17 Free Things to Do in Glendale, AZ

Glendale, AZ

Join me as I take you on a journey through some of the free things to do in Glendale, Arizona.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this article: Taliyah McCall, Jonathan Rollins, Paloma Wooten, Maria Humiston, Patrick Greene, Evelyn Vanvalkenburg and Elizabeth Griggs.

Go Hiking at Thunderbird Conservation Park

Scenic view of Thunderbird Conservation Park
Patrick Lansing / Shutterstock.com

Thunderbird Conservation Park is my favorite spot for weekend adventures. I've been exploring these trails for years, and they never disappoint.

You can find me parked at the Sunrise trailhead most Saturday mornings, ready to tackle the moderate route up the hill.

Don't be fooled by the "moderate" label. It's nothing too strenuous.

Even the little ones can make their way up without a problem. It's perfect for family outings.

As I ascend, I am always taken aback by the stunning views of the city beneath me.

And the trails? Always impeccably maintained.

I could navigate them with my eyes closed.

But, of course, I wouldn't, for fear of missing the park's natural beauty.

I often squeeze in a quick hike on weekdays after a long day at work.

Hikers along Thunderbird Conservation Park
WongPing / Shutterstock.com

There's something incredibly peaceful about watching the sun set over Thunderbird's west mountain.

The colors and tranquility are enough to wash away all your worries.

Now, don't be surprised if you come across me or others taking remote-controlled rock crawlers for a spin.

It's a fun, unusual activity the park lends itself to.

Between the hiking and the RC fun, there is never a dull moment at Thunderbird Conservation Park.

Oh, and did I mention the parking? Plenty of it. It is easy to get to, just a few miles north of the 101 freeway.

So, if you're in the Glendale area and looking for a place to immerse yourself in nature, try Thunderbird Conservation Park.

Trust me; you won't be disappointed.

Trail lined with flora at Thunderbird Conservation Park
Patrick Lansing / Shutterstock.com

Go on a Sweet Adventure at Cerreta Candy Company

Every time I walk into the Cerreta Candy Company, it’s like stepping into a childhood dream come true.

The scent of chocolate and sugar in the air is intoxicating, and the sight of the candies, nuts, and chocolates in all their glorious variety is nothing short of a visual feast.

I often find myself reaching for their chocolate mint, my personal favorite, as a delightful treat for myself.

More often than not, I also buy them as sweet, thoughtful gifts for family and friends.

What I love about Cerreta is its wide variety of tasty selections.

There’s something for everyone, from the dark chocolate lover to the nutty praline enthusiast.

If you want to add educational fun to your visit, you can take your kids to see how chocolate is made.

Even though the chocolate-making machines tend to be less active during certain times of the year, it’s always a joy to watch their video and check out the factory.

My niece loved making her chocolate bar during one of our visits.

The Cerreta Candy Company also offers VIP tours.

Even after numerous visits, I still feel like there's much more to discover.

So, Cerreta Candy Company is always a good idea if you're ever in the mood for a sweet adventure.

Discover the Beauty of Glendale Xeriscape Garden

Walking into the Glendale Xeriscape Garden is like being transported into a green oasis amid the bustling city.

This is the Garden, located on the grounds of the Glendale Public Library, which houses an impressive collection of around 400 plants, a sight that never fails to take my breath away.

Walk around, and you'll spot peacocks and roosters adding vibrant colors and whimsical sounds to the tranquil setting.

It's a place where locals and tourists alike come to appreciate the beauty of nature, learn about xeriscaping, and, of course, take countless pictures.

The park is so well-maintained that even the birds love posing for pictures!

Meanwhile, the Garden's historic side offers a unique charm, providing a beautiful backdrop for casual strolls or an afternoon picnic.

It's also a great source of inspiration for those looking to incorporate xeriscaping into their gardens.

I've found several plants I'd love to use in my yard.

With information plaques scattered throughout, I've learned much about each plant and the concept of xeriscaping.

Despite numerous visits, I still find something new to admire each time.

Whether you have an hour to spare or just 20 minutes, the Glendale Xeriscape Garden promises a refreshing and educational experience.

Visit Glendale Heroes Regional Park

Now and then, I need a break to rejuvenate, unwind, and get back in touch with nature.

Whenever that happens, I don't need to go far. The Glendale Heroes Regional Park is my haven!

With its vast playgrounds, the alluring water play area, and even a skate and BMX facility, it's got something for everyone.

You can even satisfy your cravings for a good basketball game or relax with a good old picnic!

Now, let's talk about the highlight of the summer - the splash pad! It's a massive hit amongst kids and adults alike.

But remember, it opens only from Memorial Day to Labor Day weekend. Trust me, it's worth the wait.

The excitement and joy it brings is unparalleled. However, call the city before heading over to confirm if it's open.

There are also some fantastic events happening at the park.

I remember the day I attended the Old Memories Worldwide Low Riders Show and Shine Car Show.

It's a must-see for all car enthusiasts, and it was a memorable day!

The lake at the park is yet another jewel.

It's a sight, with a giant waterfall at the center and picnic tables scattered around.

If you're lucky, you might even encounter some wildlife!

Don't underestimate the charm of the shaded play area for kids, either. It's small, but it's cozy, and the single cabana and park bench give it a homely feel.

The park also hosts activities like the 'Shake it Off for Kids' event, a great way to keep the kids engaged and active.

Glendale Heroes Regional Park is a community, a way of life, and a part of me.

So whether you're looking for a day of fun and relaxation or a place to make unforgettable memories, this is the place to be!

Walk Down Memory Lane at Sahuaro Ranch Park

Entrance to Sahuaro Ranch Park
Thomas Trompeter / Shutterstock.com

Whenever I visit Sahuaro Ranch Park, it's like a trip down memory lane.

I've been coming here since I was a kid, and now I enjoy bringing my sons here.

The park has a certain timeless charm, with its rich history echoing through the old ranch grounds it's set on, the wandering fowl that add a touch of the exotic, and the historic house museum that tells captivating tales of the past.

Abundant benches with grills beside them have always been the perfect spot to enjoy a laid-back barbecue afternoon.

The huge Ramada area with seating grills and sinks adds a touch of convenience, making it a favored spot for events.

What I appreciate about Sahuaro Ranch Park is its welcoming atmosphere, which is inviting to all.

Main house at Sahuaro Ranch Park
User:Marine 69-71, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The playgrounds are always a hit with my sons. They love the large playgrounds with swings, which are well-maintained and safe.

One of the biggest attractions for them, however, is the 30-odd peacocks that roam the property.

Seeing these majestic birds strutting around, their vibrant colors adding a splash of magic to the park is a delightful sight.

Also, the volleyball area is often left open and unrestricted, which makes for a fun, spontaneous game now and then.

Sahuaro Ranch Park is one of the best in my book, offering a perfect blend of natural beauty, fun activities, and peaceful co-existence.

Farming equipments on the grounds of Sahuaro Ranch Park
Marine 69-71 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Get Fit at Grand Canal Linear Park

No place in Glendale brings me as calm and joy as the Grand Canal Linear Park.

Some might assume that living in the city means missing out on nature, but this park proves them wrong.

With a sprawling playground, a canalside trail, and a charming picnic area, it's a respite amidst the urban rush.

The park is particularly enticing when you want to laze around in the sun while your kids have a fun day out.

This playground is a dream come true for children.

It's large, clean, and always bustling with energy.

You do need to watch for runners along the canal, but that's a small price to pay for the joy it brings to my children.

And when the Arizona summer is at its peak, the water pads are a godsend.

For those of you who are fitness enthusiasts, the park also offers a fantastic disc golf course.

You'll likely find me there when I'm not chasing after my kids, taking in the beauty around me while working up a sweat.

One thing that often catches the eye is the stunning view of the Cardinals Stadium.

If you're lucky, you might even see a game.

Grand Canal Linear Park is worth a visit.

Embrace Nature at Thunderbird Paseo Park

Upon moving to Glendale, one of the first places I fell in love with was Thunderbird Paseo Park.

Something about the Desert Interpretive Garden speaks to my soul.

I am drawn to the natural beauty of the trails and the desert landscape, and the park's disc golf course and sports facilities provide an endless array of outdoor activities.

Thunderbird Paseo Park is a treasure trove for those who love to explore.

The trails meander through the park, offering miles of scenery.

I've spent countless hours riding my bike along these paths, stopping occasionally to play a round of disc golf or shoot hoops at the basketball court.

The small playground is a hit with my younger cousins when they visit, and the grassy area is the perfect spot for a picnic on sunny afternoons.

One of my favorite things about Thunderbird Paseo Park is the canal.

I often take tranquil walks along its banks, enjoying the sight of ducks paddling peacefully in the water and horses grazing serenely on nearby farms.

And let me tell you, there's nothing quite like witnessing a sunrise here—it never fails to take my breath away.

It's worth mentioning that the park is particularly stunning during winter and spring.

If you're ever in Glendale and looking for a place to enjoy the outdoors, I highly recommend Thunderbird Paseo Park.

It’s a haven of natural beauty and recreational activities that enrich any day.

Check Out the Elsie McCarthy Sensory Garden

Sometimes, you need a moment of tranquility amidst the bustle of city life. That's precisely what I find at the Elsie McCarthy Sensory Garden.

Nestled in a corner by the fire station, this unique park has become my solace when I need peace of mind.

The sensory garden is far from just any regular park. It's one of the most unique spaces I've ever had the pleasure to visit.

You might think it’s another forgotten corner of Phoenix, but trust me, it’s full of surprises.

I highly recommend visiting the Elsie McCarthy Sensory Garden.

Take a Stroll Down Memory Lane in Historic Downtown Glendale

Antique shop at the Historic Downtown Glendale
Nathan O'Brennan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Nestled on the south side of Glendale around 58th Street, the historic Downtown has a habit of never losing its charm, no matter what changes it goes through.

I remember when Glendale glittered in all its glory, illuminating the dark corners with its vibrant lights.

The beauty of visiting downtown Glendale is that it perfectly blends a bustling city and a quiet town.

Moreover, the traffic is just enough to make the place feel alive, but not so much that you can't maintain social distance.

And with a mask, the stores and restaurants are entirely open for business.

A typical day in our town is anything but ordinary.

The main street, adorned with antiques, boutiques, and unique shops, is always abuzz with activity.

A shop at the Historic Downtown Glendale
Marine 69-71 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You could easily spend an entire day shopping and still not be able to visit all the stores.

And if shopping isn't your thing, we've got a park, a library, a theater, and City Hall!

One of the perks of shopping in downtown Glendale is the generous amount of free parking available.

Plus, if you're a pet owner like me, you'll be pleased to know that most of the stores are pet-friendly.

Downtown Glendale is known for its annual Lights of Glendale during Christmas.

The sight of the entire town lit up in colorful lights is something that you shouldn't miss.

So, whether you're a shopaholic, a foodie, a pet lover, or a Christmas light enthusiast, Downtown Glendale has something for you!

Catlin court street at the Historic Downtown Glendale
Marine 69-71 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Take a Breath of Fresh Air at Butler Park

Butler Park is our hidden gem, a sweet escape from the daily grind, with its array of sizeable evergreen elm trees providing ample shade, making it a perfect spot to unwind.

A stroll around the park will reveal its well-kept amenities, and you won't fail to notice the brand-new play equipment nestled in the playground filled with wood chips.

If street basketball is your thing, the park has got you covered.

And if you're planning a family day out, five stone-built picnic benches are scattered along the dirt path, with a large covered picnic ramada at the back.

While there, don't forget to treat your furry friends to a refreshing drink from the pet watering trough right next to the functioning water fountain.

You'll see how well they've taken care of this little detail.

The park could benefit from more watering, but it's genuinely well-maintained considering the scorching heat we deal with.

Kids, adults, pets - there's something for everyone here.

It's our little paradise, kept clean and quiet, often empty.

Truly, Butler Park is a testament to the charm of our town!

Take a Stroll through Northern Horizon Park

One of the joys of living in this community is having the Northern Horizon Park right in our backyard.

A stroll through this park on a sunny afternoon is always a treat.

The park is immensely spacious, which my dogs adore.

They love sprinting around in the big dog runs! Northern Horizon Park is truly a dog's paradise!

Fellow pet owners and their dogs are often very approachable, and it's lovely to see the same familiar tails wagging each time we visit.

However, the park is also a favorite spot for my kids.

They love playing on the playground with their friends.

Northern Horizon Park is a local gem, serving as a much-needed oasis of green in our urban community.

Spend the Day at Delicias Park

Walking down my quiet street, I can already see the glimmer of the sun reflecting off the slides at Delicias Park.

As I approach, children's laughter fills the air, ringing across the playground.

Seeing the lighted basketball court brings a warm feeling, reminding me of endless games played under the glow of the court lights.

As I stroll through the park, tranquility washes over me; this community values peace and serenity, and it shows.

Whether it's a quiet walk through the lush grass or a family picnic at one of the many tables, every corner has a sense of pride.

You can tell that the people here worked hard for this calm and peaceful environment.

Finding a spot on the grass, I set up my picnic.

The park is never too crowded, and there's always enough room for everyone to enjoy their day.

After my picnic, I walked over to the basketball court. The bouncing ball's echo and the net's swish feel almost therapeutic.

Then, I head to the playground area, watching the children climb, slide, and swing with pure joy.

Delicias Park remains a beacon of community and tranquility.

Explore Downtown Glendale

Aerial view of Downtown Glendale
Matt Gush / Shutterstock.com

Nothing beats a leisurely morning walk through downtown Glendale when kicking off my day.

It might cause a slight disruption in the morning commute, but it also adds a unique character to our town.

The heart of our downtown is sprinkled with many quirky and delightful stores.

Each holds its charm, offering treasures ranging from unique knick-knacks to pieces of history.

It's easier to lose track of time while exploring these charming spots that make our downtown special.

But the real magic of downtown Glendale shines brightest during our annual Glendale Glitters festival.

As the sun sets, our quaint little town transforms into a dazzling wonderland.

Typically lush green, the park becomes a shimmering blanket of twinkling lights. It's pretty spectacular, honestly.

Parking is abundant, and the sight of the park illuminated by thousands of tiny lights is a sight I look forward to each year.

These moments remind me why I love calling downtown Glendale my home.

Visit Heritage Park

Every day, I would take my dog for a walk at Heritage Park, a tiny slice of sanctuary in our neck of the woods.

Nestled amidst the concrete jungle, the park is a quaint oasis of peace. It's not grand but the perfect size for a personal retreat.

There's a picnic table where I sometimes host impromptu lunch gatherings, and the playset is ideal for my nieces and nephews who visit during the weekends.

The grassy field is where my dog and I love to play fetch.

He would run around, his eyes gleaming joyfully as he fetched the ball.

It's a sight that never fails to put a smile on my face.

The basketball court at the end of the park is a point of congregation for the local kids.

Heritage Park has become an integral part of my daily routine.

It's a place for recreation, relaxation, and a spot to catch a breath amidst the busy city life.

Explore Gardenwood Park

Gardenwood Park is our oasis amidst the urban jungle.

It's not your typical park, decked out with slides, swings, and climbers - no, it's a simple, unassuming patch of green in our city.

This park is where I've taken my kids and grandkids on bright, sunny afternoons when all the world seems alive.

Here, you’ll find young ones running freely without fear, their laughter echoing through the houses.

The park is also a sanctuary for the local pups.

There's nothing more joyful than seeing the dogs chase after balls, their tails wagging in pure delight.

Moreover, the city well is also fenced in with an 8-foot wall.

I've spent countless hours sitting by the well, watching the sunset, painting the sky in hues of orange and pink.

Gardenwood Park is where the community comes together and holds countless memories.

Explore the Trails of New River

One of my favorite pastimes is to venture out to the New River trailhead.

It's my haven away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

As soon as you step onto this trail, you instantly feel a sense of calm wash over you.

The clean and well-maintained path makes it a pleasure to traverse on foot or a bike.

What I appreciate most about this trailhead is the abundance of friendly faces that brighten the journey.

The camaraderie shared among fellow explorers is genuinely heartwarming.

Even on the busiest of days, the trail never feels crowded.

There's a sense of community here that you don't often find in other public spaces.

One of my favorite things about the New River trailhead is its interconnectedness.

With connecting routes, you can easily ride for miles in all directions – North, South, East, and West.

It makes for a fun day of adventure and discovery, never knowing where the trails may lead you.

The Grand Canal trail begins at the New River trailhead, making it a convenient starting point for a day of cycling or hiking.

Although there are no facilities at the trailhead, you'll find a Porta-potty and drinking fountain about two miles east on the south side of the Grand Canal.

It may be a bit bare-bones, but it adds to the rustic charm of the place.

So, if you're looking for a refreshing and invigorating outdoor experience, I highly recommend visiting the New River trailhead.

It's a community, an adventure, and a delightful retreat.

Final Thoughts

In my countless strolls and explorations around Glendale, I've discovered its charm lies not just within its bustling city life but also in the peace and tranquility offered by its parks and conservation areas.

These sights and activities are priceless, as they make up the heart and soul of Glendale and offer a refreshing break from the hustle-bustle of everyday life.

These hidden gems make me fall in love with Glendale repeatedly, and I am sure they will do the same for you

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