The Best Places to Visit in Arizona—Your AZ Bucket List
If visiting Arizona isn’t on your bucket list, it should be! There are so many interesting and amazing places to visit in Arizona. From natural beauty and striking landscapes to small Old West mining towns, Native American villages, and ruins to sprawling cities, you can find it all in Arizona. Here are the best places to visit in Arizona that you won’t want to miss.
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The capital city of Phoenix is a great place to start the list of the best places to visit in Arizona. The metro-Phoenix area is the fifth-largest city in the country and a grouping of a handful of cities including Phoenix, Scottsdale, Glendale, Tempe, and a few others.
Affectionately known as the “Valley of the Sun,” Phoenix gets over 300 days of sun. The summer is scorching in this low desert area, which is a valley surrounded by mountains. Winter temperatures can’t be beat and this resort town is a popular tourist destination from October to April.
There are a lot of fun things to do in Phoenix. Visit the Desert Botanical Garden to fall in love with the desert and learn about southwestern Native American art at the Heard Museum. Explore Old Town Scottsdale, visit the Musical Instrument Museum, or wander around Tempe and kayak on Tempe Town Lake.
Of course, hiking is a big activity here as there are mountains in and around the city to enjoy ranging in difficulty. Some of the popular areas are Camelback Mountain, Piestewa Peak, South Mountain Park, and the Superstitions. If you head out to the Superstitions, around an hour from downtown Phoenix, check out the beautiful Canyon Lake and Goldmine Ghost Town.
Who hasn’t heard of the stunning red rocks of Sedona? This area is absolutely gorgeous with red rock buttes all over town. This small artist community has grown but has largely retained its artistic spirit. You’ll find lots of artist galleries with everything from paintings to carvings to Native American pots.
Hiking is, of course, tremendously popular in Sedona. Boynton Canyon, West Fork, Devil’s Bridge, and Bell Rock are all popular trails. Many of the buttes have interesting shapes like Snoopy Rock (Snoopy on his doghouse), Bell Rock, Coffeepot Rock (looks like an old-fashioned percolator), and more.
Sedona is also a very spiritual place, and you’ll find a lot of crystal shops. Or, visit a vortex to see if you can feel its energy. There are a number of spots in Sedona all around town.
To get away from the crowds and enjoy another side of Sedona, visit Oak Creek. It’s a beautiful bubbling creek that runs through the area. You can go to the Oak Creek Visitors Center for the best spots to access it. There are so many beautiful areas in Sedona, and you can’t beat visit it no matter the time of year.
On the way to Sedona, check out Montezuma’s Castle, a Native American cliff dwelling high up on a mountain. You will see several different kinds of Native American dwellings, and these are interesting to compare.
Not far out of the way on the route to Sedona is the old mining town of Jerome. When the mines closed, it nearly became a ghost town. But then the artists from Sedona who didn’t like how built up Sedona was getting moved out, and they headed to Jerome.
This small town is on steep switchbacks. There are a lot of artist shops including a pottery thrower, a glassblower, painters, and others. It’s really interesting to go to their shops and studios to see their work.
The Jerome Grand Hotel at the top of the peak is supposed to be haunted. The Haunted Hamburger restaurant, a popular place to eat in Jerome, pays homage to it.
If you’re interested, on the way to Jerome is Tuzigoot, a Native American ruin. They have recreated part of it and you can walk through to see how they lived. There’s a small museum you can tour as well.
Payson is a small town with some beautiful natural spots to see. Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is one of these places, with a natural travertine arch believed to be the largest in the world. It’s a pretty park with a number of hiking trails.
there are also a number of lakes in and around Payson that are popular to visit from Phoenix in the summertime. It’s known as the “lakes region” of the state. Woods Lake is one of my favorites though it gets quite crowded in the summer. There’s a nice hike you can take around the lake.
The Mogollon Rim is a great place in the area for hiking. It runs from Arizona to New Mexico and you can do any outdoor activity you can think of. This area offers some of the most incredible views in the state.
For a city with a cute little Old West town square, check out Prescott. Courthouse Plaza with the large old Courthouse in the center makes for a great photo op. Whiskey Row is a block of historic bars and saloons in the center of town. It was frequented by cowboys and outlaws like Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp.
Stroll around the square for its fun vibe and some great restaurants. If you’re up for something more active, head to the stunning Watson Lake. This reservoir at the Granite Dells is surrounded by large granite bounders and it’s striking. It’s my happy place for a day trip from Phoenix. Rent a kayak and head to the center of the lake for some of the best views. Or, hike around the lake and enjoy them from above.
When you think of Arizona, you probably think of the low desert. And that’s true for a lot of the state, but not for Flagstaff. This high-elevation area is topped with pine tree forests. The highest mountain range in the state, complete with a 14,000 footer, Mount Humphrey, is in Flagstaff.
There’s a cute and quaint small town center that’s fun to walk around with a lot of small shops and restaurants. People here are very outdoorsy so you’ll often find a lot of people hanging around the center of town enjoying the area.
Visit the beautiful red rock Native American ruins of Wupatki near the extinct Sunset Crater volcano. Or, check out a very different type of ruin in Walnut Canyon. There are some great hiking trails in Walnut Canyon with several ruins to explore.
Or, check out the Lowell Observatory, one of the oldest in the country. There’s a large planetarium there showing some interesting programs.
Of course, Flagstaff is big into skiing and the Snowbowl is a great place to go to get your fix. You can even go and ride the lifts for some great views in the summertime.
Page is on the border of Utah and it’s another beautiful red rock area to visit. The highlight of any visit to Page is the striking Antelope Canyon. It’s a slot canyon on Native American lands and with a guide, you can enter to see the most glorious shades of red rock as the sun shifts.
The magnificent Lake Powell is near Page and a popular place to visit. People love renting a houseboat and hanging out on this huge reservoir to relax, swim, and enjoy the pretty rock formations and the Rainbow Bridge natural arch.
If you head to Lake Powell, you’ll pass Glen Canyon Dam. It’s a really pretty area and this large dam used for hydroelectric power is impressive. You can stop and walk around the area or even take a guided tour.
Other places in this area worth seeing are the Glen Canyon Recreational area around Lake Powell, and Horseshoe Bend for the perfect photo op.
Havasupai Falls in Havasu Canyon
The stunning turquoise Havasupai falls are something you read about, and you can actually visit them in Arizona! It’s one of the best places in Arizona in my book.
This canyon is in a remote area not far from the Grand Canyon, though it takes a while to get there. It’s located on Native American land and you need a permit to visit. the reservations aren’t easy to get and the hike is challenging, but it’s so worth it!
The Havasupai Tribe are the “guardians of the blue-green waters.” This group of five waterfalls is around the Supai Village in Havasu Canyon. The only way in and out is hiking, though they do have a helicopter for the tribe’s use that people can pay to use if needed. However, I recommend hiking in.
This ten-mile hike takes you to the campground near the tallest falls, Havasu Falls and Mooney Falls. They are 100-feet high and fall into a gorgeous blue basin. It’s a relaxing oasis and such an amazing experience to visit.
Petrified Forest National Park
The Petrified Forest is unlike any other national park in the country. It’s known for its collection of fossilized trees dating back 225 million years ago. It’s pretty incredible to see these fallen trees. You can touch them but you can’t leave with any pieces. Don’t you worry though as there are shops nearby selling pieces if you’re interested. There are a number of short hikes you can take in this area of the park.
The park also includes part of the Painted Desert, an area of badlands carved smooth by erosion. During the day, the colors are muted greys, browns, oranges, and reds but at sunrise and sunset, it’s really striking.
There are several trails through the Painted Desert and you can find some short ones and a longer one that’s around seven miles. There are some Native American ruins here as well as petroglyphs. The visitor centers are a wealth of information.
This national park is a unique view into life in the desert and worth half a day or so to visit. There’s no accommodation in the park but you can stay in nearby Holbrook. There is also the option to camp in designated areas with a permit if you hike to it.
Not far from the Petrified Forest is Meteor Crater, the impact site of a crater that hit the country around 50 thousand years ago. And Winslow, Arizona is nearby as well. You know, “standing on the corner in Winslow Arizona….” by the Eagles. Yes, THAT Winslow. If you go, check out La Posada Hotel, one of the last “Grand Hotels” from when the railroad came through.
The Grand Canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world for a good reason—it’s massive! This giant canyon is striking and worth visiting. The South Rim is located in northern Arizona in a remote area around an hour and a half from Flagstaff. It makes a great day trip, or you can stay at El Tovar Lodge, one of the grand old lodges right on the side of the Canyon. (There are other hotel options next to the canyon and nearby).
If you’re feeling adventurous, hike into the canyon for the hike of your lifetime. There are quite a few trails of different lengths and all are moderate to difficult. For something easier, walk along the rim trail to take in the views. It runs for 13 miles and you can enjoy incredible views. There is a free shuttle in case you get tired.
Some other popular things to do are white-water rafting and flying in a helicopter over the canyon. It’s the perfect area for extreme sports!
The North Rim and Grand Canyon West
There are two other areas of the Grand Canyon you can visit: the North Rim and Grand Canyon West. The North Rim is in Utah and it’s not as built-up (or popular) as the South Rim. If you want to avoid the worst of the massive crowds that descend on the South Rim, especially around the summer, it’s a good place to go.
Grand Canyon West has the famous skywalk, a 10-foot wide horseshoe-shaped glass bridge that goes out 70 feet past the rim of the Grand Canyon. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to look 4,000 feet down, this is your chance. That’s how far it is to the canyon floor.
In Grand Canyon West, you can also go ziplining and white water rafting.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument
A less touristed but equally beautiful spot is the gorgeous Canyon de Chelly. This stunning red-rock canyon may be smaller than the Grand Canyon, but it’s every bit as striking.
Canyon de Chelly is located in a remote area in the northeastern part of Arizona on Native lands. Drive the rim road that loops the canyon for some impressive views. One of the most popular (and my favorite) is Spider Rock. It’s a red rock spire in the middle of the canyon.
The canyon floor is a patchwork quilt of greens and you’ll see water flow still through it. You need to go with an approved guide into the canyon but it’s really worth it. Not only do you get to see some of the most beautiful areas of Canyon de Chelly from the inside, but you get to spend the day with a Native American guide. There’s no better way to learn about life on the reservation. (I went with Adam Teller, and he took us to meet his grandparents. It was truly incredible.)
There are a couple of trails you can take on your own into parts of the canyon. The White House trail leads you to a Native ruin called the White House so it’s a great one to do.
Monument Valley Tribal Park
Continue to the remote area at the very edge of where Arizona meeting Utah near the northeastern corner and you’ll find Monument Valley. This striking and desolate place has been featured in a number of old western movies and it’s an iconic landscape with scattered red rock buttes.
Monument Valley belongs to the Navajo Nation. You’re allowed in many areas and there is a loop road you can drive around. There are certain areas where you need a local guide just like in Canyon de Chelly.
Tucson is the second-largest city in the state. It’s a fun place with a great mix of eclectic artists, students (University of Arizona College is based there), Old West, and Mexican influences.
Check out 4th Ave where the cool kids hang out for some fun boutique shops, galleries, bars, and restaurants. Hotel Congress is a fun historic hotel with an amazing restaurant. On weekend nights they rock the tunes and it becomes a fun music venue/dance club.
The Pima Air and Space Museum has a fun “airplane boneyard” with planes dating back to World War II and earlier. The Titan Missile Museum is an interesting walk back in time during the cold war when these nuclear missile bases were established around the country.
Visit the Barrio for a taste of Mexico. Saguaro National Park is a beautiful desert place filled with cacti or check out the Desert Sonoran Museum, a wonderful glimpse into the local area and the beauty of the Sonoran Desert. Tucson has a great wine region in the Sonoyta/Elgin area worth checking out.
Visit Near Tucson
And one of the most picturesque places in the entire area is Mission San Xavier del Bac. It’s one of the oldest European structures in the country and you won’t want to miss it. Another interesting place to visit south of the artist colony of Tubac is Tumacacori.
The cute little mining town of Bisbee is only 11 miles from the border to Mexico. It boomed in the early 1900s when the copper, silver, and gold mines proved successful and it’s known for gemstones like turquoise as well. Though mining ended in 1975, you can tour the old Copper Queen Mine.
Today, Bisbee is a thriving area and a haven for artists and hippies. There are lots of great galleries and shops to check out as well as fantastic restaurants. Check out the fun “art cars” that are decorated with some interesting household items and crafts.
The city is surrounded by hills and you can climb stairs all around it. It’s a fun way to check out the city from above and to appreciate its beautiful Victorian architecture.
On the way to Bisbee is the small town on Tombstone. If you want to get a taste of the Old West, this is the place to go. If you’ve heard of the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral, that was here. And you can see re-enactments of the event regularly.
Tombstone was also a silver mining town. When the mine closed, it went into decline but tourism has given it a boost. Some famous people once lived here like Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp. Now, tourists enjoy hearing stories about the old west and watching stagecoaches pass by. Visit places like the birdcage Theater, the O.K. Corral, and the Boothill Graveyard for a quick stop on the way to Bisbee.
Lake Havasu City
Lake Havasu is a popular destination for water sports given the large Lake Havasu. The lake is actually a reservoir of the Colorado River (and a little hint, most of the many Arizona lakes are man-made reservoirs). Though it’s known for being a retiree haven, it’s a good place for people interested in water sports like boating, water-skiing, kayaking, canoeing, and, paddle boarding.
Lake Havasu City has over 300 days of sun a year and is known to be one of the sunniest places in the country, if not the sunniest. Lake Havasu State Park is popular to visit with its beaches and mountain views. Birders will also love it.
One of the real claims to fame in Lake Havasu is that London Bridge, yes, THE London Bridge, is located there. It was brought to be a tourist attraction to bring people to the area.
See the Best Places to Visit in Arizona and You Won’t Want to Leave
There are so many amazing places in Arizona to visit! From the modern metropolis to the small western towns, high desert, and low desert—you can find it all here in Arizona. Take a long weekend or take a week (or more!) I can promise you that you’ll never run out of places to see.
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