Phoenix has plenty of hidden places to explore for anyone with a sense of adventure. Scattered across the city are some of the most unique, off the grid, and simply visually stimulating spectacles that are hidden in plain sight. It just takes a little searching. Our chosen destinations will take you from the city centre to abandoned structures in the desert, and many places in between.

    We have checked every nook and cranny in the city to bring you directly to the coolest hidden gems that Phoenix has to offer. Here are the cool places only locals known in Phoenix.

    1

    Fireflies exhibit at Phoenix Art Museum

    Float through a sea of lights in this interdimensional art experience

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    'Fireflies' will summon your inner Bowie, and make you feel like Starman when you enter this fantastical array of lights displayed at Phoenix Art Museum. Yayoi Kusama's installation, 'You Who are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies' will take you on a space journey as you walk through the large exhibit room, surrounded fully by mirrors and LED light. Depth becomes an illusion and you become just another firefly in a galaxy of twinkling stars.

    There’s no wait time, and you can spend hours inside this walk-in infinity room designed to send the mind on a galactic journey without leaving the museum.

    Location: 1625 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm, Sunday from noon to 5 pm (closed on Monday)

    Phone: +1 602-257-1880

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    photo by Visitor7 (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    2

    Anthem Veterans Memorial

    A wonderfully impressive way to honour US veterans

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    • History
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    Anthem Veterans Memorial was erected on Veteran’s Day 2011 in honour of America's finest, but there’s much more than meets the eye. The 5 pillars are arranged in a specific order and each represents a separate branch of the military. If you’re in Phoenix during Memorial Day (November 11th) don’t miss the display of the Seal of The United States as the sun's rays pass through glass panels in the hollow portion of the pillars.

    At precisely 11.11 am, the seal is perfectly complete and visible for all to see as the shadow is cast, offering a perfect tribute to the nation's heroes.

    Location: 41703 N Gavilan Peak Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85086, USA

    Open: Daily from 6 am to 10 pm

    Phone: +1 623-742-6050

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    3

    Pioneer Village

    Welcome to the Wild West

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    • History
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    Pioneer Village will make you want to strap on your boots and lace up your chaps as you'll be immersed in a time long passed. The Wild West is still alive and well in this historic display of old western buildings and structures arranged together to form a city right out of the pioneer days. Most of the homes and cabins are original, dating back to the 1870s, and were relocated to this 90-acre property to keep the era alive.

    You’ll be given a guided tour, or you can stroll freely through the town. And if you’re lucky, you’ll catch yourself in the middle of an old-time shootout! Reenacted by the museum's dedicated actors, of course.

    Location: 3901 W Pioneer Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85086, USA

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    photo by Marine 69-71 (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    4

    Mystery Castle

    It’s no mystery that this is a sight to see

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    Mystery Castle was given its name due to the questions asked once this magnificent castle was discovered by the public, such as, "Why is there a castle in Phoenix Arizona?"

    The castle was built by hand as a gift from a loving father to his daughter in the 1930s. You will feel the care and attention in this masterpiece as you pass through the cool stone hallways, making your way to the cantina for a drink, or visit the private chapel within the castle walls. Don't be a menace while on the tour, because the father added a dungeon in the substructure for the occasion.

    Location: 800 E Mineral Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85042, USA

    Open: Thursday–Sunday from 11 am 3.30 pm

    Phone: +1 602-268-1581

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    photo by Tony the Marine (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    5

    MacAlpine’s Diner & Soda Fountain

    It’s not too late to live like a 1950’s greaser

    • Shoppers

    MacAlpine’s Diner & Soda Fountain will set you back about 70 years the moment you step through the door. This classic diner has been around since the 1920s, but they have made 30 years of progress and now represent the 1950's vibe. Roll a pack of smokes in your sleeve, slick back your hair, and prepare to sit back in time while you indulge in one of their famous milkshakes and smoothies, or even a banana split. A big hit is the Oreo and peanut butter shake.

    The diner has a full menu for any appetite, including a list of vegan options. Once your meal is complete, take a tour through the in-house antique shop for a souvenir.

    Location: 2303 N 7th St, Phoenix, AZ 85006, USA

    Open: Sunday–Thursday from 11 am to 7 pm, Friday–Saturday from 11 am to 8 pm

    Phone: +1 602-262-5545

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    photo by Christopher Amrich (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    6

    Her Secret is Patience

    A stellar display of light and motion

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    Her Name is Patience is a magnificent kinetic sculptural masterpiece towering over the streets of downtown Phoenix. The display stands at roughly 100 ft tall and is one of Janet Echelman’s finest works of art. If you have the patience to wait for sundown, the magic happens.

    The display of flowing lights and colour lights up the Phoenix sky almost seems to be alive as a gentle breeze sways the several lighted strands to the will of nature. The work is impressive as it is meditative and it never delivers the same experience twice.

    Location: Civic Space Park, 424 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004, USA

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    photo by Alan Stark (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    7

    The Domes of Casa Grande

    Get your camera ready for this secluded desert masterpiece

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    The Domes of Casa Grande are not exactly well known, but you have likely seen them before in music videos, movies, or magazines as they have been known to offer a quite surreal background for anyone going the extra mile with their photography. And you will certainly go the extra mile to get there. The Domes are located in Casa Grande, a bit of a drive outside the city limits of Phoenix, but well worth it.

    You’ll find the abandoned domes look like a spacecraft or a Martian terrarium, and the owner is kind enough to allow guests full access to capture the best IG shot of the year.

    Location: Thorton Rd., South of Interstate 8, Casa Grande, Arizona, 85193, USA

    Phone: +1 520-423-0785

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    8

    Phoenix Bat Cave

    An amazing spectacle happens every night

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    Phoenix Bat Cave is a manmade structure that unintentionally became home to thousands of friendly bats. Sleeping through the day, they sweep the city at night and rid the sky of pesky mosquitoes and bugs. If you catch the cave in the late evening before sunset, bring a snack and a camera, then wait for the action to happen.

    The cave itself is more of a cement tunnel that one would expect the Batmobile to race out of after listening to the echoing sounds and squeaks of the waking bats, but it seems Bruce Wayne has hung up his cape.

    Location: 3698-3694 E Colter St, Phoenix, AZ 85018, USA

    Open: Every night at dusk

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    9

    Tovrea Castle

    A 'diamond in the rough' is an understatement

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    Tovrea Castle is another product of westward expansion and Phoenix's booming history. Some 90 years ago, an Italian immigrant dreamt to make a palace in the sand. We must admit, he succeeded. The designer has brought the eclectic design and architecture romanticized by the west when dreaming of Italy and created what is now a Phoenix hot spot for tourists.

    Tour the castle gardens where you can observe their collection of 1000+ cacti and more than 300 species, then be blown away by the vaulted ceilings and remarkable detail of the castle's interior.

    Location: 5025 E Van Buren St, Phoenix, AZ 85008, USA

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 7 pm

    Phone: +1 602-256-3221

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    10

    CamelBack Mountain

    Take a hike! (but in a good way)

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    Camelback Mountain is the perfect place to stay in shape as well as appreciate the breathtaking landscapes of Arizona's capital. 

    CamelBack Mountain seems to sit alone in the surrounding flatter grounds as a beacon to all hikers in its view. Bring plenty of water and a few things to snack on, because once you hit the trail to the top, you will be facing 2 and a half hours of nature’s beauty as you ascend the 3.1-mile trail and ascend more than 1,500 feet. Note that the sun can be quite unforgiving if you are not prepared, or if you come in the summer months.

    Location: Camelback Mountain, Phoenix, AZ 85018, USA

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    Colby Murray | Contributing Writer

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