If you had a single day in Phoenix, there is one place I end up telling everyone to go- Papago Park. The massive park on the southeastern side of the city is right in the nexus of Phoenix, Tempe, and Scottsdale. It’s near Old Town Scottsdale, Mill Ave, and loads of restaurants on Indian School Road. Within the park itself is two major Phoenix attractions, the Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Garden. And on top of all that, the park has gentle hiking trails that circle otherworldly buttes, fishing ponds, and a historic tomb. It is also next to Tovrea Castle. On a nice day, everything within the park is also accessible on foot. So, if you need to see the best of Phoenix in a day, Papago Park is my suggestion as your go-to. Join me now in learning more about why this place is so amazing and special.
Best of Phoenix in a Day
When I was determining what part of the city would be ideal for seeing the best of Phoenix in a day, there were a few things on my mind. First, I wanted the location to have natural things that you couldn’t see elsewhere. The hiking trails that circle the buttes fit that bill. I wanted the location to have some cool ways to support conservation and give you access to major city attractions. Both Desert Botanical Garden and Phoenix Zoo offer guests these options! Finally, I wanted somewhere with some historic flavor. Papago Park is home to Hunt’s Tomb and is right next door to Tovrea Castle. So, seriously, you’ve got a little bit of everything here.
Although, admittedly, most everything to do in this area is outdoors. So, during the summer, this would not be an ideal day. Just something to keep in mind when planning your trip
Papago Park in General
Before you head down to read about the individual elements of the park, there are a few helpful things to know about its layout and what some of the surrounding areas are called (because otherwise, you might get confused).
First, both Phoenix and Tempe have their own Papago Parks. They are very different from one another, although both have buttes. I have another guide to the Tempe side so you can check that out if you would like to visit. The Phoenix part of the park is on either side of Galvin Parkway, between Van Buren and McDowell.
The west side of the park has the most impressive hiking trails (imo). The east side has (from north to south) Desert Botanical Garden, park amenities including hiking and fishing, Hunt’s Tomb, and the Phoenix Zoo. Desert Botanical Garden has a northern parking lot, off of the round about. And the Phoenix Zoo parking and ponds/Hole-in-the-Rock trail can be accessed to the east of the light.