There's an entire world of historical mysteries and marvels to explore in and around Phoenix. From ghost towns to historic museums to archaeological parks, this trip will help unleash your inner Indiana Jones.
The Cave Creek Museum provides an in-depth look at the history of the Cave Creek region of Arizona—from the ancient cultures of the past to the more recent pioneers and settlers. The museum has tons of pieces on display, from Native American pots and tools to old pictures from Cave Creek's military and ranching days. Once you're done perusing the exhibits inside, be sure to check out the historic stamp mill that museum staffers have refurbished and moved outside.
The Pioneer Living History Village is a must-see for history buffs. Many of the buildings are authentic 19th century structures, while the rest are incredibly detailed recreations. There's an incredible exhibit hall filled with pieces and artifacts from all across the West. Plus, if you're into live history, there are costumed interpreters who are more than happy to show you around the village.
Go a little further back in time at the Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve. The park features 47 acres of Sonoran Desert landscapes, but the main feature here is the ancient drawings from the Hohokam tribe. Hundreds of boulders sport more than 1,500 carvings and pieces of archaic art—some of which date back more than 7,000 years! There's an on-site visitor center run by ASU's Center for Archaeology and Society that contains plenty of great information on the origins and various meanings of the mysterious petroglyphs.
End your trip at one of the coolest archaeological sites in all of Phoenix: Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park. First, head into the museum to learn about the Hohokam people who lived in the area years ago. After you've browsed the galleries, head outside to the Outdoor Trail, where you can see actual Hohokam sites and buildings. Learn about the pithouses, peer into the past at the ballcourt, and climb atop the platform mound.
For some outdoor fun, head to Salt River Tubing in Mesa. If you happen to be visiting during the summer, this is the best way to feel like you're truly immersing yourself in the surrounding geography. At Salt River Tubing, you can rent inner tubes and catch a bus upstream. From there, you'll drop the tubes into the water and take a float down the river back to your starting point. As you drift, take a moment to enjoy the sights and appreciate the incredible geologic history that has taken place here.
Another ghost town in Greater Phoenix, Goldfield was actually once a thriving city that included three saloons, a general store, a blacksmith shop, a brewery, a meat market, and a school. Sadly, the town was founded around a gold mine that faulted, and it was quickly forgotten. Goldfield got a second chance at life though, and is now a popular historical attraction! The newly restored ghost town now features narrow gauge railroad rides, mine tours, reenactments of gunfights, gold panning, horseback riding, and tons of historical displays.
Whether you're watching a reenacted gunfight or pondering the mysteries of ancient petroglyphs, there are tons of ways to immerse yourself in Phoenix's fascinating past. From Native Americans to pioneers, the history here is unlike anywhere else in the country.
It's time to go beyond. Follow trails that reveal mighty mountaintops. Wander among iconic landscapes beneath picture-perfect skies. Let the Sonoran Desert be your guide to limitless adventure.