Trying to find great activities and attractions in Phoenix? Our Phoenix itinerary is all you need to plan the perfect trip!
Welcoming guests from all over the world, Phoenix, Arizona, is renowned for its desert gardens, fine dining, luxurious hotel resorts, and championship golf courses.
A top travel destination, Phoenix is steadily becoming one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States and is home to many of the best things to do in Arizona.
Its attractive features are only growing and drawing in more people with its desirable year-round climate and amazing desert landscapes.
As a diverse destination featuring plenty of indoor and outdoor attractions, Phoenix is a great place that draws in a wide range of people, from history buffs to hardcore hikers.
Places like the Japanese Friendship Garden, Camelback Mountain, Heard Museum, Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, and the Desert Botanical Garden are only but a few popular Phoenix Arizona attractions.
Plus there’s tons of hiking and exploring in nature to be done in the Phoenix area. Phoenix is also a popular starting point for trips to the Grand Canyon, a world-famous sight that is just 3.5 hours away.
For a top weekend in Phoenix itinerary, we’ve created a list of only the best attractions for the ultimate vacation experience. So pack your bags and clear your camera roll. It’s time to go on an adventure through the Phoenix desert!
Read Looking for more things to add to your Phoenix Itinerary? Check out our post on all the best things to do in Phoenix!
Table of Contents
- How to Spend 3 Days in Phoenix Itinerary
- Day 1 in Phoenix Arizona
- Day 2 in Phoenix Arizona
- Day 3 in Phoenix Arizona
- Phoenix Travel Guide
How to Spend 3 Days in Phoenix Itinerary
Phoenix is full of attractions and activities ranging from indoors to outdoors, whether driving the scenic Apache Trail or strolling through the Desert Botanical Garden to catch some Arizona rays. Or indoors at the Phoenix Art Museum, which features world-class exhibitions.
Day 1 in Phoenix Arizona
For your first day in Phoenix, Arizona, let’s explore some art at the Phoenix Art Museum, with an amazing array of world-class exhibitions.
Then, in the afternoon, visitors can see the Arabian Oryx that almost went extinct without the aid of the Phoenix Zoo. Finally, end the day exploring the city center of Phoenix.
Day 1 Morning – Enrich Your Imagination At The Phoenix Art Museum
Boasting world-class exhibitions and comprehensive collections, the Phoenix Art Museum has spent over sixty years promoting the arts and guiding its guests to connect to the outstanding pieces housed in this enigmatic museum.
A great start to your three-day weekend itinerary in Phoenix, this art museum homes an expansive collection of art that dates back to the Renaissance.
With over 20,000 artifacts, the museum has nine areas separated between American, Western American, Latin American, Asian, European, modern, contemporary, fashion design, and photography, all expanding through different cultures and eras.
The museum welcomes over 300,000 guests annually, its dedication to enriching the community shown through the transformative art pieces and its magnanimous popularity.
Whether a history buff or an art lover, starting your trip at the Phoenix Art Museum is an enriching experience you’ll be thankful you took!
Another cool place to check out is the Heard Museum of Native American Art in north Phoenix. If you have time during your 3 days in Phoenix, definitely check out that museum as well.
- Opening Hours: 10 AM-9 PM (Wednesday, Friday), 10 AM-5 PM (Thursday, Saturday-Sunday), Closed (Monday-Tuesday)
- Admission: $23/Adults, $20/Seniors, $18/Students, $5/Youth (6-17), Free/Children Under 5
- Address: 1625 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004
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Day 1 Afternoon – See The Resurrected Species Of Arabian Oryx At The Phoenix Zoo
When visiting Phoenix, we recommend all animal lovers explore the local zoo!
With over 3,000 animals, many of which are endangered species, animals like the Sumatran tigers, Masai giraffes, Komodo dragons, and Bornean orangutans are but a few of the species to be seen at this zoo.
As the largest privately owned non-profit zoo in the United States, the Phoenix Zoo operates on 125 acres near Papago Park.
The zoo opened in 1962 and has only continued to progress as a top-quality zoo dedicated to preserving wildlife. The zoo is currently working to boost the populations of ten imperiled native Arizona species.
By partnering with universities, the Phoenix Zoo continues to participate in field research and work with other conservation organizations to better conserve wildlife worldwide.
The zoo’s dedication to conservation efforts has not been in vain. This reputable zoo helped in the resurrection of species called the Arabian Oryx that had gone extinct in the wild in 1972.
By partnering up with the Fauna Preservation Society, the Phoenix Zoo played a massive role in resurrecting this extinct species and reintroducing it back into the wild. Thanks to the zoo’s conservation efforts, we can still witness the magnificence of species like the Arabian Oryx.
Whether strolling through the trails in the zoo or sitting down for a narrated safari train tour, all ages can explore this fantastic zoo with loads of attractions.
- Opening Hours: 7 AM-1 PM Daily
- Admission: $29.95/Adult, $19.95/Children (3-13)
- Address: 455 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008
Heading west to California after Arizona? Check out our guide to the best things to do in San Francisco.
Day 1 Evening – Go On An Adventure In Downtown Phoenix
For a wide range of top Phoenix attractions, downtown is the ultimate location to explore a wide range of activities.
If you’re looking for entertainment, the Phoenix city center is the place to find it! Stocked full of brunch spots, hands-on exhibits, art galleries, historical museums, and other fun activities. Stop over to CityScape, a downtown Phoenix destination with three blocks of bars, clubs, restaurants, and shops.
It’s not uncommon to find people stopping over downtown to sit down with a drink in hand while enjoying live music with locals and fellow tourists. Then, sip on craft brews or watch an open-air movie in the plaza with food and good company.
If you time it right, you can buy a ticket to see a game at the Chase Field baseball park for sports lovers.
Or, if you love all things science, stop at the Arizona Science Center for over 350 interactive exhibitions where you can discover how solar energy is harvested.
Finally, for a much-needed caffeine fix, The Teapot is a cottage-style coffee shop that offers homemade baked goods and high-quality coffee drinks.
The food options are endless downtown. With over 200 amazing restaurants, this is a hot spot for dining options for an infinite amount of cuisine types. In addition, different dining and drinking settings are available, including rooftop lounges, bars, fine and casual dining, and so on.
Thankfully, no cars are required to travel around this popular location. The Valley Metro Rail is easy for tourists to visit historic neighborhoods like Roosevelt Row, a walkable arts district, or to travel from your stay to experience downtown life in Phoenix.
Downtown Phoenix is a fun option no matter what time of day it is. At night enjoy endless bars and drinking spots that offer live music and lively crowds.
During the day, bask in the creative arts at the many museums, art galleries, and theaters to learn more about local and worldwide culture.
Day 2 in Phoenix Arizona
On your second day visiting Phoenix, explore native and endangered species of plants at the Desert Botanical Garden, home to awe-inspiring exhibitions.
In the afternoon, continue to explore Papago Park, home to loads of other attractions like the Phoenix Zoo. Finally, end your trip in Old Town Scottsdale, hitting the nightclubs, shopping the many local shops, or dining out with views of the desert.
Day 2 Morning – Stroll Through The Desert Botanical Garden
The Desert Botanical Garden spans 140 acres full of sunshine and refreshing scenery. Over 50,000 plants are showcased in outdoor exhibits for a vibrant and stunning stroll.
Home to thousands of species, including 485 rare and endangered species and 92,150 herbarium specimens, this garden is full of cacti, flowers, and trees from all over the world.
As one of twenty-four botanical gardens accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Desert Botanical Garden has over 650 volunteers and 229 full-time staff members that work to keep this refreshing and awe-inspiring botanical garden running.
As a result, over half a million visitors come to explore this spectacular garden to bask in the stunning beauty of the natural world. Now, it’s your turn to explore this incredible garden in the Phoenix and Scottsdale area.
- Opening Hours: 7 AM-8 PM (Sunday-Wednesday), 6 AM-8 PM (Thursday-Saturday)
- Admission: $14.95/Adult/Youth (3-17), Free/Children (3 + Under)
- Address: 1201 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008
READ NEXT: Before hitting the road, be sure to check out this post on all the best things to do in Arizona.
Day 2 Afternoon – Further Explore Papago Park or Hike Camelback Mountain
Settled between Phoenix and Tempe, this piece of the Sonoran Desert is packed with top-notch attractions waiting to be explored.
Only a few minutes from downtown Phoenix, Papago Park is a favorite spot for many, including locals and tourists. Full of outdoor and indoor attractions, this one-of-a-kind park is packed with history, fun, and food.
Previously a reservation for indigenous tribes, Papago Park was also once a fish hatchery during the Great Depression, a POW camp during World War II, and then a VA hospital. Papago Park has expanded to encompass the Phoenix Zoo, the Desert Botanical Garden, museums, and golf courses.
This hot spot is famous for history buffs, animal and plant lovers, active individuals, and those seeking exploration. Golfers can hit a few rounds at the Papago Golf Course while surrounded by the Sonoran Desert plants and animals.
Full of fun attractions, Papago Park fulfills loads of entertainment qualities for a diverse group. So no matter if your group has different tastes, Papago has options to explore for everyone!
- Opening Hours: 5 AM-11 PM Daily
- Admission: Free
- Address: 625 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008
Another option for exploring the outdoors is hiking Camelback Mountain. At just 25 minutes away, Camelback Mountain is a famous hiking trail that takes a couple of hours to climb.
From up here, you get stunning views overlooking the entire city and the entire valley surrounding the city.
If you’d prefer to spend the second afternoon of your 3 days in Phoenix itinerary exploring nature outside the city, Camelback Mountain is a quick and easy hike to tackle.
But if you’d rather stay central, stick to Papago Park.
For more hiking destinations in the US, check out our guide to the best things to do in Denver, Colorado.
Day 2 Evening – Browse All That Old Town Scottsdale Has To Offer
Offering a wide range of activities to explore, Old Town Scottsdale is the perfect way to end the evening.
As the vibrant heart of Scottsdale, the Old Town homes nine walkable neighborhoods filled with top-notch museums, restaurants offering decadent dishes, famous nightclubs, boutique shops, exemplary art galleries, and historical sites dating back to the 1800s.
Fifth Avenue is stocked with local shops perfect for grabbing souvenirs. The Arts District is home to art galleries and so on.
Walk to Brown Avenue for historic sites like the Old Adobe Mission, built in 1933. A short walk away is the Cavaliere’s Blacksmith Shop, built in 1910 from tin and then remade with adobe in 1920. The family still owns the shop to this day.
This corner of Scottsdale mixes Old West charm with a chic urban vibe for a unique neighborhood with plenty of attractions waiting to be explored. Next to this location is the famous old Apache Trail.
For the active goers who enjoy the open outdoors, take a half-day hiking tour in the Sonoran Desert or go rafting on the Salt River which runs through the Phoenix Scottsdale area.
There are plenty of options to browse for a delightful end to your evening in Arizona.
Day 3 in Phoenix Arizona
For your last day in Phoenix, start the morning off exploring Goldfield Ghost Town in the underground mine or checking out the Old West saloon.
Then, take a scenic drive on the Apache Trail with a few attraction stops. Finally, end your trip in the Phoenix area in the bountiful historic neighborhoods filled with stunning homes for a relaxing evening stroll.
Day 3 Morning – See If You Can Find Gold At The Goldfield Ghost Town
Fun to explore and full of historical attractions, Goldfield Ghost Town is a Wild West town home to a saloon, narrow-gauge train, underground mine, and more!
Located near the Superstition Mountains, Goldfield Ghost Town was once a lively gold mining town that was eventually abandoned after the ore was depleted and no longer provided needed revenue.
Now a reconstructed 1890s town, many visit the “ghost” town to see famous attractions like the history museum, gold mine tours, and Old West gunfights.
The town was once bustling with business. It was home to a boarding house, three saloons, a blacksmith shop, a general store, a schoolhouse, a brewery, a boarding house, and a meat market. However, the town died slowly when business in the gold mining industry was depleted.
Today, travelers come from around the world to explore the ghost gold mining town conveniently settled near the historic Apache Trail.
We recommend this ghost town and canyon lake day private tour for an eventful day! Guests will experience the Old West as they tour the Goldfield Mine and other historical points of Goldfield. Lunch will be at the Old Saloon before guests can experience a scenic steamboat ride on Canyon Lake!
- Opening Hours: 10 AM-5 PM Daily
- Admission: Free
- Address: 4650 N Mammoth Mine Rd, Apache Junction, AZ 85119
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Day 3 Afternoon – Drive The Scenic Apache Trail
The perfect Arizona road trip activity, the Apache Trail is a must-see!
A 40-mile drive that starts in Apache Junction and ends at Theodore Roosevelt Dam, the Apache Trail is only partially paved though it is well-maintained. The scenic route is full of cacti and deep reservoirs as the road winds and turns during the journey.
Named after the Apache Indians, this historical trail was once used as a route for Native American tribes. It became a stagecoach route in the early 1900s, winding through the Superstition Mountains and Tonto National Forest.
In the present day, the trail is memorialized for its beautiful desert landscape and historical roots.
Visiting the Apache Trail can be an all-day event or a short outing. After stopping at the Goldfield Ghost Town for a tour of the gold mines, travel to Lost Dutchman State Park for scenic hiking trails or camping. Then, go on the water at Canyon Lake or lay on the sandy beaches for some much-needed R&R.
Continuing down the Apache Trail, Tortilla Flat is a town where we recommend stopping for their prickly pear gelato.
Then, as you continue down the Apache Trail, the Theodore Roosevelt Dam, constructed between 1905 and 1933, is an exciting stop before hitting the Tonto National Monument, featuring two Native American cliff dwellings that date back 700 years.
The Apache Trail has loads of fun activities and attractions. Taking a guide is essential, so we recommend checking out this Apache Trail and Dolly Steamboat Day Trip tour. The guided tour will take guests through the desert, the mountains, and then over Canyon Lake by Dolly Steamboat for an informative and fun adventure!
- Opening Hours: 8 AM-5 PM
- Admission: Free
- Address: 4650 N Mammoth Mine Rd, Apache Junction, AZ 85119
Day 3 Evening – Explore The Bountiful Historic Neighborhoods
Willo Historic District is one of the top historic districts in Phoenix, but it doesn’t stop there. Phoenix is teeming with landmark neighborhoods waiting to be pondered over!
There are multiple historic neighborhoods to check out during your stay in Phoenix. For example, the Willo Historic District was purposely constructed to maintain specific characteristics throughout the neighborhood.
Now housing over 700 homes in its district, Willo is one of Phoenix’s largest historic neighborhoods, having gotten its start in the 1920s.
The Encanto-Palmcroft Historic District is located near downtown Phoenix. The homes were built before World War II, aged about seventy-five. The old-world charm boasts a calming, serene stroll to take for a welcoming retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Phoenix Travel Guide
Now that you know what to do in Phoenix, here is some information that will help you know the best time to visit, how to get around, and where to stay when exploring Arizona’s capital city.
When is the Best Time to Visit Phoenix
For the best time to visit Phoenix, we recommend traveling to this hotspot from November through April.
During these months, the weather is perfect and not too hot.
Visiting southern Arizona in summer isn’t ideal. The sunny weather is diminished by the intense desert heat, making walking around Phoenix unbearable.
On the other hand, the climate in Phoenix is centered in the desert, so it doesn’t get too cold during winter. The temperatures are still mild and pleasant. So honestly, there is no bad time to visit Phoenix AZ, except maybe try to avoid the heart of summer when it’s really hot.
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Getting Around Phoenix
There are a few methods to getting around Phoenix. The Valley Metro is a public transportation system that is easy for tourists to hop on.
The light rail takes its riders through the Phoenix metropolitan area, central Phoenix, Mesa, and Tempe—other popular attraction spots close to Phoenix.
Other alternative methods to getting around Phoenix include Uber and Lyft, which are effortless to manage through your phone.
If you’re spending most of your time in downtown Phoenix, you shouldn’t need to use it too much as you can walk around Phoenix to all the major attractions there.
If you’re flying into Phoenix via the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, there are many transport options available as well.
The airport is only 3 miles east of downtown, so it’s super quick and easy to get into the Phoenix metro area.
Where to Stay in Phoenix
If you’re wondering where to stay in the city, our recommendations for the best accommodation in Phoenix will help you choose the top spot for your budget!
Best Hostel in Phoenix
A traveling organization dedicated to catering to international travelers, tourists, and people of all ages wanting to experience the world on a budget, the HI Phoenix Hostel & Cultural Center is a highly accommodating hostel.
Having won numerous awards for its unique programs, the hostel offers private rooms, family rooms, dorm spaces, reading rooms, common spaces, gardens, and more to provide for the customized needs of its guests.
Best Mid-Range Hotel in Phoenix
The Clarendon Hotel is located right in the city center, so it’s a convenient spot to base yourself for 3 days in Phoenix.
With free private parking in the downtown area, this top-quality property is the perfect hotel for your needs when exploring Phoenix.
Best Luxury Hotel in Phoenix
Notorious for providing world-class service, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa is located in the Sonoran Desert, offering its guests scenic Arizona views.
This five-star hotel encompasses all your travel needs. With luxurious rooms as well as other amenities like golf courses, restaurants, swimming pools and waterslides, a spa, and a fitness center, this place is worth every cent.
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