Phoenix’s perpetual sunshine might tempt you to find a secluded resort and spend all your days sipping margaritas next to the swimming pool. Don’t give in. Exploring our city and finding things to do in Phoenix’s desert horizons will broaden yours.
Top Phoenix Attractions
As one of the largest cities in the U.S., you’ll find every kind of attraction in Greater Phoenix: food, nightlife, outdoors, and more fill every nook and cranny of our metro. If you’re unsure where to start, we’ve rounded up the top attractions everyone — visitors and locals — should check off their Greater Phoenix bucket list. Next, find the best interests in the urban sprawl of the Sonoran Desert, including hikes, museums, and more. You can also find more attractions below.
The panoramic view from the “hump” of this iconic landmark, named for its resemblance to a kneeling camel, is worth scaling its two tricky trails, Echo Canyon and Cholla.
Hikers gain 1,200 feet in elevation to the summit, which looks out over the city and Phoenix Mountains Preserve. Camelback is one of the most popular urban hiking spots in Phoenix, so expect trail traffic and consider hiking on weekdays. During hot-weather months, walk in the early morning and drink plenty of water.
Just minutes from downtown is iconic Papago Park, home to red rock buttes looped with trails, scenic views from the intriguing rock formation atop Hole-in-the-Rock Trail, and two of the city’s top attractions: Desert Botanical Garden and Phoenix Zoo.
The park is also a popular recreation hub, including fishing in seven acres of stocked lagoons, the Hall of Flame Museum of Firefighting, and the scenic Papago Golf Course, set at the base of Papago’s buttes.
South Mountain Park & Preserve
Boasting 50 miles of trails through 16,000 acres of the Sonoran Desert, this municipal park is ideally suited for outdoor adventure just minutes from the city.
The skyline views and the Sonoran Desert flora aren’t the park’s only perks. Keep a lookout for ancient petroglyphs carved into the rocks (we’ve got details in this blog post on petroglyphs in Phoenix). If you’d rather drive than hike, bike or hoof it up the trails, hop on the 5.5-mile Summit Road up to Dobbins Lookout, the highest accessible point in the preserve.
Museums & Attractions
Musical Instrument Museum
See, hear and even play instruments from every corner of the world in a one-of-a-kind collection.
The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) tunes you into thousands of instrument sounds with a headset that syncs seamlessly as you move through its galleries. Take a world tour of cultural instruments and pop culture artists, and return for a live music experience at MIM Music Theater, a year-round concert series hosting more than 200 international acts.
Desert Botanical Garden
The winding paths of this 50-acre desert garden showcase a fantastic variety of dry plants, from towering saguaros to delicate blooms.
This beautiful landscape is also the backdrop for the garden’s seasonal events. During the winter months, thousands of luminaria bags and twinkling lights transform the garden for Las Noches de Las Luminarias, a holiday tradition. The garden also features art installations intertwined with the flora each year.
Tours of Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home, offer insight into how the desert surroundings inspired the masterful architect. Visitors walk through rooms, gardens, walkways, and Wright’s entertainment pavilion on the grounds while learning about his organic architecture. Taliesin West was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List on July 7, 2019, after being submitted for nomination by the National Park Service in November 2018.
The Phoenix Zoo is one of the nation’s largest nonprofit zoos and is home to more than 1,400 animals. See Sumatran tigers roam the savanna, feed giraffes in an up-close encounter, and discover the local flora, fauna, and critters of the Sonoran Desert on the zoo’s Arizona Trail.
The tradition, culture, and history of 22 regional American Indian tribes converge in the Heard Museum’s immersive exhibits, authentic art shop, and annual events like the World Championship Hoop Dance Contest.
Through art and cultural objects, the museum’s ongoing exhibits tell the stories of native people of the Southwest, from early history to powerful memories of boarding schools.
Phoenix Art Museum
The Southwest’s largest fine art museum features a collection of contemporary work and global masterpieces.
Complementing the museum’s galleries of fine art and objects from Asia, America, Europe, and beyond are rotating exhibitions. Want to see the permanent collections for free (and the special exhibitions at a discount)? Visit Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. during the voluntary donation time or the second Sunday of the month from noon to 5 p.m. for Free Family Sundays.
The creative beat of the city’s urban heart is in Roosevelt Row, home to galleries, mural-splashed business walls, and a monthly art walk. This arts district is a prominent stop for visitors and the downtown community along the First Friday self-guided art tour.
Old Town Scottsdale
Southwestern arts and hip eateries line the streets of Old Town, a popular destination for Greater Phoenix shopping and nightlife.
If you’re hunting for a souvenir, you’ll find your fill of old-fashioned flair (think cowboy hats and turquoise jewelry) alongside upscale art galleries and trendy boutiques in the Fifth Avenue district. The area is also a hot spot for after-dark dancing, lounging, and libations.
Like the 19th-century homes nearby, a restaurant in downtown Heritage Square is making history: Pizzeria Bianco (heralded as the best pizza in the nation) is a James Beard Award winner. The area is also home to the Arizona Science Center, featuring more than 350 hands-on exhibits.
This 1-mile stretch of Seventh Avenue, between Indian School and Camelback roads, is home to some of the best antique shops, art, dining, patio cocktailing, and dancing. Also known as “The Curve” for its winding nature in an otherwise grided city and the “gayborhood,” thanks to its high concentration of LGBTQ+ bars and rainbow flags perched outside allied businesses, this neighborhood is an absolute must for a sense of this city’s pride as well as its midcentury roots.