Best Budget-Friendly Group Activities in Phoenix

July 9, 2020

Because its year-round warm weather makes it a popular vacation destination, many people associate Phoenix with private golf courses, spa resorts, and nightclubs. Phoenix definitely has all of that, but that doesn’t mean your group’s trip to the Valley of the Sun has to blow your budget.

In addition to its pricey attractions, Phoenix has museums with free days, free parks for hiking and cycling, and even inexpensive amusement parks. You can easily plan a field trip for your students or a team-building trip for your coworkers without spending a ton of money, and Champion Charter Bus can help. 

A Phoenix charter bus is often more affordable than buying plane tickets or booking rideshares for a large group. Give us a call at 480-257-7734 to learn more about our rental pricing, get a quote on your transportation, and keep reading to learn about all the budget-friendly activities you can do in Phoenix.  

People hiking in Phoenix desert

Museums and Galleries

Heard Museum

Admission to the Heard Museum is always free for American Indian people who have a tribal ID. For anyone who isn’t a member of a tribe, the Museum offers free admission on designated days throughout the month. 

When your group visits, you can see thousands of years of American Indian artwork from both ancient and contemporary artists. The museum contains works from many tribes, but you won’t want to miss the huge collections of Hopi katsina dolls, Pueblo pottery, and Navajo textiles. 

Front entrance of the Heard Museum

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

When it’s free: From 6-10 p.m. on the first Friday of the month (every month except March) and from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on the fourth Sunday of the month (June through September) 

Where to park your bus: The museum’s free parking lot

Address: 2301 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004

Phoenix Art Museum

Like the Heard Museum, the Phoenix Art Museum offers several free admission days. It also offers the chance to see art from the Renaissance to the present, including works from Claude Monet, Frida Kahlo, and Yayoi Kusama. After you finish walking among the paintings, sculptures, and dynamic light displays, climb back on your bus and relax with plush seats and air-conditioning to combat the Phoenix heat. 

Front entrance of the Phoenix Art Museum

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

When it’s free: Every Wednesday from 3-9 p.m.; the first Friday of the month from 6–10 p.m.; and the second Sunday of the month from 12–5 p.m.

Where to park your bus: The museum’s free parking lot 

Address: 1625 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004

Desert Botanical Garden

This unusual botanical garden lets you explore the beauty of desert landscapes. See the cactuses, wildflowers, succulents, and herbs that thrive in the Sonoran desert, and then meet butterflies and hummingbirds. 

You’ll need to prepare well for a visit to this botanical garden, since it’s very hot and dry. Tell everyone in your group to bring a hat, a water bottle, sunscreen, and comfortable walking shoes. Your bus will have overhead storage space where you can stash all of your necessities. 

Cactuses at Desert Botanical Garden

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

When it’s free: The second Tuesday of every month

Where to park your bus: The botanical garden’s free parking lot

Address: 1201 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008

Children’s Museum of Phoenix

The Children’s Museum offers fascinating exhibits like Whoosh!, where children can feed colorful scarves into wind-powered tubes, the Texture Cafe, where they can create meals from scraps of fabric, and the Noodle Forest, where they can run through hundreds of pool noodles. Designed for children under the age of 10, this is an ideal place for preschool and elementary-age school and youth groups

Interior of Children's Museum of Phoenix

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

When it’s free: 5–9 p.m. the first Friday of the month

Where to park your bus: The Children’s Museum parking lot

Address: 215 N 7th St, Phoenix, AZ 85034

Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum

The Contemporary Arts Museum, located within the Mesa Arts Center, contains five galleries where you can see rotating exhibitions by living artists, many of them local. The CAM is also free all the time, not just on select days, so it’s a great choice for groups on a tight budget and a tight schedule. 

Mesa is on the outskirts of Phoenix, and the drive takes about 25 minutes. You may want to request free WiFi on your charter bus so your group can scroll through Instagram or Tik Tok on the way there. 

Outside of Mesa Arts Center

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

When it’s free: Always

Where to park your bus: A variety of parking lots and garages, both paid and unpaid, near the Arts Center (check out this map to see your options) 

Address: 1 E Main St, Mesa, AZ 85201

Outdoor Attractions

Papago Park

Known for its huge sandstone buttes, Papago Park is a scenic destination for hiking, bicycling, and running. It also boasts a beautiful landmark called Hole-in-the-Rock, a large circle that naturally formed inside one of the sandstone cliffs. 

If you plan to do a lot of hiking, biking, or running, you’ll want to visit this attraction early in the morning or late in the evening when it’s cooler. Make sure you pack water, Gatorade, and fruit in your charter bus, and ask your driver to pump up the air-conditioning when you’re done hiking. 

Papago Park buttes

Image credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr

When it’s free: Always

Where to park your bus: One of Papago Park’s multiple free lots

Address: 625 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008

Echo Canyon Recreation Area

The Echo Canyon Recreation Area features three hiking trails of different difficulties that traverse Camelback Mountain, one of the most popular mountains in Arizona. Why do people love Camelback so much? It offers great desert views, especially around sunset, and the mountain is free to visit. 

However, Camelback is more difficult to climb than Papago. If you have people with mobility-related disabilities in your group, you may want to stick to the Echo Canyon picnic area. Champion Charter Bus can provide an ADA-accessible bus to help you get there. 

Camelback Mountain

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

When it’s free: Always

Where to park your bus: The recreation area’s free parking lot

Address: 4925 E McDonald Dr, Phoenix, AZ 85018

South Mountain Park

Spanning three mountain ranges—Ma Ha Tauk, Gila, and Guadalupe—this huge park has 50 miles of trails for hiking, bicycling, and horseback riding. Its highest point is Dobbins Lookout, which offers panoramic views and can be reached via foot on the hiking trails or via car on Summit Road. If you opt to hike, watch out for cars as you climb. 

If you’d rather take a car to the top, note that a full-size charter bus probably can’t manage the drive up the mountain. However, Champion Charter Bus may be able to find a compact minibus that can. Just ask us about smaller bus models when you call. 

South Mountain Park

Image credit: Jeff Hutchison, Flickr

When it’s free: Always

Where to park your bus: The large, free lot at the entrance to the park

Address: 10919 S Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85042

Amusement Parks

Enchanted Island Amusement Park

Located inside Encanto Park, Enchanted Island Amusement Park features classic kids’ rides like a carousel, a train, spinning cups, and a mini roller coaster. In the summer, you’ll also find bumper boats and a Splash Zone with water features to help kids cool off. 

Entering Enchanted Island is completely free, though you’ll need to buy tickets for individual rides. Each ride costs $5, and kids can play in the Splash Zone all day for $5. If you know your youth or after-school group will want to ride everything, you can buy an all-day ride pass for $21.75 per child. 

Enchanted Island front entrance

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

When it’s free: Always free to enter; rides charge individually 

Where to park your bus: 1 of the 4 parking lots near Encanto Park—one at 1218-1280 W Encanto Blvd, one at 2499 N 15th Ave, one at 2541-2599 N 15th Ave, and one at 2025-2299 N 15th Ave. 

Address: 1202 W Encanto Blvd, Phoenix, AZ 85007

Goldfield Ghost Town

Established in 1893 when gold was found nearby, Goldfield became a ghost town once the ore ran out just a few years later. Now, it’s become a historical theme park full of reconstructed buildings and costumed actors. 

Admission to Goldfield is free, so if your group just wants to walk around, see the actors, and visit the shops and bakery, you’re free to do so. Planning to try out some of the fun attractions like the zipline, railroad, mine tour, or mystery house? You can pay for each attraction individually, so you control your budget. 

Goldfield Ghost Town

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

When it’s free: Always free to enter; attractions charge individually 

Where to park your bus: Goldfield Ghost Town’s free parking lot

Address: 4650 N Mammoth Mine Rd, Apache Junction, AZ 85119

Find Fun Activities that Fit Your Budget

Just because Phoenix is a resort destination doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. With a little bit of planning, you can create an itinerary full of hiking, amusement park rides, and museum visits while spending little or no money on tickets. You can also save money by booking a motorcoach from Champion Charter Bus instead of relying on flights and rideshares. Give us a call at 480-257-7734 to book your budget-friendly trip to Phoenix today!