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Last Updated on April 30, 2024

INSIDE: Surprisingly vibrant and walkable, we share a whole list of things to do Phoenix downtown–you won’t even need a car!

For years I thought of Phoenix as a “region.” Great weather & spectacular scenery? Sure. But a city? With a traditional downtown? Not so much. Then I went to a concert, expecting to leave right afterward, and discovered something unexpected . . .

Downtown Phoenix was hopping-there were people everywhere, out and about, walking around and having a great time. Wait, WHAT???

It was time to give the downtown “city” part of Phoenix a closer look.

Downtown Phoenix Arizona: It’s a (real) Thing

Clearly I had taken my eye off the ball regarding what was going on in the state’s largest city (and its capital). In recent years, Phoenix has committed to redeveloping its urban corridor to offer more experiences to both business and leisure travelers.

Translation: there’s lots of cool stuff in downtown Phoenix. And you can walk to it all.

It’s not just the “big things,” like the Convention Center, baseball stadium and basketball arena. Those are great, but not enough to create a downtown atmosphere. You could drive to an event, then go home afterwards.

To be a true downtown you need more. Specifically . . . people.

Woman in a hat holding up a microbrew in downtown phoenix
Megan Greenwood of Greenwood Brewing celebrates walkable downtown Phoenix Photo by Jenny Dupuis

Tons of new apartments and condos have sprouted up in recent years. Which means people are living downtown. And where people live, they shop, eat, and just plain do stuff.

Which makes being in downtown Phoenix fun.

And it’s all within walking distance, so you even get a little exercise in the process. (Which in my mind totally justifies stopping for a cookie! 🍪)

We’ve put together a guide of what to do in downtown Phoenix to get you started. Whether you’re looking to shop in funky boutiques, discover some history, or just enjoy the Arizona sunshine with a refreshing microbrew, you’ll find it here.

Next time you’re coming to town for a convention, or even just in from the ‘burbs to catch a Diamondbacks game, take some time to explore downtown Phoenix. It’ll be worth the trip.

Things to do Phoenix Downtown: Live Performances

Downtown Phoenix is no slouch in the live performance scene. From bass-thumping rock or hip-hop to an elegant ballet to live theater, Phoenix runs the gamut for creative entertainment. 🎸💃🏻

Every night is a unique artistic experience, where passion and creativity take center stage. Check out these terrific venues to find your performance of choice.

1. Footprint Center

An anchor in downtown Phoenix, the Footprint Center arena delivers an electrifying fusion of entertainment, sporting action, and local culture.

In addition to year-round sporting events (see below), this arena host an ever-changing array of BIG events. Whether it’s the Ringling Brothers circus, Tim McGraw or Megan Thee Stallion, there’s something heart-stopping for fans of all ages and tastes.

Attending an event at the Footprint Center can form the lynchpin for your exploration of Phoenix’s downtown scene.

2. Arizona Financial Theater

Despite the confusing name (they do NOT put on plays about mortgages 🙃), the Arizona Financial Theatre offers up a great lineup of all sorts of entertainment.

This 5,000 seat entertainment venue is equipped with state-of-the-art sound and lighting equipment. I like to think of it as either an “intimate arena” or a “whompin’ big theater.”

This is the place to see comedy acts like Bret Goldstein and Bill Burr and multiple music genres, including latin, hip-hop, rock and country. You can even attend boxing matches here! 🥊

3. Phoenix Symphony Hall

If you’re craving a little high culture, Phoenix Symphony Hall will fix you up right.

This spectacular venue serves as home to a myriad of renowned organizations, including the illustrious Phoenix Symphony—the Southwest’s largest full-time symphony orchestra—as well as the Arizona Opera and Ballet Arizona.

Ballet dancers at Phoenix Symphony hall-one of the more cultural things to do Phoenix downtown
Attending a ballet is one of the more cultural things to do Phoenix downtown Photo: Ballet Arizona

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4. Herberger Theater Center

The Herberger Theater Center, serves as a cultural hub offering an immersive live arts experience. This captivating hive of creativity showcases a wide variety performance genres, encapsulating the city’s thriving arts scene. Events include thought-provoking plays, musicals an interactive art exhibitions.

For a change of pace (and budget ) try out the Lunch Time Theater program: One-act plays lasting 45 to 50 minutes, with tickets at $10 each, PLUS guests can bring a lunch (or pre-order one from the Herberger Theater’s caterer when ordering tickets.) Now that’s a great deal!

5. The Orpheum Theater

Every great city needs a grand old theater in it’s repertoire. The Orpheum Theater fits that bill for downtown Phoenix. It opened in January 1929, at the peak of the Roaring 20s-no expense was spared. The massive stage made it a popular stop for traveling vaudeville shows that changed weekly back in the day.

The elegant 1920s interior of the Orpheum Theater in downtown Phoenix
The elegant interior of the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Phoenix dates from the 1920s

This historic performance arts venue is a bit of an architectural show-off with its magnificent Italian Renaissance Revival design. It even had an early form of air conditioning!

Today the Orpheum plays host to a diverse range of performances that cater to every artistic taste. Performances range from the mesmerizing Broadway musical Wicked to showings of vintage silent films accompanied by live orchestra. The Orpheum Theater is indeed a crowning jewel in Phoenix’s vibrant arts scene.

6. The Van Buren

People standing in a music venue waiting for a concert to begin
The Van Buren offers an intimate spot to see live music in downtown Phoenix

If you’re looking for something a bit more intimate and edgy in the heart of downtown Phoenix, the Van Buren might just fit the bill.

Originally built in 1939 as an automotive showroom for the Phoenix Motor Company, it was repurposed into an eclectic music venue in 2017. Recent performances include Grammy-nominated artist, Leon Bridges, and indie rock band, The Arctic Monkeys, showcasing the Van Buren’s commitment to diverse and high-caliber entertainment.

Click here for upcoming events at the Van Buren.

7. The Crescent Ballroom

Part live performance venue, part Southwestern scratch kitchen, the Crescent Ballroom provides entertainment and sustenance at the western end of Phoenix’s downtown in a historic setting.

exterior view of the crescent ballroom in downtown phoenix, with people eating at outdoor tables
The Crescent Ballroom features live music & great Southwestern grub (Photo An T. Pham)

Housed in the F.L. Hart Garage, which was built in 1917, it sits along the original Dixie Overland Highway, more commonly known as US Highway 80. As a member of the inaugural class of US highways commissioned in 1926 [the same “class” as its neighbor to the north, Route 66], US 80 ran through Phoenix along Van Buren Street.

This route was often referred to as the “Broadway of America,” with motor lodges and automobile garages, catering to tourists. Today, the Crescent Ballroom showcases a wide variety of live music and related activities.

And the Arizona tapas, margaritas and more at onsite Cocina 10 are a welcome treat for a hungry wayfarer! 🌮🍹

What to do in Downtown Phoenix with Kids 🧒🏻🧒🧒🏽

Ignite your child’s curiosity with engaging museums, interactive exhibits, captivating live events, lush parks, and more. Designed for their endless amusement, downtown Phoenix has fun-filled adventure awaiting in every corner. Create unforgettable memories with these things to do Phoenix downtown today!

8. Valley Youth Theater

group of children putting on a play-things to do phoenix downtown
Potential future Oscar winners (photo: Robert Kneschke)

The Valley Youth Theater cultivates raw talent into masterful, world-renowned performers. This hub of artistic excellence proudly counts award-winning artists like Jordan Sparks and Emma Stone among its notable alumni.

Fun for kids and grownups alike, catch a performance at the VYT and you might just get a glimpse of a future Oscar winner. You can say, “I saw them when they were just a kid!”

9. Arizona Science Center (and Create! Annex)

Tweens in front of a giant mock-up of skin at Arizona Science Center
Arizona Science Center, (photo by Brad Olson)

Encourage your child’s curiosity (or your own!) at Arizona Science Center, featuring over 350 interactive exhibits.

Dive into the mind-bending Dorrance Planetarium or traverse the simulated Mars landscape. In the Create! annex, innovate with hands-on learning in design, 3D printing, and robotics.

My husband is not usually a “science guy,” but he definitely engaged with the Under the Hood, Engineered by Subaru! exhibit. He got to get up close and personal with a Boxer engine, and then “test-drive” wooden Subaru model cars on a track. Boys will be boys. 👦🏻👦🏻

The Science Center also offers a series of adults-only events, called “Science with a Twist.” These include a happy hour 🍸 along with an adults-oriented science program.

10. Children’s Museum of Phoenix

Who wouldn’t want to play in the Noodle Forest?

Housed in a beautifully restored, historic school building, the Children’s Museum of Phoenix offers engaging, interactive exhibits for children to learn through play.

Popular attractions like the Noodle Forest, the Climber, and the Art Studio captivate children’s imaginations, fostering curiosity and creativity. This award-winning museum encourages hands-on exploration and discovery, providing delightful experiences for young minds and making it a must-visit destination for family fun and learning.

11. Go on a City Mural Scavanger Hunt

Experience the vibrant street art throughout downtown Phoenix. This colorful explosion of creativity transforms buildings into kaleidoscopic canvases featuring everything from sprawling surreal landscapes to enchanting abstract pieces.

(I like to see if I can incorporate someone into the scene . . . see my husband, who has become “one with the cactus,” below 🤣)

man standing in front of cactus mural in downtown Phoenix
See if you can become part of the street art in Phoenix downtown murals

This interactive open-air museum provides a fun, educational activity for kids, provoking discussions about art and expression. Explore the dynamic world of Phoenix street art, where imagination meets urban landscape.

Delve into local History

Although downtown Phoenix is vibrant and modern, the area is rich with history. Snippets of the city’s (and the state’s) past are hiding in plain sight for anyone curious enough to take a peek.

Anyone with an interest in the past should include these on their list of things to do Phoenix downtown.

12. Heritage Square Walk

Take a peek at Phoenix’s vibrant Victorian Past at Heritage Square. Located on Block 14 of the original townsite of Phoenix, the Square dates back to the late 1800s.

Embark on a fascinating walking tour, which showcases the evolving history of the Phoenix area. From the pithouses of the Ancestral Sonoran Desert Peoples to the construction of the 1895 Rosson House and beyond, this walk will teach you much about how the city of the past shaped the downtown Phoenix of today.

13. Rosson House Museum

The crown jewel of Heritage Square, the Rosson House Museum, is preserved Victorian-era beauty that brings the past to life. Uncover Phoenix’s rich history with guided tours through the authentically-restored rooms.

Be transported back to the late 1800s as expert guides weave tales of past residents and the city’s early days. Explore Rosson House Museum, where every corner whispers untold stories.

14. Arizona Capitol Museum

Arizona Capitol building in downtown Phoenix
The Arizona Capitol Museum, walking distance to downtown Phoenix (photo © Corbis)

As the state’s capital, Phoenix holds treasures not just from the city’s past, but from all of Arizona as well.

This free museum, which is housed in the original Capitol building, provides an excellent glimpse into all facets of Arizona History-including from when it was just the “Arizona Territory.”

Explore four floors of interactive exhibits, antique artifacts, and historical records that weave a rich tapestry of statewide heritage. From early Native American origins to the ground-breaking Buffalo Soldiers to present-day politics, the museum offers a captivating journey through time.

✻The museum is located adjacent to the Arizona State Senate and House of Representatives. If you’re lucky (or you time it right), one of the houses will be in session and you can pop in and observe State Government at work.

15. Bolin Memorial Plaza

Bolin Memorial Plaza, located in a sprawling park just east of the historic state Capitol building, brings history to life through its captivating monuments.

man standing in front of giant anchor from USS Arizona (sunk at Pearl Harbor)
The anchor from the USS Arizona is a poignant memorial from the Pearl Harbor attack

A collection of stirring tributes such as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, remind us of heroic stories and sacrifices. Unique attractions include artifacts from the USS Arizona (sunk during the Pearl Harbor attack), which provide a tangible connection to our past.

This memorial plaza is not just a place, but a journey through time, commemorating those who dedicated their lives for our freedom.

16. Phoenix Police Museum

old western Arizona marshall brass badge, surrounded by vintage bullets and rifle
Learn about law enforcement history from the Arizona Marshalls to modern CSI techniques at the Phoenix Police Museum photo by zim286

Experience the history of regional law enforcement at the Phoenix Police Museum, showcasing a rich collection of vintage police vehicles, artifacts, and memorabilia. It’s got a fitting location, set in the old City Hall.

Highlights include the exhibits through time, beginning with Phoenix’s first Marshall and jail, through the Arizona Rangers of the wild west, all the way up the sophisticated C.S.I. techniques of present day. Of particular note is the Phoenix connection to our famous “Miranda Rights:” Ernesto Miranda was arrested in Phoenix in 1963.

Kids will love that chance to try on a police uniform & get their own (sticker) badge to take home. Learn more at Phoenix Police Museum.

Be a Sport -Watch a Game . . . Right Downtown!

Experience exhilarating professional sports just steps away from downtown Phoenix. Thrilling games, outstanding athletes, all within easy reach of urban amenities. Your unforgettable sports journey starts here.

17. Pro Basketball Year Round at the Footprint Center 🏀

If you love hoops, you can spend just about every month of the year at the Footprint Center.

In winter & spring, the NBA’s Phoenix Suns take to the court, with heart-stopping shots, adrenaline-fueled dribbles, and astounding blocks.

Watch pro basketball year round at the Footprint Center in downtown Phoenix

Then, before you’ve had a chance to say “time out,” the ladies of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury 🔥 are swishing threes and setting up sweet layups. (And if you’ve been following women’s college basketball lately, you know that these gals can play!)

No matter which team you follow, you’re sure to be in for an electrifying atmosphere, packed with athletic thrills and off-court spectacle.

18. Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field ⚾️

Experience the exhilaration of Arizona Diamondbacks baseball at Chase Field.

Little kid cheering at a baseball game at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix
Root, root, root for the home team right in downtown Phoenix

Perfectly positioned in downtown Phoenix, this extraordinary stadium offers more than just a game. Its innovative retractable roof provides year-round comfort for spectators, making every a memorable experience.

Listen to the crack of the bats and cheer on the D-backs through spring, summer and fall. Be captivated by the raw energy, immerse yourself in the excitement, and feel the pulse of the city’s heart as it beats in rhythm with the home team’s performance. Chase Field delivers exceptional baseball, up close and personal.

Enjoy the Funky Neighborhood Vibe on Roosevelt Row

Roosevelt Row runs along Roosevelt Ave. on the northern end of Phoenix downtown and is a vibrant epicenter of art, culture, and community.

Experience its innovative galleries, inspiring murals, delectable restaurants, and trendy shops. Fostering creativity and diversity, this walkable urban district is a fascinating fusion of historical charm and modern chic.

mural at the entrance to Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix

Roosevelt Row is downtown Phoenix’s walkable arts district, home to art galleries, restaurants, bars and boutique shops in a landscape dotted by colorful street art.

19. First Fridays Art Walk in Downtown Phoenix

Experience Phoenix’s creative soul at the First Fridays Art Walk , which runs all along Roosevelt Row. The first Friday of every month the street becomes a kaleidoscope of color (and culture!) with artwork, music and crafts at every turn.

People shopping for art at street fair on roosevelt row, phoenix
First Fridays on Roosevelt Row

Ignite your senses and explore local artists’ unique expressions. Experience art in motion, in vision, in sound. Don’t just see art, live it.

20. Shop for Chic and Funky Goods

shelves at a shop filled with artisan pieces of pottery and prints in downtown phoenix
One-of-a-kind items by local artisans at Made Art Boutique

You’ll find unique blend of niche boutiques and eclectic shops along Roosevelt Row.

Made Art Boutique showcases one-of-a-kind works from local artisans and craftspeople (okay, I’m fessing up on my fascination for funky earrings here 😊). Whether you’re searching for handcrafted jewelry, hand-drawn notecards or unique pottery pieces you’ll find them here.

Dialog is the go-to spot for high-end home design, while Straw and Wool is the place to go for absolutely stunning hats.

This strip is a haven for the artsy, fashion-forward, and design-savvy. It’s a great place to shop if you’re looking for something that’s beautiful AND unique.

21. Sip your Beverage of Choice 🍺 ☕️🍸

As your ambling down Roosevelt, shopping for cool stuff and admiring the murals, there are plenty of spots to stop and “refresh yourself.” And there is variety . . . so you can opt for your cocktail, brew, coffee, or even mocktail of choice.

Watch the world go by with an artisan microbrew at either woman-owned Greenwood Brewing (that’s owner Megan Greenwood hoisting a glass at the top of the post!), Pedal Brewhaus or Wilderness Brewing, all of which are locally owned. 🍺

Image of a non-alcoholic cocktail alongside a cup of cappuccino
A unique selection of non-alcoholic cocktails and coffees at dialog. (Photos: dialog, Getty Images)

Enjoy your latte or macchiato . . . or chai in the soothing setting of Songbird Coffee & Tea House (plus their housemade pastries are definitely worth a stop!) Or go for the coffee & cocktails setting at Kahvi Coffee & Cafe.

If you prefer to stay completely alert, check out the unique “zero-proof” bar at Dialog (yep, the same folks listed above as carrying swanky home furnishings.) In addition to a selection of coffee & tea, they serve a unique selection of non-alcoholic beverages, including craft cocktails, wines and beers.

Nibble, Munch or Chow Down in Downtown Phoenix

Prepare yourself for a day of exploration of things to do Phoenix downtown by fueling up at one of many unique eateries in this district. Whether it’s breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner (or my hubby’s favorite: a snack), the restaurants of downtown Phoenix have got you covered.

PRO TIP: Take a Food Tour of Downtown Phoenix . . . you’ll get to sample some yummy treats while walking by many of the historic sites listed here!

Here are a few tasty samples (see what I did there? 😉):

22. Snag a Whompin’ Breakfast 🍳

overhead view of a restaurant breakfast, with eggs, potatoes, coffee in downtown phoenix
Ready for anything after this! (photo by Matt’s Big Breakfast)

Get the perfect start to your day of exploring things to do Phoenix downtown with a monumental morning meal.

Try Matt’s Big Breakfast for the “chop & chick” (shown above) or indulge in fluffy blueberry pancakes. At Breakfast Bitch, enjoy a lil’ bit o’ sass with your avocado toast and an iced caramel macchiato.

No matter what you choose, these spots will have you fueled up for the day!

23. Sample some Legendary Pizza 🍕

Pizzeria Bianco, in Phoenix’s Heritage Square District, is one of the city’s culinary gems. It’s right here-at this humble spot in the Heritage Square District-that artisan pizza in American became a thing.

Margherita pizza topped with fresh mozzarella and fresh basil at pizzeria bianco
The “OG” of artisan pizza in America

Established by James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Bianco, its artisanal pizzas are revered. From the Margherita’s sweet tomato finish to the Rosa’s tantalizing blend of Parmigiano-Reggiano and red onions, it charts a historic journey of Italian cuisine, redefined by the Arizona landscape.

Snagging a pie at Pizzeria Bianco is a way of merging 19th- and 21st-century downtown Phoenix together.

24. Get Crusty at Cornish Pasty Company

Everything tastes better wrapped in flaky pasty crust (photo by Andrew1Norton)

There’s just something about wrapping food in a yummy, flaky crust to make it taste even better. Enter the Cornish pasty: a handheld, crimped pastry, brimming with hearty fillings, which originated in Cornwall, England.

What, you might ask, does this have to do with downtown Phoenix? It turns out, plenty.

Owned by natives of Corwall, Cornish Pasty Company does a bang-up job of bringing that Cornish tradition to the valley of the Sun. With over 40 varieties to choose from, the menu caters to every palate. Savory offerings range from the traditional steak and potatoes to the exotic Moroccan-spiced lamb. Sweet pasties, like tangy apple or opulent chocolate, are the perfect finales to an epicurean adventure.

I also have it on good authority that the peanut butter & jelly with banana dessert pasty is delish (she said as she wiped the crumbs off the side of her mouth 🫢😍).

They make the pasties right next door–for a little foodie adventure, you can watch them rolling and crimping before or after your meal.

25. Go Local at the Churchill

people dining at the Churchill food hall Roosevelt Row downtown Phoenix
Eat (& shop) local at The Churchill (photo by Visit-PhoenixAn-Pham)

Can’t decide what to eat? Check out The Churchill.

Part food hall, part shopping destination, and overall neighborhood gathering spot, The Churchill showcases local businesses from downtown Phoenix in a communal environment, fostering a neighborhood atmosphere. Its mission revolves around promoting sustainability, education, and community growth.

Options abound, from satisfying pizza at Freak Bros. to nutritious acai bowls at InFruition to burgers & bagels at Stoop Kid. You might want to save room for a deep-dish cookie sundae (yes, I did say cookie and sundae in the same sentence 🍪🍨!) at The Scookie Bar.

Find ways to relax and chill

If all the excitement of things to do Phoenix downtown has you itching for a little peace and quiet, we’ve go some ideas for that too.

Explore these options to unwind at the end of a busy day-or just find some serenity in the midst of a bustling city.

26. Japanese Friendship Garden

Immerse yourself in an calming oasis at the Japanese Friendship Garden. 🌸

Japanese garden with statue, bonsai and water in downtown phoenix.
Serenity amidst the bustle of downtown Phoenix (photo courtesy Japanese Friendship Garden)

With meticulously manicured landscapes, tranquil waterfalls, and vibrant koi ponds, it’s a beautifully crafted haven offering a peaceful escape in the middle of the day.

Discover tranquility and embrace cultural enrichment in this picturesque Zen sanctuary, just a block or two away from the city’s bustle.

27. Sip from on high at a Rooftop Bar

cocktail at a rooftop bar with downtown phoenix in background
Sip something special at a rooftop bar high atop downtown Phoenix (photo courtesy Visit Phoenix)

Phoenix’s spectacular weather makes doing anything outside a no-brainer–particularly as the sun begins to set. What better way to celebrate the end of a busy day (or start off a fab evening) than with something sippable at a rooftop bar?

There are several hotels who have made the most of their upper stories. Check out the Eden Rooftop Bar at the Kimpton Hotel Palomar, Floor 13 atop the Hilton Garden Inn, or From the Rooftop at the Cambria Downtown.

No matter which you choose, sipping something special high above the bustle of downtown Phoenix is a fitting way to unwind after the day’s adventures. I might add that it’s also a fun spot to watch the planes taking off and landing at PHX. But then, I’m a plane-spotting geek 🛫🤓 (If you love aircraft as well, check out my guide to the Arizona Plane Graveyard (aka “the Boneyard”) in Tucson.

Conclusion

From art and culture to food and entertainment, downtown Phoenix has it all. These 27 experiences are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exploring this vibrant city center. Make sure to add these to your itinerary and discover even more amazing things to do in Phoenix’s downtown core.

What are your favorite things to do Phoenix downtown? Hit the “contact us” button & let us know–we’ll add it to the list! And don’t forget to share this post with your friends and family who are planning a trip to Phoenix.

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