Beyond the beauties of the Desert Botanic Garden, there are few parks in central Phoenix, and to be honest there’s not much to write home about in any of them. With average temperatures pushing 90 degrees 7 months of the year, they wouldn’t get much use even if they were better. Steele Indian School Park, at the northeast corner of Indian School Road and Central Avenue (tel. 602/495-0739), surrounds what was once a school for Native American children; some exhibits in the buildings are still standing, and the city has recently added fountains, gardens, and interpretive displays. Where I-10 cuts through central Phoenix, the city built Margaret Hance Park (67 W. Culver St.; tel. 602/534-2406); there are plans to make Hance a showcase, but those are years off. Still, check local listings for fairs or festivals at either of these centrally located expanses. Big-name rock acts appear at the McDowell Mountain Music Festival in Hance Park, generally in April, and all manner of ethnic, beer, taco, and other fests pop up at Steele Indian School Park. In an upscale neighborhood slightly west of downtown, gorgeous Encanto Park (2605 N. 15th Ave.; tel. 602/261-8991) has a small amusement park, a golf course, and a big lake. For information on these and other parks, go to

More enjoyable is Tempe Town Lake, 620 N. Mill Ave., Tempe (; tel. 480/350-8625), which was created in 1999 by damming the Salt River with inflatable dams. With parks and bike paths lining both the north and south shores, this 2-mile-long lake is a good place to stretch your legs, picnic, let kids run around, or just hang out. There’s no swimming, however. The best lake access is at Tempe Town Beach, at the foot of the Mill Avenue Bridge.

The major parks in the rest of the valley are desert preserves. Stretching across the middle of the Valley is the Phoenix Mountains Preserve (site of Piestewa Peak), North Mountain Preserve, North Mountain Recreation Area, Camelback Mountain–Echo Canyon Recreation Area, and Phoenix South Mountain Park, which bills itself as the largest municipal park in the U.S.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.