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The 10 Best Things to Do and See in Phoenix, Arizona
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The 10 Best Things to Do and See in Phoenix, Arizona

Picture of Gabby Shacknai
Updated: 9 February 2017
Whether you’re up for exploring the desert or exploring the local art scene, we’ve composed a list of our top 10 things to do and see in Phoenix.
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Phoenix Art Museum

The largest museum for visual art in the southwestern United States, the Phoenix Art Museum is truly one of a kind. Founded in 1959, the museum features woks of art with an emphasis on American, Asian, European, Latin American, and modern art, as well as fashion design, and posses an expansive collection of renowned pieces from the Renaissance to the present. The Phoenix Art Museum is also a home, albeit temporary, to various national and international travelling exhibits, such as “Hollywood Costume,” on show from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, and “Andy Warhol: Portraits,” an exhibition organised and featuring works from The Andy Warhol Museum.

Hours: Wed 10am-9pm, Thurs-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 12pm-5pm

1625 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ +1 (602) 257 1880

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The Phoenix Zoo

Opened in 1962, The Phoenix Zoo is the largest privately owned, non-profit zoo in the United States and is home to over 1,400 animals, including more than 30 different endangered species from around the world. The zoo contains 125 acres of animal exhibits, including a children’s area and a petting zoo, as well as a narrated tram ride, and guests of all ages can even ride one of several camels. In the winter months, zoo visitors can attend Zoo Lights, “a magical experience guaranteed to illuminate your holiday season” that features 3.8 million lights and 700 sparkling displays. All of the zookeepers and staff are friendly, and the exhibits are well-kept, making this spot one of the best tourist attractions in town.

Hours: Mon-Sun 7am-5pm

455 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ +1 (602) 286 3800

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Camelback Mountain

Camelback Mountain, one of Phoenix’s most prominent sites, makes for the perfect hike when it’s not too hot outside. During the late 1800s, the Federal Government reserved the mountain for a Native American reservation, but by the late 1940s, nearly the entire thing fell into private hands and remained so for about twenty years. It was not until 1968 after community efforts to save the summit were made by the Preservation of Camelback Mountain Foundation, led by Barry Goldwater, that the mountain was capped off in a land exchange ceremony attended by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Since then, Camelbackhas been a favorite of locals and visitors alike. In non-summer months, visitors can hike one of two trails: Echo Canyon, the more challenging of the two, and the Cholla Trail, both leading to the mountain’s summit, which stands about 2,704 feet above sea level. And around the holidays, those who make it to the top will be greeted with a sparkling Christmas tree, albeit a bit disheveled.

Echo Canyon Trail: 4925 E McDonald Dr, Phoenix, AZ

Cholla Trail: 6131 E Cholla Ln, Phoenix, AZ

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Heritage Square

Heritage Square serves as a window, through which visitors and locals may peer through, into Phoenix’s vibrant Victorian past. The square, which was initially Block 14 of the original Phoenix townsite, dates back to the late 19th century and features several historic homes, including the Rosson House, an 1895 Victorian home that is open for tours. This place is a fun visit for anyone, but architecture junkies will especially love it. The tree lined square is also home to major festivals and special events that bring thousands of people to the area each year.

Hours: Wed-Sat 10am-4pm, Sun 12pm-4pm

113 N 6th St, Phoenix, AZ +1 (602) 261 8063

Musical Instrument Museum

Beloved among both Phoenix locals and visitors, this museum is a wonderful choice for adults, children, and really anyone who loves music. The Musical Instrument Museum, which displays a wide array of instruments from over 200 countries, including some that guests may try out, is divided both geographically and by genre. The museum most notably provides its visitors with audio visual presentations and headsets in order to give them an idea of what the instrument they are looking at sounds like when performed. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to see this museum, as many visitors have said that just a couple of hours wasn’t enough to get through the massive display.

Hours: Mon-Sun 9am-5pm

4725 E Mayo Blvd, Phoenix, AZ +1 (480) 478 6000

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Desert Botanical Garden

The increasingly popular Desert Botantical Garden is a botanical garden that spans 140 acres of land and showcases the natural beauty found in desert plant life through its various exhibits. Often deemed one of the most underrated sites in Phoenix, this space is far more than a mere garden. Many visitors are shocked by how much wildlife is living within the flowers, trees, and cacti on display, and the Botanical Garden is home to even non-garden related events such as performances of Shakespearean plays on outdoor stages and Music in the Garden. Join the Garden’s email list to save on some more highly priced events.

Hours: Mon-Sun 7am-8pm

1201 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ +1 (480) 941 1225

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The Heard Museum

The Heard Museum has the overall mission is to educate the public about the heritage and living cultures, including art, of Native American peoples, particularly those of the Southwest. Since its founding in 1929, the museum has grown in both size and reputation and is now internationally recognized for the high quality of its collections, festivals, and educational programs. The Heard Museum perfectly combines both new and old and gives a much-needed history lesson about Native American heritage and culture through art, photographs, jewellery, and more.

Hours: Mon-Sat 9:30am-5pm, Sun 11am-5pm

2301 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ +1 (602) 252 8840

Bondurant School of High Performance Driving

Whether for its intensive, professional Grand Prix Racing program or just for a defensive driving class, Bondurant is a completely unique experience that has garnered rave reviews from participants since race car driver Bob Bondurant opened the school in 1990. The school maintains more than 200 race-prepared vehicles, sedans, SUVs, and open wheel cars for visitors to drive and is the largest dedicated facility of its kind in all of North America. The school additionally boasts a 1.6 mile track and a 60-acre facility and a group of world-class trainers and instructors, including Bob Bondurant himself. The overarching goal of Bondurant is to make its students better drivers, and time after time, it succeeds.

#PHXFridays

For those who happen to be in Phoenix on the first friday of any given month (summer months excluded), First Friday is an absolute must. These nights allow locals and out-of-towners alike to enjoy the spirit and culture of Central Phoenix as they tour art galleries, venues, record store, food trucks, and everything else under the sun alongside thousands of other visitors. The Phoenix Art Museum offers free admission to its exhibits and stays open until 10 pm, and countless food trucks and independent vendors make First Fridays, which are now among the nation’s largest artwalks, truly unforgettable. A more recent addition to #PHXFridays, Third Fridays specifically showcase exhibition openings in dozens of galleries in the area.

Hours: The First and Third Fridays of Every Month, 6pm-10pm (hours vary slightly by venue)

Roosevelt Row, Phoenix, AZ

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Arizona Science Center

The very interactive and engaging Arizona Science Center is focused on inspiring, educating, and entertaining visitors about science. Located in Heritage and Science Square Park in Downtown Phoenix, this museum has more than 164,000 square feet of space, including the renowned Dorrance Planetarium as well as a 5-story IMAX theater. Although this museum is a real winner with kids, people of all ages, even those who don’t normally love science, will have fun.

Hours: Mon-Sun 10am-5pm

600 E Washington St, Phoenix, AZ +1 (602) 716 2000