phoenix when you are only really 20 or so minutes.

There are over 50 miles of trails, where you can hike, run, mountain bike, go horse riding, or just do nothing and relax among the gorgeous nature. Jill and I love climbing up to Mount Dobbins, which peaks at just over 2,300 feet, and taking in the 360-degree views over Phoenix and everywhere else our eyes can see. It can be a bit of a hike, so if you want to go there and view it without wearing yourself out, you can always drive your car up Summit Road.

25. Family Friendly Activities

Penguin at Odysea in the Arizona Boardwalk

We've gone through a whole lot of things to do so far on this page and we just wanted to give you a little round up in case you missed some of them and are wondering if there is enough to do with your kids. You can be assured that there is in this magnificent city.

Here are just a few that are kid, and family, friendly starting with the ability to take in some sporting events, checking out the Desert Botanical Garden and the Phoenix Zoo which are near each other. You can all go see the OdySea Aquarium, Butterfly Wonderland, Pangaea - Home of the Dinosaurs, or the Mirror Maze (all of these can be purchased individually or in combination tickets to save you money).

If you want to get outside more, take them hiking and let them enjoy nature and the outdoors. You might even see some wild animals if you are lucky (don't worry almost all of them are much more afraid of you than you are of them). And, of course, there are the bike trips and day tours inside Phoenix and to other cities in Arizona.

In other words, you and your little ones will have so much to do that you won't have to worry about anything at all 

The only thing left to say is, "Howdy Pardner and welcome to The Valley of the Sun!"


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