20 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Arizona
Many first-time visitors to the United States are surprised to discover how large and diverse the American landscape is, and how many beautiful natural sites it boasts.
Some travel destinations in the United States seem to have evolved from natural phenomena, like the spectacular Grand Canyon, the amazing rock formations of the Arches National Park, or the vast forests of the Pacific Northwest.
Other places, like the Gulf of Mexico, the mountainous states of the Midwest and Appalachia, and the Florida Keys are now beloved vacation destinations.
One of the reasons many first-time visitors find the American landscape so scenic is that the country is well endowed with a wide array of cultural sights and activities, which you can find with this list of the top attractions in Arizona.
Wide and deep at 1.7 miles (2.8 km) and 2.7 miles (4.3 km) wide, the Grand Canyon in Arizona is the United States' second largest canyon, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. Much of the canyon was formed by the Colorado River, which drains the Colorado Plateau, and is the largest river in the western United States. Located in the south of Arizona, the canyon is known as a wildlife paradise, attracting an abundance of animal species. The canyon is about 16 miles (27 km) long, making it possible to explore the entire area via a boat tour or rafting trip. The best known landmark of the Grand Canyon is the Hualapai Needles, a group of intricately carved rocks in an area of spectacular scenery.
Grand Canyon National Park
Nicknamed the "8th Wonder of the World" and "The Greatest Show on Earth," Grand Canyon National Park is the most popular national park in the United States. Located in southern Arizona, and the canyon walls of which tower over 2,000 feet (600 meters), it has one of the most beautiful and spectacular sights in the world. Among the park's many activities are hiking, ballooning, rafting and horseback riding. Less strenuous are the mule and jeep rides in the canyon or just relaxing at the rim watching the endless action of the canyon's waters from the South Rim. The most popular and accessible place to view the canyon is the South Rim, from which it can be seen for more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) in either direction. The East Rim overlooks the Colorado River and offers close access to both the canyon floor and river. Nearby cities include Flagstaff, which is home to the iconic Route 66 road trip and offers a plethora of hotels and restaurants. The closest city to the park is Las Vegas, from where it's about two-and-a-half hours by car or bus. Other destinations include Tucson, Phoenix, the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles.
Petrified Forest National Park
The Painted Desert region is an area of mysterious beauty, with some of the most striking sandstone canyons and arches in the world. But what makes Petrified Forest National Park truly remarkable is the sheer quantity of petrified wood that covers its remote areas, making it the largest concentration of petrified wood in the world. The park is best known for the remains of trees, trunks, and branches that have turned to stone for over 200 million years. Some of the trees date from the Triassic period (247 million years ago), when giant palm trees grew alongside dinosaurs. Others, as recently as the Cretaceous period (145 million years ago), were dating back millions of years. Just getting there is a journey in itself as it is located in southeastern Arizona, in the far north of the state. The only way to reach the park is by a 14-mile unpaved road that is only accessible by four-wheel drive or on foot. The highway ends at a ranger station that leads hikers to the forest, which also extends north of the highway. Visitors are advised to follow specific trail markers; many are marked with cairns. As far as sightseeing, Petrified Forest National Park is made up of many small but captivating parks, and it's good to keep in mind that there are many natural wonders to be seen beyond the huge piles of petrified wood.
This is one of the world's most unusual places to visit. Sedona, located in the state of Arizona, offers something for everyone - including plenty of artists, world-class artists, and seekers of all sorts. The town is filled with excellent galleries that are the perfect place to find something for the home or office. Go shopping. The town is well known for its antiques shops. Wander through any of the numerous small, eclectic galleries located around town. Some of the most popular sites include: Western Art Gallery, Buckskin Gallery, Sedona Art Works Gallery, and the Sedona Gallery. Go to the Indian Gallery. Located just up the street from the gallery is the Sedona Indian Gallery. To visit the gallery, visitors need only make their way to Sedona's West Road and continue straight, making a left at the store's office. The gallery has numerous classes and events every month. Go to the Art Center. One of the town's newest and most unique museums, the Art Center has more than 100,000 art works in its collection. Located in downtown Sedona, the museum exhibits the art works of more than 2,500 artists. As a place to discover the area's cultural history, the museum has quite a number of hands-on experiences. Go to the galleries and museums of Enchantments Mesa. Many of the galleries in town are clustered around and on the highway that crosses Enchantments Mesa. Take your time driving the winding roads and stop to visit the galleries.
Tusayan Museum and Ruins
Tusayan Museum and Ruins is located in the Verde Valley north of Page, AZ. Originally built around AD 150, this archaeological site was home to a group of Hohokam farmers and herdsmen who lived in the area for several hundred years. When archaeologists excavated the site in 1900 they uncovered a wide variety of finds including walls, ancient irrigation canals, and an almost complete Hohokam masonry house, which was destroyed in the 1540's by Spanish settlers. Although much of the ancient settlement was burned in the 1800's by White settlers, there are still many ruins and museums within walking distance of the village. Artifacts from the Hohokam period are displayed in the White House Museum which also has a number of informative interactive exhibits. The nearby Las Casas House Museum contains more archaeological and pictographic items from the period. Other museums include the White House Ruins, and the John Wesley Powell Museum.
Saguaro National Park
The world's largest saguaro cactus grows to heights of 50 feet in the Sonoran Desert, north of Tucson. In the cool months the crevices in their trunks are heavily laden with lichens, and hundreds of elk have been observed within, forming a haven for wildlife. The park also has the third largest concentration of giant paloverde trees in North America, featuring the biggest trees in North America: over 30 feet in diameter, taller than some two-story buildings, and weighing thousands of pounds. Visitors can get a sense of the desert in a desert canyon by taking a rickshaw ride through the park. Or enjoy a scenic helicopter flight above the desert from nearby Tucson. The park offers a scenic drive, the Arizona Highway 90, which runs through and passes by the giant cactus.
Lake Havasu City
Lake Havasu City is located on the Colorado River. The city has several restaurants and bars, boat rentals, golf, spas, and many other attractions. The Saguaro Lake Ferry is the best way to cross the lake. When in Lake Havasu City, it's a good idea to stop by the Lake Havasu City Historical Museum, which displays exhibits and documents on the history of the area. Also, there's a replica of the canal that once connected Lake Havasu to the Colorado River, and the Dewey Bridge is a famous sight on the border of Arizona and California.
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
Built in the early 19th century, Casa Grande's immense "Palace Hotel" was the home of three generations of the Sinagua, the first people to inhabit the Phoenix area. With so much history behind the hotel, it's surprising that few modern visitors take the time to learn about what went on inside and outside the building before Casa Grande was destroyed by fire in 1895. Today, the ruins remain a major source of pride for residents of Phoenix, even though visitors should be careful about not trespassing on government land. Entry to the grounds is $10 per person and often fills up by noon.
Arizona Science Center
Arizona Science Center is not the smallest in the world, but is still one of the largest science museums. With more than 1,700,000 visitors a year, it is considered to be one of the most important science museums in the world. Besides the large number of scientists, engineers, and teachers on staff at the Museum, some 500 scientists and engineers are part of the Air Force's Research Laboratory in the north of the state, where many of the things in the museum can be made or modified.
Grand Canyon Caverns
Grand Canyon Caverns are a must-see on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Entering at the bottom, visitors follow a series of rugged steps to a half-mile long, horseshoe-shaped tunnel. The main gallery has recently been fitted with fiberglass walkways to increase the amount of light that floods in. Be sure to visit the Polychrome Pool, an underground lake containing 12 different hues of the psychedelic pigment.
Prescott is a wonderful site for exploring the Arizona Wild West, which as most who visit the area are aware, began with the arrival of the railroad in the 1880s. Excursions to the Ghost Town, the Bonita Mines, the Gila Cliff Dwellings and Sellsville provide a real introduction to the region. Most of the facilities in Prescott are seasonal. However, from November to March, the location is often swamped by tourists, and high-season prices tend to rise. The top attractions are only worth visiting if they are not too crowded.
Oak Creek Canyon
Set deep in the heart of Oak Creek Canyon, the Tonto Natural Bridge is one of the world's best natural wonders. The natural bridge was formed by a span of river rock at the confluence of the Tonto and Little Colorado Rivers as the tributary cut through the sedimentary rock. Legend has it that a man named Ben Johnson helped his wife find a cave at the bottom of a cliff face. The Tonto has since worn away the cave and left a deep, precipitous pit where it met the cliffs of the canyon. The bridge spans the crevasse and ends as the rock faces recede at either end. Just north of the bridge in the canyon's only town, Ash Fork, you'll find the Red Rock Miner's Museum. Inside the museum, you can learn about the people who lived in the canyon, the machinery and equipment they used, and the industry they worked in before being forced out by the construction of the nearby Glen Canyon Dam.
Only the most talented photographers can capture the beauty of this natural wonder. Thousands of years ago, a hard riverbed carved a deep canyon through layers of sandstone into a place that stretches on for hundreds of miles with no end. Looking into the semi-darkness of the canyon, it's an incredible experience to see red-orange light sparkle off the white sandstone on the walls. Be sure to schedule time for a full day visit to see the wonders of Antelope Canyon.
Lost Dutchman State Park
Lost Dutchman State Park is a prehistoric mecca where virtually every imaginable type of prehistoric Native American artifact was discovered. It's estimated to contain more than a half-million archaeological items, the largest collection of any single park anywhere in the world. The artifacts can be seen through free docent-led tours. All tour buses must go to the Lost Dutchman Information Center to pick up an admission ticket. From the information center, which has a wonderful gift shop, self-guided tours of the park go through many of the exhibits of amazing collections of artifacts, including pipes, pots, and other materials used by the indigenous people. Some important prehistoric sites in the park, worth stopping at, include the Wupatki Ruins, which are probably the best known of the collection, named for the Zuni Pueblo tribe who lived here. Painted rock art panels at the site reflect the influence of the Navajo, who were once nomadic hunters here and were frequently encountered by the original inhabitants. Excavation of these panels, and nearby Squaw Peak, indicate that the ancient people of this area farmed and farmed out hunting parties. Both sites have substantial collections of ceramics.
Tempe Town Lake
The largest man-made lake in the U.S. Tempe Town Lake was built in 1973 for use in the 1976 Olympic games but remains a popular place for swimming, boating, sailing and water-skiing. The lake is surrounded by 36 miles of trails which allow walkers and cyclists to enjoy the surrounding nature. There is a state park park within the lake's boundaries, which is open all year round. It is not possible to drive around the lake in its entirety, but instead visitors are encouraged to hike, bike, or cross-country ski on a number of nature trails that cross and connect the sections of lake. Some of the sites of interest include the Elfin Forest, built over 700 years ago, and the Philmont Statue. The lake hosts many activities during the summer, from water-skiing, sailing, and kite-flying to music concerts and public gatherings. In addition to enjoying the natural beauty of the surrounding lands, tourists can admire the springtime blooms that carpet the landscape. The lake is also a popular location for honeymooners and couples in need of some alone time.
Cameron Trading Post
Cameron Trading Post is part of the extensive Disney's Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park, and the only operating trading post built by Walt Disney himself. The trading post opened in 1936 and provided information on American Indian cultures and wildlife. The trading post contains original furniture, tools, equipment, costumes and costumes of American Indian tribes,
One of the most interesting areas of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is around Hoover Dam. Here you can experience Arizona's greatest engineering feat, the project to create Lake Mead, the world's largest man-made reservoir. A good number of visitor centers are located here, but a visit to the power station is a must. In addition to being in a wild, remote place, it also offers an awesome view of the canyon and the dam. The best part of the power station is walking the high-wire catwalks above the turbines, which make up the first of the Hoover Dam itself. The view from here is impressive: you can see how the power station's four generator units fit together and look across the river at the huge dam. At the bottom of the dam, you can follow a 7.5-mile self-guided walking tour of the dam and power plant, which explains the technological process and goes through some of the dam's construction. Tours last about two and a half hours and begin at the dam's visitor center.
Bisbee is nestled into the Sonoran Desert in Southern Arizona, 110 miles north of Tucson. Despite its small size and rather sedate lifestyle, Bisbee is a tourist hot-spot, with hot days, affordable restaurants and bars, and a cheerful population of artists, locals, and out-of-towners. Main Streets are lined with art galleries and clothing boutiques, and every other business seems to sell something related to the nearby copper mines. Many of the mines, now closed, left a barren landscape behind. Art treasures are still on display, however. The Anabel Low Mansion is a notable example, built in 1885 by a wealthy cattle rancher, who paid in copper. The Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum is a repository of artifacts that tell the story of Bisbee's mining history, with tunnels, street lights, and mining machinery on display. The Museum also hosts regular lectures, performances, and music events. Bisbee remains true to its unspoiled desert setting with a number of unique festivals. The Copper Queen Festival takes place on June 4th, with authentic music and dancing. The Pueblo Revue is a celebration of Mexico, with Mexican music and dancing, theater, and food on a nine-block recreation of the Mexican town of Pueblo. The Olvera Street Festival happens at the beginning of October, as well as several other Arizona Native American festivals, and there are also a variety of local art shows and musical events throughout the year.
Lake Powell is a large, man-made reservoir situated in the northeastern portion of the state, more than 6,000 feet below sea level. It is surrounded by the tallest vertical wall of rock in the United States, created by the Hoover Dam project, which was built in the 1930s. Visitors who visit the Lake Powell National Monument can see the magnificent Hoover Dam itself. In addition to the dam, Lake Powell has natural attractions as well. While hiking through the adjacent Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, visitors can explore the canyon's breathtaking scenery and witness a natural spectacle of the Salt Creek Sand Dunes.
A frontier town that once billed itself as "The Last Western Place" with the notoriety of having the Gunfight at the OK Corral and the Wild West that has given the world all manner of western movies and TV shows, Tombstone can hold its head up proudly as one of the finest and most interesting of America's towns. Nestled at the end of the old 310-mile-long Santa Fe Trail and with a history dating back more than 400 years, it was once the center of an extensive, 250,000-acre ranch and was as wealthy in livestock and grain as it was in silver. The real silver came in the form of gold and copper from the mountains to the south. Sitting at the bottom of a hill, on the east side of the town's main street, is the famous Tombstone Courthouse, a magnificent gray-brick building built in 1878 and home to the municipal and county offices, courthouse, and jail. The Tombstone Visitor Center and Museum houses a colorful collection of vintage photographs and other interesting exhibits including a huge penny with the portrait of a young Honest Abe. The best way to see the area is by guided tour and a half-day excursion around town takes in Tombstone's history, culture, and souvenir shops.