You can spend a great deal of money shopping, attending concerts of big-name performers, going up in hot air balloons, and taking jeep tours in Phoenix, but not everything in the Valley of the Sun has to cost a mint. Even in a metro area as large as Phoenix, there are free community events every month of the year, plus sporting events, events for kids, food lovers, art lovers, and more.
A drive on the Apache Trail is one of the most scenic drives near the Phoenix area. This well-traveled road affords visitors an incredible view of canyons, geologic formations, desert plants and trees, desert and lake views, and wildflowers in season.
Avoid the drive when it's raining or very windy, and probably on the hottest days of the year unless you have a lot of confidence in your car's maintenance and you don't mind getting out in the heat for the scenic stops.
Many of Phoenix's best museums offer free admission, either all of the time or on select days of the week or the month where you are welcome to visit without paying an admission charge. The Arizona State University Art Museum is one always-free institution that showcases world-class Latino and Southwestern art among other collections.
Splash pads and splash parks are popping up all over the metro Phoenix area. With five months of summer, it's no wonder that splash playgrounds are one of the most requested amenities of the various Parks and Recreation Departments around the Valley of the Sun. The public swimming pools usually charge a nominal charge to get in—usually less than $2. Some of these pools also have great features, like waves and slides.
When the Arizona Cardinals have an open practice, you can watch your favorite players and pro hopefuls go through their paces, take orders from the coaches and, hopefully, dole out a few autographs. Training camp only takes place for about a month each summer before regular season football starts. Check the schedule for open practice dates.
Open studios tours are an excellent way to experience Phoenix art and artists. On the first Friday evening of each month, you can take a free self-guided tour of downtown galleries, studios, and art spaces. This is particularly enjoyable during the fall and winter months when temperatures aren't as hot.
Every Thursday night for the past 30 years, many of the more than 100 art galleries in downtown Scottsdale have opened their doors to art lovers, art lover wannabes, and people watchers during Scottsdale ArtWalk. The only day the event isn't held is on Thanksgiving.
Hiking is a popular activity here, and there are plenty of places where you can do it for free. One of them is right in the middle of Phoenix. Surrounded by freeways, neighborhoods, and resorts, is Camelback Mountain, a popular destination for a hike in Phoenix. Looking for something a bit easier where you can take the kids? Waterfall Trail is a good option.
South Mountain Park has been mentioned as the largest city park in the world. At nearly 17,000 acres it certainly covers a lot of ground, although it isn't a park in the sense of grass and playgrounds and lakes, and ducks as one might think. South Mountain Park is a desert mountain preserve. If you are walking, hiking, or biking, enjoy this park when it isn't too hot. In the summer, that means very early in the morning.
Go to a Free Concert
During the summer, you can enjoy free outdoor concerts in the West Valley. During the fall and winter, students at Glendale Community College present a variety of musical performances with free admission. At various times all year long, the Chandler Symphony Orchestra presents free concerts indoors. Get there early for the best seats.
You can take a free guided trolley tour of downtown Scottsdale. The Scottsdale Trolley Tour introduces you to downtown Scottsdale districts, history, and trivia while traveling between Old Town, the Arts District, Fifth Avenue Shops, and Scottsdale Fashion Square.
You might not know it by the name Karsten Manufacturing, but PING Golf is the name by which Karsten Manufacturing Corporation is known worldwide. You can take a tour of the manufacturing facility and see how PING golf clubs are made.
Best time to do it: Most of the tour is indoors. During the busy season (October through April), they are often booked months in advance. Reservations are required.
Each year, representatives of tribal nations of Arizona and the United States, such as the Hopi, Diné, Akimel-Au-Authm, and San Carlos Apache come together to present musical performances and dances at the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall. The event runs from mid-January through the end of March.
Wander Among the Motorcycles
If you're a fan of motorcycles, you've come to the right place. Each year, there are two free events—Motorcycles on Main and Westgate Bike Night—that will allow you to wander among the bikes and admire them. Both events take place in the evening.
Hockey fans can watch open practices and even practice games when the Arizona Coyotes get ready for the start of the National Hockey League season. This is a great chance to see the rookies who might be the hockey stars of tomorrow. The camp is usually held in September before the regular season begins.
Visit a Riparian Habitat
Several riparian areas are found in the Greater Phoenix area. Aside from their role in helping to maintain ecological balance in an area, these are great places for the public to learn about the area's environment plants and wildlife, watch birds, picnic and otherwise enjoy nature. These are open to the public at no charge for jogging, walking, and self-guided bird-watching. Great options include the riparian preserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert and the Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Project in Phoenix.
If a football training camp or hockey training camp are not of interest, you might be a baseball fan. Minor League Baseball runs a rookie league season every year at various of our stadiums around town, usually at the practice fields. Games are played from mid-June until the end of August.