Now a hub for wellness, shopping, and outdoor adventure, Carefree, Arizona, was once a 400-acre goat farm.
North of Scottsdale, Arizona, lies a little community that feels almost too good to be true. The town of under 4,000 people was once a 400-acre goat farm that the founders bought for $44,000 in 1955. Their vision was to start a community with an easygoing, airy vibe — and so they named the plot of land Carefree.
Today, Carefree has the feel of a small town, but is close to northern Scottsdale and less than an hour from downtown Phoenix. Because it sits at the edge of the urban area, it's easy to head north into the Sonoran Desert, which has abundant hiking and camping.
And while Carefree's location is one of its standout qualities, the town itself offers a unique feel that draws visitors year after year. It's home to the third-largest sundial in the Western Hemisphere and has a desert garden in the downtown area. There’s plenty of shopping, great food, and an undeniable artist vibe, too.
Here’s everything you need to know to plan a trip to Carefree, Arizona, including what to do, where to stay, and when to go.
Best Things to Do in Carefree, Arizona
Spending a morning in downtown Carefree is a must. There are shops, restaurants, and galleries to explore, but the area’s biggest draw is the four-acre desert botanical garden marked with a huge sundial — one of the world’s largest.
Once you’ve got the lay of the land, head to the surrounding hills for hiking, trail running, and biking. The desert landscape of the neighboring Cave Creek Regional Park is covered in hiking paths, picnic spots, and campsites. Most weekends, there’s a bird tour, fitness hike, or wildflower walk scheduled. Spur Cross Ranch, north of town, offers a similar cactus-covered landscape with trails that are open to hikers, bikers, and people on horseback. They also offer group outings, including the popular Desert 101 Hike. Meanwhile, to the southeast, Brown’s Ranch Trail in the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy is known for its unique rock features, including the impossible-looking Balanced Rock and Cathedral Rock.
If hiking and biking aren't your thing, spend some time exploring the shops and galleries of Carefree. Start your day at the historic Spanish Village, which is both one of Carefree’s oldest buildings and the community’s arts and culture hub. Inside the beautiful white stucco gates, you’ll find gems like the Desert Moon Market, an eclectic collection of women’s clothing, jewelry, home goods, and gifts, and the Grace Renee Gallery, which showcases contemporary paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and jewelry. You also won’t want to miss a visit to the M & E Stoyanov Fine Art Gallery in downtown Carefree or The Lazy Lizard, which sells a mix of new and used home furnishings.
Best Places to Stay in Carefree, Arizona
Like Scottsdale, Carefree has become a hub for wellness seekers looking to reset and relax in the open desert atmosphere. Civana, a wellness resort and spa to the east of Carefree, has been a top destination for many. Guests get access to more than 10 daily complimentary classes — from a desert hike to aerial yoga — and a spa with a hydrotherapy thermal circuit of hot and cold pools.
Just to the south of Carefree, in Scottsdale, is a property that’s worth a mention. The Boulders Resort & Spa has long been recognized for its 33,000-square-foot spa, two golf courses, six dining options, four outdoor pools, and a location at the foot of an eye-catching rock formation.
Best Places to Eat in Carefree, Arizona
For such a small town, there’s a surprisingly large selection of cafes, restaurants, and bars in Carefree. It’s all about healthy eats with big flavor at Confluence, a well-loved restaurant with open-air patio seating and a standout tasting menu — you can choose from four, five, or seven courses.
Those looking to fill up on protein following a long day on the trails should head to Keeler’s Neighborhood Steakhouse, which has a meat-heavy menu and a rooftop deck designed for post-meal stargazing. Meanwhile, for an entirely different feel, book a table at the English Rose Tea Room, which serves tea-time ready fare (think quiches, sandwiches, soups, and salads) in a beautiful, floral-laden tearoom with crystal chandeliers.
Best Time to Visit Carefree, Arizona
Although Carefree tends to be cooler than Phoenix, it's still hot in the summer, with the average temperature in June, July, and August in the triple digits. The best time to visit is easily the spring, before the heat of summer sets in, and in the fall, when the weather cools down. Those looking for cooler weather should come during the winter, when the average monthly temperature is in the mid-60s.
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