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23 Fun Things to do in Phoenix with Teens

23 Fun Things to do in Phoenix with Teens

Climb higher, explore deeper, and go faster when you experience all the fun things to do in Phoenix with teens. Now that the kids have grown, all the excursions their short attention spans and tired little legs couldn’t handle before are available to explore!

The Sonoran Desert beckons for adventurous souls to discover all the hiking and biking trails in the numerous Phoenix parks and preserves. And museums full of art, culture, and interaction beg to be explored. Keep reading to learn about all the amazing things to do in Arizona with a teenager.  

Explore more of the state! Here are our favorite things to do in Arizona with kids.

Things to do in Phoenix with Teens: Outdoor Adventures

Papago Park

things to do in Phoenix with teens include visiting Papago Park
Photo Courtesy of Visit Phoenix

Escape the bustle of downtown Phoenix for the natural desert beauty of Papago Park. Sandstone buttes rise from the desert floor surrounded by various cactus, fishing ponds, and scampering wildlife. 

The most iconic feature of this park is the large opening in a sandstone butte known as Hole-in-the-Rock. Hike the easy 0.1-mile trail around the backside off the hill for breathtaking views of the Valley of the Sun. The backdrop also makes an ideal selfie spot.

Numerous other trails ideal for hiking and mountain biking wind through the park. There are also tables for picnicking, an archery range, and even a golf course. 

Papago Park is one of the best parks in Phoenix. See what other great spots made our list!

Phoenix Mountains Preserve

Camelback Mountain Echo Canyon Trail
Camelback Mountain Echo Canyon Trail by Brandon Sullivan, courtesy of Visit Phoenix

The popular hiking trails of Phoenix Mountains Preserve are perfect for energetic teens. Although it’s surrounded by the city, the preserve feels remote due to the desert plants and critters found here.

Hiking the strenuous summit trails for Camelback Mountain should be on every Phoenix tourist’s bucket list. A climb to the top promises epic views, lots of photo-ops, and bragging rights.

Another popular hike is the steep, one-mile trail up Piestewa Peak. The trail is essentially one long stairway, and you can feel the burn! But at the top, you get that same awesome summit view of the valley below.

Like free? Check out these free things to do in Phoenix.

South Mountain Park and Preserve

Hidden Valley on South Mountain is a fun place to hike in Phoenix with teens
Hidden Valley on South Mountain by Tiffany Vaughn

58 miles of multi-use trails criss-cross the 16,000 acres of South Mountain Park and Preserve. The mountains that make up this park provide the perfect place to explore the desert and enjoy some awesome views.

One of the most popular ways to explore the trails is by mountain bike. If you don’t have your own, Cactus Adventures, located at the Arizona Grand Resort, rents all the equipment needed for a mountain biking adventure. If you are new to the sport, a great place to start is the Desert Classic Trail. 

The Arizona Grand made our list of our favorite Phoenix family resorts.

If you’d rather travel by foot, there are hiking trails for all skill levels. The short, but challenging Telegraph Pass trail rewards hikers with stunning views of the valley below. Or squeeze through Fat Man’s Pass as you hike through the Hidden Valley Trail. 

Desert Botanical Garden

Desert Botanical Garden
Photo Courtesy of Desert Botanical Garden

Over 50,000 colorful desert plants line the trails at Desert Botanical Garden. The arrangement of flowers and cactus combine to create a living art museum. If your teens aren’t quite up to appreciating the natural beauty, keep them entertained by picking up a bingo card at the Cactus Clubhouse.

During the fall and spring, the garden hosts a seasonal butterfly pavilion exhibit. Wander along a path amid hundreds of butterflies as they flutter around the lush, enclosed garden.

We all know teens get hungry. Why not enjoy the desert flora from the Patio Café on the Ullman Terrace? Feast on a delicious Sonoran hot dog with prickly pear tea while watching the birds, including roadrunners, who love to come look for crumbs.

The Botanical Gardens are especially beautiful to visit during the holidays. Check out what other Phoenix Christmas events you don’t want to miss.

Things to do in Arizona with Teens to Cool Off

Tempe Town Lake

oen of the best things to do in Phoenix with teens is paddleboard Tempe Town Lake
Photo Credit: Tempe Tourism

Ride, paddle, or stroll along the desert oasis of Tempe Town Lake. Stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, pedal boats and party boats can be rented from Boat Rentals of America-Tempe Boat Rentals. They also rent Surrey bikes to ride along the riverfront paths- if your teen isn’t too embarrassed to be seen riding one.  

Tempe Town Lake also hosts fun festivals throughout the year. In March, Polynesian food, music, dancers, and vendors share their culture at the Aloha Festival. And in the fall, come here to experience Four Peaks Oktoberfest at Tempe Town Lake.

Want to get away? Here are our favorite weekend getaways from Phoenix.

Lake Pleasant

Lake Pleasant
Photo by Tiffany Vaughn

About an hour north of Phoenix lies Lake Pleasant, one of the most scenic water recreation areas in the valley. The regional park comprises over 23,000 acres and offers activities including water sports, hiking, and wildlife viewing. 

The glistening lake is the perfect place to cool off from the summer heat. Rent a speedboat and try some water skiing, grab a kayak and go fishing, or even just swim from the shoreline. Lake Pleasant is also home to some of the best inland scuba diving in the United States.

If it’s not quite warm enough to get wet, take a hike along the 1.5-mile Roadrunner Trail. Along the way you may spot some of the friendly wild burros that roam the area. Don’t forget to pack a picnic and enjoy the picturesque desert views.

Float the Salt River

Wild horses on the Salt River
Wild Horses on the Salt River by Tiffany Vaughn

One of my favorite things to do in Phoenix with teens is float down the scenic Salt River. Grab a kayak, paddleboard, or tube and let the leisurely current take you down stream. Along the way, take in the desert vistas and keep an eye out for the wild horses, river otters, and other critters that live along the riverbank.

Tube rental and shuttle service is available through Salt River Tubing. Saguaro Lake Ranch provides unguided kayak and SUP trips, including rentals and shuttles. It is also possible to do the trip on your own, as long as you have two cars and two drivers.

The best time for spotting wildlife is early in the morning. And if possible, try to go on a weekday when the river is less crowded and the float crowd is less rowdy.

Educational & Fun Things to do in Phoenix with Teens

Musical Instrument Museum

Musical Instrument Museum
Photo Credit: Musical Instrument Museum

Instruments from countries around the world share the stories of their people through the music they create. The Musical Instrument Museum invites visitors to travel through time and space by experiencing the music from every culture. This museum is one of the most unique, fun things to do in Phoenix with teens.

After paying admission, guests receive headphones that interact with each exhibit. As you wander around, you can hear the various instruments, as well as see videos of them being played in their original setting. 

My favorite part of the museum is the Experience Gallery, where guests get to play their own music on exotic instruments. Your teen will love trying their hand at playing a Peruvian harp or African djembe. 

Hungry? Here is where you can find the best Mexican food in Phoenix.

Heard Museum

Heard Museum in Phoenix
Photo Credit: Heard Museum

Learn about Native American history and culture at the best Native American museum in the United States, Phoenix’s Heard Museum. Ten galleries display American Indian artifacts and art from the 22 tribes of Arizona and other tribes of the Southwest.

In the We Are! Arizona’s First People exhibit, get hands-on and create crafts representing the tribes of Arizona. And in Every Picture Tells a Story, families enjoy the handmade crafts and natural beauty that inspire American Indian artists.

One exhibit that I would avoid with young kids, but teens can truly appreciate is Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories which tells the experiences of native children taken from their homes. 

Arizona Science Center

Arizona Science Center
Photo Credit: Visit Phoenix/An Pham

Hours of educational entertainment await visitors at the Arizona Science Center. Four floors of interactive exhibits present scientific principles in ways that make learning fun. A special Teen Advisory Board ensures that specific content, programs, and special events are targeted to teens.

The bed of nails on the second floor is everyone’s favorite exhibit. But teens also love the forces of nature presentation where they can experience the windy, wet storms of a hurricane and the heat of a raging wildfire. Other popular exhibits include the virtual wheelchair race and mind control game. 

Throughout the day, staff members present live science demonstrations. And for an additional fee, families can catch a show at the Dorrance Planetarium or IMAX theater. Be sure to check the daily schedule upon arrival.

Puzzle Rides

23 Fun Things to do in Phoenix with Teens 1
Photo via Puzzle Rides

Learn about the history and culture of Downtown Scottsdale through a unique treasure hunt with Puzzle Rides. This escape room-style puzzle puts an exciting twist on typical sight-seeing. Families board a golf cart and solve clues that lead them through the different districts of Scottsdale. 

Each Puzzle Ride offers a varying level of difficulty and children as young as five can join in the fun. For mixed groups of littles and teens, stick with the Pirate’s Treasure Adventure. But if your teens need more of a challenge, check out the Wild West Heist or Copper Canyon Caper. 

Artistic Things to do in Arizona with a Teenager

Taliesin West

Taliesin West
Photo by Tiffany Vaughn

The art of nature and architecture combine at the stunning campus of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West. Wright and his apprentices curated the buildings and grounds over a period of 20 years. Due to the organic architecture and historical impact, the campus is recognized as a National Historic Landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The only way to explore Taliesin West is through a ticketed tour. Choose from 60-minute audio tours, with voice recordings from Mr. Wright himself, or 90-minute guided tours. Tickets frequently sell out, especially when the weather is nice, so be sure to purchase tickets in advance

Along the tour, visitors learn about Frank Lloyd Wright and the work he and his apprentices did here. Discover his use of natural surroundings in the artistic elements of the buildings and appreciate the gorgeous backdrop of the McDowell Mountains. Artistic teens will love the chance to experience the brilliance of the greatest American architect of all time.

Wonderspaces Arizona

Wonderspaces Arizona interactive arti installstion are fun things to do in Phoenix with teens
Photo Credit: BossUpTravels

Interact with the ever evolving artwork at Wonderspaces Arizona. The rotating art exhibits invite families to immerse themselves in the interactive installations. Surround yourself with art, help create pieces, or even transform yourself into a work of art. 

The 16,000 square foot exhibition space of Wonderspaces is located inside Scottsdale Fashion Square. Although the teens can’t indulge, adults can enjoy a signature cocktail from the full bar as they peruse the museum.

Museum of Illusions Scottsdale

Museum of Illusions in Scottsdale
Photo by flickr/George M. Groutas

Challenge your brain and question reality at the Museum of Illusions Scottsdale. Over 60 mind-boggling exhibits offer multisensory, engaging experiences for people of all ages. Experience astonishing images, fascinating installations, and perspective-changing rooms.

At the Museum of Illusion, you can sit down with copies of yourself to a game of cards at the cloning table. Or try to keep your balance in the vortex tunnel. And teens will love taking advantage of the numerous photo-ops around the museum.

Animal Encounters in Phoenix that Teens will Love

Odysea Aquarium

Odysea Aquarium
Photo by Tiffany Vaughn

Take a trip under the sea at the Odysea Aquarium. The huge tanks showcase sharks, sting rays, and other sea creatures as they explore their habitat. There are also playful otters and penguins, which are so fun to watch.

One of the coolest features of Odysea is Odysea Voyager, the rotating aquarium exhibit. Take a seat in the auditorium for a journey to visit and learn about sea turtles, sea lions, and sharks. Along the way, the team shares anecdotes about each of the animals.

Odysea also offers interactive experiences. The touch tanks (included in admission) invite guests to pet stingrays and sturgeons. For a fee, visitors can take a SeaTrek in an underwater helmet, go behind the scenes with the penguins, and even cuddle up with a sloth.

Butterfly Wonderland

Butterfly wonderland
Photo Credit: Butterfly Wonderland

Immerse yourself in the rainforest at Butterfly Wonderland. Besides the colorful varieties of butterflies, guests meet other insects and unique rainforest reptiles.

In the conservatory, watch as thousands of butterflies from around the world sip nectar from tropical flowers or bask in the sunshine. The glass atrium also houses tropical finches, Koi fish, and a couple chickens. Then head to the Emergence Gallery to see caterpillars transform to chrysalis, then butterfly.

Through a 3D movie, learn about the captivating Monarch migration. Then head over to the reptile exhibit to find the Asian Water Dragon, colorful dart frogs, and more. Afterward, check out the other exotic insects, and if you’re brave enough, try some tasty treats like chocolate covered ants.

Phoenix Zoo

23 Fun Things to do in Phoenix with Teens 2
Photo Credit: Visit Phoenix/Phoenix Zoo

Visit local and exotic wildlife at one of the best zoos in the nation, the Phoenix Zoo. Orangutans swing from ropes to trees, river otters dive and flip underwater, and elegant giraffes roam across a spacious savannah. 

Families can ride a camel, feed giraffes, and even touch and feed stingrays. Head into Monkey Village where squirrel monkeys play all around you. And even teens love the children’s zoo with goats to brush and pet. 

Adrenaline Pumping Things to do in Arizona with a Teenager

Go-Kart Racing

K1 Indoor Kart Racing
Photo by Flickr/sputnik

Have a teenager with a need for speed? Check out K1 Speed: Indoor Kart Racing.  The electric karts reach speeds close to 45 mph and allow drivers to feel the rush of racing as they whip around tight bends. 

Alternatively, at Octane Raceway, the ⅓ mile track starts indoors before winding through the outdoor sections, and continuing back indoors. This is the only full time Indoor/Outdoor track in the United States. After racing, play at the arcade, try some mini bowling, or check out the virtual reality arena.

Castles N’ Coasters

Castle n Coasters Thrill Ride Park
Photo by Flickr/Jeremy Thompson

One of the most thrilling things to do in Arizona with a teenager is ride a rollercoaster, and one of the best ones in the state can be found at Castles N’ Coasters Thrill Ride Park. Desert Storm Roller Coaster drops, flips, and spins guests at high speeds as they race along the track. For additional thrills, experience the 120 foot freefall drop on the Sky Diver.

Castles N’ Coasters boasts 20 rides and attractions. After enjoying the rides, try out one of the four 18-hole mini-golf courses. The park also offers over 150 arcade and pinball games and six food, drink, and snack bars. 

Six Flags Hurricane Harbor

Six Flags Hurricane Harbor
Phoenix Credit: Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department

Cool off at Arizona’s biggest water park, Six Flags Hurricane Harbor. Over 30 attractions offer exciting refreshment with thrill levels to please the whole family. 

Adventurous teens love racing down Maximum Velocity-Dueling H2O Coasters in which riders race down steep tandem slides. Another adrenaline inducing ride is Tornado, where you are catapulted into a swirling 45-foot funnel. And everybody enjoys the Monsoon Bay wave pool with its four-foot swells.

Golfland Sunsplash

Golfland Sunsplash
Photo by flickr/Mike V

Another fun place to beat the heat is Mesa’s Golfland Sunsplash. Grab a friend and take a ride on the Sidewinder, where your tube is hurled down a steep vertical drop before zooming up the opposite wall. You can also bring the whole family on a four-person tube and feel what it’s like to get flushed down a toilet on Stormrider.

In addition to summer fun, Golfland entertains teens year-round with their award winning miniature golf courses. You can also race around the go-kart course, splash your friends on the bumper boats, or play laser tag. The entire castle shaped building is full of arcade games that keep kids entertained for hours.

Where to Watch Sports with Teens in Phoenix

Spring Training

Spring training is one of the best things to do in Phoenix with teens
Lawn seats at Camelback Ranch, photo credit Camelback Ranch

When the weather gets nice each March, baseball fans descend on Phoenix to enjoy some preseason baseball games. During Spring Training, families can watch major league games in a casual, affordable setting.

The Cactus League has smaller fields, which means fans get closer to the action. Most fields also have “grass seats” behind the outfield, which are cheaper than the stadium seats and a perfect place to catch a fly ball. Players are typically more relaxed during preseason and may be more willing to meet fans and sign autographs. 

Get more tips with our article, Arizona Spring Training: The Cactus League with Kids.

Major League Games

Phoenix Suns Game
Halftime at Suns vs. Mavericks, photo via Footprint Center Phoenix Suns

All four major professional sports leagues have teams that call Phoenix home. One of the fun things to do in Phoenix with teens is catch a pro game at one of the team’s home stadiums.

Basketball fans shouldn’t miss a chance to see the NBA’s Phoenix Suns “Rally the Valley” at the Footprint center. Head over to Chase Field to try to catch a fly ball at a MLB Arizona Diamondbacks game.

At ASU’s Mullett Arena, hockey lovers can watch the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes take to the ice. And the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals draw crowds to the State Farm Stadium in Glendale every football season. One thing that makes this stadium unique is the retractable roof, which lets in cool air in the winter and keeps out the grueling heat of the summer. 

Tiffany Vaughn