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Desert charm combines with a cosmopolitan city feel to create Arizona’s capital. While it doesn’t get as much attention as places like New York City or Los Angeles, Phoenix is an interesting place filled with luxury spas, golf courses, performing arts venues, renowned Mexican food, and more, offering fun for the whole family. The city is known for its warm temperatures and has plenty to do both indoors and outdoors. Here are the must-do activities for your time in Phoenix.
Where to Stay in Phoenix
There are countless hotels in the Greater Phoenix area, but there is one company that’s sure to have your back, Marriott. Marriott has 30 different hotel brands so no matter your style or budget, they have something to make your stay in Phoenix unforgettable.
Marriott has made it a priority to strive for innovation and excellence in everything they do. That means updated rooms, personalized service, and reasonable prices. The Marriott brand guarantees you’ll be well taken care of by a staff who truly want to help you make the most of your time at the hotel and in the city.
Phoenix is decorated with a variety of Marriott properties to suit your needs. The Camby, an Autograph Collection Hotel and the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown are some of their premium options which offer an impressive and upscale experiences for guests. If you’re looking for a classy and comfortable stay but still want to be mindful of your budget, then two of the best are the AC Hotel Phoenix Biltmore and the Sonesta Select Phoenix Camelback.
Top Tourist Attractions in Phoenix
With a ton of activities ranging from art and music to nature and food, Phoenix really does have something for everyone. It’s a challenge to fit all there is to do in Phoenix into one trip, but here are some of the best things to get your started.
Recommendation: There is much to see and do in Phoenix, so booking a city tour is a great way to get the lay of the land as a first time visitors. Some of the highlights on this city tour include South Mountain Park, the largest municipal park in the world at over 17 miles long, downtown Phoenix with its Historic Capital building and a visit to the home of the Phoenix Suns and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Old Town Scottsdale is another popular destination where you’ll enjoy the chance to walk around and explore the local shops and galleries. You can book a city tour here.
1. Camelback Mountain
This Phoenix icon is only 20 minutes from downtown and hosts thousands of hikers each year. Camelback Mountain has two difficult trailheads which both climb 1,420 feet to a peak resembling a camel’s hump. Cholla Trail stretches 1.5 miles out and back and is a semi-steady hike which becomes challenging near the end as hikers have to climb over large boulders. Echo Canyon Trail is only 1.2 miles out and back, but the steep and rocky ascent make it a difficult hike that requires some climbing and the help of handrails. If you love the outdoors then Camelback Mountain is one of the best things to do in Phoenix because of the rewarding 360° view you’ll see at the summit.
2. Musical Instrument Museum
As the world’s largest museum of its kind, the Musical Instrument Museum is home to more than 15,000 musical instruments and associated objects. The museum’s collection has pieces from almost 200 countries and territories, and each country’s exhibit includes a video of native instruments being played by local musicians. The Musical Instrument Museum is great even for kids because they have a gallery where visitors can test out instruments from a variety of cultures. It even contains a concert hall, a cafe, and a gift shop. Visited by notable musicians like George Benson, Jordin Sparks, and Martha Reeves, this one-of-a-kind museum will awaken your inner musician.
3. Papago Park
Papago Park is a municipal park which covers 1,200 acres in Phoenix and 296 acres in Tempe. This desert park is well-known for its wide array of desert plants and unique geological formations. One of the park’s major landmarks is called Hole-in-the-Rock, a series of openings eroded in a small hill composed of red sandstone. The sandstone was formed somewhere between 6 and 15 million years ago. Inside the park is also the 140-acre Desert Botanical Garden. The garden was founded in 1937 and is home to more than 50,000 plants. Papago Park is also home to the largest privately owned, non-profit zoo in the country, the Phoenix Zoo. The zoo has more than 1,400 animals along with many specialty attractions. There are so many things to do in Papago Park it’s easy to spend an entire day there.
4. Heard Museum
The Heard Museum is a not-for-profit museum dedicated to the advancement of Indian art. It provides guests a unique perspective on native art by partnering with American Indian artists and tribal communities. The Heard Museum offers first-hand stories of American Indians along with displays of contemporary and traditional art by American Indian artists and those influenced by American Indian art. The current collection features more than 40,000 items and the library is home to archives with more than 34,000 volumes. The museum hosts a variety of festivals and fairs, including the World Championship Hoop Dance Contest and the Indian Fair and Market. Be sure to check their schedule of events when planning your trip.
5. Roosevelt Row
Lovingly nicknamed RoRo, some of Roosevelt Row’s unique streets date back to before Arizona was an official state. This walkable arts district has something for every member of the family. The downtown area is lined with art galleries, boutique shops, studio spaces, and restaurants. The area hosts all types of events from the monthly First Fridays Art Walk to the annual Pie Social. The First Friday events are among the country’s largest self-guided art walks and draw visitors from all over. Great for art lovers, RoRo is decorated with street art, and the award-winning galleries there have exhibitions on rotation from a variety of well-known artists. For those looking to enjoy the nightlife in Phoenix, there are plenty of bars and live music venues in the district. When looking at what to do in Phoenix, you can’t go wrong by spending some time in Roosevelt Row.
6. South Mountain Park and Preserve
At more than 16,000 acres, South Mountain Park is the largest municipal park in the United States. It’s home to a variety of flora and fauna, most notably chuckwallas and Elephant trees. There are more than 50 miles of trails for biking, hiking, and horseback riding, but the park is best known for Dobbins Lookout. The highest accessible point in the park, Dobbins Lookout sits at 2,330 feet and offers north-facing views of Phoenix. At the top you’ll find an observation platform and a stone ramada. Getting to the summit is a must, and you can choose between a 5.5-mile drive or a moderately difficult 2.5-mile hike. For great views and a solid workout, Dobbins Lookout is a great way to spend a day.
7. Phoenix Art Museum
One of Phoenix’s most notable landmarks, Phoenix Art Museum has an extensive collection with more than 18,000 works ranging from the Renaissance to present day. Collections include American, Asian, European, fashion, photography, and more! A variety of events are held there throughout the year, ranging from live performances and independent art films to festivals and educational programs. The Lemon Art Research library has more than 40,000 items with a large focus on the museum’s art collection, plus it’s free during public hours.
8. Dine at Heritage Square
Located on the original townsite of Phoenix, this area will take you back to the area’s Victorian past. While it’s full of things to do, the main thing you need to do here is grab a meal. Your taste buds will be in heaven regardless of what restaurant you choose. Award-winning Chef Nobuo Fukuda serves up a new and exciting Japanese cuisine experience at Nobuo at Teeter House. Homemade mozzarella cheese, locally grown vegetables, and freshly baked breads are all on display in the form of pizzas and other delicious entrees at Pizzeria Bianco. Anhelo seeks to bring people together over food using seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. Those are only a few of the area’s top restaurants where you can enjoy a great meal in a warm atmosphere.
9. Old Town Scottsdale
This downtown district guarantees a good time. Shopping, food, and fun are only the tip of the iceberg in Old Town Scottsdale. Boutique shops offer unique art, jewelry, and souvenirs with a Southwestern flair. The culinary scene is amazing and you can choose from countless restaurants, tasting & tap rooms, coffee & juice shops, and even places that’ll satisfy your sweet tooth. Art lovers will find themselves in the Main Street galleries, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, and Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. The area is dense with clubs, bars, and lounges, making it easy to have a great time and meet new people. There are also plenty of spas and salons so you can pamper yourself during your time in Phoenix.
Recommendation: Cruise through Scottsdale by bike and explore the city’s beautiful neighborhoods, luscious green spaces, and stunning canals with a knowledgeable local guide on this casual bike tour, all while enjoying the fresh air and learning about the native flora and fauna.
10. Taliesin West
Taliesin West was the winter home and school of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright from 1937 to 1959. Today it’s the home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the main campus of The School of Architecture at Taliesin. Several of Wright’s most famous buildings were created in the drafting room of Taliesin West. These buildings include renowned works like The Guggenheim and the Grady Gammage Auditorium. During Wright’s life the complex was maintained almost entirely by him and his students who continually made modifications to it up until Wright’s death. Open to the public for tours, there are five tour options ranging from one to three hours. Tours are necessary to see the complex, and reservations are strongly recommended. As Frank Lloyd Wright said, “Taliesin West is a look over the rim of the world”, and it definitely deserves a visit.
A great city for both upscale travelers and budget-conscious guests, Phoenix is full of fun. While there are countless things to do in Phoenix, these are some of the best as they will give you an excellent introduction to the city.