Winter in Phoenix, Arizona: 11 Fun Activities & Quick Weather Guide

Eager to escape chilly weather in the north and head for warmer climes? Join the flock of ‘snowbirds’ who venture south to enjoy a balmy winter in Phoenix, Arizona. Boasting bright blue skies with glorious sunshine and mild temperatures, the Valley of Sun is the perfect place to skip the snow.

Whether a culture vulture, sports fan, or outdoor lover, you’ll find a fantastic array of winter fun. Wander through the haloed halls of world-class museums like the Phoenix Art Museum and the Heard. Head outdoors and enjoy hiking in the Superstition Mountains, cruising on Canyon Lake, or golfing at some of the top courses in the country.

Catch the Phoenix Suns in action at the Footprint Center, meander through the magnificent Desert Botanical Garden, and get lost in the illuminated wonders of the Lights of the World Lantern Festival.

Ready to get out and explore all the Valley of the Sun offers? Start planning your adventures with this complete Phoenix winter activities guide!

Weather in Phoenix in winter

Winter in Phoenix spans from December through February. Phoenix enjoys a mild and sunny winter. You can expect daytime temperatures ranging from the mid-60s°F to low 70s°F (18°C – 23°C). Nights can be cool, dipping into the 40s°F and 50s°F (4°C – 15°C). Nothing a light jacket won’t keep at bay.

Winter in Phoenix

You won’t need an umbrella as winters in Phoenix are usually dry, with only a few sporadic showers here and there. With pleasant daytime temperatures and clear skies, winter is an ideal time for exploring the beautiful desert landscapes. You can dine al fresco almost every day. Enjoy meals on restaurant patios, savoring the sunshine.

Must-do Phoenix winter activities

Marvel at the unique desert flora at the Desert Botanical Garden

If you love all things botanical, head to the Desert Botanical Garden to marvel at the spectacular display of desert flora. The odd showers in winter cause the desert plants to burst into color, and the garden is a sight to behold!

Established in 1939, the Desert Botanical Garden is one of the world’s foremost desert botanical gardens. This horticultural oasis is home to an impressive collection of over 4,000 desert plant species, including cacti, succulents, and wildflowers.

Marvel at the unique desert flora at the Desert Botanical Garden

Take a guided tour of the garden, where knowledgeable docents provide fascinating insights into the unique flora and history of the park. Immerse yourself in the heritage gardens and learn how native communities have utilized desert plants for centuries.

During the winter, the Butterfly Pavilion is one of Phoenix’s must-visit attractions. It’s a tropical paradise filled with hundreds of colorful butterflies that provide an enchanting contrast to the desert landscape. Keep an eye out for rotating art exhibits within the garden; they often feature spectacular art inspired by the desert and its plant life.

Aim to visit the Desert Botanical Garden in the late afternoon. The setting sun casts beautiful shadows and gives the desert plants a warm, golden hue, creating a magical ambiance.

Explore Papago Park

Embrace the beauty of winter and enjoy some outdoor fun at Papago Park. This beautiful desert haven is home to iconic rock formations and scenic hiking trails, offering plenty of activities to enjoy.

Papago Park has a rich history dating back to the time of the Hohokam Indians, who were the area’s original inhabitants. During World War II, it served as a POW camp, and if you’re interested in history, you can explore the camp’s ruins.

Explore Papago Park

The park is crisscrossed with trails that are perfect for hiking or leisurely walks. The terrain is gentle, making it accessible to hikers of all levels. The iconic Hole-in-the-Rock formation is a must-see. Hole-in-the-Rock is a natural sandstone tunnel that you can climb up to for panoramic views of the desert landscape.

Don’t forget your binoculars at Papago Ponds. The winter months bring an array of birdlife to the ponds, making it a delightful spot for birdwatching. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy lunch with some incredible views.

Take a steamboat cruise on Canyon Lake

Set sail on Canyon Lake with a one-of-a-kind sightseeing steamboat cruise. Nestled within the Tonto National Forest, about a 45-minute drive east of Phoenix, Canyon Lake is a beautiful, tranquil paradise. One of the four reservoirs created by the Salt River, Canyon Lake is celebrated for its striking, rugged desert landscape, providing a delightful backdrop for your cruise.

Board the Dolly Steamboat, an authentic replica of a historic sternwheeler, and enjoy a narrated nature cruise through the heart of the lake’s unique landscapes. Soak up spectacular panoramic views of the rugged desert terrain surrounding Canyon Lake. The contrast of the desert against the serene waters is truly captivating, especially during the soft light of early morning or late afternoon.

One of the highlights of the cruise is the opportunity to spot wildlife. During your cruise, keep your eyes peeled for bighorn sheep, bald eagles, and various desert birds.

After your cruise, explore the surrounding Tonto National Forest on one of the many hiking trails that wind through the woodlands. Relax over a picnic on the shores of the lake.

Attend the Lights of the World Lantern Festival

Looking for a magical and multicultural experience? Phoenix comes alive during the winter at the Lights of the World Lantern Festival. This enchanting, luminous celebration of culture and art showcases the glowing beauty of lantern displays from around the world.

The Lights of the World Lantern Festival has become a cherished annual tradition in Phoenix, typically taking place from November through January at the Arizona State Fairgrounds. It’s a delightful celebration of diverse cultures, art, and, of course, lights.

The heart of the festival is its spectacular lantern displays, which vary each year. These luminous artworks bring to life various themes and stories, often inspired by different cultures from around the globe. Some lantern displays are interactive, allowing you to become a part of the art. It’s a great way to capture some Insta-worthy moments.

Enjoy a rich tapestry of cultural performances, from traditional dance and music to acrobatics. Tantalize your taste buds with a range of international cuisine. Savor everything from Asian delights to European treats.

If you’re up for some extra thrills, the festival also features a variety of amusement rides that add a playful touch to the experience. Explore the marketplaces where you can find unique, handcrafted items and souvenirs from various cultures.

Catch a Phoenix Suns game at the Footprint Center

If you’re looking for a thrilling winter experience in Phoenix, you must catch the NBA superstars, the Phoenix Suns, in action at the Footprint Center!

You’ll find the Footprint Center on Jefferson Street in the heart of Downtown Phoenix. It’s ideally located for exploring the vibrant before or after the game. Many restaurants & bars stay open late so you can keep the fun going.

The Suns have been shining in the NBA since 1968 and have been the team of many legendary players. Expect an electrifying game-day experience with thrilling halftime shows, fan engagement, and more. The arena often hosts a Fan Zone with face painting, games, and live music. It’s perfect for fans of all ages.

Arrive early to soak in the pre-game atmosphere. You might catch the players warming up or even snag an autograph. Join in the pre-game excitement by tailgating with fellow fans. It’s a great way to get pumped up before tip-off.

Before or after the game, visit the Sun’s Team Shop for your gear and memorabilia. It’s a great place to pick up a souvenir.

Peruse art at the Phoenix Art Museum

If you’re in the mood for culture, explore some of the city’s top-notch museums. Start at the Phoenix Art Museum, home to an impressive collection of contemporary and modern art from around the world.

Phoenix Art Museum’s permanent collection galleries are drawn from more than 20,000 objects of modern and contemporary art, fashion design, photography, and American, Asian, Latin American, and European art.

Established in 1959, the Phoenix Art Museum is the largest in the Southwestern United States. It houses over 20,000 objects of American, Asian, Latin American, and European art, fashion design, and photography.

Peruse art at the Phoenix Art Museum

Spend a few hours wandering the haloed halls, admiring European classics, American and Western art, Asian treasures, and more. Watch for special exhibitions, which often showcase renowned artists and unique themes. If you’re a fan of photography, the museum has captivating displays of historic and contemporary works.

Look out for art workshops and classes where you can unleash your inner artist and create your own masterpiece. The museum occasionally hosts film screenings that tie into art and culture. It’s a great way to combine your love for film and art.

Continue your day of culture with visits to the Heard Museum, which specializes in Native American art, or the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art if you’re interested in modern and contemporary art.

The Musical Instrument Museum is home to a staggering collection of 6,800 instruments and musical objects, and the Hall of Flame Museum of Firefighting is a must if you love big red fire engines!

Go hiking in the Superstition Mountains

Lace up your boots and embark on an adventurous hike in the Superstition Mountains. Located east of Phoenix, the Superstition Mountains have multiple trailheads accessible from different points. The most common entry point is the Lost Dutchman State Park, about an hour’s drive from Phoenix.

The Superstition Mountains are steeped in legends, including the fabled Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. The area is part of the Superstition Wilderness, offering diverse terrain, including rugged peaks, deep canyons, and pristine desert landscapes.

Go hiking in the Superstition Mountains

One of the iconic features of the Superstitions is Flat Iron, a dramatic rock formation that offers spectacular views of the surrounding terrain. Head out on the Siphon Draw Trail, which leads to Flat Iron and provides a challenging yet rewarding experience. It’s about a six-mile round trip, and you’ll encounter steep sections and awe-inspiring vistas.

The Hieroglyphic Trail is a more moderate hike known for its petroglyphs. It’s a great choice if you want a less strenuous adventure. While not in the Superstition Mountains, the nearby Canyon Lake area offers various trails and water activities, making it an excellent alternative or addition to your hike.

PRO TIP: Start your hike early in the morning. Not only will you avoid the desert heat, but you’ll also witness spectacular sunrise views over the Superstition Mountains.

Go golfing at the Arizona Biltmore Golf Club

Itching to hit the links? Tee off in style at the Arizona Biltmore Golf Club. Just a short drive from Phoenix, this is not just any golf course; it’s a piece of golfing history. Designed by Albert Warren Tillinghast, a renowned golf course architect, it has been a favorite since the late 1920s.

The Arizona Biltmore Golf Club features two 18-hole championship golf courses – the Adobe and the Links. Each offers a unique golfing experience. The club has excellent practice facilities, including a driving range, putting greens, and a chipping area to sharpen your skills. If you’re new to the game or looking to improve your swing, the club offers lessons and clinics with experienced instructors.

The historic clubhouse is a gem in itself. It’s an ideal spot to unwind and share stories about your game with fellow golfers. After a round, relax and enjoy a post-game meal at the Adobe Restaurant.

Phoenix is a golfer’s paradise with over 200 golf courses. From lush green fairways to desert landscapes, there’s a course to suit every golfer’s preference. Head to the Troon North Golf Club in North Scottsdale to play among pristine desert landscapes with striking saguaros.

TPC Scottsdale is home to the famous Stadium Course, known for its rowdy 16th hole, designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish. For a one-of-a-kind golfing experience, We-Ko-Pa Golf Club in the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation offers spectacular desert surroundings with panoramic mountain views.

Go shopping at Biltmore Fashion Park

When it’s time for some retail therapy, head to Biltmore Fashion Park to shop until you drop. Known for its upscale shopping and dining experiences, the fashion park has been Phoenix’s premier shopping destination for decades.

Biltmore Fashion Park boasts a collection of high-end boutiques and shops. You’ll find everything from designer clothing to jewelry and home décor here. You’ll find an array of excellent restaurants to savor a delicious meal after your shopping spree.

The open-air courtyard is beautifully landscaped, perfect for strolling and enjoying the Arizona weather. During the holiday season, Biltmore Fashion Park is adorned with festive decorations and is a magical place for holiday shopping.

For more shopping options, head to Scottsdale Fashion Square for luxury brands and the exclusive Scottsdale Waterfront for upscale dining and boutique shopping.

Desert Ridge Marketplace features a great mix of shops, restaurants, an entertainment district, and even a splash pad for kids. For the best discounts in town, Arizona Mills is your go-to.

Traverse the world of music at the Musical Instrument Museum

Explore the harmonious world of music at the Musical Instrument Museum. Established in 2010, the MIM is one of the world’s only museums dedicated to showcasing an impressive collection of musical instruments from across the globe.

The Musical Instrument Museum is home to various musical instruments and music-related artifacts. Wander through the exhibits and enjoy a sonic journey around the globe. Don’t miss the Experience Gallery, where you can try playing various musical devices. Strum guitars, bang on drums, and even play a virtual theremin!

Explore the music and instruments of nearly every country in the world in the Geographic Galleries and see the instruments played by music legends like Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and Taylor Swift in the Artists’ Gallery.

Before you leave, grab a bite at Café Allegro and visit the MIM Museum Store, a treasure trove of musical delights. You’ll discover a wide range of musical instruments, books, apparel, and unique gifts inspired by the museum’s vast collection.

Keep an eye on MIM’s event calendar for live musical performances featuring artists from diverse genres. Plan your visit to coincide with one of these concerts and enjoy a truly immersive experience.

Go restaurant-hopping in Downtown Phoenix

Heading out for dinner and wondering where to go? Downtown Phoenix is a thriving hub of culinary creativity packed with plenty of places to wine and dine in style.

Modern urban chic meets classic American steakhouse at the Arrogant Butcher on East Jefferson Street. Dimmed lights, polished wood, and contemporary décor make it perfect for a classy date night. The menu is a celebration of American classics with a twist. You’ll find dishes like short rib grilled cheese, roasted chicken, mouthwatering steaks, and an impressive wine list.

Go restaurant-hopping in Downtown Phoenix

Part restaurant, part bar, and part retro market, the Duce is a one-of-a-kind spot in downtown Phoenix. Expect comfort food with a side of nostalgia –the fried chicken is legendary – and colorful craft cocktails. Kick back to special events from vintage markets to live music and boxing matches in the gym at the back.

The Vig Fillmore offers a stylish yet laid-back atmosphere with a gorgeous patio for relaxing in the sun and people-watching. Enjoy everything from burgers to salads, and don’t skip their craft cocktails. During happy hour, their drinks are a real steal!

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11 Fun Winter Activities in Phoenix for Your Arizona Vacation

Mia Russell

Mia Russell is a freelance writer based in South Africa with a passion for travel. She’s travelled to 35 countries and counting, and when she is not in the water swimming, freediving, or snorkeling in beautiful places around the world, she is writing about her experiences. Before becoming a freelance travel writer, Mia worked as Chief Copy Editor for Glamor magazine and Managing Editor for One Small Seed Magazine. She's a regular contributor to travel websites like Go City, Bookmundi, The Maldives Expert, and Heritage Safaris.

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