Editor’s Note: During this period of social distancing, Student Group Tour magazine will continue to provide ideas for planning educational travel. Many attractions and destinations are closed at this time; please contact them directly for updated information.

Serene desert gardens, impressive architecture, one-of-a-kind museums and student-friendly dining make Phoenix a must-visit for groups seeking a trek in the West. With close proximity to bucket-list destinations like Grand Canyon National Park and Sedona, it’s easy to venture outside city limits and back into Phoenix by night.

“Our destination is nestled in the Sonoran Desert with more than 320 days of sunshine,” said Douglas MacKenzie, director of media relations at Visit Phoenix. “Phoenix is the ideal city for student groups to both visit and stay a couple nights. You can leave your parkas behind because our warm weather is enjoyable year-round.”

Sports options include spring training baseball games, golf, as well as professional baseball, hockey, basketball and football. And for those interested in history and heritage, Phoenix’s Native American culture shines and authentic Latina murals dot the city’s downtown. 

“And students won’t go hungry,” MacKenzie said. “Affordable street tacos are tasty and abundant. The vibrancy of Arizona State University both in downtown Phoenix and in Tempe help make our entire area student-friendly. Enjoy the sun and visit us soon.”

Visit Phoenix

Musical Instrument Museum

Musical Instrument Museum exterior
Credit: Visit Phoenix

Explore the musical instruments and music of the world at Musical Instrument Museum (MIM). The collections and exhibitions act as a foundation for teaching and learning through thoughtful interpretation, program development and hands-on musical encounters. More than 6,800 instruments are displayed in MIM’s five major Geographic Galleries. Field trips are recommended for groups of 10 or more students, and include an orientation video, museum tour, free-choice learning and a visit to a hands-on gallery. Ask about adding an Artist Residency Program to the tour.

Taliesin West

Credit: Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

Discover why Frank Lloyd Wright called Taliesin West his “desert laboratory.” Connected to the desert from which it was forged, Taliesin West was built almost entirely by Wright and his apprentices. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s Education Department designs field trips for STEAM principles and Next Generation Science Standards. Programming at Taliesin West promotes architecture engagement, organic design, ecology and art at the historic winter home and desert camp. Field trip programs include an educational tour and a learning lab.

Phoenix Zoo

Cheetah at Phoenix Zoo
Credit: Visit Phoenix/Phoenix Zoo

Home to more than 3,000 animals with nearly 400 represented species, Phoenix Zoo offers a variety of programs and materials to support science and nature education. Go on a guide-led, walking field trip to encourage critical thinking and deductive reasoning as students explore their surroundings using multiple senses, as well as actively view animals on exhibit. Educators have the flexibility to choose one tour from several different programs, each covering a span of animal and conservation sciences. Ask about overnight camps.

Mesa Arts Center

Ikeda Theater at Mesa Arts Center
Credit: Mesa Arts Center

Less than a half hour from downtown Phoenix, Mesa Arts Center is Arizona’s largest arts center. It’s home to four theaters, five art galleries and 14 art studios. Visiting students can enjoy live entertainment and performances, world-class visual art exhibitions and education classes. Campus tours also are available. Classes, camps and workshops range from ceramics and literary arts to theater and music. Check out the center’s performance calendar; watch a live Student Show, specifically designed for young audiences.

Desert Botanical Garden

Desert Botanical Garden
Credit: Adam Rodriguez

Desert Botanical Garden offers guided and self-guided field trips. Nature workshops engage middle school students in hands-on, inquiry-based learning experiences with a dose of fun in the Sonoran Desert. Self-guided experiences are available to students of all grade levels with teachers and chaperones as guides. More than 50,000 plant displays are showcased in the outdoor exhibits amid the red rocks of the Papago Buttes. Stroll through five thematic trails that explore towering cacti, alluring succulents and brilliant desert wildflowers.