Downtown Phoenix at Dusk
10 Free Things To Do in Metro Phoenix
The Valley of the Sun is big, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are 10 free things to do in metro Phoenix throughout the year, ranging from artwalks and farmers’ markets to scenic hikes and an actual bat cave.
Old Town Scottsdale
Though you may feel the urge to take out some cash, you can easily browse the many galleries and even pop-up vendors at one of the many free artwalks throughout metro Phoenix.
Downtown Phoenix hosts the monthly First Friday artwalks – featuring the galleries and arts of the Roosevelt Arts District.
You can also check out the 2nd Friday Night Out in downtown Mesa, and the Scottsdale ArtWalk on Thursday evenings from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. along Main Street and Marshall Way.
Several cultural centers and museums throughout town offer free entry during specific times. Some spots are free just all the time, and they include the Arizona State Capitol Museum, ASU Art Museum, and the ASU Museum of Anthropology.
Admission to the Heard Museum is free from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. during the aforementioned First Fridays. Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art – locally called SMoCA – is free on Thursdays, wide open after 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Desert Botanical Garden
Phoenix Art Museum is also free during the same time on FFs, and on Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., while the Phoenix Children's Museum is free from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on FFs.
Desert Botanical Garden
This is an especially awesome destination for visitors who haven’t spent much time in the desert. Explore the beautiful displays of dessert flora – often accompanied by the fascinating art exhibitions.
The Desert Botanical Garden offers entry from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month in the Arcadia area.
Valley Farmers’ Markets
The downtown area features the Phoenix Public Market, offering the weekly Open Air Market on Saturday mornings, and the Thursday evening Downtown Sundown.
Tempe Beach Park
Now Phoenix is Phoenix, but metro Phoenix is so much more. Other farmers’ markets in town include the Ahwatukee Farmers' Market, the Care Free Farmers’ Market, and the Old Town Farmers' Market in Scottsdale.
Phoenix Area Parks
Despite a couple months of 100 plus degree weather, Phoenix is a four-season destination – and all for free.
Check out Encanto Park in central Phoenix, Granada Park in Uptown, and Tempe Beach Park against Tempe Town Lake. PHX is also extremely versatile.
Valley Mountain Biking
Find yourself surrounded by stunning desert landscapes in South Mountain Park or Lost Dutchman State Park, or take in the weirdly awesome and wonderfully colorful “Her Secret Is Patience” sculpture in the urban Phoenix Civic Space Park downtown.
Hiking Trails + Mountains
There are several quick hiking trails right within metro Phoenix.
Popular ones include the one-mile Big Butte Loop Trail at Papago Park, the 1.5-miles Nature Trail at Piestawa Peak, and of course hiking Camelback Mountain.
Gilbert Heritage District
You can also try trekking the Superstition Mountains in far east Phoenix, the White Tanks in far west Phoenix, and Pinnacle Peak in the North Valley.
You don’t have to shop, but you’re more than welcome to look all throughout the Valley.
Antiquing is a big deal in the many historic downtowns of the various communities through metro Phoenix. Browse through Old Town Scottsdale, the Glendale Historic District, and Main Street in Mesa for antiques, galleries, bookstores, and more.
Other walkable and browsable spots in the Valley include Mill Avenue in Tempe, West Gate in Glendale, the Gilbert Heritage District, Desert Ridge in north Phoenix, and Tempe Marketplace.
Phoenix Bat Canal
Back in Scottsdale, you can get free tours of downtown Scottsdale on a real life trolley! It’s called the Downtown Scottsdale Art & Cultural Trolley Tour – or just LocalMotion Tours.
The Phoenix area is teeming with bikes paths, whether it’s along the Arizona Canal Trail and Sonoran Bike Trail, or mountain biking in Papago Park and Phoenix Sonoran Desert Preserve.
There are also several organizations in town hosting group rides, including the Phoenix Downtempo Ride on Monday nights, the TIP (Tuesday Inclusive Pedaling) Ride on Tuesdays nights, and many more.
A hidden gem in the Phoenix area, the “Bat Canal” or “Bat Cave” is a free and fun spot to see something different – that being urban bat-viewing.
Each summer (ranging here from May to October), over 5,000 Mexican free-tailed bats and western pipistrelle bats shoot out of the Maricopa County Flood Control Tunnel.
The spot is found in the Arcadia region near 40th Street and Camelback Road, and after a quick walk down the canal path. Look for signs and people gathered quietly around a fence. Just be sure to keep it down!