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Phoenix is a great city to visit with an endless array of family-friendly and outdoor attractions to explore. Sure, it’s easy to spend a small fortune here if you like to shop, dine at trendy restaurants, and stay in high-end resorts. But there are also lots of free things to do around town to help you stick to your vacation budget and get to know the city a bit better. In no particular order, here are a few fun and free things to do in Phoenix for your next trip to Arizona.
The most well-known and popular outdoor hiking route in the Phoenix area is Camelback Mountain. The trails to get to the top of the mountain are definitely challenging, but well worth the effort for some awesome views and great exercise. Keep in mind that the Phoenix heat makes this hike extra challenging, so start your hike as early in the morning as possible. Both the Echo Canyon Trail and the Cholla Trail will take you to the top but be prepared for some crowds on this very popular trail.
To experience the artsy side of Phoenix, make a point to spend some time on Roosevelt Row. This is a place for both street art and street festivals. Come here to check out amazing street art and to take photos of all the colorful pieces that you see. There are lots of murals here that have been created by obscure and well-known artists in the Phoenix area. You’ll find them between Seventh Street and Seventh Avenue and between McDowell Road and Jefferson Street. And since this is an evolving street art scene, there’s always something different and new to check out when you’re in the area.
If you happen to be in Phoenix on the first Friday of the month, make sure to attend the city’s First Friday event. On this magical day, the city embraces a street festival vibe with lots of food trucks, live music, and art galleries open late. You’ll find the festivities in the Roosevelt Row Arts District, which is full of galleries and boutique shops. Stop by between 6pm and 10pm on the first Friday of any month, or alternatively, you can take a complimentary tour on the third Fridays of each month from 7pm to 10pm. There are over 70 galleries and venues in the area and hop-on/hop-off free shuttles that you can take to go through the city’s art districts. Artlink Free Friday Trolley stops are located at the Arizona Center, Oasis on Grand, and the Phoenix Art Museum.
South Mountain Park is totally free to visit and offers amazing views of the city and surrounding landscapes. This is a large city park that spans over 16,000 acres in size and features desert mountain terrain. Come here to hike or bike early in the morning to beat the summer heat. There are over 51 miles of trails here, and some that are also good for horseback riding. For awesome views of the valley, either hike to the lookout or drive down Summit Road. Trail hours are 5am to 11pm.
Although most museums in Phoenix, including the Phoenix Art Museum, come with an admission fee, there are some ways to work around this. For example, the Phoenix Art Museum offers free admission to guests on Wednesdays from 3pm to 9pm, on the first Fridays of the month from 6pm to 10pm, on the second Saturdays of the month from 10am to 5pm, and on the second Sundays of the month from noon to 5pm. Come here to see over 18,000 works of art from all over the world, as well as fashion design, photography, and educational programs. Check the museum’s website to see what the current exhibitions are and if any special events are going on.
The Desert Botanical Garden is a must-visit destination for your trip to Phoenix, and you can check it out for free if you visit on the second Tuesday of each month. This is a fun place to learn about desert plants on well-maintained trails, and it’s the largest botanical garden in the southwest. The garden is open from 8am to 8pm on free Tuesdays from October to April and from 7am to 8pm between the months of May and September. Some highlights to see include the Center for Desert Living Trail, the Harriet K. Maxwell Desert Wildflower Loop, and the Desert Terrace Garden.
This is one of the few Phoenix museums that is free to the public at all times, and it’s a great place to learn about the history of the city. The museum is located in what used to be Arizona’s state capitol building and includes a variety of artifacts and works of art. Here you can learn about the colorful history of the state on four floors with over 20 exhibition areas. The museum is open from 9am to 4pm on weekdays and Saturdays between September and May from 10am and 2pm. There’s a museum store and coffee shop on the first floor of the North Wing. Groups tours that last approximately 45 minutes are also offered at the Arizona Capitol Museum. Also, you can find free parking in the Wesley Bolin Plaza, which is just east of the museum.
Another great way to explore the city is to browse local farmers’ markets while you’re in town. Even if you’re not in the market to buy any fruits, vegetables, or local honey, it’s fun to people-watch and walk through the markets to see what’s grown nearby. You can often find markets set up in the city and also the surrounding areas like Sun City, Tempe, and Fountain Hills. A couple of local spots to check out include the Ahwatukee Farmers’ Market and the Phoenix Public Market on North Central Avenue, both of which are open year-around.