18 Best Free things to do in Phoenix

Free things to do in Phoenix: When traveling, you aim for a balance between enjoyment and budget consciousness. Fortunately, Phoenix, Arizona, provides an abundance of solutions to this dilemma. While the downtown district may exude a metropolitan, upscale ambiance, the theambienceng city offers numerous free or affordable outdoor, artistic, adventurous, and cultural activities.

Spread across the Valley of the Sun, there are countless museums, trails, markets, and historical sites that won’t break the bank. With around 300 sunny days annually, Phoenix grants ample opportunities for exploring the outdoors at no cost, and the local cultural scene invites you to appreciate world-renowned art.

To help shape your itinerary with wallet-friendly activities, here’s a comprehensive list of free things to do in the Phoenix area. Discover the best of Phoenix and its surroundings without exceeding your budget. Always check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

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1. Connect with the Local Art Scene

Undergoing a renaissance akin to other U.S. urban centres, downcentresoenix sees a vibrant transformation. Each first Friday g, Roosevelt Row becomes a hub for the art community, presenting the latest creations of creative minds (verify the monthly event’s status on the ArtLink website).

Diverse galleries contribute to this cultural tapestry, exemplified by the Revival Art Collective. This venue spans 2,000 sq. feet, housing numerous artist studios and creative spaces that showcase the work of local talents. With a myriad of themes, these galleries collectively embody the artistic pulse of Phoenix, offering a glimpse into the dynamic and evolving creative landscape of this burgeoning urban space.

2. Desert Botanical Garden

Free things to do in Phoenix, Desert Botanical Garden

Discover the allure of the Desert Botanical Garden, a quintessential Phoenix attraction that unfolds across acres of trails adorned with thousands of desert plants. Admission is free every second Tuesday of the month, offering an ideal opportunity to explore miles of hiking trails and outdoor art installations.

This unique outdoor haven boasts over 21,000 plants, including an impressive array of 1,350 cacti types, showcasing the world’s finest collection of arid plants from diverse deserts, including Australia and South America.

The Garden’s five thematic trails delve into topics such as conservation, desert living, Sonoran Desert flora and fauna, and enchanting desert wildflowers. Beyond the trails, enjoy specialized tours, events, concerts, and family activities, and indulge in culinary delights at Gertrude’s restaurant and Patio Café.

Don’t miss the Garden’s gift and plant shop. A fall visit reveals a magical spectacle as monarch butterflies grace the garden during their migration to and from Mexico.

3. Check Out a Museum

Free things to do in Phoenix, Check Out a Museum

Explore the Phoenix Art Museum, the Southwest’s premier hub of classic and contemporary art, offering complimentary admission every Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

This cultural gem houses one of acclaimed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s mesmerizing “Infinity Rooms,” a dark, mirrored space simulating a stroll in the night sky. Since its inauguration in 1959, the museum has burgeoned into the largest art institution in the southwestern United States, fostering access to visual arts and educational programs in Arizona.

Over 60 years, millions have flocked to witness a diverse array of national and international exhibitions alongside the museum’s expansive collection, encompassing over 20,000 objects spanning American, Asian, European, Latin American, Western American, modern and contemporary art, photography, and fashion design.

4. Heard Museum

Free things to do in Phoenix, Heard Museum

Immerse yourself in the internationally acclaimed Heard Museum, a paramount destination to explore the rich cultures and artistry of American Indians in the Southwest.

Nestled on Central Avenue in downtown Phoenix, this cultural haven annually welcomes 200,000 visitors, serving as a vibrant home for Indian artists and a source of inspiration for global patrons.

With 11 expansive exhibit galleries and inviting outdoor courtyards, the museum showcases both traditional and contemporary American Indian art. Delight in the Heard Museum Shop’s authentic Native art, or explore the Berlin Gallery for exquisite contemporary fine art.

Look out for lively events like Indian fairs and hoop dancing competitions, complemented by free guided tours throughout the day. With occasional free entry on the first Friday of each month (except March), guests can effortlessly spend two to three hours exploring, including a visit to the well-stocked bookstore and superb gift shop.

5. Children’s Museum of Phoenix

Free things to do in Phoenix, Children's Museum of Phoenix

Discover the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, a haven of hands-on, interactive exhibits meticulously designed to captivate the minds, muscles, and imaginations of children up to the age of 10, along with the caring grown-ups accompanying them.

Embark on thrilling adventures such as ascending to new heights in the Climber, navigating the whimsical Noodle Forest, or constructing imaginative forts in Building Big. Operating from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Tuesday through Sunday, with added Mondays in June and July, the museum is not only a dynamic space for exploration but also an ideal venue for parties or corporate events. The unique facility accommodates gatherings ranging from formal dinners to themed birthday extravaganzas, offering access to performers, caterers, and creative ideas to enhance the experience.

6. Hike the challenging trails at Camelback Mountain

Free things to do in Phoenix, Camelback Mountain

Discover the allure of hiking in Phoenix, where Camelback Mountain stands as a premier destination, renowned nationally for its 2,706-foot peak dominating the skyline.

The challenging 1.14-mile Echo Canyon trail leads intrepid hikers to the summit, offering a strenuous but rewarding workout and spectacular views of the Valley of the Sun. During the Christmas season, encounters Camelback Santa distributing candy canes near his tree.

Explore South Mountain Park in Scottsdale, sprawling across 16,000 acres with more than 50 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails. The main trails pose extreme difficulty, demanding careful preparation with ample water and strategic rests.

The short yet steep Echo Canyon Trail (4925 E McDonald Dr) involves hands-on scrambling over boulders and rewards hikers with breathtaking views. For a non-hiking option, reach the park’s highest point, Dobbins Lookout, at 2,330 feet, accessible by car and offering sweeping vistas of Phoenix and the valley beyond

7. Penske Racing Museum

Free things to do in Phoenix, Penske Racing Museum

Explore the extraordinary Penske Racing Museum, a captivating showcase featuring a remarkable collection of cars, trophies, and racing memorabilia that meticulously chronicles the illustrious career of one of the most triumphant dynasties in sports history.

With over 40 years of racing expertise and an impressive tally of 300 major race victories, Penske Racing’s legacy is brought to life within the museum’s walls.

Noteworthy displays include diverse Penske Racing cars, such as a replica of the 1963 Pontiac Catalina that propelled Roger Penske to victory in the 1963 Riverside 250, and the 2009 Dallara driven by Helio Castroneves to win the 2009 Indy 500.

Nestled within the Scottsdale 101 Auto Collection, this museum is a must-visit, offering free admission to all, and providing an immersive journey through the triumphs and achievements of this iconic sports dynasty.

8. Wander through the street art at Roosevelt Row

Free things to do in Phoenix, street art at Roosevelt Row

Embark on a captivating journey through the vibrant street art of Roosevelt Row, a downtown neighbourhood that has become a fashionable destination for both drinks and artistic exploration.

This urban enclave, pulsating with creativity, is driven by a mission to promote arts-focused initiatives, fostering a dynamic and sustainable space for artists, entrepreneurs, and residents alike.

As you stroll through the area, revel in the myriad murals adorning the streets, each telling a unique story. The arts district is adorned with locally owned shops, bars, and restaurants, contributing to the district’s eclectic atmosphere. For a more elevated experience, consider ascending to From the Rooftop at Cambria Hotel Downtown Phoenix.

This rooftop bar offers a panoramic view of the city skyline, and during happy hours on Wednesdays and Thursdays, patrons can indulge in half-priced food while savouring the enchanting ambience high above the city.

9. Follow the scenic loop around Tempe Town Lake

Free things to do in Phoenix, Tempe Town Lake

Indulge in the serenity of the scenic 7-mile loop enveloping Tempe Town Lake, a perennial reservoir established in 1999 that has evolved into a recreational nucleus for a town boasting over 180,000 residents.

Tailored for walkers, cyclists, and runners, the path gracefully meanders along the lake’s north and south sides, seamlessly connected by bridges at Priest Dr and Mural Rd. Should you seek a shorter route, opt for the pedestrian bridge near the Tempe Center for the Arts.

Enriching the journey are numerous pieces of public art adorning both sides of the walkway, enhancing the experience with cultural and visual delights against the backdrop of the picturesque lake.

10. It’s always free to visit Arizona State University’s Art Museum

Arizona State University’s Art Museum

Explore the Arizona State University’s Art Museum, a haven of creativity embracing the ethos “Arte para todos. Art for all,” committed to advancing the future through education in social justice and equity.

Delight in the museum’s ever-changing and free exhibitions, providing visitors with a continual stream of fresh perspectives. Nestled in Phoenix, a city that seamlessly blends outdoor adventure with urban vibrancy, this former ranch town, now Arizona’s largest city, offers a unique fusion of experiences.

Immerse yourself in a lively arts scene, savour dishes crafted by a James Beard Award-winning chef, and then venture beyond the city to discover the desert’s wonders on horseback or ascend the iconic Camelback Mountain.

11. Take a Stroll Through History in Heritage Square

Step back into Phoenix’s Victorian era with a stroll through Heritage Square, a charming enclave that stands as the city’s oldest remaining residential block, dating back to the 1800s.

Anchoring the square is the Rosson House Museum, a meticulously restored 1895 Queen Anne Victorian house museum offering insights into Phoenix’s rich history. Amidst the modernity of downtown Phoenix, Heritage Square serves as a preserved cluster of late-Victorian and early-20th-century homes, recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.

Sensitively repurposed, these buildings now house a crafting space, shops, galleries, restaurants, and a visitor centre. Explore the well-restored Rosson House Museum, providing a glimpse into the past for a modest $12 admission fee, and appreciate the juxtaposition of historic charm against the backdrop of the bustling city.

12. Take part in a self-guided art walk on First Fridays

Engage in the vibrant arts scene of Phoenix through the monthly First Friday event, held from 6–10 pm every first Friday of the month, standing as one of the nation’s largest self-guided art walks.

Explore over 70 galleries, event venues, and art-related spaces scattered across the city, offering a diverse array of artistic expressions. As a special treat, revellers enjoy complimentary admission to the Phoenix Art Museum, enhancing the cultural experience.

To facilitate exploration, a convenient hop-on, hop-off light rail traverses downtown Phoenix’s art districts, ensuring ease of movement and accessibility to the myriad artistic offerings. Immerse yourself in the dynamic cultural tapestry of the city, where First Fridays become a celebration of creativity, diversity, and the thriving arts community.

13. Take a hike to Piestewa Peak

Piestewa Peak

Embark on a challenging yet rewarding adventure by hiking to Piestewa Peak, a majestic summit adorned with saguaros, ocotillos, and teddy bear cholla.

This peak, nestled in the Phoenix Mountains and standing as the second-highest point after Camelback Mountain, offers panoramic vistas as a tribute to Arizona’s American Indian soldier Lori Piestewa. Honouring her legacy, Piestewa Peak stands as a testament to bravery and sacrifice.

The ascent, a demanding 1.1-mile trek to the 2600ft peak, remains a popular choice, attracting avid hikers seeking both a physical challenge and the allure of breathtaking views. It’s essential to note that the park experiences high traffic on winter weekends, underscoring the importance of careful parking planning for a seamless exploration of this natural gem.

14. Admire the many stalls at Phoenix Farmers Market

Phoenix Farmers Market

Immerse yourself in a delightful sensory experience at the expansive Phoenix Farmers Market, an open-air haven that showcases a plethora of culinary treasures. Revel in the abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, indigenous delicacies, artisanal bread, aromatic spices, flavorful pastes, salsas, and organic meats.

The market also beckons with the tantalizing offerings of BBQ trucks and an array of additional delights, including jewellery, textiles, and invigorating body products. Beyond a mere shopping excursion, the market becomes a captivating spectacle, a visual feast for all who wander through its stalls.

Whether you choose to make purchases or simply soak in the vibrant atmosphere, the market stands as a testament to local business vitality, presenting a wonderful opportunity to support the dedicated vendors who contribute to this vibrant tapestry of culinary and artisanal excellence.

15. People-Watch At The Scottsdale Waterfront

Scottsdale Waterfront

Indulge in the chic ambience of the Scottsdale Waterfront, an elegant community nestled in Downtown Scottsdale between Scottsdale Road and Marshall Way. While technically not within Phoenix, the mere 20-minute (12.3 miles) journey from Phoenix to Scottsdale’s waterfront proves to be a worthwhile excursion.

This urban oasis beckons with scenic canal views, verdant greenery, and inviting benches, creating an idyllic setting for people-watching, leisurely picnics, or simply basking in the serene atmosphere.

Beyond its tranquil charm, the Scottsdale Waterfront frequently transforms into a hub of activity, hosting local events and festivals that infuse an extra layer of entertainment, providing an immersive experience into the vibrant local culture. Elevate your leisurely pursuits amidst this stylish and sophisticated enclave.

16. Visit South Mountain Park And Preserve

South Mountain Park And Preserve

Embark on a cost-free exploration of the expansive South Mountain Park and Preserve, an urban wilderness oasis that stands as one of Phoenix’s premier free attractions.

Spanning over 16,000 acres, this vast municipal park ranks among the largest in the United States, presenting a diverse array of activities amidst its rugged desert terrain.

Delve into the captivating landscapes through an extensive network of hiking trails, accommodating various skill levels—from challenging ascents to strolls. Wander through picturesque terrain adorned with desert flora, encounter intriguing rock formations, and revel in panoramic vistas of the city skyline.

For cycling enthusiasts, the park offers an exhilarating experience with a comprehensive network of mountain biking trails weaving through the desert, ensuring an adrenaline-pumping adventure for all who seek the thrill of outdoor exploration.

17. See Hotel Westward Ho, a Phoenix landmark

Hotel Westward Ho, a Phoenix landmark

Behold the enduring elegance of Hotel Westward Ho, an adored Phoenix icon that has gracefully withstood the test of time since its inauguration in 1928. Standing tall at 16 stories, this landmark held the distinction of Arizona’s tallest building for over three decades until 1960.

Once a haven for celebrities and politicians—John F. Kennedy graced the establishment with his presence in 1961—the hotel faced a period of decline, ultimately closing its doors in 1980. Recognizing its historical significance, the National Register of Historic Places bestowed its designation in 1982.

The property transformed into a low-income housing complex in 1981, exclusively for senior citizens, and in 2017, a meticulous multi-million dollar renovation breathed new life into its original facades, including the restoration of a historic fountain.

18. A visit to Phoenix Zoo

Embark on a nature-filled adventure with your little ones at the Phoenix Zoo, where four trails wind through diverse habitats hosting over 3,000 animals. Encounter cheetahs, monkeys, Asian elephants, three-toed box turtles, and Mexican gray wolves.

The Red Barn petting zoo and giraffe encounter offer engaging experiences for young tots. Consider the 25-minute narrated safari cruiser tour for a comprehensive zoo overview. Recent visitors, particularly those with children, praised the zoo’s cleanliness and plethora of activities.

However, some expressed disappointment with added costs and the overall high admission price. Summer visitors cautioned about potential reduced animal activity due to heat but highlighted the allure of the zoo’s water features, featuring multiple splash pads for those seeking refreshing moments amid the wildlife exploration.

Conclusion: Free things to do in Phoenix

As the trend of favoring affordable travel destinations grows, Phoenix emerges as a lively option for budget-conscious travelers seeking cost-free experiences in the United States.

Situated in the heart of the Sonoran Desert, this Arizona city welcomes visitors with limited budgets to explore its distinctive charm without overspending. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a history aficionado, or simply seeking sunny relaxation, Phoenix caters to diverse interests.

From invigorating hikes amid towering saguaro cacti in nearby desert preserves to peaceful strolls along the tranquil Salt River, the city offers a plethora of free and awe-inspiring outdoor activities.

In conclusion, Phoenix stands as a treasure trove for those seeking enriching experiences without spending a dime. From the natural wonders of Camelback Mountain and Papago Park to the cultural richness found in museums like the Phoenix Art Museum, this vibrant city offers a variety of cost-free activities.

Whether you’re strolling through South Mountain Park, enjoying the first Friday free admissions at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, or exploring the Valley of the Sun’s rainy-day options, Phoenix proves that memorable moments need not come with a price tag.

Embrace the wealth of free attractions, and let the spirit of Phoenix unfold in a budget-friendly adventure. So pack your bags and plan your trip.

FAQs: Free things to do in Phoenix

Q. What are the essential activities one should undertake in Phoenix?

A. Whether time is limited or you’re aiming to explore the top attractions, the must-visit places in Phoenix include the Desert Botanical Garden, Camelback Mountain, Musical Instrument Museum, Phoenix Zoo, and Phoenix Art Museum.

Q. What enjoyable activities can be pursued in Phoenix without spending money?
A. You can have a great time in the Valley of the Sun without emptying your wallet. Free and enjoyable activities in Phoenix include exploring Camelback Mountain, Papago Park, South Mountain Park and Preserve, visiting the Phoenix Art Museum (free admission from 3 to 9 p.m. the first Friday of the month and every Wednesday from 3 to 9 p.m.), and experiencing the Children’s Museum of Phoenix (free admission from 5 to 9 p.m. the first Friday of every month).

Q. What activities can be enjoyed in Phoenix during rainy weather?

Answer: When rain interrupts your plans in Phoenix, explore the city’s premier museums like the Phoenix Art Museum, the Heard Museum, or the Musical Instrument Museum. Families with children can opt for indoor attractions such as Legoland Discovery Center Arizona, the OdySea Aquarium, or Butterfly Wonderland. For those inclined towards shopping, indulge in some retail therapy at Scottsdale Fashion Square.

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