New Year's falls right in the middle of the peak travel season for Phoenix. The balmy weather is a pleasant escape for visitors from colder parts of the country, and the temperatures are much more comfortable than the scorching summer days. As a major city of the Southwest, it's also easy to find end-of-year parties to ring in the new year.
Thankfully, Phoenix doesn't disappoint those looking for January 1 activities, either. Most of the main city attractions are open on New Year's Day to enjoy, and you can always take advantage of Arizona's beautiful parks and great weather by doing some outdoor activity.
Take a First Day Hike
You'll find a variety of hiking trails, nature trails, and picnic facilities all over the central Arizona area, many of which are open on New Year's Day. Arizona State Parks participate in a special program called "First Day Hikes" where you can take a ranger-led hike at one of the lovely state parks. In fact, there are several within just a couple of hours from Phoenix.
Alamo Lake State Park is about a two-hour drive from Phoenix and offers a 9 a.m. First Day Hike. This is where the Sonoran Desert meets the Mojave, and you'll be able to see local legendary plants like the saguaro cactus and Joshua tree.
Less than two hours to the north of Phoenix is Dead Horse Ranch State Park. On this guided hike, you'll see not only scenic lagoons and rivers, but plenty of wildlife, such as birds, beavers, and otters.
This wonderful garden is open regular hours on New Year's Day. Get some fresh air after New Year's Eve night with a walk through the Desert Botanical Garden in Papago Park. The 50-acre expanse has more than 21,000 plans and many beautiful paths, including the Harriet K. Maxwell Desert Wildflower Trail.
The Musical Instrument Museum in North Phoenix is a unique experience with immersive galleries that showcase the musical depth of America and the world. There are no other dedicated museums on the planet that cover such an expansive and global look at music. The special exhibition opening for the end of 2019 is "Congo Masks and Music: Masterpieces from Central Africa."
The Phoenix Zoo is open on New Year's Day for regular zoo animal visitations. Lose yourself in the 2.5 miles of walking trails across the 125-acre property, including the Arizona Trail, the Africa Trail, the Tropics Trail, the Discovery Trail, and the African Savanna. Kids and adults will delight in the more than 1,000 animals on exhibit, including highlights like Asian elephants, Sumatran tigers, and towering giraffes.
Ring in the new year by visiting ZooLights, the massive holiday spectacle at the Phoenix Zoo. This winter light display is made up of nearly 4 million lights, and is only open after the zoo closes for the day. Although most of the live animals are put away to rest for the night, a whole new zoo comes to life from light display animals in this special holiday event.
Celebrate New Year's Day at Sea Life Arizona, which is open on the holiday. Here you can see 12 distinct habitats housing more than 5,000 creatures in 200,000 gallons of water. The aquarium is home to a variety of sea creatures such as seahorses, rays, sharks, and species indigenous to Arizona. The kid-friendly tide pools are an interactive way for young ones to learn about and touch shallow sea creatures like starfish, sea urchins, and crabs.
On New Year's Day, take the popular Insights Tour at Taliesin West, the site of Frank Lloyd Wright's winter home and the current home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. The tour will give you access to their private quarters and living room, the garden room, the drafting studio, the music pavilion, the cabaret, and more.
Every winter season, CityScape has an outdoor ice skating rink in downtown Phoenix. NRG Ice Rink admission includes skate rental and unlimited skating for the day. There is also a tree-lighting ceremony, live music, and holiday performances at CityScape as well. The ice rink is conveniently located downtown near multiple stops of the Valley Metro Light Rail.
Get a Tee Time
If you are a golfer, you'll find plenty of golf courses that are open on January 1. However, keep in mind that the holidays are high season in Phoenix, so the rates tend to be high. Legacy Golf Resort is one of the most popular thanks to its high-end amenities, including a deluxe health club, large outdoor pool, the 300+ Spanish mission-style guest suites, and of course the 18-hole championship golf course.
Another option is to reserve a bay at the Topgolf driving range. You and up to five others can enjoy your personal lounge area while hitting golf balls at this state-of-the-art range.
Wildlife World is a zoo, aquarium, and safari park, boasting the largest collection of exotic animals in all of Arizona. Located on the west side of town, Wildlife World is open 365 days a year, so visiting on January 1 isn't a problem. Here you can see rare animals not on display at the nearby Phoenix Zoo, such as the albino alligator and saltwater crocodiles. Visitors of all ages will melt when they step into the baby animal nursery, and kids will go crazy at the opportunity to hand-feed a giraffe.
Thrill-seeking drivers can get a true taste of performance racing at Octane Raceway in Scottsdale. These European-style go-karts reach speeds of up to 45 mph. Riders can challenge their friends or family members to a race. Anyone older than 16 can participate in the adult races, and for those who are younger, there are specially designed junior races.
Apart from the go-karts, you can also play an interactive and multi-player virtual reality game, complete with the VR goggles. Immerse yourself in another world with this futuristic activity.