Whether you're looking to explore art, architecture, food, or the great outdoors, you'll find everything you need on one of Phoenix's guided tours to spots like the Desert Botanical Garden, Heard Museum, Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West, and more.
Go to the "Wright" place - and learn about an architectural genius
Book a 90-minute insights tour of Taliesin West, the personal winter home, studio and architectural campus of legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright. You’ll learn intriguing new facts about the genius whose colorful personal life made headlines—from tempestuous marriages to murders at Taliesin East in 1914. Tucked away in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains, Taliesin West—a recent addition to the UNESCO World Heritage List—illustrates how architecture can artfully blend into nature, an ideal of Wright, who is often cited as being the first “green architect.” He first came to Arizona in 1927, when he was asked to collaborate on the Arizona Biltmore, and returned in 1937 to escape the harsh Wisconsin winters and to buy several hundred acres of raw desert as a retreat for himself and the students of his architecture school. Taliesin West is still the place where Wright-trained architects and designers hatch building plans inspired by the master’s philosophies. Return in the evening for the two-hour Night Lights Tour to see the desert masterpiece aglow in an orange- and violet-hued sunset sky.
Become a road scholar - and discover street art
Some of Phoenix’s most striking art—color-drenched murals on bustling streets and narrow alleyways—are hidden in plain sight. For the best way to experience these grand, vibrant canvases deeply interwoven into the culture and history of Phoenix, consider a self-guided tour aided by the Murals of Phoenix app. Visually savor one of the biggest mural hubs in the heart of the city—Roosevelt Row—a historic neighborhood and funky arts district with street art from some of the city’s best-known artists, adding color, humor and social commentary to brick-and-mortar walls. Art galleries, restaurants and even vacant lots are decked out in street art—from large-scale sunflowers and totems of animals that are pure eye candy to murals that reference art history, such as the whimsical black-and-white “Tribute to Margaret Kilgallen” on Second and Roosevelt streets.
Go along for the ride - experience the Sonoran Desert via mountain bike
With boulders and prickly pear cactuses on your left and rocky ledges on your right, desert mountain biking can be an exhilarating (and intimidating) sport. Eliminate the fear factor by booking a half-day guided tour with an REI Co-op Experiences expert guide in north Scottsdale’s McDowell Mountain Regional Park. Here, more than 50 miles of rideable trails crisscross the park and offer stunning views of the Superstitions, Four Peaks, Mazatzal Mountains and Phoenix panoramas. The tour is suited for all skill levels, with beginners (or “Freds” in mountain biking lingo) learning shifting techniques, handling for tight turns, climbing short ascents and rolling over wash areas. Along the way, cyclists will learn fun facts about the flora and fauna that adorn the rugged Sonoran Desert landscape. Beginning in 2020, all AOA tours will be offered from REI’s Arizona Adventure
Fulfill your art's desire at an internationally known museum
When you book a tour of the Heard Museum, known worldwide for its American Indian art, you are embarking on a journey through time. Wind through the enchanting galleries, exhibitions and sculpture gardens for an immersive experience in both traditional and contemporary art. More than 40,000 objects—ranging from jewelry (Navajo and Zuni) and katsina dolls (Hopi) to textiles (Navajo) and Southwestern ceramics—tell unique stories about the cultures and experiences of the artists who created these works. Hands-on activities give visitors of all ages the opportunity to weave with beads, create Apache burden baskets or craft Yaqui paper flowers. Don’t miss the music and dance performances that bring history to life on First Fridays (free admission), the annual World Championship Hoop Dance, or the Indian Fair and Market.
Go Green - and discover the secrets of plants that flourish in the desert
Take a stroll through a desert garden carpeted with wildflowers and centuries-old saguaros and rare cacti that exist nearly nowhere else in the world. In the 147-acre Desert Botanical Garden, nestled in the ruddy red buttes of Papago Park, where Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe meet, you can book a tour and learn about the wonders of plants that thrive in the arid desert. On a tour of the one-third mile Desert Discovery Trail, you’ll learn about some of the garden’s most intriguing succulent plants. There’s an old man cactus with wispy spines that look like a white beard, saguaro “hotels” that house starlings; and finches living in holes originally carved by woodpeckers; and mesquite trees, with inky sap that Native Americans once used for paint. For other tour options, you can join seasoned birders on the “Birds in the Garden” tour, venture down the Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert Trail, one of the largest exhibits of its kind, and experience the “Taste of the Southwest Tour and Cooking Demo,” a private guided Desert Discovery Tour that ends with a chef demonstrating dishes for a delectable three-course meal.
Foodies take note - you can eat (and drink) your way to discovering Phoenix
If you’re a foodie who plans journeys around wine regions or to enjoy area cuisine, booking a trip with Taste It Tours to sample unique local dishes is the most delicious way to experience Phoenix. A popular itinerary is the three-hour Downtown Phoenix Food Tour, a walking excursion of the city’s central core, stopping at historic landmarks (including a haunted hotel) and restaurants offering everything from Mexican street food with South American flavors at Chico Malo to family made Thai cuisine at Thai Basil Signature. Another option is the three-hour Scottsdale Trolley Food Tour, which shuttles visitors through Old Town Scottsdale, a hub for art galleries, shops and a thriving foodie scene. This tour includes stops at Sugar & Spro, a coffee shop serving locally made chocolates; and TeaTime Scottsdale, offering more than 100 flavors as well as tea classes in the area’s oldest independently run tea shop. So whether you’re after traditional British pasties, Mexican street tacos, fresh-baked desserts or signature cocktails, every bite is a new experience to be savored.
Explore other tours where you can make memories, make history—or even make dinner
Paolo Soleri’s Cosanti, where the Italian architect’s legacy lives on in his futuristic desert home and foundry for sculpted windbells.
Sweet Basil, a combination gourmet shop, market café and cooking school with a wide variety of hands-on cooking classes taught by experienced chefs.
Wrigley Mansion, a historic manse built by one of gum’s biggest names, William Wrigley Jr., as a winter getaway with his wife, Ada.
This article originally appeared in the 2020 Visit Phoenix Official Travel Guide.