Arizona is a pretty weird place, and the city of Phoenix is no exception. On one corner of the city, you can find a castle made of adobe and goats milk, while on the other, you can stumble upon a legendary outdoor art gallery, displaying beautiful blown glass.
Wherever your journey takes you throughout Phoenix and the surrounding valley, you can guarantee that you will find hidden gems, awe-inspiring moments, and capture the best this city (and state) has to offer.
So put on your weird hat because we are about to explore 18 surreal places in Phoenix you won't believe really exist, and you won't be able to stay away from them.
Where: 5032 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85012
You won't believe what lies behind the doors of Curious Nature until you go and see for yourself. Simple on the outside and surreal on the inside, Curious Nature is a shop right here in Phoenix with aisles and aisles of naturally preserved items like tanned bison scrotum and preserved octopus.
Curious Nature sparks the inner scientist in all of us, allowing for adult free-play and provoking imaginative thinking in a way that is rarely explored as adults.
Where: 800 E Mineral Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85042
Over the course of 15 years, Boyce Luther Gulley gave up everything, and we mean everything, to build the Mystery Castle that still stands in Phoenix today. Disappearing from the lives of his friends, family, and job, he set out to build the castle from materials like concrete, recycled metal, goat's milk, adobe, stone, mortar, and random pieces of metal scrap from telephone wires to old automobile parts.
Today, Phoenicians flock to his masterpiece to understand the man behind the mysterious castle and enjoy this eclectic standing art.
Where: 300 East Wigwam Boulevard, Litchfield Park, AZ 85340
Vintage cars and 90s vibes await your stay at the unique Wigwam Villages. Built next to the infamous Route 66, Wigwam Villages attract tourists and locals alike for its one-of-a-kind look. Stay the night or make a quick pit stop at this joint.
Where: 424 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004
From the mouth of Ralph Waldo Emerson to the sky, "Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience." The hanging, glowing live exhibit hangs over the Phoenix Civic Space Park to remind us all to slow down and appreciate the beauty of nature. The 145-feet-tall aerial structure hangs 100 feet up in the sky made of galvanized steel and polyester twine netting.
Where: 1625 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004
Officially dubbed, "You Who Are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies," artist Yayoi Kusama brings the surreal to the Phoenix Art Museum. Yayoi Kusama is regarded as one of the most prominent and important artists of our time, and her installation at the Phoenix Art Museum is not to be missed.
"Become one with eternity. Obliterate your personality. Our Earth is only one polka dot among the million stars in the cosmos" — Yayoi Kusama.
The Sonoran Hot Dog Experience
Where: 1945 East Indian School Road, Phoenix
Have you ever seen a hot dog dressed up like this? The Sonoran hot dog is a perfect blend of Mexican and American street food. The mega-yummy hot dog is often wrapped in bacon, squeezed in the middle of a fluffy bolillo roll, and smothered with toppings like pinto or black beans, chopped onions, diced tomatoes, layers of jalapeño salsa, mayo, and mustard.
The good news is, you can find food trucks galore downtown with the famous Sonoran hot dog for your eating pleasure. We like Nogales Hot Dogs best!
Where: 16th Street and Thomas
Art comes alive downtown in the form of street art on the back, side, and front of restaurants, retail stores, office buildings, and random walls in the alleyways of downtown. The greatest part about these murals is that each one has a different story as told through the artists or collaborations who install these colorful, bright art pieces throughout the town.
Make a day out of walking around and seeing just how many you can find. Some of the best ones are hidden out of plain sight.
Where: 4725 E Mayo Blvd, Phoenix, AZ 85050
Living inside the Musical Instrument Museum of Phoenix stands the colossal 12-foot Octobass, the largest and rarest stringed instrument in the world. This giant instrument requires a step stool simply to reach the bridge and, when played, has been described as sounding like a subwoofer used to create dark drama that reverberates throughout the body.
Where: 1201 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008
How does blown glass fare in the desert? Just fine in the Desert Botanical Garden! The most famous glass-blowing exhibitionist Chihuly has installed some of his greatest masterpieces right here in Phoenix. These installations are scattered throughout the gardens, blending in with the landscape in their own unique, whimsical way.
Where: 5025 E Van Buren St, Phoenix, AZ 85008
If you're a local, you've seen this gem right off the Loop 202, but have you ever gone in? This castle stands out among the urban environment in Tempe and Phoenix, and many people don't even know what it is!
Tovrea Castle is a historic building that was initially a residence, but now is a landmark of Phoenix. Tovrea Castle hosts over 5,000 cacti of 100 different species, making it iconically Sonoran. Stay until sunset on a twilight tour and enjoy some of the best views of the famous Phoenix sunsets to add to your experience.
Where: 1625 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004
Have you ever seen 25,000 black butterflies in one room? We will go ahead and guess no, unless you have been to the Phoenix Art Museum's installation of Carlos Amorales' "Black Cloud." The butterflies are made of paper and over 30 species are represented in this exhibit, truly a testament to his attention to detail.
Be careful, you might want to stay all day.
Where: State Rt. & Highway 180, Valle, AZ 86046
You've never seen anything like Bedrock City, we promise. Resembling the 1960's cartoon The Flinstones, Bedrock City is a campground and a one-of-a-kind site. There are mounted and painted replicas of some of the most famous portions of the cartoon, like the volcano, police station, and of course, the homes of Fred and Wilma, their cars and so much more. Just go see for yourself.
But hurry up! Summer 2019 is your last chance to roam these iconic grounds. After that, Bedrock City will be closing and turned into Raptor Ranch, for fans of birds of prey.
Where: 9500 East Vía de Ventura A-100, Scottsdale, AZ 85256
Want to play with a sloth? Penguins? Pet a stingray? Do all that and more at the OdySea Aquarium. There isn't anything quite like escaping the heat and running into the arms, or tentacles, of some of the most unique and otherworldly creatures featured at the exhibit. Take a trip under da sea and enjoy a day at the aquarium!
Where: 922 N 5th Street
Take a walk on the art side on Roosevelt Row, the art district downtown. There are live art shows and live entertainment on every corner. Not to mention, the best and most colorful festivals roll through, like the Chili Festival, First Fridays, and The Pie Social.
Where: 12621 N Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ 85259
Frank Lloyd Wright's once winter home is now home to the main campus of the School of Architecture. This home is unlike any other structure we see in modern architecture, and at night is lit up like a Christmas tree in the Sonoran Desert.
Where: 7353 E Scottsdale Mall, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
"Lunch spot by day, club when the sun goes down" is the motto of the swanky, mysterious, upper-class club in Old Town. Whether you go for sandwiches or stay into the evening for house music and martinis, the vibe is great and the company is even better.
Where: 7207 E Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ 85260, USA
The Spire is a 125-foot tower of blue and green glowing beauty on the corner of Scottsdale Road and Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard. Wright originally wanted to build the spire in 1957 but was rejected. In 2004, his plans came back from the dead and into the hands of Phoenicians who see it as an important landmark in the city.
Where: 01 N 1st St, Phoenix, AZ 85004
Hidden within the Roosevelt Art's District downtown, the Churchill is a community collective of businesses and gathering place for entrepreneurs to collaborate instead of competing. It's true what they say, good things come in small packages.
Where: 625 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008
If you want a great view with an easy hike, head to Papago Hole in the Rock and snap a selfie against the beautiful desert landscape. No one is quite sure how the hole got there, but we enjoy it nonetheless.