This post is part of a series on travel close to home. You can find more posts from this series on my page Getaways Near Me (or You)
Phoenix, Arizona, is a beautiful city in its own right. But Phoenix is the name more commonly used to refer to the metropolitan area, also known at the Valley of the Sun. From Tempe to Scottsdale, Glendale to Gilbert, and all the other towns and unique districts in between, you will not run out of things to do in Phoenix.
In spring, people from all around the United States head to Phoenix for Major League Baseball’s “Cactus League” spring training, but more on the “Boys of Summer” later. If you are thinking of a trip to the Sunshine State, here are some other things you shouldn’t miss during your visit to the Valley of the Sun.
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Museum & Entertainment Venues
The Heard Museum focuses on advancing American Indian Art. With 12 exhibition galleries, sculpture gardens, and more, the museum is recognized internationally for the quality of its collections. The Heard provides visitors with a unique perspective on Native people’s art, especially those from the Southwest.
Phoenix Art Museum
With its nine permanent collections, the Phoenix Art Museum presents works from the Americas, Asia, Europe, modern and contemporary art, fashion, design, and photography. The museum also collaborates with museums and artists worldwide to bring in limited-time exhibitions throughout the year.
The Pueblo Grande Museum
Is Archaeology your thing to do? Phoenix has a place for you with the Pueblo Grande Museum, part of the City of Phoenix parks and rec. This museum covers a two-thirds mile interpretive trail around the remains of the prehistoric Hohokam people’s ballcourt. There is an agricultural garden featuring native plants the ancients would have grown including, corn, beans, squash, and amaranth.
Arizona Capitol Museum
If you are looking to learn more about the State itself, check out the Arizona Capitol Museum! Learn how the Arizona Constitution works to drive the state government. Take a gander at the Arizona Flag created from 113,998 Lego bricks. Most importantly, trace the State from its territorial beginnings to statehood and forward.
Musical Instrument Museum
Music has been around as long as people. We keep making new instruments to get our message out there. Explore the instruments played every day by people worldwide at the Musical Instrument Museum. The collection contains over 8,000 instruments, reflecting the rich diversity of many world cultures.
Did Someone Say Music?
Speaking of music, Phoenix spotlights all kinds throughout the Valley of the Sun.
You can listen to great orchestral music performed by the Phoenix Symphony. The symphony’s main home is Symphony Hall. But performances can be found at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and the Mesa Arts Center in addition to others.
If you are looking for more contemporary music and settings, there are many live music venues all around town. Maybe you want to combine two or three favorite activities in one at these locations.
Shopping, dining, and live music can be had Friday or Saturday Nights at the District Stage at Tempe Marketplace and at the Desert Ridge Marketplace on the District Stage and by the AMC Fountain.
But if you are an early bird instead of a night owl, check out Beats and Brunch at Jobot!
Fun Things To Do By Yourself Or With Your Family in Phoenix
Best Family Outings in the Valley of the Sun
Bringing the ocean to the desert is no easy task, but the folks at OdySea in Scottsdale have done just that. 2,000,000 gallons of water, 200,000 square feet, and 70 exhibits allow 6,000 animals to call OdySea home. Old and young can enjoy the interactive and entertaining experience. Don’t miss Penguin Point!
They say, “It’s all happening at the Zoo.” Simon and Garfunkel had it right, and the Phoenix Zoo brings those lyrics to life. They’ve got lions, orangutans, sloths, eagles, jaguars, zebras, and giraffes. The Phoenix Zoo is the largest privately owned, non-profit zoo in the United States. It focuses on conservation and cares for animals from around the world.
Desert Botanical Gardens
Open your eyes to the beauty the desert has to offer by touring the Desert Botanical Gardens. The garden is home to some of the most spectacular desert plants, including many rare and endangered species. If you are looking to up your home landscaping game with sustainable desert horticulture, the gardens offer classes to get you going.
Legoland Discovery Center
Are you looking for fun things to do with your kids in Phoenix? Legoland Discovery Center is the place to go. LEGO 4D Cinema, Dino Explore, and the Creative Workshop are just of few of the adventures waiting for the kids. And if the kids are really young, head to the Duplo Farm, where little hands can build big things.
Arizona Science Center
Located in Heritage and Science Park in the heart of downtown Phoneix, the Arizona Science Center was voted “Best Place to Take Kids in the Valley” for 2020. Providing over 350 permanent hands-on exhibits, an afternoon spent here will challenge the mind and encourage learning. If you’re into the stars, don’t miss the experience at the Dorrance Planetarium as you wind up your day.
Best Shopping In The Valley Of The Sun
Old Town Scottsdale has long been known for its unique boutiques and shops. 5th Avenue is known for its eclectic specialty stores. In this mostly pedestrian area, shoppers stroll between the shops on the tree-lined avenue. You can also take advantage of the bicycle-taxis or free trolley. Clothing, jewelry, arts, and crafts make this the perfect shopping afternoon. And for your perfect Insta Shot, stop by Bob Park’s Horse Fountain.
Up of the North East side of Phoenix (at Tatum Blvd & Deer Valley Rd), you will find Desert Ridge Marketplace. The marketplace offers a wide selection of shops, think Old Navy, DSW, H&M, and Pink, along with fun dining spots and entertainment venues. All this and live music on Friday and Saturday evenings!
Are you looking for shopping that is a little more “upscale,” then head over to Biltmore Fashion Park. Here you will find all your favorites like Saks, White House/Black Market, Ralph Lauren, Allen Edmonds, and more.
Close to Arizona State University, you will find Tempe Marketplace. This open-air shopping center offers up all the names you know, from Barnes & Noble to Ulta Beauty. You can catch a movie at the Harkins Theatres. The kids can run through the fountains at the Splash Pad. And on a cool evening, you can relax with a glass of wine by the outside fireplaces.
Back in the center of Phoenix, the Seventh Avenue “gayborhood” welcomes all in the Melrose Shopping District. This one-mile stretch of Seventh Avenue between Indian School and Camelback roads is a cozy mix of shops, art galleries, and cafes. The avenue passes through the historic Woodlea Melrose neighborhood, which dates back to the 1940s.
Is Your Thing to Do in Phoenix Eating & Drinking?
There are so many beautiful places to eat and drink in the Valley; it won’t be hard to get great grub. To get you started, here are 10 restaurants that I think reflect some of the best food the Phoenix area has to offer.
Fine Dining Around the Valley
Binkley’s – New American Cuisine
Perhaps the most unique fine dining experience in Phoenix, Binkley’s offers a 20-course set menu for just 24 diners per night Wednesday – Saturday. Dinner starts at 6:30 pm, and from there, the waitstaff guides you through from appetizers through dessert. The Binkleys have their own garden for fruits and vegetables. This ensures every morsel is always served at its peak.
Durant’s – Classic American Steakhouse
Since opening its doors in July 1950, Durant’s maintains its steak house atmosphere with is signature red-flocked wallpaper and deep red leather banquettes. Movers and shakers from the past (Joe DiMaggio) to the present (the governor of the State) dine here often. It would be easy to imagine the “rat pack” in a secluded booth in the back.
La Hacienda – Modern Mexican Cuisine
Located in the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, at La Hacienda, you can start your meal by having guacamole made tableside and pairing it with one of over 200 tequilas. Seasonal and indigenous ingredients are featured in making the traditional Mexican favorites in exciting new ways. Try the lobster tacos or the prickly pear margarita. You won’t be disappointed.
Nobuo at Teeter House – Japanese Cuisine
This is not a sushi bar. At Nobuo, you will not find sushi rolls and chicken teriyaki, well, at least not in the way you are used to seeing these dishes. Nobuo changes his menu seasonally to embrace the freshest ingredients. This refined Japanese dining experience is indeed Omakase.
Kai – Native American Inspired Cuisine
The word for seed in the Pima language is Kai. This restaurant delivers some of the best Native American Inspired food in the Valley. Try a tasting menu that may start with Posole, then serve up some Foie Gras, followed by an entrée of Tenderloin of Buffalo. Finish up with a dessert of Chocolate and Chile. Enjoy!
Casual Dining – Table Service Dining That Doesn’t Require Dressing Up
Fabio on Fire (Italian)
Over on the Northwest side of Phoenix in Peoria, is the cozy neighborhood Italian place, Fabio on Fire. This little gem serves up fantastic Italian far at reasonable prices. Bruschetta, Caprese, Pizza Margherita, and Tagliatelle Ala Bolognese are some of the comforting favorites on the menu. Born in Northern Italy, Chef Fabio has worked in restaurants his whole life and brings his family recipes here for you to enjoy.
Arizona Wilderness (Brewpub/Beergarden)
Taking a trip to the opposite side of Phoenix, you will find Arizona Wilderness in Gilbert. Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company was started to make hand-crafted, artisanal beer inspired by this beautiful State. At their Brewpub in Gilbert, fantastic pub fare is featured on the menu. Tacos, burgers, hot sandwiches, and fries are just a start. Grab a beer and get ready to feast.
Back in the center of town, just south of Sky Harbor, is one of the best Mexican places in the Valley, Cocina Madrigal. Serving up dished with an Oaxacan influence, this restaurant will satisfy your cravings for tacos, enchiladas, burros, and Tequila. But you can also indulge in a Jamaican chicken salad if that is more to your fancy.
The Whining Pig
With seven locations to choose from, the Whining Pig is all set to serve your Beer and Wine Bar desires. Choose from one of the largest selections of craft beer and wines by the glass in the Valley. Pair your drink with a meat and cheese plate or one of the unique grilled cheese sandwiches. Then sit back and enjoy yourself with your friends.
Saba’s Mediterranean Kitchen
If you are looking for great shawarma, dolmades, or baba ghanouj, you need to stop by Saba’s Mediterranean. Family-owned since 1995, Saba’s foods span the cuisines of the Mediterranean with Greek and Middle Eastern influences.
Sporting Teams And Events In Phoenix
Earlier I promised more about the Cactus League, and here it is. If you are a baseball fan, you probably already know more about spring training, than I can fit here. But here’s the thing, you won’t get closer to your team and its players at any time than you will at Spring Training’s Cactus League.
Baseball fans from all over the world have fallen in love with spring training. In 2017 the Cactus League drew in nearly 2,000,000 fans. Its popularity is only growing.
Cactus League – Baseball Spring Training – 15 Teams and 10 Ballparks
Here are the teams and where they play:
- Los Angeles Angels – Tempe Diablo Stadium – Tempe
- Arizona Diamond Backs – Salt River Fields – Scottsdale
- Colorado Rockies – Salt River Fields – Scottsdale
- Chicago Cubs – Sloan Park –Mesa
- Chicago White Sox – Camelback Ranch –Glendale
- Los Angeles Dodgers – Camelback Ranch –Glendale
- Cincinnati Reds – Goodyear Ballpark –Goodyear
- Cleveland Indians – Goodyear Ballpark –Goodyear
- Kansas City Royals – Surprise Stadium –- Surprise
- Texas Rangers – Surprise Stadium –- Surprise
- Milwaukee Brewers – American Family Fields –Phoenix
- Oakland A’s – Hohokam Stadium –Mesa
- San Diego Padres – Peoria Sports Complex –Peoria
- Seattle Mariners – Peoria Sports Complex –Peoria
- San Francisco Giants – Scottsdale Stadium –Scottsdale
Heading to spring training? Use this map with the stadium locations laid out to help you plan your stay.
Sports Are A Big Thing To Do in Phoenix!
The Valley of the Sun is one of the few U.S. metropolitan markets to field teams in all four major professional sports.
Major League Baseball, represented by the Diamond Backs, plays at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix.
Practically next door, you have the Phoenix Suns, a Major League Basketball fan-favorite at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
On the NorthWest side of the Valley, the Arizona Cardinals take the field for the National Football Conference at State Farm Stadium in Glendale.
Last but not least, the Coyotes hit the ice for the National Hockey League at the Gila River Arena, just across the street.
Still Looking for things to do Around Phoneix? Check Out These Annual Festivals
- January: The Fiesta Bowl (Big 12 Conference)
- February: Old Town Scottsdale Western Week
- March: Cactus League – Baseball Spring Training
- April: Chandler Jazz Festival
- May: Queen Creek Peach Festival
- June: Grand Canyon State Games
- July: Downtown Phoenix Fourth of July Celebration
- August: Mid-Autumn Moon Festival
- September: Fiesta De La Familia
- October: Arizona State Fair
- November: Holiday Market
- December: Arizona National Livestock Show
When Your Short On Cash – Here are Free Things to do in Phoenix
Do you like the outdoors? Phoenix has some of the best hiking spots anywhere. You can find your perfect hike AllTrails.com (they also have an app)! From South Mountain Park to Camelback Mountain to Echo Canyon Recreation Area and more, there is a trail waiting for you.
Want to see what it was like in the “Old West?” Head out to Goldfield Ghost Town just outside of Apache Junction. While some of the attractions here cost money, you can tour the town and see an Old West-style gunfight for free.
Love the ballet but can’t pay for the pricey tickets? Each September, Ballet under the Stars performs at locations across the Valley. All performances are free and open to the public.
First Friday Art Walks have become some of the nation’s most extensive self-guided art walks, and in Phoenix, it’s no different. There are four distinct areas: Roosevelt Row, Grand Avenue, the Warehouse District, and Midtown, each with their own vibe. In Midtown, you are near the Phoenix Art Museum and the Heard, both of which offer free admission on First Friday. Two free trolleys will take you around if you would rather ride than walk.
Window shopping is a fun way to spend an afternoon. You don’t have to buy anything, and you can take the Free Trolley around downtown Scottsdale’s arts and cultural district. With four different routes and several transfer points, you can make your own tour.
Wrap Up Your List of Things to do in Phoenix!
Not including eating, you just read over 40 things to do in Phoenix. This could be a good start for an upcoming trip, or if you live in the Valley, some inspiration for next weekend! Is your new favorite place here?