Phoenix in 3 Days: a guidebook for getting the most out of your visit

If you have three days to explore Phoenix, there's nothing better than letting yourself be carried away by the desert charm. Here's an itinerary to help you make the most of your visit!

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

10 min read

Phoenix in 3 Days: a guidebook for getting the most out of your visit

Downtown Phoenix |©Alain Chautard

Phoenix is the capital of Arizona, and a charming city with many entertainment options. If you have three days to explore the best things to do in Phoenix, you can't miss the city's cultural offerings.

This is a destination that stands out for its desert climate, where the heat blankets the main streets full of street art. During your visit you can visit emblematic spaces in the center of the city and even go on a ghost hunt at night. Here is a complete itinerary so you can see the most recognized attractions of the city during your stay.

Day 1: Visit downtown Phoenix

Orpheum Theatre|©Gage Skidmore
Orpheum Theatre|©Gage Skidmore

The center brings together some of the best recreational attractions in the city, here are preserved old buildings that reflect the essence of Arizona. It's on a perimeter accessible by car or bus, so you can tour it even if you plan to visit Phoenix in one day.


In the heart of downtown Phoenix, you'll find the vibrant CityScape district, made up of about three streets of shopping malls, bars and restaurants. Without a doubt, it is the best place to start your vacation, as you can explore downtown in different ways, walking, riding a bike, riding a segway, etc.

Every day there are different activities, for example in the nearby plazas there are open-air movies. It is a district with a family atmosphere, where everyone will have a good time. Even if you are looking for activities to do in Phoenix with kids, you can opt for ice skating.

It is a shopping district, where you can see the city from the terraces that offer happy hour at noon, with half-price cocktails. There are also restaurants, shopping malls and cultural entertainment areas.

Details of interest: most stores and restaurants are open until 20:00 hrs. On Sundays most of the district is inactive.

Book a bike tour

Orpheum Theater

The Orpheum Theater is a historic building with over a thousand seats available, which was built in the 1920s. From CityScAPE, head to Adams Street, taking W Adams St and N 1st Ave. It's a four-minute walk, and you can even get there in less time by bus.

Here you can enjoy Broadway shows, movies, cultural performances, opera nights and ballet shows. In addition, you can marvel at the building's neo-baroque and neo-colonial Spanish architectural style.

Details of interest: you can find tickets from 30 €, depending on the event.

Phoenix Street Art Street

Your next stop is a four-minute walk from the Orpheum Theater, the street art street First Avenue. Here throughout the year, the downtown streets are filled with creative exhibits and murals are part of the local décor, so you can appreciate the art in all its glory. A must stop on any of the best tours and excursions in Phoenix.

Details of interest: it is a completely free activity.

Japanese Friendship Garden or Ro Ho En

To continue I invite you to visit the Japanese Friendship Garden is an oasis of rest that honors the original construction, which is located in the Japanese city of Himeji. Here you can relax and appreciate the space.

If you are lucky, you can even enjoy an authentic tea ceremony, a ritual that consists of preparing green tea or matcha, since in this garden this activity is performed once a month.

To get there from First Avenue you can get there by car in less than five minutes, taking N 3rd Ave. Another option is to take a bus, which will take you through several small streets of Phoenix, you will arrive in about fifteen minutes.

Details of interest: the entrance fee is around 10 € per person, but if you program your visit among the activities to do in Phoenix in October, you may find special discounts.

Phoenix Art Museum

From the Japanese Friendship Garden you will continue to the Phoenix Art Museum where you will find ancient and modern art exhibits. You can get there by car in less than three minutes, taking N 3rd Ave and McDowell Rd.

Art is a highly valued cultural expression in Phoenix, so in this learning space, you will find tours to study art from different regions internationally.

Details of interest: the entrance fee is approximately $20.

Heritage Square and the Rosson House

From the Phoenix Art Museum you can reach the Phoenix Heritage Square to experience the charm of the Victorian era. All you need to do is drive down N 7th St, it will take you approximately six minutes. You can also take the 0, 7 or 10 bus lines to get there in less than twenty minutes.

Here you can find buildings from the 19th century, such as the Rosson House whose details have been preserved over time.

The house also serves as a historical museum, specifically located on Monroe Street. I recommend you take advantage of these tours, especially among the things to do in Phoenix in January, as it is the best time to walk around the city because there are fewer tourists.

Details of interest: you can find tickets to the Rosson House from 10 €.

Day 2: Venture to Hole in the Rock, the Phoenix Zoo and the Flame Museum

Hole in the Rock shot|©Dave Coppedge
Hole in the Rock shot|©Dave Coppedge

After walking around downtown and taking in the historical heritage, on your second day I suggest you take a look at the other perspective of Phoenix. There are areas where you can find varied experiences that are located within walking distance of each other, such as Hole in the Rock, the Phoenix Zoo and the Hall of Flame Museum.

Hole in the Rock

Hole in the Rock is a hiking area, characterized by its striking geological formations. This curious heritage site is located in Papago Municipal Park. It is the best option for easy hiking.

When you get to Hole in the Rock you can enjoy intense rides on bicycle or quad, through the hills. Or just breathe fresh air and relax in its green areas.

Details of interest: I recommend wearing comfortable shoes. The entrance fee is approximately 6 €.

Book your quad tour

Phoenix Zoo

On your next stop you can visit the Phoenix Zoo, where you can find more than 3000 types of animals, including native species. You can get there from Hole in the Rock in less than five minutes, driving along N Galvin Pkwy, or take the bus along the road, which will drop you off in a matter of seven minutes.

In operation since 1962 and offering free parking, the space features a farm, a monkey village, as well as rides on the Safari Cruise, laps on the Endangered Species Carousel and tours on bicycles made in the shape of animals. An ideal activity if you're looking for things to do with kids in Phoenix.

Details of interest: the entrance fee is around $35, and you can also find guided tours of the facilities.

Buy tickets for the Phoenix Zoo

Firemen's Hall of Flame Museum

Phoenix is a hot city with intense summers, a factor that has prepared citizens to prevent fires and other types of incidents. The Hall of Flame Museum is the perfect place to get an up-close look at the protocols and work system of a fire department.

It is located three minutes from the zoo by car, taking N Galvin Pkwy and E Van Buren St. By bus you can also get there in about fifteen minutes. In this building there are exhibits of antique equipment, including the region's first fire trucks. There is also a mini-theater and hands-on activities ideal for children.

Details of interest: Among the best museums in Phoenix, you can find tickets from 20 €.

Buy tickets for the Flame Hall Museum

Day 3: Explore Legoland, the Phoenix Aquarium, the San Carlos Hotel and the Superstition Mountains

Legoland Discovery Center Phoenix Arizona|©Michael
Legoland Discovery Center Phoenix Arizona|©Michael

You can finish your tour by doing fun activities, such as building Legos at Legoland Discovery Center. Popular attractions within walking distance include the city's aquarium, the ghost tour through the San Carlos Hotel and the Superstition Mountains.

Legoland Discovery Center

Your last one can start at Legoland Discovery Center, an ideal space to stir up memories of your childhood, since you will have the opportunity to build pieces with Legos. In general, in this space you can take advantage of a lot of family activities, as well as the visit to the Legofactory.Details of interest: for around 28 € you can enter all the attractions.

Buy tickets for Legoland Discovery Center

SEA Life Aquarium Arizona

Continue on to the SEA Life Aquarium, an interactive aquarium ideal for all ages. It's located across the street from Legoland, so you'll be there in less than a minute. Its learning spaces will give you answers about the marine world.

There are approximately 3,000 species of animals, including rays, fish, sharks and native species. Get ready to live the experience of learning about the history of rescued turtles, as well as touching baby sharks under professional supervision.

Details of interest: you can find tickets from 15 € approximately. There are special promotions that take you to visit Legoland and SEA Life for the same price, as they are located very close to each other.

Buy tickets for SEA LIFE Aquarium

San Carlos Hotel

To end your day, and if you are a fan of paranormal stories, I recommend learning more about the legends and haunted buildings that are part of Phoenix culture. The most well-known stop encompasses the mysteries of the San Carlos Hotel. The best way to get there from the Phoenix Aquarium is by car or cab on I-10 W, it will take you about twenty minutes.

It is known as Phoenix's haunted hotel, so it is ideal for a ghost tour. Many people believe they have seen ghosts, there are even exhibits about the haunting stories of this venue. Other sites to visit include:

  • St. Mary's Basilica: this church was founded in 1881, since then strange events have been reported.
  • Rosson House: it is a museum located on the oldest street in Phoenix. If you like horror movies, you will definitely be fascinated by this stop. There is a legend about a guard who died years ago in its facilities and who usually haunts its corridors.
  • Teeter House: Eliza Teeter was the founder of this interesting place and lived there until 1965. Some people believe that she still haunts its spaces, since some objects move by themselves.
  • Hanny's: it is a very elegant restaurant, but few people know its secret. In the basement you can find strange dolls, which pay homage to the Last Supper in an unconventional way.

This tour is among the best things to do in Phoenix in April, as it is low season and there are few crowds. It is not recommended for lodging, as it has been in operation since 1926 and its facade and rooms are quite old.

Details of interest: you can book a ghost tour to visit several fascinating places, from 28 € per person. It's a great option if you are looking for things to do in Phoenix at night, as the tour takes place at night.

Book a ghost tour

Other things to see and do in Phoenix

Heard Museum|©Ralph Lauren
Heard Museum|©Ralph Lauren

The fun in this desert paradise does not end, if you decide to extend your itinerary and visit Phoenix in at least 5 days, you will have time to take in the main hidden attractions in the capital of Arizona.

  • Visit the Heard Museum: it is a traditional art museum located on Central Avenue. In case you have a cultural pass you can access for free, all other visitors must pay a fee of approximately 15 €. Here you can explore exhibits on Native American tribes.
  • Tour the old town of Scottsdale: located on the outskirts of the city, there are bars ideal if you are looking for things to do in Phoenix at night. You can also find vintage jewelry stores, restaurants, shopping malls and art galleries.
  • Learn at the Musical Instrument Museum: it has a collection of instruments from over 200 countries. Here you can enjoy concerts and cultural exhibits.

Buy tickets for the Musical Instrument Museum

Tips for visiting Phoenix

Transit in Phoenix|©JimTheGiantEagle
Transit in Phoenix|©JimTheGiantEagle

Use a car

When people say Phoenix is hot, they mean it. It's a city characterized by desert-like summers, with high temperatures. Even winters tend to be mild, unlike other American cities. During your stay, the best thing to do is to rent a car.

In Phoenix there are cars for rent from 8 € per day, everything will depend on the type of vehicle and the services offered. Alamo Rent a Car is an excellent option, as it allows you to save money while enjoying a comfortable and reliable service.

Although it is possible to walk around some areas, it can be suffocating and exhausting. Keep in mind that Phoenix is the sixth largest city in the United States, so you will waste a lot of time walking from place to place. If you are on a tight budget, there are other means of transportation such as:

  • Bus and light rail: this is the least recommended option, as Phoenix's public transportation is poor. However, you can take advantage of it for short trips and in the early morning, as it runs until 2:00 a.m. You can find daily tickets from 4 €.
  • Cab: it is one of the fastest ways to get around, especially if you want to take advantage of the things to do in Phoenix at night. The fare is around 2 €.

Stay hydrated

When visiting a new city, it is important to have energy to cover the itinerary successfully. In Phoenix, it is virtually impossible to complete the tour without constant hydration.

If you are looking for things to do in Phoenix in the summer, be warned that it is a really hot time. Heat waves can occur during this season, which intensify the temperatures.

Be prepared so that the weather doesn't ruin your plans, so you can take advantage of the extra daylight hours.

Look for centrally located lodging

As I mentioned, Phoenix is a very large city. Having centrally located lodging makes it easier to get around, since it allows you to organize your itinerary strategically.

  • Downtown: in the heart of Phoenix you will find most of the activities and attractions, you can take advantage of the local markets on Thursdays or enjoy a baseball game.
  • Midtown: it is an artistic area where some of the best museums in Phoenix are located. Transportation is accessible, plus it offers a variety of nightly entertainment.
  • Encanto: is a fairly safe area, located near Midtown. Accommodations have different price ranges accessible to all, plus there are several Valley Metro stations.