12. Take a scenic drive

Scenic lake views along the picturesque Apache Trail Scenic Drive in Southern Arizona

Anywhere you drive outside of the city is sure to be beautiful as the desert is naturally an enjoyable and relaxing place to take off your mind off of everything for a while. One of the most picturesque routes is the 80 mile long Apache Trail Scenic Drive, an extremely enjoyable ride with views of cactus, the Superstition Mountains, and beautiful lakes.

Notable attractions along the way include Goldfield Ghost town, Lost Dutchman State Park, and beautiful Canyon Lake where you can take a relaxing cruise on the Dolly Steamboat.

Another really incredible drive is the Salt River Canyon drive, which beings in Phoenix and ends near the New Mexico border. The journey to the canyon and back is about 270 miles, although the scenery is diverse and dramatic and there is lots to do along the way including hikes and dramatic overlooks.

13. Visit the largest aquarium in the Southwest

Sharks at the OdySea Aquarium in Scottsdale, Arizona

The OdySea Aquarium in Scottsdale is one of the newest additions to the Phoenix metro area’s growing list of attractions. This massive 2 floor facility holds over 2 million gallons of water, making it the largest aquarium in the Southwest. It also happens to be one of the newest in the country, having just opened in 2016. Many complain of the steep ticket pricing ($37 per person!), although the exhibits here are all very nice and really you can’t complain as a top knotch aquarium in the middle of the Sonoran desert really is a rarity.

Highlights here include the world’s first revolving aquarium exhibit, “the best bathroom in the US,” a 400,000 gallon shark tank, and a really unique enclosed escalator experience. If you are looking for something to do indoors during the brutal summer and fall season, the OdySea is one of your best bets.

14. Take in the beauty of the Sonoran Desert at the Scottsdale McDowell Preserve

Lots of beautiful cactuses at the Scottsdale McDowell Preserve in Arizona

The Scottsdale McDowell Preserve is a massive recreational destination, with over 100 miles of beautiful hiking trails. Mountain biking and bird watching are also popular here. This preserve is home to a little bit of everything, from easy bird watching strolls to intense Tom Thumb’s, a steep 8 mile RT journey, known as one of the more challenging hikes in the area.

15. Explore Old Town Scottsdale

Old Town Scottsdale

This cute Wild-West themed walkable entertainment destination, located within the heart of the city, is home to art galleries, unique restaurants, museums (check out the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art), and local shops (most selling Native American arts and jewelry). Check out the Scottsdale Art Walk, held every Thursday night.

16. Take your pic next to a Saguaro

Standing next to a huge Saguaro cactus on the Kiwanis Trail at South Mountain Park in Phoenix, Arizona

The ultimate souvenir: your picture next to the striking Saguaro cactus, found nowhere else in the world outside of the Sonoran Desert! You can’t leave Phoenix without getting a picture of yourself next to this strange, super tall beauty. You will find them scattered everywhere, but nothing beats a secluded desert backdrop. Any hike will do!

17. Peek out Hole-in-the-Rock for great Valley views

Hole in the Rock at Papago Park in Phoenix, Arizona

At Papago Park, you will come across a unique attraction known as Hole-in-the-Rock. The ancient Hohokam Indians measured the changes of light through the hole to mark solstices and the Equinox. A short trail takes you to this interesting rock formation in which you will be able to soak in great views of the Valley and surrounding mountains. Visit at sunset for the best photo opportunities.

18. Books your tickets aboard the Dolly Steamboat on picturesque Canyon Lake

The picturesque Dolly Steamboat cruise along Canyon Lake in Arizona

This pretty cruise along Canyon Lake offers you the chance to take in beautiful desert landscapes, while also relaxing away from the city congestion. During the 6 mile, 1.5 hour nature cruise, you might see a range of wildlife including bald eagles, bighorn sheep, bobcats, and mountain lions. Seeing all the beautiful Saguaro cactus on the Superstition mountains creates endless photo opportunities.

While the air conditioned lower deck is more comfortable, nothing beats the views from the top (be sure to arrive early as seating is first come, first served).

19. Sign up for a guided night hike

Many of the parks and preserves in the Phoenix region offer guided night hikes. One such option is the Full Moon hikes at Usery Mountain: a perfect opportunity to enjoy some prime stargazing and possible wildlife sightings. Who knows what you might see by nightfall? Bring a flashlight, lots of water, and keep your eyes and ears open for any unusual sights and sounds as you take a casual 2 mile hike under the starry night skies.

20. Enjoy diverse entertainment options at the 4 diamond Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale

This 4 diamond, luxury casino resort in Scottsdale offers much to do including a full gaming floor, live entertainment, wonderful dining options (try the top rated Orange Sky), and a top notch spa. When the weather is unbearable, Talking Stick offers more than enough opportunities to amuse yourself for a few hours. In addition, if you need a place to stay while in town, the resort offers affordable rates, nice rooms, and great on-site amenities.

Have you visited any of the attractions on this list? What are some of your favorite things to do in the Phoenix area?