12 Unique Things to Do in Phoenix Every Local Should Know About

Phoenix, Arizona, is a city of endless possibilities, boasting a rich history, breathtaking landscapes, and a vibrant culture. Whether you’re a new resident or a long-time local, there’s always something new and exciting to discover. In this article, we’ll highlight some of Phoenix’s most unique and memorable things, from exploring the iconic cactus-filled Sonoran Desert to indulging in the local food scene.

Whether you’re looking for homes for sale in Phoenix, an apartment to rent, or want to learn more about this city, we’ve got you covered. So get ready for an adventure as we take you on a journey through the top attractions and hidden gems that make Phoenix such a special place.

1. Take a tour of the Mystery Castle

The Mystery Castle was built in the 1930s by Boyce Luther Gulley, a reclusive artist and craftsman who created the castle using salvaged materials and found objects. The castle is full of curious and unexpected details, such as a wishing well-made from a converted stove, a chapel featuring a chandelier made from a bicycle wheel, and a dungeon-like basement. The castle is also surrounded by a beautiful desert garden that features a variety of plants and cacti. Today, the Mystery Castle is open to visitors for guided tours, offering a glimpse into the creative mind of its eccentric creator and a unique and unforgettable experience for anyone interested in art, architecture, and history.

2. Spend a day at Scottsdale Fashion Square

As the largest shopping mall in Arizona and one of the largest in the Southwest, the Scottsdale Fashion Square offers a truly unparalleled shopping experience. This square has everything from luxury designer brands like Chanel and Gucci to popular favorites like Zara and H&M. In addition to its impressive range of shops. The mall boasts a vibrant atmosphere and a variety of dining and entertainment options.

“I would have to say my favorite unique thing to do in Phoenix is to spend the day shopping at Scottsdale Fashion Square,” says Jolene Eder, a local body-positive plus-size fashion & beauty blogger from Boardroom Blonde. “After, head to Steak 44 in the Biltmore area; my fiancé and I love their corn crème brûlée since it’s surprisingly sweet and delicious.”

3. Check out the Desert Botanical Garden

The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, is a unique and captivating attraction that offers a chance to experience the beauty and diversity of the Sonoran Desert. With plant displays showcasing various species, the garden provides a stunning backdrop for visitors to explore and discover the incredible flora of this unique ecosystem.

Eric Heywood, a local from Phoenix Sedan and Limo, encourages a trip to the garden. “Among the myriad of attractions and activities that Phoenix, Arizona, has to offer, the Desert Botanical Garden holds a special place in my heart. This unique attraction showcases desert flora’s beauty and diversity, with over 50,000 plants spread across five thematic trails. What sets this botanical garden apart is its focus on desert plants native to the Sonoran Desert and other arid regions worldwide. The garden is a haven for nature lovers and art enthusiasts, as it frequently hosts outdoor exhibits and installations, blending the beauty of nature with the creativity of human artistry.”

4. Schedule a photoshoot in the desert

Taking photos in the desert landscape in Phoenix, is a unique and rewarding experience that captures the raw beauty of the American Southwest. The desert provides a stunning backdrop for photographers of all levels with its vast stretches of rugged terrain, towering cacti, and dramatic rock formations.

“My favorite unique thing to do in the Phoenix area is scheduling a photo shoot in the desert, ” says Christine Deaton, a local photographer and educator. “There are so many beautiful hiking trails, but I especially love Gateway Loop in North Scottsdale. I love creating memories with the ones I love, capturing the beauty of the desert, and having pictures that will last a lifetime.” 

5. Visit the Musical Instrument Museum

The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, is a unique and fascinating attraction that music lovers should not miss. With a collection of over 7,000 instruments from around the world, you can explore the history and diversity of music across cultures and periods. Interactive exhibits and multimedia displays bring the instruments to life, allowing visitors to hear and learn about the music they create. Additionally, the museum hosts regular concerts and performances featuring musicians worldwide, adding to the immersive experience. 

6. Dine at the Farm at South Mountain

Phoenix is a culinary hub with a diverse and vibrant food scene that offers many unique dining opportunities. With influences from around the world and an abundance of fresh local ingredients, the city’s restaurants and eateries showcase a range of flavors and styles that are sure to satisfy any palate.

Shoshana Leon, a food blogger from Foodie Fo Sho shares, “A unique gem in the middle of the city offering true farm-to-table dining is the Farm at South Mountain. Enjoy breakfast at Morning Glory, a picnic lunch at the Farm Kitchen or an upscale intimate dinner at Quiessence. Walk around the farm to see produce growing and animals enjoying the sunshine, and stop by the Botanica shop for garden, patio and kitchen items from local suppliers.”

7. Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride

Taking a hot air balloon ride in Phoenix is an unforgettable experience that offers a unique and breathtaking perspective of the stunning desert landscape. With panoramic views of the mountains, canyons, and cactus-filled landscape, a hot air balloon ride allows visitors to appreciate the region’s natural beauty in a way that is impossible from the ground. As you drift peacefully through the air, you’ll be treated to a serene experience away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Additionally, many hot air balloon companies offer sunrise or sunset flights, providing the perfect opportunity to witness the vibrant colors of the desert sky.

8. Explore Papago Park 

Papago Park is a 1,200-acre destination located in the eastern part of Phoenix known for its unique rock formations, picturesque landscapes, and diverse recreational opportunities. It offers several hiking trails, including the popular Hole-in-the-Rock Trail that takes hikers up to a natural opening in the rocks, providing a stunning view of the surrounding area. Additionally, it has picnic areas, fishing lagoons, bike paths, and a golf course.

The famous “Hole-in-the-Rock” formation, a natural sandstone formation estimated to be over 20 million years old, is one of the park’s most iconic landmarks, offering a breathtaking view of the city skyline. Jose Linares, from OWZO, a local car rental company shares, “I would suggest checking out the Hole-in-the-Rock Trail. It is a short but challenging hike that leads to a natural sandstone formation with a hole in the center. The hole frames a beautiful view of the city and is a popular spot for photos.”

9. See a show at the Orpheum Theatre

The Orpheum Theatre is a beautiful and historic venue located in the heart of downtown Phoenix, Arizona. Built in 1929, the theater is a stunning example of Spanish Baroque Revival architecture and has been fully restored to its former glory. The venue hosts a wide range of shows, including concerts, comedy acts, and Broadway productions, making it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in live entertainment. In addition to its stunning interior and diverse performance schedule, the Orpheum Theatre also offers an excellent viewing experience, with great sight lines and excellent acoustics that make it a favorite among performers and audiences alike.

10. Enjoy Salt River

This pristine river flows through the Sonoran Desert and offers a picturesque setting for tubing, kayaking, paddle boarding, and hiking activities. The river has a range of rapids, from mild to wild, providing thrilling experiences for visitors. Additionally, the surrounding Tonto National Forest offers breathtaking mountains, canyons, and wildlife views.

Alexandrea Sumuel, a travel writer from Wander with Alex, shares, “Salt River is a unique outdoor activity for locals and tourists during the hot summer. The Salt River is just a short drive from Phoenix and is a beautiful place to spend a day floating down the river on an inner tube. Several tubing rental companies in the area offer tube rentals, shuttle service to the river, and all the necessary equipment. The float down the Salt River takes about two to four hours, depending on the river’s flow rate. It’s a fun and relaxing way to beat the heat and enjoy a day on the water.”

11. Tour Taliesin West

Taliesin West is a unique and historically significant destination in Phoenix, Arizona, that offers visitors the chance to experience the iconic architecture and vision of Frank Lloyd Wright. The winter home and studio of the famous American architect was built in the early 1930s and served as his personal residence until his death in 1959. Today, Taliesin West is a National Historic Landmark that is home to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the School of Architecture at Taliesin. Visitors can take guided tours of the property to explore the unique and innovative design features of the building, including the use of natural materials, the integration of indoor and outdoor spaces, and the use of geometric shapes and patterns.

12. Stroll down Grand Avenue

Exploring Grand Avenue in Phoenix is a unique experience that offers visitors a glimpse into the city’s rich history and vibrant culture. The avenue is home to a diverse array of shops, galleries, and restaurants, as well as several historic buildings and landmarks. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll down the avenue to admire the colorful murals and street art or stop in at one of the many local businesses to grab a bite to eat or browse the eclectic collection of artwork and vintage items for sale. Grand Avenue also hosts several annual events, including the Grand Avenue Festival, which celebrates the arts, music, and culture of the neighborhood. Whether you’re a history buff, an art lover, or simply looking for a unique and authentic Phoenix experience, a visit to Grand Avenue is definitely worth your time.

This article originally appeared on Redfin.com. Photo Credit: [@sepavone/DepositPhotos]

12 Unique Things to Do in Phoenix Every Local Should Know About
Ana de Guzman

Ana is part of the content marketing team at Redfin.com and enjoys writing about home improvement and life & style. Her dream house would be a contemporary style with lots of natural light.