Desert Botanical Gardens, Phoenix Arizona

18 Unique Things To Do In Phoenix (From A Local)

Looking for fun and unique things to do in Phoenix? You’ve come to the right article.

I’ve lived in Phoenix for 3 years, so I’m familiar with all the best spots! 

Phoenix is the capital of Arizona, and the largest metropolitan city in the state. Upscale resorts, museums, hiking, amazing Mexican food, Phoenix has it all.

To help you plan a memorable trip, I’ve compiled a list of 20 unique things to do in Phoenix.

From getting a bird’s eye view of the city in a hot air balloon to exploring the desert on ATVs, this list has something for everyone. 

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20 Unique Things To Do In Phoenix

1. Explore The Desert Botanical Gardens

Desert Botanical Gardens, Phoenix Arizona
Desert Botanical Gardens, Phoenix Arizona

The Desert Botanical Gardens is a stunning 140 acre desert botanical garden nestled in the red rocks.

This botanical garden is huge, and it took me over an hour to explore when I visited!

It has over 50,000 beautiful desert plants, a butterfly exhibit, herb garden, and gift shop.

Desert Botanical Gardens, Phoenix Arizona
Desert Botanical Gardens, Phoenix Arizona

This is a great place to walk around for a few hours, and you’ll get to spot lizards and hummingbirds throughout the gardens.

They’re located right in Papago Park, and they have free admission every second Tuesday of the month.

1201 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ. Entry costs $24.95 for adults (18+), $14.95 for children (3-17). Get tickets here. Open Sun-Thurs 8am to 8pm, Fri-Sat 8am to 4pm, 5:30-9:30pm.

2. Go On A Morning Hot Air Balloon Ride

With beautiful desert mountains and valleys, Phoenix is the perfect place to ride a hot air balloon.

Enjoy beautiful panoramic views of the Sonoran desert on a morning hot air balloon ride, followed by a fancy champagne brunch.

Whether you’re on a family trip or couples getaway, this is something exciting to scratch off the bucket list. If you’re not a morning person, there are sunset hot air balloon rides as well. 

3. Visit The Musical Instrument Museum 

The Musical Instrument Museum is one of the most unique places downtown Phoenix has to offer.

This museum homes over 15,000 instruments from around the world, and has interactive displays, famous musicians collections, and more.

As soon as you arrive, you’ll receive a headset to listen to the different displays throughout the museum.

The museum also has a theater, cafe, and great gift shop. If you’re a fan of music, or simply learning about different cultures, this is the place for you. 

725 E Mayo Blvd, Phoenix, AZ. Costs $20 for adults (12+), $15 for children (4-12). Open 9am to 5pm daily. Cafe open 11am to 2pm daily.

4. Shop Around Old Town Scottsdale

Old Town Scottsdale
Old Town Scottsdale (Photo by: Jeremy Alford)

Old Town Scottsdale is a charming downtown area with small boutiques, art galleries, gift shops, an Old Western museum, and many great restaurants and bars.

Some spots worth trying are the Daily Dose Bar & Grill for breakfast, the Barrio Queen for tacos, and Olive & Ivy for a fancy dinner. 

Scottsdale is only a 30 minute drive from Phoenix. Whether shopping for gifts or trying out new restaurants, it’s worth stopping by.

5. Visit The Phoenix Art Museum

Head to the Phoenix Art Museum to see Yayoi Kusama’s firefly exhibit, and tons of impressive art collections.

Not only is the art museum free to visit, but it contains over 20,000 art pieces, with everything from American Western to Latin American contemporary art.

One exhibit you won’t want to miss is Yayoi Kusama’s infinity mirror room. This is a fascinating exhibit with polka dots, mirrors, and LED lights to resemble a swarm of fireflies.

The museum also has a gift store, cafe, and is near many great restaurants. 

1625 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004. Free entrance. View museum hours

6. Hike Papago Park 

Hole In The Rock, Papago Park
Hole In The Rock, Papago Park (Photo by: Ryan Beltz)

Visit Papago Park to hike up to the iconic hole in the rock formation. The hole in the rock formation is a unique sandstone formation that you can easily hike up to. From the top, you’ll have breathtaking views of the desert, and neighboring cities, Tempe and Scottsdale.

With the trails being open till 11pm, this is the perfect place to watch the sunset. Papago park is free to visit, and has great recreational facilities, picnic areas, and fishing ponds.

You can hike an easy trail to the hole-in-the rock formation, for breathtaking views of the desert oases and red mountains. The trails are open till 11pm, so this is the perfect place to watch the sunset. 

625 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ. Admission is free. Open from 5am to 7pm. Trails open until 11pm. 

7. Go On An ATV Ride Through The Desert

If you’re not a fan of hiking, explore Phoenix’s beautiful desert landscape on an ATV tour.

You’ll get to ride rocky trails through the scenic Bradshaw mountains, learn interesting stories, and have fun off roading on ATVs.

From saguaro cacti to deep canyons, this is the perfect tour for nature lovers. Each tour includes a 1-hour safety training, so don’t worry if you’ve never ridden ATVs. 

8. Shop At Curious Nature

Curious Nature is a unique gift shop that sells antique taxidermy, crystals, and tons of strange trinkets.

Whether you’re a fan of natural history or looking for a unique gift to give a friend, this is the place to go.

4346 N 7th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85013. Open Mon-Thurs 11am to 6pm, Sat-Sun 11am to 5pm. 

9. Get A Panoramic City View From Dobbins Lookout

Dobbins Lookout
Photo by: James A Molnar

Just a half hour drive outside of Phoenix, Dobbins Lookout is a scenic overlook at 2,330 feet with unbeatable views of the city.

You can drive to the top, or hike from the park’s main entrance.

At the top, there’s benches to relax and enjoy the beautiful panoramic view of the city. This is a great place to watch the sunset, or stop by for a picnic on a cooler day. 

Located on Summit Road in South Mountain Park. Open from 5am to 7pm daily. 

10. Watch A Drive in Movie At West Wind

West Wind Glendale 9 Drive-In is a popular drive-in movie theater, just 20 minutes from Phoenix.

Visit during the day to shop at their flea market, or in the evening to watch a movie at their drive-in cinema. They sell popcorn, food, and drinks at their snack bar, and have great prices on movies.  

5650 N 55th Ave, Glendale, AZ 85301. General admission costs $8.50 (12+), and $2 for children (5-11). View their weekly showtimes

11. Hike Camelback Mountain

Camelback Mountain
Camelback Mountain (Photo by: Kyle Kempt)

Resembling a kneeling camel, Camelback Mountain is one of the most popular hikes in Phoenix.

The mountain has two moderately challenging hiking trails (Echo Canyon and Cholla), and the entire hike takes between 2-3 hours.

From the top, you’ll have breathtaking views of the Phoenix valley. Keep in mind that this hike is challenging, so it’s best to hike when the weather’s cooler, ideally in the winter.

If you love hiking and want to get a good workout in, you won’t want to miss climbing Camelback mountain. 

Parking: 5191 N Invergordon Rd, Paradise Valley, AZ, 85253, USA. Park on Invergon Road for free street parking. Open from sunrise to sunset. 

12. Get Icecream From Novel Ice Cream

For dessert, stop by Novel Ice Cream to try out their famous donut or waffle ice cream sandwich.

From gourmet flavors like lavender honey to bourbon caramel toffee crunch, this is a must try place for anyone with a sweet tooth. 

1028 Grand Ave #6, Phoenix, AZ 85007. 

13. Visit the Phoenix Zoo

Phoenix Zoo
Phoenix Zoo (Photo by: Brady Bellini)

Located right in Papago Park, the Phoenix Zoo is a large non-profit zoo that homes over 3,000 animals.

This is a great kid-friendly zoo, with giraffe feeding, camel rides, stingray petting centers, a splash pad, and more.

My favorite time to visit the zoo is during zoo lights, (late November to December).

During zoo lights, the zoo’s surrounded with Christmas decorations and millions of light displays.

455 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008. Costs $37.95 for adults (14+), $27.95 for children (3-13).

14. Play Pinball At Stardust Pinbar

Drop by Stardust Pinbar in downtown Phoenix to enjoy cocktails, live music, and pinball. This unique bar has a row of pinball machines, neon decor and a light up dance floor.

From playing pinball to enjoying pizza, this spot has the perfect ambience for a fun night out with friends. 

401 W Van Buren St suite c, Phoenix, AZ 85003. Open Mon-Thur 4pm to 1am, Fri-Sat 4pm to 2am, Sun 12pm to 1am. 

15. Solve An Escape Room

Head to Puzzle Effects to solve an escape room with a group of friends or family.

You’ll get to test your teamwork skills by solving puzzles and clues with a group of up to 10.

From pirate ships to amnesia themed game rooms, this is the perfect activity for family or friends night out. 

4700 N Central Ave Suite 102, Phoenix, AZ 85012. 

16. Visit Butterfly Wonderland

Butterfly Wonderland
Butterfly Wonderland (Photo by: Shirley Cairns)

Located in Scottsdale, Butterfly Wonderland is a huge butterfly garden with nearly 4,000 butterflies.

This is one of the largest indoor butterfly conservatories in America, and it has a theater with 3D movies, aquarium, food court, and gift shop.

You’ll get to see hundreds of colorful butterflies as you walk around the tropical rainforest gardens.

It’s just a 30 minute drive from Phoenix, and is a wonderful place to stroll around, regardless of age. 

9500 East Vía de Ventura F100, Scottsdale, AZ 85256. Costs $29.95 per adults (12+), $19.95 for children (2-12). Open 9am to 5pm daily. Last entry at 4pm. 

17. Explore The Mcdowell Sonoran Preserve

Sonoran Desert
Mcdowell Sonoran Preserve (Photo by: Emily Campbell)

The Mcdowell Sonoran Preserve is a large protected desert habitat, just 30 minutes outside of Phoenix.

It covers 35,000 acres, and has many excellent hiking trails, with informational signs about the different desert plants.

Out of the 11 main trails, the Gateway Loop is one of the easiest and most accessible.

You can park at the Gateway trailhead for free, and the area has restroom facilities and water fountains. It’s open till sunrise to sunset 

18333 N Thompson Peak Pkwy, Scottsdale, AZ 85255. No entry free. Open sunrise to sunset.

18. Take A Day Trip To The Grand Canyon And Sedona

Cathedral Rock Trail, Sedona Arizona
Cathedral Rock Trail

If you have limited time in Arizona, you can visit Sedona and the Grand Canyon all in one day on a private tour!

On this private van tour, you’ll get to see the stunning red rocks of Sedona, and drop by the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to take pictures and have lunch.

If you prefer visiting on your own, Sedona is a 2 hour drive from Phoenix, and the South Rim is a 3.5 hour drive from Phoenix.

If you have the time, I highly recommend you visit Sedona. From energy vortexes to Native American Ruins, there’s tons of unique things to do in Sedona. 


Museums, taxidermy stores, drive-in movie theaters, Phoenix has plenty of unique activities to offer.

Additionally, Phoenix is only 30 minutes from the cities Tempe and Scottsdale, which offer tons of unique activities of their own.

For more ideas on what to do in Arizona, check out our guides on unique things to do in Sedona and Scottsdale!