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Free Things to Do In Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix Buildings at sunset - Free Things to do in Phoenix Arizona

Its been a while since I’ve been to the USA, so while I can’t travel anywhere I thought I’d ask some fellow travel bloggers to share some awesome free things to do in their favourite North American cities.  First up is Kate from Parked in Paradise, with her tips for free things to do in Phoenix Arizona.

I first moved to Phoenix when attending Arizona State University and I loved it so much I stayed for years afterwards. It is a beautiful city full of culture, amazing food, and there are plenty of free things to do in Phoenix, which is perfect for a young adult just out of college!

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While attending school, my friends and I became experts on finding the best things to do for free. Listed below are some of our favorites.

Attend First Fridays

Throughout the summer, Phoenix plays host to one of the largest self-guided art walks in the US. The residents of Roosevelt Row open up their homes on the first Friday of every month to artists, merchants, and exhibitioners.

Stroll down the street from 6-11pm and you’ll be greeted with live music, performances, and people wearing costumes. The event is entirely free, but you may want to bring a few bucks for some touristy trinkets.

View of the Phoenix cityscape - Mountains Around Phoenix Give Spectaluar Views of the City - Free Things to do in Phoenix Arizona
Mountains Around Phoenix Give Spectacular Views of the City – Free Things to do in Phoenix Arizona

Drive Up South Mountain

One of the largest parks in the country is South Mountain Preserve. It’s located only 10 miles from of Phoenix. This park has over 51 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. It’s rare to find such a huge park right next to a major city.

The thing I love most about South Mountain is that you can completely get away from the crowds with just a short drive. Many people love to hike to the top on the National Trail because you get beautiful views of the city. There’s also a major lack of bugs in the desert so you can enjoy the view without swatting away mosquitos.

My favorite part is driving up at night. Arizona consistently has clear skies which make for amazing stargazing. You could also consider taking a star-gazing tour to learn more about astronomy and check out the night skies with a telescope. 

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Hike Camelback Mountain

Less than 30 minutes northwest of Phoenix is Camelback Mountain. This is a well-known hiking destination because when you get to the top you get a bird’s eye view of the entire valley. The hike itself is only about 3 miles round trip but it is unexpectedly difficult.

Don’t forget to pack lots of water! Heat exhaustion has led to more than one death on this trail, but if you leave early and take plenty of breaks you’ll be fine to take on the challenge. The view is worth it in the end.

Cactus and mountain - Hiking in the Parks Around Phoenix - Free Things to do in Phoenix Arizona
Hiking in the Parks Around Phoenix – Free Things to do in Phoenix Arizona

Walk Through Papago Park

Papago Park is a meandering trail system nearby the campus of Arizona State. This park lies adjacent to the Desert Botanical Garden and Phoenix Zoo. While both of those are paid attractions, you can actually see a number of zoo animals while wandering through Papago.

My favorite lookout is hiking up to the Governor Hunt Tomb, from there you can get a clear view of the giraffe cage. The first time I visited, I was astonished to find giraffes roaming in the desert; as it turns out, that’s the Phoenix Zoo!

You might like some of these tours in Phoenix:


Free Things to do in Phoenix – ASU Art Museum

Arizona State University has an art museum on campus that is always free. The exhibitions rotate every semester so it’s something that you can visit time and time again. After visiting the museum, take a walk around the campus.  ASU has a beautiful campus with a few cool treasures to search for such as the secret garden.

Arizona State University Art Museum - Free Things to do in Phoenix Arizona
Arizona State University Art Museum – Free Things to do in Phoenix Arizona

Grab A Culture Pass

17 Libraries in the Phoenix area allow you to check-out a culture pass if you’re from the state. With a culture pass, you gain two free admission tickets to a number of attractions throughout the city. The Arizona Science Center, Desert Botanical Garden, and Heard Museum are my favorites.

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Attend A Cardinals Open Practice

Arizona’s professional football team – the Cardinals hold open practices a number of times throughout the season. The practices are completely free, and you can bring your own snacks, sit in the stadium, and get some free entertainment. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to grab a few autographs at the end.

American football player throwing a ball - The Arizona Cardinals in Action
The Arizona Cardinals in Action

Enjoy Some Food at The Farmer’s Market

There are dozens of farmer’s markets that take place throughout Phoenix throughout the entire year. This is the best way to enjoy some local flavors, try out the crops that are in-season, and even get some free samples.

Many of these markets have vendors selling desserts, dog treats, and crafts as well so it can make for a fun morning activity.

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Visit the Beach at Tempe Town Lake

You might not typically think of beaches when you picture Arizona, but Tempe Town Lake offers sun, sand, and fun. You’ll regularly find people paddleboarding, canoe racing, and even sailing in the lake. Tempe Beach Park is located on the south side of the lake and regularly hosts events and festivals.

On the north side of the lake, you’ll find the sand beach. This is the perfect place for some volleyball or wading in the water. Tempe Town Lake is the best place to catch morning sunrises in my opinion.

Tempe Town Lake with a white sailboat - Free Things to do in Phoenix Arizona
Tempe Town Lake – Free Things to do in Phoenix Arizona

Listen to Live Music At Tempe Marketplace

Tempe Marketplace is an outdoor mall which is highly popular with ASU students. Not only are there a number of bars and restaurants, but every Friday and Saturday night from 7-10pm there are free live performances on stage.

Misters keep the venue cool in the summer months, and if you visit Phoenix in the winter, you’ll start to see the heat lamps get lit up. Performances are best enjoyed with frozen yogurt.

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Touring Arizona

Phoenix will always have a place in my heart. For now, my husband and I are traveling the country in a camper van conversion, but we continue to make frequent stops back in our favorite city. If you find yourself in Arizona, don’t forget to visit the one-of-a-kind cities of Sedona, and Flagstaff Arizona.

Where to Stay in Phoenix Arizona

There is a wide variety of places to stay in Phoenix that you can find on Airbnb, from private rooms to whole apartments and some unique accommodation too!

If you are looking for a private room, this room in a 1949 ranch style home gets excellent reviews for being comfortable, and the great welcome by host Michelle and her dog Cosmo.

For whole homes, this guest house in the Melrose district is close to a lot of the attractions in Phoenix and gets rave reviews.  This cute loft casita is really well done, or if you want to stay somewhere truly unique then check out this gorgeous vintage camper!

You can check all the options for Airbnb in Phoenix here.


If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get up to $52 credit to use on your first trip!  Read more about the Airbnb first time discount code and my full Airbnb guide or click below for your Airbnb coupon.


What do you think?  Will you visit Phoenix and check out some of the fabulous free things to do in Phoenix?  If you have any more tips and recommendations I’d love to hear them, please leave your comments below.

About the Author

Kate has been traveling in a camper van conversion throughout the US and Canada for over two years. She uses her blog to teach other travelers about van life and RV living.  You can also find Parked In Paradise on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

If you’re looking for travel insurance for your trip to Ireland, get a quote now from World Nomads.

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Last updated: December 30, 2020

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