Phoenix in 2 Days: everything you need to know

In Phoenix, the most populated city in Arizona, you will find very interesting proposals to enjoy during two days in the city, ranging from cultural activities to hiking in its natural parks.

Lorena Morales

Lorena Morales

9 min read

Phoenix in 2 Days: everything you need to know

Downtown Phoenix |©Michael Benjamin

Phoenix is the capital of Arizona, and one of the most visited cities for a tour to the Grand Canyon. But, of course, it is more than just a stop-over city, and in two days you can marvel at all there is to see and do in Phoenix, with both cultural and outdoor proposals in its natural parks.

This city is home to a variety of museums for both children and adults, archaeological reserves, mysterious constructions and natural parks that offer beautiful views of the surrounding area. Here I present an itinerary as the highlights for you to get to know the city in 48 hours, although there are many more things to discover with more time.

Day 1: Museums, Archaeological Park and Papago Park

Musical Instrument Museum Phoenix|©Joel Garry
Musical Instrument Museum Phoenix|©Joel Garry

On your first day in Phoenix, I suggest you visit the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in the morning and then return downtown to visit the Heard Museum and Pueblo Grande, which is an archaeological preserve and museum. In the afternoon, you can go to Papago Park to hike and visit the Desert Botanical Garden, the Hall of Flame Museum and/or the Zoo.

The MIM is about an hour and a half bus ride from downtown Phoenix or about 20 minutes by car, so I recommend that you start your tour early, or if your time is shorter, start directly at the Heard Museum, which is only 1.5 miles from downtown Phoenix.

Musical Instrument Museum

The Musical Instrument Museum is the furthest museum from the rest of the attractions on the itinerary, being about 33 km from downtown Phoenix. The best option is for you to go by cab or car, which will take you only about 20 minutes. You can also go at the end of the day, if your visit is on a Wednesday, as it is open until 9 p.m.

The MIM is one of the best museums in Phoenix, where you can see a collection of about 7,500 different instruments from all over the world and from different eras, and you can even play some instruments in their experimental rooms.

  • Location: 1625 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004.
  • Hours: Thursdays through Sundays from 10 am to 5 pm, and Wednesdays from 10 am to 9 pm. Some Fridays may be visited at 6 pm and 7 pm.
  • Admission fee: from 22 € per person approximately. On Wednesdays there is no fixed price, so you can pay whatever you want.

Buy tickets for the Museum of Musical Instruments

Heard Museum

From the MIM you have to go back to downtown Phoenix to go to the Heard Museum, the next point on the itinerary. I also recommend that you take a cab instead of the bus, as the bus will take you over an hour to get there. Another great option is to join a bike tour, as it is a very comfortable way to move from one point to another, and see the main attractions of Phoenix.

The Heard Museum is very interesting, as it exhibits Native American art and tells its history in first person. It also has a store selling Native American art and artifacts, and a restaurant, the Courtyard Café, highly recommended for lunch.

  • Location: 2301 North Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85004.
  • Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm.
  • Admission fee: about 22 € for adults and about 9 € for children and teenagers. Children under 5 years old are free.

Book a bike tour

Rosson House

2.5 miles from the Heard Museum is the Rossom House Museum, a historic museum that is part of Heritage Square, a block where you can see the city's Victorian-era legacy. You can reach this house by bus in about 25 minutes, or by cab in about 10 minutes.

In addition to its iconic architecture, inside the museum you can see antique furniture and objects that reflect the life of that era, and learn more about the life of the Rosson family, who lived there. On the other hand, the house is often included in Phoenix ghost tours because of the strange occurrences that have been reported there after one of its caretakers was murdered.

  • Location: 113 N. Sixth St., Phoenix, AZ 85004.
  • Hours: Friday through Sunday from 10 am to 3 pm. Tours begin every hour.
  • Admission: about $15 for adults and about $8 for children.

Book a ghost tour

Pueblo Grande Museum Archaeological Park

It is located about 6.5 km from the Casa Rosson, and can be reached by bus in about 20 minutes. In Pueblo Grande you can visit the museum and the archaeological park, where there are about 1,600 petroglyphs made by Native Americans and you can see the remains of an ancient village and replicas of dwellings.

The park is not very large, and is about 400 meters from the museum. I recommend that you visit the museum first to better understand the significance of the petroglyphs and ruins, and don't forget to bring a hat, water and sunscreen, especially if you go to Phoenix in the summer.

  • Location: 4619 E Washington St, Phoenix, AZ 85034.
  • Hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 9am to 4:45pm, and Sunday from 1pm to 4:45pm. Closed Sundays and Mondays during the summer.
  • Admission fee: about 6 € for adults and 3 € for children.

Papago Park

About 3 km from Pueblo Grande is Papago Park, where you can go hiking and/or visit the attractions found there. I recommend you to go by cab, bicycle or car, since the bus takes the same time as walking.

Papago Park offers you the typical desert landscape, with sandstone floors and rocks, and the characteristic flora and fauna. There are easy trails through the park, such as the 2.5-mile Double Butte Loop. These interpretive trails provide information about the park's flora and fauna.

  • Location: 625 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008.
  • Hours: daily from 5 am to 11 pm. Hiking trails open at 11 am.

Hall of Flame

Phoenix Hall Of Flame Museum|©bihlf
Phoenix Hall Of Flame Museum|©bihlf

Papago Park is home to the Hall of Flame, a Phoenix landmark museum that features a large collection of antique and modern firefighter vehicles, as well as artwork, fire extinguishers, clothing and other items related to the firefighting profession. It is the first attraction you come across when you arrive at Papago Park from Pueblo Grande, which pays tribute to all firefighters and those who have died in service.

  • Location: 6101 E Van Buren St, Phoenix, AZ 85008.
  • Hours: Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm.
  • Admission fee: about 16 € for adults, about 14 € for teenagers and from 10 € for children.

Buy tickets for the Flame Hall Museum

Phoenix Zoo

One kilometer from Hall of Flame is the city's Zoo, an ideal place to visit if you are going to Phoenix with children. In addition to seeing animal species from around the world, you may be able to watch some of the animals being fed, if this coincides with the time of your visit.

  • Location: 5000 S Arizona Mills Cir Suite 145, Tempe, AZ 85282.
  • Hours: daily from 11 am to 5 pm.
  • Admission fee: about $28 per person.

Buy tickets for the Phoenix Zoo

Optional: Hole in the Rock

If you enjoy hiking, don't miss the Hole in the Rock rock formation, which is located east of the park, about 600 meters from the Phoenix Zoo. It is a must-see place to watch the sunset, as it has a very nice panoramic view of Phoenix.

As its name suggests, this rock formation consists of a kind of hole in the rocks, whose photo is usually on many postcards of Phoenix.

Desert Botanical Garden

The Desert Botanical Garden is located about 2.4 km from Hole in the Rock, or 2 km from the Phoenix Zoo, in Papago Park itself. If you drive you can take a paved road to get there, or walk (30 min) or bike (5 min). In this garden you can see about 20 thousand plants, mostly cactus and desert plants, and the artistic decoration of the garden with beautiful sculptures.

The place is open until 8 pm and usually offers shows, concerts and other events that may coincide with your visit. The garden with the illuminated plants at night is one of the best things to see in Phoenix.

  • Location: 1201 N. Galvin Parkway Phoenix, AZ 85008. USA.
  • Hours: daily from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Price: from $15 per person. Children under 3 years old are free.

Day 2: Camelback Mountain and South Mountain Park

Camelback Mountain|©Chaparral Firebirds Media
Camelback Mountain|©Chaparral Firebirds Media

I suggest you start your second day in the city of Phoenix at Camelback Mountain, from where you will have a 360° panoramic view of the city. On the way down you can see the street art of Roosevelt Row and pass by the Phoenix Art Museum, before heading to South Mountain Park and the Mystery Castle near the entrance.

As far as distances are concerned, these attractions are a bit far apart, so it's a good idea to start your tour early in the morning. Also, on extremely hot days, such as in December and January in Phoenix, Camelback Mountain cannot be climbed from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., due to the high temperatures.

Camelback Mountain

Camelback Mountain is located 20 km from downtown Phoenix. You can get there in an hour and a half by bus or about 25 minutes by car or cab. There are two trails, Echo Canyon Trail and Cholla Trail, that you can take to ascend the rock formations, which offer unmissable panoramic views of the city. Keep in mind that you need to be in good physical shape to hike the trails, and that each trail can take between 2 and 3 hours.

You can also choose not to hike to the top, and simply walk around and take in the scenery from the viewpoints. You can even enjoy the views from the patio of a bar or restaurant with a cup of coffee, a refreshing drink or brunch.

Phoenix Art Museum

From Camelback Mountain to the Phoenix Art Museum there are about 20 km that you can do by bus in an hour or by car or cab in 20 minutes. There you can see some 20,000 pieces from different historical periods, among them those of artists such as Frida Kahlo and Gilbert Stuart.

On Wednesdays from 3 p.m. the entrance fee is free, so you can leave in the museum the contribution you wish.

  • Location: 1625 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004.
  • Hours: Thursday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm, and Wednesdays from 10 am to 9 pm. Some Fridays may be visited at 6 pm and 7 pm.
  • Admission fee: from 22 € per person approximately. On Wednesdays there is no fixed price.

Roosevelt Row Arts District

1.5 km from the Phoenix Art Museum is the street known as 1 ½ Street, where you will find the art of about 12 local artists in street murals. This street is located in the Roosevelt Row Arts District, a neighborhood known for its art galleries, festivals and cultural offerings.

You can reach this street by taking a bus in 10 minutes, a 5-minute drive or a 20-minute walk. If you are walking and have time, you can stop by the Phoenix Japanese Garden, where you can rest a bit and relax by its water fountains and waterfalls, and the harmony of its gardens.

Mystery Castle

At 12 km from 1 ½ Street, you will find Mystery Castle, a castle that you can reach in an hour by bus or in 20 minutes by car or cab. The castle, built by Boyce Luther Gulley for his daughter in 1930, has a very original architecture. In addition, recycled materials such as tires, plow discs and telephone poles were used for its construction.

You may not be able to enter, as it closes early and is not open to the public all year round, but it is a castle worth seeing only from the outside and it is just a stop on your way to visit South Mountain Park.

  • Location: 800 E Mineral Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85042.
  • Hours: Thursdays through Sundays from 11 am to 3 pm, only from October to May.
  • Admission: from 10 € for adults and 5 € for children.

South Mountain Park

South Mountain Park/Preserve|©Jasperdo
South Mountain Park/Preserve|©Jasperdo

The Mystery Castle is located in the southwestern part of South Mountain Park. It is the largest municipal park in the United States, covering some 6,500 acres. There you can hike some of its low, medium or high difficulty trails to see the desert landscape of the region, and learn about its characteristic plants and animals.

South Mountain Park offers incredible views of Phoenix from the heights, and the chance to see some unmissable sunsets. It is ideal if you visit Phoenix in October, when it is fall and the weather is nicer for hiking.

Itinerary summary: 2 days in Phoenix

  • Day 1
  • Musical Instrument Museum
  • Heard Museum
  • Rosson House Museum
  • Pueblo Grande Museum Archaeological Park
  • Papago Park
  • Hall of Flame
  • Phoenix Zoo
  • Optional: Hole in the Rock
  • Desert Botanical Garden
  • Day 2
  • Camelback Mountain
  • Phoenix Art Museum
  • Roosevelt Row Arts District
  • Mystery Castle
  • South Mountain Park

This is the end of the itinerary I propose for you to get to know Phoenix, with a variety of activities to get to know both the cultural life and its natural desert landscapes. If the day's activities have not exhausted you, you have many interesting proposals to do at night in Phoenix, such as bars and restaurants in the Roosevelt Row District.

If you stay one more day in the city, I recommend you to visit the city of Sedona, where you can make some of the best desert tours from Phoenix.