Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Glendale, AZ

  • Published 2022/11/27

Glendale, established in 1910, is a thriving and friendly metropolis with exceptional opportunities for all individuals to succeed, connect, and take in all that the city has to offer.

Located in Maricopa County, Arizona, Glendale is only about nine miles northwest of the heart of Phoenix.

Glendale is famous for being the home of the State Farm Stadium–homecourt of the National Football League team Arizona Cardinals and the host of the 2008, 2015, and 2023 Super Bowl!

Glendale offers a unique blend of year-round sports, shopping, entertainment, historic charm, and outdoor pleasure.

The city’s slogan, “You Belong Here,” captures the feeling they want locals and visitors to have about the community by improving the everyday lives of the people and providing free and affordable forms of recreation for everyone to enjoy!

Head to Glendale, Arizona, and take advantage of the best things to do in the city for an experience you won’t forget!

Hike a Trail at Thunderbird Conservation Park

Scenic view of Thunderbird Conservation Park

Patrick Lansing /

The 1,185-acre Thunderbird Conservation Park, situated in the Hedgpeth Hills, is a conservation park devoted to safeguarding the desert ecosystem.

One of Glendale’s premier recreation areas, Thunderbird Conservation Park was purchased by the City in 1951 through a federal government lease.

Ownership began in 1956 with help from the Glendale Rotary Club and Glendale Women’s Club.

Hikers along Thunderbird Conservation Park

WongPing /

The park was managed by Maricopa County starting in 1963, during which time it underwent a number of modifications before it was returned to the city in 1984.

Outdoor activities at the park include hiking, mountain biking, jogging, horseback riding, bird watching, and picnicking!

Thanks to numerous volunteer groups, multi-use trails of about 15 miles have been built.

However, as more people become aware of the benefits and beauty of hiking and other outdoor activities, remember that trails can get congested during peak times.

Trail lined with flora at Thunderbird Conservation Park

Patrick Lansing /

Get Active at Thunderbird Paseo Park

Thunderbird Paseo Park is an excellent park for activities such as biking, walking, and horseback riding.

Not to be confused with Thunderbird Conservation Park, Thunderbird Paseo Park is located about six miles south of the former and is also closer to downtown.

This neighborhood park features an 18-hole disc golf course, trails, a Desert Interpretive Garden, and sports facilities such as basketball courts and football/soccer fields.

Thunderbird Paseo Park has almost four miles of trails that link to Skunk Creek Linear Park for further trails.

Since there isn’t enough shade at the park, it’s best to spend time around here and play sports in the morning or later in the afternoon.

Nevertheless, it’s a great park to get your body moving any day of the week.

Visit the Glendale Police Department Museum

Glendale Police Department Museum is proudly devoted to all law enforcement personnel.

The museum’s new home, located in the lobby of the City of Glendale Public Safety Building, was inaugurated in 2010.

The Glendale Police Department Museum came to life with the help of the Glendale Civic Pride Ambassadors, who gave a donation to retired Officer Dan Kallberg to sponsor the Museum.

Thanks to this funding, the lobby now features a sophisticated, attractive presentation of the history of the Glendale Police Department with more than 100 years’ worth of Glendale Police Department artifacts.

If you enjoy learning about something’s past, take some time to visit the Glendale Police Department Museum and enjoy its transformation throughout the years.

Take Your Dogs to Northern Horizon Park

The Northern Horizon Park is the largest dog park in Glendale, featuring a fenced play area for large dogs, a separate play area for small dogs, benches, water fountains, and waste stations.

Since this is an off-leash dog park, please keep an eye on your dogs and follow proper waste disposal around the park.

Northern Horizon Park isn’t just for furry pets but for the entire family as well!

The park’splayground area with a public safety theme offers mind stimulation and enjoyment for children of all ages.

Three ramadas and hundreds of trees give park visitors shaded locations for a picnic or rest.

Another unique feature is the bicycle safety stations scattered throughout the park that focuses on teaching bicycle safety to young cyclists.

Learn About Water-Efficient Landscaping at the Glendale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden

The Glendale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden is an award-winning garden that surrounds the Glendale Main Library, containing over 1,000 cacti, shrubs, trees, and more.

Glendale started encouraging using Xeriscape (water-efficient landscaping) over 25 years ago.

The Glendale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden serves as a visual representation of the wide variety and abundance of low-water-use plants that can be used to design a lush and welcoming garden.

Some of the Demonstration Garden’s highlights include the Habitat Garden exhibiting native Sonoran Desert vegetation and lots of shaded areas that offer friendly habitats for animals, plants, and visitors, the Cactus Garden featuring more than 250 species of cacti and succulents; and the Rain Garden demonstrating rainwater harvesting.

There are more gardens to explore at the Glendale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden, so don’t miss this free opportunity and learn more about low-water-use plants and ways you can help preserve water.

Gather for an Event at Murphy Park

Street clock at Murphy Park

Tony the Marine, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Murphy Park is the heart of Glendale’s downtown, with a unique connection to the city’s founder, W. J. Murphy.

Donated by Murphy to Glendale in 1909, Murphy Park today functions as a town square, a landmark, a festival venue, and a place for people to congregate and socialize.

This three-acre park has become the city’s center of activity, where numerous events and festivals take place, such as the Glendale Jazz and Blues Festival, LiVE! @ Murphy Park concert series, cosplay event LIBCON West sponsored by the Glendale Public Library, the Glendale Glitters held every December, and many more!

A historic 10,000-square-foot library sits at the center of the park square, with two sides of the park bordered by 100-year-old buildings renovated into antique stores and restaurants.

The other two sides are bordered by the City Hall and office buildings that connect to an amphitheater with seating for 2,000 people, which also holds a variety of events all year round.

Practice Wheel Sports at Glendale Heroes Regional Park

The 81-acre Glendale Heroes Regional Park features a variety of amenities that active and sporty people will surely enjoy!

One of the park’s key features is X-Court, a 26,000-square-foot concrete and multi-use venue for bikes, blades, and skateboards.

The skate park design has the perfect combination of banks, bowls, street components, and transitions, making it exhilarating and challenging for all skill levels.

Other park features are playgrounds, a splash pad available in the summer, basketball courts, ramadas for rent, and a 16-lane archery range built for practices and competitions, catered to both beginners and professional archers.

Glendale Heroes Regional Park’s latest addition is the 4-acre, 13-foot deep lake that allows for urban, casual, and family-friendly fishing activities.

Join a Chocolate Factory Tour of the Cerreta Candy Company

The Cerreta Candy Company is a family-owned chocolate company located in the center of downtown Glendale.

For more than 50 years, this chocolate company has been producing the finest candies, chocolates, caramel corn, roasted nuts, and other delectable delights in Arizona.

They offer a wide range of treats, such as their iconic Cool Mint and their quirky Picosas Hot Jalapeno Brittle.

You may join a free 30-minute factory tour to discover the magic of candy production, as well as learn about the company’s history.

The Cerreta Candy Company creates a joyful and lively environment such that at the end of the tour, visitors can participate in the interactive activities that follow; these hands-on activities, however, are not free.

Spend a Quiet Time at the Elsie McCarthy Sensory Garden

The Elsie McCarthy Sensory Garden was created to awaken the senses of sight, smell, sound, and touch.

This Sensory Garden is one of Glendale’s most cherished places because it makes use of certain plants and trees for aroma and texture, water for sound, sight, and touch, and night lighting for dramatic sights.

The Elsie McCarthy Sensory Garden was created to establish and maintain a tactile and sensory garden for the visually impaired through the bequest of Salt River Valley local and lifelong gardener Elsie McCarthy, who lost her vision.

The main entrance to the Sensory Garden features a tactile map that allows those who are blind to feel the different parts of the garden and comprehend its layout.

There are five points of interest, and each of these areas has a distinct water feature: the Contemplation Garden, the Celebration Garden, the Reflection Garden, the Story Totem Garden, and the Wisdom Garden.

The Elsie McCarthy Sensory Garden represents all the elements of a tactile garden for the visually handicapped but is also a lovely place for everyone to spend and enjoy a nice, quiet time.

Explore the Ranch Grounds of Sahuaro Ranch Park

Entrance to Sahuaro Ranch Park

Thomas Trompeter /

Sahuaro Ranch Park, one of Glendale Park System’s crown jewels, provides visitors with both a historical and recreational experience.

The 17-acre Sahuaro Ranch Park preserves one of the oldest and most picturesque ranches in the Salt River Valley, with 13 original structures, a barnyard, a rose garden, and historical orchards.

Visitors can tour the grounds of the ranch, go on a picnic, enjoy a ball game, smell the roses, watch peacocks, and play on the playgrounds.

Main house at Sahuaro Ranch Park

User:Marine 69-71, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Founded in 1886 by Illinois native William Henry Bartlett, the ranch’s historic structures were eventually restored in 1977 by the City of Glendale and is currently managed by the Parks and Recreation Department of Glendale.

Dubbed the “Showplace of the Valley” and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, this historic ranch provides events, exhibitions, and guided tours to preserve the history of early settlement in the Valley.

Sahuaro Ranch Park offers free admission, but donations are appreciated.

Farming equipments on the grounds of Sahuaro Ranch Park

Marine 69-71 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ride a Bike at Grand Canal Linear Park

Grand Canal Linear Park is a fantastic place for biking, horseback riding, and walking.

The trail stretches approximately 3 ¼ miles and runs alongside the Grand Canal, giving cyclists and walkers a cool view of the canal waters.

It crosses the canal multiple times and features a beautifully landscaped, paved, and lit trail.

This Linear Park also features a wheelchair-accessible playground with swings, slides, and more.

Grand Canal Linear Park connects to the Glendale Heroes Regional Park, State Farm Stadium, and Westgate.

Enjoy Music Under the Stars at the Glendale Summer Band Concert Series

Catch the Glendale Summer Band Concert Series as part of your evening summer entertainment in Glendale!

Founded in 1966, this eight-week music series held at E. Lowell Rogers Amphitheatre in Murphy Park is Arizona’s longest-running community band with as many as 100 volunteer and amateur musicians.

Enjoy music from Broadway to Big Band and more, with each week featuring a unique theme for your different musical preferences.

The Glendale Summer Band Concert Series offers a taste of the “concert in the park” for which the city has become known.

Pack your chairs and blankets, and bring the family outside for free entertainment and a night under the stars!

Explore Glendale’s Public Art Collection

Glendale’s Public Art Collection began to appear in various sites all across the city, thanks to the State’s Percent for Art legislation which provided financial support to this project.

The purpose of this art program is to raise public knowledge and admiration for art.

Through the Arts Commission and the City Council, artwork in public areas were placed, ensuring all Glendale residents would benefit from a more attractive and lively neighborhood.

Some highlights of Glendale’s Public Art Collection include the Circles of Time, the Territorial Sheriff, Old Friends, Princely Beast, Seeing Beyond, Unsteady Steadiness, Whirlwind, and more!

Glendale takes pride in its collection of art and wishes that visitors, especially those who have a passion for art, will enjoy exploring the city in search of these beautiful pieces.

See a Movie with Movies by Moonlight

Glendale presents Movies by Moonlight, a unique movie experience for the entire family!

Movies by Moonlight runs every 3rd Friday of the month from October through April.

The movies are open to the public and include a kid-friendly activity before the show.

The pre-show activity starts at 5 p.m., and the movies start around sunset.

Due to limited space, registration is required.

Also, locations vary, so please check the venue and the movie lineup before registering.

Walk the Streets of Historic Downtown Glendale

Antique shop at the Historic Downtown Glendale

Nathan O’Brennan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Discover “A Real Hometown Happening” at the Historic Downtown Glendale, which has been hailed as one of the top ten shopping destinations in the nation and has won awards for its dining establishments!

Historic Downtown Glendale is a must-visit when traveling through the Phoenix area.

There are two neighborhoods that make up Historic Downtown Glendale–Old Towne, with its brick-trimmed pavements and beaming gaslights leading toward ethnic restaurants and antique stores, and Catlin Court, with its vast shaded trees and white picket fences that invite visitors to specialty shops.

A shop at the Historic Downtown Glendale

Marine 69-71 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Historic Downtown Glendale spans 10-square blocks and can be easily strolled in a single afternoon.

Visitors can access free parking at the Palmaire Parking Structure, with 600 available parking spaces.

You may download a Historic Downtown Glendale and Catlin Court Walking Map online to make the most out of your walk and exploration around the neighborhood.

Catlin court street at the Historic Downtown Glendale

Marine 69-71 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Final Thoughts

Glendale is more than just a place to visit–it’s a place where you feel like you truly belong.

It has a bit of everything, including arts, history, shopping, dining, and culture, making it a fantastic location just outside of the metropolitan Phoenix area.

A city renowned for being a top destination for sports and entertainment, Glendale will help you in discovering and rediscovering your passion for sports and the outdoors.

May this list of the best free things in Glendale, Arizona, guide you to discover new adventures and experiences with your loved ones!

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