9 Adventures for Your Arizona Trip of a Lifetime
Dramatic hiking, energetic cities, standout food, matchless museums, world-class sporting events, and Wild West allure: Arizona checks every box. Add in the weather — we’re talking 300+ days of annual sunshine — and unmatched natural beauty, and you can expect to spend some serious quality time with Mother Nature while connecting with the state’s deep culture and history.
In short, there’s an adventure for everyone in Arizona, and here are our top 9 experiences you won’t want to miss.
1. Take in the iconic views.
There are plenty of them: Drive the 17-mile scenic loop to appreciate the stone monoliths of Monument Valley, or hire a Navajo guide for a horseback tour and sleep amid the famous formations at The View Hotel. Be sure to snap a pic of the awe-inspiring Horseshoe Bend, the photo-famous horseshoe-shaped curve carved by the Colorado River. Spend the night at Shash Diné Eco Retreat for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to sleep in a Navajo hogan or covered wagon.
And, of course, you can’t miss the Grand Canyon, a natural wonder carved over some 6 million patient years. Go early to glimpse the sunrise from Mather Point, stay late to watch the sunset from the top of Desert View Watchtower, and then sleep under the stars at the glamping getaway Under Canvas.
2. Be a city slicker…
In the sprawling metropolis of Phoenix, hop aboard the Valley Metro Rail to tour the city. Stay at swanky boutique hotel Rise Uptown and make time for stops at the Phoenix Art Museum to see Yayoi Kusama’s magical firefly room, and the Footprint Center, home of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Valley Metro can even take you to Scottsdale’s Fashion Square, the Southwest’s largest shopping center, and Taliesin West, the studio and winter home of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. In between, stroll Old Town Scottsdale’s many restaurants, shops, and museums.
And don’t forget Tucson, host to a variety of culinary delights as the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy in the US. A few examples to whet your appetite: local loaves at Barrio Bread, loaded Sonoran hotdogs at El Güero Canelo, ranchero beef at El Charro, and mesquite-grilled pork chops at Tito & Pep.
3. …and an outdoor adventurer.
The Grand Canyon is meant to be viewed from all angles, and on a three- to 18-day guided river trip you can carve through the extraordinary landscape from a whole new adrenalin-pumping perspective. Keep that heart rate up on a hair-raising Jeep ride to see the red rocks of Sedona with Pink Adventure Tours. Or travel by foot on Sedona’s Devil’s Bridge Trail via the Mescal Trailhead (4 miles roundtrip). The Devil’s Bridge is the largest natural sandstone arch in Sedona and makes for the ultimate photo op.
If birding is more your thing, you’re in luck — Southern Arizona is one of the top birding destinations in the US. Stay at Cave Creek Ranch, a 13-cabin retreat in the Chiricahua Mountains, and hike the South Fork Trail (4 miles roundtrip) to spot a sought-after trogon.
4. Eat, drink, and be merry.
Between unique brews and food, Arizona is a delicious vacation destination. Sample the best of Phoenix with Chris Bianco’s famous wood-fired pies at Pizzeria Bianco, the renowned cochinita pibil at Barrio Café, Native American frybread at The Fry Bread House, and mesquite-fired anything at Bacanora. Thirsty for more? Schedule a tour and tasting at Tucson’s Whiskey Del Bac, try the world’s best sake made outside Japan in Holbrook, and hit up one of Flagstaff’s many craft breweries (Mother Road’s Tower Station IPA is a must).
And for the ultimate epicurean experience, Terra Farm + Manor is a culinary getaway in Prescott National Forest where guests can hike, forage, taste, and create on a 100-acre farm.
5. Explore tribal lands with a guide.
With 22 sovereign tribes spread across the state, Arizona is a rich destination for exploring Native culture. Start by weaving through the winding walls of Antelope Canyon on a Navajo-led tour. Then discover the Hopi way on an excursion to petroglyph-covered canyons, Prophecy Rock, and Old Oraibi, the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the United States. Or follow the self-guided Hopi Arts Trail and visit artists and galleries from 12 Hopi villages.
Shop for treasures like Tohono O’odham-made baskets and silver jewelry at San Xavier Plaza outside the must-see Mission San Xavier del Bac in Tucson, and visit Hubbell Trading Post, the oldest operating trading post on the Navajo Nation, for one-of-a-kind rugs, baskets, and pottery.
6. Commune with cowboys and culture.
For a quintessential cowboy experience, Tombstone is it. Equal parts authentic and over-the-top, witness a live reenactment of the famous gunfight with Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday at Old Tombstone Western Theme Park and take a stagecoach tour to get the real-deal history of the famed Old West town.
Afterward, head over to Tucson to immerse yourself in the fusion experience that is the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, a combo zoo, aquarium, botanical garden, natural history museum, and art gallery with one of the best regional mineral collections in the world. And for travelers interested in Native American art and culture, the Heard Museum in Phoenix is a standout with its 400-piece Hopi katsina doll collection, full-size Navajo hogan, and contemporary exhibits like the Indigenous origins of surfing.
7. Get the kids in on the action.
Arizona is a year-round favorite for families, and dude ranches will have you and the whole gang tapping into your inner cowboy or cowgirl. Try Tanque Verde Ranch, a 60,000-acre luxe outpost with cookouts and mountain biking, or White Stallion Ranch, a family-owned operation with weekly rodeos and Cheetos rides.
For water fun, Lake Powell is a freshwater reservoir near Page with every water sport imaginable. Kids and adults alike will love staying at Cave Springs Campground in Sedona and whooshing down a natural rock water slide at nearby Slide Rock State Park. You can also tour the solar system in a state-of-the-art planetarium at the Arizona Science Center, a four-floor interactive museum that also features a “stomach” slide.
8. Go from spring training to spring skiing…with golf in between.
Scottsdale is a golfer’s paradise, which means you can catch the pros at the WM Phoenix Open in February, or play the Tom Weiskopf- and Jay Morrish-designed Stadium Course year round.
But there’s far more than golf when it comes to sports in the Grand Canyon State. Check out America’s favorite pastime at Cactus League Spring Training and catch the San Francisco Giants at Scottsdale Stadium or the Colorado Rockies at Salt River Fields. Then hit the slopes and ski, snowboard, or ski bike with a view at Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff. The Grand Canyon Express lift takes you up to nearly 11,000 feet, where you can see all the way to Sedona and the Grand Canyon on clear days.
9. Take the road less traveled.
From Tucson, drive Highway 83 east to Bisbee. On the way, you’ll traverse the grasslands of the Santa Rita Foothills before hitting the wineries of Sonoita. Here, enjoy an al fresco tasting at Rune Wines and take a wood-fired pizza break at Pronghorn Pizza at Dos Cabezas WineWorks. Then it’s on to Bisbee to explore the historic mining town’s art galleries, quirky staircases, and colorful buildings.
For a short but sweet detour, see the tallest and oldest saguaros in the world on the Cactus Forest Scenic Loop Drive, an 8-mile rollercoaster of a road through Saguaro National Park West. Another memorable option is the 27-mile Catalina Highway Scenic Drive, which takes you for a 6,000-foot elevation change from the desert floor to the pine trees atop Mount Lemmon. That’s Arizona in a nutshell — as diverse as it is stunning, the ultimate playground no matter what your pursuit.