17 Top-Rated Attractions & Places to Visit in Arizona
In the heart of the American Southwest, Arizona is filled with natural wonders, vibrant cities, and charming small towns. The Grand Canyon draws tourists from around the globe, but those who venture deeper into the state will find all kinds of unique places and interesting sites. While cities and towns like Phoenix and Sedona make great vacation destinations, you can head beyond the urban centers to discover Native American cliff dwellings and remnants of ancient cultures, historic ghost towns from the mining days, and a landscape perfect for outdoor adventures. Arizona is home to desert, lakes, mountains, slot canyons, saguaro cactus, buttes, waterfalls, and even a volcano with downhill skiing, all of which offer a world of possibilities for travelers.
1 Grand Canyon
Standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon looking out over the endless ridges of colorful cliff walls and deep ravines, it’s impossible not to be inspired by this natural wonder. The canyon walls glow in the late afternoon sun, revealing hues of orange, red, yellow, and everything in between. One of the biggest attractions in America, and certainly in the state of Arizona, the Grand Canyon is nothing less than spectacular. This incredible landscape has been carved out by the Colorado River, seen in the distance far below.
Most visitors see the canyon from the South Rim, where there are numerous lookout areas all along the road, and walkways running along the canyon’s edge. The North Rim provides a different view altogether, but the road is closed in winter. For those who want a closer look, it is possible to hike down into the Grand Canyon or take a helicopter flight over and through the canyon.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in the Grand Canyon
Surrounded by stunning red rock mountains and buttes, Sedona has one of the most beautiful settings in Arizona. About a 1.5-hour drive north of Phoenix, Sedona is a popular day trip from the city, but the town is worthy of much more than just a few hours. The drive into town from the south, through the Village of Oak Creek, is stunning and offers numerous scenic pullouts.
Sedona’s main street (89A) is full of interesting tourist shops, art galleries, and restaurants and is an easy place to spend an afternoon. All around Sedona, you’ll find great hiking and mountain biking trails, but Jeep tours, one of the most popular things to do here, provide an even easier way to get out into the landscape. Also in the surrounding area are a number of ancient Native American dwellings, which you can visit on your own or as part of a Jeep tour.
Sedona is considered by many to be a highly spiritual place. It is known for its energy vortexes, found at a number of sites around the town. In downtown, you’ll also find New Age shops and unique opportunities, from UFO tours and aura readings to psychics and crystal sellers.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Sedona
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3 Monument Valley
One of the most iconic images of the Southwest are the sandstone buttes that dominate Monument Valley. This area, straddling the border between Arizona and Utah, includes jagged rock formations, stone spires and buttes, and sand dunes. At the heart of the valley is the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, where you’ll find an impressive visitor center and a 17-mile self-drive route along a one-way gravel road through the park. You can also take a guided tour to explore the area more thoroughly. If you don’t have time to go into the park, you can appreciate some of the views from the highway.
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Monument Valley
4 Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is a stunning region of blue water, desert landscape, and dramatic stone walls. Home to Lake Powell, one of the largest manmade lakes in the United States, this area is known for both land-based and water-based recreational activities.
The Glen Canyon Dam was constructed between 1956 and 1964 to block the Colorado River and create Lake Powell. There is still a 15 mile section of Glen Canyon downstream from the Glen Canyon Dam, which stretches from the dam down to Lees Ferry.
The town of Page is a good base for exploring the Glen Canyon National Recreation area and surrounding region. The largest marina on Lake Powell, Wahweap Marina, is located just 7 miles north of Page. One of the area’s biggest attractions is the nearby slot canyons of Antelope Canyon. Depending on the section of the canyon, visitors can either simply walk through a narrow slot canyon with shafts of light penetrating through the top, illuminating the red walls, or repel down into a canyon. Photos of Antelope Canyon are often found on postcards or in fine art galleries. Visitors can visit Antelope Canyon on a guided tour.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in the Glen Canyon
Phoenix is a great base for exploring Arizona but it’s also a major destination in the winter for golfers and sun seekers, who simply want to enjoy a stay at a resort or spa and spend a little time basking in the heat of the desert. In the Phoenix Metropolitan Area, which includes Scottsdale and Mesa, you’ll find great shopping, dining, golf courses, desert parks for walking, hiking, and biking, and some outstanding attractions. Topping the list of places to visit around Phoenix are the Heard Museum and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Phoenix: Best Areas & Hotels
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6 Hoover Dam
Hoover Dam is one of the world’s great engineering marvels. This massive structure, completed in 1935, crosses the Colorado River, linking Arizona and Nevada. It is 726 feet high and 1,244 feet long. Lake Mead, held back by the Hoover Dam, is the largest artificial lake in the United States. It is 110 miles long, and holds the equivalent of two years of flow of the Colorado River.
Visitors can drive or walk across the dam for free, although there is a charge for parking. Another option is to take a tour of Hoover Dam or the Powerplant. On site is the visitor center, with information on the dam and tours, and a café with some basic food options.
Accommodation: Where to Stay near the Hoover Dam
Located along a mountainside high above the desert floor, Jerome is an old mining town, turned ghost town, turned tourist attraction. A steep hill with switchbacks is the main street through town, and where visitors will find interesting stores and restaurants. Views from the streets and some of the shop windows are amazing. Many of the old buildings have been renovated but some still stand as ruins, creating a very interesting dynamic. This town is a popular day trip from Sedona, Prescott, Phoenix, or Flagstaff. There is also accommodation for those who want to spend the night. The town’s history can be appreciated at the Gold King Mine Museum and the Jerome State Historic Park.
This town is unique to say the least, and has many interesting and quirky sites. The Sliding Jail in Jerome was originally built around 1928. Built on a clay slick, it soon began to slide and now sits 2,500 feet from its original location. The Jerome Grand Hotel, built in 1927, is the highest public building in the Verde Valley, and it offers breathtaking views. The Bartlett Hotel was once one of Jerome’s finest hotel but today stands in ruins.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Jerome
8 Havasu Falls
Near Supai on the Havasupai Indian Reservation is the 100-foot Havasu Falls. The pools at the base of Havasu Falls have a bluish green tint to the water, and the fall is forked so it appears that there are two falls when the river is flowing heavily. In the canyon of Havasu Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River, some 450 Havasupai Indians (the “people of the blue-green water”) live a secluded life, subsisting on their modest farming activities but now mainly dependent on the tourist trade. In this paradisiac valley, the Havasu have created a number of waterfalls and carved out basins in the travertine rock which form attractive bathing pools.
Day hiking is not allowed here. Visitors need to make reservations, obtain a permit, and pay a fee. Access is via a long hike, horseback or mule, or helicopter.
9 Canyon De Chelly National Monument
Canyon de Chelly National Monument is home to spectacular Native American cliff dwellings set along steep-sided canyons, with walls up to 1,000 feet high. In the main canyon, some of the key attractions are the White House Ruins, constructed circa 1050 and discovered in 1849, and Spider Rock. The White House is the best known of the more than one hundred cliff dwellings. The only self-guided hike in the park, which leaves from the White House Overlook on the South Rim, descends 600 feet to the White House Ruins. Other cliff dwellings include the Antelope House and Mummy Cave (in which mummies were found) in the Canyon del Muerto. Most of the ruins, which are largely inaccessible to visitors, were occupied from around AD 350 to 1300.
You can tour the site on your own by driving along the North and South Rim Drives and stopping at the pullouts. Although you can easily see ruins nearby, many of the lookouts also have scopes that let you pinpoint ruins on the distant walls. From spring until fall, you can join a free ranger-led hike or take a private tour of the canyon.
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Canyon De Chelly
In the far south of Arizona, near the Mexico border, is one of Arizona’s most interesting towns and possibly one of its best kept secrets. The former mining town of Bisbee is a unique little community set high in the mountains.
After the mines here closed, Bisbee became a ghost town, and squatters took up residence. Eventually, the town became a haven for artists and hippies. Today, it is a prosperous small town with an eclectic mix of residents, all kinds of unique shops and restaurants, and many interesting things to see and do. Homes, many of which are former miners’ cabins, line the hills surrounding the historic downtown area. Many of these residences are only accessible via long sets of stairs that lead to the town center below. Views from the upper streets and hillside homes are incredible, looking out over mountains all the way to Mexico. In the hills above the town are a number of informal hiking trails.
Bisbee is a popular day trip from Tucson and surrounding areas, often combined with a stop in Tombstone.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Bisbee
11 Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Lake Mead National Recreation Area spans 177 miles of the Colorado River and includes Lake Mead and Lake Mohave. The area’s 1.5 million acres stretches into southern Nevada.
The area offers boating and water sports, camping facilities, fishing, and hiking opportunities. Lake Mohave is 67 miles long, making it the smaller of the two major lakes in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Like its counterpart, Lake Mohave is an artificial body of water, held back by Davis Dam. Willow Beach is a small resort town on the Colorado River with accommodation, restaurants, a marina, and fish hatchery.
13 Petrified Forest National Park
Large pieces of petrified wood, along with fossilized plants, fish, and reptiles, have been revealed in great numbers in what is today Petrified National Forest in the Painted Desert. The park access road allows visitors to drive passed many of the highlights and short interpretive trails allow for close up looks at a variety of unique sights. The Visitors Center provides insight into the ecology and geology of the park and is a good place to start before heading out on the drive.
14 Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park is a great place to experience the desert landscape around Tucson and see the famous saguaro cacti up close. The park has two sections, an east and a west portion, located on the east and west side of Tucson, approximately 30 minutes apart. Both offer great opportunities to see the desert flora and fauna with roads and hiking trails. Hikes range from easy walks to challenging trails that lead up into the high mountains, reaching up to 8,000 feet in elevation. Visitors can visit both sections of the park on the same entrance ticket or park pass.
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Saguaro National Park
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15 Antelope Canyon at Page
Seen in countless photographs in galleries all over Arizona, Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon located just outside of Page. The sculpted, twisting sandstone walls rise up around you, with shafts of light breaking through from the narrow opening above as you walk through the canyon. Visitors can tour Upper Antelope Canyon on a guided tour, although once you reach the canyon, you are given plenty of free time to explore on your own and at your own pace. The canyon lies within the Navajo Nation reserve boundary.
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Antelope Canyon
Unusual Attractions in Arizona
Yayoi Kusama Firefly Infinity Mirror Room
Unique Food & Drink in Arizona
Blue Corn Mush
Arizona is a place without equal, full of incredible natural wonders, one-of-kind places and a long and storied history you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Our parks feature everything from the grandest of canyons to acres of saguaros to remnants of our state’s ancestors. Our communities offer visitors incomparable experiences, from wine country to the Old West. And our Tribal lands invite you to witness the arts, traditions and way of life that’s been carefully preserved for thousands of years. Come see what makes Arizona so unique.
Sedona Trail Zen
Sedona Trail Zen opened this past year to offer adventure experiences for any size group. Local guides lead solo adventure seekers to Sedona’s wonders as well as guide and manage large team building events for as many as 30 on the red rock trails of Sedona. Guides take guests to scenic vistas and provide information on the diverse ecosystems of Sedona on both hiking and biking trails. Certified instructors can lead visitors into the wilderness to practice yoga in Sedona’s most pristine locations. They are permitted to guide on more than 100 miles of Red Rock District Trails. Their shop offers information, hiking and mountain bike gear and a bike fleet for rent. A smoothie bar serves healthy refreshments to rehydrate after the trail.
New Scottsdale Wine and Ale Trail Maps available for download
Downtown Scottsdale is home to notable wine tasting rooms and breweries, where visitors can sample Arizona-grown varietals and locally-brewed suds. Visitors looking to traverse the Scottsdale Wine Trail and explore the budding ale trail can now download Experience Scottsdale’s new maps of the locales. The Scottsdale Wine Trail mapdirects visitors to Carlson Creek Vineyards, LDV Winery and more. The Scottsdale Ale Trail map points to Two Brothers Tap House, Craft 64, and Goldwater Brewing Co., among others. Visitors can download additional Scottsdale maps and guides of other attractions such as Downtown’s districts, Old Town’s historic sites, and the area’s public art.
New interpretive site at Grand Falls on Navajo Nation
The public experience at Grand Falls, on the Navajo Nation near Leupp, and one of Northern Arizona’s famous desert water features, was enhanced in the fall of 2016 with the construction of a new interpretive site. Interpretive panels explaining the Navajo culture can be found under a ramada structure shaped like a traditional Hogan and new waterless restrooms are now close by. The concrete floor of the ramada features a stamped design of the four sacred Navajo plants: maize, beans, tobacco and squash. Grand Falls typically flows only during snow melt, in the spring, or during monsoon season.
The Navajo Nation Zoo in Window Rock eases the way for everyone
Thanks to a partnership from the Navajo Tourism Department, the Navajo Nation Zoo can now accommodate all visitors. M.O.B. Construction Company from Navajo, New Mexico paved a new pathway to make the entire zoo grounds accessible to the public. The modification now helps those with baby strollers and wheel chairs and helps keep visitor feet dry during the winter and summer rains. This partnership has made the Navajo Nation Zoo a wonderful venue for the Navajo people and world-wide visitors. The Zoo recently held a 40th anniversary celebration in June 2017. The Navajo Nation Zoo and Botanical Park is the only Native American owned-and-operated zoo in the country.
Arabella Hotel Sedona will undergo renovations in 2017 to revamp its eight-acre property located among the Red Rocks of Sedona. Renovations will enhance landscaping on the hotel grounds, bring new décor to the hotel’s premier “Trailhead” rooms and include guestroom bathroom renovations. Plans for renovations come shortly after the management takeover of Arabella by San Diego-based hotel management company, RAR Hospitality. Arabella Hotel Sedona has 144 guestrooms on its property. It is also home to Elote Cafe, which offers Mexican inspired dishes with a modern, upscale twist. The Arabella Hotel Sedona is located at 725 Highway 179, in Sedona.
New Hyatt Place Opening in Page/Lake Powell
Hyatt Place Page/Lake Powell is set to open in April 2018. This newly constructed, three-story, 102-room select service property overlooking Lake Powell will represent a best-in-class hotel for the area. The property will offer travelers an upscale lodging option that provides gorgeous views, intuitive design, a casual atmosphere and a myriad of amenities such as 24-hour food and beverage offerings, a 24-hour fitness center, free Wi-Fi and extensive complimentary parking to accommodate families, bus tours and boating enthusiasts. The hotel is positioned on a mesa just above Lake Powell, scenic sites like Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon and the Colorado River are just a few miles away. The Grand Canyon, as well as other regional national parks and monuments can all be reached within a three-hour drive.
Cambria Hotels Opens New Upscale Property in Chandler
The Cambria Hotel Phoenix Chandler – Fashion Centerrecently opened in the Phoenix area. The new 136-room upscale property features a pool with cabanas, fitness room, lounge area and 1,300 square-feet of multi-function meeting space. In addition, the property has onsite dining, including a menu comprised of locally-inspired specialties, signature cocktails and local craft beers. Located near Loops 101 and 202 at 3165 West Fry Rd., the new Cambria hotel is part of the Chandler Viridian, a 25-acre mixed-use development project that includes office space, luxury apartments, retail offerings and a pedestrian promenade to the Chandler Fashion Center. The hotel is near many Phoenix area attractions and several corporate offices, such as Intel, Microchip Technologies and PayPal.
Sedona’s new Secret 7 campaign
The Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau has launched Sedona’s Secret 7, an innovative campaign that reveals hidden trails and locations across Red Rock Country. The campaign gives even frequent Sedona visitors more reasons to return and extend their stay by providing a list of unfamiliar places. The Chamber also wants to move visitors away from trails that are heavily traveled in order to help sustain the natural resources for generations to come. Sedona’s Secret 7 is broken into seven categories: Picnics; sunrise/sunset vistas; stargazing; spiritual; arts and culture; biking trails; and hiking trails. Within each category there are seven different places that offer a doorway to lesser-known parts of Sedona. It also offers secret tips, like the quiet site with sweeping sunrise views that goes mostly undiscovered by Sedona visitors, or best bets to find reflective pools of water after summer monsoons and even tips on how to be a responsible traveler.
Get your “Pic’s on Route 66” with new street art at Flagstaff Visitor Center
No Route 66 trip is complete without selfies from the road, so cruise over to the Flagstaff Visitor Center (1 E. Route 66) to snap a picture with Arizona’s newest mother road themed street art. Unveiled in May 2017 in the west parking lot of Flagstaff’s historic train station building, the large scale, 25 feet wide public art was painted by local mural artists, the Mural Mice, to provide a permanent Route 66 photo opportunity for Flagstaff visitors.
Train enthusiasts drop by Benson to conduct some fun
Benson Arizona was created in 1880 by the Southern Pacific Railroad. It was the hub of Southern Arizona connecting former mining communities and even connecting with the Sonoran Railroad line into Mexico. The railroad history of Benson is an important part of what Benson is today. Thousands of train enthusiasts come to Benson each year just to see the trains come through town. They watch and take pictures of the locomotives and cargo for their railroad photo collections. Now, with a grant from the Union Pacific Foundation, the visitor center has add a “G” scale model train and 96 feet of track around the inside perimeter of the office. A former train control stand was added to allow visitors an opportunity to drive the train and receive an official Benson Train Engineer certificate.