Overflowing with distinctive landscapes and footprints of the Old West, Arizona offers both iconic national parks and fabled history in droves. Although home to such famous sites as the Grand Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, Arizona rewards those that expand their horizons.
With Indian reservations making up almost a quarter of Arizona’s area, there are lots of interesting archaeological, historical and cultural sites relating to Native American culture for tourists to enjoy.
As they are home to a plethora of great museums, theaters and art galleries, Arizona’s cities are fun and friendly places to stop by and there is some great nightlife to boot. An incredible state to visit, the best places to visit in Arizona will live long in the memory.
In this post, we'll cover:
22. Lake Havasu
In 1967, Robert McCulloch made a mind-boggling purchase when he decided to buy the London Bridge and move it, brick by brick, to the humble town of Lake Havasu. Now on the proverbial map, Lake Havasu was later awarded the title of one of the best communities in America.
Along with this startling attraction, Lake Havasu is an outdoor paradise. With over 300 days of sunshine, you can enjoy 60 miles of navigable waterways, and 1800 miles of off-road trails.
On the lake, you’ll discover 27 replica lighthouses and the largest skatepark in Arizona, all alongside a white sand beach. All the more reason to make Lake Havasu the spot for your winter vacation,
In the foothills of the Mule Mountains, Bisbee was once one of the richest mining towns on planet earth. The Old West mining camp, however, managed to stay the course over the years without becoming a classic ghost town. Today, with the mine closed, Bisbee is a hub of art and culture.
Along the delightful and leafy streets, you’ll find a selection of boutique stores, cozy cafes and local art galleries. All within the classic buildings that flourished during the mining era. As a throwback to the good ol’ days, Bisbee still has over 45 saloons to grab a pint at, along with the original library and opera house.
20. Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
Slowly and patiently, the spectacular nature of Tonto Natural Bridge State Park came to life. To begin, seawater, volcanic lava and rainfall help to form a travertine dam. Over the years, the dam eroded. Leaving before the largest natural travertine bridge in the world.
The bridge is 150 feet wide, rising over 180 feet above the dazzling Pine Creek. Surrounded by pines, flowing springs and grottoes enveloped by ferns, the inspiring nature creates stark contrasts to the world around it. The most popular activity in the park is climbing over the bridge, but you’ll also find four other hiking trails to further explore the geological wonder that is Pine Canyon.
A historic town that is famous as the site of the Gunfight at the OK Corral, Tombstone was one of the last boom towns. It was a rough place that attracted hardy prospectors, tough gunslingers and lawless gamblers who came to win their fortune in the silver mines.
Very much a tourist trap, Tombstone is a fun place to visit in Arizona to learn about how the West was settled. With the historic part of town perfectly preserved, step into the past and wander around its saloons or check out a reenactment performance of the gunfight. As the place is geared towards tourism, there are lots of cheap eateries, souvenir shops, restaurants and hotels around town.
Part of the Greater Phoenix Area, Scottsdale’s year-round warm weather means that it welcomes millions of visitors to its streets every year. As such, there is a plethora of resorts, hotels, restaurants, and bars that cater to every budget.
Marketing itself as ‘The West’s Most Western Town’, numerous historic sites are scattered around and festivals and events embracing this heritage are regularly held, with cowboy competitions and horse shows often featuring.
With lots of great museums and art galleries on offer, Scottsdale has a thriving arts and cultural scene for visitors to enjoy. On top of all this, the city’s nightlife is pounding; there are loads of great nightclubs, swanky lounges and trendy bars for you to explore.
17. Montezuma Castle
Fifty miles south of Flagstaff, Montezuma Castle was built between 700 and 900 years ago. The five-story castle was cut using the limestone cliffs in Beaver Creek Canyon. One hundred feet off the valley floor, Montezuma Castle is a visual story of resilience and ingenuity of the Sinagua people.
Held together by clay mortar and mud, the castle comprises 20 separate rooms. Unfortunately, visitors can’t explore the inside of Montezuma Castle. However, the striking views along the walking trail complemented by various informative panels create a memorable experience. To learn more about the castle, explore the visitors center.
16. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Mostly consisting of endless desert, the huge Glen Canyon National Recreation Area surrounds the beautiful waters of Lake Powell. With over three thousand kilometers of shoreline, the dark waters of the lake are lined by beautiful red rock formations and the dramatic rock faces that plunge down into it.
A popular place to go boating, five marinas are scattered about and there are loads of great water sports and activities for visitors to enjoy. Whether it is kayaking and jet-skiing on Lake Powell’s waters, fishing along the shoreline, or hiking amidst the spectacular rock formations; this national recreation area has something for everyone.
The desert scenery is otherworldly, with Paria Canyon and Rainbow Bridge being particularly memorable. Horseshoe Bend is another must-see area in Glen Canyon. Make sure to stop by for a couple of days; you won’t regret it!
Set in the middle of the desert in an area which is appropriately known as ‘the Valley of the Sun’, the state capital is undoubtedly the cultural and economic heart of the state. Bathed in glorious sunshine almost year-round, Phoenix attracts over sixteen million visitors every year.
With lots of educational and entertaining museums on show, as well as some great theaters and shopping options, Phoenix has a lot going for it. There are a number of great restaurants and bars for visitors to check out. Sport lovers can watch any one of the city’s teams, while golfers will adore exploring the more than two hundred courses found in the town.
In its short and turbulent history, Jerome has seen it all. Once a thriving mining town, soon the numbers dwindled until it was nothing but tumbleweeds meandering along Main Street. But with enough of the old town remaining, it turned into a popular tourist destination.
Today you can explore the historic stores, old restaurants and museums in the restored buildings. Or simply admire the crumbling facades still standing. Learn all about Jerome’s history at the Gold King Mine Museum before exploring the famous Sliding Jail. The original building was made on clay slick and over the years has moved 2500ft from its first location.
Those exploring Sedona, Phoenix, Flagstaff and Prescott can make a day trip to the ghost town with on-site accommodation also available.
Found at over 5000ft, Prescott experiences the change of seasons more than most towns in Arizona. With a balance of exotic desert features among the ponderosa pines and sprawling lakes, there’s a wide variety of fun to be had.
Once the capital of the Arizona Territory, Prescott is the place to go for idyllic lakes where you can kayak by craggy canyons and camp under the stars. If you’re more of a dry land person, complete the Watson Lake Loop Trail. Covering 4.7 miles, experience the deep blue lake colors while trekking over desert boulders.
Prescott has an adorable downtown area, with historic buildings like the Elks Theater and the old courthouse. For accommodation in town, check into one of the daintily restored BnBs.
12. Horseshoe Bend
In the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Horseshoe Bend is one of the most recognizable sights in the United States. The park itself features an abundance of epic rock formations, scenic vistas and a fascinating layer of human history. But Horseshoe Bend will always steal the show.
Carved over the course of millions of years, the Colorado River completes a sharp 180-degree turn through the park. The result is a stunning horseshoe vista with the dark blue waters flowing through the orange canyon.
To get the best view in the house, complete the relatively flat 1.5 mile hike to the observation platform (this hike is wheelchair accessible). From there, try to avoid vertigo as you peer down 1000ft to the river below.
11. Havasu Falls
Turquoise waterfalls amid the rich desert await you on this bucket list worthy hike. The charm and beauty of Havasu Falls is hard to describe but when a hike of this difficulty is worth it, then you know the reward fits the bill.
The popularity, strenuousness and fragility of the landscape means visitors will have to plan ahead to make the famous journey. Permits need to be arranged ahead of time, with a night spent at either Havasupai Lodge or under the stars at the campground near the falls.
With your permit sorted, the hike begins by losing 1800ft of elevation as you trek to the base of the Grand Canyon. All up the hike to the mystical falls is ten miles one way.
Home to the University of Arizona, this lively college town is a fun and friendly place to visit, with some great nightlife on offer. The second largest city in the state is a delightful mix of cultures that attest to its long and varied history. Its numerous museums and lively arts and culture scene showcase the city’s diversity.
With great local shops on offer and fantastic restaurants and bars, the university’s large student body gives the town a youthful vibe. Lying in a valley and surrounded by arid mountains and cacti-filled plains, the brightly-colored buildings of the city make Tucson an attractive place, full of charm.
With amazing natural sights lying just outside of Tucson, most tourists to the city come to explore the mesmerizing Saguaro National Park or hike in the nearby Santa Catalina Mountains.
9. Saguaro National Park
The city of Tucson is surrounded by serene desert and one of the few places in the United States where you can see the giant saguaro in the wild. The Saguaro National Park was formed to allow the opportunity to both protect and show off the rare and spectacular cacti.
The park is split into two sections, with Tucson taking up the middle, granting easy access to anyone in town. The saguaro can live for 200 years while growing at the snail-esque pace of an inch per year.
The best time to visit the chandelier-like plants is in the morning and late afternoon, when the Sonoran Desert sun is less ferocious. The west side has a higher concentration of saguaro, but you can expect more crowds. While you can camp under the desert sky in the eastern section.
8. Meteor Crater
Just out of Winslow, Arizona, is a massive meteor crater that has to be seen to be believed. Known as the Barringer Crater, named after the man who discovered the popular attraction, the crater came to be roughly 50,000 years ago. On that fateful day, the Canyon Diablo meteorite hit the Arizonan landscape at a speed of 26,000 mph.
With the equivalent force of 20 million tons of TNT, the 100ft wide meteorite created a 700ft hole with a 4000ft diameter. Today, visitors can get up close to one of the biggest craters in North America. Stand on the observation platform on the cliff of the crater and admire the sheer size of the hole. Afterwards, spend some time in the visitor center learning more about the history of Barringer Crater,
7. Petrified Forest National Park
The idea of fossils isn’t new. In fact, you probably loved them as a kid. But to see a different type of fossil, the tree kind, then you have to explore the incredible Petrified Forest National Park.
Spread through the Navajo and Apache regions of Arizona, the forest became famous for the sheer number of petrified wood on display. As you drive through the park, you will be taken in by the striking terrain of desert badlands with varied shades of color. Stop along the way to embark on one of the several hiking trails through the forests. Get up close to the fossils which date back over 200 million years.
One hike you must do is the Blue Mesa Trail. The simple 1-mile loop guides you through blue-infused clay to a large area of petrified wood.
The City of Seven Wonders, Flagstaff is the perfect base from which to tackle many of the attractions on our list. But the college town isn’t just a handy waypoint on your travels to the Grand Canyon.
The unheralded city tends to your inner-traveler, allowing you to experience a fresh place that hasn’t yet been bombarded with Insta-famous attractions. Flagstaff is the highest point along the entire Route 66 and also where Pluto was first discovered. But that’s not its only claim to fame.
With beautiful nature surrounding it and a diverse art, culture and dining scene, there are many reasons to make the journey to the city. None better than to see why Flagstaff became the world’s first International Dark Sky City.
5. Antelope Canyon
The winding, twisting cracks of Antelope Canyon are mesmerizing to wander around, as sunbeams enchantingly snake their way along the sandstone walls, illuminating and bathing the soft red tones in resplendent light.
A beautiful sight to behold, the two different parts of Antelope Canyon are both well worth visiting; their distinctive features have led them to be respectively nicknamed ‘The Crack’ and ‘The Corkscrew’.
While they each have their own unique look, in both parts the rock appears to be flowing, thanks to the shapes created by the erosion of the rock. Set in a Navajo Tribal Park, the Upper and Lower parts of Antelope Canyon are only accessible by guided tour.
4. Canyon de Chelly
One of the most visited national monuments in the country, Canyon De Chelly has been inhabited for over five thousand years. The canyon walls protect and shelter some amazing old buildings that date back to the days of the Ancestral Puebloans.
Since the Navajos began calling it home in the 1700’s, the canyon has tragically been the site of numerous massacres throughout history, with both the Spanish and US Army having persecuted the Native Americans.
Nowadays, the site is owned and run by the Navajo and there are a number of great trails and horseback tours available to visitors. While Spider Rock is the canyon’s most distinctive feature, Canyon De Chelly is lovely to gaze upon, and there are great views from along its rim.
3. Monument Valley
Iconic in look, Monument Valley’s incredible geological features have starred in TV commercials, featured in films and appeared in magazine ads. As such, they are instantly recognizable around the world.
Surrounded by a desolate and featureless desert that stretches almost interminably, the massive sandstone buttes rear impressively towards the heavens, their vivid reds, and oranges standing out against the blue sky. Beautiful to behold, the ‘Valley Between the Rocks’ – as it was dubbed by the Navajo – is a must-see place when visiting Arizona.
While the jaw-dropping red sandstone formations are the undoubted highlight of what Sedona has to offer, there is lots more to see and do; visitors to the area invariably come away astounded at what they have witnessed.
Nestled amid the beautiful rock formations, Sedona is considered sacred by Native Americans and people come here to heal themselves and seek spiritual enlightenment. There are many shops selling alternative medicines and lots of spas for visitors to relax in.
An area of outstanding beauty, there are plenty of outdoor activities to take part in here; cycling or hiking in the canyons is an amazing experience, while swimming in the pristine waters will replenish your spirit. With lots of great restaurants on offer, as well as numerous art galleries to explore, the town can get a bit busy during summer, although the stunning scenery more than makes up for it.
1. Grand Canyon
Renowned throughout the world, the Grand Canyon is awe-inspiring to visit and the beautiful panoramas on show are simply breathtaking. Gigantic in size and scale, the views from the edge of the canyon are incredible, as you look out over the rock face dropping away below you and the dramatic vista stretches towards the horizon.
Descending into the canyon, the geological formations are mesmerizing. The arid and desolate terrain is peaceful yet picturesque and indeed a powerful place to explore. The ruddy hues of the canyon walls look beautiful in the light and the fossilized remains of plants and animals can be seen here and there.
To gain a greater insight into how the Grand Canyon came to be, head to the Geology Museum or the Trail of Time exhibition, which will take you through the layers and landscapes that the canyon has to offer.
With Ancestral Puebloans having lived in and around the area for centuries, head to the Tusayan Ruin and Museum for an interesting look at their history and culture. A simply incredible place, the Grand Canyon is undoubtedly the highlight of what Arizona has to offer.