We all know Arizona as home to the spectacular Grand Canyon, beautiful red rock formations, and vast sandy deserts. But there is way more to Arizona than just magnificent natural landscapes, and anyone interested in adventure will find the Grand Canyon State a worthy destination. Enjoy breathtaking views, float along the rushing Colorado River, and learn about the state's wild past as you wander through of one of the youngest states of the Union.
By Erin Whittaker, U.S. National Park Service - Grand Canyon National Park facebook page, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29985105 cropped
1. See the Grand Canyon
No trip to Arizona would be complete without a stop at the Grand Canyon. Rich in color and majesty, the Grand Canyon is one the wonders of the natural world and is known for its jaw-dropping beauty and size. Hike along the rim, stand on the skywalk, or raft through the wild rivers at the base.
2. See the beautiful waters of Havasu Falls
Grand Canyon National Park
The natural blue-green water of Havasu Falls is one of the most serene areas of the Grand Canyon. This difficult hike is about 10 miles one-way, but the stunning oasis at the end is well worth the trouble. The falls are located on a Native American reservation, and hikers must make reservations at least six months in advance to camp at the site.
3. Search the sky at Lowell Observatory
Take a moment and look up at the immense western sky through the telescopes at Lowell Observatory. While the rest of the stars are hiding during the day, you can take a closer look at the sun through a specially designed telescope. In the evening, view the stars, planets, and moon as you learn about space.
4. Go horseback riding at Fort McDowell Adventures
Fort McDowell, AZ
Guided by real cowboys, take a tour of the desert, view the wild landscape, or experience life like a real western cowboy as you assist in cattle drives from horseback. Fort McDowell Adventures also offers guests delicious barbecue, kayaking excursions, and other fun ways to enjoy the outdoors.
5. Fly in an air balloon with Red Rock Balloon Adventures
Take to the sky in a hot air balloon and gaze across the beautiful desert landscape from miles above the ground. Balloon rides from Red Rock Balloon Adventures begin at dawn each day, which grants a breathtaking view of the western sunrise as you fly over the colorful red canyons around Sedona.
6. Feed giraffes at the Wildlife World Zoo
Litchfield Park, AZ
The Wildlife World Zoo in Litchfield Park has the largest collection of animals in Arizona. View more than 6,000 different species and climb up a 12-foot-tall platform to feed a giraffe. The zoo also features an aquarium and safari park.
Photo courtesy of Bill Timmerman / William P. Bruder – Architect ltd., Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.
7. See a traveling exhibit the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
One of the more well-known museums in the state, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art specializes in modern art movements and brings in some of the most interesting art exhibits each year. This modern museum constantly changes out exhibits, so there is always something new to check out.
8. Have a romantic dinner at Quiessence at the Farm
Quiessence at the Farm is located on a beautiful piece of land near Phoenix and offers its guests remarkably fresh and simple food, most of which comes directly from local farms. The rustic and quaint environment makes for a perfect romantic evening.
9. Explore the Desert Botanical Garden
Walk the winding trails of the Desert Botanical Garden and see thousands of unique and breathtaking desert plants, many of which are native to Arizona. The garden is made up of 140 acres featuring five different trails with wonderful cacti, agave, aloe, and other desert plant displays. In the evening, lights scattered about the garden add to the magical atmosphere as the temperature cools.
10. Hike to Ribbon Falls
Grand Canyon National Park
For the more adventurous explorers, an all-day hike to Ribbon Falls simply can't be beat. This is easily one of the most enchanting spots in the Grand Canyon, and can be reached by the North Kaibab Trail. Of course, this long and slightly difficult hike isn't going to be for everyone, but for those comfortable with long hikes, this one really shouldn't be missed! The Ribbon Falls hike is prettiest in the fall and spring.
11. Shop the outdoor market at Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village
Designed after a Mexican village, the Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village in Sedona offers an unforgettable shopping experience. As if the fine art galleries, delicious restaurants, and fun shopping wasn't enough, the village itself is simply beautiful with bronze statues, fountains, and tall sycamore trees.
12. Test yourself at the Flagstaff Extreme obstacle course
Push the limits of your body and mind as you climb through the trees at the Flagstaff Extreme obstacle course, which is built for both adults and children. The obstacles range in height and difficulty and include rope swings, hanging nets, scrambling walls, and wobbly bridges.
13. Get an eagle's eye view of the Grand Canyon with a helicopter tour
If the Grand Canyon is breathtaking from the ground, then it is even more magnificent when you see it from the sky. Board a comfortable modern helicopter and get an unobstructed view of one of the wonders of the world as you wind your way through the canyon.
CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1065190 cropped
14. Discover the state's origins at the Arizona Capitol Museum
Located in the more than 100-year-old capitol building, the Arizona Capitol Museum in Phoenix is worth visiting both for the architecture and the exhibits which display the history of the state. Admission is free and guided tours are available, allowing everyone the chance to learn about the creation of the Grand Canyon State and its involvement in U.S. and world history.
15. Have a beer at Wanderlust Brewing Company
With a relaxed atmosphere and great tasting unique brews, the Wanderlust Brewing Company is a perfect hangout spot. Wanderlust focuses on European-style brews while using local ingredients and a mixture of both modern and ancient brewing methods. The 928 Local is the flagship beer of the company and is brewed with local honey and wild yeast.
16. Take part in a tea ceremony at the Japanese Friendship Garden
Phoenix's Japanese Friendship Garden was constructed from the joint effort of Phoenix and its Japanese sister city, Himeji. The 3.5 acre traditional Japanese strolling garden hosts monthly tea ceremonies for the public which allow visitors a glimpse into Japan's fascinating tea culture.
17. Catch a show at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
The Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts hosts thousands of indoor and outdoor shows every year. The shows range widely and feature everything from jazz performances to classical orchestras and even pop stars. Be sure to check out the performance schedule when you're in the area, as you're bound to find something you like.
18. Indulge your sweet tooth at the Cerreta Candy Company
Come enjoy the enticing homemade sweets of the Cerreta Candy Company and take a tour of the facility to learn more about how these delectable treats are made. Founded more than 40 years ago, the Cerreta Candy Company is a local family-owned business and is famous for its delicious French mint chocolate candies and handmade techniques.
Photo Courtesy Arizona Snowbowl
19. Take in the view with a scenic chairlift ride
View the beautiful scenery of northern Arizona from a new perspective on the Snowbowl's Scenic Chairlift which will take you near the top of the San Francisco Peaks. You will be able to see the stunning Sedona red rocks, beautiful forests, and even the edge of the Grand Canyon as you gaze across the landscape from an elevation of 11,500 feet.
20. Eat pizza and listen to the oldest pipe organ at Organ Stop Pizza
Featuring the largest Wurlitzer pipe organ in the world, Organ Stop Pizza offers guests the opportunity to enjoy a slice of pizza in an atmosphere like no other. Visitors will be able to enjoy some delicious pizza as they listen to both traditional and popular music played on the organ. Copies of the pipe organ music can be purchased at the gift shop on site, so you can enjoy the music anywhere.
21. Lay on a bed of nails at the Arizona Science Center
The Arizona Science Center boasts a wide collection of hands-on exhibits that are designed to fascinate and amaze. You can play with electricity, learn about space, and even lay on a bed of nails. The center is designed for both kids and adults, and truly offers a great experience that will have you looking at the world differently.
22. Tour the Wrigley Mansion
An architectural fusion of Spanish, Mediterranean, and California Monterey styles, the fascinating Wrigley Mansion looks out over the city of Phoenix from a nearby hilltop. Constructed in 1932 by the creator of Wrigley gum, the mansion offers an excellent view of the area, fantastic historic tours, and an award-winning restaurant on the grounds.
23. See the Hopi Katsina collection at the Heard Museum
The Heard Museum in Phoenix aims to educate visitors on the heritage and arts, both past and present, of Native American peoples. The museum features contemporary art and jewelry as well as more than 400 unique Hopi Katsina dolls which were handcrafted by the Hopi people.
24. Walk through the Goldfield Ghost Town
Apache Junction, AZ
Transport yourself to the Old West and the time of the gold rush by visiting this old mining town in Apache Junction. The Goldfield Ghost Town was slowly emptied after the gold veins in the area dried up. Visitors can now walk through the various historic buildings including a brewery, blacksmith shop and several saloons. Reenactments can be seen every day, and visitors can also pan for gold, ride the zipline, or explore the many museums and other attractions in the town.
25. Stand at the edge of the Barringer Meteorite Crater
The Barringer Meteorite Crater is a truly fascinating piece of land. Scientists believe that approximately 50,000 years ago a massive meteor blazed through Earth's atmosphere and struck this area with the force of two and a half million tons of dynamite. Standing at the edge of this giant crater, which is nearly a mile wide, is an experience you won't soon forget.
26. Learn about Native American tribes at the Museum of Northern Arizona
The Museum of Northern Arizona is home to more than five million artifacts and fine art pieces. Since 1928, it has been preserving the area's cultural heritage and offers visitors a deeper understanding of the history of the region and Native American culture.
27. Learn about Arizona history at Tovrea Castle
Constructed shortly before the Depression to be part of a resort, this Arizona mansion was eventually abandoned and sold to the Tovrea family, who lived there for years and gave the structure its name. View the wonderful cacti gardens surrounding Tovrea Castle and take a tour of the unique structure to learn about the history of the building and the prominent families that lived there.
28. Try the guacamole at Barrio Urbano
A trip to the southwest is not complete without trying some delicious Mexican cuisine and there is no better place to go for that than Barrio Urbano. With creativity and ingenuity, Barrio Urbano takes your taste buds on a journey with unbelievably bold Mexican flavors. Make sure to taste Chef Silvano's renowned guacamole which features pomegranates and a unique taste.
29. Take a stroll across Arizona's own London Bridge
Lake Havasu City, AZ
The bridge in Lake Havasu City, Arizona is quite literally a "London bridge". Originally constructed in 1831 over the river Thames in London, the bridge slowly began to sink and was eventually sold to an American entrepreneur, Robert P. McCulloch, who had it disassembled, shipped across the Atlantic, and reassembled in Arizona. It's now a perfect place for an evening stroll after a romantic dinner.
30. Ride the rides at the Arizona State Fair
The Arizona State Fair has been a Phoenix tradition since 1884 and features delicious food, fun games, and great shows. The state fair is home to the largest transportable Ferris wheel in the world and plays host to a number of talented individuals every year. Past performers have included The Rolling Stones, Rihanna, and Bob Dylan.
31. Pick up a souvenir at Hubbell Trading Post
The Hubbell Trading Post is the oldest continuously operated trading post in the United States, and has been active since 1876. The trading post is steeped in Old West history and is well-known for its one-of-a-kind Navajo rugs. Visitors can see demonstrations of this Native American craft and even walk away with a beautiful one-of-a-kind Navajo rug.
32. Pick some peaches or fresh veggies at Schnepf Farms
Queen Creek, AZ
Farms that allow visitors to pick their own produce aren't hard to find, but Schnepf Farms stands above the rest. This family-owned farm has been operating for decades and offers a fun experience with attractions like a petting zoo, carousel, and bakery as well as delicious organic fruits and vegetables that visitors can pick with their own two hands.
33. Ride the Carousel at Enchanted Island Amusement Park
The Enchanted Island Amusement Park was rated as one of the best amusement parks in the country and features a variety of fun rides and classic park food. Take a ride on the carousel, which has been around since the 1960s, or explore the park from a train or paddle boat.
34. Visit the Burton Barr Library reading room during the sumer solstice
Every June during the summer solstice, the stunning architecture of the Burton Barr Library creates beautiful designs and shadows throughout the building. Hundreds of visitors flock to the library to see the spectacle and take part in the celebration which generally includes Native American music, special presentations, and information about the solstice and the seasons.
35. Marvel at the Montezuma Castle National Monument
Camp Verde, Arizona
Known to be one of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in North America, the Montezuma Castle National Monument is a wonder to behold. While visitors can no longer venture inside this ancient structure, this amazing site is worth a visit and can give visitors insight into the Sinagua people that once called this region home. The Montezuma Well, a limestone sinkhole nearby, is also a popular destination.
36. See the Boothill Cemetery and the O.K. Corral at Tombstone
Step back into the American West at the infamous city of Tombstone. Walk the same streets as the famous Wyatt Earp and "Doc" Holliday, and steep yourself in the historical events that took place there. The city also holds numerous festivals and events throughout the year that will allow you to learn more about the town and truly picture yourself in the Wild West.
37. Learn about music at the world's only global Musical Instrument Museum
Take the opportunity to see unique, rare, and unusual musical instruments from around the world at the highly rated Musical Instrument Museum. This museum features thousands of instruments from 200 different countries and offers guests the chance to hear them played during live performances. Concerts are offered at the Musical Theater almost daily, and feature a variety of musical styles.
38. Ride the iconic Grand Canyon Railway
Grand Canyon National Park
You shouldn't leave Arizona without taking a ride through the Grand Canyon National Park on the iconic Grand Canyon Railway. The restored cars and vintage look transport visitors back in time to when trains were a popular method of transportation across the Old West. This train ride allows you to fully relax and is a perfect way to see the beautiful scenery and wildlife of Arizona from a comfortable seat.
39. Relive the Wild West at Frontier Town
Cave Creek, AZ
Located in the sleepy town of Cave Creek, Arizona, Frontier Town is a small slice of the Wild West. Grab an old-fashioned meal and some drinks at the saloon and check out some cool Native American jewelry and art at one of the gift shops at this fun themed attraction.
40. Play some miniature golf at Castles-n-Coasters
Castles-n-Coasters in Phoenix has offered a multitude of fun family-friendly entertainment since 1972. You can ride roller coasters, drive go-karts, play arcade games, or, of course, enjoy a game of mini-golf at the Golf-N-Stuff area, which features four world-class 18 hole golf courses to choose from.
41. Cruise the beautiful Canyon Lake on an old-fashioned steamboat
View the Arizona wildlife and hear the legends and tales of the area while cruising around the lake in style on an old-fashioned steamboat. The scenery is beautiful on this 90 minute tour, so make sure you bring a camera and be prepared for a relaxing and fantastic sightseeing experience.
42. Hear some great acousitc tunes at Fiddler's Dream Coffeehouse
Intimate acoustic performances are delivered nightly in a relaxed and cozy atmosphere at Fiddler's Dream Coffeehouse. The musicians perform with all acoustic instruments, making the performances more personal and down-to-earth. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy some great Americana music at this fantastic venue.
43. Get some cool Route 66 memorabilia at Angel and Vilma's Original Route 66 Gift Shop
In 1987, Angel Delgadillo arranged the first ever "Historic Route 66" meeting and association which eventually brought back the then-unused Route 66 as a historic highway. Since then, Route 66 locations across the country have jumped on the bandwagon and offer tourists the chance to travel along this beloved route. However, Angel and Vilma's Original Route 66 Gift Shop was the first Route 66 gift shop in the nation and features some fantastic Route 66 memorabilia and history.
44. Eat some delicious ice cream from Mary Coyle Ol' Fashion Ice Cream
Mary Coyle Ol' Fashion Ice Cream has been a Phoenix staple since 1951 and is sure to bring a smile to your face. There are not many better ways to cool off from the desert heat than a cool, tasty ice cream cone. Enjoy some creative combinations and even grab a classic diner lunch at this fun restaurant.
45. Take a Colorado River Float Trip
Whether you're into white water rafting or leisurely sightseeing, no trip to Arizona is complete without a float trip along the Colorado River. Many of the tours take visitors through beautiful and even historical locations where guides can tell you more about the area and show you Native American petroglyphs up close.
46. See Sedona's sights from the trolley
There is a lot to see and do in and around Sedona, Arizona, and one of the best ways to explore the city is with a guided trolley tour. You will get to see historic landmarks, spectacular views, learn where to grab the best dinner in town, and even get hiking tips, all from locals who live there.
47. Go spelunking in Lava River Cave
Grab a flashlight and go spelunking in the Lava River Cave, a natural museum in Flagstaff, Arizona. Spelunkers can learn about geology, biology, and cave ecosystems at this unique site. In contrast to the warm Arizona weather, the cave can be very cold and has been known to have ice in the spring, so make sure to dress warmly!
48. Pay your respects at the Chapel of the Holy Cross
Inspired by the Empire State Building, an Arizona rancher and sculptor wanted to construct a large church in its liking. The result is the Chapel of the Holy Cross, which was built on a rocky piece of the Coconino National Forest. Finished in 1956, the chapel offers spectacular views, a great story, and gorgeous architecture.
49. Cheer the cowboys at the World's Oldest Rodeo
Also known as Prescott Frontier Days, the World's Oldest Rodeo has earned its title by hosting cowboy competitions since 1888. There are a variety of events to watch from bull riding to barrel racing, team roping, and more. You can't travel through the West without catching a rodeo, so grab your cowboy hat and boots and be ready to enjoy this renowned show.
50. Take some stunning photos at Antelope Canyon
Grand Canyon National Park
Named after the wild antelope that used to wander the region, the iconic naturally sculpted walls and beautifully illuminated curves of Antelope Canyon make it one of the most fantastic spots in Arizona. You're guaranteed to get some stunning photos as a guide takes you through this picturesque area.
Do you know of any really cool spots in Arizona that we missed? Tell us about them in the comments, and don't forget to Like and Share with your roadtripping friends!