10 Best Attractions near US Airways Center: Explore Downtown Phoenix and Beyond

Located a short walk from the US Airways Center, the Arizona Science Center is one of Phoenix's most popular attractions. The center has seven themed galleries with more than 300 hands-on exhibits, making it ideal for visitors of all ages. Kids will love exploring the interactive displays, while adults will enjoy the planetarium and IMAX movie theatre.

Art lovers should plan a stop at the Phoenix Art Museum, which is just a short drive from the US Airways Center on Central Avenue. This is perhaps the most important art museum in the Southwest, with a strong Western, European and Latin American permanent collection.

Not far from the Phoenix Art Museum is the iconic Heard Museum, one of the finest collections of Native American art in the world. Don't leave without browsing the gift shop, which is a great source for authentic Native American arts, crafts and jewelry.

If you're in the mood to explore Phoenix's desert scenery on foot (or by car), head south of the US Airways Center to South Mountain Regional Park. It's the largest municipal park in the United States. Take the slow drive up the mountain for excellent panoramic views of the city from atop the popular Dobbins Point lookout.


Enchanted Island is located in the heart of central Phoenix's Encanto Park, one of the city's oldest and most picturesque parks. This small amusement park offers the perfect budget-friendly escape for families with young children. The park features nine rides, a carousel, a C.P. Huntington train, a small selection of arcade games, and snack bars. When the weather is cool, don't miss the pedal-boats, which allow you to travel across Encanto Park's fish-filled lagoons. There is also a splash zone for those hot summer days. When you're done exploring the park, explore the grounds of Encanto Park, which features recreational opportunities, trails, and plenty of shady trees for picnicking. Admission is always free at Enchanted Island. Visitors pay for individual rides and games.

Built for a local doctor and his family, this residence was constructed in 1895 in Eastlake style. The Victorian home boasts a wide verandah, an octagonal tower, and ten rooms. It was equipped with running water, electricity, and a medical office and featured such luxuries as parquet floors, a carved staircase, telephone, and refrigerator. The home was acquired by the city in 1974 and restored to its current state. While visitors often believe the structure was moved to its current location, it was actually built where it now stands. Daily tours are available. Be sure to contact the museum for seasonal hours.

A maze of well-maintained hiking trails crisscrosses one of the largest municipal parks in the world. For a spectacular view, drive to Dobbins Lookout Point and gaze at the city from 1200 feet. Then, trek to Happy Valley via a trail through South Mountain Park. The place is magnificent, especially in springtime when the terrain is knee-deep with wildflowers. Free maps are available at the entrance, but no glass containers are permitted on the premises. If you want to drive to the top, arrive no later than 9pm. This is one of the largest municipal city parks in the country, so make sure to bring plenty of water, especially if you're planning a visit during the summer months.

Arizona Capitol Museum

Housed in an impressive stone building that once served as the state capitol, this museum documents Arizona's time as a territory and its early statehood. The structure itself is crowned with a copper dome and a 16-foot, zinc Winged Victory statue. Within the building are flags documenting the state's history, including ones representing Spain, Mexico, and the Confederacy. Offices and congressional chambers have been restored to period splendor, and Megargee paintings (with Arizona as their theme) grace the interior. World War II buffs can browse the USS Arizona display, which offers artifacts, recollections from survivors, and a specially commissioned silver service.

Located in Papago Park, this garden features the world's largest outdoor desert plant collection. A vast array of colorful wildflowers has been strategically placed to create a spectacular display and delight visitors in the springtime, and throughout the year. Not only is this park a treat for the eyes, but it also provides exercise for the body and mind. One of the main highlights, an informative ethnobotanical walking trail, meanders through the grounds. The trail explains the many vital ways in which plants were integrated into Native American tribal life, thus illustrating the importance of plants beyond their natural beauty.

Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park

This museum and its adjacent park are built on the site of 1500-year-old Hohokam Indian ruins. Exhibits showcase lifestyles of the Hohokam and of other Southwestern tribes, and visitors learn about Phoenix's cultural heritage through displays of arts and crafts created and used by Native Americans. An informative and fun hands-on exhibit encourages children to learn more about archaeology. Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park offers visitors a deeper understanding into the culture of the people who once occupied the Salt River Valley. A great spot to take the kids and your favorite history buff. The park regularly hosts lectures and classes.

The Children's Museum of Phoenix, located in the 70,000 square foot historic Monroe School building in downtown Phoenix, offers three floors of exhibits designed to engage young children and the adults who love them. Exhibits are hands-on and interactive, making this a fun place to spend the day with the favorite child in your life. Kids will love exploring the nooks and crannies of The Climber, an amazing multi-storied exhibit created with recycled materials. The Noodle Forest gives kids a sensory adventure in a safe environment, while The Market allows kids to roleplay in a fun grocery store setting. An art studio, book loft, and designated tricycle area add to the fun at this colorful and always-busy museum.

Heard Museum of Native Cultures and Art

The well-regarded Heard Museum specializes in Native American cultural exhibits. It also features works by contemporary Southwestern artists, craft demonstrations, amphitheater performances, a cafe, and a gift shop. Paintings, drawings, and sculpture figure into the collection, along with domestic objects, textiles, pottery, dolls, and jewelry. Temporary themed exhibitions add to the place's intrigue. There are three branches in the city, which includes the main downtown location, Heard Museum West in Surprise and Heard Museum North in North Scottsdale. Make sure to stop by the gift shop before you leave. It features a wide assortment of authentic Navajo rugs, Katsina dolls and other art pieces.

Housed in a dramatic building, the Science Center offers well over 300 interactive exhibits in seven themed galleries. A giant-screen IMAX theater shows educational films, and the planetarium boasts one of the largest domes in the west. Exhibits are organized into galleries that explore human physiology, physical forces, transportation, geology, computers, and applied sciences. Most of them are hands-on and cater to children of all ages. The newest permanent exhibition is the W.O.N.D.E.R. Center, which explores the anatomy of the brain and neuroscience. The Arizona Science Center is located in Heritage and Science Park, conveniently located in the heart of downtown Phoenix.

Phoenix Art Museum
Photo courtesy of Phoenix Art Museum

Another institution growing by leaps and bounds, this museum's scope is indisputably international with works representing American, Asian, European and Latin American art. The museum also features exhibits on fashion and the Thorne miniature rooms (rooms from different historical periods, scaled down to hatbox size). With more than more than 18,000 works of American, Asian, European, Latin American, Western American, modern and contemporary art, expect to spend some time exploring the halls of this vibrant museum. Major exhibitions, film screenings and various cultural events fill the calendar at this popular attraction. Make sure to stop by the gift shop on your way out for unique, art-inspired items.


Meet Patricia Escarcega

Patricia Escarcega works as a writer and editor in Phoenix.