21 Things to Do

Editor’s note: 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.


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1. DINE WITH FIDO

Greater Phoenix is a pup-friendly place. Bring your four-legged companion to “yappy hour” at 32 Shea in North Phoenix. All  3 locations of O.H.S.O. Brewery + Distillery have dog treats and leash tie-ups at outdoor tables. The indoor/outdoor setup at Luci’s at the Orchard in Central Phoenix is perfect for pups. Dogs love breakfast on the patio at Scramble in Phoenix and Scottsdale, and picnics at The Farm at South Mountain in South Phoenix.


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2. 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, zip lining 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 Aquarium in Tempe, or get into the water with marine life—friendly dolphins, to be exact—at Dolphinaris Arizona in Scottsdale.


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3. EXPERIENCE 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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4. BOTANICAL GARDENS

For succulents and other plants of arid climes, Boyce Thompson Arboretum is the definitive destination. Established in the 1920s to preserve desert plants, Arizona’s oldest and largest botanical garden offers several trails and 400 acres of desert plants from desert regions around the world. At the 140-acre Desert Botanical Garden, visitors can see approximately 50,000 plants, including rare and endangered species 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’s heritage.


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5. 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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6. 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 treasure hunting with dining on the side, head to 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 for information.


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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. 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? Read our “Free Phoenix” article any day of the week for 10 attractions that serve up fun with no admission fee required.


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9. HISTORIC SCOTTSDALE

When Winfield Scott bought 640 acres of desert northeast of Phoenix, he envisioned the land covered with citrus groves. Now that simple farm is one of the fanciest shopping areas in the nation. To learn about the grove’s historic roots, visit the Scottsdale Historical Museum at Scottsdale’s original school: The Old Red Brick Schoolhouse, 7333 E. Scottsdale Mall. Call 480-945-4499 or visit scottsdalemuseum.com for information. Donations appreciated.


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10. 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, and The Rhythm Room in Phoenix, where you can see the likes of Kim Wilson and other greats perform.


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11. 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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12. FOOD ON FOUR WHEELS

Fill your belly with gourmet grub on the go. Food truck festivals pop up throughout the year around Greater Phoenix. But there is no need to wait for a special event. 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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13. ROSES IN BLOOM

Lose yourself among the thousands of blooms at Sahuaro Ranch Park’s rose garden in Glendale. Valley Garden Center in Phoenix features an acre of rosebushes as well as a 100-year-old mesquite tree. And things look downright rosy at the Mesa Community College Rose Garden, with a field of more than 9,000 blooming rosebushes that has been called the largest rose garden in the Southwest. Blooms are at their peak in Mar./Apr. and Oct./Nov.


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14. 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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15. 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 Jake’s Unlimited, race on an indoor track before enjoying lunch or dinner on-site.


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16. HALLOWEEN FUN

Adrenaline will be pumping this Oct. as Halloween stretches into a monthlong celebration. Arizona’s Original Scream Park in Scottsdale offers multiple haunted houses to keep guests on their toes. The faint of heart can stop by Mother Nature’s Farm in Gilbert. Enjoy a picnic lunch, then head to the pumpkin patch to pick out a jack-o’-lantern.


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17. OUTDOOR ADVENTURES

For everything you’ll need to romp through the desert, check out 360 Adventures, 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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18. EVERYBODY SING ALONG!

For dinner and a show, head to Mesa’s Organ Stop Pizza, where world-class organists play musical favorites on a fully restored Wurlitzer. If you’re in the mood for a cool and casual atmosphere, consider Sip Coffee & Beer Garage. Featuring live music and events on nights and weekends.


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19. FOR THE BIRDS

Birding is a big activity in Arizona, known for hosting hummingbirds, trogons, and other exotica seldom seen in colder climates. Nature trails, the Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area, Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, and city parks offer great places to watch birds. Bird walks and field trips are scheduled by the Maricopa Audubon Society. For information about local and migrating birds, as well as fee information for the walks, visit maricopaaudubon.org.


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20. CHANDLER CENTER FOR THE ARTS

The Chandler Center for the Arts hosts a wonderful array of dance and musical performances as well as visual works. In this intimate venue, performances range from classic symphony and modern dance to Broadway shows and comedy. Commemorate your visit with show memorabilia from the center’s gift shop, or check out the gallery exhibits; they rotate every 6 to 8 weeks, so there’s always something new to see.


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21. SECRET CANYON

Escape from civilization for a spell and unplug. Just a two-hour drive from the heart of Phoenix puts you into the lush Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness. To disconnect even further, only 50 permits are given each day to enter the preserve, minimizing human encounters while maximizing wildlife sightings. Outside the canyon’s western entrance with the comforts—but not stresses—of home, Aravaipa Farms Orchard & Inn provides an ideal base camp for weekend getaways.

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