50 Free Things to Do in Metro Phoenix Any Time in 2016
Low on funds and high on FOMO? We can help with that. Phoenix is chockfull of free events worth freeing your schedule for, including trivia nights, open mics, and a good deal of art walks. Because saving money is always in season, here are 50 free things you can do all year round.
Brews and Books
It's a book club with a sudsy twist. The Downtown Phoenix location of Changing Hands Bookstore hosts a once-month meetup of bookish minds at First Draft Book Club, hosted by The Arizona Republic reporter Barbara VanDenburgh, who nerds out about a chosen book each month alongside brews, wine and coffee at the First Draft Book Bar. For details, visit www.changinghands.com or call 602-274-0067.
Tease Your Mind
Crescent Ballroom keeps the Downtown music scene going day-to-day, but on Sundays it unwinds with trivia and DJ Heimbuck at the helm. Starting at 6 p.m. every Sunday night, brainiacs can put their smarts to the test in exchange for prizes like concert tickets, record store gift cards and more. Visit www.crescentphx.com or call 602-716-2222 for details.
Strike a Pose
The clothes may not be cheap, but the community yoga classes are. Every Sunday, the Lululemon stores in Phoenix and Chandler host complimentary yoga classes. These free classes can be held in or outside the store depending on the weather. Guests should bring their own mats and water. The Biltmore Fashion Park class starts at 10:30 a.m. and the Chandler Fashion Center class begins at 10 a.m. For details, visit shop.lululemon.com.
Yuck it Up
Prepare to laugh (or cringe) as local comedians take on the stage at ThirdSpace's weekly Happier Hour Comedy Show. Each Thursday at 7:30 p.m., you can spot up-and-coming talent. Who knows? Maybe you'll spot the next great! Visit the ThirdSpace Facebook page for more information.
Get Blinded By Neon
Take a self-guided tour through the blinding lights. The Valley's dwindling neon sign population proves only the strong survive. In fact, some preservationists estimate that a mere three dozen of the vintage illuminated displays exist in Metro Phoenix today. Hippie Gypsy in Tempe, Lenny's Burger Shop in Phoenix and Liberty Market in Gilbert still keep the glowing tradition of neon alive, as we discovered on our list of the best neon signs in metro Phoenix.
Live that Lake Life
Tempe Town Lake is Tempe's recreational center. Bike by Tempe Beach Park, take a stroll down the length of the lake, practice your photography skills at the bridge, or just do some seriously great people watching. If you're feeling spendy, you can rent a stand-up paddleboard for $20 an hour, a single kayak for $18 an hour, or just save your money and take a dip in the lake. (Just kidding! The water is really gross.) Visit www.tempe.gov/lake for more information.
Keep your quarters in your pocket every Monday night at 6 p.m. at Valley Bar, where all games are free. Perfect your skee-ball game, shoot some pool or show that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video game who's boss. It's all good, and it's all free. Visit www.valleybarphx.com or call 602-368-3121 for details.
Even if you don't want to spend cash, Valley farmer's markets are a great way to mix and mingle with local farmers, merchants and artists. These markets largely avoid the summer temperatures by either closing during the hot months or opening extra early to get a jump on the heat. Get the full lowdown on our list of Ten Favorite Metro Phoenix Farmers' Markets — all free to drop by.
Swing That Way
Even if you're a total newbie to swing dancing, you can get down like a pro at The Duce's weekly South Central Swing Night on Mondays from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Get a free swing dance lesson from 7 to 8 p.m., then put your skills on the floor — after gaining some liquid courage from the drink specials, that is. The class is free but the rest of the night is $8. Visit www.theducephx.com or call 602-866-3823 for more information.
Run Away to the Circus
Things take a turn for the bizarre when Mill Avenue's favorite nerd bar goes to the clowns of Mystic Circus. When the clock strikes 8:30 p.m. every Tuesday at Endgame, things get sexy and weird as nude clowns perform burlesque, host games, and do awe-inspiring tricks. For more information, visit Endgame's Facebook page.
'Check Out' Local Culture
Phoenix, Chandler, Glendale, Scottsdale, and ASU libraries all offer a Culture Pass, with which library card holders can get free admission to some of the Valley's most revered cultural institutions. Notable locations include the Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix Art Museum, Heard Museum, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, and more. Check your local library's website for availability.
If you need free transportation to your free activity, flag down a City of Tempe Orbit Bus. The buses travel throughout the Tempe area and can be hailed the same way you would a cab, and they travel to popular destinations like Mill Avenue, Tempe Marketplace, ASU, and more. For more information about lines and locations, visit www.tempe.gov.
Catch the Classics
It might not exactly be the Barrett-Jackson, but the Scottsdale Pavilions Car Show is just about the best local car show you can see for free every week. The longest-running weekly car show in the country draws crowds from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. every Saturday, and the public is welcome to drive their classic, muscle, or luxury car onto the lot for a chance to show off. The every Saturday sees anywhere between 250 and 500 cars. Visit the Scottsdale Pavilions Car Show Facebook page for more information. And as fate has it, over 35 food trucks roll onto the lot at Scottsdale Pavilions to stop rumbling bellies at the same time each week. (But not rumbling cars.)
Get to Work
If you're in town for business or just need a quiet place to work, Gangplank locations in Chandler, Avondale and Queen Creek offer a free coworking space to anyone who drops by. Use the Wi-Fi, make some business connections and enjoy a free space to work just for a day, or day-to-day. While Gangplank doesn't charge money for its space, it does ask that regular visitors give back in some way, but how you give back is up to you. Visit www.gangplankhq.com for locations and more information.
Ghosts Among Us
Back in the 1890s, Goldfield, located 4.5 miles east of Apache Junction, was a thriving town with roots in mining the Mammoth Gold Mine. But when the vein faulted, so did the town, leaving the three saloons, general store, brewery, meat market, schoolhouse, and more abandoned. Today it's a great place to take out-of-town in-laws looking for authentic history of the Southwest. It's free to enter and see the hourly gun shows every Saturday and Sunday, but just about everything else will cost ya. Visit www.goldfieldghosttown.com for more information.
Landmark it Off Your List
If you've ever wondered just what that layer cake castle along the 202 is all about, check out our guide to the 11 most iconic landmarks in metro Phoenix for a bit of a history lesson, then hop in the car or hoof it to see some of the landmarks in the flesh. You might have lived in Phoenix your whole life and never really looked at these natural, artistic, and architectural mainstays.
Skate it 'Til You Make It
Work out your board tricks at any of the Valley's skate parks — and you won't have to drive far to do it. Virtually all of metro Phoenix's neighborhoods have a skate park to call their own, including Tempe Sports Complex, Freestone Skate Park in Gilbert, Desert West Skateboard Plaza in Phoenix, and more, all free to use.
Doggy Play Day
We're pretty sure Fido will wag his tail at this suggestion. The Valley boasts beautiful and functional off-leash dog parks where your pup can run, tug, and play with fellow canines in a safe space. To find the dog park nearest you, visit www.bringfido.com or your city's website.
It's time to gloat about your win. Valley Bar basically encourages it with their weekly chess night, Checkmate Beyotches. Whether you're a chess pro or a total newbie, Valley Bar has your game covered Tuesdays at 7 p.m. Drop by alone or with a pal and partake in a free game (or several!) and drink up with the bar's $15 Aradon wine bottle special until 11 p.m. For more information, visit www.valleybarphx.com.
Read Into It
This place is massive! The Burton Barr Central Library has 280,000 square feet of books, study rooms, DVDs, CDs and more — the largest in the Phoenix Public Library system. In addition to its unmatched resources, the library also hosts a long list of free, recurring events for multiple demographics, including art shows, movie clubs, craft making, business classes, and more. For a full list of free events, visit www.phoenixpubliclibrary.org/locations/burtonbarr.
Valley newcomers or information-lacking locals can learn all about the history of their town at The Arizona Capitol Museum. Located at the (you guessed it!) state capitol, the museum is always free and open to the public during museum hours and includes four floors, 20 exhibitions, and guided tours with reservations. To plan your visit, head to www.azlibrary.gov/azcm.
Downtown Tempe was once known for its thriving music scene, and some might tell you those days are gone. But if the #DowntownTempe Music Series is any indication, the entertainment area's scene is thriving. Find live music from some of Tempe's hottest local bands at Culinary Dropout on Fridays and Saturdays; Blasted Barley on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays; Fat Tuesday on Fridays; My Big Fat Greek on Thursdays; ChopShop on Thursdays; and Tempe Center for the Arts on Wednesdays and Fridays. For more information, visit www.downtowntempe.com.
T.G.I.F. in Tempe
Unwind after a stressful work week at Hello Friday at the Tempe Center for the Arts Lounge, where live music can be heard and mingling can be had for the high price of $0 every Friday. Drinks cost extra, but moneybags among us can purchase a $7 wristband can get you no-holds-barred access to the fancy food station from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Visit www.tempe.gov for more information.
The Torch Theatre is the Valley's one-stop shop for everything improv comedy, and now you can try you hand at the art for free. The monthly class features instruction from the pro theatre staff on the first Saturday of every month at 2:30 p.m. We'll warn you, though. While your comedy chops might be razor sharp, not all newbs are as hilarious as you. And that's putting it lightly. Visit www.thetorchtheatre.com for class dates and more information.
Find Your Heritage
You've probably heard that Phoenix doesn't have much in terms of history, since Arizona is such a young state, but tell that to Downtown Phoenix's Heritage Square. Originally constructed in the late 1800's, the square is like traveling back in time. Check out the square's free seasonal events, or if you have some spare cash, we hear there are some pretty good (um... nationally revered) restaurants in the area. Visit www.heritagesquarephx.org for more information.
Get Weird with Improv Everywhere
Throughout the year, Improv AZ hosts some super bizarre events to confuse and delight passersby. Each January, the No Pants Light Rail Ride makes users of public transportation thoroughly uncomfortable, but the group does other weird stuff throughout the year. Who wants to cartwheel to a restaurant? Improv AZ does. Join them on the Improv AZ Facebook page.
Window Shop Your Heart Out
Not all of those who love the high-end lure of Biltmore Fashion Park can afford its prices. Dress up and pretend you’re loaded as you browse Saks Fifth Avenue, Jonathan Adler, Vera Bradley, Citrine Natural Beauty Bar, and more. (Don’t worry. There are a few budget-friendly stores if you feel like spending a little.) Visit www.shopbiltmore.com for a full directory and more information.
Catch a Lounge Show at the Casino
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, tribute bands are alive and well at the Valley’s casinos. On just about any given day you can see the Beatles, Bon Jovi, AC/DC, or Led Zeppelin knockoffs in the lounges of Talking Stick Resort and Casino, Casino Arizona, Wild Horse Pass, and many more. Some are good and some are not-so-good, but hey, it’s a free show. Plus, the lounges have local acts that are, um… not quite as embarrassing. Visit the websites of individual casinos for show times.
Get Your Culture on the Street
Phoenix's buildings aren't all varying shades of greige. The robust street art scene has been thriving in Phoenix for decades and has recently seen a rise in popularity thanks to an every-growing downtown arts scene. See them all in full color with out list of 40 Favorite Murals in Phoenix.
Take in Some Free Art at the Museums
Free admission is standard at establishments like the Phoenix Airport Museum, ASU Art Museum, ASU Museum of Anthropology, Arizona Capitol Museum, and Shemer Art Center (though some accept and encourage donations). But visitors can also get complimentary access to Phoenix Art Museum from 3 to 9 p.m. every Wednesday and 6 to 10 p.m. on First Fridays; Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art all day Thursdays and after 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; and Phoenix Children's Museum from 5 to 9 p.m. on First Fridays.
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