Though it’s just a few hours away from Las Vegas, Phoenix’s vibrant cultural scene makes it worth a weekend getaway. From the museums to the music to the endless golf courses, Phoenix is an oasis in the middle of a desert, ripe and ready for visitors.
Here are just a few must-sees in the sunny city:
1. Unique Museums
Phoenix’s museums are a centerpiece of the city’s booming culture. While many of the museums are dedicated to traditional, contemporary and modern art exhibits, some are a little more off the beaten path. The Heard Museum showcases Native American cultures and aims to educate visitors on the heritage, living culture and art of the Native people in the Southwest. The Musical Instrument Museum is another one of Phoenix’s staples, being the largest museum of its type in the world and showcasing a collection of more than 15,000 music instruments from around the world.
2. Festivals Year-Round
Beautiful year-round weather draws crowds outside regardless of the season, leading to a never-ending lineup of festivals and fairs in the Phoenix area. From food to music to art, there’s a festival for everything. Check out the Arizona Taco Festival in nearby Scottsdale, where festivalgoers can experience a weekend of “Lucha Libre Wrestling,” taco contests, a Chihuahua beauty pageant and a tequila expo. Other noteworthy festivals include the True Music Festival and the Cala Festival.
3. Golf Courses Galore
The desert oasis turns into a golfer’s heaven, and Phoenix is renowned for its lush and leisurely courses. Try the We-Ko-Pa Golf Club, featuring two layouts on land owned by the Yavapai nation east of Scottsdale. One course goes through canyons and down mountain slopes. The Boulders lures golfers through courses rich with prehistoric rocks.
4. Desert Botanical Garden
Tucked away in the desert is a luscious botanical garden spanning 140 acres. Dating back to the 1930s, the Desert Botanical Garden now boasts more than 21,000 plants including more than 100 rare, threatened or endangered species. Take a guided tour or check out one of the exhibits, like the Butterfly Exhibit where hundreds of butterflies thrive in their colorful home, or the spring concert series called “Music in the Garden.”
5. First Friday
The first and third Fridays of every month bring art to the streets of Phoenix. Artlink, a nonprofit dedicated to a thriving Phoenix art community, organizes a tour that goes throughout the city, taking advantage of the METRO light rail as well as a free trolley service. Exhibits, galleries, venues and studios display a variety of art mingled among participating bars and restaurants. Participating venues are generally clumped together, making it easy for visitors to walk from place to place.
6. Mystery Castle
Built back in the 1930s, the three-story Mystery Castle is held together with a handful of unusual ingredients, like mortar, cement, goat milk and calcium. On top of that, the builder, Boyce Luther Gulley, used materials like stones, telephone poles and car parts. Visitors are drawn to its 18 rooms, some of which remain unfinished to this day, but invite tours nonetheless.
7. Surrounding hikes
While the city is filled with endless adventures for visitors, outdoor enthusiasts can find a hike or two to do in the area. Tom’s Thumb weaves hikers through 3.7 miles of trail and vegetation and hikers get glimpses and views of Phoenix and nearby mountains. In addition, a short, family-friendly hike leads to Waterfall Canyon, and it can even be hiked at night.
8. Live music venues
The arts scene isn’t the only thriving cultural staple of the city — Phoenix offers a variety of live music venues as well. For an intimate blues and jazz venue, check out the Rhythm Room. It’s a small venue with a small dance floor, but locals and visitors alike say there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Another renowned venue is the Celebrity Theatre, which features a round, spinning stage.