The Hot Sheet | The blog about what to do and where to go in Phoenix, AZ The blog about what to do and where to go in Phoenix, AZ


Unexpected Phoenix Attractions

Tovrea Castle

Tovrea Castle Photo courtesy of PBS Eight

Who knew you could find water sports, bats, a castle, a Japanese garden and more in the greater Phoenix area? Check out these unexpected attractions that just may surprise you.

Tovrea Castle

Perched atop a cactus-covered hill in east-central Phoenix, Tovrea (pronounced TOE-vree) Castle at Carraro Heights has intrigued generations of Valley residents. The castle and surrounding cactus garden have recently been restored and are currently open for tours.

Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area and Rio Salado Audubon Center

The Rio Salado Audubon Center is a nature center in the heart of the City of Phoenix’s Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area, a 600-acre park along the Salt River. Located less than two miles from downtown Phoenix, this unexpected Phoenix attraction is a gateway to a lush riparian habitat used by more than 200 species of birds. Other wildlife you might spot on a visit to the restoration area includes beavers, muskrats, coyotes, jackrabbits, cottontails and javelinas.

Japanese Friendship Garden

Japanese Friendship Garden

Japanese Friendship Garden

The Japanese Friendship Garden—Ro Ho En—features more than 1,500 tons of handpicked rock, more than 50 varieties of plants, flowing streams, a 12-foot waterfall and a Koi pond. 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.

Phoenix Bat Cave

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.

Papago Park

Papago Park

Hole-in-the-Rock at Papago Park

Enjoy the beautiful sandstone buttes that define Papago Park and climb to the park’s most popular spot, Hole-in-the-Rock, to enjoy sweeping views of Phoenix.

Watersports on Lake Pleasant

Located about 45 minutes northwest of downtown Phoenix, Lake Pleasant is always bustling with water sports and outdoor enthusiasts. The 10,000-acre lake is enjoyed by windsurfers, boaters, sailors, jet skiers and fisherman.

The Hall of Flame

The Hall of Flame Fire Museum has almost an acre of fire history exhibits with more than 90 fully restored pieces of fire apparatus on display dating from 1725 to 1969. The Hall of Flame sponsors the National Firefighting Hall of Heroes, which honors firefighters who have died in the line of duty or have been decorated for heroism.


Day trip idea: Top 10 Things to do in Wickenburg

There is a lot to see and do in Phoenix. But our city is also a hub for a number of memorable day trips that allow you to explore Arizona for the day and still be back for dinner in Phoenix. Just one hour from Phoenix is the authentic Western town of Wickenburg.

Words like tradition and authenticity aren't just jargon in Wickenburg. Wickenburg is tradition. It is authentic. And Wickenburg fills a glorious chapter in the history of Arizona and the West. Though less than an hour away (54 freeway miles) from the hustle and bustle of modern Phoenix, Arizona’s most Western community stands guarded from the metropolitan hustle and bustle.

After all, Mother Nature herself kissed Wickenburg. Resting on the northern edge of the Sonoran Desert, just below Arizona’s mountainous country, the Wickenburg area abounds in natural beauty. Stoic saguaros. Shadow mountains. Lush desert flanking the river. And while the area’s geological treasures attracted the miners from around the world, the Hassayampa River flood plain provided fertile soil for farming and ranching.

Today, that fertile ground draws visitors to its guest ranches, hotels, attractions and events. The desert blooms with entertainment and soul-feeding fun.

Our friends at the Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce share the top 10 things to do in Wickenburg:

1. Be inspired by a performance at the Del E. Webb Center for the Performing Arts.

2. Visit the Desert Caballeros Western Museum, a showcase for Western and Southwestern art and exhibits.

Desert Caballeros Western Museum

Desert Caballeros Western Museum


3. Grab a bag of popcorn and a coke, lean back and enjoy a popular movie at the historic Saguaro Theatre.

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Day trip idea: Top 10 things to do in Ajo

There is a lot to see and do in Phoenix. But our city is also a hub for a number of memorable day trips that allow you to explore Arizona for the day and still be back for dinner in Phoenix. Just two hours away is Ajo, an undiscovered gem among Arizona mining towns.

This one-stoplight village sits serenely among several million acres of pristine Sonoran Desert habitat. Ajo is a quiet, welcoming oasis with a fascinating history, enchanting old buildings, and friendly residents. It is a place to set your watch back 50 years, relax and enjoy the desert. Ajo is without traffic, congestion or even many other tourists and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Our friends at the Ajo District Chamber of Commerce share the top 10 things to do in their town:

1. Explore the heart of the Sonoran Desert at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, the Crater Range and many other remarkable areas.

2. Hike, Bike, Climb. Ajo is surrounded by a vast desert and dramatic peaks with few other humans around.
Ajo biking

3. Relax with a book in the historic town plaza or overlooking some panoramic expanse.

4. Photograph or paint. The desert, people, historic buildings, churches and unforgettable sunsets are just some of the region's artistic inspirations.
Ajo flowers

5. Take a drive. Hit the road on Ajo's Scenic Loop, Charlie Bell Pass, Puerto Blanco Drive, and Burro Gap among others.

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Sneak peek: Cubs Park

Cubs park mesa

Chicago Cubs fans have waited 105 years for a World Series title. But they’ll have to wait only until the open of the Cactus League season Feb. 27 to christen a new spring training stadium.

Cubs Park, the newest stadium in the Cactus League, is nearing completion, and the Cubs treated us to a sneak peek of the facilities.

The new ballpark hasn’t yet been “Cub-ified”—much of the signage and adornments are still forthcoming—but the facility has rounded into shape enough to give you a pretty good idea of what attending a Cubs game this spring will feel like.

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Day trip idea: Top 10 things to do in Bisbee

There is a lot to see and do in Phoenix. But our city is also a hub for a number of memorable day trips that allow you to explore Arizona for the day and still be back for dinner in Phoenix. Just over three hours from Phoenix is Bisbee, a former copper mining town now known for its walkability, eclectic art galleries, unique architecture and a melting pot of residents.

Our friends at Discover Bisbee have shared the top 10 things to do in their town:

1) Give your car a break and explore Bisbee on foot. Talk a walk through town and conquer the many stairs Bisbee is known for. The stairs were built in the 1890’s and augmented and repaired by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930’s.

As you stroll and climb through town, you'll see beautiful little gardens and architectural embellishments that have been done to old miner’s shacks. Keep an eye out for the numerous murals and street art throughout town.

Hikers can head up Bisbee’s own “B” hill with the little chapel at the top or trek along the paths in the numerous side canyons that spill into Tombstone Canyon and Brewery Gulch right in town.

2) See the works of sculptor Ben Dale throughout town. Some examples of his craft are the angels in back of 39 Main Street, the fence at the top of Clawson Street, and the door of Cafe Roka.

Ben Dale's Lady in the Garden

3) Bisbee is old but the parts still work well! The town is home to a number of businesses with rich histories such as the Copper Queen Hotel, Copper Queen Library, Bisbee Grand Saloon and Warren Ballpark.

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The Weekender: January 10-12

What polar vortex? The weekend weather here in Phoenix calls for - stop me if you've heard this before - sunny blue skies and another weekend of perfect weather! Head out there and enjoy it with our top things to do in Phoenix this weekend:

Second Saturday Sidewalk Sale: January 11
What's better than perusing the independent shops on Roosevelt Row? Shopping them while enjoying a beautiful 70-degree day! Businesses along RoRo will be bringing some of their goods outdoors for this all-day community sidewalk sale.
Roosevelt Row Second Saturday

Heritage Saturday at Heritage Square and Step Back at the Rosson House
: January 11
Bring the whole family downtown and take a step back in time to the pre-iPhone pioneer days of Phoenix. Take a nearly-extinct manual typewriter for a spin and find out what life in 1895 Phoenix was like with the Step Back in Time Players historical actors.

Hit the links for a round of golf
It's sunny skies, green grass and prime conditions at courses all across our golfing paradise. Plan your next Phoenix golf outing here and get the details on some of the courses we've played here.

Wildfire Golf Club Faldo Course

Wildfire Golf Club's Faldo Course

Trivia Night at Crescent Ballroom
: January 12

Time to put those hours of watching Jeopardy! to good use. Grab some friends and your thinking cap and head to the Crescent Ballroom for their Sunday night trivia. Prizes include gift cards and tickets to upcoming shows at the venue, plus enjoy food and drink specials at Cocina 10.
Crescent Ballroom

Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction
: January 12-19

The world-renowned car auction returns to WestWorld of Scottsdale with another memorable lineup of one-of-a-kind vehicles. Check out AutoGuide's Top 10 Cars to Watch at the auction before heading out to gawk at them yourself.

More weekend activities

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Filed under: Places to go, Things to do