15 free things to do in Phoenix

Phoenix has its buttoned-up shopping side (it’s home to the state capital, after all). But that doesn’t mean you need an expense account to take advantage of all that the great Phoenix Metro has to offer. Scattered across the Valley of the Sun are dozens of museums, trails, markets, and historic sites that cost nothing to enjoy. If you’re looking to explore Phoenix without breaking the bank, here are the top fifteen free attractions.

Westward Ho Tower appeared in the Bus Stop 1956 with Marilyn Monroe and Pocket Money 1972 with Paul Newman © Alamy Stock Photo

1. Westward Ho

A beloved Phoenix landmark, this beautiful 15-story hotel has withstood the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune since its construction in 1928. Once frequented by celebrities and politicians (JFK gave a public speech here in 1961) , it fell into disuse in the late 1970s and is reborn as low-cost housing for the elderly.

Rosson House (Victorian style) and museum, Heritage Square Park, Phoenix, Arizona USA
The Rosson House and Museum in Heritage Square Park © Alamy Stock Photo

2. Heritage Square

This collection of late Victorian and early 20th century homes stands in stark contrast to the burgeoning modernity of downtown Phoenix. With the buildings now sensitively refurbished (the bungalow contains a craft space and shop, while others serve as a gallery, restaurants, and visitor center), it is possible to see many, including the majestic Rosson house completely restored.

Phoenix, Arizona - A red dinosaur in a red cage at the Phoenix Art Museum.
A red dinosaur in a red cage at the Phoenix Art Museum. Age fotostock

3. The Phoenix Art Museum

Arizona’s premier fine arts repository includes works by Claude Monet, Diego Rivera, and Georgia O’Keeffe. Visit the Western Gallery, to see how Arizona’s astonishing landscape inspired everyone from early pioneers to modernists. Do you have children? Pick up a Kidpack at Visitor Services, examine the ingeniously designed miniature vintage Thorne Rooms, or visit the PhxArtKids gallery.

Admission is by donation every Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., the first Friday of each month from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and the second Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Free guided tours are also offered three times a day, and twice more on Wednesday evenings.

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A view of Camelback Mountain from the Camby Hotel in Phoenix, Arizona © Meghan O’Dea / Lonely Planet

4. Camelback Mountain

This 2,704-foot two-hump mountain sits at the center of all the Phoenix action. Both trails, the Cholla Trail (6131 E Cholla Lane) and the Echo Canyon Trail (4925 E McDonald Dr), are short but steep, with 1,264 feet of elevation gain over just 1.2 miles and lots of practical scrambling over rocks. . A great workout followed by breathtaking views.

Visitors to the Heard Museum view paintings by Fritz Scholder
© David Butow / Contributor

5. Heard Museum

This extraordinary museum sheds light on the history, life, arts and culture of the Native American tribes of the southwest. Visitors will find art galleries, ethnographic exhibits, films, a creative children’s exhibit, and an unrivaled collection of Hopi kachinas (elaborate spiritual dolls, many of which were donated by presidential candidate Barry Goldwater). The Heard emphasizes quality over quantity and is one of the best museums of its kind in America.

The moving gallery Boarding School Experience examines the controversial federal policy of removing Native American children from their families and sending them to remote boarding schools in order to “Americanize” them. Watch for the occasional events that bring the estate to life, such as Indian fairs and spectacular hoop dancing competitions. Free guided tours run throughout the day and are recommended. All in all, you can easily entice two to three hours of exploration. Also check out the well-stocked bookstore and superb gift shop.

Parking is free. The Valley Metro streetcar stops next to the Downtown Museum at Encanto / Central Ave. The museum offers free admission from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. every first Friday of the month (except March) and on the fourth Sunday of the month from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., June to September.

Entrance to the portal of the Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Arizona with various cacti and desert plants.
© Neala McCarten / Alamy Stock Photo

6. Desert Botanical Garden

Blue bells and Mexican golden poppies are just two of the colorful treats that bloom from March to May along the Desert Wildflower Loop Trail in this well-tended botanical garden, a charming place to reconnect with nature while learning about the plant life of the desert. Loop trails lead past a profusion of desert dwellers, organized by theme (including a natural Sonoran Desert Loop and an Edible Garden in the Desert). It’s pretty dazzling all year round, but the spring flowering season is the busiest and most colorful.

Admission is free on the second Tuesday of each month.

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The Monorchid Art Gallery on Roosevelt Row in Phoenix, Arizona © Meghan O’Dea / Lonely Planet

7. First Fridays

Up to 20,000 people took to the streets of downtown Phoenix on the first and third Friday of each month for this self-guided art walk, featuring more than 70 galleries and performance spaces. Three carts transport the cognoscenti from one place to another.

View from Piestewa peak
View from Piestewa (Squaw) peak in Pheonix, AZ © Kanopter / Getty Images / iStockphoto

8. Pic Piestewa

Dotted with saguaros, ocotillos, and teddy bear cholla, this pretty peak was previously known as Squaw Peak. It was renowned for local Native American soldier Lori Piestewa who was killed in Iraq in 2003. Be forewarned: the 1.1 mile drive to the 2,608 foot summit is very difficult but extremely popular – the park can be blocked off. winter weekends.

Parking lots northeast of Lincoln Dr between 22nd and 24th Sts fill up early. The summit is bordered by two recreation areas, Phoenix Mountains (2701 E Squaw Peak), where the Summit Trail begins (dogs not allowed), and Dreamy Draw (2421 E Northern Ave).

Old Town Scottsdale Historical Museum Main Street in the old red brick high school
Scottsdale Historical Museum Main Street in Old Red Brick High School Alamy Stock Photo

9. Scottsdale Historical Museum

One of the buildings with authentic history in Old Town Scottsdale is the Little Red School House, now home to the Scottsdale Historical Museum, where low-key exhibits highlight the origins and beginnings of Scottsdale history, showing the radical change of the urban landscape since the middle of the 20th century. century. Children can enjoy the old school ringtone.

South Mountain Park, Phoenix Arizona.  Looking north toward downtown Phoenix, Az
The view from South Mountain Park looking north towards downtown © Alamy Stock Photo

10. South Mountain Park

At over 25 square miles (larger than Manhattan), this park is great for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. The 51 mile (leashed dogs allowed) network plunges through canyons, cactus-strewn hills, and past granite walls, offering city views and access to Indian petroglyphs. The main entrance is at 10211 S Central Ave; the entrance to Pima Canyon is at 4771 E Pima Canyon Rd.

A row of old stores in Old Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
A row of old stores in Old Town Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Phoenix, Arizona, USA stock photo

11. Old Town Scottsdale

Nestled among Scottsdale’s malls and bistros is its Old Town, a Wild West-themed enclave filled with cute buildings, covered sidewalks, and shops selling mass-produced ‘Indian’ artifacts. There’s also a museum, public sculptures, living rooms, a few galleries stocking authentic Native American art, and horse-drawn strollers and singing cowboys in the cooler months.

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A mural in the Roosevelt Arts District in Phoenix, Arizona © Meghan O’Dea / Lonely Planet

12. Phoenix Art Walk

Phoenix has risen through the ranks of art cities that matter. In particular, Scottsdale has galleries loaded with everything from epic Western oil paintings to cutting-edge sculpture and gloomy Southwestern landscapes. About 100 of these galleries remain open every Thursday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. for Art Walk, which focuses on Marshall Way and Main St.

Free carts and horse-drawn carriages help relieve foot sores.

monroe school museum for children phoenix arizona az children's learning phoenix children children hands
The Phoenix Children’s Museum is located in the old Monroe School Alamy Stock Photo

13. Phoenix Children’s Museum

Designed to encourage active participation rather than passive contemplation (panels with a lot of text are being ditched in favor of interactive exhibits and invitations to paint, climb, play and even ride tricycles), this three-story juvenile Jurassic Park is an ideal way to seduce children. , from babies to less than 10 years old, for a few hours. Free entry from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the first Friday of each month.

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 25, 2017 - Arizona Beekeeper raw honey stand at the Phoenix Public Market which takes place every Saturday morning.
Arizona Beekeeper raw honey stand at the Phoenix Public Market which takes place every Saturday morning. Age fotostock

14. Phoenix Farmers Market

Arizona’s largest farmer’s market brings the state’s best produce to a tasty outdoor jamboree. In addition to fresh fruits and vegetables, you can find native foods, delicious bread, spices, pasta and salsas, organic meat, barbecue trucks, and much more to eat on site. Jewelry, textiles and body products are also emerging. Even if you don’t buy anything, this is a site to see – although of course it is nice to support the vendors.

Painet Photo Agency
Children play at Kierland Commons in Scottsdale, Arizona Alamy Stock Photo

15. Kierland Commons

This open-air mall in North Scottsdale offers a mix of fashion, dining and events.

Introducing the Southwestern United States


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