25 under $25: Phoenix, Arizona
Tuesday, 1 March 2016
More than four million people live in the Phoenix metropolitan area, and for good reason.
The city and surrounding areas are home to an exciting array of things to do and see—from world-class museums and tasty restaurants to sprawling parks and sporting venues.
We detail 25 things—in no particular order—families visiting Phoenix can do for less than $25 per person.
1. Learn about Native Americans
Arguably one of the best museums in the country, the Heard Museum is a must-see when in Phoenix. Exhibits detail the history of Native Americans in the area and tours are available. Admission is $18 for adults and $7.50 for kids 6-12 years old.
2. Hike Camelback Mountain
Camelback Mountain separates Phoenix from Paradise Valley, and it offers a ton of hiking trails for those who love the outdoors. Opt to start at Echo Canyon Recreation Area and hike around for a few hours—but don't forget your sunscreen.
3. Wave at a giraffe
The Phoenix Zoo is open almost every day of the year and has over 1,400 animals to visit. Make sure to go on the Safari Train while you're there, which is lots of fun for kids. Prices are $20 for those age 14 and over, and $14 for kids 3-13 years old.
4. Learn about cacti
The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix has about fifty acres of beautiful desert plants, and they're not necessarily unique to Arizona. Visitors are able to view a variety of cacti and other colorful flora, and get great tips on desert gardening from their team of horticulture experts. Admission is $22 for adults, $12 for students 12-18 years old and $10 for kids 3-10 years old.
5. Explore South Mountain Park
South Mountain Park/Preserve is a great place to take your family for a hike, no matter how much hiking experience you have. Expert hikers can attack the very steep Alta Trail, but there's also a few trails that are much easier and barely half a mile—like Crosscut Trail, Derby Loop, and Hideout Loop Trail—that are perfect for small children.
6. View Chase Field
Chase Field, home to baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks, is one of the more impressive ballparks in the country. They offer tours year-round for around $9 per person. Call ahead or reserve online.
7. Learn about firefighting history
The Hall of Flame Museum of Firefighting moved to Phoenix from Wisconsin in 1974, and has 35,000 square feet of exhibits. The collection of firefighting memorabilia was started by the Getz family in 1955 with a 1924 American LaFrance fire engine, and has since grown to over 130 wheeled pieces. Tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for students 6-17 years old and $2 for children ages 3 to 5 years old.
8. Lose yourself in art
The Phoenix Art Museum is the largest art museum of visual art in the southwest. From Winslow Homer to Claude Monet to Pablo Picasso, the museum is home to over 18,000 pieces that can have an art lover admiring works of genius for days. Tickets are $15 for adults and $6 for kids 6 to 17 years old.
9. Eat some pizza
"The best American Sports Grill in Arizona," Gallagher's has five locations in the greater Phoenix area. Dine on some pizza and wings and don't worry about breaking the bank—kids eat free on Tuesdays with the purchase of an adult meal.
10. Check out Victorian architecture
Drive over to the Rosson House Museum, a restored 1895 Queen Anne Victorian home that's been turned into a museum. Learn about the lifestyles of early Phoenix families, as well as Victorian America in general and how it ties into Arizona's history. Tours are part of admission, and prices are $7.50 for adults and $4 for kids.
11. Discover scientific facts
The Arizona Science Center has over 300 exhibits covering seven different themes, and they're geared toward visitors of all ages. General admission tickets are $16.95 for adults and $11.85 for kids 3-17 years old. There's also a planetarium and an IMAX theater, but they're not include in the admission.
12. See tomorrow's baseball stars today
Minor league baseball is a cheap and kid-friendly option for sports fans, and the Rookie-level Arizona League is a great way to see recently drafted prospects of your favorite team. Though the season starts later than other minor leagues and the schedule is informal, attendance is actually free. Check out their page for details.
13. Eat at a famous restaurant
Featured on Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," St. Francis is a modern restaurant that prides itself on locally sourced, farm-to-table dishes. They offer free kids menu items every day, as long as it's accompanied by a paid adult meal.
14. Learn about the king of gum
Check out the former home of William Wrigley, Jr., the man who started Wrigley's Gum. The Wrigley Mansion is available for private events and weddings, but there's also tours, which run $15 per person. Looking for something even more special? Opt for a lunch tour (food included) for exactly $25. Call ahead to make a reservation.
15. Play at the Children's Museum
In the heart of downtown is the Children's Museum of Phoenix, a special place for kids to learn and play. With more than 300 hands-on exhibits that encourage creative activities like painting, role-playing, and fort-building, children can learn to express themselves and play well with others. Tickets are $11 per person, and kids under 1 year old get in for free.
16. Go for a bike ride
Slather on your sunscreen, pack a few bottles of water, and rent a bike from Cactus Adventures. Bike rentals for kids are $20 for a half-day and $25 for a full day, but more for adults.
17. Visit an amusement park
Enchanted Island Amusement Park is a fun place to spend a day with your family. Encanto Carousel is the oldest continuously operating merry-go-round in Arizona, and the Dragon Wagon is the perfect beginning roller coaster for small children. Though it's located inside Encanto Park and entry is free, an all-day ride pass will cost you $17 per person.
18. Order a burrito
Manuel's Mexican Restaurant & Cantina has been making great Mexican food from scratch every day since 1964, and the local chain gets raves for its flavorful salsa. Kids 12 and under can eat free every Wednesday with the purchase of an adult meal.
19. Gaze at modern art
The nearby Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is a great place to take your teenage budding artist. They don't just have paintings; the SMoCA is the only institution in the area that regularly exhibits architecture and design. Admission is $7 for adults and $5 for students.
20. Learn about the history of policing in Arizona
The Phoenix Police Museum is an interesting place to take kids who have a fascination with law enforcement. You can learn about the important history of our Miranda Rights, and there's a real police car for children to play in. Admission is free, but donations are gladly accepted.
21. Play some music
The Musical Instrument Museum is a super-cool spot in Phoenix for music lovers of all ages. An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute, you can interact with exhibits and learn about beats from around the world. Admission is $20 for adults, $15 for teens 13-19 years old, and $10 for kids 4-12 years old. Kids age 3 and under get in for free.
22. Unlock a mystery
Perhaps one of Phoenix's most bizarre attractions, the Mystery Castle is definitely worth a visit. When Boyce Gully learned he was dying of tuberculosis, he moved to the Arizona desert to build the castle of his daughter's dreams. After Gully's passing in 1945, she and her mother moved into the castle, and the place attracted plenty of media attention—including a 1948 Life Magazine article. Tours are offered to the public, and admission is $10 for adults and $5 for kids 5-12 years old.
23. Picnic in the preserve
Check out the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, hike along its trails, have a picnic, and enjoy the views of the city. Admission is free, and you can even bring your dog along.
24. Eat a New York-style pizza pie
Pizza connoisseurs can take heart because New York Pizza Department is the real thing. The dough is made from scratch every day and pies are baked in stone ovens. They even use water filtered exactly as it's done in New York City—giving their pies an authenticity that's hard to match in the American Southwest. A plain large pie is $17.49, and kids 10 and under eat for free after 4 p.m. on Wednesdays and Sundays.
25. Soak up military history
The Arizona Military Museum is a fascinating place for history buffs to visit, with a variety of exhibits that include military uniforms and weapons from the past. The museum is a part of military history in its own right; it served as a National Guard arsenal until World War II. Admission is free.
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