Phoenix may be known for its luxury resorts, bustling art scene and desert landscapes, but it’s easy to enjoy the true essence of the city's charm on any budget. The Arizona city is home to striking red mountains, cacti-lined boulevards and some of the best sunsets in the southwest. Take advantage of the beautiful weather on an afternoon hike or head to one of the nearby towns of Scottsdale, Mesa or Tempe for a great smaller city vibe.

    Food trucks and open-air farmers markets give you tons of delicious dining options that won’t break the bank, and local artists fill city walls with murals so you can experience free art everywhere you turn.

    1

    Arizona Capitol Museum

    Enjoy Arizona’s rich and colourful history for free

    • Budget
    • History

    Arizona Capitol Museum, nestled inside the capitol building, celebrates Arizona’s cultural heritage. Located on Washington Street, just west of the Arizona Supreme Court, it’s just a short walk from downtown. Admission is always free, making it a great place to soak in some history while cooling off with air conditioning.

    Highlights from their 20+ exhibits include USS Arizona artefacts, which are only available to view today because these items were taken off for cleaning before the ship sank at Pearl Harbor, and a full exhibit covering how Arizona became a state. If you’re looking for a more in-depth experience, stop by at 1.30 pm on Fridays for a free walking tour.

    Location: 1700 W Washington St, Phoenix, AZ 85007, USA

    Open: April–August: Monday–Friday from 9 am to 4 pm. September–May: Monday–Friday from 9 am to 4 pm, Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm (closed on Sundays)

    Phone: + 1 602-926-3620

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    2

    Phoenix Public Market

    Enjoy amazing local eats at this popular open-air market

    • Budget
    • Shoppers
    • Food

    The Phoenix Public Market farmers' market is open year-round and is a great place to support many small businesses including local farmers, bakeries, coffee shops, and more. Located 3 blocks south of the Roosevelt/Central light rail station in downtown, it’s easy to get there from anywhere in the city.

    With in-season produce, freshly baked bread and pastries, and a popular local honey company, there’s a huge selection to choose from. Stop by early to enjoy delicious breakfast sandwiches or come later and grab lunch for an awesome spot in the city to dine on a budget. If you’re driving, keep an eye out for the chalkboard at the entrance that always directs you to free parking lots.

    Location: 721 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004, USA

    Open: May–September: Saturday from 8 am to 12 pm. October–April: Saturday from 8 am to 1 pm

    Phone: +1 602-625-6736

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    photo by Ms. Phoenix (CC BY 2.0) modified

    3

    Phoenix Park & Swap

    Find the best bargains at this huge open-air flea market

    • Budget
    • Shoppers

    The Phoenix Park & Swap is a massive flea market where locals swear you can find anything you’re looking for. This bargain hunter’s paradise is located on the corner of 40th Street and Washington Street. It’s an easy drive from downtown and parking is always free.

    With almost 50 acres of land and hundreds of vendors, it’s hard to leave empty-handed. This means you can find everything from clothes and household décor to carnival rides and concession stands. The festival atmosphere and live music make it a fun place to spend an afternoon with family and friends. Admission is $2 for adults but if you’re looking for an even bigger bargain come on Fridays when they waive admission fees.

    Location: 3801 E Washington St, Phoenix, AZ 85034, USA

    Open: Wednesday from 4 pm to 10 pm, Friday from 6 am to 12 pm, Saturday and Sunday from 6 am to 4 pm

    Phone: +1 602-273-1250

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    4

    South Mountain Park

    Soak in the desert sun in this huge urban park

    • Budget
    • Adventure
    • Photo

    South Mountain Park, just 20 minutes south of downtown Phoenix, is where you can escape the hustle and bustle of the city. This 16,000-acre park is an amazing place to truly experience the desert atmosphere in all its glory. For a panoramic view of the valley, hike or drive up to Dobbins lookout. The view is always gorgeous, and locals love it for the sunset.

    Native wildlife roam freely throughout the park and there are over 50 miles of trails for hikers at every experience level. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast who loves hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding, or just want to enjoy great views and a picnic, you'll find tons of options all over the park.

    Location: 10919 S Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85042, USA

    Open: Daily from 5 am to 7 pm

    Phone: +1 602-495-5458

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    5

    First & Third Fridays

    Experience the Roosevelt Row arts district with these lively festivals

    • Budget
    • Photo

    Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix is known as the city's hub for art and culture. The streets in this art district are lined with art galleries, bookshops, and eateries, making it the ultimate place to experience the true spirit of local artists. On the first and third Friday of every month, this row is transformed into a bustling self-guided art walk.

    Great for people-watching, souvenir shopping, and browsing local art, people come from all over to experience these walks. The 1st Fridays of the month are dedicated to outdoor art while 3rd Fridays focus on galleries. Parking can be tough but there are free event shuttles available throughout downtown starting at the Phoenix Art Museum.

    Open: 1st and 3rd Friday of the month from 6 pm to 11 pm

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    photo by David Crummey (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    6

    Get a ResortPass

    Lounge at luxury hotel pools without having to buy a room

    • Budget

    The best way to escape the desert heat in Phoenix while still spending time outdoors is in refreshing outdoor pools. Sprinkled throughout the city and suburbs, many luxury resorts in the Phoenix area accept the ResortPass. This pass gives you exclusive access to upscale pools and spas without making you dish out the cash for an expensive room.

    Choose from the top resorts in Phoenix and enjoy poolside cocktails and waterslides. Pay per person or per cabana and take advantage of resort pampering on a budget for the ultimate daycation.

    photo by SupportPDX (CC BY 2.0) modified

    7

    Goldfield Ghost Town

    Explore the true essence of the Old West in this reconstructed 1890s town

    • Families
    • Budget
    • Unusual
    • Photo

    At Goldfield Ghost Town, you can experience the charm of Phoenix's Wild West. Located just 45 minutes east of the city, this town is a hidden gem and a great place to spend a few hours. A walk down the main street makes you feel like you’re transported into an old western movie with saloons, a general store, and cacti all around.

    Grab a pint at the saloon, pan for gold at the Mammoth Gold Mine, or hop on the narrow-gauge train for some truly unique experiences. With no entrance fees and free gunfight shows every weekend, Goldfield offers something for every budget.

    Location: 4650 N Mammoth Mine Rd, Apache Junction, AZ 85119, USA

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 480-983-0333

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    8

    Grab a bite to eat at food trucks

    Enjoy some of the best food in town for cheap

    • Budget
    • Food

    The food scene in Phoenix offers a mix of authentic Southwestern and international flavours. On average, Phoenix has almost 300 days of sunshine annually, so it’s a great city to dine al fresco year-round. Scattered all over the city, food trucks are always out and about bringing gourmet food to the streets at great prices.

    From tacos and BBQ to fry bread and waffles, there’s something to satisfy any craving. Check out the street food finder to discover where to encounter some of the best trucks or just keep an eye out when wandering around downtown.

    photo by Eileen Kane (CC BY 2.0) modified

    9

    Discover the murals

    Take a free self-guided tour of the downtown murals

    • Budget
    • Photo

    The spirit of Phoenix’s vibrant art culture can be found all over downtown. Artists often use city walls as canvases to tell stories and inspire through their art. These murals make it feel like the entire city is a colourful outdoor art museum.

    Walls of bistros, hotels, and warehouses are transformed into large eye-catching art installations. Local artists, photographers, and art enthusiasts came together to create a map of the murals of downtown so locals and tourists alike could enjoy a self-guided tour. Follow along on this map or explore on your own for an epic way to spend an hour or 2.

    photo by Chris English (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    10

    Ride the Scottsdale trolley

    Soak in a free trolley ride through Scottsdale’s historic old town

    • Budget

    Scottsdale is a quaint desert city located just 20 minutes east of downtown Phoenix. Known for its historic old town, posh resorts, southwestern restaurants, and expansive golf courses, it’s a beautiful place to visit. The best way to navigate downtown Scottsdale is on their free trolley.

    Operating all year, it’s a great way to explore the old town, arts district, waterfront, and fashion square without having to deal with a car. Pick from one of their 4 main routes and get almost anywhere downtown for free.

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 9.25 pm (runs every 15 minutes)

    photo by Dru Bloomfield (CC BY 2.0) modified

    Victoria Zelefsky | Contributing Writer

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