22 Things to Do in Arizona

By Janet Benoir – December 21, 2023

As you plan your journey to incredible Arizona, its natural beauty and urban flair mean it has a huge amount to offer you. The state is not just a haven for those seeking the great outdoors; it also boasts a rich selection of cultural experiences, from Phoenix’s bustling professional sports scene to Tucson’s renowned observatories and science centers.

Your itinerary could be as varied as Arizona’s landscapes, with each attraction offering a unique glimpse into this region’s heart and history. You can revel in a travel experience that embraces renowned attractions that bring tourists from around the globe, and also fabulous spots treasured by locals. With iconic sights and hidden gems, Arizona ensures your visit can be filled with moments you’ll carry with you forever.

Grand Canyon West

Embark on an incredible aerial adventure to witness Grand Canyon West from a vantage point like no other. Helicopter tours, led by experienced pilots, elevate the idea of sightseeing to new heights, offering you an unparalleled perspective. Ideal for small groups, these thrilling flights give you an Arizona view like no other.

peter boy12qq12, CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Your journey can begin from the South Rim or even the neon lights of Las Vegas. Either way, these helicopter excursions are unforgettable, offering views and memories to inspire the soul.

Saguaro National Park

Your adventure awaits less than 15 miles from Tucson, where Saguaro National Park unveils a remarkable expanse of the Sonoran Desert, highlighted by towering saguaro cacti. These iconic desert sentinels, reaching heights of up to 50 feet, have seen centuries pass and some are hundreds of years old. As you traverse the park, keep an eye out for native species, including the elusive Gila monsters.

Saguaro Pictures, CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

For an immersive experience in this unique ecosystem, consider joining a ranger-led tour for insights into the desert’s secrets. Should you seek comfort after a day’s hike, Tucson offers luxurious accommodations like the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort or the Miraval Arizona. Alternatively, embrace the untamed desert night by camping in the Saguaro Wilderness Area, where the stars shine bright, uninhibited by city lights.

Monument Valley

Nestled on the border between Arizona and Utah, this park showcases a collection of towering sandstone structures rising as high as 1,000 feet. It’s a landscape replete with extraordinary mesas and buttes – isolated hills with flat tops and steep sides – that draw visitors from around the globe. Renowned for the mythical views that have graced countless photographs and movies, these formations epitomize the beauty and wilderness of the American Southwest.

Domenico Convertini, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Your adventure begins at the park’s visitor center, where panoramic views of the valley unfold. For an immersive experience, a 17-mile scenic drive loops through iconic landmarks. Consider enhancing your visit with an authorized Navajo guide, offering deeper insight into this sacred landscape.

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon, nestled within Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park in northern Arizona, offers a once-in-a-lifetime visual spectacle of curving sandstone walls awash with vibrant orange hues. Sunlight filtering through the canyon creates mesmerizing light shafts, primarily witnessed during the summer. To access this natural wonder, you must join a guided tour, as unescorted exploration is not permitted, to help preserve this precious and unique environment.

Meckimac, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Guides are known for their invaluable photography tips, enhancing your visit to this must-see landmark. The town of Page lies in close proximity, providing a variety of good accommodation options.

Havasu Falls

Perched in the stunning Grand Canyon lie the secluded and extraordinary Havasu Falls, part of the Havasupai Indian Reservation. A permit is necessary to visit, and you must do so between February and November . To max out on what the Reserve offers as an experience, stay at least one-night at either the nearby campground or the Havasupai Lodge. It will be an unforgettable time.

Gonzo fan2007, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Embarking on the trek to Havasu Falls demands endurance, traversing a steep, 10-mile path down from the canyon’s edge. The journey is challenging, but worth it for the amazing views and atmosphere. Summer treks obviously require preparation due to the intense heat, and it’s important to note that trailside water sources and emergency services are unavailable. This is a proper wilderness, suited to the intrepid, and gives a sense of times past.

Hoover Dam

The Hoover Dam, an engineering marvel located on the border between Arizona and Nevada, is a world-famous concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River. Completed in 1935, it was constructed during the Great Depression and named after President Herbert Hoover. The dam is huge, and stands 726 feet high and stretches 1,244 feet across the river. Built to control floods, provide irrigation water, and generate hydroelectric power, it is one of the great feats of 20th century American engineering.

Public Domain

The Hoover Dam is truly a symbol of American ingenuity and resilience. It created Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States by volume, when filled. The dam’s architecture also features beautiful Art Deco design, making it an amazing tourist attraction. One of Arizona’s most famous sights, it continues to be a proud testament to human achievement.

Horseshoe Curve at Glen Canyon

Surrounded by the sandstone landscape, the Horseshoe Curve is a mere 5 miles from Page and presents a stunning 270-degree bend of the Colorado River. This geographical marvel is part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which draws over two million visitors every year. Access to this panorama is facilitated by a half-mile path, suitable for all, It leads to a spectacular overlook on the rim. Not to be missed!

Clementp.fr, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Beyond the curve, your adventure can take you to the vast waters of Lake Powell. Hotel options here are plentiful, with the Lake Powell Resort and the conveniently located Hyatt Place hotel among good choices. Further nearby wonders include the renowned Antelope Canyon, the extraordinary Rainbow Bridge National Monument, and the vivid Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.

Route 66

Embark on a journey through time as you traverse the renowned Route 66, Arizona’s world-famous historic corridor. Starting from Topock in the west, this route covers the state to the eastern border at Lupton, passing landmarks full of Americana that offer an unforgettable, immersive road trip experience. Pit stops include the spirited town of Oatman, where staged gunfights revive the days of Wild West legends.

Scottb211, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

For an evening rest, the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook beckons with its unique teepee-shaped rooms, blending vintage charm and contemporary comforts. Further enhancing the drive, the roadside is dotted with a parade of fantastic classic cars, presenting a visual treat and inviting you to step out, explore, and create travel memories against an authentically retro backdrop.

Tombstone

Located around 75 miles southeast of Tucson, you can immerse yourself in the authentic and unique atmosphere of the Old West in Tombstone. This National Historic Landmark has meticulously maintained its 19th-century frontier appearance. It offers a truly incredible atmosphere. Here you’ll witness where the infamous O.K. Corral gunfight broke out in 1881, a battle that remains etched as the most renowned encounter of the Wild West.

Gillfoto, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Tombstone not only gained fame from its historic gunfights but also earned a place in modern culture with its depiction in the 1993 film, “Tombstone.” It is an incredible place to make memories. You can tour the bygone era’s saloons and storefronts at the Old Tombstone Western Theme Park, which captures the American past and brilliantly brings it back to life.

Lowell Observatory

Founded in 1894, Lowell Observatory is a stellar destination! It has a place in astronomical history, and was where the dwarf planet Pluto was first identified. This observatory is not just a historical site but a continuing hub for celestial exploration, offering you a chance to look through astoundingly powerful telescopes and participate in constellation tours, bringing the mysteries of the universe closer to earth.

Pretzelpaws, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

During your visit, you can witness the actual telescope that played a pivotal role in discovering Pluto. The observatory provides tours and guides who enhance your experience with insightful science demonstrations, making your time both educational and entertaining. If you love the stars and science, this is a must-see place.

Arizona Snowbowl Gondola

Embark on a truly vertiginous journey above the treetops of Coconino National Forest aboard the gondola at Arizona Snowbowl. During this 15-minute ascent, glide up to a staggering 11,500 feet – over a third of the height of Mount Everest – and marvel at panoramic views that stretch to the Grand Canyon and the crimson cliffs of Sedona.

Coconino National Forest, CC0 via Wikimedia Commons

Once you reach the summit, consider dining at the excellent Agassiz Lodge Restaurant for a scenic meal like no other. Should your adventure align with autumn, the golden hues of aspen trees below offer a world-beating spectacle. For those seeking a memorable moment, a sunset gondola tour is a matchless experience. Here landscape is genuinely sublime.

Walnut Canyon

Embark on a journey through the Walnut Canyon National Monument located near Flagstaff, Arizona, where you’ll discover ancient cliff dwellings from over 700 years ago. The park boasts a superb array of wildlife, including coyotes, jackrabbits, mule deer, and an incredible variety of over 120 bird species. Opt for the Walnut Canyon Rim Trail for a lovely leisurely hike that skirts the canyon’s edge with fewer stairs, providing a comfortable path for all visitors.

William Wadas, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The more adventurous can traverse the Island Trail, revealing exquisite perspectives of the historic ruins nestled within the canyon walls. Though camping within the monument is not permitted, great accommodation is available at Bonito and Canyon Vista campgrounds, located nearby. They’re the perfect base to visit other remarkable sites in the region, like the Canyon de Chelly National Monument and the unique landscapes of Petrified Forest National Park.

Heard Museum

Explore the rich tapestry of Indigenous American artworks at Phoenix’s treasured Heard Museum. With a history stretching back to 1929, the museum boasts a range of galleries displaying intricate art, a serene sculpture garden for peaceful wandering, and a great café. Don’t miss the museum shop, a source of wonderful authentic creations by Native American artisans, including textiles, pottery and art.

Yassie, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Nearby comfortable lodgings include the Cambria Hotel Downtown Phoenix Convention Center and the Hampton Inn Phoenix-Midtown-Downtown Area. Set aside a couple of hours and the Heard Museum will offer a highly memorable experience.

Desert Botanical Garden

The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona, is a unique showcase of the staggering and raw beauty and diversity of desert flora. Spanning 140 acres, this garden is home to thousands of species of cacti, trees, and flowers from deserts around the world. Established in 1939, it offers a stunning display of the various forms and adaptations of desert plants, arranged in thematic exhibits that educate visitors about the ecology and conservation of desert environments.

Scotwriter21, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Desert Botanical Garden also serves as a renowned center for research, education, and conservation. It provides an array of educational programs and events for all ages, including art exhibitions, plant sales, and guided tours. The garden’s trails meander through lush desert landscapes, offering a tranquil retreat in the heart of the city. With its combination of natural beauty and education, the Desert Botanical Garden is a prized cultural and ecological asset in Arizona. Not to be missed by all who love nature.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

At the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, immerse yourself in the vibrant ecosystem of the Sonoran Desert. Your journey here includes interactive opportunities such as witnessing majestic raptors in flight and even feeling the smooth glide of a stingray beneath your fingertips. Wander through a meticulously recreated Sonoran Desert landscape, or find yourself enthralled by the delicate flutters within a hummingbird aviary.

Molochmeditates, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The museum gives you insights into a variety of habitats, placing you face-to-face with prairie dogs in the Desert Grassland or eye-to-eye with bobcats in Cat Canyon. Discover aquatic creatures in the Warden Aquarium, providing a glimpse into the watery wonders of Arizona’s noble deserts.

Musical Instrument Museum

Your exploration of musical cultures brings you to the impressive array of displays at this museum. Encounter musical customs from every corner of the globe in the Geographic Galleries. Engage with instruments hands-on in the interactive Experience Gallery, a favorite for immersive learning. This is a museum for anyone who loves music.

Marine 69-71, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

In the heart of the museum, the Conservation Lab offers a unique peek at the care of musical artifacts. Here you can observe the meticulous preservation efforts by the museum’s team of experts. With regular events, from concerts to film screenings, brilliant educational opportunities infuse your visit with rhythm. Refresh at the cafe, fuel up at the coffee bar, and find sonorous keepsakes in the museum store.

San Xavier del Bac

While touring Tucson, make time for the striking and filmic San Xavier del Bac, known as the “White Dove of the Desert.” This historic church, dating from the 18th century, stands as the most venerable European-built structure in all Arizona. It is a Baroque American masterpiece and is complete with beautiful authentic sculptures and murals.

Keyany, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The church, still active today, features numerous shell motifs symbolizing pilgrimage. Its religious and architectural significance makes it a must-see alongside visits to other richly beautiful Spanish colonial missions, including those at Tumacácori National Historical Park.

Vermilion Cliffs

Spanning 280,000 acres, the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is an unequivocal natural masterpiece on the Arizona-Utah border. Your visit might lead you to The Wave, an utterly mesmerizing pattern of sandstone that photographers worldwide treasure. To protect its fragile beauty, entrance to Coyotes Buttes North, The Wave’s location, is governed by a lottery-based permit system. Prepare for your journey with a four-wheel-drive, as terrain here demands it, and make sure you stay informed on the latest park conditions to ensure a safe expedition.

Lobineau, CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

Respite from the desert expanse is not found in any nearby cities, as this region is remotely nestled. However, approximately 75 miles northwest, Kanab in Utah offers accommodation at the Hampton Inn Kanab or the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Kanab, ensuring comfort after a day of exploration among jaw-dropping cliffs and canyons, and matchless dunes.

Lake Havasu State Park

Located on the border with California, Lake Havasu State Park offers a brilliant variety of outdoor activities set against the backdrop of Arizona’s desert scenery. The park’s namesake, Lake Havasu, is central to outstanding water-based activities. You can enjoy swimming, boating on the lake’s calm waters, or fishing for your next big catch. Well-maintained campgrounds and pristine beaches provide the perfect base for your adventures.

Kjkolb, CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

Besides water activities, the surrounding areas beckon you to explore further. Embark on an intrepid journey through nearby Cattail Cove State Park or Buckskin Mountain State Park, or indulge in a round of golf at outstanding local courses. Mountain biking enthusiasts will find trails that cater to all adventurous spirits. For a unique cultural experience, visit the historic London Bridge and delve into regional history at the Lake Havasu Museum of History.

Scottsdale

In Scottsdale lies the creative brilliance of the American architectural genius Frank Lloyd Wright. His Taliesin West is a renowned historical site. This masterpiece served as his winter residence and creative playground. Wright’s vision brought forth a structure that harmonizes with the desert surroundings, offering an inspired perspective akin to gazing over the edge of the world.

Joseph Plotz, CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Taliesin West is open to the public for exploration, featuring an array of tours throughout the year. Your visit would be well complemented by a leisurely stroll around the scenic grounds. Additionally, an excellent specialty store presents a selection of items reflecting Wright’s influence, including artwork, literature, and home style.

State Farm Stadium

Attend an Arizona Cardinals game at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, where you’ll find yourself surrounded by innovation, from the metallic exterior to the pioneering retractable natural turf. It’s also the proud venue for the annual festive Fiesta Bowl, offering a fun insight into local tradition for sports enthusiasts.

Troutfarm27, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

In the vicinity of the stadium, accommodation options abound. Choose from Aloft Glendale at Westgate, Renaissance Phoenix Glendale Hotel & Spa, or Tru by Hilton Phoenix Glendale Westgate. During quieter months, seize the opportunity for a fantastic, exclusive behind-the-scenes tour!

Bedrock City

If you cherish the antics of “The Flintstones,” Bedrock City welcomes you for an unusual peek into the Stone Age life. Nestled within Raptor Ranch at Williams, this brilliant tribute to the iconic cartoon family’s hometown is merely 30 miles from the vast expanse of the Grand Canyon. Imagine strolling through Fred Flintstone’s abode or mailing a postcard from the quaint Bedrock post office, while various stone-cast sculptures of the beloved characters stand in silent camaraderie.

Jared, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Your visit could be coupled with a fun stay at the Raptor Ranch campground. Visitors with youngsters will especially love this place for its charm. Tours last only an hour, so it’s an ideal jaunt for families seeking a brief, yet vivid, adventure into a page right out of history.