19 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Phoenix, AZ
Author Lana Law has spent many winters in Arizona and Phoenix is one of her favorite cities.
Phoenix's warm, dry climate attracts sun lovers and those looking to escape the snow and cold during the winter months. The city offers abundant arts and cultural attractions, historic neighborhoods, as well as shopping, dining, and an outstanding selection of resorts and hotels.
Many people come here simply to enjoy the outdoors. Golfing is one of the top things to do in Phoenix, but you'll also find opportunities for hiking, biking, camping, and climbing.
If you are spending more than just a few days here, you may want to consider doing some day trips from Phoenix to nearby towns and tourist attractions. Within easy reach are communities like Sedona, Prescott, and Jerome. If you're up for a big day, you can even do a trip to the Grand Canyon.
The Phoenix Metropolitan Area, which includes the cities of Phoenix, Mesa, and Scottsdale, is spread out and covers a large area. Plan your sightseeing in advance to save time with our list of the best things to do in Phoenix.
1. Desert Botanical Garden
Located in Papago Park, the Desert Botanical Garden is a beautiful complex that combines art and nature. Art installations dot the gardens, adding another dimension to this beautiful space.
The 140-acre complex is home to tens of thousands of plants and displays examples of vegetation from deserts around the world. This is also a good place to spot hummingbirds and butterflies, with designated gardens designed to attract these creatures.
Extensive trails wind their way around the property, and you should plan on spending a significant amount of time walking. Spring is a particularly good time to visit, as the plants come to life and bloom in an array of colors.
Address: 1201 North Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, Arizona
2. Musical Instrument Museum
The Musical Instruments Museum is one of the largest of its kind in the world, with a collection of more than 8,000 instruments from almost 200 countries.
Housed in a spectacular building are five permanent galleries, including the Geographic Gallery; the Artists Gallery; the Mechanical Music Gallery; the STEM Gallery; and the Experience Gallery, where you can play some of the instruments. You can also see master craftsmen at work restoring instruments in the Conservation Lab.
The museum hosts special traveling exhibits and has a variety of Signature Events, showcasing instruments and live music from countries around the world. Catch a concert in the facility's 300-seat theater.
Address: 4725 E. Mayo Boulevard, Phoenix, Arizona
3. Taliesin West
Located in Scottsdale, Taliesin West was the winter home of the celebrated architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Situated in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains, this property is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also the international headquarters of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.
Even if you have only the smallest interest in architecture, this is a worthwhile addition to your Phoenix itinerary. The tours offer detailed information on the architecture and Wright's life.
The buildings here were constructed out of native materials, such as rubblestone and redwood, and built entirely by Wright and his apprentices from 1937 to 1959.
Address: 12345 North Taliesin Drive, Scottsdale, Arizona
4. Hiking Trails around Phoenix
Looking for something to do outdoors? A walk through the desert is always a pleasant way to spend a morning or a day, and Phoenix offers a full range of hiking trails for all levels of hikers.
At one extreme are the trails for the adventurous hiker, like the hike up Camelback Mountain, and at the other end of the spectrum are short, easy trails, perfect for birders and nature lovers. You'll find some of these at Papago Park or the Lost Dog Wash Trailhead.
Somewhere in between these are Mormon Trail and Pinnacle Peak, which offer a bit of a challenge and elevation, along with beautiful views.
For a more comprehensive look, see our list of the top hikes in the Phoenix area to plan your outing.
5. Heard Museum
The renowned Heard Museum in Phoenix, dating from 1929, is devoted to the art and culture of the Indian peoples of the Southwest. The Heard is noted for its amazing displays of basketwork, pottery, jewelry, textiles, and a large collection of kachina dolls.
The museum's exhibit galleries and outdoor courtyards feature traditional and contemporary Native American art. This is a great place for families to learn about native history and see traditional arts.
Outside, you can wander through the outdoor sculpture garden or take a garden tour of the museum. The museum also has a very pleasant outdoor café with courtyard seating and a menu that changes regularly and features special dishes to complement the featured exhibit.
Address: 2301 North Central Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona
6. Old Town Scottsdale
For fun and quirky, one of the best places to visit around Phoenix is Old Town Scottsdale. Unique shops housed in buildings with Western-style covered walkways sell a variety of trinkets and other goods, primarily aimed at tourists.
Just up the street from the kitschy shops are some of the city's finest galleries featuring spectacular work by famous artists. Downtown Scottsdale is a fun place to see and be seen.
Old Town also has a good selection of restaurants, some with delightful patio seating, perfect for people-watching. The area is easily walkable and can be found at the intersection of East Main Street and North Scottsdale Road.
A fun way to tour the area and see the sites is on a two-hour Scottsdale Segway Tour. This will take you along the waterfront, past some of the historic sites, and through Old Town.
7. South Mountain Park
South Mountain Park/Preserve in Phoenix is one of the largest city parks in the United States, covering over 16,000 acres of desert landscape. The miles of trails running through the park are ideal for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking. One of the most popular trails is the Mormon Trail.
Views out over the desert and beyond to the city are fabulous. If you are looking for things to do at night in Phoenix, come here after dark for an incredible look at the city lights.
The highest point in the park is Mount Suppoa at 2,690 feet, but the highest lookout, which can be reached by trail or road, is Dobbins Lookout at 2,330 feet.
Every fourth Sunday is Silent Sunday, where the park's main thoroughfare, Summit Road, is closed from 5am to 7pm to all motorized traffic. On these special days, the wide-open roadway is reserved for those human-powered activities, including walking, jogging, and cycling. On the first, second, and third Sundays, the same roadway is closed, but only to the one-mile marker.
Address: 10919 South Central Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona
8. Hall of Flame Fire Museum
The Hall of Flame Fire Museum is both a historical look at the profession and a tribute to firefighters who have been killed in the line of duty, or noted for their heroism.
On display at the museum are exhibits dating back to 1725, including old fire engines and some very curious types of fire extinguishers. While most of the focus is on the history of firefighting in America, you'll also see exhibits from Europe and Japan, offering a more international perspective on the profession.
The National Firefighting Hall of Heroes displays the names of those killed since 1981. There is also a memorial to the firefighters and police officers killed at the World Trade Center in 2001.
Address: 6101 East Van Buren Street, Phoenix, Arizona
9. Papago Park
Papago Park is a wonderful natural area in the southeast part of the city. If you're looking for activities and fun things to do in Phoenix, this park is a good place to start. Here you you can enjoy hiking along nature trails, scrambling up the red rocks that dominate the park, cycling the extensive routes, and even golfing.
This is a popular place to come for a walk, particularly in the morning before the heat of the day, and you'll see the citizens of Phoenix taking full advantage of this urban oasis.
Papago Park has a multitude of trails, but the two most popular are the Elliot Ramada and the Double Butte Loop trail. Both these trails take you up to the weird rock outcroppings that are a key feature of the park. You can sometimes see wildlife, primarily rabbits but occasionally bighorn sheep.
Also located in Papago Park are the Phoenix Zoo and the Desert Botanical Garden.
Address: 625 North Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, Arizona
10. Phoenix Art Museum
The Phoenix Art Museum has a permanent collection covering the art of the European Renaissance and Baroque periods, the Far East, and the American West. The museum also presents modern and contemporary works, fashion design, live performances, and films.
The classically progressive look of its 203,000-square-foot building is a work of art in itself. Designed by New York architects Tod Williams/Billie Tsien & Associates in the mid-1990s and expanded by them in 2006, it integrates art and architecture with the southwestern landscape.
The museum's founding in 1959 and eventual development into one of the leading art museums in the American Southwest reflects the constant commitment from the community and mirrors the growth of Phoenix from a small desert town to the current metropolis it has become.
Address: 1625 North Central Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona
11. Phoenix Zoo
While the Phoenix Zoo is home to more than 3,000 animals, including numerous endangered species, it's especially well known for its Sumatran tigers and orangutans.
The four different trails leading through the facility are the Africa Trail, Tropics Trail, Arizona Trail, and Children's Trail. The zoo also offers children's programs and events, splash pads, and play areas, so pack your bathing suits and towels.
Animal encounters are a special part of any visit and truly a highlight at the Phoenix Zoo. The Monkey Village will have you snapping pictures as your kids walk through an open exhibit with monkeys swinging by.
Another encounter that will generate squeals of delight is the Red Barn. It's a petting zoo with goats, sheep, and horses all happy to engage with little people. Other experiences include the gentle giraffe encounter, Stingray Bay encounter, and the ever-popular camel rides.
If you've had enough of the animals, take a ride on the Endangered Animals carousel, where each animal is unique.
Address: 455 North Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, Arizona
12. OdySea Aquarium
Although it may seem odd to find a giant aquarium in the middle of the parched desert, somehow it all comes together in an enjoyable maritime learning experience. The OdySea Aquarium at 200,000 square feet is the largest of its kind in the Southwest and a wonderful place to step out of the arid environment into a water-based world.
The concept is that you are a raindrop falling from the sky into freshwater and then you make your way through streams and rivers before finding your way to the ocean. Over 70 exhibits, many of them interactive, line the pathway from start to finish.
Just follow the pathway through the facility, around each corner, and on each level, you'll find new and interesting exhibits along with three different touch pools including the world's only Russian Sturgeon exhibit. Over 6,000 aquatic animals exist here, ranging from penguins through to sharks, stingrays, otters, and octopuses. The Odysea even has a sloth, along with tropical birds.
Educational shows take place throughout the facility, one of the most unique being the Voyager a presentation making you feel you are in a submarine. For an additional fee, you can experience the SeaTREK® indoor, underwater helmet diving, where you descend into a pool filled with fish in a special diving suit or have an animal interaction with the penguins.
Although it may sound strange to highlight Odysea's restrooms, be sure you check them out for the glass ceiling above the sinks, complete with sharks and other aquatic creatures casually swimming by.
Address: 9500 E Via De Ventura, Scottsdale, Arizona
13. Arizona Science Center
The Arizona Science Center has hundreds of interactive exhibits in seven galleries, each with a unique theme. Also on-site are an IMAX theater and a 200-seat planetarium. This is the perfect thing for families to do in Phoenix, especially on a day when the weather doesn't cooperate.
The Science Center holds six signature events throughout the year, including Weird Science Halloween; Science with a Twist; and Snow Week, where Science Park hill becomes a mountain of white, covered with 75 tons of real snow.
Address: 600 East Washington Street, Phoenix, Arizona
14. Arizona State Capitol Museum
Set among beautiful gardens is the old State Capitol, built in 1900, which was the seat of government until 1974. The imposing state building is now a free museum focusing on the history of Arizona.
The exhibits are spread over four floors, and one of the must-see displays is the unique Arizona flag, made of 113,998 Lego bricks. Each Lego brick represents one mile in the state.
Other notable highlights include the Arizona Takes Shape exhibit, showcasing the state's development, from when it was a territory through to the present day, along with the USS Arizona exhibit.
For a thought-provoking experience, be sure to check out the Capitol Mall and Wesley Bolin Plaza memorial monuments.
Address: 1700 West Washington Street, Phoenix, Arizona
15. North Mountain & Shaw Butte
North Mountain Preserve is a popular recreational area with all kinds of hiking trails. North Mountain stands at an elevation of 2,104 feet, and Shaw Butte, the tallest mountain in the preserve, stands at 2,149 feet. Together these mountains are a landmark feature in Phoenix.
The more advanced hiking trails in the preserve lead to the summit, but easier hikes offer access to all levels of abilities. This is a lovely way to experience the local flora and fauna, with many plant species, including saguaro cactus.
Be sure to stop in at the North Mountain Visitors Center to get the latest updates on the trails, learn about the local history, get some insight on the flora and fauna, and top up your water bottles.
Address: 12950 North 7th Street, Phoenix, Arizona
16. Phoenix Children's Museum
The Phoenix Children's Museum opened in 2008 and has been going strong ever since. Today it's one of the city's most popular family attractions. The 14 galleries full of fun and interesting displays are designed to engage growing minds.
Some of the galleries include the Noodle Forest, Blockmania, Pedal Power, and the Texture Café, among others. Attentive staff, called Playologists, are always on hand to help.
The Phoenix Children's Museum is just around the corner from the Arizona Science Center in downtown Phoenix; combining trips to both is easily accomplished.
Address: 215 N. 7th Street, Phoenix, Arizona
17. Phoenix Symphony
The Phoenix Symphony, led by the talented conductor Matthew Kasper, performs classical, pop, chamber, and family programs throughout the year. As Arizona's only full-time symphony orchestra, this is a staple in Phoenix's cultural scene. If you're looking for a night out while in town, check their online calendar for a list of upcoming performances.
Be sure to note the performance venues. The Phoenix Symphony performs at five different locations: Symphony Hall, Mesa Arts Center, Pinnacle Presbyterian Church, Orpheum Church, and ASU Gammage.
Address: 75 North 2nd Street, Phoenix, Arizona
18. Enjoy the Rides at Castles N' Coasters
A great outing that everyone in the family can agree on is Castles-N-Coasters. The 10-acre park is a mix of roller coasters, mini golf, water rides, bumper boats, bumper cars, go-carts, and arcades. No matter your age, you'll be sure to find something that gets your heart racing.
The most intense ride is the double-looped Desert Storm roller coaster. A little less frightening but still a thrill is the Skydiver, where you free-fall from 120 feet in the air. For something a bit different, head into the completely crazy Stranger Stuff Fun House. If the Phoenix heat is starting to wear you down, head on over to the Splashdown log flume water ride.
If you still have energy, wander on over to the Indy Carts, and race against your friends, or take in a nutty game of mini golf. If after that you still want to keep going, head to the bumper cars or the Sea Dragon ride, or the XD Dark Ride; the list goes on and on.
Address: 9445 North Metro Parkway East, Phoenix, Arizona
19. Pueblo Grande Museum
Phoenix, with its non-stop highways and modern infrastructure, may leave you pining for something historical. A stop at the Pueblo Grande Museum is the solution. Here, you'll find the well-preserved ruins of a Hohokam village dating from 500 BCE.
Tour the site along a two-thirds-of-a-mile trail and discover the remains of this once-thriving settlement, including irrigation canals, a ballcourt, and replicas of the homes these ancient people used to live in.
The museum has done a good job of providing information on the former inhabitants using display panels strategically located throughout the site. Be sure to climb to the main lookout for a bird's-eye view of the entire site.
The Pueblo Grande Museum is located in the southern part of Phoenix near the airport.
Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Phoenix
- See the sights in four hours with this Half-Day Phoenix Highlights Tour. This tour will take you to the State Capitol, Old Town Scottsdale, Camelback Mountain, South Mountain Park, and more. The tour includes hotel pickup and drop-off, transportation, a guide, and free time to explore on your own.
Day Trip to Sedona and the Grand Canyon:
- One of the greatest attractions in Arizona and America is just a day trip away from Phoenix. If you haven't seen the Grand Canyon, taking a tour from Phoenix should be on your to-do list. The Small-Group Deluxe Grand Canyon Day Trip offers the perfect opportunity to see some of the incredible Arizona landscape. This tour includes transportation in a luxury van to the Grand Canyon, including a stop in the picturesque town of Willams along famous Route 66.
- If flying over the Grand Canyon is on your wish list, the Grand Canyon Helicopter and Ground Tour from Phoenix is a must-do. This tour offers a scenic drive to the Grand Canyon and includes a 45-minute helicopter ride over the canyon.
Day Trip to Tombstone:
- For a glimpse of the Old West, take a Day Trip to Tombstone and San Xavier Mission, where you can see this historic town, including the OK corral, and stop at the beautiful mission at San Xavier de Bac.
Map of Attractions & Things to Do in Phoenix, AZ
More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com
Day Trip Destinations: If you only have time for one trip outside of Phoenix, consider heading out to see the red rocks and top sites of Sedona, just two hours away. Here, you can hit some of the top hiking trails or ride the mountain biking trails.
Explore the Best of Arizona: To get you started planning your trip, see our list of top attractions and places to visit in Arizona. If you know you want to get active and see some of the state's most beautiful scenery, have a look at our recommendations for the best hiking trails in Arizona. Campers looking for ideas should browse through our list of top campgrounds in Arizona. Other recommended hot spots that may not be on your radar but should be, include Prescott and Flagstaff.