Phoenix, Arizona offers a different charm from other tourist destinations out there and it’s all because of its desert, challenging outdoor hikes, lively culture, and exciting nightlife that makes every visit worthwhile. You can find plenty of activities all year long may it be day trips, family travel, or a backpacking type of trip. Whatever you decide to do, there’s also a way to save a big portion of your travel fund. So without further adieu, here are 20 free things to do in Phoenix, Arizona.
1. Beat the heat in Camelback Mountain
Start your trip with a challenging hike at the Camelback Mountain. This iconic outdoor destination in Phoenix is in every mountaineer’s bucket list because of the adrenaline-pumping trails that it has. On top of the trail, it gives you a very rewarding 360-degree view of the city. If you want to take this challenge, you can choose between the Echo Canyon Trail and Cholla Trail. The latter is a little bit longer than the former but both are tricky trails so be sure not to underestimate any of them.
2. Explore the trails of South Mountain Park
Can’t get enough of Camelback Mountain? If so, the South Mountain Park is just waiting for you. Another popular outdoor destination in Phoenix, this park holds exciting trails for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking. The most popular and the highest point in the park is the Dobbins Lookout which gives tourists a beautiful panoramic view of Phoenix. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or not, you can always find the suitable trail for you in South Mountain Park.
3. Get an authentic cowboy experience at Goldfield Ghost Town
While you’re in Phoenix, you might want to grab this opportunity to take a side trip 35 miles southeast of town. Here lies the Goldfield Ghost Town which is also one of the most popular tourist attractions in Arizona. Not only that the buildings look very Western, thousands of tourists go here to experience the Old West Era from series of activities like the gold mine tour, horseback riding, train ride, shooting range, reptile exhibit, and zip line. Entrance to Goldfield Ghost Town is for free. You can stroll around and still enjoy the Old West view without spending a buck but activities have a price on their own though.
4. Appreciate Art in Roosevelt Row
Right at the heart of Phoenix is the Roosevelt Row, a walkable arts district offering art galleries and spaces, street art, and events like the most popular First Fridays Art Walk. Every first Friday of the month, a free self-guided art walk is a big attraction in the Roosevelt Row where you can take a tour of 70 galleries and art spaces. Boutiques, live music, and restaurants are also alive in this district so be sure not to miss one if you pass by.
5. Chill and hang out on Phoenix’s best live music spots
Live music soothes the mind and relieves stress. Whether you’re jet-lagged or just drained out from exploring this beautiful town, listening to live music is the perfect remedy and Phoenix has the best spots for that. For First Friday Walks, Roosevelt Row has free live music to wrap up a night of art appreciation with a bang. Desert Ridge also has free live music from local artists. The Lost Leaf has free live music every night starting at 9 pm from top musicians all over Arizona. You can also add The Vig in your list of choices because it is also a cool place to listen to live music every night. Be sure to check out these spots if you want to have a good time in Phoenix.
6. Ditch the entrance fee and visit the Phoenix Art Museum
Add this up in your itinerary for the First Friday Walk because the Phoenix Museum offers free admission every first Friday of the month too. This museum houses over 17,000 artworks from all over the world– including American, Asian, European, Western American and Latin American. Modern art and Fashion Design also has an exhibit here. However, if you missed the First Friday walk, you can still enter the museum for free on Wednesdays from 3 pm to 9 pm, second Saturdays from 10 am to 5 pm, and second Sundays from noon to 5 pm. Donations are very appreciated during these days.
7. Spend an afternoon at Desert Botanical Garden
This local treasure in Central Phoenix is a botanical garden and a museum in one. Known as one of the Phoenix Point of Pride, this 50-acre land has over 21,000 native plants on display. With its series of trails, you’ll be able to discover different desert plants from all over the world and understand how these plants are used by desert dwellers. There are also special events for kids, landscapers, gardeners, and photographers. Music events, workshops, photoshoots, and classes are also held in this garden. Admission is free every second Tuesday of the month from 8 am to 8 pm. Be sure to mark your calendars so you won’t miss it.
8. Learn the city’s history at Arizona Capitol Museum
A big chunk of Arizona’s history can be seen in Phoenix so consider yourself blessed having the chance to get to know it deeper in the Arizona Capitol Museum. A visit to this 4-story museum gives you access to Arizona’s social, cultural, political, economic and environmental history. All these historical facts are found in over 20 exhibits in the museum. Aside from exhibits, the museum also invite distinguished speakers for informative and inspirational talks. Admission is free and the museum is open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 4 pm.
9. Browse local goods in Phoenix farmers market
Visiting a Farmer’s market is a great way to see cheap and high-quality local goods. Good thing Phoenix also supports such thing. But as we all know, these farmer markets are usually seasonal so better check on them first before adding this in your bucket list of free things to do in Phoenix. There are various farmers markets to choose from Roadrunner Park Farmers Market, Ahwatukee Farmers Market, The Capitol Farmers Market, Sun City Farmers Market, Goodyear Farmers Market, and a lot more. You can find a variety of fresh farm produce anywhere you go. Fresh pastries and bread are offered too.
10. Be a kid at Enchanted Island
Although this themed-park is aimed at the kids, who says kids at heart can’t share the fun? The Enchanted Island offers free admission to everyone but you have to pay for each ride though. One of the popular rides in Enchanted Island is the seven-minute train ride which gives you a tour of the entire park. Most of the rides are for kids but adults can also enjoy rides like the carousel, parachute tower, climbing wall, and the castle clash game. This themed-park is a great family activity for tourists and locals.
11. Support contemporary artists in Mesa Arts Center
If you have a lot of time to spare listening to free concerts and live music head on to Mesa Arts Center in One East Main Street. It is located 19 miles from downtown Phoenix. This facility holds various free live concerts, events, and performances from different world-class artists in Arizona. It also has theaters, art galleries, and art studios. Its lunch concert series which occur seasonally is one of the top free things to do here.
12. Take the youngsters to Children’s Museum of Phoenix
Traveling with a youngster can get stressful but when times get rough, the Children’s Museum of Phoenix is always the perfect fix. If you happen to be in Phoenix on the first Friday of the month, take your kids to this paradise for an afternoon of fun… for free! Free First Friday hours are from 5 pm to 9 pm. The museum has an Art Studio, Blocks, Book Loft, Grand Ballroom, and lots of interactive activities for the young minds. This will surely be an unforgettable afternoon for your kids so go ahead and don’t miss this free thing to do in Phoenix.
13. Go behind the scenes of Cerreta Candy company’s sweet treats
Satisfy your sweet tooth or watch this candy company make magical treats in front of you. Approximately 30 minutes from Phoenix, Cerreta Candy Company offers a free 30-minute factory tour from Monday through Friday at 10 am and 1 pm. You can watch your favorite treats come to life with this tour and, you can also get the chance to build and take home your own chocolate pizza at the end of this tour.
14. Watch a Minor League baseball game
Baseball is a huge sport all over America so while you’re in Phoenix during the game season, why not watch a Minor League baseball game with a few friends? Grab a few snacks and drink, head over to your local ballpark, and enjoy the game. You can also make this a great family time with your kids!
15. Catch local players play football in the Arizona Cardinals Training Camp
If you’re a football fan, don’t you think watching Arizona Cardinals play for free is a good idea? Get updated on this year’s training camp schedule so you’ll know when to free up a day to catch your boys at the University of Phoenix Stadium. Be sure to wear your Cardinals merch to show them extra love while you’re still in town.
16. Explore the world of science at Arizona Science Center
This amazing facility holds a lot of science exhibitions and activities for visitors of all ages. Entrance to Arizona Science Center may not be for free but with the Phoenix Public Library Culture Pass Program, you can save a few bucks with your entrance ticket. The culture pass is limited first come first serve basis but it’s still worth a try though. The Arizona Science Center has a planetarium, theater, and permanent exhibits you can enjoy. The CREATE makerspace is also a great experience for collaboration and exploration.
17. Visit the Arizona Coyotes Training Camp
Hockey is not played in every corner of the world so it is definitely a great chance to watch the game in person while you’re in a quick vacation in Phoenix. Although the training camp location is not in the heart of Phoenix, a few minutes drive to Glendale will also not hurt. The schedule varies per year so check out the dates and time of these public practice sessions.
18. Awaken the bookworm in you at the Phoenix Public Library
Public libraries are every city’s gem because not only they come with good stuff but they’re also for free. With the impressive and up-to-date collection of books, Phoenix Public Library is not an exception. Located at Park Central, you can surely find books, movies, and music that will best fit your taste. Go ahead and spend a day at Phoenix Public Library before you catching a long flight back home.
19. Take a peek at Himeji in Japanese Friendship Garden
The Japanese Friendship Garden in Phoenix will transport you to the other side of the world. This 3.5-acre garden serves as a link between Phoenix and Himeji, its sister city in Japan. It has a 12-foot waterfall, streams, ponds, and koi. The Japanese vibe of the garden makes it perfect for events like Yoga, Tai Chi, and etc. The Japanese Friendship Garden is free every first Friday of the month.
20. Catch sunsets at McDowell Sonoran Preserve
Here another gem to add in your list of free things to do. The McDowell Sonoran Preserve in the outskirts of Phoenix consists of 5 major trails of almost 170 miles namely Brown’s Ranch Trailhead, Tom Thumb, Gateway Trailhead, Lost Dog Wash and Sunrise Trailhead. Hike through a trail of cacti but don’t go too slow so you won’t miss the spectacular sunset at the peak. The McDowell Sonoran Preserve is also accessible from other nearby cities of Phoenix and considered one of the best things to do from Mesa, Scottsdale, and Tempe as well.
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