Papago Park

A rare peek of golden-hour sunlight on a cloudy day at Papago Park in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Tim Chow on Unsplash)

If traveling is on your to-do list in the new year, one place worth exploring is Phoenix, Arizona.  The city provides the perfect blend of urban life tucked inside a postcard-like exhibit of Mother Nature at her finest. Whether you’re in town for the Super Bowl or hoping to hike one of the country’s most beautiful parks, there’s lots to do. That’s why we went searching for the consensus best things to do in Phoenix, according to travel experts.

According to a recent study, scientists say travel therapy can benefit those dealing with mental health issues, similar to art and music therapy. Australian scientists say that the wide variety of potential destinations and attractions around the world translate to many opportunities to try unique treatments for mental health conditions like dementia. For instance, entering a new environment, and consequently having new experiences, facilitates both cognitive and sensory stimulation.

Maybe taking a trip is on your bucket list. Another study reports that the average American has 11 items on their bucket list they hope to cross off by age 47. When asked what things people are or were most excited to cross off their bucket list, traveling turned out to be a fan favorite. Seventy-seven percent of people are more likely to do something adventurous on vacation than when they are at home. When they’re on the road, the top two most popular activities are swimming and hiking, both at 34 percent.

Thankfully, there’s the potential for plenty of hiking and basking in the spectacular natural settings surrounding Phoenix.

Of course, many head to Phoenix for the sports. And 2023 is no exception with the city hosting the Super Bowl at State Farm Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals. If you’re planning a trip to Phoenix, one of the first questions you might ask is what are the best things to do there? StudyFinds compiled a list of the top five things to do in Phoenix, Arizona from ten expert websites, to find the best places for travelers to visit. If you need help finding a hotel, we’ve also compiled a list of the Best Hotels in PhoenixAs always, we’d like to see your own recommendations in the comments below!

The List: Best Things To Do In Phoenix Arizona, Per Experts

1. Hike Papago Park

The beautiful scenery in Phoenix is one of the city’s main attractions. If you are a hiking enthusiast, check out Hole in the Rock trail located at Papago Park. It’s pet friendly, and open year-round. “Generally considered an easy route, it takes an average of 7 min to complete. This is a very popular area for hiking and walking, so you’ll likely encounter other people while exploring,” according to AllTrails.

U.S. News adds, “Papago Park is popular with locals and visitors alike thanks to its proximity to downtown Phoenix (less than 10 miles east) and its massive red butte formations.” 

Papago Park in Arizona
Hiking the picturesque Papago Park in Arizona is one of the best things to do when visiting Phoenix. (Photo by Tyrel Johnson on Unsplash)

“In addition, one of its standout sights is Hunt’s Tomb – a small white pyramid in which Arizona’s first governor is buried,” notes Touropia Travel Guides.

You can find the Phoenix Zoo and the Desert Botanical Garden on Papago Park’s grounds.

2. Visit The Desert Botanical Garden

The Desert Botanical Garden is home to “55 acres under cultivation and 50,000+ plants on display showcased in stunning outdoor exhibits,” according to NOMADasaurus

“Las Noches de las Luminarias is the Desert Botanical Garden’s longest-running tradition dating back to 1978, making it a can’t-miss winter event. Leisurely stroll through the 140-acre garden lit by the luminarias while enjoying twinkling holiday lights, live music, and desert beauty for a fun and festive date night or family outing,” notes Thrillist.

3. Visit The Phoenix Zoo

Since opening its doors in 1962, the Phoenix Zoois one of the nation’s largest privately-owned, nonprofit zoos, meaning that it operates without any government funding; it is supported solely through admissions, memberships, concessions, special events, and philanthropic donations,” according to TripSavvy.

In it, you’ll find an aquarium and a tropical bird aviary. “The zoo is home to over 1,400 animals and 30 endangered species that are in breeding programs,” notes Life, Family & Fun.

4. Do A Museum Tour

If you want to cool down from a hike, Phoenix has several unique museums worth visiting.

The Musical Instrument Museum is the world’s largest of its kind. “You get a headset when you purchase your ticket. Then, walk around the rooms representing the continents and areas around the globe so you can read about the people, and learn about the instruments while having the opportunity to watch them being played,” according to My Flying Leap.

The Heard Museum is another must-see. “One of the nation’s finest museums dealing exclusively with Native American cultures, the Heard is an ideal introduction to the indigenous peoples of Arizona. The heart and soul of the museum is the permanent exhibit Home: Native People in the Southwest, which examines the culture of each of the major tribes of the region,” notes Frommer’s Travel Guides.

5. Go To A Sporting Event

Home to the Phoenix Suns basketball team, the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team, and the Arizona Cardinals football team, plus the Arizona State University Sun Devils collegiate teams, Phoenix is a sports lover’s haven,” according to Travellers Worldwide.

How about some golf? “The Phoenix area is really popular for golfers and there are an astounding 200 golf courses in the Phoenix metro area,” adds My Flying Leap.

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This post may contain affiliate links.

About Melissa Kraus

Melissa is a freelance writer, based out of New Jersey. She has over two-decades of writing, editing, and producing experience for Radio, TV, and Digital Media.

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