Phoenix Valley Guide - 21 Things to Do
South Mountain Park - photo credit: Doug Bennett
Phoenix Valley Guide - 21 Things to Do
Musical Instrument Museum
Phoenix Valley Guide - 21 Things to Do
Desert Belle Cruises
Phoenix Valley Guide - 21 Things to Do
Stargazing - photo credit: Bob Wick
Phoenix Valley Guide - 21 Things to Do
Heritage Square - photo credit: Flare Elliott

Fall 2017

21 Things to Do

Editor’s note: Valley Guide’s “21 Cool 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.

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1. MOUNTAIN BIKING 

For a different spin on a hike when you’re feeling outdoorsy, how about a bike ride on a local trail? For fairly easy rides, visit Estrella Mountain Regional Park or Papago Buttes in Papago Park, and for a scenic view, try Phoenix Mountain Preserve Trail or White Tank Mountain Regional Park (offering trails set aside just for cyclists). For the ultimate biking experience, go to South Mountain Park, where there is something for everyone—including the challenging 14.5-mile National Trail. For more info, contact the Phoenix Department of Parks and Recreation. Try Arizona Outback Adventures in Scottsdale or Try Me Bicycle Shop in Phoenix for mountain bike rentals.

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2. HISTORIC NEIGHBORHOODS

People who have abandoned the suburban lifestyle in favor of the benefits of living “close in” have created a sort of renaissance in the city’s historic neighborhoods. Tour them by car with a map from the Phoenix Historic Neighborhoods Coalition. The map illustrates and describes some of the area’s major architectural styles—including California Bungalow, Pueblo Revival, American Colonial Revival, and Transitional Early Ranch. Phone 602-253-5579 for a free copy.

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3. Live Music

Phoenix’s Musical Instrument Museum, or MIM, as locals call it, features a rotating calendar of national and international acts. In Downtown Phoenix, Crescent Ballroom plays host to the latest and greatest acts. To see national bands in a casual atmosphere, check out Tempe’s Marquee Theatre. Acoustic shows in an intimate performance space take place at The Listening Room in Central Phoenix. And at Copper Blues in Downtown Phoenix, the yummy gastropub fare almost steals the spotlight from the national acts that grace the stage.

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4. BOTANICAL GARDENS

For succulents and other plants of arid climes, Boyce Thompson Arboretum is the definitive source. Established in the 1920s to preserve desert plants, Arizona’s oldest and largest botanical garden offers several trails and 320 acres of desert plants from arid regions around the world. At the 140-acre Desert Botanical Garden, visitors can see approximately 50,000 plants, including rare and endangered plants from around the globe. Set against the gorgeous backdrop of Black Mountain and featuring a lush botanical garden, Carefree Desert Gardens plays host to a series of free cultural events that celebrate Arizona heritage.

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5. ARIZONA: PAST & FUTURE

The 2-block Heritage Square & Science Park is a mecca of exploration opportunities. First, tour one of the oldest and finest homes in the Greater Phoenix area, the fully restored 1895 Rosson House. It’s surrounded by many of its original neighbors, now housing restaurants and museums, in the Heritage Square & Science Park. Tours are available Wed.–Sun. Don’t miss the Arizona Science Center, where youngsters of every age will delight in learning about science and technology through interactive exhibits. Heritage Square & Science Park is located at 7th and Washington Streets in Downtown Phoenix.

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6. THAT’S A (DELICIOUS) WRAP

In the Southwest, the tortilla is a kitchen staple, and few things are better than one that is handmade and fresh from the griddle. Old Town Tortilla Factory, located in Scottsdale, provides complimentary fresh tortillas—with rotating flavors such as black bean or cinnamon—at the start of your meal. At Azteca Bakery, located in Phoenix, treat yourself to a vast selection of freshly baked Mexican treats (tortillas included)! Or, at Carolina’s Mexican food restaurants, also in Phoenix, purchase a dozen housemade tortillas to take home.

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7. FOOTBALL

Greater Phoenix has no shortage of exciting football action, Aug. through Dec., boasting both the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals and ASU’s Sun Devils. Catch a Cardinals game at the impressive University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. To cheer on the Sun Devils, don maroon and gold and make your way to Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, where crowds turn out to watch the team attempt to earn a slot in a college bowl game. For ticket information, visit azcardinals.com (Cardinals) or thesundevils.com (Sun Devils).

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8. 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; and Fort McDowell Casino near Fountain Hills.

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9. RIDE A STEAMBOAT

“Steamboat Willie” or Life on the Mississippi, Disney or Twain—whatever your inspiration, go ride an anachronism. Take a steamboat cruise, not down Ol’ Man River, but smack in the middle of the desert on Canyon Lake or Saguaro Lake. Both cruises feature canyons, wildlife, unique desert plants, and, best of all, relaxation. Day tours, twilight dinner cruises, and private charters are available. Reservations required. For The Dolly Steamboat on Canyon Lake, see dollysteamboat.com. For Desert Belle Cruises on Saguaro Lake, visit desertbelle.com.

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10. WRIGHT SIGHTS

Now a National Historic Landmark, the original structure of Taliesin West was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright as his winter retreat. It’s now the home of his architectural firm and school. Tours are available year-round. The ASU Gammage auditorium, a circular structure with 2 pedestrian bridges on the Arizona State University Tempe campus, is one of the last major buildings designed by Wright. Superb acoustics enhance concerts and Broadway musicals.

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11. HAVE OLD WEST FUN

Cowboy up at Gold Canyon’s Don Donnelly’s D-Spur Riding Stables, where city slickers can enjoy cookouts, wagon rides, and horseback rides. Chandler’s Rawhide Western Town & Steakhouse is a re-created 1880s town with a steakhouse, saloon, shops, and rodeo arena. Don’t miss Rawhide’s staged shoot-outs, live country music, stagecoach rides, and burro rides. In Cave Creek, see live bull riding every Wednesday and Friday night at Buffalo Chip Saloon & Steakhouse.

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12. START YOUR ENGINES!

Ready to burn rubber on the track? Put the pedal to the metal at local go-cart raceways. For those with a need for speed, check out K1 Speed in Phoenix, where carts race up to 45 mph. 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.

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13. CRAFT BREWS

Toast nationally renowned beers at Tempe-based Four Peaks Brewing Company. At SanTan Brewing Company in Chandler, try the weekly cask. Nosh on gourmet grub and pints at Scottsdale’s McFate Brewing Company, or enjoy the Beer Brunch at O.H.S.O. Eatery & NanoBrewery, with locations in Phoenix and Scottsdale. Helton Brewing in Central Phoenix offers beer and food pairings, while Wren House Brewing Company in Downtown Phoenix serves small-batch beers. Having trouble deciding which brewery to visit? Let Arizona Brewery Tours do the planning.

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14. MOVIES AT THE DRIVE-IN

Attention film buffs: break out the blankets and lawn chairs for a night at Greater Phoenix’s classic drive-in movie theater. The West Wind Glendale 9 Drive-In has been entertaining guests for decades. Enjoy double features of the latest Hollywood flicks under the starry Arizona sky year-round.

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15. GET FIRED UP

Discover the history of firefighting at The Hall of Flame Museum of Firefighting, the world’s largest firefighting museum. See a fine collection of antique engines and equipment from around the world, dating from 1725.

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16. THE STARS

Greater Phoenix is famous for its beautiful sunsets, but that’s only the beginning of the sky show. Local parks play host to nighttime lessons under (and about) the stars. One part astronomy lesson and one part telescope stargazing, with constellation experts on hand to make the concepts as clear as the night sky. Check out White Tank Mountain Regional Park, Cave Creek Regional Park, and San Tan Mountain Regional Park. For stargazing dates, visit maricopacountyparks.net/things-to-do/activity/stargazing.

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17. FREE FRIDAYS

Many of Greater Phoenix’s best museums and attractions offer free admission, or days when admission costs are waived. Check our Facebook page for recommendations every Friday. Can’t wait until Friday? See our website for the “Free Phoenix” article any day of the week for 10 attractions that serve up fun with no admission fee required.

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18. MEET THE WILDLIFE

The Phoenix Zoo’s 125 acres are home to more than 1,400 animals, including lions, giraffes, and elephants. Encounter land and aquatic animals from all over the globe at Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park in Litchfield Park. Experience safari tours, a tiger show, ziplining and more at Out of Africa Wildlife Park in Camp Verde. For sea-creature encounters, complete with ocean tunnels for underwater viewing, head to Scottsdale’s OdySea Aquarium or Sea Life Arizona in Tempe, or get into the water with marine life—friendly dolphins, to be exact—at Dolphinaris in Scottsdale.

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19. HIDDEN GOLD

You’d have to be very lucky to find the Lost Dutchman Mine—the legendary hiding place of Jacob Waltz’s gold. Waltz 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.

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20. ALL THAT JAZZ

Whether they prefer their jazz New Age, Dixieland, or straight ahead, jazz lovers can find big-name local and international artists at venues, large and small, throughout the Greater Phoenix area. For an intimate musical experience, try Glendale Gaslight Inn in Glendale, Scottsdale’s Center Stage Bar at Hyatt Gainey Ranch, or The Wild Vine Uncorked in Chandler.

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21. AUTUMN COLORS

Arizona changes from summer to winter rapidly, but the change is as brilliant as it is quick. The most spectacular scenery in the state appears during the few short weeks when the leaves change color in the high country, about 90 minutes north of Greater Phoenix. Contact Visit Phoenix for recommended sites in and around the metro area, and for where to see fall color statewide, contact the Arizona Office of Tourism.

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