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The 20 Best Things to Do in Phoenix for First Timers


The capital of Arizona, Phoenix is known as the Valley of the Sun for good reason. It is known for its year-round warm climate, and this is one reason that visitors are attracted to the area. Phoenix is also known for its golf course, history, and nightlife. If you are visiting Phoenix for the first time, then you will find lots of things to see and do to keep you entertained during your visit. The activities and attractions are diverse, so there is something to suit everyone. Depending on the length of your stay, it is possible that you will not have time to visit all the landmarks and enjoy all the attractions. Therefore, you should plan your itinerary carefully to make sure you get the most out of your time in this wonderful city. Here are the 20 best things to do in Phoenix for first-time visitors.

20. Experience Tranquility at the Japanese Friendship Garden

While many of the activities and attractions in Phoenix are lively or busy, there are also some places to visit if you want to enjoy some peace and tranquillity away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The Japanese Friendship Garden is the perfect example of this. This 3.5-acre garden features a Japanese tea room and beautiful Japanese-style gardens. Often, there are Japanese musicians and dancer mingling amongst the walkers.

19. Have a Family Day at Castles N’ Coasters

Thrill-seekers should head to Castles N’ Coasters, which is a theme park that is enjoyed by children and adults alike. Located in northwest Phoenix, this amusement park covers 10 acres. There are roller coasters, water rides, a large arcade, and smaller rides for young children. The park has its own eatery, so you can grab a bite to eat while you are there. There is something for everyone to enjoy, so it makes a great family day out.

18. Wander Around Roosevelt Row

An interesting area to visit is Roosevelt Row. One of the biggest draws to this area is the visual art on many of the walls along the row, including some impressive murals. Along Roosevelt Row, you will find many bars, restaurants, indie shops, and art galleries. It is also a popular location for pop-up galleries, festivals, and other events throughout the year.

17. Tovrea Castle

A landmark that stands out in Phoenix is the Tovrea Castle, which is a four-story castle that you can see from the freeway. It has unusual architecture to which three different families contributed. When you take the guided tour of the structure, you can learn more about these families.

16. Eat and Drink at The Breadfruit & Rum Bar

Phoenix has an abundance of fun bars and outstanding restaurants. One of the best places to head for something to eat and drink is The Breadfruit & Rum Bar, says Time Out. This is a chilled-out seafood restaurant that boasts an island-inspired bar. There are more than 100 varieties of rum available at this restaurant, so it is a fantastic place for rum enthusiasts to dine. The signature drink is the Wix Bang, which is a blend of Real McCoy rum, guava reduction, lime, coconut, and nutmeg.

15. View the Sights at Papago Park

An area of outstanding beauty just outside of Phoenix is Papago Park, says Visit Phoenix. Characterized by its desert environment and rocky structure, the geography of this park makes it an ideal place to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, the most popular of which are rock climbing and hiking. It is an area that is also enjoyed by wildlife lovers, and there are some elevated areas that offer stunning views over the landscape surrounding Phoenix.

14. Visit South Mountain Park

Outdoor enthusiasts should spend a day at South Mountain Park when they are staying in Phoenix. This is one of the most popular spots amongst hikers visiting the area. It is free to visit South Mountain Park, and you can spend as little as a few hours there or as much as a full day. You can enjoy the desert landscape and the spectacular views during your visit. It is also a spot that offers several recreational activities for outdoor enthusiasts.

13. Go to Pueblo Grande Museum and Cultural Park

If you want to learn more about the history and culture of Phoenix, then the Pueblo Grande Museum and Cultural Park is an excellent place to visit. It is the largest preserved excavation site in Phoenix, and it is a National Historic Landmark. Fans of history and archaeology will love the ruins of the ancient Hohokam village, which includes the remains of the houses, the cemeteries and the storage facilities used by the villagers. There is also an on-site museum that gives visitors more information about the area’s history and there is an exhibition of interesting artifacts.

12. Have Fun at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix

Those who are staying in Phoenix with children should consider spending a day at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix. Spread across three floors, this attraction offers 300 play experiences for children. The exhibits are interesting and varied, including a fort-building area, a child-sized café, a noodle forest, and a miniature market. All the exhibits are interactive to encourage children to get hands-on and learn through their play and exploration.

11. Wonder at Arizona Science Center

A fascinating attraction for all the family to visit is the Arizona Science Center as you can wonder at the many exhibitions. Fun and education are combined with multiple interactive exhibitions. The topics covered include outer space, weather patterns, electricity, psychology, gravity, and sound. The exhibitions are split over four vast levels. A highlight of this attraction for many families is the educational entertainment at the IMAX theater.

10. Enjoy a Round of Golf

One of the reasons people visit Phoenix is to play golf as this city is famous for its world-class golf courses, many of which had been designed by Jack Nicklaus. There are several hundred golf courses in the Valley of the Sun from which you can choose, each of which has features that will appeal to different people. Many people consider the Arizona Biltmore Club the best in the area, as this resort has two 18-hole PGA Championship courses, a driving range, a putting green, and a full-service restaurant. If you want to play on this course, it is essential that you reserve tee times in advance.

9. Relax in the Spa

Phoenix is famous for its high-end spas, and these are an ideal activity if you want to relax and take a break from sightseeing. Many of the spas have both indoor and outdoor spaces so that you can spend some time outdoors basking in the wonderful weather against the stunning backdrop of the mountains. A top spa resort in this area is Boulders Resort, which offers a wide range of treatments and therapies, with lots of packages on offer.

8. Watch a Game at Chase Field

Regardless of whether you are a sports fan or not, you should try to catch a game at Chase Field while you are in the area. Chase Field is the home ground of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and even those who are not baseball fans can enjoy the exciting vibe during a game. In addition to the baseball grounds, this venue also has a hot tub and a lifeguard-staffed pool that is open to the public.

7. Visit Heard Museum

An interesting museum to visit during a stay in Phoenix is the Heard Museum. This is particularly interesting to those who are fascinated by Native American history as it has one of the finest Native American collections in the United States. The focus is on the life and culture of Native Americans living in the Southwest and the impact they have had on life in this area today. There is also an interesting collection of pre-Columbian contemporary art.

6. Tour Taliesin West

Phoenix is home to many buildings that are of historical significance to the area, and Taliesin West is one of these. Thrillist says that this is the famous home of Frank Lloyd Wright, and you can see the interior of this mansion by taking the Frank Lloyd Foundation Night Lights tour. While touring the exterior of the building, you will also get a fantastic view of the stars.

5. See the Animals at Phoenix Zoo

If you are visiting Phoenix with children, an attraction that will fascinate them and keep them entertained for a full day is a trip to see the animals at Phoenix Zoo. Over 125 acres of land, the zoo is home to a huge number of animals that are separated into habitats. The animals that call this zoo home include Asian elephants, Sumatran tigers, Galapagos tortoises, baboons, Komodo dragons, giraffes, and much more. There is also a petting barn for younger children, and you can take a safari tour of the zoo on a train. It is a fun and educational attraction that allows your family to get close to the animals and learn more about each species.

4. Go to the Phoenix Art Museum

For art lovers, the best place to visit during your stay in Phoenix is the Phoenix Art Museum, which is the largest art museum in the Southwest. This attraction is a wonder to visit before you even step inside, thanks to its contemporary architecture. The museum boasts more than 18,000 works of art from the Renaissance to the current day. The permanent exhibition covers a vast array of artistic styles and there are also traveling exhibits throughout the year. A popular collection is the Thorne Miniature Collection, and there are youth-oriented activities for children.

3. Visit Musical Instrument Museum

Although there are many museums to visit in Phoenix, the Musical Instrument Museum is probably the most interesting and unique. This museum is located just north of downtown Phoenix, and it is home to more than 6,000 instruments. The museum is divided into two floors, and the uppers floors are divided into geographic regions with each section boasting a unique collection of interesting instruments. The exhibits are accompanied by video and audio features explaining more about the instruments and how they are played. On the lower floor, there is a huge exhibition of instruments, a room for seeing concert footage, and a collection of clothing worn by musicians. There is also an Experience Gallery for interactive activities and a Conservation Lab where the instruments are restored to their original glory. This is an excellent activity for music lovers and history fans alike.

2. Climb Camelback Mountain

Phoenix is surrounded by beautiful and diverse landscapes with unique natural landmarks. One of the most notable natural features of the area surrounding Phoenix is Camelback Mountain. This is one of the most scenic hiking spots close to the city, and it boasts spectacular, panoramic views across Phoenix and the surrounding area. There are multiple hiking trails of different lengths and suitable for various abilities. It is worth taking along your camera if you visit Camelback Mountain as there are many fantastic photo opportunities.

1. Spend a Day at Desert Botanical Garden

According to US News, one of the best attractions to visit in Phoenix is the Desert Botanical Gardens. There are thousands of species of cacti, flowers, plants, and trees from all around the world to admire during your visit. The colorful botanical displays are in stark contrast to the backdrop of the red buttes of the Sonoran Desert. There are numerous hiking trails that take you through different sections of the gardens. Throughout the year, this venue has special exhibits, which are well worth seeing if you are visiting at the right time. Desert Botanical Garden also hosts many events and concerts, so it is worth seeing what is one before embarking on your trip to Arizona.

Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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