Trying to find great activities and attractions in the Grand Canyon State? Our guide to the best things to do in Arizona is all you need to plan the perfect trip!
When searching for what to do in Arizona, it’s not difficult to find an abundance of hiking trails, unique museums, natural wonders, art galleries, mountain biking trails, ghost towns, cliff dwellings, and so much more!
Famous for homing the Grand Canyon, the giant saguaro cacti, towering red sandstone buttes, and Native American culture and history, Arizona is a one-of-a-kind travel destination.
With stunning scenery and historical landmarks from the Wild West era, Arizona is a haven for nature lovers and history buffs alike.
The vast array of monumental Arizona activities makes for a rewarding memorable experience that shouldn’t be passed up on. So let’s start going over the best things to do in Arizona below, so you can start planning your trip!
Table of Contents
The Best Things to Do in Arizona, USA
When it comes to the best things to do in Arizona, this list has got them all.
From learning the history and culture of American Indians through world-class exhibits at the Heard Museum to seeing the famous Horseshoe Bend in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, finding what to do in Arizona for the best vacation ideas and weekend trips is easy!
Get ready to explore Arizona!
1) Take On World-Class Exhibits To Learn About The American Indian People At The Heard Museum
Dedicated to the advancement of American Indian art, the Heard Museum, located in Phoenix, Arizona, was founded in 1929 and has since been internationally recognized for its world-class exhibitions.
The stories of American Indian people are shared from a first-person perspective to more intimately present the impactful history, culture, and art.
In addition, the museum collaborates with American Indian artists and tribal communities to share these first-person stories and perspectives for a more impactful educational exhibition and opportunity to learn more about the American Indian people.
With this continued collaboration with the American Indian people, the museum has become one of the world’s finest destinations to learn about these people’s arts, cultures, and history. It is located right in downtown Phoenix near the Phoenix Art Museum.
- Address: 2301 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004
- Hours: 10 AM – 4 PM
2) Explore The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum
Full of adventure and opportunity, the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson utilizes its 98 acres to home world-renowned attractions, including an art gallery, botanical garden, zoo, natural history museum, aquarium, and publisher.
Considered the best attraction in Tucson, you can explore the best of the desert landscape here. Watch live animal presentations. Take in a wide array of native flora and fauna. Explore the permanent mineral collection known as one of the finest in the world.
The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum has so much to offer as a world-class attraction in Southern Arizona.
- Address: 2021 N Kinney Rd, Tucson, AZ 85743
- Hours: 8:30 AM – 5 PM
READ NEXT: For more ideas, check out our list of the best things to do in Tucson!
3) Explore Preserved Pueblos At Wupatki National Monument
A prevalent location for Native American archaeological sites, the Wupatki National Monument, located near the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, is full of history and is considered one of the best things to do in Arizona.
Preserving pueblos once inhabited by the ancestors of the Zuni and Hopi, this impactful monument is a glimpse into the past.
The history of this location sets back thousands of years when hunter-gatherers called the area home. Wupatki National Monument was designated a national monument in 1924 by President Calvin Coolidge to preserve and study this rich archaeological and historical site.
A visit to this monument allows exploring the seven preserved pueblos with an adventure down four trails surrounded by the local nature of red rocks and prairie.
- Address: 25137 North Wupatki Lane, Flagstaff, AZ 86004
- Hours: 9 AM – 4:30 PM
4) Visit The Famous Landmark At The Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon is one of the most famous landmarks in the United States in the ancestral homeland of 11 Associated Tribes. It stretches 18 miles wide, a mile deep, and 277 miles in total length, and it is one of the seven natural wonders of the world!
At the Grand Canyon National Park, home to the Grand Canyon, there are spectacular viewpoints, including Yavapai Observation Station and Mather Point, to witness the natural grandeur of this enigmatic landmark.
The many layers of red rock reveal millions of years of geological history that have made it a hotspot for hiking, river rafting, rock climbing, camping, backpacking, and more! Most visitors head to the South Rim, but the North Rim offers a quieter and more peaceful experience.
Enhance your experience by riding the Grand Canyon Railway, or by taking a scenic helicopter ride over the vastness of the Grand Canyon!
- Address: Rim Trail, Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023
- Hours: Open 24 Hours
The Grand Canyon is one of the USA’s most amazing natural landmarks!
5) Visit Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Lake Mead is commonly known as the largest artificial lake in the USA. Straddling the border of Arizona and Nevada, this man-made reservoir on the Colorado River was formed at the same time as the Hoover Dam.
Due to local droughts, Lake Mead is drying up at a startling pace. However, having some fun at Lake Mead National Recreation Area is still one of the best things to do in Arizona.
Covering 1.5 million acres of lakes, canyons, biking and hiking trails, mountains, and valleys, there is so much to see and do here. Go camping, hiking, or mountain biking, or go fishing and boating in Lake Mead or Lake Mohave.
- Address: Visitor Center is located at 10 Lakeshore Rd, Boulder City, NV 89005, United States
READ NEXT: Lake Mead isn’t far from Las Vegas! Check out our list of the best things to do in Las Vegas if you’re heading there next.
6) Prepare For A Day Of Adventure At Petrified Forest National Park
Full of history and nature, exploring Petrified Forest National Park is one of the best things to do in Arizona. It offers plenty of attractions to satiate your curiosity. On the trails at the park, hikers will have the opportunity to explore a range of intriguing landmarks, historical sites, and petrified logs.
The south portion of Petrified Forest National Park is home to the famous Rainbow forest, full of vibrant petrified wood, and the Rainbow Forest Museum, full of paleontology exhibits.
The north portion of the park is where you’ll find a historical 1930s adobe building, a museum of preserved Hopi artifacts, and the Painted Desert Inn. The center of the park houses the ruined village of Puerco Pueblo and the petroglyphs of Newspaper Rock.
- Address: 123 1 Park Rd, Petrified Forest National Park, AZ 86028
- Hours: 8 AM – 6 PM
7) Steer Clear Of Giant Cacti At Saguaro National Park
Tucson, Arizona, is home to the nation’s largest cacti, the giant saguaro, making it the best place to glimpse these symbols of the American west. And there’s no better place to get up close, but not too personal, or you’ll get stung, to these large plants than at Saguaro National Park!
Saguaro National Park protects the giant saguaro, covering 91,000 acres of desert. On the Bajada Loop Drive, you can drive down this scenic route through dense cacti forests and other stunning viewpoints.
On Hugh Norris Trail, the ten-mile trail offers a rewarding sunset show surrounded by giant saguaro and desert. The Signal Hill picnic area allows guests to glimpse ancient petroglyphs that detail local history.
The famous national park is split into two separate districts separated by the city of Tucson. The Rincon Mountain District is on the eastern side of the city, and the Tucson Mountain District is on the west side.
- Address: Visitor center for the Rincon Mountain District is 3693 S. Old Spanish Trail, Tucson, Arizona 85730. Visitor Center for the Tucson Mountain District is at 2700 N. Kinney Road, Tucson, Arizona 85743
See those famous Arizona cacti in Saguaro National Park.
8) Hike The Scenic Monument Valley
Well-known for its towering sandstone buttes that stretch anywhere from 400-1,000 feet, Monument Valley is a red-sand desert home to the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.
The area is incredibly popular as a filming location for Western movies and is reputably known as one of the most photographed places on earth. The iconic landscapes are a must-see when traveling to Arizona!
For a scenic drive, take the Tribal Park Loop that stretches 17 miles, offering chances to witness impressive buttes and long stretches of red-sanded desert.
Hike Wildcat Trail, a self-guided 3.2-mile loop hike that circles Merrick Butte and the Mitten Buttes, for an up close and personal touch to your trip to Monument Valley.
But the best way to experience this gem of Arizona is with a local guide. This 3.5-hour tour of Monument Valley via safari vehicle will take you to all the best sights and teach you the traditions and history of the Navajo Nation.
- Address: Indian, Route 42, Oljato-Monument Valley, AZ 84536
- Hours: 8 AM – 5 PM
A UNESCO biosphere reserve, the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is the only place in the United States where the organ pipe cactus and the senita cactus grow in the wild.
This impressive location features over 2,000 species of plants and as many animal species to compete. The 26 species of cacti, including the giant saguaro, and plenty of other thriving plants and intriguing animals make homage to this desert.
Several trails travel directly through the monument, presenting the impressive image of these giant cacti and the Sonoran Desert as you go.
The Desert View Trail is an easy hike to stroll through the desert with fun educational signs guiding you. The Victoria Mine Trail is a moderate 4.4-mile hike that heads to one of the oldest gold and silver prospecting sites in southwest Arizona, making for an intriguing historical stop during your trek.
- Address: 10 Organ Pipe Dr, Ajo, AZ 85321
- Hours: Open 24 Hours
10) Test Your Luck At Lost Dutchman State Park
The Lost Dutchman State Park was named after the fabled lost gold mine and is located at the base of the Superstition Mountains.
Settled in the Sonoran Desert, many people travel to the park to search for gold, camp under the stars, or traverse the desert to escape from the hustle and bustle of the world.
Six trails range from beginner to intermediate to adventure through various terrains of the Sonoran Desert.
- Address: 6109 N Apache Trail, Apache Junction, AZ 85119
- Hours: 6 AM – 8 PM
READ NEXT: 21 Best Things To Do In Phoenix, Arizona
11) Stare Into The Depths Of The Horseshoe Monument
A famous landmark in Arizona, Horseshoe Bend, periodically referred to as Horseshoe Monument, is found in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and nearby is another hotspot of the area, Grand Canyon National Park.
The Navajo Nation can be overlooked from the parking lot and start of the 1.5-mile hiking trail loop trailhead at Horseshoe Bend.
This highly photographed landmark in the shape of a horseshoe was formed around five million years ago as the Colorado Plateau uplifted and the rivers cut through sandstone.
The depth of Horseshoe Bend reaches around an impressive 1,000 feet as the Colorado River continues to flow through its signature horseshoe shape.
- Address: 1001 Page Parkway, Page, AZ 86040
- Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
Horseshoe Bend is one of Arizona’s most photographed places!
12) Capture The Magic Of The Antelope Canyon
A picturesque geological sculpture and the most famous slot canyon, Antelope Canyon, is located on the private land of the Navajo Nation. A guided tour is required to explore this vast natural formation at the upper end – although there is the opportunity to do a self-guided kayak trip to Antelope canyon if you want to find your own adventure!
Full of history, the canyon was shaped through millions of years of wind and water erosion. It was named after the herds of pronghorn antelope that once roamed the lands.
Different tours take visitors to Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon. The Upper Antelope Canyon tour is more popular thanks to the sunlight reaching through the canyon and lighting up the walls for impactful picture-taking opportunities.
There are some epic hiking trails, like the 9.8-mile Page Rimview Trail, that offer the rewarding scenery of the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell.
This guided tour embarks to Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend with a Navajo Guide for an in-depth, informative adventure of these impressive landmarks!
13) Take A Dip At Lake Powell
A hot vacation spot, Lake Powell welcomes around two million people annually, making it one of the best things to do in Arizona!
Part of the Colorado River, the lake offers 2,000 miles of shoreline to bask in the sun, water, and scenery. People from all over the world come to rent out space at the campground, cottages, or even houseboats, to explore the great outdoors of Lake Powell.
Reserve a room at Lake Powell Resort to enjoy luxurious accommodations, dining, and activities. Rent a jet ski to race across Lake Powell’s waters. This desirable Arizona attraction has plenty of activities to explore!
- Address: 48 South Lake Powell Blvd, Page AZ 86040.
- Hours: 8 AM – 4 PM
14) View Pueblo Ruins At The Canyon De Chelly National Monument
Located on Navajo tribal lands, Canyon De Chelly National Monument is a national park full of history.
The canyons were once inhabited for nearly 5,000 years, the imposing sandstone walls rising over 900 feet high as they towered from above.
Canyon de Chelly is also one of North America’s longest continuously inhabited landscapes, homing a contemporary Navajo Indian community on the canyon floor. The historical area also preserves the ruins of the Ancestral Puebloans, the pueblos established anywhere from 350-1300 A.D.
Enjoy a scenic drive down South Rim Drive to absorb the impressive sights of Spider Rock Overlook, presenting the park’s famous geological formation. On the White House Ruins Trail, bike or hike the 130-mile loop road guide, or join a horseback riding tour led by Navajo guides.
15) Visit The “Wickedest Town in the West” At Jerome Ghost Town
A top Arizona attraction, Jerome Ghost Town was founded in 1876. This historic gold and copper mining town attracted all sorts of the Old West to its saloons and bawdy houses, receiving the tag of “Wickedest Town in the West” at one point.
During its heyday of 70 years of a productive mining establishment, Jerome produced over a billion dollars from its production of zinc, gold, copper, and silver.
Once Arizona’s fourth largest town, Jerome has since withered down to only 50 residents.
Since re-establishing itself as a historic ghost town, Jerome Ghost Town has become a popular spot for creative-minded individuals like artists and writers, attracting many tourists looking to adventure the old buildings established in the 1800s.
To learn even more about the local mining history you can head over to Jerome State Historic Park.
- Address: Jerome-Perkinsville Rd, Jerome, AZ 86331
- Hours: 9 AM – 5 PM (Closed Tuesday)
16) Plan For A One Night Stay To Trek To Havasu Falls
Found within Havasupai tribal lands, Havasu Falls are a sought-after destination dreaming up pools for stunning blues.
As the falls rest on the Havasupai Indian Reservation, a permit must be purchased from the Havasupai Tribe to access the falls.
Visits must include a one-night reservation at the campground or Havasupai Lodge located in Supai Village to obtain a permit. The path to the campground passes Havasu Falls, Fifty Foot, and Lower Navajo, all stunning picturesque waterfalls.
Once the permit is obtained, it’s time to visit the spectacular Havasu Falls! The hike to reach it is strenuous, involving switchbacks and elevation that can be difficult to maneuver. But the scenery and refreshing blue water, perfect for swimming, make it worth it!
Havasu Falls in northern Arizona is not to be confused with Lake Havasu, a reservoir next to Lake Havasu City in southwestern Arizona.
- Address: Grand Canyon, Arizona
Travelers rave about the startling blue color of Havasu Falls.
17) Adventure Three Historical Missions At The Tumacacori National Historic Park
Preserving the ruins of three Spanish mission communities, Tumacacori National Historic Park protects two National Historic Landmarks and bounds of history.
One of the oldest national park sites in the U.S., the 19th-century Franciscan mission Tumacácori was established by American Indian and Spanish laborers working under the guidance of a master mason.
The land it was constructed once homed to five sister nations of the O’odham, including the Apache, the Pima, the Tohono, the Yaki, and the Mexican peoples.
The two other protected missions include Missions Calabazas and Guevavi. Each historical site features impactful history, architecture, and culture.
Don’t miss out on the cultural demonstrations that feature O’odham basket weavers, cooks, painters, and more, as they first-hand tell their stories through their craft!
- Address: 1891 I-19 Frontage Rd, Tumacacori-Carmen, AZ 85640
- Hours: 9 AM – 5 PM
18) Stroll Through The Impressive Outdoor Desert Botanical Garden
Expanding across 140 acres, Desert Botanical Garden in Papago Park homes the world’s finest collection of arid plants. All the plants in this impressive botanical garden are sourced from around the world in an outdoor area full of unique displays and features.
Walking through Desert Botanical Garden, over 50,000 desert plants can be found throughout the five trails, each with its thematic display. The themes are meant to encourage conversation and curiosity about the plants and people of the Sonoran Desert.
The Desert Botanical Garden is one of the top things to do in Phoenix, so make sure you check it out!
- Address: 1201 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008
- Hours: 8 AM – 8 PM (Monday-Thursday), 8 AM – 4 PM, 5:30 PM – 9:30 PM (Friday, Sunday), 8 AM – 4 PM (Saturday)
READ NEXT: Make the most of your visit to Phoenix with our Ultimate 3 Days in Phoenix Itinerary!
19) Peer At Ancient Ruins At The Walnut Canyon National Monument
Where Ancient Puebloans lived, the Walnut Canyon National Monument is full of history waiting to be discovered!
The Walnut Canyon National Monument preserves the ancient history of the Southwest, the ruins surrounded by Walnut Canyon reaching 600 feet in depth. The upper layer of the canyon was used by the Sinagua people, cave dwellers from the 12th and 13th centuries.
Hike the Rim Trail or Island Trail to travel around the monument from afar—don’t get too close! The ruins are protected and preserved but potentially dangerous, so keeping a safe distance is highly recommended.
- Address: 3 Walnut Canyon Rd, Flagstaff, AZ 86004
- Hours: 9 AM – 4:30 PM
20) Tour Ancient Dwellings At The Montezuma Castle National Monument
Protecting ancient preserved dwellings of the Sinagua people, the Montezuma Castle National Monument is a historically interesting attraction Arizona history buffs will love to see!
The Sinagua people were a pre-Columbian culture tied to the Hohokam and other southwestern United States indigenous peoples. The preserved dwellings at this monument were used between 1100-1425 AD. It is the third-ever National Monument dedicated to preserving Native American culture and history.
When you visit this spectacular location, wander the trails at the base of the limestone cliffs, or tour the museum to learn more about the ancient culture of the Sinagua people.
- Address: Montezuma Castle Rd, Camp Verde, AZ
- Hours: 8 AM – 4:45 PM
The ancient dwellings of Montezuma are incredible!
21) Take The Kids To The Largest Private Zoo In The U.S., The Phoenix Zoo
The largest privately owned zoo in the United States, the Phoenix Zoo is a must-see for all animal lovers!
Located inside Papago Park, the zoo homes numerous trails that take visitors through different habitats to see more than 3,000 intriguing animals, including three-toed box turtles, Mexican gray wolves, and cheetahs.
The Phoenix Zoo is an excellent family-friendly activity, offering plenty of kid-friendly activities and attractions for the family.
- Address: 455 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008
- Hours: 9 AM – 4 PM
22) Explore Ancient Dwellings At The Tonto National Monument
The largest of six national forests in the state and the ninth largest in the United States, Tonto National Forest is an impressive natural national forest found in Chandler, Arizona.
Home to nearly 900 miles of trails, the forest is full of recreational opportunities for hikers, equestrians, and bikers. Within the forest is Tonto National Monument, which features two Salado-styled cliff dwellings that date back 700 years.
Visiting the monument, the story of the Salado people is shared through artifacts, pottery, architecture, and agriculture.
Once you reach the monument, take your time exploring! The site encourages exploration, so go ahead and tour the ancient dwellings, peer at handprints left on the walls, and take in the architecture of this historical site.
- Address: Chandler, AZ 85224
- Hours: Open 24 Hours
23) Stop By The National Landmark & Symbol, The Hoover Dam
A widely known symbol and National landmark, the Hoover Dam is the most-visited dam in the world!
The massive structure reaches around 726 feet above the canyon, equivalent to a 60-story building. The Colorado River rests below, with the dam’s hydroelectric power generating enough to serve 1.3 million people yearly.
The guided tours of the Hoover Dam are highly recommended, sharing educational information and fun facts you might otherwise never know!
- Address: 118 Kingman Wash Access Rd, Temple Bar Marina, AZ 86443
- Hours: 9 AM – 6 PM
READ NEXT: Hoover Dam is a popular day trip from Vegas! Check out our 3 Days in Las Vegas Itinerary for more ideas in the area.
24) Experience The Eventful City Of Sedona
Sedona is a prevalent city, full of the best Arizona attractions, like the Chapel of the Holy Cross, Slide Rock State Park, and Oak Creek Canyon.
Settled within the Coconino National Forest, Sedona offers unrivaled views of Arizona’s famous towering red sandstone formations. It is home to more than 80 art galleries and shops that sell Native American jewelry, Sedona memorabilia, hand-made pottery, and Kachina dolls.
Explore Sedona via open-bus to learn more about the city’s historic downtown! This guided tour includes iconic sights and attractions with pit stops at local food spots and shops. Sedona is a must when visiting Arizona!
25) Gaze Upon The “White Dove Of The Desert” At The San Xavier del Bac Mission
A historic Spanish Catholic mission located in downtown Tucson, Arizona, San Xavier del Bac Mission is part of the Tohono O’odham National San Xavier Indian Reservation.
Known as the “White Dove Of The Desert,” the Mexican Baroque and Spanish Colonial architecture and history have resulted in the mission being incorporated as a National Historic Landmark.
The Franciscan church homes many sculptures and art pieces, the eye-catching white coloring of the mission draws the eye, and the stunning historical site is a worthwhile visit to learn about local history.
- Address: 1950 W San Xavier Rd, Tucson, AZ 85746
- Hours: 9 AM – 4 PM
The Spanish Colonial Missions are a fascinating thing to see in Arizona.
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