21 Things to Do
|Editor's note: Phoenix Valley Guide's "21 Things to Do" are listed in no particular order. All information given here was accurate at press time. You may want to phone for confirmation prior to visiting these attractions.
1. Get the gold
You’d have to be very lucky to find the Lost Dutchman Mine—the legendary hiding place of Jacob Waltz’s goldWaltz was a German prospector who, according to legend, hid a treasure in the Superstition Mountains but fell ill and died, taking his secret to the grave. However, clues to the hidden mine’s location were left behind, and generations of gold seekers have followed. Learn more about Waltz and the area at the Superstition Mountain Museum, northeast of Apache Junction on the scenic Apache Trail.
2. Play your best hand
Grab that change jar for a rendezvous with Lady Luck at a number of casinos statewide. Take a chance at Casino Arizona or Talking Stick Resort, both on Scottsdale’s eastern border; Gila River Casinos, with 3 locations throughout Greater Phoenix; Apache Gold Casino Resort, 60 miles east of Mesa; and Fort McDowell Casino near Fountain Hills.
Play ball! Cactus League Spring Training kicks off in March. Teams that draw fans to Spring Training games at ballparks throughout the Greater Phoenix area include the San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers, Kansas City Royals, Cleveland Indians, and Texas Rangers, among others.
4. Margaret T. Hance Park
This lovely 32-acre park stretches from 3rd Stto 3rd Ave., joining several neighborhoods in Downtown and Central Phoenix. The historic Ellis-Shackelford house, an urban plaza, a grove of trees, a playground, a volleyball court, ramadas, barbecue grills, grassy areas, the Irish Cultural Center, the Burton Barr Central Library, and the Japanese Friendship Garden are all part of this unique blend of urban vitality, community, recreation, and history.
5. An architectural masterpiece
If you’ve visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West in Scottsdale, perhaps it’s time to see it again in a whole new light—during the night tours of the renowned architect’s Arizona school and former winter home. During the 2-hour Night Lights tours, the buildings are illuminated from within, giving the already dramatic structures a lantern-like glow. Tours run every Friday night, starting around sunset. The cost is $35 per person, and reservations are required.
6. Experience LGBTQ in PHX
Diversity is woven into the DNA of Greater Phoenix. The modern LGBTQ traveler feels at home at the area’s retail, dining, and nightlife districts, while nationally recognized events, such as April’s Phoenix Pride Parade & Festival (phoenixpride.org), strengthen the community. For more LGBTQ-friendly events and things to do throughout Greater Phoenix, visit Pride Guide Arizona.
7. A cuppa joe
As fall and winter bring milder temperatures, nothing satisfies like a warm cup of joeJobot Coffee in Downtown Phoenix is open late and just as famous for food as it is for coffeeLux in Central Phoenix roasts beans from all over the world. Need a quick fix? Dutch BrosCoffee has numerous drive-through locations throughout the area. Other notable coffee spots include Giant Coffee in Phoenix and Cartel Coffee Lab in Tempe, Scottsdale, and Phoenix.
8. Papago Salado
This is the attraction of attractions. Phoenix Zoo, Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park, Hall of Flame Museum of Firefighting, AZ Heritage Center, and Desert Botanical Garden are among the points of interest around Papago Park and Rio Salado. The area spans parts of Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe, generally the area between the SRP Canal to the east and 52nd St. to the west, and McDowell Rd. to the north and University Dr. to the south.
9. The musical arts
The Phoenix Symphony in Downtown Phoenix offers performances of classics and pops with enough variety to please any tasteSymphony of the Southwest in Mesa and the West Valley Symphony in Surprise also offer excellent performances, as do the Arizona Opera and Phoenix Opera, both in Downtown Phoenix.
10. Disc golf
For beginners or competitive pros, the Phoenix area is a hub of disc golf activity, with many local courses available to test your skills. Conocido Park (602-262-6575) features 9 holes over a 3,500-foot course. The course at Fountain Hills Park has hosted disc golfers since 1981. The park has 18 holes and surrounds the town’s lake and famous fountain. For the more adventurous disc golfer, Buffalo Ridge Park offers a challenging 18-hole course covering 6,068 feet of rugged terrain. For more information on disc golf in the Greater Phoenix area, visit azdgc.com.
11. Local eats
All over Greater Phoenix, you can buy locally grown vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers, as well as jams, jellies, salsas, honey, and more. Visit 6th Street Market in Tempe or the Mesa Community Farmers’ Market in MesaUptown Farmers Market offers chef demonstrations in addition to its bountiful selection of fresh produceThe Phoenix Public Market shares space with a hopping restaurant and bar. Contact the Arizona Community Farmers Markets for locations of more area farmers markets.
12. Start your engines!
Ready to burn rubber on the track? Put the pedal to the metal at local go-cart raceways. Located in Scottsdale, Octane Raceway features high-speed racing in European-style carts. At Mesa’s Amazing Jake’s Food & Fun, race on an indoor track before enjoying lunch or dinner on site. For those with a need for speed, check out K1 Speed in Phoenix, where carts race up to 45 mph.
13. Live theater
All dressed up with no place to go? Try the Phoenix area’s many antidotes—musicals, comedies, dramas, Broadway hits, and more. This winter, see Baskerville at Phoenix Theatre. Arizona Theatre Company offers The River Bride. Mesa Encore Theatre will stage The Fox on the Fairway, and Gammage Auditorium puts on Matilda the Musical. Arizona Broadway Theatre offers a selection of musicals and shows in a dinner-theater setting.
14. Art films
Not to disparage Tinseltown, but if you need a break from big-budget cinema, enjoy a refreshing change of pace at Harkins Valley Art in Tempe or Harkins Shea 14 in Scottsdale. For those 21 and older, enjoy a cocktail while viewing indie flicks at FilmBar in Downtown Phoenix.
15. American Indian art
The Heard Museum in Central Phoenix displays an internationally famous collection of artifacts and art—basketry, pottery, textiles, katsinas, and jewelry—from Southwestern American Indian tribes. It also offers numerous festivals, performances, and workshops.
16. Have fun for free
Renowned area attractions offer free admission—you just have to know when to go. At the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, admission is free the first Friof every month, 5–9 p.m. From noon to 5 p.m. on the first Sun. of each month, enjoy a free visit to the Arizona Museum of Natural History, the Mesa Arts Center, or the I.D.E.AMuseum.
Welcome to Arizona’s not-to-be-missed wildflower season. Lupine, desert marigold, filaree, purple three-awn, and penstemon dot the desert with brilliant colors. Good places to see the blooms are South Mountain Park, Phoenix Mountains Preserve, Estrella Mountain Regional Park, and Pinnacle Peak ParkFor something extra special, Cave Creek Trail Rides offers horseback “wildflower rides” that take you through the desert and among the blooms.
18. Get some R&R
Mud-bathe, relax in a Turkish steam bath or Finnish sauna, or experience the pleasure of various massages, treatments, and masks at one (or many) of the area’s fine spas. For decadent diversions, contact The Spa at JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort in Phoenix, Golden Door Spa at Boulders Resort in Carefree, or Willow Stream Spa at The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. The Spa at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort in Paradise Valley also offers a relaxing respite.
19. Killer blues
In the mood for a little soulful lamenting? The Greater Phoenix area offers a couple of musical outlets for just such a purpose: Char’s Has the Blues, voted best blues club in Phoenix for more than 20 years, or The Rhythm Room in Phoenix, where you can see the likes of Leon Russell and other greats perform.
20. Airport eats
Already known as “America’s Friendliest Airport,” this bustling air-traffic center just might also take the title of “America’s Tastiest Airport.” Flying foodies should flock to Terminal 4, where acclaimed local restaurants have opened smaller versions of their beloved eateries. Indulge in wood-fired pizza, authentic dishes of central Mexico, organic sweet treats, and more at places such as Cowboy Ciao, Barrio Café, Four Peaks Brewery, Matt’s Big Breakfast, and La Grande Orange.
21. Have Old West fun
Chandler’s Rawhide Western Town & Steakhouse is a re-created 1880s town with a steakhouse, saloon, shops, and rodeo arenaDon’t miss Rawhide’s staged shoot-outs, live country music, stagecoach rides, and burro rides. Cowboy up at Gold Canyon’s Don Donnelly’s D-Spur Riding Stables, where city slickers can enjoy cookouts, wagon rides, and horseback rides. In Cave Creek, see live bull riding every Wednesday night at Buffalo Chip Saloon & Steakhouse.