Arizona, often referred to as the Grand Canyon State offers a rich tapestry of natural wonders, historical landmarks, and cultural experiences. From its vast deserts dotted with iconic saguaro cacti to its towering red rock formations, there’s an abundance of things to do in Arizona. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you on a journey through 20 mesmerizing attractions and activities that should top any visitor’s list.
See The List Below for the Top 20 Things to Do in Arizona!
1. The Grand Canyon
One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon is perhaps the most recognizable of all things to do in Arizona. Spanning over 277 miles, its sheer size is breathtaking. The layers of red rock reveal millions of years of geological history. Visitors can embark on a mule ride, hike various trails, or simply admire its vastness from multiple viewpoints like Mather Point and Yavapai Observation Station. While the South Rim remains popular throughout the year, the North Rim offers a quieter experience. Rafting on the Colorado River provides an exhilarating perspective of the canyon’s depths.
2. Sedona’s Red Rocks
Another geological masterpiece, Sedona’s red rocks offer not just beauty but also a spiritual journey. The towering rock formations like Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, and Courthouse Butte are believed to house vortexes, swirling centers of energy conducive for healing and meditation. Hiking trails here vary from easy to challenging, with each offering unique panoramas of the landscape. The town of Sedona complements these natural attractions with art galleries, boutique shops, and wellness retreats.
3. Historic Route 66
A trip down memory lane, the Historic Route 66 is an iconic part of American cultural heritage. Stretching from Chicago to Santa Monica, its Arizona portion offers some of the most picturesque and quirky attractions. Stops like the Wigwam Village in Holbrook, where you can sleep in teepee-shaped motels, or the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert are among the notable things to do in Arizona. Towns like Kingman and Seligman brim with nostalgic charm, with vintage diners and classic car museums capturing the spirit of the “Mother Road.”
4. Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
Symbolic of the American West, Monument Valley’s sandstone buttes rise majestically from the desert floor. Located on the Arizona-Utah state line, this park is a significant Native American territory. Guided tours, often led by Navajo guides, offer insights into the rich history, culture, and significance of the formations. Popular spots include John Ford’s Point, named after the famous filmmaker, and the Mittens, the park’s most photographed points.
5. Antelope Canyon
Nature’s artistry at its finest, Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon known for its wave-like structure and light beams that shine down into the openings of the canyon. Located near Page, this mesmerizing canyon comprises two main sections – Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. While photographs capture its beauty, nothing compares to walking its corridors, with light painting the walls in shades of purple, orange, and pink. Being one of the most picturesque things to do in Arizona, it’s essential to book guided tours in advance.
6. Petrified Forest National Park
This park is a testament to nature’s transformation. Once a tropical forest, today it showcases a vast landscape adorned with petrified logs. These fossilized trees, with their crystalline interiors shimmering in colors, are a sight to behold. Beyond the logs, the park also houses the Painted Desert, ancient petroglyphs, and ruins of old settlements. The Rainbow Forest Museum offers valuable insights into the park’s geology and ancient inhabitants.
7. Hoover Dam
Straddling the border between Arizona and Nevada, the Hoover Dam is an engineering marvel of the 20th century. Constructed during the Great Depression, it stands as a testament to human tenacity. Beyond its historical significance, the dam offers stunning views of the Colorado River and Lake Mead. The visitor center delves into the dam’s construction, its significance, and the role it plays today.
8. Havasu Falls
Hidden within the Grand Canyon, Havasu Falls is a paradisiacal oasis. Cascading over a 100-foot drop, the turquoise waters create a stark contrast against the red canyon walls. Reaching the falls requires a 10-mile hike, but the reward is worth the effort. The Havasupai Tribe governs the land, and a visit offers insights into their culture and traditions.
9. Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix
A deep dive into Arizona’s flora, the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix showcases over 50,000 plants spread across five thematic trails. From towering cacti to radiant wildflowers, the garden captures the essence of the Sonoran Desert. Seasonal events, art installations, and butterfly exhibits enhance the experience, making it one of the must-do things to do in Arizona for nature enthusiasts.
10. Saguaro National Park
Iconic to the Arizona landscape, the saguaro cactus stands tall, often with arms reaching out. Saguaro National Park, split into the East and West districts, is dedicated to protecting these magnificent plants. Hiking trails weave through cacti forests, offering views of wildlife, petroglyphs, and more. The park’s visitor centers delve deeper into the saguaro’s significance and the desert ecosystem.
11. Wupatki National Monument
Nestled near Flagstaff, the Wupatki National Monument preserves ancient Native American ruins that date back almost a thousand years. As you traverse the monument’s grounds, you’ll discover multistory dwellings like the Wupatki Pueblo, which once stood as a major cultural center. The Ballcourt and Blowhole, a geological feature that exhales air, further enrich the site’s intrigue. Learning about the Sinagua, Cohonina, and Kayenta Anasazi peoples, their lifestyle, and their mysterious departure from these pueblos adds depth to the list of things to do in Arizona.
12. Kartchner Caverns State Park
Unveil the underground beauty of Arizona at the Kartchner Caverns State Park. Discovered in 1974 and kept a secret for years, the caverns today offer guided tours showcasing stunning limestone formations, including stalactites dripping down and stalagmites rising up. The Throne Room, home to one of the world’s longest soda straw stalactites, and the Big Room with its unique brushite moonmilk, are highlights. The park also focuses on conservation, ensuring these delicate formations persist for future generations.
13. Old Tucson Studios
Step into the cinematic Wild West at Old Tucson Studios. Originally built in 1939 for the movie “Arizona,” this place has since witnessed the filming of over 400 movies and TV shows. Today, it operates as an entertainment park where visitors can enjoy live action stunt shows, musicals, and vintage carousels. Walking the same streets as legends like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood and immersing oneself in authentic western experiences makes this one of the nostalgic things to do in Arizona.
14. Jerome Ghost Town
Perched on Cleopatra Hill, Jerome was once a thriving mining town dubbed as the “Wickedest Town in the West.” Post-mining boom, it transformed into a veritable ghost town, only to be later revived as an artist’s haven. Today, its sloping streets are lined with galleries, boutiques, and restaurants. The Jerome State Historic Park and the Mine Museum offer insights into its tumultuous past. The town’s haunted reputation also draws thrill-seekers, with ghost tours recounting eerie tales.
15. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
A fusion of a zoo, botanical garden, and museum, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson offers a comprehensive look into the Sonoran Desert’s life. Spanning 98 acres, it houses over 230 animal species and 1,200 plant varieties. The Raptor Free Flight shows, where birds of prey soar in their natural environment, are a highlight. The museum emphasizes conservation and education, ensuring visitors leave with a deeper appreciation for the desert’s intricacies.
16. Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona
Emerging from Sedona’s red rocks, the Chapel of the Holy Cross stands as a testament to faith and architecture’s seamless integration with nature. This Roman Catholic chapel, completed in 1956, attracts visitors not just for its spiritual aura but also for its panoramic views of Sedona and its surroundings. The site offers moments of tranquility and reflection, making it a serene addition to things to do in Arizona.
17. Taliesin West
Nestled in Scottsdale’s foothills, Taliesin West was the winter home and architecture school of the legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Reflecting Wright’s love for organic architecture, the site harmoniously blends with its desert surroundings. Guided tours provide insights into his design philosophies, personal life, and the school’s operations. The dynamic interplay of light, shadow, and nature here is an inspiration for architecture and design enthusiasts.
18. O.K. Corral in Tombstone
Relive the days of outlaws and lawmen in Tombstone’s O.K. Corral, the site of the legendary gunfight involving Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. Daily reenactments transport visitors back to that fateful day in 1881. Beyond the gunfight, the historic town of Tombstone, often deemed “The Town Too Tough to Die,” offers a plethora of attractions like the Bird Cage Theatre, Boot Hill Graveyard, and various themed tours that delve into its storied past.
19. Tumacácori National Historical Park
South of Tucson, the Tumacácori National Historical Park safeguards the ruins of three Spanish colonial missions. Established in the late 1600s, the missions played a pivotal role in Spanish frontier expansion. Today, the park offers insights into indigenous cultures, Spanish missionaries, and the intricate history that shaped the region. The annual Anza Days, commemorating Juan Bautista de Anza’s expedition, is a cultural highlight.
20. Barrett-Jackson Car Auction
For automobile aficionados, the Barrett-Jackson Car Auction in Scottsdale is an unmissable event. As one of the premier auto auctions globally, it showcases a stunning array of vintage, custom, and celebrity-owned vehicles. Beyond the auctions, the event features thrilling ride-alongs, symposiums, and exhibitions. It’s not just an auction but a celebration of automotive history and design, solidifying its spot on the list of things to do in Arizona.
Conclusion Embarking on this journey through Arizona’s diverse offerings reveals a state steeped in natural wonders, historical richness, and cultural vibrancy. From its iconic landscapes to its lesser-known gems, the myriad things to do in Arizona promise memories that last a lifetime. We invite you to immerse yourself in these experiences, each telling a unique story of this enchanting state. Whether a first-time visitor or a returning traveler, Arizona’s beauty and depth await your exploration.