You'll find an abundance of things to do and places to stay in Arizona's largest metropolitan area and the surrounding communities. Not sure where to start? Use this guide to help you build the ultimate itinerary that will meet everyone's interests and cover the best Phoenix and central Arizona have to offer.
Vast stretches of the Sonoran Desert, emerald green golf courses and sparkling pools will lure you outside to enjoy the mild winter climate with hiking, biking, golfing and swimming. But there are other ways to explore the great outdoors.
Rainbow Ryders offers serene hot air balloon rides above the open desert in Deer Valley, located in north Phoenix. You can catch a sunrise tour all year-round in one of their colorful balloons or sign up for a sunset ride from November through March. Private rides are also available if you want to pick your own group. In any case, don't forget to bring your cell phone in the basket for Instagram-worthy shots.
Seek some culture
Phoenix and Scottsdale have vibrant art scenes, with numerous theaters, venues, galleries and must-see museums.
For three decades now, big white tents in Scottsdale have signaled the annual winter Celebration of Fine Art, during which 100 artists from around the U.S. set up studios where they create and sell their works. The artists, who work in a variety of styles and mediums, encourage you to watch their creative process and strike up conversations. This season's celebration runs January 18 through March 29, 2020, and includes panel discussions on Friday afternoons, accompanied by wine and cheese.
Explore tribal offerings
More than 20 American Indian tribes call Arizona home, and you can even experience tribal communities within the Phoenix metropolitan area.
Just south of Phoenix, Gila River Indian Community's Wild Horse Pass district is home to the serene Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass, where Kai restaurant continues to receive accolades for its native-inspired cuisine. Nearby, Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino is slick and sophisticated, offering gaming and big-name nightclub entertainment. Stay at either place and you can play golf at the Troon-managed Whirlwind Golf Club, enjoy a trail ride at Koli Equestrian Center or shop at Phoenix Premium Outlets. Want something quieter? Take a short boat cruise on the recreated Gila River or hike the riverside interpretive trail.
The East Valley is one of the fastest-growing areas in the country and has a lot to offer. The town of Gilbert is just southeast of Phoenix and is central to many outdoor getaways, such as the Superstition Mountains (where you may get lucky and find the legendary Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine) and Tonto National Forest. Gilbert also boasts several parks for families, five golf courses and one of the Valley's best nature preserves—the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch. During the day, you can hike and watch for the almost 250 different species of birds in the preserve; at night, peer into space at the observatory, open to the public every Friday and Saturday evening, weather permitting.
A little further north in Fountain Hills, you can't miss the eponymous fountain, spraying a jet of water up to 330 feet into the air every hour on the hour from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. On special holidays, the jet goes full force and shoots to its full height of 560 feet—higher than the Washington Monument! Fountain Park surrounding the world-famous fountain is a great place to unwind and enjoy the Arizona sunshine. Several restaurants nearby have outdoor seating, so you can grab a bite or sip some wine in total relaxation. Once the sun goes down, look up—thanks to its prestigious Dark Sky Community status, stargazing is looking bright in Fountain Hills.
There's just as much to see and do in the West Valley. Whatever would make your vacation fun, Glendale is the hub for it all. Once dubbed the #1 Emerging Tourist Destination by Trivago, Glendale shines thanks to its historic downtown, outstanding sports venues and fantastic family-friendly attractions—including Sahuaro Ranch Park and Cerreta Candy Company.
Peoria is home to a lively entertainment district filled with shopping, dining and live performances at various local venues that each have their own flair. Stretch your legs over the 50 acres at the Rio Vista Community Park and nearby recreation center. Or, rent a boat at Lake Pleasant Regional Park and relax on the water. With temperatures around 72°F (22°C) most of the year, you can easily spring into Peoria's active lifestyle.
Stay a while
You'll have no problem finding a home base from which to explore Phoenix and central Arizona's many attractions. Lodging choices range from glamorous resorts and contemporary urban hotels to suite-style accommodations with kitchens and budget-friendly properties.
With 59 properties across the Valley, a Hilton property is never far from where you want to be. If you'd like to stay near the action, the Hilton Garden Inn Phoenix Downtown is mere steps from myriad restaurants and entertainment venues. For a little more seclusion and relaxation, Boulders Resort & Spa, Curio Collection by Hilton in Scottsdale offers private villas and a full-service spa. If you're bringing the kids, you're sure to delight them with the extensive pools and lazy river at Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort in Phoenix.
Prefer to get away from the city lights and immerse yourself within the quiet Southwest desert? Book a room at the 20,000-acre Rancho de Los Caballeros in Wickenburg for a modern ranch experience. Relax on the porch or in the spa, eat world-class cuisine, golf and horseback ride through the Sonoran Desert between daytrips to the Valley, just a little more than an hour away. ATV tours, tennis, a pool and trap-and-skeet shooting are also on-site. Plus children's program and babysitting services let mom and dad enjoy grown-up time.
While these central Arizona hotspots will certainly get your vacation going, there's still more to discover in the heart of the state. From metropolitan Phoenix to the cowboy town of Wickenburg, explore what else there is to see and do in the center of it all.