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7 Unexpected Reasons to Visit Phoenix

Photo courtesy of Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau

Who knew you could find a bat cave, castle, Japanese garden, and water sports in Phoenix, Arizona of all places? Yea, us neither. We've got a list of seven unexpected attractions that just may surprise you, perfect for your next trip to the desert.

Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area & Audubon Center

The Rio Salado Audubon Center is a nature center in the heart of the City of Phoenix’s Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area, a 600-acre park along the Salt River. Located less than two miles from downtown Phoenix, the center is a gateway to a lush riparian habitat used by more than 200 species of birds. Other wildlife you might spot on a visit to the restoration area includes beavers, muskrats, coyotes, jackrabbits, cottontails and javelinas.

Hole-in-the-Rock at Papago Park

Enjoy the beautiful sandstone buttes that define Papago Park and climb to the park’s most popular spot, Hole-in-the-Rock, to enjoy sweeping views of Phoenix.

Japanese Friendship Garden

The Japanese Friendship Garden—Ro Ho En—features more than 1,500 tons of handpicked rock, more than 50 varieties of plants, flowing streams, a 12-foot waterfall and a Koi pond. The garden is the product and shared cultural vision of the Sister Cities of Phoenix and Himeji, Japan.

Tovrea Castle

Perched atop a cactus-covered hill in east-central Phoenix, Tovrea (pronounced TOE-vree) Castle at Carraro Heights has intrigued generations of Valley residents. The castle and surrounding cactus garden have recently been restored and are currently open for tours.

Phoenix Bat Cave

Did you know Phoenix has a great urban bat-watching spot? Each summer several thousand Mexican free-tailed bats and western pipistrelle bats use the Maricopa County Flood Control Tunnel near 40th Street and Camelback Road as a day roost.

Watersports on Lake Pleasant

Located about 45 minutes northwest of downtown Phoenix, Lake Pleasant is always bustling with water sports and outdoor enthusiasts. The 10,000-acre lake is enjoyed by windsurfers, boaters, sailors, jet skiers and fisherman.

The Hall of Flame

The Hall of Flame Fire Museum has almost an acre of fire history exhibits with more than 90 fully restored pieces of fire apparatus on display dating from 1725 to 1969. The Hall of Flame sponsors the National Firefighting Hall of Heroes, which honors firefighters who have died in the line of duty or have been decorated for heroism.