Phoenix, Arizona and the surrounding area of The Valley of the Sun can be a great area to explore for anyone traveling on a budget. There are a wide array of free things to do that will suit just about any interest. Some attractions are free only on certain days – please check before you go.
1.Phoenix Art Museum
© Phoenix Art Museum
The Phoenix Art Museum has offered access to educational programs and visual arts in Phoenix, Arizona for more than fifty years. It is also the largest art museum located in the southwestern region of the United States. General admission, which typically doesn’t include special exhibitions, is by voluntary donation during specific days and times for the Phoenix Art Museum. These days and times are Wednesdays from 3:00pm until 9:00pm. The first Friday of every month from 6:00pm until 10:00pm, and the second Sunday of every month from 12:00pm until 5:00pm.
1625 N. Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004, Phone: 602-666-7104
2.ASU Art Museum
The ASU Art Museum is housed inside of the Nelson Fine Art Center on the campus of of Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. The museum features three different floors that display a variety of year-round rotating exhibits, as well as an award-winning store. The permanent collection at the ASU Art Museum focuses primarily on contemporary works of art, including contemporary art by emerging and regional artists, both contemporary and historic Latin American art, contemporary and historic prints, and contemporary crafts with a focus on wood, fibers, and ceramics. Complimentary parking is offered in ASU Lot 9 in front of the museum.
51 E 10th St, Tempe, AZ 85281, Phone: 480-965-2787
3.Shemer Art Center/Museum East Phoenix
The Shemer Art Center/Museum East Phoenix is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10:00am until 3:00pm. Guests visiting the art center and museum can take advantage of the on-site free parking. The Shemer Art Center is housed inside of a stucco home from the 1920’s originally owned by Martha Shemer. She donated the home in 1984 to the city. The facility boasts an amazing view of the nearby Camelback Mountain, along with now hosting exhibits inside of the front room, sculptures in the outdoor garden, history throughout the home, and art classes in the kitchen.
5005 East Camelback Rd, Phoenix, Arizona 85018, Phone: 602-262-4727
4.Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport Museum
© Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport Museum
The goal of the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport Museum is to enhance the experience of airport visitors by providing a memorable environment promoting the unique cultural and artistic heritage of Arizona through the Aviation History Collection, Art Collection, and Exhibition Program. The Aviation History Collection shares artifacts, memorabilia, and documents associated with the Goodyear, Deer Valley, and Sky Harbor airport community as a way to increase awareness of important Arizona air transport achievements. The Art Collection consists of contemporary works of art meant to create a sense of community and warmth and to improve the environment of the airport.
3800 E Sky Harbor Blvd, Phoenix, AZ 85034, Phone: 602-273-2744
5.Arizona Military Museum
© Arizona Military Museum
The Arizona National Guard Historical Society, which is a non-profit private organization, operates the Arizona Military Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. The directors and officers act as docents. The building itself that houses the military museum is a significant part of the military history of Arizona. It was built out of raw adobe back in the year 1936 as part of a project by public works during the Great Depression era. The building acted as one of the arsenals of the National Guard until the second World War, after which it was transformed into a maintenance shop for a POW camp nearby.
5636 E. McDowell Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85008, Phone: 602-267-2676
6.Fiesta Bowl Museum
© Michael Flippo/stock.adobe.com
Visitors to the Ellie and Michael Ziegler Fiesta Bowl Museum can relive some of the best moments in the history of the Fiesta Bowl. The football museum is open to the public Monday through Friday from 8:30am until 5:00pm, and there is no charge any day for admission. Fans of college football have the opportunity to discover a wide variety of exhibits that feature memorabilia from Fiesta Bowl games and events and each one of the 128 FBS team helmets. Some of the most prestigious trophies are also on display, such as the Heisman and the Fiesta Bowl.
7135 E. Camelback Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, Phone: 480-350-0900
7.Sahuaro Ranch Historical Area in Glendale
The Sahuaro Ranch Historical Area in Glendale, Arizona is open to visitors from 6:00am until sunset. There is no admission fees to visit the Historic Sahuaro Ranch, with the exception of particular special events. The historical area preserves one of the most magnificent and oldest ranches in the Valley. The Historic Sahuaro Ranch encompasses seventeen acres and features historic orchards, a barnyard, a rose garden, and thirteen original buildings. The site is also designated on the National Register of Historical Places. Free guided tours of the site’s Historic Main House are offered every thirty minutes from the porch.
9802 N. 59th Ave, Glendale, AZ 85302, Phone: 623-930-4200
© Heard Museum
The Heard Museum in Phoenix features twelve different galleries with various exhibitions, outdoor sculpture gardens, trading-post style shopping, a gallery of contemporary art, and free guided tours. Free admission is offered from 6:00pm until 10:00pm on the first Friday of each month, with the exception of the month of March and special ticketed exhibitions. The art collection at the Heard Museum focuses on the lives of the country’s Native people, consists of over forty thousand items. The two main areas of focus are North American contemporary native fine art and cultural collections of the Greater Southwest.
2301 North Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004, Phone: 602-252-8840
9.Wells Fargo History Museum
The Wells Fargo History Museum located in Phoenix, Arizona is housed within the Wells Fargo Plaza Building between 1st Avenue and 2nd Avenue. Exhibits at the museum include a stagecoach replica that visitors can climb into, an authentic stagecoach from the nineteenth century, an interactive telegraph, and an art gallery that features the largest public display of the western-theme work of N.C. Wyeth. Parking for visitors is available in the parking garage for the Wells Fargo Plaza off of 1st Avenue. The Wells Fargo History Museum is open Monday to Friday, from 9:00am until 5:00pm.
145 West Adams St, Phoenix, Arizona 85003, Phone: 602-378-1852
10.Phoenix Police Museum
© Phoenix Police Museum
The Phoenix Police Museum is housed inside of the Historic Phoenix City Hall on the first floor. This museum highlights the long history of the Phoenix Police Department starting in the year 1881, beginning with Henry Garfias being elected as the city’s first city marshal and going up to present day. There is no fee for admission to the Phoenix Police Museum, and the museum is open daily from 9:00am until 3:00pm, with the exception of holidays. Visitors can see the First Mashal’s office and jail in Phoenix, Arizona, along with several exhibits that display 130 years of law enforcement history.
17 South 2nd Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85003, Phone: 602-534-7278
11.Scottsdale Historical Museum
© Scottsdale Historical Museum
The Scottsdale Historical Museum offers both visitors and locals alike with an opportunity to learn about the stories of Scottsdale’s past through various exhibits inside of a former one-room schoolhouse. The museum housed in the Little Red School House is supported by the Scottsdale Historical Society. Permanent exhibits at the museum include the one-room schoolhouse display, the Winfield Scott exhibit, and Goldwater furnishings. The Scottsdale Historical Museum is open Wednesday to Saturday between the months of September and May. It is closed from June to August and on some holidays. The museum also closes earlier in the day during September.
7333 East Scottsdale Mall, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, Phone: 480-945-4499
12.Children’s Museum of Phoenix
© Children’s Museum of Phoenix
The Children’s Museum of Phoenix is open to the public year-round on Tuesdays through Sundays, from 9:00am until 4:00pm, as well on select holiday Mondays. Free on-site parking is available. Visitors can explore the Children’s Museum free of charge during the first Friday night of most months during the year from 5:00pm until 9:00pm. There are a wide range of interactive and hands-on exhibits for kids to play in and learn. These include the Art Studio, Noodle Forest, Block Mania, The Market, Building Big, the Schuff-Perini Climber, Pedal Power, The Grand Ballroom, and the Move It outdoor exhibit.
215 N 7th St, Phoenix, AZ 85034, Phone: 602-253-0501
13.Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Scottsdale
© Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Scottsdale
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is located in Scottsdale, Arizona, just outside of Phoenix. The museum is an educational facility dedicated to the presentation of modern and contemporary art exhibitions, design, and architecture. With a global focus, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art serves as a gathering place for visitors to experience contemporary culture and art. Free general admission is offered on Thursdays and on the second Saturday of each month. Free parking is available in several locations around the museum, such as the Civic Center Library garage, the Old Town Parking Corral, and the Civic Center Lot.
7374 East Second St, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, Phone: 480-874-4666
14.Arizona Railway Museum
© Arizona Railway Museum
The Arizona Railway Museum is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00pm until 4:00pm. Visitors can take a self-guided tour around the yard to explore the equipment on display. Placards explain each piece and its historical significance. The yard is an open-air exhibit and comfortable shoes are recommended as the surface is made of crushed rocks. Free admission is offered during the annual Arizona Railway Day, which typically takes place near the end of February each year. Guests can also walk through the display building to take a look at small artifacts and the Gift Shop.
330 E. Ryan Rd, Chandler, AZ 85286, Phone: 480-821-1108
© Chandler Museum
The Chandler Museum is located near Phoenix in the town of Chandler, Arizona. The facility is an interdisciplinary learning environment that aims to bring the community together to preserve the area’s cultural heritage, share its stories, and experience the Chandler community as a place and a people. The exhibits showcase the local history of Chandler and strive to engage the public in relevant conversations on a national level. There is a collection at the Chandler Museum of photographs, artifacts, oral histories, and archival materials that document the diverse history of Chander. The museum also manages the Tumbleweed Ranch.
300 S. Chandler Village Dr, Chandler, AZ 85224, Phone: 480-782-2717
16.Desert Botanical Garden
The Desert Botanical Garden offers free admission for visitors during its Community Day, which is held on the second Tuesday of each month. There are several different garden trails that guests can take to explore the unique gardens. The Sonoran Desert Nature Loop Trail offers an amazing view from the top of the surrounding mountains. The Desert Discovery Loop Trail takes visitors through the Desert Terrace Garden and into the heart of the Desert Botanical Garden. The Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert Loop Trail explore how the desert’s plants have been used for building materials, medicine, and food by native people.
1201 N. Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008, Phone: 480-941-1225
17.Maricopa County Parks Guided Events
The Maricopa County Parks and Recreation department offers a wide array of different guided events in which visitors and locals alike can participate in throughout the week, year-round. Guided events range from fitness activities to animal encounters, and much more. Morning on the Mountain is one such event, during which participants can join a guided hike through the Estrella Mountains at the Estrella Regional Park. The Animal Flashlight Walk gives guests a chance to try and see some of the nocturnal desert animals along a one-hour walk down the Merkle Trail, while Lunch with the “Locals” features animal feedings.
18.Mesa Arts Center
© Mesa Arts Center
The Mesa Arts Center Museum serves as an interesting exhibition space for visual art at the Mesa Arts Center in Mesa, Arizona near Phoenix. The art museum features five different art galleries that showcase carefully curated contemporary art exhibitions that display works by both internationally recognized and emerging artists. The museum is open Tuesdays through Sunday throughout the year, with the exception of most major holidays and possibly summer closures. Visitors can check the center’s website for possible closures. In addition to the several galleries, including the museum’s permanent art collection, the museum also provides art workshops and lectures.
One East Main St, Mesa, AZ 85201, Phone: 480-644-6560
19.Gallery - at City Hall, Downtown Phoenix
The Gallery at City Hall is located in downtown Phoenix and is focused on the display of rotating art exhibition featuring works from the historic municipal Art Collection of the City of Phoenix. This collection includes around one thousand portable works, highlighting the exemplary projects that have been commissioned by the Phoenix Public Art Program, an award-winning program, and offering a chance to view the legacy of art that began in 1915. The art gallery can be found on City Hall’s ground floor and there is no admission fee to explore the artwork. Gallery hours are 10:00am until 2:00pm Monday to Friday.
200 W. Washington St, Phoenix, AZ 85003, Phone: 602-262-4637
20.Phoenix Public Library
The Phoenix Public Library offers a variety of different programs available to the public, including its insightful Arizona 101 programs that provide both local residents and visitors alike a chance to learn more about the state of Arizona, the “Grand Canyon State.” The @Central Gallery is located at the Burton Barr Central Library. This art gallery showcases fine art exhibits that feature works by artists from Arizona. Visitors can explore the gallery during the library’s normal hours of operations, as well as First Fridays. One interesting feature in several of the library of the Phoenix Public Library system are the active workstations.
1221 N. Central Ave, 85004, Phone: 602-262-4636
21.Arizona Capitol Museum
The Arizona Capitol Museum features a combination of public programs, historical artifacts, interactive activities, and technology to help guests learn more about the social, political, and cultural history of the state of Arizona. There are several different exhibits for visitors to explore in the Arizona Capitol Museum. The USS Arizona: Flagship Of The Fleet exhibit displays the silver service of the battleship along with additional artifacts. Arizona Takes Shape is another exhibit at the museum, following the journey of Arizona from westward expansion up to statehood it showcases how the state has evolved over time.
1700 W Washington St, Phoenix, AZ 85007, Phone: 602-926-3620
22.Tempe History Museum
© Tempe History Museum
The Tempe History Museum explore the history of the Tempe, Arizona area through programs, exhibits, research services, and collection that are designed to connect with and captivate audiences in the community and further beyond. Visitors can discover the local Tempe history through four themed areas: Surviving in the Desert, Living Together, Building Our Community, and College Town. The Kid’s Place is a gallery for children offering younger guests with an opportunity to spend time with new friends and family, play, and explore. There is also a changing gallery that showcases rotating exhibits, as well as the Community Room exhibit space.
809 E. Southern Ave, Tempe, Arizona 85282, Phone: 480-350-5100
23.West Valley Art Museum
© West Valley Art Museum
The West Valley Art Museum draws in people from throughout the state of Arizona to explore the high quality art representing an array of different themes, from experimental installations to Asian artwork to costumes from over sixty countries throughout the world. Guests can view a diverse art display, considering the permanent collection of the West Valley Art Museum consists of over 1,600 items. The art museum is open Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays from 10:00am until 4:00pm and on Thursdays from noon until 6:00pm. It is closed on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
8401 W Monroe St, Peoria AZ 85345, Phone: 623-972-0635
24.Roosevelt Row Arts District
The Roosevelt Row Arts District is the walkable arts district in downtown Phoenix, Arizona, home to boutique shops, bars, restaurants, art studio spaces, and art galleries within a setting dotted with colorful street art. Roosevelt Row also hosts many popular events throughout the year, such as the First Fridays Art Walk that takes place every month and annual festivals, including the Chile Pepper Festival, Pie Social, and many others. The art in the Roosevelt Arts District thrives in gallery exhibits, on painted murals, and on restaurant walls. The neighborhood is place to appreciating art, enjoying delicious meals, or finding a unique gift.
The Goldfield Gunfighters are a group of dedicated volunteers who take great pride in authentically reenacting gunfights of the Old West. They strive to bring the history and the spirit of the Old West to life for visitors of all ages at the Goldfield Ghost Town. Choreographed, loud skirmishes take place every hours during the day and are announced over speakers. Guests can watch the Goldfield Gunfighters, a group of lawmen, troublemakers, and outlaws, from the ends of the town’s street and boardwalks of buildings.The fights starts with shouting, eventually resulting in an all-out gunfight..
4650 N Mammoth Mine Rd, Apache Junction, AZ 85119, Phone: 480-983-0333
25 Best Free Things to Do in Phoenix Year Round
- Phoenix Art Museum, Photo: Phoenix Art Museum
- ASU Art Museum, Photo: humannet/stock.adobe.com
- Shemer Art Center/Museum East Phoenix, Photo: guruXOX/stock.adobe.com
- Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport Museum, Photo: Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport Museum
- Arizona Military Museum, Photo: Arizona Military Museum
- Fiesta Bowl Museum, Photo: Michael Flippo/stock.adobe.com
- Sahuaro Ranch Historical Area in Glendale, Photo: eugenesergeev/stock.adobe.com
- Heard Museum, Photo: Heard Museum
- Wells Fargo History Museum, Photo: spiritofamerica/stock.adobe.com
- Phoenix Police Museum, Photo: Phoenix Police Museum
- Scottsdale Historical Museum, Photo: Scottsdale Historical Museum
- Children’s Museum of Phoenix, Photo: Children’s Museum of Phoenix
- Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Scottsdale, Photo: Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Scottsdale
- Arizona Railway Museum, Photo: Arizona Railway Museum
- Chandler Museum, Photo: Chandler Museum
- Desert Botanical Garden, Photo: desertsolitaire/stock.adobe.com
- Maricopa County Parks Guided Events, Photo: adogslifephoto/stock.adobe.com
- Mesa Arts Center, Photo: Mesa Arts Center
- Gallery - at City Hall, Downtown Phoenix, Photo: Suchota/stock.adobe.com
- Phoenix Public Library, Photo: connel_design/stock.adobe.com
- Arizona Capitol Museum, Photo: sframe/stock.adobe.com
- Tempe History Museum, Photo: Tempe History Museum
- West Valley Art Museum, Photo: West Valley Art Museum
- Roosevelt Row Arts District, Photo: joeycheung/stock.adobe.com
- Goldfield Gunfighters, Photo: antiksu/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: AZP Worldwide/stock.adobe.com