Top 12 Top Attractions in Phoenix

Last Updated on February 17, 2024 by Emily Johnson

As Arizona’s capital and largest city, Phoenix dazzles visitors with endless sunshine 300 days a year, Sonoran desert scenery, world-class golf courses, outstanding museums and cultural attractions, plus award-winning farm-to-table cuisine.

Desert Botanical GardenA 140-acre museum with 50,000 arid-land plants and art installations, offering unique desert ecosystem views.
Musical Instrument Museum (MIM)Features global musical instruments, costumes, and performances, with interactive exhibits.
Heard MuseumFocuses on Native American arts and culture, with galleries, performances, and seasonal celebrations.
Taliesin WestFrank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and architecture school, showcasing mid-century modern design and architecture.
Papago ParkOffers outdoor activities among red sandstone buttes, with trails for hiking and biking.
South Mountain ParkA large municipal park with trails, horseback riding, and stunning city views.
Old Town ScottsdaleA historic area with boutiques, galleries, and bars, known for its Southwest atmosphere.
OdySea AquariumA family-friendly aquarium with diverse aquatic habitats, interactive experiences, and marine life.
Camelback MountainOffers hiking trails with panoramic views of Phoenix, known for its distinctive camel-like shape.
Phoenix ZooFeatures diverse animal exhibits, interactive experiences, and conservation education.
Watersports along Salt RiverProvides recreational activities like tubing, kayaking, and paddleboarding on the Salt River.

Temperatures reach triple digits in summer making Phoenix ideal in spring and fall, when sunshine reigns perfect during outdoor adventures. From awe-inspiring red rocks and botanical gardens to mid-century modern architecture tours and daring roller coasters, Phoenix delivers iconic attractions plus hidden gems waiting to delight.

Desert Botanical Garden

Name and Location: The Desert Botanical Garden is located in Papago Park, Phoenix, Arizona.

History and Significance: Founded in 1939, the Desert Botanical Garden demonstrates the diversity of the desert and features more than 50,000 plants from arid regions around the world. It is one of the world’s major botanical institutions.

What to Expect: Visitors can see beautiful desert plants from all over the world, including many rare, threatened and endangered species. There are themed trails to explore and seasonal events.

Visitor Information: The Desert Botanical Garden is open daily. An admission fee is charged.

Wander a spectacular 140-acre outdoor museum crammed with 50,000 arid land plants and eye-catching art installations at the Desert Botanical Garden. Remarkable exhibits feature the unique creations of desert dwellers like towering saguaros, spiny cacti forests, and wildflowers that burst unexpectedly with vibrant colors. Kids climb inside butterfly sculptures, pose by grazing dinosaurs, and hunt for creatures among living gardens representing global desert ecosystems from around the world. Don’t miss sunset among the saguaros when the garden glows.

Musical Instrument Museum (MIM)

Name and Location: The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) is located in Phoenix, Arizona.

History and Significance: Opened in 2010, MIM displays over 15,000 musical instruments and objects from around 200 countries. It celebrates musical heritage from cultures globally.

What to Expect: Visitors can see exhibits grouped by geography and experience unique instruments firsthand. There are also special exhibitions and live musical performances.

Visitor Information: MIM is open daily, with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Tickets must be purchased for entry.

Celebrating music’s universal spirit binding humanity, the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) dazzles global music fans with galleries for every continent filled with instruments, costumes, plus audio and video demonstrating musical diversity. Kids jam Caribbean steel drums before admiring Andy Warhol’s electric piano art. Adults gaze at 2,000 gem-encrusted daggers in the Asia exhibit nearby elite Stradivarius violins in Europe. Interactive sound booths let visitors remix tunes across genres, then catch live global performers who regularly take MIM’s intimate jewel box stage.

Heard Museum

Name and Location: The Heard Museum is an art museum located in Phoenix, Arizona dedicated to Native American arts and cultures.

History and Significance: Founded in 1929, the Heard Museum houses over 40,000 objects, with expansive collections of Hopi kachina dolls, Navajo textiles, Southwestern jewelry, and contemporary Native American fine arts.

What to Expect: Visitors can explore 12 galleries with changing exhibitions highlighting the history, art and people of Native American cultures as well as contemporary Native American artists. There are also outdoor sculpture gardens.

Visitor Information: The Heard Museum is open daily, with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Tickets must be purchased for entry.

Immerse inNative arts and culture at the esteemed Heard Museum housing 11 galleries filled with intricate Hopi kachina dolls, vibrant textiles, paintings, jewelry, pottery and more representing almost every tribe across North America. Fascinating Southwestern Native traditions come alive through vibrant dance performances, artist demonstrations and seasonal celebrations welcoming all to share their pride. The Heard’s unique architecture and sculpture courtyards enhance the experience celebrating heritage and community.

Taliesin West

Name and Location: Taliesin West was architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and school in the desert from 1937 until his death in 1959. It is located in Scottsdale, Arizona.

History and Significance: Taliesin West was Wright’s laboratory for testing new ideas in architecture and design and integrating human habitation with the surrounding desert landscape. Several significant buildings in Wright’s organic style were designed here.

What to Expect: Visitors can tour Wright’s former winter home and the grounds he helped design, including the cabaret theater, music pavilion, garden room, pool, and more.

Visitor Information: Guided tours of Taliesin West are available daily through advanced ticket purchase. It is closed on major holidays.

Mid-century modern design fans make pilgrimages to Taliesin West, the Southwest outpost Frank Lloyd Wright built as his winter home and prominent architecture school until 1959. Guided tours reveal the desert house’s genius leveled floors wrapping around boulders and ceilings hugging the rugged terrain. Marvel at angular stone walls, natural light bathing rooms without traditional roofs plus Wright’s partiality for Cherokee red pigments that fulfilled his belief that nature and architecture must live cooperatively as he famously preached in this desert laboratory.

Papago Park

Name and Location: Papago Park is a large urban park located in Phoenix, Arizona.

History and Significance: Papago Park was established as a public park in the 1930s, featuring red sandstone formations, desert landscapes, and mountains. It is home to several attractions including the Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix Zoo, and Hunt’s Tomb.

What to Expect: Visitors can hike the trails on Hole-in-the-Rock and Double Butte, play golf, have picnics, see baseball spring training, and enjoy the park’s varied terrain and scenery.

Visitor Information: Papago Park is open daily from sunrise to sunset. There are no admission fees, but fees apply for some attractions within the park.

Outdoor haven Papago Park delights visitors scaling its red sandstone buttes formed into wondrous shapes over millennia, providing both childlike wonder plus panoramic valley views. Hopping across boulders of the Hole-In-The-Rock trail placed mysteriously amid Saguaro cacti forests resembles a fantasy movie’s alien planet. Hikers and mountain bikers also flock to Papago’s rolling Sonoran Desert terrain, especially in spring when wildflowers erupt in fiery shades of orange, purple and red creating a colorful carpet across the landscape.

South Mountain Park

Name and Location: At over 16,000 acres, South Mountain Park is one of the largest municipal parks in the country located south of downtown Phoenix.

History and Significance: The park was established in 1924 to preserve the Sonoran Desert landscape and its ancient Hohokam petroglyphs. It features scenic trails with city views.

What to Expect: Visitors can hike over 50 miles of trails, see ancient petroglyphs, enjoy panoramic views from Dobbins Lookout, picnic, and experience desert flora and fauna.

Visitor Information: The park is open daily from sunrise to sunset. There are no entrance fees. Some amenities may require payment.

Rising over 2,000 feet in elevation, South Mountain Park’s 51,000 acres deliver cool pines mingling with cacti speckled slopes that provide stunning vistas of downtown Phoenix with desert beyond. Over 50 miles of trails allow trekking, horseback riding plus recreation galore across its massive swath twice the size of Manhattan. Spot coyotes, coveys of quail and soaring red-tailed hawks from high ridges then descend through canyons trickling from recent storms. Even basically South Mountain’s iconic stone horns overlooking Phoenix make a perfect sunset perch before twinkling city lights appear below.

Old Town Scottsdale

Name and Location: Old Town Scottsdale refers to the historic original town site and downtown district of Scottsdale, Arizona.

History and Significance: Founded in 1894, Old Town Scottsdale is known for its Western storefronts, galleries, restaurants, bars and nightlife. It celebrates Scottsdale’s culture, history and arts.

What to Expect: Visitors can shop at specialty stores and art galleries, dine at restaurants, have drinks at bars and clubs, see public art, take guided walking tours, and experience events and festivals year-round.

Visitor Information: Old Town Scottsdale is very walkable. Hours vary for businesses. Many have extended hours on weekends.

Get your first taste of the iconic Southwest in historic Old Town Scottsdale stretching seven walkable blocks packed with boutiques, galleries, bars playing live music, classic neon signs and palm tree-lined plazas. Sample fiery hot sauce, turquoise jewelry and favorite local beer at dozens of indie shops while snapping photos of bright murals splashed across adobe walls. Make sure to weave down 5th Avenue’s ArtWalk on Thursday nights as art galleries host free open houses, street food sizzles and costumed performers amaze.

OdySea Aquarium

Name and Location: OdySea Aquarium is a large aquarium located in Scottsdale, Arizona.

History and Significance: Opened in 2016, the Odysea Aquarium spans 200,000 square feet, featuring over 500 species and 9,000 animals. It is one of the Southwest’s largest aquariums.

What to Expect: Visitors can see maritime animals from around the world in various aquatic habitats from the Pacific Northwest to the Sea of Cortez. Interactive exhibits and shows provide unique perspectives.

Visitor Information: OdySea Aquarium is open daily. Tickets must be purchased for entry, with options for general admission and behind-the-scenes experiences.

Penguins on ice, sharks swirling, and otters rolling capture families’ hearts at OdySea Aquarium spanning 200,000 aquatic feet near Scottsdale. Step inside massive tanks petting gentle rays gliding overhead and gaze eye-level at pufferfish drifting by. Safari areas let young kids explore touch pools crowded with starfish and sea cucumbers. See harbor seals playing tag, African penguins racing and giant Pacific octopi unfolding across the glass. No other American aquarium replicates diverse aquatic habitats like groundbreaking OdySea scaling new heights showcasing our blue planet’s beauty.

Camelback Mountain

Name and Location: Camelback Mountain is an iconic 2,704 ft mountain located in Phoenix, between the upscale Paradise Valley and Scottsdale.

History and Significance: Named because it resembles a kneeling camel, Camelback Mountain is a popular recreation destination with two hiking trails leading up to the peak with panoramic views.

What to Expect: Hikers can choose between the strenuous trek up the Cholla Trail or the more gradual Echo Canyon Trail to experience remarkable city and valley views from the summit.

Visitor Information: Camelback Mountain is open daily from sunrise to sunset. Parking is limited. The use of lights is recommended for early morning and evening hikes. There are no fee

Postcard views reward hikers sweating up the steep Chuckwalla Trail climbing 1,280 feet in elevation to the top of Camelback Mountain standing taller than the Phoenix skyline. Glimpses down at posh Camelback resorts scattered around the base provide context for how gigantic this red rock landmark looms over the city. Reaching the pinnacle feels triumphant to stand between its twin stone humps resembling a camel’s back and almost touch communication towers blinking atop nearby peaks. Camelback Mountain makes a quintessential Phoenix experience.

Phoenix Zoo

Name and Location: The Phoenix Zoo is a 125-acre zoo located within Papago Park in Phoenix, Arizona.

History and Significance: Founded in 1962, the zoo houses over 3,000 animals from 550 species. Known for innovative exhibits and conservation efforts, it serves to educate visitors on wildlife and environments.

What to Expect: Visitors can see animals from around the world in biome exhibits such as African Savanna, Tropics Trail, or Forest of Uco. Feedings, keeper talks, train rides and carousel rides are also offered.

Visitor Information: The Phoenix Zoo is open daily. An admission fee is charged. Additional experience fees may apply for train rides, safaris, zip lining and more.

Laughing families share memorable moments watching silly monkeys, prowling tigers and feisty flamingo squads across the immense Phoenix Zoo near downtown’s Papago Park. Australia Walkabout lets wallabies and kangaroos graze freely around visitors while orangutans swing overhead through the Asian village. African plains transport on safari passing giraffes, rhinos and warthogs, before chilling at Monkey Village with its bubble machine dance parties. Specialbehind-the-scenes animal encounters plus expert zookeeper talks mean Phoenix Zoo offers engaging fun for all ages to learn about conservation.

Watersports along Salt River

Name and Location: The Lower Salt River flows through the Salt River Valley near Phoenix, Arizona. Several companies offer watersports along the river.

History and Significance: The river has long offered recreation opportunities from swimming and fishing to kayaking and tubing as the valley’s heat makes water sports popular activities.

What to Expect: Visitors can go tubing, kayaking or canoeing along the river with views of towering cliffs, cacti and native desert scenery. The water stays cool even in summer months.

Visitor Information: Watersport outfitters operate March to October usually requiring reservations, waivers and fees. Some provide rentals and shuttles to launch points along the river.

When temperatures rise, locals know it’s time to play on refreshing Salt River waters winding through the Sonoran Desert near Phoenix. Outfitters rent tubes, kayaks, paddleboards or boats to run gentle rapids spilling over granite boulders polished smooth, pass emerald trees on sunny riverbanks. Float lazily downstream or join free group paddle practice by moonlight framed with saguaros silhouetted in orange hues during spectacular desert sunsets. With convenient city access yet surrounded by Tonto National Forest wilderness, the Lower Salt River promises paradise.

The Valley of the Sun stuns visitors with towering red rock formations, vibrant culture and awesome desert vistas. But Phoenix also delivers incredible attractions from hands-on children’s museums to Old West historical towns plus adrenaline-pumping theme parks. Hikers charge up Camelback Mountain’s camel humps for panoramic views between twin peaks. At OdySea Aquarium and Phoenix Zoo families make lasting memories, before escaping summer heat tubing along the breezy Salt River. With 300 days of annual sunshine, Phoenix draws travelers seeking iconic Southwest vacation fun.

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