Who knew you could find bats, a castle, a Japanese garden, ostrich racing and more in the greater Phoenix area? Check out these unexpected attractions that may surprise you.
Perched atop a cactus-covered hill in east-central Phoenix, Tovrea Castle at Carraro Heights is an unusual structure home to three different local families throughout its history. Tours, which get you into the strange castle and its massive cactus garden, often sell out months in advance.
5025 E Van Buren St, Phoenix
Japanese Friendship Garden
The Japanese Friendship Garden, Ro Ho En, features 1,500 tons of handpicked rock, more than 50 varieties of plants, flowing streams, a 12-foot waterfall and a Koi pond—all right near downtown. The garden is the product and shared cultural vision of the Sister Cities of Phoenix and Himeji, Japan. This unexpected Phoenix attraction is a great way to spend a sunny day.
1125 N. 3rd Ave. Phoenix
Did you know Phoenix has a great urban bat-watching spot? Each summer several thousand Mexican free-tailed bats and western pipistrelle bats use the Maricopa County Flood Control Tunnel near 40th Street and Camelback Road as a day roost.
Beautiful red sandstone buttes define Papago Park, a popular spot to get in an easy hike and admire the desert landscape. But it's not just any park—Papago is home to Hole-in-the-Rock, a unique windswept formation you can climb inside for great views. You also can't miss the lookout from Hunt's Tomb, a stark white pyramid where Arizona's first Governor is buried with this family.
625 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix
Who knew urban waterfalls could look so good? Originally built in 1902 and a popular gathering spot since the late 1800s, this natural 20-foot drop in the Arizona Canal is now a modern hydroelectric plant as well as a beautiful piece of art.
After her sandcastles were washed away by the tide, young Mary Lou implored her father to build her a strong castle she could live in (and perhaps in the desert, where it wouldn't be at risk for disappearing). The daughter's dream was realized in the form of the eclectic, 18 room "castle" in the foothills of South Mountain, which you can tour October through May.
The Fountain Hills Fountain is a water display where it's most appreciated, the Arizona desert. Three times as high as the Washington Monument, this 560 foot water fountain is hard to miss. Catch the show every hour on the hour. Pro tip: the fountain turns emerald green every St. Patrick's Day.
12925 N Saguaro Blvd, Fountain Hills
This decades old Chandler festival the city's roots and culture with an epic tradition: ostrich racing. These hefty birds toe the line to kick off a three day festival in March, with everything from a petting zoo to a zombie carnival to camel rides.
745 E Germann Rd, Chandler
America's Largest Sundial
Measure time by day and track the North Star by night with America's largest sundial in the Carefree Desert Gardens, spanning 90 feet in diameter with a Sonoran desert backdrop.
Head to Central Phoenix's Curious Nature Shop for all of your freeze dried bats and a bisected pig heart needs. That's right: this natural history emporium is full of taxidermy you won't be able to look away from...or is it looking at you?
5032 N Central Ave, Phoenix
The Fire Breathing Dragon at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesen West
Frank Lloyd Wright often sent his third wife Olgivanna gifts from his travels abroad, with one of the most impressive still on display at Taliesin West. This dragon was intended to be a serene water fountain, but Olgivanna had a gas pipe installed so that the creature would instead breath fire. Catch the display on a Friday evening Night Lights Tour.
12621 N Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd, Scottsdale