Ten activities to do while in Arizona
The harsh desert heat that lures tourists to Arizona is only the beginning of their experiences in the Grand Canyon state. Everything you can think of to tempt, engage, and captivate is available under these immaculate blue skies.
There are outdoor thrills and inside pleasures, historical encounters and cool, contemporary neighbourhoods, remote getaways and crowded ski resorts. Arizona’s variety includes everything from living in a large metropolis to having wide-open regions ideal for peaceful reflection.
Arizona is home to several natural wonders, including the Grand Canyon and the biggest pine forest in the world, as well as desert communities with an Old West vibe (where you can also ski). Here are our top 10 picks for destinations in Arizona.
1. Take see the Grand Canyon from a different angle
Unsurprisingly, Arizona’s most well-known landmark is the Grand Canyon. It is enormous, breathtaking, and attracts large crowds in the summer, which may deter first-timers or those looking for a quiet getaway. But it’s a location that lives up to the hype. You may explore four distinct sites within this vast canyon system that the Colorado River has carved out.
The North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is closed from mid-October to mid-May, whereas the South Rim is separated by 210 miles and is accessible all year. The busier South Rim offers breathtaking vistas, hiking trails, a free shuttle service, a geology museum, and excellent on-site lodgings. The North Rim, which rises to an altitude of 8000 feet, offers more expansive views, warmer weather, and fewer trail users, all of which contribute to a more tranquil ambience.
The West and East rims of the Grand Canyon are equally worthwhile visiting, although they are not included in the national park. The glass-bottomed Skywalk, which towers 70 feet above the canyon rim in the Grand Canyon West tourist sector on the Hualapai Indian Reservation, is famous. At the same time, the East Rim is more tranquil and great for quiet hiking. Also, you can Sprinter van for rent Scottsdale for a better experience. Planning advice: The Little Colorado River Gorge in Navajo Tribal Park, located approximately 11 miles from Cameron, is great to see the finest of the East Rim. You must pay $5 to access two breathtaking viewpoints, and you need a $12 backcountry ticket to trek the trails, but you are almost certainly going to be alone.
2. Explore the historic Verde Valley’s ghost villages
The Verde Valley in central Arizona is a little-known region distinguished by ancient ruins, outlying settlements, an abundance of wildlife, and a wine path that winds through rivers and mountains. Follow the 30-mile route that snakes across the valley, beginning in atmospheric Jerome, long described as the “wickedest town in the West,” to get a feel of its raw beauty. Although it still has about 500 people, this infamous colony built by a mining tycoon in the 19th century is now regarded as a ghost town.
Cleopatra Hill in Jerome, Arizona, formerly hauled cargoes of gold, silver, and copper for eager miners. Still, the community is home to various unique eateries, studios for artists, and quirky shops, many housed in Victorian structures that seem ready to collapse into the valley below. The ancient communities of Clarkdale, Cornville, and Cottonwood may be found in the affluent area below Jerome. Cottonwood is home to Dead Horse Ranch State Park, a tranquil area for outdoor activity.
Planning advice: While visiting the Verde Valley, stop at the national monuments Tuzigoot and Montezuma Castle, where you may witness the ruins of pueblos (villages) constructed by the Sinagua people around 1050 CE.
3. Display a picture of the menacing Horseshoe Bend
What distinguishes the Colorado River’s sharp 270-degree bend from the rest of this massive watercourse’s twists and turns? Perhaps it’s the way Horseshoe Bend’s deep blue waters mirror the imposing sandstone walls surrounding it, making you feel little when you consider the powerful natural forces that sculpted this area close to Page, Arizona. The greatest spot to take a famous Horseshoe Bend picture is from the viewpoint of Glen Canyon Recreation Area. However, rafting is a more rewarding way to appreciate the canyon’s vastness. Downriver to Horseshoe Bend, guided rafting excursions stop at a swimming beach with prehistoric Puebloan petroglyphs.
4. Hire a local guide to get more out of Monument Valley
Make a beeline for Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park to discover Arizona’s Indigenous culture among 1000-foot sandstone spires. The monoliths in the landscape are instantly recognizable since they have been in Western films and television shows since the 1930s.
The only way to appreciate this holy site is to travel with a native guide who will provide context while you stroll in the shadow of buttes like East Mitten and West Mitten. The outcrops are known as se’Bii’Ndzisgaii in the Navajo language. Eat at the Haskenneini Restaurant (summer only), which views some of the valley’s spectacular sandstone formations if you’ve never had Navajo food.
Planning Tip: Sunrise and sunset are the greatest times to take pictures of Monument Valley’s soaring buttes. Stake out a location near the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park visitor centre or the View Hotel for breathtaking sunset shots.
5. Get creative in Phoenix
Phoenix, the state’s capital, is undoubtedly the greatest location in Arizona to satisfy your taste for art and architecture. The city has the imprint of Frank Lloyd Wright, the founder of modern American architecture. The journey should begin with Taliesin West, Wright’s desert research facility and a National Historic Landmark. Due to its cultural significance, the home was included in the Unesco World Heritage Sites list in 2019, along with seven of his other significant works. Visit the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa to learn more about Wright’s work; Albert Chase McArthur designed the structure, with Wright serving as a consultant for four months in 1928.
Another outstanding gallery that exhibits work by both well-known and up-and-coming artists is the Phoenix Art Museum. One of Yayoi Kusama’s very well-liked infinity mirror rooms, You Who Are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies, is part of the museum’s permanent collection. Just three blocks separate the art museum from Roosevelt Row, where you can view the murals that gave Phoenix’s street art culture its well-deserved notoriety.
6. Combine history and nature in Tucson
Tucson, the second-largest city in Arizona, is home to 500,000 people and skillfully combines indoor leisure with outdoor activities. Tucson defies the stereotypes of a desert city despite being right in the centre of the Sonoran Desert and bordering Saguaro National Park with its massive, eight-ton cacti. The Santa Catalina Mountains’ highest point, 9000-foot Mount Lemmon, is also the southernmost location in the US where skiing is possible. It is only a short drive from the city centre via the Sky Island Scenic Byway.
There are both historical landmarks and hipster vibes in downtown Tucson. A self-guided walking path connecting 23 historic sites is called the Turquoise Trail. Fourth Avenue, which is nearby, embraces Tucson’s history with modern vigour; students from The University of Arizona patronize its antique stores, tattoo parlours, and murals.
Planning advice: The Sun Link Streetcar and The Loop, a 131-mile car-free road for bicycles, runners, and pedestrians, give Tucson extra marks for sustainability. There are several local businesses where you may hire bikes; Tucson Bike Rentals on The Loop is one of them.
7. Visit Sedona to find spirituality, wellness, and wilderness
Despite being a metropolis, Sedona has the charm of a posh town and is surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty. Wherever you go, massive red rock formations and 5000-foot monoliths like Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock will meet you. These rocks are said to be the centres of energy fields called vortexes.
Sedona has changed from being a ranching and apple-growing outpost to becoming a well-known centre for spirituality, healing, and — allegedly — UFO sightings. This area is also significant to several Indigenous tribes. With more than 80 galleries and 400 miles of trails winding along Oak Creek through clumps of prickly pear cactus and ponderosa pines, it’s also a terrific place for art lovers and nature enthusiasts.
8. View the stars in Flagstaff
Flagstaff, perched at 7000 feet, combines the finest of the city with the mountains. “Flag” is home to Northern Arizona University, which adds to the city’s young atmosphere. The university is located in the biggest ponderosa pine forest in the world. On the Flagstaff Brewery Trail, you may visit the numerous coffee shops and craft beer enterprises that line the streets.
Visit the Arizona Snowbowl, a four-season playground in Flagstaff with 40 ski lines and three terrain parks, to get in touch with nature. When you ride up the western slope of Mount Humphreys, which rises to a height of 12,637 feet, chairlifts at 11,500 feet provide breathtaking views of Sedona’s red rocks, the Grand Canyon’s rim, and fields of cinder cones.
Leading Astro-tourism destinations include Flagstaff. All American astronauts who walked on the moon had their training in Flagstaff, and Pluto was discovered in 1930 by astronomers at Lowell Observatory. Many travellers come to Flagstaff, particularly for the stargazing opportunities; decades later, it became the first worldwide dark sky city.
Using Flagstaff as a base allows you to explore Arizona easily. You may drive to Grand Canyon National Park, Walnut Canyon National Monument, Sunset Volcano National Monument, and Wupatki National Monument from Meteor Crater in about 42 miles.
9. View an impact site that is 50,000 years old
Arizona is home to several extraordinary locations, and Meteor Crater in Winslow is one to remember. The largest meteorite impact site in the world, this enormous hole is 2.4 miles in diameter and 700 feet deep. The site’s history is remarkable; it was formed some 50,000 years ago when a massive iron-nickel meteorite travelling at 26,000 mph slammed into the ground, producing a beautiful impact crater. The tourist centre and 4D cinema are good places to learn more about the location.
10. Travel along historic Route 66 to the mysterious Grand Canyon Caverns
Visitors may travel along numerous sections of Route 66 in Arizona, but we advise stopping at the untamed and occasionally strange Grand Canyon Caverns. This peculiar location, at Peach Springs, consists of an inn, a four-table restaurant, and the biggest dry cavern in the US, 210 feet below the surface of the Grand Canyon. Local woodcutter Walter Peck unintentionally found the caverns in 1927 after falling from his horse while riding to a poker game, which fits this outpost’s bizarre past. These days, you may go on several tours, including a ghost walk, to discover them for yourself.
Planning advice: Arizona is home to 401 miles of Route 66, making it a fantastic starting point for day journeys along this legendary road. The Wigwam Motel is located in Holbrook, while the Grand Canyon Railway begins in Williams. The Eagles honoured Winslow in the song Take it Easy.