Thinking of Arizona stirs up images of marvelous land formations like red canyons, cactus deserts, and mountains as well as man-made attractions like engineering marvels, esteemed museums, vibrant cities and historic settlements. Since its admission to the Union as the 48th state, Arizona has been a popular tourist destination, and with world-famous attractions like the Grand Canyon, the Hoover Dam and Saguaro National Park, that is not surprising. Read on to learn more about the top tourist attractions in Arizona.
Located in Phoenix, the Heard Museum features an impressive collection of Native American artifacts and art works. Esteemed world-wide for its contents, learning programs and festivals, the Heard Museum houses more than 400 items, a theater and auditorium. Here, visitors can view exhibits such as Native American jewelry, paintings, sculptures, photographs, textiles, Hopi Kachina dolls and more. Additionally, visitors can engage in hands-on learning activities such as basketry, pottery and weaving.
Formed about 40,000 years ago, the Barringer Crater is the best known and best preserved impact crater on Earth. The crater is named after Daniel Barringer who was first to suggest that it was produced by a meteorite impact. The crater is still privately owned by his family and is also simply known as Meteor Crater or Arizona Crater. Measuring about 1,200 meters (4,000 feet) in diameter and 170 meters (570 feet) deep, with a rim 45 meter higher on average than the surrounding plain, the crater lies near Flagstaff.
Situated near Camp Verde, Montezuma Castle features one of the country’s best-preserved cliff dwellings. Dating back to the 12th century and used by the Sinagua civilization, this five-story structure of 20 rooms resembles an ancient high-rise apartment complex. Although European-Americans named it after the Aztec emperor, the dwelling actually predates the birth of Montezuma II by 100 years. The site features a visitor center and museum that displays an assortment of relics and artifacts such as shell ornaments, stone tools, bone needles and millstones once used for grinding corn.
Owned by the Navajo Nation, the Canyon de Chelly National Monument is situated in the northeastern part of Arizona. This national monument shelters several Navajo families just as it has for more than 5,000 years. Visitors are welcome to visit the canyon floor after checking in at the visitor center. The canyon features many distinctive formations such Mummy Cave and Spider Rock, a sandstone spire that soars 750 feet (230 meters) into the sky.
Regarded as an American engineering marvel, the Hoover Dam sits on the border between Arizona and Nevada on the Colorado River. A major tourist attraction, the Hoover Dam is a massive, concrete dam that was constructed during the Great Depression to control flooding, produce electricity and provide irrigated water. Visitors can learn all about the dam in the visitor center and opt for guided tours where they can take an elevator ride in the canyon wall and see the power plant and generators. The nearby Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, offers spectacular views of the area.
Encompassing more than 91,000 acres of the Sonoran desert in Tucson, the Saguaro National Park protects the symbol of the American West, the giant saguaro cactus. Although the cacti are a sight to behold, the national park offers much more like prehistoric petroglyphs, historic sites and wildlife viewing. Within the vast mountain ranges of the park, there a number of activities available like scenic drives, hiking, biking and picnicking.
Appearing in television shows and magazines, Havasu Falls ranks as one of the Grand Canyon’s most photographed attractions. Owned by the Havasupai Tribe, this stunning waterfall consists of one cataract that plunges 120 feet (36 meters) into a natural swimming pool of blue-green water that stands in striking contrast against a background of red canyon wall. Shady cottonwood trees and picnic tables surround the waterfall where visitors can relax and picnic. The experience of getting to the site is every bit as fantastic as the waterfall itself. To reach it, visitors can opt for a 8 mile (13 km) hike, helicopter ride or horse ride into the Supai village.
Probably the most famous example of the classic American West landscape, Monument Valley has been the backdrop for numerous western movies, ranging from Stagecoach starring John Wayne to Back to the Future II. Technically it is not a valley at all, but a wide flat landscape interrupted by the crumbling rock formations. The buttes and mesas are all that is left from the sandstone layers that once covered the entire region and have vivid red tones from the iron oxide. It is located on the Arizona-Utah state line near the Four Corners area.
Famous for its red sandstone formations, the town of Sedona one of the most popular tourist attractions in Arizona because it offers so much to see and do. Interspersed with impressive natural landmarks like Cathedral Rock, Coffeepot and Thunder Mountain, Sedona also offers many man-made attractions that range from wineries to spiritual retreats, museums, art galleries and world-class performance theaters. With its gorgeous landscapes and state parks, Sedona presents many fun activities such as hiking, mountain biking, fishing, camping, horse riding and birdwatching as well as golf, tennis and scenic drives.
Read more: Sedona Guide
One of America’s most famous attractions, the Grand Canyon is a massive canyon carved over several million years by the Colorado River. The national park is itself divided into two main areas: the remote North Rim and the more accessible South Rim. In addition to scenic drives, visitors can enjoy adventurous activities here such as hiking, mountain biking, rafting, fishing, and helicopter tours. What’s more, walking out on the glass-bottomed floor of the Skywalk to see exceptional views of the canyon makes for an unforgettable experience.
Read more: Grand Canyon Guide