Phoenix offers exciting diversity, urban sophistication and natural serenity, too.

Visitors to Arizona’s capital can discover landmark mansions and sip local wine (yes, there are wineries in the desert). They’ll take in the Cactus League’s spring training baseball, then join locals to hike amid Sonoran Desert cactuses or cycle the “ale trail.” 

It’s these unexpected mashups that make the Greater Phoenix metropolis of 1.7 million so compelling, no matter the season. Here are 10 of our favorite things to do in the Valley of the Sun. 

Cycle the coffee, wine and ale trails

With more than 50 resorts and day spas, Scottsdale (12 miles from downtown and part of Greater Phoenix) lends itself to leisure. Yet if you’re thirsting to explore without expending too much effort, hop on a bike in Old Town to taste a range of coffee drinks, wines and beers. Kick off a day of easy activity by fueling up at Schmooze Bar & Breakfast before pedaling around historic sites, public art installations and the Arizona Canal, which dates back to the 1800s. 

As you explore, take time to stop at some of the dozen-plus wine-tasting rooms and breweries in town. Merkin Vineyards’ grapes hail from the Verde Valley, while Craft64 serves only Arizona beers, including its own signature brew (created in collaboration with Phoenix-based SunUp Brewing).

Celebrate Pride in the desert

Phoenix embraces its LGBTIQ+ community every day – but the hug never feels stronger than during Phoenix Pride, which takes place each November. The two-day celebration draws crowds of up to 40,000, who come enjoy the festive parade in mild weather as well as more than 150 performers hitting six alfresco stages. The family-friendly event even offers a KidSpace with a photo booth and activities like face painting.  

Explore a famous mansion 

Close your eyes at historic Wrigley Mansion and you can imagine enjoying sunset drinks on the terrace with Elvis Presley and other famous visitors. This 16,000-sq-ft estate was once owned by chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. Enshrined on the National Register, it’s a Phoenix landmark built an all-American blend of architectural styles ranging from Spanish Revival to modernist. Preserved elements include the original tiles, which were hauled up the hill by donkey after being shipped from the namesake family’s tile factory on Catalina Island. 

This glamorous history has been played up by owner Jamie Hormel, who purchased the property in 1992 and installed upgrades like Christopher’s, the namesake restaurant of James Beard award–winning Chef Christopher Gross. The venue joins Geordie’s, a mansion mainstay for afternoon tea and multi-course wine dinners.

Get more travel inspiration, tips and exclusive offers sent straight to your inbox with our weekly newsletter.

Cheer for your favorite pro baseball team

For the most dedicated sports nuts, spring in the desert heralds just one thing: baseball season. And Greater Phoenix is longtime host to Major League Baseball’s Cactus League spring training. Fifteen teams – from the Arizona Diamondbacks to Seattle Mariners – practice at 10 ballparks and stadiums scattered around the city. It’s the greatest concentration of pro baseball facilities in the country – and a fan fantasy. 

Interact with art at Wonderspaces

At Wonderspaces, art lovers can not only observe art but interact with it, while connecting with others to create a shared experience. Situated inside Scottsdale Fashion Square mall, Wonderspaces’s immersive installations include Rainbow Rooms, comfortable furniture arrangements enclosed by colored yarn. Less warm and fuzzy is Killing Time, a macabre kinetic hourglass sculpture by Mesplé. The mesmerizing skull detects a viewer’s presence, triggering the release of black liquid and producing breath-like motion from the mouth. Unsettling and unforgettable.

Different cacti and other desert flora at the entrance to Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix
There are plenty of cacti – as well as hummingbirds, butterflies and more dry-weather creatures – at Desert Botanical Garden © Neala McCarten / Alamy Stock Photo

See thousands of butterflies in a botanical garden

Nature, art, education, conservation and wellness blend beautifully at Desert Botanical Garden, a 140-acre ecosystem with trails looping among the cactuses, trees and wildflowers. While you can expect familiar flora like Arizona’s iconic saguaro cactus, this living museum is home to 4400-plus species, including 400 rare and endangered ones.

The diverse landscape is ripe for roaming. Keep an eye out for hummingbirds. Spot cactuses in bloom. Explore the open-air Butterfly Pavilion, home to thousands of live butterflies – from monarch to malachite. Another way to take in the garden’s atmosphere is during meditation classes, sunrise tai chi or sunset yoga. 

Desert Botanical Garden offers seasonal programming that enhances the natural beauty. Visit Las Noches de las Luminarias during the holidays to see 8000 lights glimmering throughout the plantings. You should also keep an eye out for visiting art exhibitions, such as Chihuly in the Garden: the American artist’s outsize spikes and swirls of blown glass add another layer of wonder to this desert oasis.

Read more: Chihuly in the US: where to see the glass master's art

Sip cocktails while playing classic video games 

When you’re looking for old-school fun accompanied by an adult beverage, the Cobra Arcade Bar downtown cheerfully delivers both. (There’s also a locale in Tucson.) There’s something delightfully subversive about sipping a cocktail made with Stoli or Four Roses in this adult-only spot while filling up on the nostalgia of bashing the buttons on vintage pinball machines and classics like Mortal Combat. A rotating lineup of DJs provides the soundtrack.

The Frank Lloyd Wright–designed architecture of Taliesin West under a blue sky in Scottsdale
Taliesin West is an architectural masterpiece by Frank Lloyd Wright in Scottsdale, Greater Phoenix © Richard T. Nowitz/Getty

Make an architectural pilgrimage to Taliesin West

Taliesin West is a look over the rim of the world,” said Frank Lloyd Wright in 1943, describing his desert studio and winter home. A National Historic Landmark located in Scottsdale and built in 1937, Taliesin West was also a campus where this titan of American architecture educated his protégés and pushed the boundaries of his singular architectural vision. In 2019, Taliesin West was one of eight Lloyd Wright works inscribed on the Unesco World Heritage site list for their cultural significance.

Today, visitors can tour the rooms and landscapes to see elements both unusual (a bathroom made from sheets of aluminum) and ancient (boulders with petroglyphs) scattered throughout the property. The site is often host for special events, from sunset wine tastings to guided tours of art exhibitions such as Chihuly in the Desert

Hike the Hole-in-the-Rock Trail

When you want to hike an otherworldly landscape without leaving the comforts of the city, head to the Hole-in-the-Rock Trail in Papago Park, located just minutes from downtown Phoenix. Only a little effort on the trail results in a massive payoff: a wind-eroded hole in the sandstone butte that frames photo-worthy views of the expanse of Greater Phoenix beyond. The short pathway (0.2 miles) is composed of natural steps leading hikers from the visitor center 200ft up in elevation. Arrive early – the park opens at 5am – to squeeze in some solitude on the popular route and enjoy cooler morning temperatures. 

While you’re gazing through the sandstone gap, consider how the Indigenous Hohokam peoples who lived in the area from 450 to 1450 CE used the hole as a sundial of sorts for planting and other agricultural activities. 

Visit a “funporium” 

Food trucks hawking delectable snacks from tacos to pizza, a mobile wine car, pop-up shops and live entertainment, all in and around a renovated 1920s house downtown: though you might never heard of a “funporium,” Pemberton House defines the term. Located in the Roosevelt Row arts district, this onetime carriage house has undergone an artful transformation into a space for local makers and community events. 

Expect an ever-evolving array of activities that encourage repeat visits, whether yoga on the wellness lawn or beer dinners with guest chefs and breweries.

Experience fine art and infinity 

O’Keeffe, Kahlo, Kusama: these are only a few of the big names you’ll discover in the Phoenix Art Museum’s global collection of 20,000 works. The Southwest’s largest art museum has been a point of pride for the city since it first opened more than 60 years ago. Today, the Phoenix Art Museum is “bringing the world to our museum and our museum to the world.” 

You might also like:
The 5 best neighborhoods to explore on your trip to Greater Phoenix
15 free things to do in Phoenix
The ultimate guide to a weekend in Phoenix, Arizona

See our full range of USA travel guides

Make the most of your time in the USA with Lonely Planet’s range of travel guides. Be the architect of your own trip as you discover the best things to do in the USA through insider tips, suggested itineraries and handy maps.

Buy USA travel guides

Explore related stories