Great Places to Visit in the Greater Phoenix Area

The Greater Phoenix area is made up of more than 25 cities and towns, depending on how you define it. Many people think of Greater Phoenix as only including Maricopa County, although Pinal County is included in that definition according to the U.S. Census. 

For at least two decades, the metro Phoenix area has been one of the fastest growing in the country, and it's a lot of area to cover. There are many fun attractions to visit on your trip.  From museums and festivals to air shows and racing, let's take a look at what the Phoenix area has to offer.

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    Phoenix, Business district
    Brian Stablyk/Getty Images

    Although many people tend to refer to the entire Greater Phoenix area as simply 'Phoenix,' the City of Phoenix is the hub of it all. Phoenix is the state capital and the non-agricultural history of the area is concentrated right here. It's also the sixth largest city in the country.

    Within the city itself, you will find many great attractions. The Arizona Science Center and State Capitol Museum are fun opportunities to learn more about the area. You can also hike Camelback Mountain or enjoy nature more leisurely at the Desert Botanical Garden.

    Theaters, parks, restaurants, and more, you'll find plenty to do right in Phoenix.

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    USA, Arizona, Mesa, cityscape, aerial view
    Brian Stablyk/Getty Images

    Mesa is one of Arizona's largest cities in both area and population. It is located in what is often referred to as the East Valley—the southeast portion of the Greater Phoenix area.

    In a city this large, there is a lot to keep you busy. The Mesa Arts Center is the largest art complex in Arizona and a place you'll surely want to visit. You can also get on a horse and enjoy a day of trail rides or enjoy a waterpark, miniature golf, or maybe even some laser tag with the family while in Mesa.

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    Buildings in Historic District.
    Richard Cummins/Getty Images

    Chandler was named for a veterinarian, Dr. A. J. Chandler, who settled in the area in 1891. In 1920, the Town of Chandler incorporated, with Dr. Chandler as its first mayor. Chandler is also in the East Valley, just southeast of Phoenix.

    While there is quite a bit to do in Chandler, it's likely you will find no other place that has its own Ostrich Festival. Chandler is, after all, the nation's hub for raising ostriches and for one week each March the big birds get to strut their stuff for all to see.

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    Gilbert Arizona Temple
    Jerry Ferguson/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    Gilbert incorporated on July 6, 1920. It was known as the "Hay Capital of the World" until the late 1920s and a lot has changed since then! Gilbert was recognized as the fastest growing city in America between 1990 and 2005, with a growth rate of nearly 500 percent.

    The rapid growth in Gilbert is bringing with it many fun opportunities. You can enjoy an afternoon of outdoor shopping at San Tan Village or try your hand at target golf at Topgolf. There are many parks, including a lake just for dogs and the Riparian Preserve, home to over 200 bird species and great walking trails.

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    Tempe City Hall — 31 E. 5th Street, Tempe, Maricopa County, Arizona.
    Daderot/Wikimedia Commons/PD-self

    Tempe is located in the southeast part of the Greater Phoenix area and is one of the cities included in the East Valley area. One of Tempe's claims to fame is that it is the primary location of Arizona State University.

    A university means that you'll find lots of things to see and do in Tempe. From the Tempe History Museum to the ASU Art Museum (both of which are free) to the Sea Life Arizona aquarium and the Legoland Discovery Center, you can spend an entire trip in Tempe alone.

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    Arizona desert landscape in Scottsdale
    Thomas Roche/Getty Images

    Scottsdale is often thought of as Arizona's playground for the rich and famous. Sometimes referred to as Snotsdale by critical (or envious?) Arizonans, you'll find quite a concentration of high-end shopping, luxury resorts, fine dining, and country club living in this city.

    During your trip to Scottsdale, you can wonder at the classic cars of the Barrett-Jackson Auction or be amazed by the experience of Butterfly Wonderland. There's a lot of golf to be played and for football fans, the Fiesta Bowl Museum. You might even consider an evening hot air balloon ride to get the best views of the area.

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    Glendale city hall during Glendale Glitters
    Evette/Wikimedia Commons via Flickr/CC-BY-SA-2.0

    Glendale is in the northwest portion of the Greater Phoenix area. In recent years, Glendale has seen major growth in both residential and commercial development.

    Two major stadiums now have a Glendale, Arizona address, including the homes of the Arizona Cardinals and Arizona Coyotes. Beyond football and hockey, catch a concert while you're in town or take a hike to Petroglyph Plaza at White Tank Mountain Regional Park.

    Glendale is becoming one of the hot destinations in the area, so be sure to add it to your itinerary.

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    The image represents the new City Hall of the City of Surprise, Arizona, the United States of America. All the buildings, as the entire absolutely new Civic Center of the City of Surprise, were dedicated in October 2009.
    Venske/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA-3.0

    Surprise, Arizona was named for Surprise, Nebraska and incorporated in 1960. In recent years, Surprise has grown from a town of about 2,000 homes to a bustling community for both families and retirees, with the population more than tripling in that time. The adult living community of Sun City Grand is actually within the Surprise city limits.

    Surprise is also home to spring training camps, which should thrill baseball fans. It boasts an aquatics center that makes other pools look like backyard ponds and is home to quite a few spray and splash pads for a quick and free cool down in the desert sun.

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    The Peoria Sports Complex is a multi-use sports facility located in Peoria, Arizona. The complex hosts the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres for the Cactus League Spring Training.
    ArizonaTravel/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-3.0

    Peoria is located northwest of the city of Phoenix and is considered part of the greater Phoenix area. It was founded in 1886 by settlers from Peoria, Illinois and that's how it got its name.

    While not the most active tourist destination in the area, you will find a few must-see attractions in Peoria. It is home to the Challenger Space Center, an affiliate of the Smithsonian, that has among its many programs space flight simulators. For Padres and Mariners fans, this is the city where the teams take on spring training, which you won't want to miss.

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    AVONDALE, AZ - MARCH 19: General view during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Camping World 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 19, 2017 in Avondale, Arizona.
    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    Both Avondale and Goodyear were incorporated in 1946. They're historically known for agriculture, though today you'll find one major attraction and plenty of places to stay because of it.

    Avondale is probably best known as the location of Phoenix International Raceway. It's where NASCAR events are held, including the big NASCAR Cup Series race every March. Now, if you're a fan of NHRA drag racing, then you'll have to head to Wild Horse Pass in Chandler.

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    The City of Litchfield Park was incorporated in 1987. It the home of Luke Air Force Base and April is the time to catch a spectacular air show during Luke Days.

    If you hit the town in January, be sure to catch the Native American Arts Festival. Litchfield Park is also home to the Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park, a top destination for wildlife-loving families year-round.

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    The Old West is alive and well in Wickenburg, about 60 miles northwest of Phoenix. While it may not be on everyone's travel plans, it is the "Dude Ranch Capital of Arizona."

    One weekend in February is the annual Gold Rush Days. Put on your cowboy boots and hat and join the old-fashioned fun.

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    The City of Maricopa is in Pinal County and not Maricopa County. How confusing! Maricopa is located about 20 miles south of Phoenix, so it's a bit of a drive, but there is some fun to be found there.

    Nearby, you'll find the 22-acre Pacana Park that is filled with sports activities for everyone. The Harrah's  Ak-Chin Casino is also close and offers concerts, dining, and gambling. At the right time of year, you'll also find the Maricopa Salsa Festival and a fishing derby.

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    Cave Creek is located in the northern part of the Valley of the Sun. It's a town with a western spirit and a history of mining and ranching.

    A trip to Cave Creek really brings the Old West to life. You'll find plenty of opportunities to hit the trails on horse or foot. If you're looking to shop for authentic western wear or to catch a rodeo, it's the place to be.

    For a history lesson, be sure to stop by the Cave Creek Museum. If you're nearby during the last weekend of May, the Cave Creek Balloon Festival is a must-see event.