From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
One of the ten largest cities in Arizona and home to a thriving community all its own, Peoria is way more than a suburb of Phoenix — and it’s still expanding to this day. Voted one of the best places to live by Money Magazine, this town is linked to leisure and relaxation, and it’s a great place to get acquainted with at any age.
Initially settled in the late 1800s and situated in the scenic Salt River Valley, Peoria offers an incredible range of both urban and outdoor adventures to explore and get into — and in this guide, we’ll introduce you to some hidden local gems.
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
his part of Arizona is rich with opportunities for outdoor adventure lovers. Here are some of the best state and national parks and preserves in Peoria, AZ.
Despite its morbid name, Dead Horse Ranch State Park is a vibrant and thriving landscape known for rolling green landscapes (yes, in the desert) and preponderance of wildlife. Once a working ranch, visitors now come here to enjoy hiking, biking, kayaking, camping, bird-watching and so much more.
Covering more than 665,000 acres of Arizona countryside, Kofa National Wildlife Refuge is definitionally epic — and an incredible place to explore the landscape while also getting more familiar with its denizens. You may have to keep a close eye out to spot them, but this preserve is home to both larger animals, like bighorn sheep and mule deer, as well as smaller critters like badgers, foxes, ground squirrels, and kangaroo rats. If it’s too hot to hike, just driving around is still a stunning experience!
Actually named for a legendary gold mine (rather than actual, well, lost Dutch man — at least as far as we know), Lost Dutchman State Park is a popular outdoor retreat for folks from across the Phoenix metro area. Its 260 ares are studded with Saguaro cacti and home to mule deer, javelina and jackrabbit, and there are many trails, including some which are specifically designed for mountain biking.
At just shy of three million acres — yes, you read that correctly — Tonto National Forest is the largest national forest in Arizona, and it’s situated just about an hour from Peoria. Elevations range from 1,400 feet to a towering 7,400, and the scenery displays diverse desert ecosystems, and flora. As far as animals are concerned, this park is home to a huge array of wildlife, from bobcats to roadrunners to Rocky Mountain elk. In short, it’s an adventure worth taking, especially when it’s so close by!
Lake Pleasant is an oasis in the middle of a concrete jungle. A quick drive from the city center will bring you to a recreational lover’s haven that has camping, picnicking, paddleboarding, fishing, swimming, and more. If you’re looking for a perfect date spot, bring your wine and charcuterie board to the Sunset Point Day Use Area – the name speaks for itself if you want to enjoy a colorful evening view over the water. Or bring your family, dogs, or horses to Scorpion Bay, where you can drive all the way down to the water’s edge. If you’re lucky, you might even see an adorable wild burro roaming the area. If you’re looking for adventure, Lake Pleasant really has it all!
You don’t have to get very far at all from the urban landscape of Peoria to find yourself in a wild outdoor wonderland. Here are some of the best hiking trails in the area, whether you’re in for a serious, strenuous adventure or just looking to take a leisurely stroll.
Running just about four miles and seeing less than 800 feet in elevation gain, Sunrise Mountain Trail is a moderate-level hike that’s sure to help you work up a sweat… without leaving you completely exhausted. This trail is renowned for the carpet of wildflowers that line its beautiful views of the surrounding valley, and is also frequented by trail runners and mountain bikers.
Short and sweet, Calderwood Butte Trail runs only a mile and a half and sees about 350 feet of elevation change over that time, making it an easy-to-moderate trail with some gently undulating hills. Offering beautiful views of the surrounding area, this trail is a great option for those looking for a great place to sunset (or sunrise!) in Peoria… which, hint-hint, is high on our list of things for couples to do in town.
Tucked into the nearby Lake Pleasant Regional Park, Roadrunner Trail runs a little more than a mile and a half and sees less than a hundred feet in elevation change, putting it firmly in the “easy” category. That said, it’s still well worth tackling, thanks to its epic waterside views and alo the fact that it’s dog friendly!
Another shorty, but this time with a choose-your-own-adventure twist: Eastwing Mountain Trail runs about a mile and a half, but you can either climb the 400-foot-elevation-gain “moderate” trail or take a rock scramble up, which is more like a hand-over-foot climb. Either way, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views — and you can take the path you didn’t choose on the way down!
Looking for something a little longer? Beardsley Trail runs more than eight miles altogether out and back, and offers beautiful lakeside views as well as sprawling desert horizons. Take a close look along the way to observe a variety of different cacti and other local flora, and be sure to bring plenty of water and sun protection: this is Arizona, after all!
No matter how hardy of an adventurer you may be, you’re gonna have to stop for some fuel at some point! Here are some of the best restaurants in Peoria, no matter what you’re in the mood for.
If you’re like the rest of Arizonans, you know that Taco Tuesday is more like taco everyday… and at Brushfire Tacos y Tapas, you’ll get to feast on a wide selection of fresh and delicious varieties. All of the pork, steak, chicken, shrimp, and mahi-mahi taco fillings are marinated for more than 24 hours, and they offer five made-in-house salsas for you to pair them with. (And we haven’t even gotten into the tapas!)
Sometimes, you find the best food in the most unassuming places — like that strip mall Chinese joint with the extensive menus. China Grill is one such place like this in Peoria, AZ… and it offers what’s easily some of the best Asian food in the entire Phoenix metro area. Eat in and enjoy the full bar that accompanies the nearly endless selection of dishes, or get your meal for takeout or delivery!
Pasta, pizza, and vino… what’s not to love? Cucina Tagliani is considered one of the best Italian restaurants in Peoria and beyond, serving up hearty meals like spicy sausage rigatoni, Roman-style thin crust pizza pies, and deliciously pickable antipasto platters. We highly recommend saving room for dessert, as well; the chocolate mascarpone cake can’t be missed!
A one-of-a-kind fusion restaurant serving up Hawaiian-style barbecue, Leo’s Island BBQ is a great place to get acquainted with this style of cuisine if you’re not already. Taking influence from Chinese, Japanese, and Portuguese cooking to name just a few, the food is delicious, fresh and authentic, right down to the banana leaves some items are cooked in.
Falafel is just the start at this well-known Mediterranean joint, which is also a great option for those looking for vegetarian and vegan options in Peoria. Serving up everything from lighter dishes (think: hummus and pita) to more substantial meals (think: traditional lamb kebabs), this is a great place to combine healthy eating with deliciousness!
Cactus is the best spot in town for amazing craft beer, cider, and wine. It's uniquely BYOF (bring your own food), so pick up your favorite snack or have it delivered and try the best rotating taps in the area! The staff is incredibly knowledgeable and friendly, so don’t be shy with your questions. Try a tasting flight and enjoy some local food-truck fare, or pick up a growler of seasonal beer like the POG (passion fruit, orange, and guava) IPA. YUM. You won’t find a better place in Peoria to relax and enjoy hand-selected craft beverages!
Let’s talk au-then-tic! This place serves up the best family owned Italian food in Arizona – hands down! You’ll be greeted with fabulous fresh-baked bread, fantastic options of imported Italian wine, hand crafted cocktails, and a menu to die for (if you want your mind blown, try the lasagna). You can’t go wrong with any of the pizzas and you won’t find anything on the menu that isn’t incredible. The Italian desserts really put the icing on the cake – you can’t go wrong with a fantastic cannoli! You’ll leave this place wanting to tell all your friends about the best Italian in the state.
Great dining and the great outdoors are just the tip of the iceberg! Here are some of our top picks for things to do and places to explore in and around Peoria.
Peoria is a great place to explore with kids and families. Here are some of our best ideas for those with little (and not-so-little) ones in tow.
Want to get an up-close-and-personal feel for how the west was once? At Pioneer Living History Museum, you and the fam can do just that. Showcasing 30 original and reconstructed buildings from the 1880s through the early 1900s, meandering this museum feels like taking a literal walk down memory lane — even if you can’t personally remember that far back!
Want a surefire way to cool down from the Arizona heat? Polar Ice Peoria is a beloved local ice rink that offers freestyle public skates as well as lessons, camps, events and more. It’s also a great place to plan a birthday party for the kids — one they won’t soon forget!
There’s no shortage of things to do in Peoria during those blazing daylight hours. But what about after night has fallen?
Fear not — under the blanket of Arizona stars, there’s plenty to keep you busy. Here are a couple of options to start with.
Whether you’re hoping the kids will bounce themselves into oblivion (giving you a much-needed night of delicious sleep) or are hoping to get in on the fun yourselves, SkyZone Indoor Trampoline Park is sure to leave a smile on the face of every visitor, regardless of age! This particular location is also home to the unique Mega Launch slide, which falls 16 feet before sending brave sliders 17 feet into the air!
Name a more classic and perfect date night activity than catching a great film. We’ll wait! All jokes aside, if you’re looking to enjoy a big-box release or a classic, Harkins Arrowhead Fountains 18 is the spot to go for Peoria-area cinephiles. Offering plush seating, an expanded snack bar, ADA-accessible theaters, there truly is something here for everybody.
It may feel like you have to spend an arm and a leg to get out on the town… but it’s not true! Here are some options for those looking to explore Peoria on a budget.
Even though it’s a desert, the Phoenix area offers a variety of waterways to explore and enjoy, from the Agua Fria River to the Gila River to Lake Pleasant and so many others. Perhaps that’s the reason there are so many worthy places to rent a kayak or paddleboard from in town — and many of these outfitters offer their wares at affordable prices. We recommend GoPaddleAZ for all your rental equipment needs!
A rough and ready playground fit for all brave enough to step in, the paintball range at Cowtown is a great option for those looking to work on their tactical skills — or just run around and have a great time. Offering 2.5 acres of space in a western theme, this is a great place to burn off some energy and enjoy an active adventure.
It’s true: there are fun things to do in Peoria that don’t require you to get out your wallet even once! Here are some options.
Offering a swimming pool, group fitness classes, sports courts and so much more, the Sundial Recreation Center is a key place for the Peoria community to gather and recreate — and admission is free! It’s also home to a unique rock and mineral museum known as the Sun City Mineral Museum, which has been collected and assembled by the RCSC Rockhound Club.
Peoria is lucky to have a host of local and regional public parks in its vicinity, each of which boasts its own unique facilities and features. For example, Rio Vista Community Park encompasses about 50 acres and offers multiple athletic fields and a splash pad, while Pioneer Community Park is closer to 80 acres and is known for its dog park. Don’t miss Sahuaro Ranch Park, which is considered one of the best in the area; offering both recreational areas and historical ranch buildings, this place truly combines education and entertainment.
Self-care isn’t just a buzzword: it’s a necessity. And sometimes, self-care involves employing the help of, well, someone who isn’t your self! Here are the best day spas in Peoria for those in need of a little pampering.
Located on Trilogy Boulevard in Peoria, Alva Spa & Wellness is a well-known name in the industry, offering first-class massage, skin care, nail care, and more — as well as an on-site fitness center. Be sure to save some time to hang out in one of the designated relaxation rooms or kick back in an outdoor whirlpool.
As much as we may love the Arizona sun, the truth is, it can wreak havoc on your skin — which is where a trip to Absolutely Chic Skin Care and Day Spa comes in. Offering a wide range of treatments for both the body and face, as well as beautifying treatments such as eyelash lifts and waxing, this spot will leave you glowing with health and radiance.
Staying in shape isn’t just about, well, your shape. It’s about how the focus and determination it takes to get through a tough workout shapes your mindset and your confidence. Here are some of the best gyms and yoga studios to check out in Peoria, Arizona next time you’re in need of a sweat sesh.
Working out isn’t always necessarily about working harder — it’s about working smarter. And Smart Gym gives you all the tools you need to make that happen. With professional and dedicated trainers standing by to help you find the safest and most effective way toward your goals, as well as the range of equipment you need to make it happen, this spot is a must-visit for anyone serious about fitness
Offering classic heated yoga classes in an hour and fifteen minutes (or an express class in just an hour), True Hot Yoga Arrowhead Ranch is a go-to spot for those looking to lengthen, limber, and relax. Neurogenic trauma release yoga is also available for those looking to work out deep knots, both psychically and physically.
While you certainly don’t have to venture outside of Peoria to find fun things to do, it’s true that there are some incredible day trip and weekend getaway opportunities nearby! Here are some options for those looking to get out of dodge for a while.
Easily one of the most popular national parks in the register (and for good reason), Grand Canyon National Park doesn’t disappoint, no matter how much you hype it up. What’s more, its nearby gateway town of Flagstaff is the perfect place to set up camp and call home base, especially since it’s chock full of fun and cozy coffee shops, restaurants, shops and more.
It’s only an hour or so south of the Phoenix metro, but Tucson offers an entirely different look at Arizona life — and also access to Saguaro National Park, a stunning and otherworldly landscape with towering saguaro cacti as far as the eye can see. While you’re in town, be sure to check out Biosphere 2, particularly if you’ve watched the recent documentary for more context!
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Peoria that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Peoria? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.