There are many great places to visit in Arizona. This is a state rich with diverse beauty with striking cacti deserts, high-elevation pine forests, brilliant time-etched red rocks, and rugged badlands. Though it may be best-known for its magnificent Grand Canyon, there is so much more on offer!
Continue reading to discover what to see and do in Arizona.
The Best Places To Visit In Arizona
Phoenix and its surroundings
Chances are you’ll land in the Phoenix airport, and it’s worth exploring this area a bit. Phoenix is located in a low desert area. The palm trees and cacti you associate with the desert are precisely what you get there. It’s a valley surrounded by picturesque mountains that light up in wildflowers in the spring. Summers are scorching hot, and locals jokingly say it’s just steps from the sun. Winters are pure magic with mild temperatures.
Phoenix is a large city and a massive urban sprawl, and in fact, it’s the fifth-largest in the United States. It is an intriguing mix of modern and historic. However, the historic center here is Native American as the city has mostly been developed since around the early 1900s. There are neighborhoods of 1920s Craftsman-style homes, a bustling college town, ritzy outdoor shopping malls, and quaint-but-buzzing downtown areas.
There are many things to do in Phoenix. The following are some of the highlights that are popular with tourists and a little off-the-beaten-path that locals rave about. Phoenix is also a foodie’s paradise with many incredible restaurants to choose from.
The 10 best places to visit in Phoenix
Taliesin West — This was the winter home of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. He drew inspiration from the beauty around him for this property, and it’s a showpiece.
Desert Botanical Garden — If you want to know how many shades of green you can find in the desert, this is the place to go!
Dolly Steamboat — Take a steamboat ride around the picturesque Canyon Lake to see beautiful scenery in this oasis in the desert.
Goldfield Ghost Town — When the mine closed, this town “died” and became a ghost town in the early 1900s. It has been revised as a place for learning and entertainment. Tour the mine and stroll through Main Street to see what life was like when it was a thriving area.
Heard Museum — This museum is an incredible place to learn about the Native American culture and art and the real history of the Phoenix area.
Old Town Scottsdale — This is a quaint and beautiful old town bustling with shops and restaurants. You will find some of the best eateries in town here, including FnB, The Mission, and Malees on Main.
Japanese Friendship Garden — You would never know you are in the middle of a huge city in the desert when you visit this quaint and serene garden. There’s a beautiful walking path with a koi pond, a small lake with a waterfall, and beautiful views.
Dobbins Lookout — This is a scenic lookout point with the best views of downtown Phoenix. It’s located in South Mountain Park, a great place for hiking, where there are so many trails to choose from.
Musical Instrument Museum — an incredible museum, impeccably curated and which brings music to life in an interesting and interactive way.
Mystery Castle — This intriguing house was built in the 1930s from found and inexpensive materials. You’ll see plates, mugs, and other things used and it’s off-the-wall and interesting.
You should also check out this hot air balloon ride over Phoenix – it surely is a once in a lifetime experience.
The Grand Canyon is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Arizona. This world-known natural site is quite simply a must-see and many plan their trip to the United States with this attractions specifically in mind. This is one of the most popular places to visit in Arizona – in fact, in the US – and for a good reason. Throughout centuries, the Colorado River has carved the canyon to give it its current, splendid shape.
Once there, you can opt to visit the South Rim, which is where you will find the lookout points and the best views; or the North Rim, which however is not accessible in the winter months. The most famous place to visit is Eagle Point, home of the famous Skywalk, aka a glass bridge that pops out over the canyon offering the most impressive views.
Needless to say, hiking is one of the best things to do in the Grand Canyon – but you may want to join a guided group and avoid the peak summer months, when the heat is simply fierce.
You may want to opt for this Grand Canyon day-trip from Phoenix. Another great option is this Grand Canyon National Park – South Rim. For a stunning experience, opt for this Grand Canyon Helicopter Landing Tour. For a budget friendly option, check out this Las Vegas: Grand Canyon Bus Tour & Optional Skywalk Ticket.
There is a $35 USD fee per car or $20 USD fee for a 7-day period to access the park.
Located on the border with Utah, the sandstone buttes, the beautiful rock formations and the sand dunes of the Monument Valley are a sight to behold.
Yet, the most important place to visit in the area is the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Make sure to go on a road trip along the road that goes through the park. As it is gravel, you’ll have to drive slow. But the 17-mile road will go by in a zip, with such views.
Guided tours are a good idea to get a more in depth experience. You can opt for this Monument Valley tour or this Monument Valley sunrise or sunset tour. There also is a tour of Monument Valley from Sedona.
The fee to the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is $10 USD per person or $20 USD per car.
Not far from the northern border with Utah, the Wave can be accessed via a moderate hike that starts at the Wire Pass Trailhead, in the North Coyote Buttes permit area of the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.
Only 20 visitors per day are admitted and the $7 USD permits are honestly very hard to get: you can opt for an online lottery, which costs $5 USD which aren’t refunded even if you don’t win; or for the walk-in lottery.
Forming Lake Mead, known to be the larges artificial lake in the country, crossing the Colorado River, and providing a connection between the states of Arizona and Nevada, Hoover Dam is an incredible work of engineering. It was completed in 1935, and measures 726 feet in height (little over 221 meters) and 1,244 in length (that’s slightly over 379 meters).
Walking along the dam is free but you have to pay a fee to park your car. Make sure to go to the information center and enquire about guided tours of the dam and the Powerplant. Alternatively, you can join this Hoover Dam 3-hour tour departing from Las Vegas.
The nearby Lake Mead National Recreation Area – which includes the artificial lakes of Lake Mead and Lake Mohave (the smallest of the two and created by Davis Dam), is a great place to engage in activities such as hiking, fishing, and all sorts of water sports. You can access it from Willow Beach or on tours that depart from Las Vegas.
With its sandstone walls that curve up to the sky and the sunlight creeping in and creating the most incredible shadows, this is photographers’ paradise. It’s at just 15 minutes drive from Page, within the boundaries of a Navajo reserve.
Once you are there, you have the option to visit Upper Antelope Canyon, which is easier to access, or the Lower Antelope Canyon.
The best option is to go on a guided tour. You can opt for this Antelope Canyon full day tour from Flagstaff or Sedona or this Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend Tour from Las Vegas.
For a longer tour, consider this Antelope & Grand Canyons, Zion, Bryce & Monument Valley 3-day tour – it’s inclusive of accommodation (camping but you can pay the difference for better accommodation options) and entrances.
There is a $8 USD fee to access the Navajo Nation Tribal Park.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Not far from Antelope Canyon, it is easily accessed from Page, and lies in the area of Lake Powell, another manmade lake resulting from the Glen Canyon Dam, completed in 1964.
Bold red rock buttes and mountainous cliffs are the reason Sedona is a must-visit. It can get quite crowded during peak season in the summer when locals in Phoenix are fleeing the summertime scorch. Spring and fall are a bit cooler and offer fewer crowds.
Sedona was established as an artist community and still has its share of incredible galleries, though hiking is one of the big draws here and there are thousands of trails. Among the best hikes there are Bell Rock and the Courthouse Rock area and Boynton Canyon. Devil’s Bridge is an impressive natural arch that makes for some amazing pictures.
Some will take you by Oak Creek, a beautiful area that contrasts the rest of the Sedona area. It’s a beautiful and bubbling creek that feels miles away from the tourist traffic.
The main strip in town has some cute shops and great restaurants. The real draw, though, is the incredible red-rock views overlooking this town.
Sedona is also known for its “woo woo” interest in crystals, energy, and the supernatural. There are vortexes – centers of energy, throughout the area. You can learn more in any of the crystal and spiritual shops and it’s a fun thing to see if you can feel the energy when you’re there.
The following are some of the best guided tours of Sedona and its surroundings:
- Scenic Rim two-hour tour from Sedona – one of the best tours to experience the beauty of the desert.
- Broken Arrow two-hour tour from Sedona – you get to visit places such as Chicken Point, the Road of No Return and Submarine Park.
- Sedona mini-coach tour – a classic tour to experience the beauty of the area.
- Ancient ruins tour from Sedona – a great tour that takes you to a 700-year-old Sinagua dwelling.
- Sedona nighttime UFO and stargazing tour – the desert is the best place to look at the stars. This night tour is guaranteed to have you in awe.
- Full day tour from Phoenix – if you are tight on time, this may be a good idea.
On a winding road between Phoenix and Sedona is the small mining town of Jerome. It once was a thriving mining community; however, it almost became a ghost town when the mines closed. Now, it is one of the most fun places to visit in Arizona.
When Sedona got packed with tourists, many of the artists moved to Jerome. The town is carved into the side of a mountain up steep switchbacks and offers a glimpse into quaint mining life.
Tour the haunted Jerome Grand Hotel or eat in the Haunted Hamburger. Watch a glassblower or a potter making amazing pottery on a wheel. It’s a fun, slower pace than the cities and worth seeing.
Prescott has a quintessential old western town center and is a great place to see for a taste of the old west. The town square is picturesque and features Whiskey Row, a place where cowboys and outlaws once mingled together at the salons on this strip. Make sure to also visit the old courthouse and the Elks Theatre
Only ten minutes from the town square is Watson Lake, a beautiful lake surrounded by large majestic boulders smoothed by erosion over thousands of years. It’s modestly beautiful, quiet, and serene.
Located in the Sonoran Desert, Tucson is a two-hour drive south of Phoenix and a popular tourist destination. It’s much smaller and a bit cooler, so it’s a great escape for Phoenix locals as well. It is packed with great sites such as El Presidio Historic District, Old Tucson Studios, and the scenic Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway.
The best places to visit in Tucson and surroundings
4th Ave — 4th Ave is where the cool kids hang out. If you’re looking for funky, trendy, or off-the-wall, this is the place to go. It is lined with shops, galleries, and great restaurants, it’s a popular place to visit. And check out the historic Hotel Congress. It’s a beautiful historic hotel with one of the best restaurants in the city, Cup Cafe.
The Barrio — This historic neighborhood from the 19th-century is where the most prominent and wealthy families once lived. Today, it has many brightly-colored adobe homes, cute small shops, and Mexican cantinas.
Pima Air and Space Museum — Thousands of old aircraft rest in the “boneyard” at this museum. Check out planes from WWII, Sikorsky helicopters, and more.
Titan Missile Museum — During the Cold War, there were strategic missile sites throughout the country armed with nuclear missiles. This 8-level site contains an inert Titan II intercontinental ballistic missile, and you can tour the facility.
Sonoita — Welcome to Arizona wine country! Get a sampling of what Arizona has to offer in the local wineries in this region.
Tubac — This artist community not far from Tucson offers some gorgeous handicrafts with Mexican influences.
Mission San Xavier del Bac — The oldest intact European structure in Arizona, this incredible masterpiece is an authentic 18th-century church still in use today.
Tumacacori National Historic Park – Located at about 45 minutes drive south of Tucson, this is a must for history lovers. The park is made of the ruins of three early Spanish Colonial missions. San José de Tumacácori and Los Santos Ángeles de Guevavi were established in 1691; whereas San Cayetano de Calabazas was established in 1756. The site, abandoned in 1848 following Apache attacks, became a national monument in 1908. There is a $10 USD entry fee.
Saguaro National Park – At around 20 minutes drive from Tucson, Saguaro National Park is home of the saguaro cactus. The park is divided into the eastern and western sections, both of them offering plenty of chances to admire the landscape, the flora and to go on a hike – there are hikes for all levels. The $15 USD fee per person (to which you have to add a different fee depending on your vehicle) covers both sections.
Tombstone and Bisbee
If you have time to head out a little further, check out Tombstone and Bisbee. Tombstone is on the way to Bisbee, and it’s a quaint old-Western town. If you’ve heard about the gunfight at the OK Corral between lawmen and outlaws, that happened here! You can still see re-enactments of it on Main Street.
Bisbee is an old mining town buzzing with new life as a thriving artist community. It’s a larger and more active community than Jerome. A special treat is the steps and trails through some of the quaint and historic homes in the mountains above the city. Walking this trail offers some beautiful views and is a unique way to see Bisbee.
If you’re up for an adventure and have been to or even hiked the Grand Canyon, there’s another amazing adventure not far away. Havasupai Canyon is home to the stunning Havasupai Falls – more commonly referred to as Havasu Falls. The Colorado River, which flows through the Grand Canyon, provides water to the Havasu Creek, which carved out this stunning red-rock canyon.
If you have seen pictures of brilliant blue-green waterfalls spilling out of the bright red rock, then you know the place. The falls can only be reached on foot, and for the challenge of the hike, it’s worth getting to see this stunning slice of paradise.
The canyon itself is beautiful as well. However, it’s not the main draw to this area. And the Grand Canyon and Canyon de Chelly are a little more impressive. But if you take your time for this fairly challenging hike, you’ll really be impressed with what you see.
The hike to Havasupai Falls is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and something not to be missed. It does require a good bit of planning, though, so make sure you are prepared if you decide to go, and above all, be sure you get reservations.
The Havasupai Tribe lives in the canyon, and the lands are theirs. When you do this amazing hike, you must secure their permission for the trip. Reservations are available on a “first-come” basis in early February every year, selling out quickly.
You are required to stay at least one night in the canyon, and you will want to! The best place to stay is in the campground right at the falls, though there is a rustic lodge in the Havasupai Village if you’d prefer a proper bed.
Off-The-Beaten-Path Places To Visit In Arizona
Many people wander through the cities and popular tourist destinations in Arizona and don’t get to see some of the truly majestic parts of the state. Here are a few of the best off-the-beaten-path places to visit in Arizona that give you a feel for different climates and lands as well as the strong influence of the Native American history and culture.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Everyone knows about the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and if you have never seen it before, it’s a must-see. However, there’s another canyon in Arizona that is much less traveled and every bit as worth seeing called Canyon de Chelly. The bonus is that there are no throngs of tourist crowds!
This canyon is located in a remote part of northeastern Arizona on Native American lands. It’s right near the very small and nondescript town of Chinle, but the real draw is the stunningly-beautiful red rock Canyon de Chelly.
Stop at the visitor center for some helpful tips and a local map. Several scenic drives around the canyon are worth taking including the Tsegi Overlook, the Face Rock Overlook, Tunnel Overlook, and more. Driving around the canyon is a great way to orient yourself.
Tourists are not allowed into the canyon without a guide in most areas though there are a few trails you can go on alone.
One is the White House trail, and for this short and easy hike, you get to visit a beautiful Native American ruin with the same name. If you want to get to know Arizona and all that it has to offer, learning more about its Native American history in areas like Canyon de Chelly, this is a must.
Don’t miss the Sliding House Overlook, where you can see a cliff dwelling, another type of Native American Ruin actually carved into the side of a cliff in the canyon walls.
One of the most amazing views in the entire canyon is from the Spider Rock Overlook. At this viewpoint, you get the best glimpse of the impressive Spider Rock, a rock spire that rises almost 6,000 feet (nearly 1,800 meters) above the canyon floor.
Consider taking a tour with a local. You can get great recommendations at the visitor’s center. Not only do you get to go into the canyon for a drive and hikes, but you also get a glimpse into local life and the extensive history here. And if you’re lucky, you may even get to meet your guide’s family!
The Petrified Forest National Park
The Petrified Forest is one of those areas where if you close your eyes, you can almost sense the hum of hundreds of thousands of years of creation. There is a raw beauty here that is more subtle than in some areas of Arizona but no less striking.
This park is known for its fossilized fallen trees as well as fossilized plants and reptiles. There are many hiking trails through the park, and you can even hike right through areas with fossilized trees. You are allowed to touch them but please, be respectful and leave the fossils where you find them.
Check out my post “The Complete Guide To Becoming A More Responsible Traveler.”
There is also an area of the badlands that run through this park in an area known as the Painted Desert. Dunes and hills of earth shorn by water and wind erosion paint a striking landscape of subtle colors and textures.
You are around an hour and a half from Flagstaff when you visit the Petrified Forest, and it’s worth seeing if you have the time. It’s a cute, small, and historic western town that is now a college town. It has a fun and vibrant downtown.
Flagstaff is nestled in the pines in a high-elevation forest, and it’s a striking contrast to the desert of the Petrified Forest. If you do take the trip and have the time, stop by the Meteor Crater, caused by a meteorite impact from around 50,000 years ago.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Located in southwestern Arizona on the border with Mexico, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is an International Biosphere Reserve famous for the massive cactus that sprout against the mountainous landscape. You will find no less than 30 species of cactus in the area.
The main draw of the area are the Ajo Mountain Drive and the Puerto Blanco Drive, from where you can access a variety of great hiking trails. The most famous trail is the Bull Pasture/Estes Canyon Loop Trail.
The best time to visit is from May to July, when the flowers are in bloom – but keep in mind some only open after sunset.
Conclusions On The Places To Visit In Arizona
Many people come to Arizona to see the jewel of the state, the Grand Canyon. While it’s worth seeing, there is so much more to this incredibly diverse and beautiful state. I hope these highlights get you tingling with excitement to visit, though be careful as you may not want to leave!
Traveling to the US? Make sure to check out my other posts:
- The 23 Best National Parks In USA
- 9 National Parks In California You Must Visit
- 12 Unmissable Things To Do In Yellowstone
- 44 Unmissable Things To Do In California
- 10 Not To Miss Hikes Near Denver
- The Best Things To Do In Moab
This post was contributed by Samantha Glauser. Sam is a travel-obsessed animal lover with big plans to travel the world with her dog. When she’s not blogging about her travel adventures at My Flying Leap, you can find her volunteering with her pet-therapy cat and dog, on the top of a mountain, or enjoying a glass of bold red wine planning for her next trip. You can follow her on Pinterest here.