Last updated on March 24th, 2017 at 08:55 pm
Arizona is what the Old West is all about. It’s a land without equal, full of incredible natural wonders, one-of-kind places, and a long history you won’t find anywhere else in the world. You’ll love the amazing landscapes, red-hot sunsets and the world-class attractions in this wild and romantic land.
Arizona is home to 47 national parks, monuments and refuges as well as 29 state parks that showcase mountains, buttes, deserts and hidden lakes. With so much to see and do in Arizona, you might have a hard time picking which ones to experience. Discover all the best Arizona has to offer with our recommendations for the top 10 must see attractions.
The Grand Canyon National Park
One of the biggest attractions in America, and certainly in the state of Arizona, is the spectacular Grand Canyon. Stretching 277 miles from end to end, steep, rocky walls descend more than a mile to the canyon’s floor, where the wild Colorado River traces a swift course southwest. In some areas it can reach 1 mile in depth, and 18 miles in width. At different stops along the Grand Canyon, you’ll see historic buildings, waterfalls, or test your nerves on the famous glass skywalk (on the North Rim.)
Most visitors see the canyon from the South Rim, where there are numerous lookout areas all along the road and walkway running along the canyon’s edge. A free South Rim shuttle operates on four scenic routes. The North Rim provides a different view altogether, but the road is closed in winter. The best time to visit is in early spring or late fall to avoid the heavy crowds.
Lake Havasu City and the London Bridge
Known as “Arizona’s Playground,” Lake Havasu offers year-round sunshine and endless adventure, from boating and off-roading to hiking and fishing. Lake Havasu City’s main attraction is the 1831 London Bridge. The bridge was taken down brick by brick in London, brought overseas, and re-erected in the middle of the desert. The granite arch bridge now connects Lake Havasu City’s mainland and island. It is a nice slice of Europe sitting in the Arizona dessert
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
The park is famous for the Organ Pipe Cactus. These cacti are spectacles that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. The Organ Pipe Cactus grows up to 23 feet high, can weigh 2 – 3 tons, and blooms from May to July. Because of the great heat during the day it opens up its flowers only after sunset. Over a hundred miles of scenic drives, dozens of miles of hiking trails, campgrounds, changing exhibits, and ranger programs help you experience, observe, and explore the American Desert. Come in spring to avoid crowds and to avoid the heat!
Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum
The museum is not your typical museum. Families will experience a quintessential Sonoran Desert experience which includes: an unforgettable fusion zoo, botanical garden, natural history museum, an aquarium, and art gallery. There are two miles of walking trails. Major highlights include a hummingbird aviary, Warden Aquarium and the Earth Sciences Center where you descend into a replica limestone cave. Enjoy live animal presentations that showcase a variety of desert animals and be sure not to miss Raptor Free Flight (seasonal) where native birds of prey fly so close you can feel the brush of feathers. The 21 acre indoor/outdoor is dotted with drinking fountains and you’ll find sunscreen dispensers in the restrooms.
Montezuma Castle National Monument
Just an hour south of Flagstaff, in Camp Verde, AZ, is Montezuma Castle, a dwelling of the Sinagua culture built into a recess in a sandstone cliff. What’s known as “Montezuma Castle” was once a dwelling of the “Sinagua” culture. The dwelling has 20 rooms on five levels and could be entered only on ladders.
Nearby, Montezuma Well is a natural sinkhole and small lake (11 miles northeast of Montezuma Castle.) The remains of Sinaguan dwellings and irrigation systems can be found there. Set aside time to explore the museum and roam the trails through a scenic sycamore grove at the base of towering limestone cliffs.
Bisbee is home to the famous “Copper Queen Mine.” Originally founded in 1880, this former mining town is set high in the mountains in the far south of Arizona near the Mexico border. Unique shops line the old main street and homes, many of which are former miners’ cabins, line the hills which surround the historic downtown area. There are many interesting things for families to see and do. This is a popular day trip from Tucson and surrounding areas, often combined with a trip to Tombstone.
Regarded by Native Americans as sacred, Sedona is a true oasis, a vacationer’s paradise in the middle of the Arizona desert. It is recognized as a place of healing and spiritual renewal. Sedona is equal parts rugged, equal parts resort. You’ll find resorts and spas, canyons and red rock formations. Bell Rock and Oak Creek Canyon are great hiking spots, and the dramatic architecture of the Chapel of the Holy Cross is a religious experience itself. Prowl the 40-plus art galleries lining the streets, or to receive soothing treatments from the dozens of spa facilities. When the sun dips down below the horizon, it introduces the best show in Sedona: the night sky.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument
The Canyon de Chelly National Monument is home to spectacular cliff dwellings found on and at the base of steep-sided canyons up to 1,000 feet deep. This is the best known of over a hundred cliff dwellings, mostly in inaccessible locations, which were occupied from around AD 350 to 1300. The park is located in Chinle, Arizona, and is entirely on Navajo tribal lands. Navajo families make their homes, raise livestock, and farm the lands in these canyons.
There is an informative archeological museum in the Visitor Center, two rim drives, ten overlooks, and one public trail, called the “White House Trail” to visit on your own.
Saguaro National Park
Located outside of Tucson, this park has the largest number of Saguaro forests in the world. There are two sections to this park that are 30 miles apart (East and West.) Both offer great opportunities to see the desert flora and fauna with roads and hiking trails. There are challenging hiking options with trails that lead into the high mountains, reaching up to 8000 feet in elevation. Visitors can visit both sections of the park on the same entrance ticket or park pass. There are guided tours, scheduled special events, and fun activities for the kids.
Petrified Forest National Park
East of Holbrook, Arizona, lies a sea of petrified wood, painted rocks, and 200 million year old fossils. The Petrified Forest National Park is truly a masterpiece from the fascinating geology to the stunning landscapes to the human history and incredible examples of Arts & Crafts and Modern design.
The Painted Desert Visitors Center provides insight into the ecology and geology of the park. It is a good place to start before heading out on the drive. The park’s access road allows visitors to drive past many of the park highlights and short interpretive trails allow for close up looks at a variety of unique sights. Scheduled events take place in and around the park throughout the year.
Arizona has endless outdoor adventure, world-class golf, unparalleled shopping, vibrant cultures, historic landmarks and amazing art scenes. These must see attraction are just the beginning of all the things you can see, do and experience in Arizona.
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