Spring is the busiest time of the year in Phoenix, with visitors traveling from all over the world to enjoy our beautiful weather and go to the many events and festivals that we offer. Whether you’re popping by for a quick weekend visit, or you’ve just moved into town, consider this a Phoenix travel guide to all of the things worth seeing and doing throughout the Valley. This city is filled with surprises, not least of which is that there is a LOT to do and see – and my favorite… eat!!
Keep reading for some of my favorite things to do in Phoenix as a local. xo M
Outdoor Activities in Phoenix
Take advantage of the beautiful weather and explore some of the best things to do in Phoenix! One of my absolute favorites is the Desert Botanical Garden. It’s a beloved Phoenix staple that offers the chance to explore the beauty of the desert landscape. Through June 19th you can catch the Chihuly in the Desert exhibit, showcasing glass artist Dale Chihuly’s stunning, large-scale installations beautifully displayed along the Garden’s trails. They also host events perfect for date night as well as fun daytime options for kids. The spring is often the best time for a visit, so that you can catch the desert plants in bloom and see the stunning butterfly exhibit! The on-site restaurant, Gertrude’s, is also a wonderful stop if you have the time.
Another must, especially for the kiddos, is a trip to the Phoenix Zoo – one of the largest non-profit zoos in the U.S. It’s home to nearly 400 species, including many endangered animals, and they live within beautifully-designed enclosures and habitats.
Other seasonal events and outdoor activities in Phoenix:
McDowell Mountain Music Festival
Best Phoenix Hiking Trails & Parks
Phoenix is a hiker’s paradise. In my opinion, there’s nothing better when you’re looking for things to do in Phoenix than exploring a new trail. There are so many great hiking spots in the Valley that it’s hard to narrow it down!
If you’re in central Phoenix and up for a challenge, check out Camelback Mountain or Piestewa Peak. North Scottsdale is home to some of my favorite scenic desert trails that are still relatively quick and easy to access. Try out the popular Tom’s Thumb trail, Sunrise/Lost Dog, or the more leisurely Gateway Loop Trail.
Other great options are the multitude of trails at South Mountain, Black Mountain and Spur Cross to Elephant Mountain up north in Cave Creek, or the beautiful Superstition Mountains in the East Valley.
If you’re craving a longer day trip, drive down to Tucson to explore Mount Lemmon or Saguaro National Park, or head north to hike one of Sedona’s many beautiful trails with red rock views (a personal favorite of mine? West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon!)
A note if you’re new to the intensity of AZ heat – be sure to hit the trail early in the morning and bring way more water than you think you need. Camelback and Piestewa are especially intense climbs, and the heat kills unprepared hikers every summer!
If you’re looking to see some nature in a more urban setting, here is a list of my favorite parks to relax at or take the kids to:
Papago Park in Tempe
Tempe Beach Park
Steele Indian School Park in Phoenix
Phoenix Museums and Galleries
Now for the fun part. I’ve added some of my own family’s favorite healthy weeknight meals of Believe it or not, Phoenix has a rich artistic culture and an amazing collection of museums! There’s the iconic Phoenix Art Museum, of course (free on Wednesdays and First Fridays!), but there are many smaller hidden gems throughout the Valley!
Musical Instrument Museum (MIM)
This beautiful modern building in North Scottsdale off of Tatum Blvd boasts a collection of over 8,000 instruments, and hosts concerts from hundreds of artists across many musical disciplines each year. Their theater boasts some of the best acoustics I’ve ever experienced! Check out their calendar for upcoming concerts, events and exhibitions.
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA)
A petite and beautiful gallery space nestled in the center of Old Town Scottsdale. Perfect for grabbing dinner, exploring the work of some of today’s most thought-provoking modern artists, and taking a stroll in the garden corridor adjacent to the museum that’s filled with fountains and lush grass.
A stunning combination of scenic desert views, gorgeous architecture, and unique furnishings and art. Frank Loyd Wright’s desert home and school of architecture is unlike any other place, and it’s worth booking a tour at least once. You can also catch the other half of the Chihuly in the Desert exhibit at Taliesin before it ends in June! For an interesting culinary experience near Taliesin, book lunch or dinner at the student-run du Jour restaurant at the Arizona Culinary Institute, Arizona’s only culinary institute that churns out some of the best chefs in the Valley.
Other galleries and artistic events to explore:
First Friday’s in Downtown Phoenix
Scottsdale’s Waterfront Fine Art & Wine Festival
The Heard Museum
Catch a concert at:
Best Places to Shop in Phoenix
Phoenix is very well known for its golf, spas, and shopping! If you’re looking for large shopping centers that feature designer labels, international brands, and delicious restaurants, your go-to’s will be Biltmore Fashion Park in Phoenix, Scottsdale Fashion Square, or Kierland Commons and Scottsdale Quarter in North Scottsdale.
Seeking unique local favorites and small boutiques? I love Local Nomad, Phoenix General, Frances Boutique, and Vida Moulin. For amazing vintage furniture finds and home decor, head to Modern Manor and For The People. Looking for new house plants or beautiful flowers? Form Floral, Pueblo plant store, and Camelback Flowershop are the best spots!
Best Local Restaurants in Phoenix
When it comes to finding things to do in Phoenix, our food scene does not disappoint. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that the Valley has no shortage of amazing places to grab stellar food. I could (and often do!) dedicate entire blog posts to my favorite restaurants, and you can follow along with me on Instagram to check out all the delicious things happening across the city!
These are some of my current favorites for…
A Delicious Lunch
La Grande Orange Grocery (LGO)
A Decadent Night Out
Coffee Dates with the Girls
A Worth-the-Wait Dinner
I hope this guide on things to do in Phoenix was helpful and inspiring! If you want to dive deeper into the Valley’s restaurant offerings and local food scene, check out my AZ Eats or About Town archives for more!
Great article! So many places I haven’t even been to and I’m from here! Looks like I need to update my restaurant bucket list, want to join?
Thanks, Kristen…always happy to accompany you!
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