The panoramic view from the “hump” of this iconic landmark, named for its resemblance to a kneeling camel, is worth scaling its two tricky trails, Echo Canyon and Cholla.
Hikers gain 1,200 feet in elevation to the summit, which looks out over the city and Phoenix Mountains Preserve. Camelback is one of the most popular urban hiking spots in Phoenix, so expect trail traffic and consider hiking on weekdays. During hot-weather months, hike in the early morning and drink plenty of water.
Musical Instrument Museum
See, hear and even play instruments from every corner of the world in a one-of-a-kind collection.
The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) tunes you into thousands of instrument sounds with a headset that syncs seamlessly as you move through its galleries. Take a world tour of cultural instruments and pop culture artists, and return for a live music experience at MIM Music Theater, a year-round concert series hosting more than 200 international acts.
Desert Botanical Garden
The winding paths of this 50-acre desert garden showcase a fantastic variety of arid plants, from towering saguaros to delicate blooms.
This beautiful landscape is also the backdrop for the garden’s seasonal events. On Thursdays and Saturdays in the summer months, bring a flashlight for cooler evening exploration along the garden’s trails during Flashlight Tours.
The tradition, culture and history of 22 regional American Indian tribes converge in the Heard Museum’s immersive exhibits and authentic art shop.
Through art and cultural objects, the museum’s ongoing exhibits tell the stories of native people of the Southwest, from early history to powerful memories of boarding schools. Current rotating exhibits include Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, featuring masterworks from the influential Mexican artists.
The creative beat of the city’s urban heart is in Roosevelt Row, home to galleries, mural-splashed business walls and a monthly art walk.This arts district is a prominent stop for visitors and the downtown community along the First Friday self-guided art tour. In the summer, Roosevelt Row also caters to a nocturnal crowd: Patrons can keep cool by shopping during Vampire Hours, when boutiques, restaurants and galleries stay open until 9 p.m. or later.
South Mountain Park and Preserve
Boasting 50 miles of trails through 16,000 acres of the Sonoran Desert, this municipal park is perfectly suited for outdoor adventure just minutes from the city.
The skyline views and Sonoran Desert flora aren’t the park’s only perks. Keep a lookout for ancient petroglyphs carved into the rocks (we’ve got details in this blog post). If you’d rather drive than hike, bike or hoof it up the trails, hop on the 5.5-mile Summit Road up to Dobbins Lookout, the highest accessible point in the preserve.
Phoenix Art Museum
The Southwest’s largest fine art museum features a collection of contemporary work and global masterpieces.
Complementing the museum’s galleries of fine art and objects from Asia, America, Europe and beyond are rotating exhibitions such as Samurai: Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection. Want to see the permanent collections for free (and the special exhibitions at a discount)? Visit Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. during voluntary donation time, or the second Sunday of the month from noon to 5 p.m. for Free Family Sundays.
Heritage Square Dining
Like the 19th-century homes nearby, the restaurants in downtown’s Heritage Square are making history: Both Pizzeria Bianco (heralded as the best pizza in the nation) and Nobuo at Teeter House (sophisticated Japanese offered tapas-style) are James Beard Award winners.
Old Town Scottsdale
Southwestern arts and hip eateries line the streets of Old Town, a popular destination for Greater Phoenix shopping and nightlife.
If you’re hunting for a souvenir, you’ll find your fill of old-fashioned flair (think cowboy hats and turquoise jewelry) alongside upscale art galleries and trendy boutiques in the Fifth Avenue district. The area is also a hot spot for after-dark dancing, lounging and libations.
Tours of Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home, give insight on how the masterful architect was inspired by the desert surroundings. Visitors walk through rooms, gardens, walkways and Wright’s entertainment pavilion on the grounds while learning about his organic architecture.
Summer evenings set the romance for the Night Lights Tour. Explore Taliesin West at its most dramatic, when structures are lit from within beneath a starry desert sky and the garden’s famed fire-breathing dragon sculpture makes an appearance.