Arizona is most known as “The Grand Canyon State” since this is where you will find this marvelous wonder of nature. In addition to the Grand Canyon, the state is known for its breathtaking landscape mixing desert scenery with its immense cacti, snowy mountains, and many canyons.
The state is also known for having the second largest population of Native American Indians who survived thanks to the resistance movements of these peoples against European colonization. This history and influence can still be seen today in the streets and Arizona’s main museums. And, of course, due to its proximity to the Mexican border, Arizona also has a lot of Latin influence, including good food.
Interactive Map of 25 Things to Do in Arizona
1. Grand Canyon National Park
Considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Grand Canyon National Park receives more than 5 million visitors a year. The gorge is the result of a natural process that has been going on for millions of years. The canyon is only possible because the Colorado River is responsible for the erosions that shaped and sculpted the rocks.
The Grand Canyon has two main entrances, the South Rim and the North Rim. The southern rim, which includes the Grand Canyon Village and Desert View, is the most accessible and most visited by tourists. The park offers several options for the most varied styles of visitors. A mandatory tour for anyone is to walk along the edge of the canyon. In fact, the stretch between Mather Point and Yavapai Point is spectacular, providing a panoramic view.
2. Hoover Dam
The depression-era engineering marvel of Hoover Dam offers tours and scenic views of the Colorado River and Lake Mead. The Hoover Dam’s construction started in 1931 and ended in 1936. It is located in Boulder City, just across the border from the states of Nevada and Arizona. The reservoir is on Lake Mead, the largest artificial lake in the US, created from the waters of the Colorado River.
You can drive and stop at various points to admire the dam from different angles. You can take pictures of the dam itself, Lake Mead, and the famous Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. It is also possible to take guided tours in the Hoover Dam, the Powerplant Tour and the Dam Tour.
3. Coconino National Forest
The 1.8 million–acre wilderness and recreation area of Coconino National Forest is home to Sedona’s famed red rocks and vast pine forests. Coconino sits on a pine-covered plateau bordered by the Mogollon Rim and cut by several deep canyons. You can almost feel the arrows coming down from the prehistoric cave dwellings. This is one of the six national forests in the state and where you will find Arizona’s highest peak, the Humphreys Peak (12,633 ft).
The forest offers horseback riding, boating, fishing, hunting for elks, camping, and hiking. Just remember every hike in requires a hike out. Sometimes the hike out can be a real challenge, even if it is downhill.
4. Phoenix Zoo
Phoenix Zoo features 125 acres of animal exhibits such as a children’s area and petting zoo, plus a narrated tram ride. The zoo is home to over 3,000 animals including Komodo dragons, American alligators, Hamadryas baboons, Grevy’s zebras, and many more. Phoenix Zoo even allows you to feed giraffes! You will be amazed when children’s faces light up as a giraffe’s long tongue curls around a piece of lettuce.
During the summer months, there are two aquatic play areas functioning at the zoo, the Leapin ‘Lagoon and the Yakulla Caverns. On the other hand, during winter you get to experience the Zoo Lights decorations. In total, there are four paths throughout the zoo covering 2.5 miles of walking trails and the zoo recommends at least three hours for your visit.
5. Meteor Crater Natural Landmark
Meteor Crater Natural Landmark is an ancient meteorite impact site with a modest interpretive center, theater, gift shop, and concessions. The crater itself is the size of 20 football fields and the sound when you are inside it is so silent you forget silence like this ever existed. You can take about a mile tour of different observation decks.
The area is filled with history and you can learn all about it at the interpretive center. They display a lot of interesting information and even a 1400lb piece of meteor you can touch. The gift shop is also worth a stop with its unique trinkets and Onyx Wine Glasses.
6. Montezuma Castle National Monument
At Montezuma Castle National Monument, you can admire cliff dwelling ruins of the Sinagua people dating back to the 12th century overlooking Beaver Creek. The cave dwellings themselves are incredible and well preserved. The pathway around the cliff face is wide and smooth, definitely built for easy access and people in wheelchairs.
The trail is a super short half a mile loop from the gift shop to the castle. There is also a beautiful marsh that you can see. And after looking at the castle you can explore the pear cacti and Arizona Sycamore trees.
7. Old Town Scottsdale
Scottsdale is the typical tourist center of the American Midwest full of gift shops with cacti and the disputed trinkets made by local indigenous tribes. Not to mention many lively restaurants, funky bars and breweries, and a wild west look.
For those who want to eat well, the tip is Tapas Papas Frita. A neat Spaniard restaurant with delicious tapas and paella. And for delicious drinks check out the trendy Hula’s Modern Tikki, a contemporary Hawaiian bar serving specialty drinks.
8. Saguaro National Park
Offering scenic views, hiking trails, and picnic areas, Saguaro National Park is home to the country’s largest cacti. The park contains an enormous collection of huge, saguaro cacti. There are many trails throughout the park that provide you with several different views and photo opportunities of the landscape. Signal Hill is a great place to get close-up views of petroglyphs.
Overall, the cacti are breathtaking and so dense, and the hikes are wonderful but short. Keep in mind that the Eastside is quiet and much less visited than the West side of the park. And one of Saguaro’s highlights is the Tanque Verde Trail. The park is also popular among mountain bikers since the trails are super easy and the views are great.
9. Antelope Canyon
Antelope Canyon, close to the city of Page, is one of the most beautiful and photogenic places in Arizona. Located within the indigenous territory of the Navajo tribe, this is a very narrow canyon that was formed through an erosion process. It was firstly eroded by flooding, later by an underground process.
The Antelope Canyon is formed by 2 different canyons: the Upper Antelope Canyon and the Lower Antelope Canyon. The first one offers the most popular tour, since access is simpler and the canyon is at ground level which means it does not require much effort to explore it. The Lower Antelope Canyon is a few kilometers away and to visit it you need to use metal stairs, as the Canyon is below ground level.
Known as the land of red rocks, Sedona is a beautiful little town with many shops and restaurants. This is also the esoteric capital of the US. In fact, Sedona is said to be full of energy due to the energy vortex present in this region. The city is so special that there is a saying “God made the Grand Canyon but lives in Sedona”.
Overall, the town is worth stopping by to see not only the cute little center, with many shops and restaurants, but also its variety of red rocks, which form surreal landscapes. Be sure to visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross, at the base of one of the mountains, with beautiful views and rock formations.
11. Monument Valley
Sitting inside a Navajo reserve located on the border between Arizona and the state of Utah, Monument Valley is made of sandstone formations. The landscape is filled with strong reddish colors, sculpted millions of years ago, and is simply mesmerizing.
Interestingly, the valley has been the setting for several western classics. You must remember Monument Valley in the great Forrest Gump, Back to the Future 3, and Thelma & Louise. To get to know Monument Valley you can take a scenic road in your own car. Or you can take one of the guided tours and learn more about rock formations and Navajo culture.
12. Horseshoe Bend
Less than 10 minutes driving from Page, the mighty Colorado River makes an immense horseshoe curve which was kindly nicknamed Horseshoe Bend. This incised meander is also known as the “east rim of the Grand Canyon”. What makes this curve special is the 1,000 ft drop from the top of the cliff to the Colorado River.
To get there, you will have to walk for 15 minutes from the parking lot. But to get a better idea of its magnitude, you can see it from above or sail through the waters of one of the most important rivers in the world.
13. Desert Botanical Garden
Desert Botanical Garden features 50,000 plants spread over 140 acres, also offering dining, a gift shop, and a library. Dozens of cactus, yucca, and Joshua tree species make up the Phoenix botanical garden. This is a beautiful and very well-organized park that exposes the best of the desert in a dynamic and ultra-interesting way.
For those who enjoy learning something, during the visit, there are dozens of instructional signs that go straight to the point. They show interesting curiosities for adults and children, but the show really is due to the spiky cacti and their various formats. Overall, this is a beautiful area to walk and see the desert landscape, it is amazing to see the many types of cactus and desert plant life.
14. OdySea Aquarium
The huge OdySea Aquarium features dramatic exhibits of marine life, plus a 3D movie, and interactive experiences. Some of its inhabitants include a wide range of fish, turtles, alligators, otters, rays, sea lions, penguins, a sloth, and many more. There are a couple of hands-on exhibits where you can pet a stingray or have your finger hugged by a sea urchin.
The aquarium has two levels and takes at least 2.5 hours to explore. Give yourself time to walk through this place because it is massive. However, the aquarium has a great flow to the exhibits and tanks, so you do not need to worry about missing anything.
15. Papago Park
Papago Park is a national park comprising the cities of Phoenix and Tempe. With a mountainous and desert setting, the park features the Desert Botanical Garden, the Phoenix Zoo, picnic areas, hiking trails, bike paths, and small lakes. Not to mention, Hunt’s Tomb, the pyramidal tomb of Arizona’s first governor, George WP Hunt.
The park is just minutes from Phoenix’s city center and the airport and is a great option for recreation. Not to mention this is one of the best places in the city to watch the sunset. Also, Papago Park is where the iconic Hole in The Rock is located.
16. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a natural history museum combining live animal exhibits and demonstrations with botanical gardens. This is like a living zoo where animals live in captivity but in natural settings. You can walk around many nature trails and see the various exhibits displaying all sorts of habitats and beautiful cactus.
The museum displays really beautiful exhibits with a wide array of animals. They even have a bird center, an aquatic center, and an area dedicated to geology and minerals. The trails travel through different biomes which you can learn about.
17. Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park is a picturesque natural attraction with many petrified tree trunks and fossils, plus ranger-led tours. It is a national park with impressive scenery and trails, full of clues to the existence of ancient civilizations in the region.
You can venture through the entire park in one day. Driving through from the south to the north entrance is well worth it. There are plenty of marked trails, but they encourage you to explore off-trail unless otherwise marked. One of the best ways to explore is to start at the Painted Desert Inn and take the trail that leads you to the ground floor. It is a steep hill but there is plenty of exploring to do once you are down there.
18. Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Located in the city of Chinle, the Canyon de Chelly is an important part of the history of the ancient Native Americans since it was inhabited for more than 5,000 years. The expansive park offers tours and overlooks of ruins. Not to mention the famous Spider Rock spire. With stunning vistas and a rich part of our history, the park features many hikes, canyons, ruins, and wildlife.
You can rent a car and drive along the 2 scenic roads at the edge of the canyon. To visit the interior of the gorge, you need to be accompanied by a Navajo guide. The only exception is the White House Ruin Trail.
19. Goldfield Ghost Town and Mine Tours Inc.
The Goldfield Ghost Town was a gold settlement that started in 1893 when ores were found in the region and survived until 1926 when it was abandoned for good. Wooden houses in the old west style surrounded by plump Saguaro cacti and the mountains of superstition in the background make the scenery even more special.
Nowadays, there are several attractions, such as the train ride, the tour through the mines, the visit to the historical museum, the brothel, among others. There, you can visit an old, abandoned gold mine, walk on the mini railroad, try your luck sifting gold, taste a Sarsaparilla in an old Saloon from the old west and finish the day with a Bang Bang show.
20. Heard Museum
Heard Museum features exhibits devoted to Native American civilizations, including a big collection of Southwestern art. So, to learn a little about the 21 tribes spread across Arizona and their rich cultural heritage, the tip is to visit the Heard Museum which is dedicated to indigenous art.
The museum counts with interactive exhibits, music, and dance shows as well as works and objects from the tribes of Arizona. Due to the museum’s interactivity and presentations, this is a nice visit to do with children. Artifacts include art from both Native American and indigenous tribes from around the world.
21. Tonto National Forest
Tonto National Forest is an expansive area of cactus desert, forested mountains, and rivers, with campgrounds and recreation areas. In fact, Tonto is the largest national forest in Arizona, and it is full of trails and cool landscapes to see. The mountains surround you while the clouds are floating near the top of them. And most of the hiking trails are considered easy, kid and pet-friendly.
The park’s major attraction is a natural bridge that is considered the longest bridge in this format in the world. To reach it, it is necessary to make a trail and then go through a path of stones. Besides hiking, the forest also offers fishing, tubing, photography, and wild horse viewing.
22. Historic Navajo Bridge
Sitting along the highway to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, the Historic Navajo Bridge is used by pedestrians as well as a modern bridge for cars with an interpretive center nearby. One bridge is what you drive over and the other is now a pedestrian bridge with amazing views. The entire area is gorgeous with breathtaking views of the Colorado River making this a perfect stop on the side of the road.
Besides a visitor center and a bookstore, the interpretive center also features a little museum on the other side of the bridge so be sure to check that out.
23. Lake Powell
Lake Powell is a huge reserve formed by the Colorado River, on the border of the states of Utah and Arizona, close to the city of Page. The lake is the second-largest artificial lake in the US, and especially during the hot months, the city of Page becomes a trendy resort. The blue water of Lake Powell is one of the highlights of this region, which besides being beautiful, also offers many water activities.
The construction of Lake Powell resulted in the establishment of a recreation area in 1972, known as the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. This region features areas for navigation and water sports, a little beach, and good hiking and fishing options.
24. Downtown Flagstaff
Part of the Route 66, Flagstaff is a city located in northern Arizona, in Coconino County. Flagstaff offers mind-blowing looks, especially for those who like snow. Yes, snow in Arizona! That is because the city is 7,000 ft high, at the foot of Mt Humphrey. Interestingly, in 2001, Flagstaff became the first “Sky Dark City International” in the world, as it has almost no light pollution. So, this is the ideal destination to observe the stars and explore the sky.
The city is also a strategic point for its location, close to the Grand Canyon, and has some attractions that are worth visiting. This is mainly because it has a great structure, many accommodation options, supermarkets, and even a small airport.
25. Havasu Falls
Located on the Havasupai Indian Reservation, Havasu Falls is known for offering swimming in a dramatic blue-green pool. This is considered one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world with its clear and turquoise water in the middle of the desert. The whole area is filled with beautiful teal waters, lush trees full of raccoons, and cliff faces all around you with small pockets of oases.
Hiking down to Havasu Falls is an experience of a lifetime. Hiking back out will allow you to experience true pain. In total, it takes about 5 hours to hike down into the canyon. Each level of Havasu comes with a test of physical endurance but generously rewards you with breathtaking views and serenity to refresh and reset before heading to the next fall.