How to do Spring break Without Leaving Town: Local Events in Phoenix & Scottsdale

For spring break in town, or “staycation” ideas, Phoenix offers a multitude of choices that won’t empty your wallet. Here are just a few ideas for cheap-to-free fun in town:

– Hike Camelback Mountain. With stunning views available from the summit, this is a hike well worth taking. Be sure to pack plenty of water to stay hydrated, and consider starting your trek in the early morning hours when things are cooler. Don’t forget your camera or cell phone to snap photos of the incredible scenery.

– If you like breathtaking views but hiking isn’t your thing, drive to South Mountain Park, one of the largest municipal parks in the world and a scenic desert oasis, and (carefully) take the winding road up to Dobbin’s Lookout Point, offering panoramic views of the city from 1,200 feet. If you do feel like a hike, visit Happy Valley via a trail running through the park. In spring, this beautiful valley is covered knee-deep in colorful wildflowers. Free maps are available at the park entrance.

– If you enjoy the art scene, Artlink First Fridays are a great way to explore the galleries and browse through works by local artists at no charge. Street performers offer free entertainment, and a free shuttle makes it easy to get around. Take the Metro Light Rail to Roosevelt Row to avoid getting caught in traffic. Food trucks and street musicians set up along Roosevelt Row help make this popular art walk a great way to spend a Friday evening without spending a lot of money.

– For more art and culture, visit the Phoenix Art Museum at 1625 N. Central, open Tuesdays through Sundays. Admission is just $18 for adults, $13 for students, and $9 for children age 6 and up. Children 5 and under are free. Admission is free to everyone on Wednesdays between 3 and 9 pm. Voluntary donations are accepted during this time. The largest art museum in the Southwest with over 18,000 American, Asian, European, Latin American, and Western American works of art on display, major exhibitions, film screenings and cultural events, this world-class museum offers a great way to spend an afternoon away from the heat of the day.

– If you’re looking for a budget-friendly family escape for the day, try Enchanted Island Amusement Park in the heart of picturesque Encanto Park. Ride the carousel, train, or choose from several other rides. There’s a snack bar and arcade games, and in cooler weather the pedal boats allow you to traverse the park’s fish filled lagoons. In warmer weather, the splash zone is the perfect way to cool off, and shade trees offer multiple picnic opportunities. Admission is free, but there is a slight cost for rides and games.

– If you’re in Scottsdale and you love to sightsee, you’re in luck! You don’t have to spend a lot of money to enjoy the unique beauty of this Sonoran Desert city. Visit Old Town, in the heart of the city, and enjoy fountains and outdoor sculptures celebrating the Old West heritage of this historic city. Window shop or people watch as you stroll down the quiet streets visiting art galleries, museums, boutiques, and cafés at your leisure. Check out the history of the city’s early settlers and founders at the Scottsdale Historic Museum, located inside the city’s first school house.

– For family fun, the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park will enthrall train loving kids of all ages for free. There are both model train displays and full size retired locomotives parked on the grounds, as well as historic Arizona railroad artifacts, train and carousel rides for all ages, and open green space for family picnics.

– Scottsdale is home to the 30,000 acre McDowell Sonoran Preserve, a hiker’s paradise in the desert with more than 115 miles of trails open sunrise to sunset. Parking and access to the preserve are free, and the Bajada Nature Trail is ADA accessible. If your visit falls during October – March, you can take advantage of Family Fridays Sunset Series programs.

– Have you always wanted to visit the studio of a working artist? Architectural innovator Paolo Soleri works out of a small but interesting studio, Cosanti, located on desert property off Doubletree Road that is open to visitors. Take in the hand-made, earth formed structures and famous bronze and ceramic bells tinkling in the Arizona desert wind, and take one home as a souvenir from the gift shop on the property. A visit to Cosanti studio offers visitors a chance to look inside the working process of a world-renowned architect and artist.

– Visit MacDonald’s Ranch for a real Western adventure with the whole family. Take a guided trail ride on horseback, visit the petting zoo, take a stagecoach ride (a stagecoach robbery can be arranged, too!), hayride, or free pony ride for the little ones. Experience the fun and excitement of a good old fashioned cowboy cookout after your ride, and end the night with a bonfire under the stars. The ranch is open year-round to the public and for private events, so be sure to call ahead.

These are just a few ideas of budget-friendly activities available in Phoenix and Scottsdale. Call the Chamber of Commerce in either city for more ideas, or write to them for a visitor’s guide to plan your trip ahead.