50 Free Things To Do In Metro Phoenix Any Time In 2016
50 Free Things to Do in Metro Phoenix Any Time in 2016
By: Christina Caldwell/Katie Johnson (Phoenix New Times)
Low on funds and high on FOMO? We can help with that. Phoenix is chockfull of free events worth freeing your schedule for, including trivia nights, open mics, and a good deal of art walks. Because saving money is always in season, here are 50 free things you can do all year round.
Get Blinded By Neon
Take a self-guided tour through the blinding lights. The Valley's dwindling neon sign population proves only the strong survive. In fact, some preservationists estimate that a mere three dozen of the vintage illuminated displays exist in Metro Phoenix today. Hippie Gypsy in Tempe, Lenny's Burger Shop in Phoenix and Liberty Market in Gilbert still keep the glowing tradition of neon alive, as we discovered on our list of the best neon signs in metro Phoenix.
Live that Lake Life
Tempe Town Lake is Tempe's recreational center. Bike by Tempe Beach Park, take a stroll down the length of the lake, practice your photography skills at the bridge, or just do some seriously great people watching. If you're feeling spendy, you can rent a stand-up paddleboard for $20 an hour, a single kayak for $18 an hour, or just save your money and take a dip in the lake. (Just kidding! The water is really gross.) Visit www.tempe.gov/lake for more information.
Keep your quarters in your pocket every Monday night at 6 p.m. at Valley Bar, where all games are free. Perfect your skee-ball game, shoot some pool or show that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video game who's boss. It's all good, and it's all free. Visit www.valleybarphx.com or call 602-368-3121 for details.
Even if you don't want to spend cash, Valley farmer's markets are a great way to mix and mingle with local farmers, merchants and artists. These markets largely avoid the summer temperatures by either closing during the hot months or opening extra early to get a jump on the heat. Get the full lowdown on our list of Ten Favorite Metro Phoenix Farmers' Markets — all free to drop by.
Swing That Way
Even if you're a total newbie to swing dancing, you can get down like a pro at The Duce's weekly South Central Swing Night on Mondays from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Get a free swing dance lesson from 7 to 8 p.m., then put your skills on the floor — after gaining some liquid courage from the drink specials, that is. The class is free but the rest of the night is $8. Visit www.theducephx.com or call 602-866-3823 for more information.
Run Away to the Circus
Things take a turn for the bizarre when Mill Avenue's favorite nerd bar goes to the clowns of Mystic Circus. When the clock strikes 8:30 p.m. every Tuesday at Endgame, things get sexy and weird as nude clowns perform burlesque, host games, and do awe-inspiring tricks. For more information, visit Endgame's Facebook page.
'Check Out' Local Culture
Phoenix, Chandler, Glendale, Scottsdale, and ASU libraries all offer a Culture Pass, with which library card holders can get free admission to some of the Valley's most revered cultural institutions. Notable locations include the Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix Art Museum, Heard Museum, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, and more. Check your local library's website for availability.
If you need free transportation to your free activity, flag down a City of Tempe Orbit Bus. The buses travel throughout the Tempe area and can be hailed the same way you would a cab, and they travel to popular destinations like Mill Avenue, Tempe Marketplace, ASU, and more. For more information about lines and locations, visit www.tempe.gov.
Catch the Classics
It might not exactly be the Barrett-Jackson, but the Scottsdale Pavilions Car Show is just about the best local car show you can see for free every week. The longest-running weekly car show in the country draws crowds from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. every Saturday, and the public is welcome to drive their classic, muscle, or luxury car onto the lot for a chance to show off. The every Saturday sees anywhere between 250 and 500 cars. Visit the Scottsdale Pavilions Car Show Facebook page for more information. And as fate has it, over 35 food trucks roll onto the lot at Scottsdale Pavilions to stop rumbling bellies at the same time each week. (But not rumbling cars.)
Get to Work
If you're in town for business or just need a quiet place to work, Gangplank locations in Chandler, Avondale and Queen Creek offer a free coworking space to anyone who drops by. Use the Wi-Fi, make some business connections and enjoy a free space to work just for a day, or day-to-day. While Gangplank doesn't charge money for its space, it does ask that regular visitors give back in some way, but how you give back is up to you. Visit www.gangplankhq.com for locations and more information.
Ghosts Among Us
Back in the 1890s, Goldfield, located 4.5 miles east of Apache Junction, was a thriving town with roots in mining the Mammoth Gold Mine. But when the vein faulted, so did the town, leaving the three saloons, general store, brewery, meat market, schoolhouse, and more abandoned. Today it's a great place to take out-of-town in-laws looking for authentic history of the Southwest. It's free to enter and see the hourly gun shows every Saturday and Sunday, but just about everything else will cost ya. Visit www.goldfieldghosttown.com for more information.
Landmark it Off Your List
If you've ever wondered just what that layer cake castle along the 202 is all about, check out our guide to the 11 most iconic landmarks in metro Phoenix for a bit of a history lesson, then hop in the car or hoof it to see some of the landmarks in the flesh. You might have lived in Phoenix your whole life and never really looked at these natural, artistic, and architectural mainstays.
Skate it 'Til You Make It
Work out your board tricks at any of the Valley's skate parks — and you won't have to drive far to do it. Virtually all of metro Phoenix's neighborhoods have a skate park to call their own, including Tempe Sports Complex, Freestone Skate Park in Gilbert, Desert West Skateboard Plaza in Phoenix, and more, all free to use.
Doggy Play Day
We're pretty sure Fido will wag his tail at this suggestion. The Valley boasts beautiful and functional off-leash dog parks where your pup can run, tug, and play with fellow canines in a safe space. To find the dog park nearest you, visitwww.bringfido.com or your city's website.
It's time to gloat about your win. Valley Bar basically encourages it with their weekly chess night, Checkmate Beyotches. Whether you're a chess pro or a total newbie, Valley Bar has your game covered Tuesdays at 7 p.m. Drop by alone or with a pal and partake in a free game (or several!) and drink up with the bar's $15 Aradon wine bottle special until 11 p.m. For more information, visit www.valleybarphx.com.
Read Into It
This place is massive! The Burton Barr Central Library has 280,000 square feet of books, study rooms, DVDs, CDs and more — the largest in the Phoenix Public Library system. In addition to its unmatched resources, the library also hosts a long list of free, recurring events for multiple demographics, including art shows, movie clubs, craft making, business classes, and more. For a full list of free events, visit www.phoenixpubliclibrary.org/locations/burtonbarr.
Valley newcomers or information-lacking locals can learn all about the history of their town at The Arizona Capitol Museum. Located at the (you guessed it!) state capitol, the museum is always free and open to the public during museum hours and includes four floors, 20 exhibitions, and guided tours with reservations. To plan your visit, head to www.azlibrary.gov/azcm.
Downtown Tempe was once known for its thriving music scene, and some might tell you those days are gone. But if the #DowntownTempe Music Series is any indication, the entertainment area's scene is thriving. Find live music from some of Tempe's hottest local bands at Culinary Dropout on Fridays and Saturdays; Blasted Barley on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays; Fat Tuesday on Fridays; My Big Fat Greek on Thursdays; ChopShop on Thursdays; and Tempe Center for the Arts on Wednesdays and Fridays. For more information, visit www.downtowntempe.com.
T.G.I.F. in Tempe
Unwind after a stressful work week at Hello Friday at the Tempe Center for the Arts Lounge, where live music can be heard and mingling can be had for the high price of $0 every Friday. Drinks cost extra, but moneybags among us can purchase a $7 wristband can get you no-holds-barred access to the fancy food station from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Visit www.tempe.gov for more information.
The Torch Theatre is the Valley's one-stop shop for everything improv comedy, and now you can try you hand at the art for free. The monthly class features instruction from the pro theatre staff on the first Saturday of every month at 2:30 p.m. We'll warn you, though. While your comedy chops might be razor sharp, not all newbs are as hilarious as you. And that's putting it lightly. Visit www.thetorchtheatre.com for class dates and more information.
Find Your Heritage
You've probably heard that Phoenix doesn't have much in terms of history, since Arizona is such a young state, but tell that to Downtown Phoenix's Heritage Square. Originally constructed in the late 1800's, the square is like traveling back in time. Check out the square's free seasonal events, or if you have some spare cash, we hear there are some pretty good (um... nationally revered) restaurants in the area. Visit www.heritagesquarephx.org for more information.
Get Weird with Improv Everywhere
Throughout the year, Improv AZ hosts some super bizarre events to confuse and delight passersby. Each January, the No Pants Light Rail Ride makes users of public transportation thoroughly uncomfortable, but the group does other weird stuff throughout the year. Who wants to cartwheel to a restaurant? Improv AZ does. Join them on the Improv AZ Facebook page.
Window Shop Your Heart Out
Not all of those who love the high-end lure of Biltmore Fashion Park can afford its prices. Dress up and pretend you’re loaded as you browse Saks Fifth Avenue, Jonathan Adler, Vera Bradley, Citrine Natural Beauty Bar, and more. (Don’t worry. There are a few budget-friendly stores if you feel like spending a little.) Visit www.shopbiltmore.com for a full directory and more information.
Catch a Lounge Show at the Casino
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, tribute bands are alive and well at the Valley’s casinos. On just about any given day you can see the Beatles, Bon Jovi, AC/DC, or Led Zeppelin knockoffs in the lounges of Talking Stick Resort and Casino, Casino Arizona, Wild Horse Pass, and many more. Some are good and some are not-so-good, but hey, it’s a free show. Plus, the lounges have local acts that are, um… not quite as embarrassing. Visit the websites of individual casinos for show times.
Get Your Culture on the Street
Phoenix's buildings aren't all varying shades of greige. The robust street art scene has been thriving in Phoenix for decades and has recently seen a rise in popularity thanks to an every-growing downtown arts scene. See them all in full color with out list of 40 Favorite Murals in Phoenix.
Take in Some Free Art at the Museums
Free admission is standard at establishments like the Phoenix Airport Museum, ASU Art Museum, ASU Museum of Anthropology, Arizona Capitol Museum, and Shemer Art Center (though some accept and encourage donations). But visitors can also get complimentary access to Phoenix Art Museum from 3 to 9 p.m. every Wednesday and 6 to 10 p.m. on First Fridays; Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art all day Thursdays and after 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; and Phoenix Children's Museum from 5 to 9 p.m. on First Fridays.
Get Crafty in Chandler
At 6 p.m. on the second Monday of each month, Gangplank gets the creative community together for an evening of arts and crafts. Bring your knitting needles, glitter, glue, and other DIY material and get ready to mix and mingle with other crafters as you work your handmade magic. For details, visitCraftHackEV on Facebook.
Let Your Pen Do the Talking
On the second Tuesday of each month, Practical Art invites Valley wordsmiths to share their work with Uptown P.E.N., which stands for poetry event night. The evening runs from 7 to 8:30 p.m. and features a first-come, first-served open mic opportunities as well as established poets reading their own prose. For details, visit www.practical-art.com or call 602-264-1414.
Walk the Art Walk
Metro Phoenix offers many opportunities to take in the arts. The Downtown Phoenix Art Walk runs from 6 to 10 p.m. on the first Friday of the month. The Downtown Mesa Art Walk goes from 6 to 10 p.m. on the second Friday of the month. The Downtown Chandler Art Walk happens from 6 to 10 p.m. on the third Friday of the month. The Scottsdale Art Walk runs from 7 to 9 p.m. every Thursday. The Sunnyslope Art Walk pops up from 5 to 9 p.m. on the second Saturday of October and April.
Unleash Your Inner Geek
Throughout the year, Nerd Nite Phoenix invites local to learn drink and discuss on a number of topics including superheroes, time travel, and government conspiracies. These beer-fueled brain teasers tend to change up their dates and locations so the best way to stay in the know is to visit phoenix.nerdnite.com or check out the Nerd Nite Phoenix Facebook page.
Learn to Line Dance
Cash Inn Country is kicking up its cowboy boots at 8:30 p.m. every Tuesday night with free line dancing lessons. Whether you're gay, straight, or simply into country music, make your way to the Cash Inn for a complimentary cowboy-style workout. Visit www.cashinncountry.net for more information.
Take a Hike
With so many free and accessible mountain trails available in metro Phoenix, it seems downright silly to pay for a gym membership. And if you're not sure where to start, we recommend checking out our guide to five easy hikes for beginners in metro Phoenix.
Enjoy Some Bird Watching and Brew Drinking
Birds of a feather drink together. That's why the Rio Solado Audubon Society hosts its weekly series Birds 'N' Beer. The free event runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month. Each Birds 'N' Beer event will feature a different topic. To know what will be discussed next, visit Audubon AZ on Facebook or check out riosalado.audubon.org/birds-n-beer.
Get to Know Your Local Hangouts
Support new and local businesses, meet your fellow Phoenix residents over food and drinks, and enter to win raffle prizes with the monthly event, Get Your PHX. Past Get Your PHX gatherings have visited Milk Bar, Rollover Donuts, The Newton, and the Lisa Sette Gallery. To stay in the loop with Get Your PHX, visit www.getyourphx.com.
Every Wednesday, CO+HOOTS invites the public to partake in Lunch & Learn, a free series that features lunchtime lecturers who are experts in their field. Food trucks will set up in the parking lot, so guests can get their midday fuel while learning new ways to better their career. For a look at who's lined up to speak, visit cohoots.com.
Mix and Mingle with Phoenix's Movers and Shakers
Looking to network? Radiate PHX has you covered. The monthly series gives guests a chance to learn about the latest developments in downtown Phoenix as well as make connections with who's who behind the city's fast-paced growth. Radiate PHX's dates and locations vary by month. To stay updated, visit www.facebook.com/downtownphoenix.
Make Some Monday Night Magic
At 7 p.m. every Monday night, Samurai Comics brings creatures and spell-casters to the table for an hour-long game of Magic the Gathering. Whether you're a novice or a nuanced expert in the tradable card game, the Phoenix comic bookstore invites you pull up a chair show other what you've got. For details, visit www.samuraicomics.com or call 602-265-8886.
Strike a Pose
The clothes may not be cheap, but the community yoga classes are. Every Sunday, the Lululemon stores in Phoenix and Chandler host complimentary yoga classes. These free classes can be held in or outside the store depending on the weather. Guests should bring their own mats and water. The Biltmore Fashion Park class starts at 10:30 a.m. and the Chandler Fashion Center class begins at 10 a.m. For details, visit shop.lululemon.com.
Vanquish Your Enemies in Vanguard
Once a week, anime enthusiasts can leave planet Earth and escape to Planet Cray as one of Phoenix's favorite comic shops converts into a local Card Capitol. Cardfight!! Vanguard Night happens every Thursday at Samurai Comics. Gaming goes from 6 to 8 p.m. For more information, visit www.samuraicomics.com or call 602-265-8868.
Copy, Cut, Paste at Heatsync Labs
Every other Monday, Mesa becomes a hotbed of hot glue guns and sequins, thanks to Heatysnc Labs' ongoing event, Craftagious. The community craft event kicks off at 7 p.m. every other Monday. Get ideas, inspiration, and tips as you take you DIY projects to new levels. Visit www.heatsynclabs.org.
Take in a Flamenco Performance
Angelina Ramirez, Carlos Montufar, and Olivia Rojas bring Spanish are heating things up with Spanish style music and dance. Flamenco Por La Vida happens from 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesdays at Otro Cafe and from 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturdays at Crescent Ballroom. For details, visit www.flamencoporlavida.com.
Learn from the Journalism Greats
Each Monday during the semester, The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU's Downtown Campus hosts Must See Mondays, a weekly chat with an influential journalist. Past speakers have included Kate O’Brian, president of Al Jazeera America, and Matt Winkler, former editor-in-chief of Bloomberg News, among others. For a list of speakers and more information, visit cronkite.asu.edu.
Fridays in the Park
From 6 to 10 p.m. on the second and forth Friday of the month, the city of Phoenix cranks up the entertainment at Civic Space Park. Fridays in the Park alternates between a variety of free activities including concerts, pop-up movie screenings, vendors and exhibitions, and games presented by the Downtown Partnership. To find out what's on the agenda for the next Fridays in the Park, visit www.facebook.com/civicspace.
Take a Ride with State Bicycle Co. and PHX Bike
The State Bicycle Co. and PHX Bike folks invite cycling enthusiasts to join them every Monday for LOOPS PHX, a weekly bike ride departing from Civic Space Park. The ride runs between 10 and 20 miles and makes between one and three stops. For details, visit www.statebicycle.com.
Walk or Run with Meet Me Downtown
Meet Me Downtown is motivating locals to move and mingle with weekly fun runs, walks, and prizes. Check starts at 5:15 p.m. at The Corner at CityScape every Monday night. A closing ceremony with awards happens at 7 p.m. For more information, visit www.meetmedowntownphx.com.
Soak Up Some Showtunes at Kobalt
Kobalt kicks the karaoke up a notch with its weekly event, Saturday Showtunes. Stop by at 6 p.m. to hear local talent belt out their favorite Broadway musical numbers on stages. Who knows, maybe with enough liquid courage, you might find yourself doing the same. For details, visit www.kobaltbarphoenix.com.
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