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The 20 Best Things to do in Downtown Phoenix

Heritage & Science Park

For approximately 2000 years, the Hohokam people called what we now know today as Phoenix, Arizona, their home. The region featured well over a hundred miles' worth of irrigation canals as a means to make the otherwise barren desert more arable. The Arizona Canal, Central Arizona Project, and the Hayden-Rhodes Adueduct owe their structures to the layout these people already established so long ago. This, combined with the extensive trading practices with the neighboring civilizations of Ancient Puebloans, Mogollon, and Sinaguans, continued until the bouts of severe droughts and floods that took place between 1300 A.D. and 1450 A.D. likely caused the Hohokam to abandon the area.

After they left, additional tribes came into the region. Among them, the most prominent were the Akimel O'odham. Up until the Mexican-American War, the state of what is now known as Arizona originally belonged to the Mexican population. When the war was over in 1848, the Mexicans ceded this region to the United States of America, which would become the New Mexico Territory. Phoenix itself, as a city, begins with Confederate veteran, Jack Swilling, when he prospected in the nearby mining town of Wickenburg. After capitalizing on his 1867 settlement, Phoenix, Arizona became an incorporated city on February 25, 1881. It has also become Arizona's state capital.

At the moment, Phoenix and all the districts associated with its metropolitan reach sit at over 4.8 million citizens, making it the largest city in Arizona. Currently, Phoenix is the fifth-largest city in the United States of America. For locals and tourists alike, there is much to do within the city of Phoenix, especially in its downtown area. There is so much history and other features that make the core of this city so attractive. Among them, there are twenty that come to mind that deserves consideration for a tourist's bucket list should they visit the city.

Kanopy and Phoenix Public Library

20. Kanopy and Phoenix Public Library

Located at the Phoenix Public Library, Kanopy offers a streaming service that has access to thousands of documentaries, films, and television programs. The selection usually features award-winning and critically-acclaimed content. All of it is easily accessible through Kanopy's own smartphone application. For locals who have the library membership card, Kanopy is free to access. For tourists, it's a good option for family engagement that doesn't require much money to do together. The Phoenix Public Library is also a good location for tourists who are interested in learning more about the history of the city on their own instead of relying on tour guides, this is a good way to go about it.

Crescent Ball Room

19. Crescent Ball Room

National touring artists are one of the main highlights the Crescent Ball Room has to offer. This lounge is as relaxing as it is entertaining, which makes it an easy favorite for locals and tourists who have become regulars.

Valley Bar

18. Valley Bar

If the underground style is your music scene of choice, the Valley Bar caters to an audience that simply wants to enjoy a night out on the town. This favorite destination for the locals has also become a favorite for familiar tourists who not only enjoy the venue for its music, but the food, craft beer, and other drinks, as well as opportunities to take in a game of billiards, darts, and pool. With a decent rotation of local and visiting entertainers who know how to put on a show, reservations to Valley Bar is highly recommended.

The Arrogant Butcher

17. The Arrogant Butcher

As a local, appreciating one of the best-rated restaurant establishments, usually includes what the Arrogant Butcher has to offer. For tourists, experiencing culinary cuisine is almost as much a tourist attraction as historic sites. With the Arrogant Butcher, the restaurant's menu boasts a healthy selection of items to choose from the entire family can enjoy. The most recommended items from their menu, however, are the juicy burgers that have become the very reason why this restaurant deserves to call itself the Arrogant Butcher. Because of the popularity of the place, it is highly recommended to book a reservation.

Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour

16. Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour

Whether the traveler is doing so as business or pleasure, a visit to downtown Phoenix' Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour is a must to either wind down after a day's worth of events or liven things up to enjoy a festive night on the town. For singles and couples who don't have children around, this is perfect. In addition to enjoying the cocktail menu, this establishment has to offer, there are also great items from their food menu as well. Should anybody visit this establishment during the Holiday Season, be sure to take in the tiki flair of Sippin' Santa. Repeatedly, Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour has been recognized as among the best establishments to visit by the Arizona Restaurant Association, Tales of the Cocktail, and Phoenix Magazine.

The Whining Pig

15. The Whining Pig

If the name itself doesn't spark enough interest to check it out as an attraction, perhaps the rotating wines they have to offer, as well as the craft beer will. Established in 2013, the restaurant's contribution towards the downtown core of Phoenix has been nothing less than spectacular, at least according to the reviews given by a number of patrons who have visited the place. The Whining Pig is a good, laid-back environment for people to enjoy a relaxed meal experience where it's okay to chow down without worrying about social stigmas.

The Farish House

14. The Farish House

In addition to being one of downtown Phoenix's most respected bistro and wine haunts, the Farish House is known to bring in quality entertainment for guests to enjoy as they escape from the world's worries. Here, it doesn't matter if you're a local or a tourist. What matters here is enjoying the quaintness of an establishment that not only serves up culinary excellence but an entertainment experience worth remembering. Recommendations are always recommended, especially if visiting the place when a culinary event has been scheduled, which is often.


13. CitySkate

During the winter season, CityScape of downtown Phoenix, Arizona is the most popular outdoor skating rink. This time-honored activity for many families is a fantastic opportunity even for visitors to throw on a pair of skates and whirl around the ice in a city. It's a great afternoon activity to skate around underneath the sunshine, or a night-time opportunity to take in the city lights as you skate around in a little world of your own that serves as a nice little break away from the norm.

Downtown Helicopter Flight

12. Downtown Helicopter Flight

Getting a bird's eye view of downtown Phoenix is a fantastic way to take in the cityscape. Granted, Falcon Field Airport is located just outside the city, but the twenty-minute flight that takes one from the desert surroundings of Phoenix to its downtown core is a breathtaking experience, to say the least. For fans of the downtown scene, it's a tour worth taking.

Roosevelt Row

11. Roosevelt Row

People who appreciate art, especially if it has a Bohemian flair, will find the art and culture experience of Roosevelt Row an ideal destination of choice in the downtown area of Phoenix. Take in the unconventional art displays, plus the murals that decorate the walls of various buildings. During the first Friday of each month, there is an open-air market that serves as a venue for local artisans to showcase and sell their stuff, perform live entertainment, and fully engage in the Bohemian experience in the First Friday A.R.T.S. Market.

Japanese Friendship Garden

10. Japanese Friendship Garden

Located in Margaret T Hance Park, the Japanese Friendship Garden is the crown jewel of the park with its oasis of lakes, fountains, and waterfalls that line along the winding pathways. It is ideal as an afternoon stroll to take in the beautiful mix of plant life. Within the Japanese Friendship Garden is Ro Ho En, the garden that honors Himeji, the Japanese twin city of Phoenix.

Chase Field

9. Chase Field

Home of the Phoenix Diamondbacks baseball team, Chase Field also features a signature swimming pool facility. The roof of the stadium also has a retractable roof, which serves as protection for fans watching a live baseball game from the hot summer sun Phoenix, Arizona is known for. When there isn't a game in town, enjoy the swimming while visiting downtown Phoenix. Swimming is a great family activity to keep everyone active and entertained. Tours are also available to learn more about Chase Field, plus the Phoenix Diamondbacks.

Orpheum Theatre

8. Orpheum Theatre

The only historic theater in the Valley and still its doors are still open. Between history tours of the theater, plus different shows and events, the Orpheum Theatre never runs short on being a hub of activity. For locals and visitors from afar, just the architecture of this 1929 art-deco building is enough to just come by and have a look. Be sure when visiting the museum to check out the infamous Wurlitzer Theatre Organ.

Footprint Center

7. Footprint Center

Formerly known as the Phoenix Suns Arena, this is the official home of the sports teams known as the Phoenix Suns, Phoenix Rattlers, and Phoenix Mercury. The Footprint Center is also known for hosting a series of concerts, ice shows, and other special events. As a local or tourist, catching a basketball game with the Phoenix Suns is a good way to spend a few hours of entertainment by cheering the players on. If the timing has it a concert is in town that's of interest, the location and accessibility of Footprint Center make it easy to do so. The indoor football team, Phoenix Rattlers, turns Footprint Center into a "Snake Pit" each time they have a game in town, which is guaranteed to entertain visiting football fans.

CityScape Phoenix

6. CityScape Phoenix

CityScape defines downtown Phoenix as the pulsing heart of the city's core with its array of dining, entertainment, shopping excursions, and scheduled events. There is always something happening within this location that serves as the downtown core's hub of activity. Day or night, it's the go-to place for locals and tourists who want to soak up the vibe of downtown Phoenix. The layout of boardwalks and park-like landscaping is enough for brisk walks, casual strolls, and daily jogs.

Arizona Federal Theatre

5. Arizona Federal Theatre

The Arizona Federal Theatre is a state-of-the-art complex that features top-notch entertainment in the form of concerts, comedians, and other world-class events that make it a great downtown Phoenix location to visit. It can be an afternoon event or a night on the town experience.

Rosson House Museum

4. Rosson House Museum

The fully restored 1895 Queen Anne Victoria House, otherwise known as the Rosson House Museum, is rumored to be haunted. Whether one is into ghost stories or not, taking an intriguing step into the past while still in the downtown core of Phoenix, Arizona is an experience not to be forgotten anytime soon. Stepping into the house is stepping into the history of Phoenix with the Rosson House Museum serving as its crown jewel.

Phoenix Convention Center

3. Phoenix Convention Center

Whether it's for business or pleasure, the Phoenix Convention Center serves as one of the premier venues that host a variety of events, both public and private. Trade shows are held here, which can be just as entertaining for tourists as it is for the locals. There are also a number of theater productions that take place at the convention center, as well as various consumer events.

Arizona Science Center

2. Arizona Science Center

Located within the Heritage & Science Park of downtown Phoenix, the Arizona Science Center is one of the biggest tourist attractions the entire city of Phoenix has to offer. There is always something to do here for every member of the family, plus so much to see, learn, and even engage in activities that will mark a memorable experience for everyone.

Heritage & Science Park

1. Heritage & Science Park

Home of the Arizona Science Center, Rosson House Museum, plus a series of world-class, and in some cases, world-famous coffee shops, tea houses, and restaurants. Within a four-block radius, this hub also features a series of arts, crafts, and cultural displays and celebrations that make it one of the highest recommended itineraries on the list of locals and tourists who want to soak up the downtown Phoenix atmosphere. The Heritage Square at the park allows visitors to step back in time, soaking up the pioneering days of early Phoenix before it became the city everybody knows today.

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Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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