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13 Best Vacation Spots in Arizona

Arizona has it all; epic natural wonders, charming and quirky small towns, and vibrant cities. Jason and I have been busy exploring “The Grand Canyon State” for the past few years, but we’ve still haven’t seen it all. So to help me, I enlisted the help of fellow travel bloggers in this round-up of the best vacation spots in Arizona. If you’ve never been here, I hope this list will inspire you to do so. And if you’ve been fortunate enough to spend time in Arizona, I hope you’ll find something here to do during a future trip.

Sunset over Tempe
Sunset over Tempe

Tempe

College towns are always a great destination, and Tempe is no exception. This vibrant city is home to Arizona State University (ASU), among the largest public universities in the country. 

Tempe is all about the outdoor activities ranging from hiking to boating and biking to golfing. One of the most popular hikes is to the top of A Mountain, a short, but steep trail that’s best done in the early morning to watch sunrise or the evening to enjoy sunset. Tempe Lake is the place to go for kayaking and paddleboarding. 

Art lovers should not miss the ASU Art Museum. This three story museum located on the university’s campus curates exhibits focused on social justice and equity. Admission is free and since the museum is air conditioned, it’s an especially good option on a hot day.

It wouldn’t be a college town without plenty of great bars and breweries. Four Peaks Brewing Company has a beer on tap to suit any tastes. It also offers a behind the scenes tour for $5 that includes a souvenir glass and beer.

If you’re wondering where to stay, the Canopy by Hilton is definitely the best option. This stylish hotel features large rooms, comfortable rooms, a central location and an on-site restaurant serving excellent food. 

Phoenix Desert
Phoenix Desert

Phoenix

Contributed by Sam from My Flying Leap

It wouldn’t be a visit to Arizona without stopping to see the capital city of Phoenix. There are so many  fun things to do in Phoenix. It’s located in a valley surrounded by mountains in every direction. If you want to get off the beaten path, go for a hike in one of the many parks and preserves. Some top choices include South Mountain Park, one of the largest in the country, or Piestewa Peak Park. Or, try the climb up Camelback if you dare!

Phoenix is a popular resort city and there are dozens of luxurious resorts and spas to choose from. You’ll feel like you’re staying in a desert oasis. And, if you go during the summer when the temperatures soar, you can score a great deal. Some favorites are the Biltmore and the Phoenician.

If you want to fall in love with the desert, check out the Desert Botanical Garden. Or, head to the Musical Instrument Museum, a unique and immersive experience. To learn more about the Native American history in the area, visit the Heard Museum. The Science Museum has some great exhibits and it’s a popular spot with adults and kids alike. Your whole family will find something to love in Phoenix.

The Phoenix metro area is the fifth-largest in the entire country and is the largest international airport in the state. Chances are if you’re flying, you’re arriving in Phoenix, so take a few days to check out the sights.

Best vacation spots in Arizona--Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend

Page

Contributed by David at The World Travel Guy

The little town of Page sits right on the Arizona border with Utah, sandwiched between Lake Powell and the Navajo Nation. Even though it only has a population of about 7,000 people, Page has plenty of high quality restaurants, hotels, and campgrounds, making it a great place for travelers of all kinds.

There are plenty of amazing things to see and do near the town of Page. Two of the main attractions are Antelope Canyon, which is one of the world’s most beautifully photogenic slot canyons, and Horseshoe Bend, which is a spectacular scenic river viewpoint near the Grand Canyon. Lake Powell is also popular for boating, kayaking, fishing, paddle boarding, and other water activities.

If you’re looking for even more things to see and do near Page, the good news is it’s also within driving distance of Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon (both less than 2 hours away), as well as the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument.

 With a little bit of exploring in this area, you can see all kinds of mountains, arches, slot canyons, hoodoos, and other unique rock formations. Page is surrounded by the kind of scenery that defines the American west and it’s certainly among the best vacation spots in Arizona.

Historic Route 66 in Winslow Arizona
Historic Route 66 in Winslow Arizona

Historic Route 66

Contributed by Kirsty of Lost on 66

Historic Route 66 traverses the northern section of Arizona going through dry desert landscapes and rising through the pine forests around Flagstaff. A road trip here is like going back in time.

There are almost 400 miles on a road trip along the Mother Road in Arizona and you can see a lot in just this one state.  As well as the Petrified Forest National Park you also pass through towns such as Holbrook, Winslow, Seligman, and Kingman where there are retro motels and restaurants, shops and roadside attractions.

Flagstaff or Williams provide a jumping off point for side trips to the Grand Canyon too.  The ghost town of Oatman has been turned into a tourist attraction now with a wild west feel to it and free roaming burros on the street. Quirky doesn’t seem to get close to describing what you can see on the road.

Old Route 66 runs close by to the modern day I-40 and can be picked up at any point there going whichever way makes sense to you. Sometimes it can be hard to find the actual old road so a guide book can come in handy but generally if you explore some of the small towns on the roads just off the Interstate you’ll find it. Most travelers do the road East to West but there are no hard and fast rules.

A road trip on Route 66 is great for all sorts of travelers including families especially since the Disney movie, Cars, is based on many of the real life characters and locations along this road.

If you can, staying in the retro concrete Wigwam Motel in Holbrook is an fun experience.  It was so typical of the Route 66 businesses to come up with fun ideas to entice passers by to stay and spend money in their town.  

Best Vacation Spots in Arizona--A Stairway in Bisbee
Stairway in Bisbee

Bisbee

Contributed by Jen Ambrose & Ryan Victor of Passions and Places

Not many people make the trip to the little town of Bisbee, Arizona, up in the mountains on the state’s border with Mexico. But those who do are rewarded with a totally offbeat experience – and since it sits at an elevation of 5,500 feet, it also offers a break from Arizona’s stifling desert heat.

Bisbee is a historic mining town-turned artists’ haven, and it’s got to be one of the funkiest places in the Southwest. From street murals to decorated cars to outdoor galleries, there’s art around every corner, making Bisbee a place where simply wandering around is truly one of the best things to do.

Like many old mining towns, Bisbee is widely believed to be haunted and the Old Bisbee Ghost Tour will take you around to all its allegedly haunted spots. The other popular tour in town is the Queen Mine Tour, which will take you down into a former mine, 1,500 feet underground.

Bisbee is 95 miles southeast of Tucson, or about a 1 hour and 45 minutes drive. This town has no shortage of one-of-a-kind places to stay, but the most memorable must be the Shady Dell Vintage Trailer Court. It’s not a trailer court, but a unique hotel made up of a dozen vintage campers (and one yacht!) that have been renovated and furnished.

With so much to see and such friendly people in town, Bisbee is a great destination for solo travelers, as well as couples and groups. Not all of the art around town is family-friendly, though, so do keep an eye out if you’re traveling with young children.

Sedona
Sedona, photo by Charlie Zhao

Sedona

Contributed by Lisa of Waves and Cobblestones

Sedona is one of the most beautiful locations in Arizona, and you will immediately recognize its dramatic red rock formations. With activities for everyone to enjoy, it should definitely be at the top of your ‘must see’ list when visiting the Grand Canyon State.  Plus, it’s only a two-hour drive north from Arizona’s capital city of Phoenix.

Hikers will love all the trails in and around Sedona. Sedona’s trails are accessible year-round, although you should plan to do your summer hikes early in the day to avoid the heat. One of the most popular hikes is Cathedral Rock, but there is no shortage of scenic hikes here for every skill level.

Families will enjoy a trip to Oak Creek Canyon and Slide Rock State Park where you can cool off and splash around in the waters of Oak Creek.  Or, take your crew on an unforgettable guided Jeep tour exploring Sedona’s iconic rock formations.

Planning a romantic getaway?  Pamper yourselves with a visit to one of Sedona’s many luxurious spas.  Indulge in a wine tour and sample local vintages.  Visit Tlaquepaque, a unique arts and crafts village, and find a perfect souvenir in one of its many shops and art galleries.   

End your day watching the glorious sunset on the red rocks, definitely one of the highlights of any trip to Sedona. You can follow that up with some first-rate stargazing in the brilliant night skies.

Best Vacation Spots in Arizona--the town of Jerome
Jerome

Jerome

Contributed by Trijit Mallick from Budget Travel Buff

If you’re looking for one of the best vacation spots in Arizona, visit Jerome, an old copper mining town located just 2 hours north of Phoenix. At it’s peak in the 1920’s, it was one of the richest towns in the United States. But now Jerome is a ghost town and one of the most inexpensive places to travel in the US

This old mining town is located at an elevation of 5000 feet which is why it can be a great day trip from Phoenix to escape the heat. Although there is an option of Arizona Shuttle service from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport to Camp Verde Chevron Station, the best way to reach Jerome is to drive from Phoenix. It’s an amazing 2.5-hour scenic drive, so you won’t get bored.

Jerome State Historic Park is the best spot to know the history of Jerome, its mining activities, and the Douglas family. Visit the Douglas Mansion which features many old photographs, furniture, and mining equipment. Outside of the museum, you can see the amazing view of Cleopatra Hill on which Jerome is located. 

Being a small town, you can explore Jerome on foot. Spend some time on Main Street and discover the art galleries, the Connor Hotel, and the Spirit Room. Wine tasting is a popular activity in Jerome. If you are a wine lover and looking for a really good and unique wine, The Original Jerome Winery is highly recommended.

If you have a plan to spend a night in Jerome, there you will find plenty of accommodation options of any budget. Connor Hotel is a historic inn which is located near Jerome State Historic Park. It offers all the modern amenities including free WiFi and free parking.

Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Contributed by James Ian from Parks Collecting 

Grand Canyon National Park is the perfect Arizona vacation spot no matter who you are. Whether you’re traveling solo, taking a family trip, or having a romantic getaway, it’s hard to go wrong when you visit one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World.  

You can visit either the north rim (open in summer only) or the South Rim (open year-round). The South Rim has more viewpoints and many more visitor services, so most Grand Canyon itineraries are based here. 

There’s a free shuttle bus system to take you to most of the major viewpoints overlooking the canyon. You can also walk along the Rim Trail or venture down into the canyon. The Bright Angel Trail and South Kaibab Trail both go all the way down to the Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon, where you can stay overnight at Phantom Ranch. 

Back on the rim, there are plenty of other things to do. Buy native American Crafts at Hopi House; take photos at Lookout Studio; ride a mule through ponderosa pine forest to the edge of The Abyss lookout; cycle along greenways, stopping off to take in the canyon views along the way; and learn all about the canyon’s formation at the Yavapai Geology Museum.  

There are several lodges and camping options in and near the national park. Inside the park, the premier South Rim lodge is the El Tovar hotel, a classic ‘parkitecture’ style inn right on the rim of the canyon. Bright Angel Lodge is the other historic lodge, and a more budget-friendly option. In nearby Tusayan, the Grand Hotel is a pleasant choice.  

The nearest airport to Grand Canyon’s South Rim, other than the small Tusayan Airport that offers scenic flights over the canyon, is Flagstaff, about 45 minutes away. For larger international airports, head to Las Vegas (4 hours) or Phoenix (3.5 hours). 

Tucson
Tucson

Tucson 

Contributed by Corinne Vail of Roving Vails

Tucson, the second largest city in Arizona, is as southwestern as it gets. Nicknamed “Old Pueblo,” Mexican influences and Spanish architecture are ever-present. The food scene with its southwestern flair made the list of UNESCO Cities of Gastronomy. 

The landscape is vastly different from other parts of the southwest due to the abundance of the beautiful saguaro cactus, which you can see in and around the town. One place to really learn about and enjoy them is Saguaro National Park.

While exploring, don’t miss the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, really part zoo and part museum. There are many paths, desert animal enclosures, and all kinds of desert plants with placards and identifying information.

If you enjoy airplanes, one place you cannot miss is the Pima Air and Space Museum located on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, and it’s the home of the Boneyard. The Boneyard is 180 acres of old Air Force airplanes that have been decommissioned, and it’s quite a sight to see. Along with the Boneyard, the museum itself is full of all kinds of air and space technology. It’s easy to spend at least 3-4 hours here.

Other things to do in Tucson include visiting Mission San Xavier del Bac, shopping at the Mercado San Agustin, hiking in Sabino Canyon, and dining on Mexican food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

As far south as Tucson is, it’s a great place to make a hub because there’s plenty of great day trips to take to places like Tombstone, Bisbee, and Colossal Cave Mountain Park.

Don’t miss Tucson when traveling through Arizona. There’s something for everyone young and old, and it’s well worth a stop. If you are staying in town, check out the Tuxon Hotel, with its hipster bar and great pool for cooling off in the evening.

Lake Havasu
Lake Havasu

Lake Havasu

Contributed by Back Road Ramblers

Lake Havasu is a sprawling waterfront city of more than 52,000 people on Arizona’s western border with California. Nestled deep in the Mojave Desert, Lake Havasu is a playground for outdoor adventurers who come here for the endless sunshine, as well as boating, fishing, hiking, and off-roading.

Snowbirds come to Lake Havasu in the winter months from the northern regions of the United States and Canada, and it’s a popular spring break destination for families and college students.

Highlights of a Lake Havasu vacation include visiting the 25 replica lighthouses that dot the landscape, hiking or mountain biking in SARA park, and taking a kayak tour of Topock Gorge. 

Be sure to visit the iconic London Bridge, which is one of the most visited historic sites in all of Arizona. The bridge originally spanned the River Thames in London, but was auctioned off in the 1960s to the highest bidder. Robert McCulloch won the bridge for Lake Havasu City, and the bridge was dismantled brick-by-brick and reconstructed in its current location.

For a relaxing retreat right on the water, stay at the Nautical Beachfront Resort. Rooms feature gorgeous views of the lake and the surrounding mountains, and guests have access to a golf course, outdoor pool, and full restaurant.

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Scottsdale
Scottsdale

Scottsdale

Contributed by Theresa Goodrich of The Local Tourist

The sheer number of things to do in Scottsdale makes it one of the most popular destinations for empty nesters. It’s got oodles of sun, golf courses galore, and lots of fantastic parks. Sample Arizona wines at one of the many tasting rooms in Old Town and then explore the thriving art scene. 

You can also visit the studios of both Paolo Soleri and Frank Lloyd Wright. The desert inspired these two very different architects and today you can see how they worked and lived. 

When the temperature climbs into the triple digits, it’s easy to cool off at one of the many museums. Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West showcases western culture and history. For a more modern take, visit the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. And to get a feel for one of the area’s pastimes, head to the Scottsdale Rodeo Museum.

Depending on what you’re looking for, Scottsdale can be an ideal vacation for couples, solo travelers, and getaways with friends. Located next to Phoenix, it’s easy to get to with direct flights from most major U.S. cities. When you plan your visit, consider the Andaz Scottsdale. This resort features bungalows with individual patios connected by winding paths all with a great view of Camelback Mountain in the distance.

Petrified Forest
Petrified Forest

Petrified Forest National Park

Contributed by Jess and Justin of Uprooted Traveler

Petrified Forest National Park, nestled in the northeastern corner of Arizona, isn’t always on Arizona visitors’ bucketlists- but it should be. This hidden gem is conveniently located close to several other Arizona must-sees, like the Grand Canyon and Sedona, and is actually located along historic Route 66. While its scenery may not be quite as dramatic as some of the state’s other landmarks, it’s still absolutely beautiful, with colorfully-striped badlands, endless stretches of barren desert, and literal forests of crystallized ancient logs scattered across its landscape.

The park is great for all kinds of visitors, from families to older travelers and everyone in between- primarily because of how short and accessible the majority of the hiking trails in the park are. One not-to-be missed hike is the Blue Mesa Trail, which takes you below the rim of a mesa and between impossibly blue hills of bentonite clay towering overhead. And no stop to the park is complete without exploring the Crystal Forest trail, where you’ll weave through the park’s rolling hills and marvel at the countless pieces of trees, fossilized millions of years ago scattered around the trail.

If you’re looking for a place to stay nearby, consider the neighboring town of Holbrook, with an unbelievable amount of dinosaur statues and ‘50s diners. Holbrook leans hard into its Route 66 enthusiasm- so to get in on the fun, stay at Brad’s Desert Inn, a simple motel with rooms that are themed around the United States’ most famous road!

Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park

Contributed by Agnes & Chris of The Van Escape

What is Arizona associated with? The Grand Canyon, endless desert, and rusty orange rocks. Rarely, the association evokes the color green. Saguaro National Park is an emerald of the Arizona landscape. Millions of giant green cacti grow on its territory.

The park is less popular than other attractions in the state, making it perfect for a family vacation. It is less crowded and beautiful. Summer in Arizona is hot and the cacti do not provide much shade. So remember to put on sunscreen and pack more water. It’s also worth wearing shoes with thick soles and protected toes, long airy pants, and long sleeves to protect your body from the cactus needles.

The park is located just 132 miles southeast of Phoenix, the capital and largest city of Arizona. It is in the suburbs of Tucson. It owes its name to the giant saguaro cactus, an icon of the Wild West. Within the park, the giant cacti grow so close together and in such large numbers that their aggregations are called cactus forests. The vibrant Sonoran Desert area is home to 1.8 million saguaro cacti.

Saguaro National Park consists of two parts – the west and the east. The attractive city of Tucson separates them which is the best place to stay for a night. The drive from Red Hills Visitor Center (Saguaro West) to Rincon Mountain Visitor Center (Saguaro East) can take up to an hour, depending on the time of day and traffic. Both parts are worth seeing because they are exciting.

What is there to do in Saguaro? It’s worth starting your visit at the visitor center and picking up a current map of the park. Both parts have very scenic auto routes with numerous stops and viewpoints. Cactus Forest Drive – 8 miles of paved road in the Rincon Mountain District – east and Bajada Loop Drive – 6 miles of unpaved road in the Tucson Mountain District – west. While driving, try to take a picture next to the giant saguaro cactus you may find. They are very tall, over 40 feet (12 m) high, and more.

Also, hiking is one of the best things to do in Saguaro, as there are 165 miles of trails. Easy but scenic trails include the Cactus Wren Trail, Signal Hill Petroglyphs Trail, and Valley View Overlook Trail in the Tucson Mountain District – West. The perfect hikes in the Rincon Mountain District – East are Mica View Loop and Cactus Forest Trail.

It is definitely worth staying in Saguaro until sunset because the views are breathtaking. 

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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Jen Ambrose

    We LOVED our trip to Arizona a couple years ago! We visited almost all of these places – surprisingly not the Grand Canyon. 😀 Thanks for including our write-up of Bisbee!

    1. Wendy

      Our pleasure Jen! Look forward to visiting Bisbee someday.

  2. Elena Pappalardo

    Arizona seems so epic! I still need to get there, so I will definitely keep all of these helpful suggestions mind.

  3. Go Wander Wild

    This Arizona guide is incredibly helpful. You’ve really thought through everything you need to know before planning a trip. Thank you for this helpful resource. Saving this guide for later!

    1. Wendy

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

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