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.
1. VISIT WICKENBURG
For a taste of the Old West, take a short road trip and spend the day in the city of , 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, self-guided walking tours, horseback riding, and a performing arts center, plus some of Central Arizona’s best birding at the Hassayampa River Preserve.
2. 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.
3. 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 Desert Diamond West Valley Casino near Glendale.
4. MEET THE WILDLIFE
The Phoenix Zoo’s 125 acres are home to more than 3,000 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.
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.
6. NATIVE CULTURES
A vast collection of traditional and contemporary American Indian art and artifacts (around 44,000 objects!) make Phoenix’s Heard Museum a fascinating and educational stop for cultural exploration. Continue the journey at Ak-Chin Him-Dak Eco-Museum near Maricopa, which preserves, protects, and teaches aspects of Ak-Chin culture. In Scottsdale, the exhibits at the Huhugam Ki Museum showcase the crafts and lifestyle of O’odham (Pima) and Piipaash (Maricopa) Indian tribes, who have inhabited the Greater Phoenix area since ancient times.
7. SO SWEET
Imagine a store where every aisle is the candy aisle. That’s Sweeties Candy in Chandler. From nostalgic treats to today’s best, this 13,000-square-foot shop allows you to be a kid in a candy store once again. In Glendale, get a peek at how some of your favorite candy is made at Cerreta Candy Company. Take a tour of this delicious, family-owned facility, or enjoy your own chocolate experience.
8. 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 Jersey Boys at Phoenix Theatre. Arizona Theatre Company offers Two Trains Running. Mesa Encore Theatre will stage The Lion in Winter, and ASU Gammage auditorium puts on Hello, Dolly! Arizona Broadway Theatre offers a selection of musicals and shows in a dinner-theater setting.
9. IT’S MINE!
Dig into Arizona’s rich history with mining experiences. At Goldfield Ghost Town in the Superstition Mountains, go underground and back in time on a guided tour of the Mammoth Gold Mine. At Scottsdale’s Four Peaks Mining Co., kids can don a hard hat and search for ore and minerals in an interactive mining experience. You can also pick up beautiful handcrafted jewelry—some made with Arizona gems. Mesa’s Arizona Museum of Natural History explores Arizona history, including prospecting for gold and silver in the Lost Dutchman Mine. Examine artifacts and equipment used in the 1800s.
10. 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 21,000 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.
11. 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.
12. SECRET CANYON
Escape from civilization for a spell and unplug. Just a 2-hour drive from the heart of Phoenix puts you into the lush Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness. Relish the quiet here—only 50 permits are given each day to enter the preserve. Outside the canyon’s western entrance with the comforts—but not stresses—of home, Aravaipa Farms Orchard and Inn provides an ideal base camp for weekend getaways.
13. IN THE SPIRIT
Arizona Distilling Co. shares The Grand Canyon State with the world one sip at a time. Their handcrafted spirits include Copper City Bourbon, Desert Durum Wheat Whiskey, and Commerce Gin. Tours and tastings are available. From whiskey to gin to apple pie liquor—made from one of the partners’ family recipes—CaskWerks Distilling Co. has something for all imbibers. The tasting room is open Thurs.–Sat. Handcrafted whiskey, rum, and gin are just some of the spirits made in hand-built copper stills at Adventurous Stills. Try a sample at a weekend tasting or tour.
14. ART WALKS
Tour art galleries and museums throughout the metro area. Stroll Old Town Scottsdale during the weekly Scottsdale ArtWalk, Thurs. 7–9 p.m., with live entertainment and artist appearances. First Fridays lets you tour downtown Phoenix galleries once a month, 6–10 p.m., with free trolley transportation between locations. On the 3rd Fri. of every month, 6–10 p.m., enjoy the Downtown Chandler Art Walk. Explore the shops, restaurants, and galleries along Mesa’s Main Street on 2nd Fridays every month, 6–10 p.m.
Catch some sun and a few foul balls at Cactus League Spring Training. Games take place daily late February through March at 10 stadiums throughout Greater Phoenix. With 15 teams reporting, you’re sure to catch a game of one of your favorites.
16. 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 Rose Garden at Mesa Community College, 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.
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 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.
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.
19. IRISH CULTURAL CENTER
Do you find yourself captivated by Celtic traditions? A stop at the Irish Cultural Center and McClelland Library in downtown Phoenix is sure to have your Irish eyes smiling. The center offers exhibits, events, concerts, and family genealogy. On that oh-so-Irish day in March, don’t miss the 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 center’s Academy of Irish and Celtic Studies.
20. UP, UP & AWAY
If you don’t have 80 days to go around the world, how about a couple of hours to glide over Greater Phoenix? Hot air balloons are a fun way to view the terrain. To drift away on a desert breeze, contact Rainbow Ryders or Hot Air Expeditions. Or fly and feast on a Float Balloon Tour, which pairs a balloon flight with regional Arizona cuisine.
21. PETROGLYPH DISCOVERY HIKES
Get out your hiking boots for a unique perspective of Greater Phoenix. Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve’s 1/4-mile trail shows you where thousands of years of people left their marks—as petroglyphs on the surrounding boulders. At Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park in Phoenix, tour guides lead hikes twice a month (Oct.–Apr.) that can range from 1 to 5 miles and explore ancient American Indian rock drawings in local mountain ranges.