Phoenix, Arizona is known for its vibrant culture, its beautiful resorts, its delicious dining, and it’s spectacular natural beauty—but there’s a lot more to this Sonoran Desert metropolis than those things.
Phoenix is peppered with a long list of strange and offbeat attractions, many of which don’t appear in guidebooks or on travel blogs.
Here are a few of the city’s most wonderfully weird attractions—all of which are worth checking out.
Yayoi Kusama Firefly Infinity Mirror Room
While many art enthusiasts are familiar with Yayoi Kusama, her name is likely unfamiliar to most other people.
Here’s the crash course:
The 92-year-old Japanese artist rose to prominence in New York in the 1960s, generating buzz not only with her avant-garde art, but also for penning an open letter to President Richard Nixon, offering to sleep with him if he ended the Vietnam War.
Today, she is back in Japan, but visitors to Phoenix can still get up close and personal with her wild brand of art.
Head over to the Contemporary Art Wing of the Phoenix Art Museum, just off of North Central Avenue, and you’ll discover a permanent Yayoi Kusama installation entitled You Who Are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies.
In a nutshell, it’s a 25-square-foot space with mirrored walls, reflective black-granite floors, and 250 dangling LED lights that are programmed to flicker in different colors and patterns.
Trust us, that description doesn’t begin to do it justice.
Governor Hunt’s Pyramid Tomb
If you set out to explore Phoenix’s beloved Papago Park, there’s a chance you’ll encounter an out-of-place looking white pyramid, jutting up from the red ground.
Congratulations, you’ve just discovered the gravesite of Arizona’s first governor, George W. P. Hunt.
Hunt, who is celebrated for his support of women’s suffrage and the abolition of child labor, was a member of the freemasons, an organization that derives great symbolism from the pyramid—hence his bizarre grave.
It’s also the final resting place of his wife, her parents, and her sisters.
The name is the attraction alone is probably enough to entice many visitors into checking it out, but we’ll give you a rundown of what it’s all about anyway.
The Mystery Castle was built by Boyce Luther Gulley over a period of 15 years. It’ was constructed using pieces of stone, adobe, automobile parts, salvaged rail tracks and telephone poles and more, and is held together by mortar, cement, and goat milk—yes, seriously, goat milk.
By now you’re probably wondering what makes this castle so mysterious.
The mystery stems from the fact that Gulley abandoned his wife and young daughter completely to build the castle—and his reasons for doing so were never made quite clear.
Whatever the case, the castle is still standing today. And while Gulley is long dead, tours of the castle’s 18 rooms—which now feature electricity and running water—are still available for visitors.
Tours run from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. local time on Thursday to Sunday, every week from October to May. Admission price is $10—cash only.
Curious Nature is a tiny shop located in Phoenix’s Art District. Its shelves are lined with an ever-changing array of preserved, natural objects, from fossils to taxidermy.
According to Atlas Obscura, the highlights at any given time might include “preserved octopi in jars to tanned bison scrotum to owl pellets to dissection kits to strangely adorable taxidermy ducklings.” The shop also features a “floor-to-ceiling glass cabinet displaying animal skulls” and a collection of “geodes, sea stars, and deer feet.”
Listen, we recognize it’s probably not for everyone, but if you find yourself in Phoenix with an urge to get way off the beaten track, this might be your best bet. Just keep in mind that some organic material isn’t allowed across international borders, so you’ll need to be selective as you souvenir shop.