13 Best Metro Phoenix Tourist Attractions That Are Fun for Locals, Too
Steele Auditorium is located near the entrance to the Heard Museum.
Craig Smith/Heard Museum
In the 2015 edition of New Times' Summer Guide, we've rounded up our 13 favorite Phoenix-area tourist attractions that are fun for locals, too.
There you’ll find art, artifacts and history of the Southwestern people, from Native Americans to Hispanic cultures. For hours, current exhibitions, and admission costs, visit www.heard.org.
The Musical Instrument Museum
This high-end gallery showcases instruments from around the world, collectibles from musical superstars, and interactive displays of music-making ephemera. The Experience Room allows visitors to play rare instruments from different cultures, and the main stage Music Theater always features national and international music acts. Visit www.mim.org for exhibition details, admission, and hours.
Courtesy of Tovrea Castle
A small but charming eye-catcher off the Loop 202, Tovrea Castle has puzzled residents and tourists alike. The little-known history of the landmark dates back to 1930 when Alessio Carraro came to Arizona and completed his project of developing a resort and housing subdivision just east of Phoenix. The cake-like structure that is seen now was part of Carraro's hotel. It became the home of Edward Ambrose Tovrea and his wife Della, whom Carraro sold the property to only two years after finishing the project. The castle is open for tours Friday through Sunday in the mornings, and prices range from $10 to $15. Visit tovreacastletours.com.
In Old Town Scottsdale, dozens of galleries, including many offering Native American and Western art you won’t find elsewhere in town, throw open their doors during the traditional Thursday night Scottsdale Art Walk. Meanwhile, in downtown Phoenix, dozens of galleries (many of them on Roosevelt Row and Grand Avenue) participate in self-guided art walks during the first and third Fridays of every month.
Phoenix Art Museum
The city’s main museum offers classic and contemporary works from around the world and plays host to some of the best national touring exhibits. The museum’s fashion and photography galleries are well-regarded and worth a gander. For hours, exhibitions, and admission details, visit www.phxart.org.
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright came to Arizona in 1937 to build his winter home, personal studio, and school in North Scottsdale at the foot of the McDowell Mountains. The space is open for public tours everyday and available to rent out for private events. Taliesin West also hosts summer camps and classes in architecture and art. Visit www.franklloydwright.org.
Arizona Biltmore Hotel
Located in Phoenix near 24th Street and Camelback Road, this resort recently joined the Hilton Hotels' luxury collection Waldorf Astoria Hotels and Resorts and was also featured on the Travel Channel show Great Hotels. Gorgeous vistas, nice restaurants, important Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired architecture. Peep www.arizonabiltmore.com.
Courtesy of Children's Museum of Phoenix
The Children’s Museum of Phoenix
For family fun, this one’s a safe bet. Interactive displays, a little bit of art history, and a lot of kid-friendly displays. Get details at www.childrensmuseumofphoenix.org.
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
A multi-gallery museum with rotating modern art and architecture displays, a deluxe gift shop, a sculpture garden, and a live-performance lounge. Visit www.smoca.org for hours, admission rates, and more.
Located in Paradise Valley, Cosanti showcases the vision of artist, architect, and philosopher Paolo Soleri. Soleri and his students began building Cosanti using experimental architecture and designs that reflect a philosophy of living resourcefully, frugally, and anti-materialistically. The buildings, which serve as studios, were built using imaginative architecture that integrates the structures with the earth. Walking through Cosanti puts the visitors in a completely different kind of society that Soleri and his staff envisioned and realized with Cosanti. Visit www.cosanti.com.
This renowned building was built in the 1930s by Boyce Luther Gulley for his daughter Mary Lou Gulley. After learning he had tuberculosis, Gulley moved from Seattle, Washington, to the Phoenix area and began building the house from found or inexpensive materials. Boyce Gulley died in 1945, but his mysterious castle lives on. See www.mymysterycastle.com for more.
Tubing Down the Salt River
Locals understand the need to stay indoors during our merciless summers, but explaining to our visitors that pools just aren't refreshing when they exceed 85 degrees can be a little hard. Lucky for summer visitors, fun can still be had by going tubing along the Salt. Open from April through August, the river plays host to visitors dedicating their day to floating down a typically 70-degree river. The $17 price includes a tube and shuttle service to and from the entrance points. Just don't forget your sun block. See www.saltrivertubing.org.
The Arizona Museum of Natural History
As history museums go, this one takes on something more than nice oil paintings in its quest to explore Arizona and the Southwest from the creation of the earth 4.5 billion years ago to the present. There, you can consider depictions of the origins of life on earth, meteorites and minerals. In another gallery, some of the biggest dinosaurs that ever lived can be pondered. Check out www.azmnh.org.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events happening in the Phoenix art and theater scene.