24 Bucket-List Worthy Places to Visit in Arizona

Kimberly Miles Avatar

The Wave in Arizona
Getting close to the wave and its colorful rock formations. Photo credit: Yvonne Jasinski

When it comes to checking off bucket list items, Arizona is ready for the challenge. Home to the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and The Wave, this bustling desert state in the American Southwest offers striking vistas and unforgettable adventures for all ages. From ghost towns to mind-blowing natural wonders, we’ve rounded up 24 of the best places to visit in Arizona.

As home to four North American deserts, many people only visualize the desert when they think of Arizona. However, Arizona’s landscape has so many beautiful places to see and offer year-round for visitors of all ages. Not to mention, Arizona is home to some of the nation’s most luxurious resorts and golf courses!

Here are 24 of the best places to visit in Arizona if you’re thinking about taking a trip to the Grand Canyon State.

Best Cities to Visit in Arizona

Sedona in Arizona
Sedona is surrounded by beautiful red-rock buttes. Photo credit: Kimberly Miles

Sedona

Located near Flagstaff, Sedona is one of the best places to visit in Arizona if you want to catch a glimpse of the colorful, eye-catching red rock formations known around the world.

Surrounded by picturesque buttes, mesas, steep canyon walls and pine forests, Sedona offers much to do and explore. The adventurous can hike more than 400 miles of trails, go for a hot air balloon ride, camp, take a guided jeep tour or a guided ATV tour. For something more relaxing, pull out the blanket for a picnic, do some bird watching or go for a leisurely walk.

Sedona also has numerous monuments and parks to make a worthwhile visit for all ages. Some of the popular attractions include the Red Rock State Park, Montezuma Castle National Monument, Tuzigoot National Monument and the Sedona Wetlands Preserve. Uptown Sedona is packed with shops, spas and art galleries.

It’s a great spot for a romantic trip, a girls weekend, or a family visit.

We recommend these resorts in Sedona:

Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix
The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix offers breathtaking views and scenery. Photo credit: Jill Robbins

Phoenix

Also known as the Valley of the Sun, Phoenix is one of the best places to visit in Arizona for high-end spas, vibrant nightlife and world-class golf courses. With serene desert gardens, one-of-a-kind museums and award winning dining, Phoenix packs a ton to do for all ages.

Phoenix is a hiker’s dream, with hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails for all skill levels. While the Grand Canyon is the biggest tourist attraction in Phoenix, there are also several other fun places to visit for all ages including the Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix Zoo and Phoenix Children’s Museum. The Sonoran Desert and Camelback Mountain are two can’t-miss attractions.

Downtown Phoenix is packed with more than 200 restaurants, museums, theatres, art galleries, rooftop lounges and plenty of live music. There are also a lot of great day trips to take with nearby cities. If you’re up for some adventure, take a hot air balloon ride and see Phoenix from above.

We recommend these resorts in Phoenix:

 Saguaro cactus in Arizona
The symbol of Arizona is the Saguaro cactus. Photo courtesy of Visit Tucson.

Tucson

With more than 350 days of sunshine, Tucson is a year-round outdoor playground. It is no doubt the best place to visit in Arizona if you love to spend your days being active outdoors. Tucson is also rich with incredible gastronomy, culture and history, which can be seen and felt in the scenery as soon as you arrive!

There’s no shortage of outdoor activities to do in Tucson. Golfing, hiking, biking, walking and horseback riding can all be done from the nearby trails. The Loop is a popular multipurpose trail with more than 130 miles in length. The Saguaro National Park is a must-see attraction with more than 91,000 scenic acres to explore.

Tucson is also packed with museums, helping you to get to know the city’s history pretty quickly. One SheBuysTravel traveled to Tucson with her family and feels that the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a wonderful way to spend the day with kids. The Arizona State Museum has a large collection of Native American artifacts while the Mission San Xavier del Bac shows how and where the city of Tucson was established.

We recommend these resorts in Tucson:

 Sonoran Desert around Scottsdale
A trip to Scottsdale isn’t complete without a trip to the Sonoran Desert. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Scottsdale

Famous for its championship golf courses, luxurious resorts and high-end boutiques, Scottsdale is one of the best places in Arizona if you’re looking for an upscale tourist destination with lots to do.

With plenty of shopping, cutting-edge architecture, trendy restaurants and pristine homes, Scottsdale is a premier example of Western-American style. Downtown Scottsdale is the heart of the city, with 1920s buildings and 19th century olive trees.

As a desert town, Scottsdale’s climate includes mild winters and hot summers. That said, while outdoor activities such as hiking the Sonoran Desert are popular, they are best done in the evenings when things start to cool down. One way to cool off from the heat while exploring what Scottsdale has to offer is by museum hopping. Scottsdale’s museums are known for their cutting-edge and interactive exhibits, film screenings and festive events. Another way for adventure seekers to cool down from the heat is with a fun salt river rafting tour.

We recommend these resorts in Scottsdale:

Flagstaff

Located right off of Route 66, Flagstaff is the best place to visit in Arizona if you want a mix of small town charm and big city excitement.

Known as the gateway to the San Francisco mountain peaks and Grand Canyon, Flagstaff is surrounded by some of the most well-known and natural attractions. It is also home to Humphrey’s Peak (Arizona’s tallest mountain) as well as the Lowell Observatory, known for the discovery of Pluto. Downtown Flagstaff is a bustling historic town with more than 50 shopping options, farmers’ markets and cultural events.

With all of the museums, shops and natural wonders to explore in Flagstaff, there’s no shortage of things to do when visiting. Looking for a fun way to explore downtown Flagstaff? Join a Flagstaff Segway Tour. As the first International Dark Sky City, stargazing is a popular activity to do in the evenings. With the Grand Canyon close by, it’s no surprise that many visitors spend their time hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, kayaking or paddle boarding.

Bisbee

Known as the “Queen of the Copper Mines,” Bisbee is one of the best places to visit in Arizona if you have an interest in Arizona’s vast mining history. It once produced nearly 25% of the world’s copper, and was once the largest city in the Southwest between St. Louis and San Francisco.

Popular places to visit in Bisbee include the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum and the Bisbee Restoration Museum. The Queen Mine offers underground tours to give visitors a taste of life as a miner. If you’re fascinated by ghost towns, an Historical Ghost Walk tour will be right up your alley. If you’re coming from Phoenix, a Tombstone and Bisbee Day Tour is a great way to see the city and some of its best attractions.

gunfight at the OK Corral
Don’t miss the reenactment of Tombstone’s famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Photo courtesy of Visit Tucson

Tombstone

Just an hour outside of Tucson, the famous Old West town of Tombstone takes you on a blast to the past. It is one of the best places to visit in Arizona if you want to take a journey through the true Wild West.

Historic Tombstone was the site of the famous shootout at OK Corral in 1881 and is also known as “The Town Too Tough To Die.” During a visit you can see a gallows replica and the famous Boothill Cemetery where local outlaws are buried. On historic Allen Street, you’ll find saloons, shops and restaurants. You can also view a reenactment of an 1881 cowboy gunfight at the outdoor theater. The bullet-riddled Bird Cage Theatre is said to be haunted by resident ghosts.

Learn more about the town on a narrated guided tour where a guide dressed in period costume rides a horse-drawn stagecoach and takes visitors through time along the downtown historic district. If you’re feeling brave, you can take a spooky Dead Men’s Tales Walking Tour.

Jerome's ghost town in Arizona
Jerome’s famous sliding jail is just one of the highlights of this ghost town. Photo credit: Cathy Bennett Kopf

Jerome

If you’re looking for a day trip from Sedona that is unique and obscure yet still picturesque, the historic town of Jerome is one of the best places to visit in Arizona that checks all of those boxes.

Jerome is an interesting, once-bustling mining town that will fascinate visitors who are into ghost stories and gold mines. Once known as the “wickedest town in the west,” it is home to interesting, must-see attractions such as the world’s largest kaleidoscope store and even a sliding jail!

SheBuysTravel contributor Cathy Bennett Kopf took a road trip to Jerome and recommends a visit to the Jerome State Historic Park. She was fascinated by the amount of historical mining information in the Douglas Mansion as well as facts about the Douglas family. However, the biggest draw for her was the museum video which gave an entertaining overview of Jerome’s history, from a ghost’s perspective.

London Bridge in Lake Havasu City, Arizona
London Bridge in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Photo credit: Arizona Office of Tourism

Lake Havasu City

If you’ve always wanted to visit the London Bridge but couldn’t make it to London, you’re in luck. Believe it or not, Lake Havasu City is its new home! In fact, it’s the London Bridge that links the Lake Havasu City mainland to marinas and a looped path known as “the Island.”

Lake Havasu City is one of the best places to visit in Arizona if you’re into trails and water sports. With more than 400 miles of stunning coastline, the city offers a variety of watersports including, fishing, skiing, house boating and kayaking. Its delicious restaurants, beautiful beaches, hiking trails and campsites make it a great place to visit for the day or overnight.

Learn about the city’s Native American and steamboat history with a trip to the Lake Havasu Museum of History. Or, take in the incredible views at Lake Havasu State Park. If you’re into off-roading, the region is home to many off-road trails.

Best Attractions to Visit in Arizona

view of Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is the biggest tourist attraction in Arizona, and for a good reason! Photo credit: Kimberly Miles

Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon National Park is home to the Grand Canyon, the biggest tourist attraction in Arizona. Located in the north, it encompasses 278 miles of the Colorado River and sits on the ancestral homeland of 11 Associated Tribes.

The Grand Canyon is a visible example of a worldwide geological phenomenon known as the Great Unconformity, where 250-million-year-old red rock strata lie back-to-back with 1.2 billion-year-old rocks. Its breathtaking vistas from both its North Rim and South Rim are what draws an estimated 5.9 million people to the site each year.

There are several viewpoints at the Grand Canyon, each offering a different perspective. Although many choose to hike the Grand Canyon, another popular way to view its vistas from above is via a helicopter ride.

 Monument Valley in Arizona
Peace, tranquility and breathtaking red rock sculptures can all be found in Monument Valley. Photo credit: Yvonne Jasinski

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

Sitting on the border of Utah and Arizona, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is one of the iconic locations of the American West. Its unique images were widely popularized by Hollywood movies. However, there is much more to the park than that.

In addition to its scenic desert landscape, Monument Valley is also a sacred land rich in history, culture and spirituality.  It is located within the 16-million acre Navajo Reservation, and inspires visitors to reflect on the past and future of the Navajo Nation. Its famous and steeply sloped buttes can be seen from the road. The valley is also home to towering sandstone rock formations that soar 400 to 1,000 feet above the valley floor.

Intrepid traveler Yvonne Jaskiski visited Monument Valley, and although excited, was also humbled by the strong and troubling history of the Navajo Nation. One of the best ways to learn about the culture, history and traditions of the Navajo Nation in Monument Valley is through a guided tour with a local Navajo guide.

Saguaro National Park
Photo credit: Arizona Office of Tourism

Saguaro National Park

The Saguaro National Park is the best place in Arizona to visit to view the Saguaro cacti, the iconic symbol of Arizona. In fact, it is the saguaro cactus that most people, including myself, think of when they imagine the desert! The park has two sections on either side of Tuscon, both offer striking views of the desert landscape.

Saguaro National Park has over 165 miles of hiking trails. This is a great way to see the iconic Saguaro cacti. However, they are best appreciated at a distance and shouldn’t be touched. Another unique activity at Saguaro National Park is viewing the prehistoric Native American petroglyphs at Signal Hill.

A woman walking through Antelope Canyon
Antelope Canyon is the most famous slot canyon in the world. Photo credit: Arizona Office of Tourism

Antelope Canyon

Located in Page, Antelope Canyon is the most famous slot canyon formation in the entire world. It is no doubt one of the best places to visit in Arizona, for unforgettable vistas. However, because it is located on private land within the Navajo Nation, guided tours are required to visit.

Antelope Canyon received its name for the herds of pronghorn antelope that once roamed the area. It is split into five separate sections on the Navajo Reservation: Upper Antelope Canyon, Rattle Snake Canyon, Owl Canyon, Mountain Sheep Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon. The Upper Antelope Canyon Tour is the most popular due to the amount of sunlight that enters the canyon and the looming walls that reach up to 120 feet. However, the swirling sandstone walls are the attention-grabber of the Lower Antelope Canyon tour.

Havasu Falls

Located within the Havasupai tribal lands of the Grand Canyon, Havasu Falls isn’t easy to get to. However, it is totally worth the visit if you take the time to properly plan it!

While Havasu Falls are located within the Grand Canyon, it is not a part of the Grand Canyon National Park. That said, you’ll need to obtain a permit from the Havasupai Tribe to access the Havasupai Indian Reservation. But even getting a permit requires a reservation, which can be difficult to get as well.

Because of the difficulty of the hike and the heat, it probably isn’t best for children. There’s no water available on the trail, so make sure to bring at least a gallon of water as well as plenty of snacks for each person. It also isn’t something that can be done in a day, so it is best to camp out at the campground or stay at the Havasupai Lodge in Supai Village.

view of horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend is a not to be missed Arizona destination. Photo credit: Arizona Office of Tourism

Horseshoe Bend

Referred to as the “east rim of the Grand Canyon,” Horseshoe Bend is a horseshoe-shaped area of the Colorado River near the town of Page. It is a product of the Colorado River, which is also responsible for carving the Grand Canyon out of the rock in northern Arizona.

Hiking to the Horseshoe Bend overlook and back takes about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on your pace. However, with a partly uphill hike on red sand and standing at 4,500 feet altitude, it isn’t the easiest hike. One of the most important things to remember when looking down into the canyon is the three-foot rule: Don’t get closer to the edge than three feet. Since the sandstone cliffs are striated, they can easily break off. The last thing you want is for a bad accident to happen!

Although you can tour Horseshoe Bend on your own, a guided tour with a Navajo tour guide will give you the best experience and help you get the best views.

petrified trees
Remnants of fossilized trees that broke into stone at Petrified Forest National Park. Photo credit: Eric Jay Toll

Petrified Forest National Park

Located right off of Route 66, the Petrified Forest National Park can be seen via hike or by driving through the park. While driving is the more time-efficient way to see the park (it takes about 45 minutes to drive the road through the park), one of the best ways to truly appreciate its beauty is by hiking and stopping at each of its spectacular viewpoints.

One of the must-see parts of the park is the Rainbow Forest in the south, full of colorful petrified wood. There you’ll also find the Rainbow Forest Museum, with several paleontology exhibits and trail access points. There are also the petroglyphs of Newspaper Rock and the ruined village of Puerto Pueblo.

Some of the other activities to enjoy in the park include hiking, horseback riding and picnicking. Kids can pick up a Junior Ranger booklet at the Painted Desert Visitor Center or Rainbow Forest Museum and then turn them in at the other end of the park.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument
The twin spires of Spider Rock at Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Photo credit: Eric Jay Toll

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

The Canyon de Chelly National Monument is a vast park packed with a ton of history. Not only is it a holy site for the Navajo, but it is also the site of terrible genocide committed by Spanish Conquistadors.

Because it is located on Navajo tribal lands, visiting requires the company of a Navajo guide. Both full- and half-day tours are available via either a four-wheel drive or horseback. A tour of the monument will give you access to ancestral pueblos, caves and petroglyphs. You’ll also see the 800-foot tall Spider Rock spire as well as gorgeous towering sandstone cliffs.

Montezuma Castle National Monument
Montezuma Castle. Photo credit: Christine C. Photographie for Arizona Office of Tourism

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Located 90 minutes north of Phoenix in Camp Verde, the Montezuma Castle Monument protects a 1,000-year-old high rise built by the Sinagua Indians in the 12th century. It is one of the most well-preserved cliff dwellings in the nation and an incredible sight to see.

The five-story, 50-room cliff dwelling can be viewed via a self-guided trail or via a day trip with a tour guide. During a visit you can stop at Montezuma Wall, take a short ranger program or hike picturesque trails and cliff dwellings. You can also explore a museum as well as pueblo ruins and a pit house. When you’re done, the shore of Beaver Creek is a great place to have a picnic and refuel.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Center

Covering more than 1.2 million acres of rugged high desert terrain, Glen Canyon National Recreation Center is one the best places in Arizona to visit for water-based and backcountry recreation. If you love the outdoors, you’ll want to make sure Glen Canyon is on your list of places to visit while in Arizona.

Whether you choose to take a guided tour or explore the park on your own, you’ll have plenty to do and see. The park offers scenic vistas as well as opportunities for hiking, fishing, swimming, boating and four-wheel drive trips.

jet skis on Lake Powell
Jet skis are a super way to explore Lake Powell. Photo credit: Cathy Bennett Kopf

Lake Powell

Lake Powell is part of the Colorado River in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and stretches from the town of Page up into southern Utah. For those who love hiking and water sports it is one of the best places to visit in Arizona, especially with kids.

The biggest draw of Lake Powell is the number of watersports. Adventurous visitors will love water skiing, wakeboarding, tubing, cliff jumping and other watercraft. The more low key visitors who just want to see the lake can take a boat tour to Rainbow Bridge, take an air flight to Horseshoe Bend or hang out on the beach and make sand castles or sunbathe. Although the beach is a little rocky, kids will still enjoy playing in the sand.

view of Hoover Dam in Arizona
The Hoover Dam is a must-see when visiting Arizona. Photo credit: Cortney Fries

Hoover Dam

The Hoover Dam is one of those iconic structures in the USA that you must see when the opportunity arises. Standing at 726 feet high and 1,244 feet long, its beauty can only be truly appreciated by an in-person visit.

Located on the border between Nevada and Arizona, it isn’t just an incredible sight to see, but also a great educational opportunity for both kids and adults. The dam was constructed during the Great Depression and was dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935.

While a tour isn’t necessary to view the dam, having a private guided tour will ensure that you get the best views as well as experiences such as crossing the Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge and visiting Boulder City Historic District.

Lake Mead National Recreation Center

Located in northwestern Arizona, the Lake Mead National Recreation Center is a year-round playground with breathtaking landscapes and beautiful blue water. With two lakes, nine wilderness areas and more than 1.5 million acres of mountains, canyons and valleys, it is one of the best places to visit in Arizona for a peaceful getaway.

There are plenty of ways to enjoy Lake Mead National Recreation Center including swimming, boating, hiking, cycling, camping and fishing. With more than 750 miles of coastline, you can spend the day at the beach or relax in a sandy cove. The Hoover Dam can be seen from the waters of both Lake Mead and Lake Mohave.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is the only place where the senita and organ pipe cactus grow wild. Photo credit: Terri Marshall

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

The Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is a UNESCO biosphere desert preserve in southern Arizona that shares a border with Sonora, Mexico. The desert has a thriving community of unique plants and animals, providing a scenic atmosphere for nature lovers visiting the park. It is the only place in the USA where you can find senita and organ pipe cactus growing wild in their natural habitat.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument can be viewed via driving or hiking. It is also a popular place for camping. For a fun and educational perspective, you can join one of its ranger programs.

The Wave

The Wave, also known as Coyote Buttes North, is a famous, must-visit red sandstone formation located in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. It sits near the northern border with Utah and is one of the best places to visit in Arizona.

The Wave is an Arizona attraction on the bucket list of many people around the world. That said, viewing it isn’t as simple as just showing up. Only a few dozen are permitted per day and you need to have a special permit, won via a permit lottery. If you’re one of the lucky ones, the reward is a stunning natural attraction marked by breathtaking and colorful sandstone vortexes and “waves.”

However, those looking to hike the Wave should first consider whether the hike is right for them. It is a 6.4-mile hike and it is suggested that hikers are in good physical condition and comfortable with hiking in undeveloped areas. Yvonne Jasinski visited the Wave and found that the hike wasn’t too physically demanding in perfect conditions. However, you must be aware of potential hazards such as extreme heat, deep sand and flash floods. During the summer months, heated-related deaths have occurred on the hike.

Kimberly Miles is a mother of one and an experienced solo and single mom traveler. So far, she has traveled to Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Dubai, Bahamas, Aruba, Mexico, and several places in the U.S. Kimberly was born and raised in Alexandria, Virginia, but in 2018 she took a leap of faith and made the beautiful beach town of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico her home with her young son. In addition to writing for SheBuysTravel, Kimberly ghostwrites blogs on a variety of topics. She also provides marketing consulting services and business guidance to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and corporations via her independent business KNM Virtual Solutions. When she’s not traveling or writing, you can find Kimberly working out, eating tacos, dancing the night away, or spending time at the beach with her son. You can read more of her work at Travel Unapologetically.
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