Yes, Phoenix is known for its warm winter weather, expansive golf courses and world-class sporting events, there’s also a thriving arts and culture scene. Visiting galleries and museums can give you new insights into the Southwest lifestyle and connect you with the free spirit of the American West.
Create your own art tour
The Phoenix area definitely has its share of major art museums and galleries, from high end to low brow.
For a relaxed, self-paced tour of what this city has to offer, head downtown for the First Friday art walk. During this monthly event, galleries stay open late and attendees can walk through neighborhoods like Roosevelt Row, hopping from gallery to art space while perusing the many vendors that line the street selling food, music or their own handcrafted wares.
Yayoi Kusama’s You Who Are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies at the Phoenix Art Museum / Credit: Nate Ellis-Alltraverse
Bonus tip: Get free evening admission during First Fridays to some museums such as the Phoenix Art Museum (including access to Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Room), the Children's Museum of Phoenix, and the Heard Museum (see below).
American Indian and cowboy culture
The world-renowned Heard Museum features exquisite art and cultural pieces of indigenous peoples from around the world with an emphasis on American Indian communities of the Southwest (past and present). In 2017, the museum hosted the only U.S. stop of the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera global exhibit.
The Heard's collection ranges from the historic to the contemporary, including a mix of jewelry, pottery, beadwork and fashion that depict the myriad cultural traditions and artistic skill passed down through generations.
Fans of the Old West era and its cowboys will enjoy Scottsdale’s Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. History buffs can take in the displays of vintage cowboy gear and memorabilia such as antique pistols, saddles, hats and photos, while art aficionados will appreciate the traditional paintings of historic Western scenes and landscapes.
Towering saguaros and smaller, colorful prickly pears share the grounds at the Desert Botanical Garden, which highlights the surprising variety and richness of plant life in the Sonoran Desert. Take your time and stroll the garden's many trails filled with beautiful flowers in shades of springy green and deep purple, shady desert trees and some desert wildlife. The Desert Botanical Garden hosts frequent unique art exhibitions, as well, like the Klip Collective's light and sound installation, Electric Desert (until October 2019).
Soulful art that sings
We've all heard the warning, "Look, don't touch." What about "hear?" The Musical Instrument Museum has exhibits of more than 6,000 instruments collected from around the world. Video displays and headphones let you hear how the instruments sound and see how they’re played—you might even recognize the musician behind the instrument’s tune.
See Paul Simon and Carlos Santana’s guitars, as well as the small piano John Lennon used to write the song “Imagine.” Channel your favorite musician in the play area, where you can bang on drums, plink on marimbas, tap a gong and make a theremin squeal like a teakettle. A small concert hall offers intimate concerts featuring folk, jazz and world musicians.
See, play, stay
See American Indian artwork, such as paintings, fabrics and photographs at Talking Stick Resort. In the lobby, a cultural center displays works from the Pima and Maricopa communities that form the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. This mini-museum even features a special work of art—a talking stick—that is the resort’s namesake.
Talking Stick Resort is also a AAA Four Diamond Award-winning hotel with a popular 36-hole championship golf course, a busy and festive casino, spa, upscale dining with views of the mountains, and an exciting array of entertainment and music events. In other words, you might want to stay awhile.