Famed for its sprawling deserts and spectacular geographical formations, Arizona epitomizes the American Wild West at its very best! Home to the largest Native American reservation in the country, the state is also where you can find the fascinating Grand Canyon. From former mining towns to ancient villages and bustling cities, you can find it all in this state that sits tucked in the southwestern United States. A plethora of outdoor activities, entertainment options, and cultural attractions draw thousands of tourists to the area each year. Phoenix, Tucson, Prescott, Yuma, Flagstaff, and Lake Havasu City are just some of the major metropolitan areas that you can choose to base in. Check out this compilation of fun things to do in Arizona on your next visit.
The Grand Canyon is a magnificent natural wonder carved by the Colorado River. It cuts across the layers of red rock that stood for millions of years. Nothing you have heard or seen can compare with the actual feeling of seeing it with your own eyes. Sitting on the edge of the rim as you soak in the tranquility with only the occasional bird call to interrupt your reverie, it becomes easy to see how infinitesimal your role in the Universe is.
Take your pick of activities such as hiking, camping, mule trips, and a thrilling stroll on the skywalk to explore this sprawling canyon. Get a bird’s eye view of this spectacular attraction with a Helicopter Tour of the Grand Canyon National Park. Enjoy a scenic flight of 25 or 45 minutes duration as you listen to a recorded audio commentary.
A trip to the state capital is a must when you are in this beautiful region. From museums to performing art venues to spectacular golf courses, Phoenix has everything you need and more. The Metropolitan area includes Scottsdale and Mesa making it a great choice for shopping and relaxing. Green spaces in the city include the zoo and botanic gardens.
Papago Park is popular. Enjoy this beautiful green space in Phoenix. Runners enjoy the option of paved and dirt trails. Open on weekends from 6.00 am to 7.00 pm, entry’s free. The trails for walking suit people of all ages.
The Painted Desert is a fascinating stretch of badland hills that forms a vibrant landscape in a swathe of colors. Shades of red, orange, white, brown, yellow and even lavender come together to create a visual treat like no other! First discovered by explorers in 1540, this geographical wonder is situated about 40 miles (60 km) from the Petrified Forest National Park.
You can also reach the park in about 90 minutes by road from Flagstaff. Take along a camera, as the scenery’s great. Plus pull-off stops mean you can take your time for the best views.
Musical Instrument Museum (MIM)
The world’s only global musical instrument museum is also home to a 300-seat acoustically advanced performance space. With a collection of over 15,000 instruments, there’s plenty to keep you busy here for quite some time. The galleries are divided geographically into five and contain ethnic, tribal, as well as folk musical instruments.
A trip to this museum in Phenix definitely counts among one of the fun things to do in Arizona. It opens daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The museum store offers mugs, caps, and even musical instruments for sale. You’ll find the museum at 4725 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix, AZ.
Step back in time at this Arizona attraction that is not as well-known as so many of the other natural wonders in the state. Get a good look at the petroglyphs on Newspaper Rock that are believed to be at least five centuries old. You could also set off to explore the Blue Mesa Trail and relish the experience of an easy hike along surreal blue and purple hills.
In the northern section, follow the road to the Visitors Center. Use exit 311 off I-40, south to US 180. Meanwhile, the southern section houses a small museum. It’s located about 26 miles from the town of Holbrook.
The town of Sedona sits on the route to the Grand Canyon. The town’s definitely worth a stop when you visit the area. The quirky town built a reputation for spiritual healers, nature photographers, and filmmakers. In town, discover New Age shops, spas and art galleries.
Another advantage you’ll discover is a list of things to do provided by local operators. These include things like jeep tours, hiking, and exploring canyons. We recommend this Monument Valley And Indian Reservation Tour.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Spread across the states of Arizona and Utah, the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area offers you plenty of opportunities for outdoor fun. From soaking in the stunning views of breathtakingly beautiful geological formations to camping under the stars, there’s plenty to choose from while you are here.
A hike to the iconic Horsehoe Bend lookout will ensure a lifetime of unforgettable memories. You can also experience pioneer life here and this is sure to make it to the top of your list of things to do in Arizona. Being only about a four-hour drive from Salt Lake City, Utah, you might also want to include that on your itinerary.
The former mining town of Jerome, with its dwindling population, is now a tourist attraction offering charming restaurants and stores alongside some historic buildings. Although small, it’s a place where artists and tourists enjoy the ambiance of what once featured as the largest copper mine in Arizona.
While the mine closed down, a fascinating feature is that it boasts the title of the largest ghost town in America. Gift shops abound in town, plus you’ll find a mining museum. Then why not visit the Jerome State, Historic Park. The unique Sliding Jail is also worth a visit.
Monument Valley spans the Utah/Arizona border. Characterized by its numerous sandstone buttes, this beautiful region has been featured in numerous movies., especially Westerns. Here, experience undeveloped beauty just as the Navajo people did for centuries or more.
You’ll find the small town settlement 60 miles west of the Utah–New Mexico border via Highway 163. Remote, you’ll find a lodge, camping, outfitters and a few restaurants there. But, excellent hotels also dot the area. Take the 14-mile graded dirt road and visit the main monuments like the Mittens and Three Sisters. Locals American Indians also offer horseback guided trips into the valley.
Visiting the Grand Canyon? Then put Havasu Falls on your list of sights to see. This waterfall on the Havasu Creek will amaze you with its spectacular beauty. The gushing single chute of water falls down and collects into a series of plunge pools making for a picturesque sight.
While camping facilities are available close to the falls, permits must be obtained before you can stay overnight. There are picnic tables near the falls if you’d like to enjoy a meal as you gaze upon the stunning sight. Note though, you should budget $50 per person for entry. It’s also possible to arrange a tour guide for a party of four, but allow $395 per person. Make use of the mules that pack your things in from the parking area. Obey the rules and carry all your trash out again, as well.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Straddling the states of Arizona and Nevada, the sprawling Lake Mead National Area is perfect for all kinds of water activities. Take your pick of boating, camping, fishing, hiking, and swimming. Throw in excellent desert views and you have an irresistible combination. The area has gained a widespread reputation as being one of the best spots in the country for sport fishing.
Hikers enjoy the three-mile walk along the railroad tunnels to Hoover Dam. Families enjoy swimming in the lake as it’s reasonably clear. The riverboat ride is near the entrance. On the ride, keep a camera handy as you can view the Black canyon from the water.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Known as a treasure trove of pre-historic art, Canyon de Chelly National Monument often does not figure on most people’s list of fun things to do in Arizona. However, the stunning Native American cliff dwellings that can be found here are not to be missed. While you cannot actually gain access to these ancient shelters, they are easily visible when you are driving down the North and South Rim routes of the Grand Canyon.
Several Routes take you to the area. Recommended ones include the 1-40 east from Flagstaff. Then take the Highway 191 NORTH. Meanwhile, if traveling from Gallup, NM, take Highway 264 WEST then Highway 191 NORTH.
The historic city of Tombstone was once a prosperous mining town. With its proximity to numerous popular tourist attractions, the town now offers plenty of accommodation and good food. You’ll across staged gunfights and people walking around town in period costumes. There is also a gunfighter’s museum for history buffs to browse through.
The O.K. Corral museum’s popular as you can visit Doc Holliday’s room. Get along and pay your respects at the Boothill Graveyard. For three dollars, self guide yourself around the many tombstones, read the interesting obituaries and visit the large gift shop. Alternatively, enjoy the productions at the Saloon Theatre.
Situated in the southeastern corner of Arizona, a trip there takes just over an hour by road from Tucson.
Yet another mining town, it sits on the Mexican border. Tucked into the mountains, it offers great views of the surrounding region extending right up to Mexico. There are plenty of trails and hiking is a good way of exploring the area. The town is close to Tombstone and you could combine both of these fun things to do in Arizona on a quick day tour.
The town once featured as a thriving copper and silver mining center. Discover the vibrant colors of the rock faces, and get in some photos of restored homes that hug the edges of the cliffs. There’s a museum as well, to while away a few fascinating hours.
Immortalized in stunning photographs that can be found across the world, Antelope Canyon is known for its sandstone walls that appear to have been twisted. You cannot enter the canyon alone but even with a guide accompanying you, it’s possible to explore at your own pace.
The canyon is set within the Navajo Nation reserve boundary and you can unravel its secrets with an in-depth exploration such as the Upper Antelope Canyon Tour Ticket. Soak in the colors and capture stunning images for posterity as you listen to your guide’s narration about the history and geology of this spectacular site.
Tumacacori National Park
Situated near Tucson, Tumacacori National Park is home to the ruins of early Spanish colonial missions. Following Apache raids and inclement weather conditions during winter, the missions were abandoned in the mid-19th century. Don’t forget to take along your camera for some memorable pictures of this beautiful location.
Go along on a Sunday and you might be lucky enough to see some native dancing or enjoy tasting corn tacos. From the main area, walking trails wind off into the wilderness. Enjoy exploring artifacts and buildings at the old mission. You’ll find it 50 miles south of Tucson off Hwy 10.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Set close to the Mexican border, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is known for its distinctly-shaped cactus plants. An International Biosphere Reserve, this national monument can be divided into three unique desert vegetation zones. You will come across over 30 varieties of cactus. It is possible to drive along the many roads or hike down the trails when you wish to explore the area.
Plenty of campgrounds in the area mean you can park and explore. However, it’s recommended that you check the National Parks Service website for road closure alerts. Also, note that the recent construction of the border wall between Mexico and the USA might take some of the ambiance of the place away.
A favorite with hiking enthusiasts, Camelback Mountain offers you a choice of two trails. You can go up the steep Echo Canyon or travel along the lengthy Cholla Canyon. Keep an eye out for the stunning flora and fauna of the region as you walk along.
The landmark mountain’s just 20 minutes from downtown Phoenix, and a big attraction for people who enjoy getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Entry into the park is free, but you can’t take in your dogs. Note though, that the trails are not all that easy, so it might not be suitable for very small children and the elderly.
Cholla Trail’s more scenic of the two trails, and less busy than the other one. Above all, take enough water as it’s really hot. You don’t want to end up being a rescue mission.
Staying in a houseboat on Lake Powell definitely counts among one of the fun things to do in Arizona. This reservoir on the Colorado River is the second-largest man-made reservoir in the country. It is also home to Rainbow Bridge, one of the largest natural bridges in the world. Water-skiing, boating, jet-skiing, fishing, hiking, and camping are just some of the activities that await you here.
We recommend this 30-minute airplane tour for a full appreciation of the Lake, as well as Horseshoe bend and Glan Canyon. It departs from Page Municipal Airport, 238 N 10th Ave, Page, AZ 86040.
Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village
Located in Sedona, this charming place is a shopper’s paradise. Underneath the sycamore trees next to Oak Creek, this is a uniquely southwestern shopping experience. You’ll feel as though you’re actually in a genuine Mexican village. The village brings galleries, and a range of interesting shops all set in natural surroundings.
It started off as an artist’s community and to this day, keep a lookout for sculptors working at their artwork. This place is also your one-stop for fabulous gifts like glass-blown vases and ornaments. Traditional ceramics abound and don’t overlook the finely worked jewelry.
There are also five gourmet restaurants for you to fill up after discovering more fun things to do in Arizona. Try the El Rincon Mexican Restaurant for delicious cuisine. Parking is free, and there’s overflow parking just across the road. Best of all, the place is pet-friendly, but do keep your dog on a leash.
Saguaro National Park
A great place for clicking the perfect desert landscape photo, Saguaro National Park sits close to the city of Tucson. Besides the opportunity to see endemic species of flora and fauna up close, you get to hike to your heart’s content. Trails in this park range from easy to challenging levels and reach up to 8,000 feet (2,438 m) in elevation.
Notably, you won’t find any concession stands in the Park. And, it’s best if you take out what you bring in with you. Water fountains are available at the two visitor centers only. Camping’s available, but you can’t drive there and need to hike to your destination. In this wilderness area, there’s no wifi and cell commutation can be spotty, so take that into consideration when planning your trip.
If you wish, you can take along your dog, but you can’t take them off the roadways. Some picnic areas allow for leashed pets, but please take along plenty of water and watch for signs of heat distress.
Yes, you read that right. Lake Havasu City is home to the London Bridge that once stood over the River Thames in London! Originally built in the 1830s, the bridge was dismantled and moved to Arizona in 1967. The bridge now standing is a concrete version clad in the original masonry. It definitely makes for a stunning sight in the late afternoon and early evening.
Drive or walk across the bridge if you like and snap some great photos of the Tudor backdrop. It’s free to visit, pet-friendly and wheelchair accessible. Once across the bridge, look out for a small beach and park where you can hire a paddleboard. or, go beneath the bridge where you’ll find a couple of small restaurants.
Desert Botanical garden
Soak in the desert ambiance as you stroll around the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. Check out a mind-boggling 4,000 varieties of desert flora ranging from the popular to the relatively unknown. Once you have explored this garden in its entirety, you will never be heard calling a desert landscape boring.
Located at Papago Park, at 1201 N. Galvin Parkway in Phoenix, entry into the 140-acre garden’s not free, but very affordable at between $12 to $25. The on-site garden shop sells a range of gift items and plants. Visitors love their Prickly pear Jelly. Gertrude’s restaurant’s the place to fill up on some yummy food. But check first that it’s open, as sometimes it’s used for special events. The garden opens daily from 8.00 am.
Tucked between two mountain ranges, Tubac is a small yet thriving art community. Established in the mid 18th century as a Spanish Presidio, it now has many galleries, shopping, and fine dining options. Golf enthusiasts also frequently throng this town given its spectacular 27-hole golf course. That makes for one of the fun things to do in Arizona.
If you’re into art, then set aside time to visit the Tubac Center of Arts for some excellent art by creators in the Santa Cruz Valley. Alternatively, head for the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park where there’s a short walking trail. The Soulistic Healing Center in Tubac offers spa services including reflexology and acupuncture.
When you are in the Scottsdale area, be sure to stop by Taliesin West that was the winter home of famous architect Frank Llyod Wright. It now serves as the primary campus of The School of Architecture at Taliesin. The Frank Llyod Wright Foundation also operates out of this building.
Located at 12621 N Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd, Scottsdale, it opens daily from 8.30 am to 6.30 pm. The UNESCO World Heritage site and National Historic Landmark offers a broad range of tours for visitors. Look out for the Frank Lloyd Wright Store near the main entrance. There, you’ll find books, art, home decor and more.
Just So You Know:
- Arizona is home to 22 national parks and monuments.
- The Grand Canyon National Park is among the Seven Wonders of the World and is the only one from the United States on this list.
- Phoenix is the hottest city in the country.
- The 2 Day Grand Canyon Antelope Canyon Tour is our favorite tour! This tour departs from Las Vegas and takes you to the very best of the American Southwest. It’s a must!!!