Phoenix isn’t the cowboy kitschy, sleepy retirement center that it used to be. Here are the best things to do in Phoenix.
With its vibrant art scene, stunning landscapes and incredible culture, this Southwestern gem will surprise you.
I’ve called Phoenix home for over a decade and I keep discovering more hidden gems.
Here’s my local’s guide to the best that Phoenix has to offer.
The best things to do in Phoenix:
1. The Desert Botanical Garden
This 140-acre botanical garden features 50,000 different plants – including native and endangered plants. You’ll be amazed at how much can bloom and thrive in the desert.
Don’t miss the Sunday Concerts in the Garden series for a chilled afternoon amid the cacti.
And the garden really comes alive at night every December in the annual Las Noches de las Luminarias. Throughout the holidays the garden sparkles with more than 8,000 luminaria bags and thousands of white twinkle lights that light up the desert.
There’s also live music from mariachi bands to swing to Christmas classics. Sample some local food and wines at the vendors during your evening wandering the illuminated walkways. Though it does get cold on December nights so bundle up or indulge in some hot cider and cookies.
2. Taliesin West
This architectural wonder in the desert is one of the best venues to explore the imagination of master architect and designer Frank Lloyd Wright.
3. Phoenix Art Museum
A three-floor world class collection of masterpieces, including Monet and Delacroix, along with modern art and paintings that vividly portray Native Americans and the landscapes of the Southwest. Various temporary exhibits keep things interesting year-round.
If you think Arizona’s landscapes are picturesque, you’ll love this vibrant collection of paintings that portray Native Americans, cowboys and other classic scenes of the Southwest.
The art here dates from the early 19th century to the 21st century, and is an eclectic collection of diverse styles from John Mix Stanley’s classic realist landscapes, to Hermon Atkins MacNeil’s bronze statues depicting Native Americans to colorful and abstract paintings.
The collection showcases both regional artists of the past and contemporary creatives.
And if you’re planning a trip to the Grand Canyon, don’t miss Gunnar Widforss’ stunning landscapes that show the depth and scale of the canyon.
4. Piestewa Peak
Miles of trails offer gorgeous views of the city.
5. Roosevelt Row
Once a run-down and shady part of downtown, Roosevelt Row is born again as a walkable artists’ district full of colorful murals and quirky galleries. The A.R.T.S. Market on the first Friday of the month is a great place to start exploring.
6. Arizona Capitol Museum
This beautiful building topped with a copper dome houses a collection that chronicles the state’s quirky and colorful past, from its times as a territory to statehood.
It’s a quaint museum full of interactive exhibits, and a fun Arizona Flag made from 113,998 lego bricks.
There’s a section on the state’s constitution and how it still drives modern politics.
There’s also an exhibit of salvaged items from the USS Arizona after it was attacked at Pearl Harbor.
One of the most interesting exhibits is on the Merci Train, which showcases the items that Arizona received when France sent 49 cars to all the states filled with gifts after World War II.
7. Papago Park
In the heart of the city, this park features hiking trails from beginner to advanced, and the iconic hole in the rock that’s often called one of the best spots in Phoenix to catch the sunset.
Visit around the golden hour and the otherworldly red butte formations take on a magical glow that’s perfect for photo shoots and budding landscape photographers.
It’s an easy hike to the hole in the rock. And there will often be photographers, tourists and locals gathered at the spot in anticipation for the magic moment. It’s better to go in the winter months when the days are short because the park closes daily at 7pm.