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Top Small Towns, Parks, Attractions

South Mountain Park Preserve, Arizona Skyline

There’s nothing quite like a visit to the desert, even if you’re staying in the city. Arizona’s unique climate makes for an incredible experience. Naturally, Arizona’s capital, Phoenix, boasts plenty of perks of its own.

Sometimes, though, you need a break from the skyscrapers. That’s why we’re here: to tell you about the must-see places to visit near Phoenix.

We aren’t going to send you on hours-long weekend trips to the Petrified Forest National Park or the red rock buttes of the Grand Canyon—no. We’ll take you from downtown Phoenix to nearby sights that offer unforgettable outdoor adventures, ample hiking, and the occasional small town.

These scenic drives will only take up a little of your time. They’ll only be a few hours, at most, with most of the options laid out below just a half-hour’s ride away from downtown!

1. South Mountain Park

South Mountain Park Preserve, Arizona Skyline
Pritha_EasyArts / Adobe Stock

Address: 10919 S Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85042-8302

This park is a beautiful example of the desert landscape. Take a quick day trip to South Mountain Park (about 15 minutes down the road from Phoenix), and you’ll see what we mean: incredible hiking trails, breathtaking valley views, and three different mountain ranges await.

Explore the Gila, Guadalupe, and Ma Ha Tauk mountains, the hallmarks of the park. This location is excellent for mountain biking, picnicking, hiking, horseback riding, and sightseeing. Visit the Mystery Castle, constructed in the 1930s. It has become a gorgeous architectural attraction.

With 16,000 acres of natural beauty, this park is perfect for the whole family. It’s one of the largest municipal parks in the United States! No wonder it’s been designated as a Phoenix Point of Pride.

Things to Do:


2. The Desert Botanical Garden

Different cacti in a Desert Botanical Garden, one of the best places to visit near Phoenix, ArizonaDifferent cacti in a Desert Botanical Garden, one of the best places to visit near Phoenix, Arizona
Oleg Kovtun / Adobe Stock

Address: 1201 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008

A lovely quick trip from Phoenix is the Desert Botanical Gardens. This popular destination is located by Papago Park in Tempe, Arizona, along the Phoenix and Scottsdale borders. It’s only 15 minutes away from the center of town and next door to Phoenix Zoo.

You can visit the gardens year-round, but it’s best to go in the springtime when you’re guaranteed to experience an explosion of color. This time is when these plants bloom brightest, with vibrant oranges, reds, and yellows.

It is warm even in the winter months, so if you’re cautious about heat but…

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