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Phoenix, AZ
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The best things to do in Phoenix right now

The Valley of the Sun is thriving, and the best things to do in Phoenix encompass everything that makes Arizona amazing

John Bills
Edited by
John Bills
Written by
Asonta Benetti

Phoenix has come a long way from its founding in 1881. Rapid development has been the name of the game here for a long while, but the changes in the Valley of the Sun continue to confound expectations. A city shouldn’t thrive here but thrive it does, and the best things to do in Phoenix are a thrilling ride through everything that makes Arizona amazing.

Summers can be brutal, there is no getting away from that, but Phoenix knows how to stay cool. You can take that however you like, be it culturally or in terms of literal temperature, and the city is packed with fascinating indoor activities and nightlife that sizzles. Yeah, the heat puns are unavoidable. There is nowhere quite like Phoenix; long may it reign.


🎡 The best attractions in Phoenix
🍽️ The best restaurants in Phoenix 

Best things to do in Phoenix

Not only does this 140-acre garden have a spectacular vista, but it is also the sunny home of an extraordinary amount of living creatures—you've just got to know how to spot them. Spend some time visiting here, and you can expect to take a flashlight tour, a group tour of self-paced trails where attendees are armed with flashlights to see and hear what dwells in the desert after dark. This is the prime spot to peep at desert plants and learn about the area’s landscape.

Once you catch sight of this fascinating structure, you’ll want to tour it right away, which is the only way to see the inside of the 5,000-square-foot landmark. As you wander through, learn about the three different families responsible for this feat of architecture coming to fruition. A four-story castle, viewable from the freeway, that stands out like a beacon amidst the desert landscape; be sure to schedule a tour; it is well worth it.


A state-of-the-art collection housing more than 8,000 instruments from across 200 countries, the Musical Instrument Museum is one of the cultural gems of Phoenix. Rooms take visitors around the globe with exhibits encouraging hands-on interactions; check the events calendar to see which of the world’s best musicians will be performing at the center next.

The Central Phoenix Heard Museum was founded in 1929 and is dedicated to the appreciation and increased awareness of American Indian art. Browse through rotating exhibitions, a permanent collection, and signature events that are as fun as they are informative. Get educated on all things Native American, with a focus on artists from the Southwest. Learn about artistic traditions and evolutions through paintings, sculptures, and textiles.


This Mexican restaurant strives to avoid the Tex-Mex style, focusing on healthier regional fare from Baja and Cancun. Dining in is a delight, as the room is packed with an array of paintings by contemporary Mexican artists. The food is ridiculously delish, but the salsa bar is what ups the ante. Expect all kinds of red and green varieties—boasting different levels of heat, of course—but may we suggest opting for out-of-the-box options like a fruity strawberry salsa or a creamy pecan one?

This pedestrian area features a mix of indie shops, restaurants, bars, and galleries, but visual art is the big draw. Long-running art galleries like Modified Arts and Eye Lounge share the ‘hood with street art, pop-up galleries, and festival events. Check out the sides of buildings and wander the alleys, where you’ll see the awesome murals that originally turned this area into a destination.


Previously called the Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park, the S'edav Va'aki Museum is the largest preserved archaeological site in Phoenix and is a must for anyone interested in history. A short, walkable trail takes visitors through the ruins of an ancient Hohokam village sitting right in the heart of the city, punctuated by uncovered artifacts and more. The Museum also hosts events and classes throughout the year for both children and adults. 

Featured on the Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, the local destination serves the Sonoran Dog, a popular Phoenix late-night, post-party snack. But since this place is open from 7pm to 12:30am, you don't need to be out dancing to enjoy one—the dogs are just as tasty after a long day at the office or following an afternoon of sightseeing. Sampling these grilled, beefy hot dogs wrapped in bacon is a must in these parts. Oh, they’re topped with pinto beans, cheese, onions, tomatoes, and mayo, are as sloppy as they are delicious, and are well worth the mess. Obviously.


Valley Bar is one of downtown Phoenix's best and brightest spots for live music and fun events—and it is actually below street level. You’ll have to enter the premises from a back-alley door, not unlike a prohibition speakeasy, adding to the mystique. On most nights of the week, this is where to find the coolest bands playing all sorts of genres, from punk and garage to indie rock and honkytonk. On non-music nights, there is plenty to do, from trivia competitions to comedy. You can also simply hang out in the Rose Room, chatting and sipping drinks with pals. The choice is yours.

Various neighborhoods in downtown Phoenix get extra artsy on the first Friday of each month, as thousands gather to see artworks in more than 70 galleries. A Phoenix tradition for more than 20 years, this is a great way to take in the city’s diverse art scene, as the monthly events feature rotating exhibitions by artists working with all mediums. Also, expect to see live street performers and nosh on goodies from area eateries and food trucks.


The DIY vibe thrives at the Hive, a central Phoenix collective that brings together independent businesses and visual and performing arts purveyors. There’s just so much to do (and buy) here, and shoppers who love vintage clothes and goods will find it nigh on impossible to walk out of the Bee’s Knees empty-handed. There’s also an art gallery with rotating exhibitions and the Window Coffee Bar to keep you buzzing. 

Named Ro Ho En, this 3.5-acre tea garden and tea house is a nest of calm and beauty so unassuming that it’s easy to miss even though it’s located in the heart of central Phoenix. It’s a tranquil and gorgeous getaway where you can admire lush plants, experience a traditional Japanese tea ceremony or convene with koi fish. Regular events that feature Japanese artists, dancers, food, and musicians are great ways to mingle with other garden dwellers.


Consistently named one of the best bars in the country and continent, the award-winning OG of the city’s creative cocktail scene is ironically located at the former Arizona Prohibition Headquarters. Browsing the delicious, fun, and world-class drinks by flipping through the many pages of the beautiful (and a little twisted) menu is a reason to visit in its own right.

Show off your gaming prowess while maneuvering Ms. Pac-Man around the screen, gobbling dots for points. That’s just one of the classic games you’ll find here, and there is a slew of others available to play with, including Centipede, Donkey Kong, and Super Mario Bros. Signature cocktails like the Krazy Kong and Death Star keep up with the venue’s theme. This is a fun destination for the 21-and-over crowd who like to mix drinking and gaming.


This North Phoenix boutique for men and women blends a mom-and-pop feel with a chic environment, offering clothing items, home goods, and more. A relaxed desert vibe threads through the product offerings here, whether it’s a cool cactus T-shirt, copper earrings by an innovative designer, or a fancy candle ready to release its smoky, earthly scents. Get shopping.

This old-school ice cream shop has been building an ever-growing fan base since opening in the 1950s. The black-and-white tile floors and old-fashioned vibe are immensely charming, and the homemade ice cream will keep you coming back. Flavors like black licorice and salted caramel cashew are on the hefty menu but fear not, classics are also available. The best ice cream in town? Mary Coyle is one of the best in the U.S.


The oldest arts organization in Arizona has been providing world-class performances and premieres for the last century. With its geographic proximity to Los Angeles, it’s easy to skip over Phoenix as a cultural destination, but places like The Phoenix Theatre Company are proud reminders that the city’s thriving arts scene is not to be missed. Located near the Phoenix Art Museum and Heard Museum, the company packs stages with a fresh lineup of classic and new productions every season.

Temperature aside, Phoenix is a premier hiking destination, with conquerable trails and mountains across the city. One of the best places to get your adventure on is South Mountain Park, a 16,000-acre urban park with outstanding views and well-preserved trails and wildlife. With over 50 different trails, you can walk, bike, or horseback through; there is a path for every level, and the views of the city are worth the effort.


While this makes a great indoor activity for families during the height of summer, the Arizona Science Center is a fun-filled place year-round. Exhibits explore various aspects of the scientific world with an emphasis on participation, and a constantly changing lineup of programs and presentations makes each visit unique. Don't miss the outstanding planetarium, because planetariums are magnificent.

This verdant park is a hiker’s dream. With various winding trails fit for every experience level, Papago Park is also known for its larger buttes. A fantastic starting spot for even the most nervous beginners, this Phoenix hiking spot offers much more than your average walk in the park. If you're looking for a more chilled-out route, the dirt and sandstone trails are easy-to-moderate and offer scenic surroundings and captivating views. Rather not spend all day on your feet? Bring your mountain bike and feel the wind in your hair. If there is wind, and if you have hair, of course.

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