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Do you wonder what is the most geologically interesting and diverse state in the United States? It is definitely Arizona that is known for the natural beauty of its Grand Canyon National Park, its incredible array of historical attractions, and awe-inspiring natural features.
Many travelers also travel to Arizona for Mexican food, the rich culture of the Wild West, and unique landmarks that can impress every outdoor adventurer and the most sophisticated traveler. This guide to the Grand Canyon State provides important and useful information about traveling to this state and its top destinations.
- Best Things to Do in Arizona
- 1. Take a Trip to Monument Valley
- 2. Spend a Day In the Musical Instrument Museum
- 3. Visit the Desert Botanical Garden
- 4. Enjoy the Phoenix Symphony
- 5. Explore Downtown Phoenix
- 6. Enjoy Your Time in Coconino National Forest
- Where to stay in Arizona
- How to Get Around in Arizona
- Travel Tips Arizona
- Get Travel Insurance
- Pack Proper Clothing and Equipment
- Research the Destination Beforehand
- Decide on Accommodation
- Choose the Season Wisely
Best Things to Do in Arizona
1. Take a Trip to Monument Valley
Monument Valley (the full name is the Monument Valley Tribal Park) is one of the most iconic landscapes in the United States and one of the most visited Arizona destinations. It is famous for its panoramic vistas, sandstone buttes, and colossal mesas. It sits within the Navajo Nation Reservation and is part of the Colorado Plateau.
However, it was not always a popular tourist attraction. Until the 1930s, it was an obscure location in the Arizona desert; only the Indian tribes knew its beauty. It started experiencing popularity and attracting many travelers after John Ford’s well-known films.
Today, Monument Valley is one of the top Arizona’s visitor attractions that can also be seen in many popular movies, including Mission: Impossible II, Forrest Gump, and the HBO series Westworld.
It is open year-round, but the best time to visit is spring (March–May) and fall (September – November). Due to the lack of shade in Monument Valley, it is better to avoid the hot summer months. You should always be prepared for large crowds and higher prices in March, the busiest month.
One or two days is enough to explore this place, but you will need an extra day if you decide to see other attractions and places nearby. ,
2. Spend a Day In the Musical Instrument Museum
If you want to make your trip to Arizona more cultural, you should consider visiting one of its museums. One of them is the Musical Instrument Museum located in Phoenix.
It was opened in 2010, and it is the largest museum of its type in the world. It is on the list of the 20 best museums in the country. Every year, the museum hosts over 300,000 guests.
The Musical Instrument Museum features a huge collection of instruments from different countries and parts of the world and is one of the top destinations for real music lovers. In total, there are over 15,000 musical instruments and related items.
The best thing about this museum is that it is highly interactive. Visitors can touch and play different instruments from different countries and cultures and take a musical journey worldwide. There is also a floor where they can see the instrument restoration and preservation process.
The museum’s upper level demonstrates different musical traditions from modern and ancient cultures across the globe. Other Arizona museums worth visiting include the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum and the Arizona Museum of Natural History.
3. Visit the Desert Botanical Garden
The Desert Botanical Garden is one of the most unique natural destinations in Arizona that you should visit. It is located in Phoenix and features over 21,000 plants, some of which belong to the unique southwestern desert ecosystem.
All the plants and flowers you can see in the Desert Botanical Garden are kept in proper desert conditions that they need to thrive. This garden is especially famous for its extensive collection of cactus and agave plants.
There are plenty of things to do and events to attend in the Desert Botanical Garden. For example, five permanent walking trails allow visitors to experience the beautiful and unique plants that thrive in the driest and hottest parts of the world. There are also temporary exhibitions that change regularly and various seasonal events that are worth attending with your family and friends.
4. Enjoy the Phoenix Symphony
First, the Phoenix Symphony was founded in 1947 and was just an occasional musician group. In 1972, the Symphony started offering performances at the Phoenix Symphony Hall, which was fully renovated in 2005.
Today, the Phoenix Symphony is Arizona’s only full-time professional orchestra funded by the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the National Endowment of the Arts. Today, it is the largest performing arts organization in Arizona.
The mission of the Symphony is to provide the joy of music and help Arizona become a comfortable, interesting, and safe place to live. It is a catalyst for compassion, discovery, connection, and knowledge.
There are annual performances throughout the year that everyone can attend. Common guest artists at these performances are James Galway, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Midori, and others.
5. Explore Downtown Phoenix
Phoenix is a large city and the capital of Arizona. It is loaded with fun activities and significant attractions worth seeing and visiting. Downtown Phoenix is full of galleries, parks, shops, cocktail bars, hands-on exhibits, and other places you should visit if you end up in this beautiful city.
Many travel to this city to enjoy live music, meet others, and taste craft beer. Thanks to the Valley Metro Rail, you do not need a car to travel around Phoenix. Public transport lets you easily visit famous historical areas in the city, including a walkable arts district and Roosevelt Row.
Downtown Phoenix also has over 200 restaurants, so you will never be hungry in Arizona’s capital. It also has plenty of rooftop bars and lounges with live music where you can spend a fun and unforgettable night with good company. If you want to explore the Downtown during the day, you should visit its museums, art galleries, theaters, and other destinations that will allow you to learn more about the city’s culture and history.
6. Enjoy Your Time in Coconino National Forest
How about seeing one of the most biodiverse national forests in the US? Then, it would be best to consider spending a day in Coconino National Forest – a park that features ponderosa pines, deer, elk, ospreys, and other species of plants and animals. It is located south of Flagstaff and is nestled between other national forests.
Coconino National Forest is also one of the best places in Arizona for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. There are over 300 hiking trails for hikers, horseback riders, and bikers. If you want something more low-key, you can enjoy your stay in one of the campsites and try fishing. This park becomes a wonderland oasis for cross-country skiers, sledders, and snowshoers in winter.
Where to stay in Arizona
Suppose you are planning an Arizona trip, especially for the first time. In that case, deciding where to stay and how to find quality and affordable accommodation addressing your needs and preferences might be hard and challenging.
In this Arizona travel guide, we have decided to create a list of the best places to stay that you should consider – whether you are traveling by yourself or with your family and friends:
- Red Feather Lodge – Grand Canyon Village
- Yavapai Lodge – Grand Canyon
- Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn – Tusayan
- Maswik Lodge – Grand Canyon Village
- Fuego at The Clarendon – Phoenix
- Los Abrigados Resort and Spa – Sedona
- Sedona Reál Inn & Suites – Sedona
- Arizona Grand Resort & Spa – Phoenix
- The Wilde Resort and Spa – Sedona
- Hilton Vacation Club Sedona Summit – Sedona
How to Get Around in Arizona
Unfortunately, Arizona has no impressive and extensive subway system like San Francisco or New York. However, the public transportation system in Arizona is quite reliable and well-structured. Buses, streetcars, planes, and rental car services Lyft and Uber serve.
Five big airports in Arizona:
- Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport – Arizona’s main and biggest airport that provides services to over 100 cities in the United States and other countries.
- Phoenix-Mesa Gateway – this airport is located near the Polytechnic Campus of Arizona State University, and it is home to various low-cost airlines, including Allegiant.
- Tucson International Airport. – it is the main airport in Southern Arizona, providing nonstop service to over 20 American cities in the United States and Canada.
- Flagstaff Pulliam Airport – the airport where United and American Airlines offer flights to some cities in the United States, including Denver, Phoenix, Dallas, and Fort Worth.
- Yuma International Airport offers flights to a few American cities, including Dallas-Fort Worth, Phoenix, and Denver.
There are also trains in Arizona, and Amtrak primarily offers the train service. It operates such stations in Arizona as Flagstaff, Tucson, Kingman, Benson, Yuma, and more.
Travel Tips Arizona
As mentioned above, Arizona is one of the most diverse and photographed states in the United States. Thousands travel to Arizona to see its magnificent rock formations, slot canyons, scenic landscapes, and other Arizona destinations.
However, visiting the state without knowing anything about the state and what exactly you are signing up for. For this reason, here is a list of tips to help you plan your trip correctly.
Get Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is coverage that protects you against financial losses and various risks that could happen while traveling. We recommend SafetyWing and VisitorsCoverage, which allows you to get a quote across multiple providers to fit your needs.
The risks can be minor, such as a missed flight or lost luggage, or they can also relate to more serious problems, including physical injuries. Here are the main benefits of travel insurance:
- Cancellation. Flight cancelations are, unfortunately, very common. Cancellation coverage provided by travel insurance will cover different pre-paid costs, including accommodation, car rental, and more.
- Emergency medical expenses. If something happens to you while you are traveling and you need medical help, travel insurance will step in and cover medical expenses and the cost of treatment.
- Personal belongings, gadgets, and documents. Most travel insurance policies also cover and protect personal items you take on your trip. However, it is recommended to ask an insurance company first to know for sure.
Pack Proper Clothing and Equipment
Arizona is a paradise for outdoor lovers and explorers. You should visit and explore plenty of parks, landmarks, and other outdoor destinations when traveling to this beautiful state. Therefore, one of the most important steps is to bring proper clothing and equipment.
Here is a beginner guide on what to wear if you are thinking of spending a lot of time outdoors:
- Hiking base layer. This layer includes underwear, leggings, bras, shirts, tops, and socks. The primary purpose of a base layer is to keep you dry and comfortable.
- Hiking pants. The two main factors you should consider when choosing hiking pants are flexibility and durability. Also, pick hiking pants made with waterproof and quick-drying fabrics.
- Hiking shoes. When choosing a pair of shoes or boots for your hiking adventure, you should not forget that shoes should protect you from roots, rocks, and other natural hazards. Good brands are offering high-quality hiking shoes, including Patagonia and Columbia.
- Backpack. Whether you are going on a hike for several days or a few hours only, you need to have a backpack. It should be waterproof, versatile, and multifunctional.
Research the Destination Beforehand
Doing research beforehand and learning more about destinations offers many benefits. First, it lets you learn more about the area or town you will visit.
Research is the key to a great and smooth trip. You can always find information about your destination online or read reviews on trusted websites from other visitors to know what to expect.
Local newspapers, visitor centers, other Arizona travel guides, and blogs are also good resources because they may contain information about places not oriented toward tourists.
Decide on Accommodation
When planning your trip, accommodation is one of the most important aspects you should consider. You want to make sure that your accommodation is safe and comfortable and provide you with everything you need while you are away from home.
There are different types of accommodation to choose from, so it can be difficult for you to decide. In order to help you make the right choice, here is a list of things you should do:
- Choose the type of accommodation. Arizona has different types of accommodation, especially in bigger and busier cities: hotels, hostels, apartments, vacation rentals, and more. In order to decide which one is better for you, decide how long you are planning to stay and what is more important for you – the level of comfort or its price, for example.
- Compare reviews and prices. Based on your budget, find the accommodation you need and can afford. You can compare prices on such popular websites as Booking.com and VRBO. It is also recommended to read reviews to understand what to expect from a place. If you want to save money, it is better to travel during shoulder periods, with fewer people and lower prices. Accommodation is also going to be cheaper if you are staying for a longer period.
- Check the services and facilities. It is worth checking facilities and services before booking any accommodation. Certain accommodations charge guests for services that other places do not. Also, there might be certain restrictions on using certain services.
Choose the Season Wisely
Arizona is among the most beautiful states in the US. It is known for its breathtaking landscapes, mysterious canyons, and natural beauty. This state is worth visiting at any time, but since the weather in Arizona is no joke, it is important to choose the right season.
The best and the most comfortable time to visit Arizona is the spring and fall when the weather is sunny, dry, and not too hot. If you are traveling to the north, April is the best month. December, January, and February are also quite comfortable.
If you are visiting Southern Arizona and its destinations, it is better to do it in winter. Yes, summer visits are tempting, but it will be extremely hot, and there is a high risk of dust storms that make outdoor activities impossible. Winters in Southern Arizona are the best because they are mild and warm, with temperatures averaging 67 and 75 degrees.
If you plan to visit the Grand Canyon, consider springtime. April through June is the best because temperatures are below 76 degrees Fahrenheit.
In general, it is possible to say that even though Grand Canyon State is a great state to visit at any time, choosing the right time and visit will definitely make your visit and stay more comfortable and enjoyable.
- About the Author
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he’d heard.
Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he’s learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.
He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.