Phoenix Valley Guide - 21 Things to Do
Cerreta Candy Company - photo credit: Julie Foskett
Phoenix Valley Guide - 21 Things to Do
Stargazing - photo credit: Bob Wick
Phoenix Valley Guide - 21 Things to Do
Arizona Outback Adventures - photo credit: Arizona Outback Adventures
Phoenix Valley Guide - 21 Things to Do
Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park - photo credit: Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park
Phoenix Valley Guide - 21 Things to Do
Boyce Thompson Arboretum - photo credit: Boyce Thompson Arboretum

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. BIKE RENTALS

Take your pick from the fleet of rental bikes this two-wheel-friendly city has to offer. From Sky Harbor International Airport, ride the Sky Train directly to Downtown Tempe’s The Bicycle Cellar for hourly rental options and customized plans for larger parties. If self-checkout is more your style, Grid Bike Share kiosks located throughout Phoenix, Mesa, and Tempe allow renters to choose their payment plan and pick up and drop off a bike at any time. If city sights start to bore, try a scenic, desert cruise. Check out the rental options from Cactus Adventures south of Tempe. It’s just a few minutes ride from South Mountain Park, which is home to more than 50 miles of bike trails.

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2. TIME TRAVEL

Dive into Arizona history with a visit to the Rosson House Museum at Heritage Square. This restored house dates back to the 19th century and gives its guests a glimpse into the past with hour-long guided tours ranging from $4 to $9. Built by Dr. Roland Lee Rosson in 1895, the site was home to several families, later became a boarding house, and is said by some to be one of Phoenix’s haunted locations. Through May 27, the museum will showcase the free Details exhibit in the Stevens-Haustgen Bungalow. The exhibit will explore a number of knickknacks and adornments that helped establish turn-of-the-century style.

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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. STARGAZING

Yes, you can see stars in the heart of Downtown Phoenix. Admire the night sky at the Arizona Science Center & Dorrance Planetarium, with lectures on such topics as Arizona’s sky and constellations. For the real thing, visit one of the many Maricopa County Parks, including Estrella Mountain Regional Park, White Tank Mountain Regional Park, or Lake Pleasant. Maricopa County Parks & Recreation even offers stargazing programs on select dates. For stargazing accompanied by a road trip, drive north to Flagstaff and visit the Lowell Observatory. Open for tours and evening telescope viewing, this is where Percival Lowell discovered the dwarf planet Pluto.

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6. 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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7. EXPLORE WICKENBURG

For a taste of the Old West, take a short road trip and spend the day in the city of Wickenburg, an hour north of metro Phoenix. Visit the Desert Caballeros Western Museum for rotating exhibits showcasing Western art and Wickenburg history. The city also offers jeep tours, guided walking tours, horseback riding, and a performing arts center, plus some of central Arizona’s best birding at the Hassayampa River Preserve.

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8. 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.

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9. BATTER UP

Did you know that Willie Mays was the first baseball player to hit a homer at Phoenix Municipal Stadium? Or that Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio played together during Spring Training in Arizona? Celebrate the rich history of baseball in Arizona at the informative and interactive Arizona Spring Training League Experience exhibit. Featuring hundreds of artifacts and memorabilia, the display is managed by the Mesa Historical Museum. The exhibit’s 2018 site was still pending at press time. Contact the museum for location details.

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10. FOOD ON FOUR WHEELS

Food Truck Festivals around metro Phoenix offer gourmet grub on the go. Sample $2 menu items at each food truck at the Street Eats Food Truck Festival in February. Full meals are available as well, with drinks ranging from $2 for water and soda and $6 for beer and cocktails. If you’re looking for a year-round food truck extravaganza, look no further than Food Truck Fridays, 11 a.m.–1:30 p.m., at Phoenix Public Market (721 N. Central Ave.) or the Gilbert Feastival, every Friday from 5:30 to 9 p.m.

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11. IRISH CULTURAL CENTER

Do you find yourself captivated by Celtic traditions? A stop at the Irish Cultural Center and McClelland Library is sure to have your Irish eyes smiling. The center offers exhibits, events, concerts, family genealogy, and a St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Faire. Fans of the Emerald Isle with a little more time can also enjoy taking a class at the Irish Cultural Center’s Academy of Irish & Celtic Studies. The center, located at 1106 N. Central Ave. in Phoenix, is open Tues.–Sat. 10 a.m.–3 p.m. For more information, call 602-258-0109 or visit azirish.org.

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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. MACHO MACHO MAN

Guys can enjoy routine haircuts, old-fashioned shaves with hot towels and lather, massages, facials, manicures, and pedicures without being embarrassed about being the only man in the joint at places like Uptown Barbershop and Exclusively Men’s Barber & Spa (480-656-0802). Speaking of spas, many spas in the area have separate sections dedicated to male magnificence like The Spa at Camelback Inn, or why not try a spa specifically designed with men in mind such as We Do Men.

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14. LOVE & CHOCOLATE

As you bite into a sweet confection, do you ever wonder, “How do they get the filling inside a chocolate candy?” Tours of Cerreta Candy Company provide the answer. Guided tours begin at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Mon.–Fri. Self-guided video tours run throughout the day Mon.–Sat. Further indulge your sweet tooth at The Glendale Chocolate Affaire, an annual celebration of chocolate and romance. February 3–5, peruse the tasty wares of more than 30 chocolate purveyors (including Cerreta) and enjoy a symposium of the largest gathering of romance novelists in the Southwest.

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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. OUTDOOR FUN

For everything you’ll need to romp through the desert, check out Hike in Phoenix, which offers guided tours and equipment rentals. Arizona Outback Adventures specializes in guided tours statewide. If you’re looking for a fun tour of the attractions in Phoenix and Scottsdale—both indoors and out—look no further than Across Arizona Tours.

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17. SHOP FOR ANTIQUES

Whether you’re browsing English teapots, cast-iron stoves, or rolltop desks, antiquing in Greater Phoenix offers something for everyone. In Scottsdale, visit Antique Trove. Here, you’ll find everything from Victorian jewelry to mid-century furniture. For fun treasuring hunting with dining on the side, head for MacAlpine’s Diner & Soda Fountain in central Phoenix. Downtown Glendale—Arizona’s antiques capital—offers myriad shops for perusing. Contact the Glendale Convention & Visitors Bureau (877-800-2601) for information.

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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. UP, UP & AWAY

If you don’t have 80 days to go around the world, how about a couple of hours to fly over Greater Phoenix? Hot air balloons are a fun way to view the terrain. To drift away on a desert breeze, contact Rainbow Ryders (800-725-2477) or Hot Air Expeditions (800-831-7610). Or fly and feast on a Float Balloon Tour (480-256-8695), which pairs a balloon flight with regional Arizona cuisine.

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21. UNCOVER A TREASURE

Think of geocaching as Capture the Flag for the digital generation. Start at geocaching.com and decide where in Greater Phoenix you want to “hunt.” Map coordinates mark the locations of locally stashed treasure or “caches.” Once you enter your coordinates using your smartphone or GPS device, you can navigate to the booty, sign the logbook that accompanies each cache, then move on to the next one. Popular geocaching locations around Greater Phoenix include Tonto National Forest and Mesa’s Park of the Canals, while urban explorers flock to downtown Phoenix.

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