Newcomers’ Guide to the Arts & Culture in Phoenix

Editorial StaffOctober 31, 2022
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Filled with theaters, avant-garde galleries and museums, Central Phoenix is the Valley’s cultural nerve center.

Arizona Opera

The company produces operas of the highest quality with artists of international stature as well as emerging talent. Highlights: The Falling and the Rising, Oct. 14-16; Ariadne auf Naxos, Dec. 2-4; Tosca, Jan. 20-22; The Sound of Music, March 3-5. Productions take place at Herberger Theater Center, 222 E. Monroe St., and Symphony Hall, 75 N. Second St., 602-266-7464,

Arizona Science Center

Designed to engage curious minds through science, the center boasts four levels of hands-on exhibits, plus live demonstrations, a planetarium and giant-screen theater. Highlights: Living in the Age of Airplanes, Aug. 27-Feb. 4; and Good Vibrations: Where Science Gets Loud, where lessons about soundwaves and vibration come through interactive instrument play. 600 E. Washington St., 602-716-2000,

Arizona Theatre Company

ATC specializes in comedy, drama and musicals, including The Lion, Oct. 20-Nov. 6; The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley, Dec. 8-23; The Glass Menagerie, Feb. 16-March 5; and Pru Payne, March 30-April 16. Performances take place at Herberger Theater Center, 222 E. Monroe St., 602-256-6995,

Ballet Arizona

Dedicated to preserving and celebrating classical dance while creating innovative new works, the company performs under the artistic direction of Ib Andersen. Highlights: Contemporary Moves: An Evening of Three Ballets, Sept. 22-25; Cinderella, Oct. 20-23; The Nutcracker, Dec. 9-24; Giselle, Feb. 9-12. Performances take place at various Downtown Phoenix venues, 602-381-1096,

Celebrity Theatre

A historic landmark, this intimate theater features state-of-the-art sound and lighting, and a revolving center stage, with no seat farther than 70 feet from the action. Highlights: Chief Keef with Lil Gnar, Nov. 11; An Evening with the Celebrity Housewives, Nov. 17; Gladys Knight, Dec. 16; Paul Anka, Greatest Hits: His Way!, Jan. 25; One Night of Queen, Feb. 26; Joanne Shaw Taylor, March 31. 440 N. 32nd St., 602-267-1600,

Children’s Museum of Phoenix

This is not your typical museum – the staff here wants you to touch everything! And with more than 48,000 square feet of space, there is plenty to touch. Focusing on learning through play, the museum offers hands-on, interactive and imaginative exhibits designed for children from birth up to age 10, with an emphasis on early childhood education and school readiness. 215 N. Seventh St., 602-253-0501,

Desert Botanical Garden

The garden focuses on education, exhibition and conservation of desert plants with an emphasis on the Southwest. Gardening workshops, a desert landscaping school, butterfly exhibit, spring and fall plant sales, and a variety of tours, festivals and cultural celebrations attract visitors of all ages. Playing with Stars: Rotraut at Desert Botanical Garden (Oct. 7-May 14) features bold large-scale sculptures throughout the grounds. DBG also plays host to one of the Valley’s best restaurants – Gertrude’s – featuring excellent farm-to-table cuisine. 1201 N. Galvin Pkwy., 480-941-1225,

First Fridays

Dozens of art galleries and art spaces participate in this Downtown art walk. 6-10 p.m. first Friday of every month,

Hall of Flame Museum of Firefighting

Nearly an acre of fire history exhibits is showcased, including more than 90 fully restored pieces of fire apparatus dating from 1725 to 1969. The National Firefighting Hall of Heroes honors firefighters who died in the line of duty or were decorated for heroism, and another gallery is dedicated to the history of wildland firefighting in the U.S. The museum name has been a Jeopardy answer three times! 6101 E. Van Buren St., 602-275-3473,

Heard Museum

Founded in 1929, this globally renowned museum explores American Indian arts and cultures with comprehensive exhibitions, interactive learning opportunities and a variety of festivals. Exhibit highlights: Grand Procession: Contemporary Plains Indian Dolls from the Charles and Valerie Diker Collection (ongoing); and Between The Lines: Art from the No Horse Ledger Books, through March 23. 2301 N. Central Ave., 602-252-8848,

Herberger Theater Center

The center is home to Arizona Theatre Company, Arizona Opera, Arizona Broadway Theatre, Childsplay and iTheatre Collaborative, and also hosts performances by Valley Youth Theatre. 222 E. Monroe St., 602-252-8497,

Japanese Friendship Garden

Celebrate the history and culture of Japan at this tranquil garden in the heart of Phoenix. The immaculately maintained venue boasts a pond with more than 300 koi, a waterfall, stone garden, teahouse, cherry trees and Japanese flora. 1125 N. Third Ave., Phoenix, 602-274-8700,

Madison Center for the Arts

This state-of-the-art venue engages patrons with a variety of Broadway, off-Broadway and multicultural performances, including Mummenschanz: 50 Years, Nov. 18-20; Ray on My Mind, Feb. 25; All Things Equal: The Life and Trials of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, March 11. 5601 N. 16th St., 602-664-7777,

Musical Instrument Museum

Thousands of instruments and artifacts from around the world, plus live performances, make MIM a music-lover’s dream. Advanced wireless technology and high-resolution video screens enable a full sensory experience. Highlights: Arizona Musicfest, Nov. 20; Kirk Whalum, Dec. 2; Gypsy Soul, Dec. 4; The Phoenix Boys Choir Home for the Holidays, Dec. 11; The Klezmatics A Happy Joyous Hanukkah, Dec. 19; MIM and Phoenix Chamber Music Society Present: Curtis on Tour, March 10. 4725 E. Mayo Blvd., 480-478-6000,

Orpheum Theatre

Recognized on the National Register of Historic Places, this 1929 theater is a choice venue for performing arts. Highlights: Café Tacvba, Nov. 4; Dropkick Murphys, Nov. 5; Mario Aguilar: Cer loca no es Facil, Nov. 19; Fiddler on the Roof, Dec. 2; Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, March 3. 203 W. Adams St., 602-262-6225,

Penske Museum

Fans of auto racing can get their motors running with a collection of superb racing machines and memorabilia that captures and preserves the Penske Racing team’s many accomplishments on the track. Best of all, admission is free. Highlights include Indy 500 and NASCAR winners, and a replica of the 1963 Pontiac Catalina that Roger Penske drove to victory in the 1963 Riverside 250. 7191 E. Chauncey Ln., 480-538-4444,

Phoenix Art Museum

Top national and international exhibitions are shown alongside the museum’s collection of more than 20,000 works of American, Asian, European, Latin American, Western American, modern and contemporary art, photography and fashion design. Highlights: Legacy of Ceylon: Art and Photography of Sri Lanka, through Nov. 24; Generation Paper: Fast Fashion of the 1960s, through Dec. 4; Philip C. Curtis and the Landscapes of Arizona, through Dec. 31; Mr.: You Can Hear the Song of this Town, Nov. 6-March 12. 1625 N. Central Ave., 602-257-1880,

The Phoenix Theatre Company

Founded in 1920, the company offers Broadway and world-premiere musicals and plays, including Cinderella, Nov. 16-Jan 1; Constellations, Jan. 11-29; An American in Paris, Jan. 25-March 12; The Last Five Years, March 15-April 2; and A Chorus Line, April 5-May 14.1825 N. Central Ave., 602-254-2151,

Pueblo Grande Museum

Located on a 1,500-year-old site left by the Hohokam culture, this national historic landmark features an interpretive trail that takes guests through a prehistoric archaeological village site with a partially excavated platform mound, ball court and walk-in reproductions of Hohokam dwellings. Exhibits and hands-on activities define three gallery spaces. 4619 E. Washington St., 602-495-0901,

Shemer Art Center

Built in 1919, this former residence with a panoramic view of Camelback Mountain offers a variety of art classes, workshops and events. Showing this season: Earth Elements (Nov. 2-Jan. 5), with pieces inspired by air, fire, water or earth. 5005 E. Camelback Rd., 602-262-4727,

Tovrea Castle

Located in the heart of metropolitan Phoenix, this four-story, 5,000-square-foot architectural wonder is visible to all yet secluded by 44 acres of saguaro-studded desert. Resembling a wedding cake or castle, this “Jewel in the Desert” has a rich history that intertwines the lives of three very distinct families. Docent-led tours are so popular that tickets are sold by lottery. 5025 E. Van Buren St.,

Waterworks at Arizona Falls

Formed by a natural 20-foot drop along the Arizona Canal, this splashy hidden gem combines art, history and technology to generate clean electricity from the canal’s waterfall. Visitors, surrounded by water on three walls in the water room, can sit on large boulders as they enjoy the soothing sounds of flowing water. A shade structure allows guests to enjoy the experience year-round. G.R. Herberger Park, 5802 E. Indian School Rd.,

This article first appeared in the 2023 City Guide, published by PHOENIX magazine in November 2022.