As a young girl, I was best friends with a classmate who had family in Phoenix, and I would occasionally drive out there with them to stay for a week. This is when I was first introduced to the weather of Phoenix such as the monsoons and the crazily hot Arizona summer sun, as well as the spectacular sunsets over a field of cacti.
The images of the landscapes in Phoenix that I saw as a child have stayed with me and the memories I made while running around the city have solidified this place in my heart as one of warmth, community and beauty. For a newcomer, thinking of something to do in Phoenix might seem challenging. That is why I have compiled my list of favorite things to do in Phoenix, Arizona, so that more people are able to experience this place like I have been so fortunate to do.
Table of Contents
Best Things To Do In Phoenix Arizona
Desert Botanical Garden
First on the list of things to do in Phoenix is the Desert Botanical Garden. Now, I know I said I was going to write about lesser- known things to do. But the botanical gardens of Phoenix had to go in the list because it’s so much fun. Inside the 140 acre gardens there are six different hikes that you’re able to do and they are some of the best ways to see the Sonoran Desert. There are over 50,000 different plants that are on display within the different exhibits throughout the garden, and visitors are able to walk through them either with a docent and tour group, or on their own.
There are also multiple stations that guests are able to stop at to enhance their experience through hands-on activities and questionnaires with the Garden’s volunteers. Those stations were always my favorite part of the parks because I was able to learn about the different native plants and animals that inhabit the Sonoran Desert as well as what the staff is doing to help protect them from population decline.
The Butterfly Pavilion was another highlight of my time at the Garden, because who doesn’t love seeing butterflies up close and personal? The structure is 3,2000 square feet and filled with lush plants and water attractions that will engage you for hours. For those who want to spend all day here, there is an onsite restaurant and cafe that serve farm to table dishes, guaranteed to make you feel as though you’re eating at a five star establishment.
This hike is not only the most popular to do in Arizona, but one of the most popular in the country. It should be noted that this is not a trail to complete if you are an inexperienced hiker. It’s widely regarded as being difficult from both trails that lead to the top, for different reasons. The Echo Canyon Trail is shorter but it has a sharper incline, and the Cholla Trail is longer but is more manageable in the long run, however that trail is currently closed. From the profile, the mountain looks like a sleeping camel, hence the name, and its rocky topography and quickly climbing elevation are what champion it as being so challenging.
At the beginning of the trail there are bathrooms and places to rest before the hike. Throughout the trail on the Echo Canyon side, there are rails and steps that aid climbers and make sure that they don’t fall off the side of the mountain. For experienced climbers, there are also opportunities for roping up and scaling the mountain face. However this is only recommended to do if you are an experienced climber. Once you reach the top, there are incomparable views of the valley down below that will only elevate the feeling of accomplishment you are sure to experience.
This city boasts many beautiful venues for live music that attracts people from all around. My parents once took a flight to phoenix to watch a concert at Footprint Stadium and we have family friends that visit at least once a year for the same reason. Artists such as Paul Mccartney, Madonna, Pink, and Billie Eilish have played in venues around the city. My personal favorite is the Crescent Ballroom because of its intimate atmosphere coupled with its old history (the building was constructed in the 1910s) that creates a visceral feeling of magic.
Regardless of whether you are watching to catch a show of a well established artist or hoping to hear burgeoning talent, Phoenix will deliver. After one night immersing yourself into the music scene in this city, it will make you wonder if you should start booking your yearly concert trip here as well.
Sun Devil Stadium
If you are familiar with Arizona at all, it should come as no surprise that some of the best things to do in Phoenix USA center around sports teams. Phoenix is home to the Arizona State University Sun Devils which excel predominantly in baseball, tennis and track and field. However their most popular sports for spectators are football and basketball.
Just eight miles from Phoenix in Tempe is the Sun Devil Stadium where their games take place. The electric energy from the crowd during an intense (or really, any) game is indescribable. Students, Alumni, and visitors alike join together to root for their team. And perhaps the most fun part of the evening, is the tailgate beforehand. For those that are unaware, a tailgate is when people open up the back of their trucks or cars, set out chairs and grills, sometimes put up EZ ups and have a cookout in the parking lot outside of the stadium before the game. This is the perfect time to mingle with other fans, have a drink or two, and get excited for the event.
Before you go though, you should know that the rival of ASU is U of A, or the University of Arizona. Their mascot is the wildcats and their colors are navy blue and cardinal. The ASU fans are very serious about the competition between their two schools so I advise out of towners to practice caution and don’t do anything that might rile up the crowd in a negative way.
Phoenix in the United States is one of the cleanest and most well kept cities. Its downtown area is no exception, which makes it very enticing for people out of town, especially those who are used to their downtown areas being a little congested and dangerous. This part of the city is both the entertainment and business district so there is always something happening. Its eclectic buildings throughout the area add to its small town feel while being an important hub.
The Collier Center, which is open 24 hours, hosts an assortment of restaurants, bars and other spots that will adequately satisfy any late night cravings you might have while exploring. CityScape is another popular hangout destination, and offers shopping, dining and activities. Another great part about this area is how easily you are able to walk around it. So no car? No problem! Exploring the city by foot is one of the top things to do in Phoenix.
For nature lovers, this spot is a dream come true and one of the top things to do in Phoenix. Here, there are nature trails (including the popular hole-in-the-rock trail) lakes to fish in, a golf course, and easy access to the Desert Botanical Garden and Phoenix Zoo. Entrance into the grounds is free, and once you’ve arrived you are met with an air that many substantial events have taken place in that very spot.
The Park was once a reservation for different indigenous tribes, and has since served as a fish hatchery, POW camp, and a VA hospital. Now, people from all over are able to come and pay homage to its extensive history while taking in the overwhelming beauty of its natural components. When I was able to visit as a child, I thoroughly enjoyed walking the 2.3 mile long Double Butte Loop and trying to spot different colored lizards and bugs along the way.
Red Rock State Park
While the famous Red Rocks aren’t in Phoenix, they are only about a two hour drive from the center of town and their splendor is worth the miles. Standing amongst age-old rock formations that burn bright red underneath the Arizona sun is particularly appealing when you account for the vast amount of land that makes up the park. Photos don’t do justice to this 286 acres of Sedona that are used as a nature preserve and educational center for visitors every year. The majesty of Arizona’s natural environment will leave you speechless and begging to extend your day trip into the night so that you can gaze upon the millions of brightly burning stars in the sky.
From butterfly groves to underground music scenes and high energy football stadiums, Phoenix Arizona United States is so much more than initially comes to mind when people hear its name. For those who are looking for a town with lots of different options that can either bring high intensity or relaxing vibes, Phoenix is the place for you.
As the city grows in population and popularity, more special events and structures are being continuously added and will make you feel as though you will never run out of things to do in Phoenix. If you make a point to stop by this friendly city on your next road trip or out of state adventure, I hope you love it as much as I do.
Because Phoenix is so close to Arizona State University, there is definitely a noteworthy nightlife scene. Whether you are looking for a lively club, dive bar, or more sophisticated spot, there is a wide array to choose from. Some of the more popular spots include Bevvy, Wasted Grain, Hi Fi Kitchen and Cocktails and Arcadia.
In addition to all of the available activities that I outlined in this article, Phoenix is known for its consistent (though, notably, very hot) climate, and its stunning sunsets. It is a very popular city for those that are searching for pristine weather in which to tan and lay out by the pool, while also being very close to the center of town. The desert vegetation in Phoenix is also aesthetically pleasing and many naturalists are drawn to this area because of its abundance of rare species.
This opinion depends on what you and your group are looking for in a vacation spot. Phoenix is perfect for hiking, swimming, and going out in bustling, but not overwhelming, areas. It is able to entertain everyone from young children to retirees. Vegas on the other hand is typically enjoyed most by people who are over 21 years old, and are not accompanied by young family members or people who are past their party era. While Vegas is widely known as “Sin City,” Phoenix is known as “The Valley of the Sun” which has a much softer, welcoming connotation to it.
CenPho, or Central Phoenix, is one of the most trendy places in the city. This is where you are able to find both established and up and coming restaurants such as Otro Café and Mora Italian. There is also a large variety of people that live in this area, from young families to people of the LGBTQ+ community. This is the spot to be if you are looking for a small town feel with all of the options that a busy city has to offer.