Planning a trip to Arizona? Kick-start your itinerary by exploring all the best things to do in Phoenix, AZ. As the state’s biggest city, Phoenix is the perfect introduction to the Grand Canyon State and one of Arizona’s must-see travel destinations.
From world-class museums to beautiful parks to family-friendly activities sure to thrill travelers of all ages, the top tourist attractions in Phoenix will suit any kind of visitor. With extensive travel links into the city via its major airport, Phoenix is an ideal vacation spot for anywhere from a couple of days to a longer, more leisurely stay to escape a cool winter.
Not sure what to do in Phoenix? Read on and discover all the best places to visit in Phoenix, AZ.
Best places to visit in Phoenix, AZ
Looking to meet some of the kings and queens of the animal kingdom? Phoenix Zoo is home to some of the most famous and beloved species on the planet. Over 3,000 animals, spanning 400 species, call the zoo home. Highlights here include majestic African lions, giraffes, sloths, and komodo dragons.
With over 125 acres of land, the Phoenix Zoo operates as a non-profit organization designed to promote conservation efforts and educate its visitors to become ambassadors for the wild world around us. The zoo is the largest, privately-owned, non-profit zoo in the United States.
Desert Botanical Garden
When in Arizona, you expect to see expanses of dusty sands, with the occasional cacti or desert plant, but you don’t normally expect to see a ton of greenery. The Desert Botanical Garden is here to prove you wrong!
With over 50,000 plants and designated nature hikes through the Sonoran Desert, the Desert Botanical Garden is a great day out for the whole family, whether you have a green thumb or not.
As the Desert Botanical Garden is one of the top tourist attractions in Phoenix, it’s always best to book in advance online. The garden is open daily from 8 am until 8 pm.
Looking to get out and explore the great outdoors? One of the best places to go in Phoenix to do it is Papago Park. Wedged between Scottsdale and Tempe, the 1,496-acre desert park is full of everything from hiking trails to recreational amenities.
This entirely free municipal park is home to hundreds of hikes and trails, ranging from accessible all the way through to challenging. Whatever you’re looking for out of your hiking day, Papago Park delivers. Check out Big and Little Buttes, Hole in the Rock, and the historic Hunt’s Tomb.
Unlike other popular hiking spots in Arizona, there’s plenty of parking available at Papago Park. Gather up the whole family and head out into the wilderness!
Consider yourself a bit of an architecture buff? Then while you’re in Phoenix, you absolutely have to Check out the iconic Taliesin West.
The legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home, Taliesin West is a striking and remarkable example of the architectural style that made Wright a household name. Besides being able to tour the house, it’s also home to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and is the main campus of the School of Architecture at Taliesin.
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Whether you love architecture or just want to wander around this beautiful piece of modern art history, Taliesin West is well worth a visit on your Phoenix trip.
Want to learn more about Native American art during your stay in Phoenix? Head to the Heard Museum to dazzle at one of the largest collections of Native American art in the United States.
With over 40,000 pieces, ranging from jewelry to baskets to textiles and ceramics, there’s something for everyone to enjoy at the Heard Museum. It’s impossible not to notice the huge influence of Native American heritage throughout Phoenix, and this museum is a fitting celebration of the local indigenous culture and art.
Interestingly, the Heard Museum is the oldest private museum in Arizona, founded in 1929; it’s a historic landmark as well as an important educational and inspiration institution.
Children’s Museum of Phoenix
Traveling to Phoenix with kiddos in tow? Keep the whole family entertained at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix.
With over 300 interactive activities and exhibitions, you could spend your entire Phoenix vacation in this giant museum. The target age ranges from infants up to 10-year-olds; if you’ve got a couple of little rascals with you, there’s bound to be something to interest and inspire them.
Open daily from 9 am until 4 pm, the Children’s Museum of Phoenix is listed as one of the top three children’s museums in the country. So, don’t just have fun on your vacation; learn something new at the same time!
Goldfield Ghost Town
Are you a fan of the old Wild West— or just have a penchant for abandoned towns? Then Goldfield Ghost Town should be at the top of your list of what to see in Phoenix.
As an old mining town that slowly died out once the mine closed, Goldfield Ghost Town is now a Wild West-themed tourist attraction out at Apache Junction, just outside the city. Check out the Superstition Saloon and Restaurant for a bite to eat and some old-fashioned vibes.
While you’re out of the city, check out Canyon Lake or Superstition Mountain on your drive back; they’re beautiful attractions in their own right!
The Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix
Seeking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and settle into some much-needed tranquility? Look no further than the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix.
Nestled within 3.5 acres of gorgeous greenery, the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix pays homage to the calming and beautiful gardens of Japan, complete with a koi pond, waterfalls, and hundreds of indigenous plants.
Looking for one of the most unique things to do in Phoenix? Head to the Japanese tea house and take part in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. You’ll completely forget that you’re in Arizona!
South Mountain Park and Preserve
Feel the need to roam wild and free? Stretch out on 16,000 acres of parkland right in the city at the South Mountain Park and Preserve.
One of the largest municipal parks in the United States, South Mountain Park and Preserve is an urban park with a difference. With 58 miles worth of trails, there’s plenty of space and choice. Hike, walk or bike around this huge park and appreciate the expansive views.
You can also find plenty of spots around South Mountain Park and Preserve to enjoy a tasty and well-earned picnic, as well as well-maintained restrooms at the visitor center and trailheads.
Enchanted Island Amusement Park
Need an attraction where your kids can blow off some steam and tire themselves out? Don’t worry: Enchanted Island Amusement Park is one of the top Phoenix tourist attractions for family-friendly excitement and exertion.
Located in Encanto Park, this 7.5-acre amusement park is designed for children aged 10 and under to run around, explore, and have a good time. With a choice of eleven rides and activities, including some cooling water-based amusements, it’s a family-fun day out.
There are also plenty of covered picnic areas and BBQ grills where you can regroup and recharge before heading out for even more fun. What’s not to love about this place!
Phoenix Art Museum
Looking to get your fill of art and culture while in Phoenix? Check out the extensive Phoenix Art Museum and get inspired by centuries of beautiful pieces.
With over 20,000 individual pieces from across the world—including prominent works by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, as well as many other Latin American artists—the Phoenix Art Museum offers plenty to see and enjoy. Ranging from contemporary pieces to Renaissance-era works, there’s something for everyone at the largest art museum in the Southeast USA.
If you’re traveling to Phoenix towards the start of the month, entry to the Phoenix Art Museum on the first Friday of the month between 3 pm and 9 pm is completely free!
Consider yourself a history buff or just into exquisite fine dining? Either way, you’ll love a visit to the iconic Wrigley Mansion.
Built by the chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. in 1929, this huge building was designed in a distinctly Italianate architectural style. This one-of-a-kind location offers unique architectural and design features that’ll wow any visitor.
If you’re hungry, the Wrigley Mansion is home to the outstanding Geordie’s, a restaurant where you can dine surrounded by the true opulence of Wrigley’s original vision. (Think: Italian royalty meets Great Gatsby in the heart of Arizona!)
Arizona Science Center
Looking to learn something new on your next trip to Phoenix while keeping everyone in your party entertained? The Arizona Science Center ticks all of those boxes—and more!
With exhibits and interactive activities to suit all ages and interests, the Arizona Science Center will pique the curiosity of any visitor. You’ll find the Arizona Science Center in Downtown Phoenix’s Heritage and Science Park.
Although it’s not the largest museum in Phoenix, there’s plenty to enjoy here for a day, especially if you’re wanting to escape the Arizona heat!
The Arizona Science Center is open daily from 10.30 am till 4 pm. Check the website for new and exciting events and exhibitions.
Musical Instrument Museum
Have a love for all things musical? Maybe you can play any instrument you turn your hand to? Or perhaps you just have an appreciation for all things world music-related? If so, carve out time for the Musical Instrument Museum.
Home to 15,000 instruments from over 200 countries, this unique niche museum is a firm favorite with visitors all over the globe. So much so that the Musical Instrument Museum has been voted the number one tourist attraction in Phoenix!
The Musical Instrument Museum is open from 9 am to 5 pm every day of the week and only costs $20 to get in. It’s a great way to spend half a day and learn more about the musical culture of different regions and countries.
Arizona Capitol Museum
If you’re curious to see how state government works and what’s kept Arizona going in years gone by, check out the Arizona Capitol Museum.
Located in the old seat of territorial power in Arizona, this museum is home to interactive exhibitions and one-off events and workshops, delving into the cultural, political, and social history of this beautiful state.
If you’re traveling during the summer months, there aren’t any guided tours on. But you’re free to walk around and enjoy the exhibits at your own pace.
It’s also worth noting that the Arizona Capitol Museum isn’t open on weekends during the summer months.
Pueblo Grande Museum Archeological Park
Consider yourself a bit of an Indiana Jones-type with an expert eye for archeology? Venture over to the Pueblo Grande Museum Archeological Park, one of the top places to see in Phoenix for history buffs.
Located in the Salt River Valley, the Pueblo Grande Museum Archeological Park is home to some of the foremost pre-Columbine ruins and artifacts in the area.
Important archeological features include a prehistoric platform mound and irrigation canals that were ahead of their time. You can also visit replica buildings to learn about how life might have looked in this region in years gone by.
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The Pueblo Grande Museum Archeological Park is closed on Sundays and public holidays; if you want to visit, you’ll want to factor this into your Phoenix trip itinerary.
Tempe Beach Park
Want to have some fun out on the water? Head to the neighboring college town of Tempe and check out the beautiful and fun-filled Tempe Beach Park on beautiful Tempe Town Lake.
With paddleboards, kayaks, and sailboats available to rent, you can take to the waters of Tempe Town Lake and enjoy the gorgeous Arizona sunshine.
If you want to stay on dry land, break a sweat on the jogging and cycle routes around Tempe Beach Park, or enjoy a snack in the picnic areas, firing up the BBQ grills. While you can’t swim in Tempe Town Lake, you can fish here.
With events on at Tempe Town Lake & Beach Park throughout the year, it’s worth checking out their website and social media accounts to see what’s coming up.
Where to stay in Phoenix for sightseeing
As it’s one of the biggest cities in the US, choosing where to stay in Phoenix isn’t always easy. Most first-time visitors start their search in the Downtown area, where you’ll find many of the city’s top-rated hotels. If your interest in Arizona’s capital leans more toward its outdoorsy side, Camelback East Village/Biltmore is another fantastic choice.
Located in the Roosevelt Row area of downtown, this cozy boutique hotel charms with its industrial-chic motifs. Before settling down in its trendy rooms, cool off in the year-round outdoor pool or sip cocktails and indulge apps at MATCH, the hotel’s on-site restaurant & bar.
Nestle into the heart of downtown in the sleek and contemporary Hyatt Place Phoenix/Downtown. Relax in the beautifully designed, modern rooms, set with separate sleeping and chilling areas. Extra amenities include a snack bar, breakfast, and a fitness center.
Escape the streets of Arizona’s biggest city by engulfing yourself in paradise at the Royal Palms Resort and Spa in Camelback East. Modeled after a Spanish villa, this luxury resort features stunning tropical foliage, walled gardens, and stone walkways—all in the shadow of Camelback Mountain.