21 Top Things to Do in Arizona

Tucked into the southwest corner of the United States, Arizona offers something for all types of travelers. Visit highlights like the Grand Canyon, the Wild West town of Tombstone or the red rocks of Sedona. You can then head to cities like Phoenix or Tucson for professional sports, museums, observatories and science centers. Read on to discover all the state’s iconic sights, stunning landscapes and gorgeous natural formations to add to your Arizona bucket list.

Antelope Canyon

Prepare to be wowed by Antelope Canyon, a jaw-dropping slot canyon in northern Arizona. Swirling, orange sandstone and ethereal light beams (which typically appear in the summer months) make for an otherworldly destination. Travelers must sign up for a guided tour to access this area, which is part of Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park.

If you’d like to stay in the area overnight, you’ll find accommodation options like the Best Western Plus at Lake Powell and the Comfort Inn & Suites Page at Lake Powell in the nearby town of Page, Arizona. Past visitors say Antelope Canyon is a must-see and appreciate that tour guides can often provide expert advice on how to take the best photos while there.

Saguaro National Park

If you’d like to check another national park off your bucket list, visit Arizona’s Saguaro National Park. Located less than 15 miles northwest of Tucson, the park features a giant forest of saguaro cacti, some of which stand up to 50 feet tall and date back more than 200 years. But the park, located in the Sonoran Desert, boasts more than plant life: Look out for animals like roadrunners and Gila monsters during your visit.

Ranger-led tours are available at the park. You can stay overnight in Tucson at upscale properties like the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort or the Miraval Arizona. Or, for a more rugged experience, go camping in the Saguaro Wilderness Area.

Step into the Wild West in Tombstone

About 75 miles southeast of Tucson, travelers will find the infamous Wild West town of Tombstone. A National Historic Landmark, the district is considered one of the most well-preserved frontier towns from the 1870s and ’80s. Tombstone was the site of the legendary gunfight at the O.K. Corral in 1881, known by many as the most famous shootout of the Wild West era. The town was also portrayed in the 1993 movie “Tombstone,” starring Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer. Today, travelers can visit Old Tombstone Western Theme Park to explore historic saloons and shops, take a visitor-praised trolley tour, and watch a reenactment of a shootout.

Drive down Route 66

Get a taste of nostalgia as you travel down iconic Route 66. The longest, best-preserved stretch of this highway snakes through Arizona, from the town of Topock on the west side of the state to Lupton in the east. It runs through the cities of Winslow and Flagstaff, as well as Petrified Forest National Park. Travelers can stop for staged gunfights at former gold-mining camp Oatman, lunch at one of many diners and historic hotels like the Weatherford Hotel in Flagstaff.

For a kitschy overnight stay, book lodging at the kid-friendly Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, which is made up of conical tents fitted with original furnishings and modern amenities. Visitors recommend checking out the many vintage vehicles parked outside.

Taliesin West

Architecture lovers won’t want to miss this Frank Lloyd Wright gem in Scottsdale. Considered a must-see for Wright fans according to past visitors, this National Historic Landmark and UNESCO World Heritage Site served as Wright’s handcrafted winter home and desert laboratory. He once described it as “a look over the rim of the world.” Taliesin West offers a variety of tours year round. Advance online ticket reservations are strongly encouraged. Be sure to spend some time enjoying the grounds outdoors and stop into the on-site store, which sells Wright-inspired art, books and home decor.

Address: 12621 N. Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd., Scottsdale, AZ 85259

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

Located on the Arizona-Utah border, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is known for its 1,000-foot-tall sandstone monoliths. You’ll also find abundant mesas and buttes — both a type of stand-alone mountain with a flat top. As one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, Monument Valley is a popular place for photography and has been featured in multiple Western films.

View some of the formations from the park’s visitor center, take the scenic 17-mile loop drive or book a guided tour to travel into the valley itself, such as an Indigenous-led excursion with Three Sisters Navajo Guided Tours. Nearby lodging includes the Bluff Dwellings Resort & Spa and the Desert Rose Resort & Cabins. Past visitors have described Monument Valley as having spectacular scenery.

Meet the Flintstones at Bedrock City

Fans of “The Flintstones” should pay a visit to the one-of-a-kind Bedrock City, a recreation of the fictional town where Fred Flintstone and his family lived in the classic cartoon. Located at Raptor Ranch in Williams (about 30 miles south of the Grand Canyon), Bedrock City features sights like the Flintstones’ house, the post office and statues of the characters. Admission is free if you’re staying at the Raptor Ranch campground, while a fee applies for those just visiting for the day. Reviewers say this hidden gem is great for young kids and takes less than an hour to see.

Address: 101 U.S. Route 180, Williams, AZ 86001

Lowell Observatory

Outer space enthusiasts should consider a stop at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. Founded in 1894, the observatory was the site of major discoveries like Pluto, the rings of Uranus and the expanding nature of the universe. Travelers here can gaze through a telescope, take a constellation tour and enjoy science demonstrations. Visitors love seeing the telescope used to find Pluto and recommend taking a guided tour at the observatory.

Address: 1400 W. Mars Hill Road, Flagstaff, AZ 86001

[See more of the Flagstaff: Things to Do | Hotels ]

Explore Mission San Xavier del Bac

On a getaway to Tucson, pay a visit to Mission San Xavier del Bac, a former Catholic mission constructed in the late 1700s. The Baroque-style building is Arizona’s oldest intact European structure. Today, it remains a Catholic church with original sculptures and murals, as well as imagery of shells — a symbol of pilgrimage — throughout. Visitors say Mission San Xavier del Bac is worth a visit for both its rich history and exquisite architecture.

Address: 1950 W. San Xavier Road, Tucson, AZ 85746

[See more of Tucson: Things to Do | Hotels ]

Ride the gondola at Arizona Snowbowl

For a bird’s-eye view of some of Arizona’s most famous sights, including the Grand Canyon and the red rocks of Sedona, hop on the scenic gondola at the Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff. The ride up and down the mountain is about 15 minutes each way and travels 11,500 feet up. After your gondola ride, pop in to the Agassiz Lodge Restaurant for lunch. Leaf peepers can also head to this spot to take in the golden leaves of the aspen trees during fall. For an extra special visit, take a sunset ride.

Address: 9300 N. Snow Bowl Road, Flagstaff, AZ 86001

Soar over the Grand Canyon

Any way you choose to see the Grand Canyon will be amazing, but a unique option is to take in the natural wonder from above in a helicopter. Companies like Maverick Helicopters offer a variety of tours that range in length. The capacity is six or seven passengers on board, and Maverick’s tours depart from areas such as the South Rim and even Las Vegas. Travelers describe the outing as memorable and well worth the price.

[See more of the Grand Canyon: Things to Do | Hotels ]

Walnut Canyon National Monument

While in Flagstaff, add Walnut Canyon National Monument to your itinerary. This Arizona canyon is home to cliff dwellings dating back more than 700 years, as well as plentiful hiking trails and wildlife like coyotes, jack rabbits, mule deer and 120-plus bird species. Past hikers advise taking the Walnut Canyon Rim Trail if you want to avoid lots of stairs, while the Island Trail provides visitors with great views of the cliff dwellings. While there are no campsites inside the park, nearby options include the Bonito and Canyon Vista campgrounds.

Heard Museum

Get an up-close and in-depth look at Indigenous American art at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. Founded in 1929, the museum features several exhibition galleries, a sculpture garden and a cafe. Be sure to browse the museum shop, where you can find original pottery, jewelry, katsina dolls and weavings by Native American artists.

Affordable accommodations like the Cambria Hotel Downtown Phoenix Convention Center and the Hampton Inn Phoenix-Midtown-Downtown Area sit nearby. Visitors describe the Heard as a must-do in Phoenix and recommend spending about two hours there.

Address: 2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85004

[See more of Phoenix: Things to Do | Hotels ]

Catch an Arizona Cardinals football game

Head to State Farm Stadium in Glendale to cheer on the Grand Canyon State’s NFL team: the Cardinals. The stadium is known for its innovative architectural design, including modern exterior metal panels and North America’s first retractable natural grass playing field. It also hosts the Fiesta Bowl each year. If you’re visiting during the offseason, you may even be able to book a behind-the-scenes tour.

Several hotels are located next to the stadium, including the Aloft Glendale at Westgate, the Renaissance Phoenix Glendale Hotel & Spa and the Tru by Hilton Phoenix Glendale Westgate.

Address: 1 Cardinals Drive, Glendale, AZ 85305

Arizona Science Center

For some hands-on learning, visit Arizona Science Center in downtown Phoenix. The center offers permanent exhibits that introduce kids to saving money, detail the science of flight, explore natural disasters and more. The Science Center also has a planetarium and a theater with a five-story screen. Reviewers say the center is very interactive; some advise getting your parking ticket validated to avoid a parking fee.

Arizona Science Center is just a few blocks from the Children’s Museum of Phoenix and Chase Field, as well as hotels such as The Westin Phoenix Downtown and Kimpton Hotel Palomar Phoenix.

Address: 600 E. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ 85004

Wander among the red rocks of Sedona

Nature lovers should make time to visit the stunning red rocks of Sedona, located about 120 miles north of Phoenix. Sedona offers hiking trails through its magnificent scenery and attractions like Red Rock State Park, Red Rock Scenic Byway and the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Other popular activities include stargazing, Jeep tours, mountain biking, rafting and rock climbing — and be sure to check out Sedona’s top restaurants.

Book a vacation rental through a company like Vrbo, where you can wash your dirty hiking gear and prepare a picnic lunch for your next outdoor adventure. If you’d rather bed down in a bit more luxury, reserve a stay at Enchantment Resort or Amara Resort and Spa.

[See more of Sedona: Things to Do | Tours | Hotels ]

Vermillion Cliffs National Monument

Immerse yourself in the wilderness at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, which unfurls across 280,000 acres in northern Arizona. One of its most popular areas, The Wave, features a swirling display of colored sandstone that makes for magnificent photos. Coyotes Buttes North, where you’ll find The Wave, is one of the areas that requires visitors to enter a lottery to secure a permit. You will also need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to access most of Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. Check park advisories before planning your trip.

There aren’t any cities within the immediate vicinity of Vermillion Cliffs, but you can stay about 75 miles northwest in the town of Kanab, Utah. Accommodation options include the Hampton Inn Kanab or the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Kanab.

Grand Canyon National Park North Rim

While the South Rim is the more popular side of the Grand Canyon, the North Rim is worth a visit as well. In fact, only 10% of all visitors go to the North Rim, making it a great place to avoid the crowds. The North Rim Visitor Center, which closes during the winter months due to snow, is around 80 miles from Vermillion Cliffs National Monument.

At the North Rim, stop at the Grand Canyon Lodge for spectacular canyon views at Bright Angel Point, then enjoy a scenic drive to various lookouts where you can see the Angels Window natural arch and other formations. Travelers can stay overnight at the seasonal Grand Canyon Lodge in the summer and early fall. Or, book a vacation rental or hotel room a bit further away in Kanab, Utah, or Page, Arizona.

[Read: The Best U.S. National Parks.]

Lake Havasu State Park

Situated along the California border, Lake Havasu State Park is home to a narrow lake surrounded by Arizona desert land. The park offers popular activities like swimming, boating and fishing, and it features campsites, beaches and hiking trails. There are other nearby state parks to explore too, including Cattail Cove State Park and Buckskin Mountain State Park. Save time to check out the historic London Bridge and the Lake Havasu Museum of History in Lake Havasu City. Previous travelers say Lake Havasu is a great place to camp, thanks to its large recreational vehicle sites and clean bathrooms.

[Read: The Top Lakes in Arizona.]

Go stargazing

Arizona is home to vast dark sky regions found in areas like Sedona, Cottonwood, Fountain Hills, the Village of Oak Creek and Thunder Mountain Pootsee Nightsky. Flagstaff was designated as the world’s first International Dark Sky Place by the International Dark-Sky Association.

Head to one of many observatories for minimal light pollution and the best view of the stars above. Popular options include the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory south of Tucson; Mount Graham International Observatory in the southeastern Pinaleño Mountains; and Kitt Peak National Observatory, located southwest of Tucson. Some resorts like L’Auberge de Sedona and Boulders Resort & Spa Scottsdale also offer special nighttime viewings with their own telescopes and astronomy programming.

[Read: The Top Dark Sky Parks in the U.S.]

Explore a ghost town

Arizona is full of ghost towns: areas that emerged during mining booms, only to later be abandoned when the mining opportunities dried up. In Gleeson, situated about 15 miles east of Tombstone, you’ll find the remains of the old jail and general store from its heyday as a turquoise mining town. In Ruby, you can take a self-guided tour of this vacant town that was once home to 1,200 residents.

In addition to exploring old buildings and structures in these old towns, there are often off-road activities and hiking trails nearby as well, and some even have haunted hotels. You can easily spend several hours simply wandering in and out of the different buildings and looking at the remnants scattered about (just exercise caution as the buildings are old). Most are free to enter, though a few are on private land and do charge entrance fees. If you want a guided tour, head to Castle Dome, Vulture City or Goldfield Ghost Town, which have guided options.

Horseshoe Bend

Located just 5 miles outside of Page, Horseshoe Bend is a picturesque sandstone escarpment with the Colorado River looping around it. It is situated in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and attracts 2 million visitors annually. There are various ways to view and explore this iconic landscape, from hiking to kayaking to flying over it. A half-mile ADA-accessible path from the parking lot leads to an overlook.

While in the area, you can also explore Lake Powell, Antelope Canyon, Rainbow Bridge National Monument and Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. If you’re looking for a place to stay, Lake Powell Resort and Hyatt Place Page Lake Powell are nearby options.

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

Kids will love this 30-acre train-themed park in Scottsdale. Hop aboard the Paradise & Pacific Railroad or take a spin on the antique carousel. There’s also a model railroad building with 10,000 square feet of tiny train exhibits, as well as the Scottsdale Railroad Museum, which includes railroad artifacts such as the historic Peoria Depot, the Roald Amundsen Pullman Car and Magma Arizona Railroad Engine No. 6. Kids can also play at the state-of-the-art railroad-themed playground.

Address: 7301 E. Indian Bend Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85250

Hoover Dam

The 726-foot concrete Hoover Dam, which sits on the Arizona-Nevada border, stores water that irrigates 2 million acres in California and Arizona, in addition to generating hydroelectric power for 1.3 million people. Guests can take a tour of the impressive power plant or do a self-guided tour of the narrated exhibits, see a 3D model of the dam and take in the views from the observation deck. Tickets can be purchased online or on-site.

Havasu Falls

The beautiful and remote Havasu Falls sits on the Havasupai Indian Reservation (within the Grand Canyon); permits are required to access the area. It is open February through November and also requires a reservation for at minimum a one-night stay at the campground or Havasupai Lodge.

The hike to get down to the falls from the canyon rim is not for the faint of heart — it is a strenuous and steep 10-mile hike that takes about four hours on average (not to mention the way back is uphill). Keep in mind that it can get hot during the summer months and there is no water or emergency assistance available on the trail. You also won’t have Wi-Fi or cell service at the campground. Alcohol is not permitted here.

[Read: Amazing Arizona Waterfalls Worth the Hike.]

Desert Botanical Garden

The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix is a 140-acre property with more than 50,000 plant displays. Themed outdoor garden paths highlight the flora that manages to flourish in some of the hottest and driest places on Earth. There is also a 3,200-square-foot butterfly pavilion and a resource library with more than 9,000 books related to landscaping and gardening. Picnics are not allowed, but there is a restaurant and cafe for dining.

Address: 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, AZ 85008

Musical Instrument Museum

The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix features rotating special exhibitions as well as various galleries. In the interactive Experience Gallery visitors can actually play instruments, while the Geographic Galleries explore musical traditions from all over the world. There is also the Conservation Lab, where guests can watch through a large window as staff work to preserve instruments and artifacts. The museum hosts concerts, cultural programs, film screenings, and music and wellness classes. Facilities include a cafe, a coffee bar and a museum store.

Address: 4725 E. Mayo Boulevard, Phoenix, AZ 85050

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Watch raptors fly, touch a stingray, walk through a Sonoran Desert eco-scape, see a limestone cave replica or stroll through a hummingbird aviary — these are just a few of the exciting things to do at the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum. The exhibits introduce visitors to animals in various habitats and ecosystems, such as prairie dogs in Desert Grassland and bobcats in Cat Canyon; you’ll even get a glimpse into aquatic life in the Warden Aquarium.

With most of the museum located outside, you may encounter natural wildlife in addition to the animals living in exhibits, so dress for the weather and be sure to alert the staff if you see any rattlesnakes or other creatures of concern. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum has a few casual dining options and gift shops.

Address: 2021 N. Kinney Road, Tucson AZ 85743

You might also be interested in:

The Top Arizona Tour Options

The Best Places to Visit in Arizona

The Best Hotels in Arizona

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21 Top Things to Do in Arizona originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 04/12/23: This article was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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