If you’re planning a big vacation to Arizona, you definitely don’t want to miss anything. Here are ten awesome ideas for your next visit!
We visited Arizona years ago with our daughter and visited most if not all of these wonderful sites on that trip. We have fond memories of this trip and wanted to share our favourite places to visit from that trip and other ones.
1. The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is naturally the first thing that comes to mind when people think of Arizona. There are many facts I could tell you about this famous natural wonder. But facts cannot begin to describe how breathtaking the Grand Canyon truly is. Even just standing on the rim quietly for a few minutes leaves you in absolute awe. The beauty of this sacred place washes over you and you realize how very small you are. No matter where else you go in Arizona, you owe it to yourself to at least stop by the Grand Canyon and give it a wave and a smile. There is no place else like it in the world.
2. Out of Africa Wildlife Preserve
If you have always wanted to visit Africa but can’t afford the trip, the Out of Africa Animal Park in Arizona is the next best thing. Located roughly halfway between Phoenix and Flagstaff, this park offers you more than the average zoo or drive-thru animal park.
You get a much more hands-on experience in this amazing place. You’ll see all kinds of large cats, plus hundreds of other mammals, reptiles, and birds. Rather than living in enclosures, the animals in the park live largely as they would in the wild – but more safely and gently. If you love animals, this place is a MUST-SEE!
As you can see above we took our daughter to the Out of Africa Wildlife Preserve years ago. She had such an amazing time that even now as a young adult she still talks about it. Especially the white rhino they had there that was rescued by the founder of Ecco who paid for him as he was going to be hunted, fortunately he was saved.
3. Spend Time Meditating In Sedona, Arizona
I personally loved the natural beauty of this area and it’s so unique compared to most places we’ve visited! Sedona, Arizona is often referred to as one of the most beautiful places on earth. Majestic mountains of red surround deep valleys of green, offering breathtaking views at every turn. The bright blue sky and sunshine feel so healing in this place. Is it any wonder that Sedona has a reputation for natural healing? In fact, it is said that there are special spiritual vortexes here. Whether there are or not, there is no shortage of opportunities for spiritual healing and growth – from meditation to yoga to reiki and massage. If you are looking for some enlightenment, you just might find it in Sedona, Arizona!
4. Petrified Forest
A trip to the Petrified Forest is a trip back in time. These prehistoric forests from long ago are simply stunning when you imagine just how ancient they are. This is the land of the many people – from as far back as 13,000 years ago. Currently, this is mostly indigenous land of the Zuni, Hopi, and Navajo nations. The park is open year-round and hosts a number of native festivals and activities. There is a travel center filled with beautiful exhibits and shops where you can take home petrified wood treasures of your very own. Most of all, you’ll walk away with a deeper understanding and connection with the history of our planet and the humans who call it home.
5. Meteor Crater
If your family loves space and all the interesting things there are to see in our galaxy, you should definitely consider a trip to the Meteor Crater in Arizona. This huge indentation in the ancient soil was made by a meteor a little over 100 feet in diameter (or about the size of the Statue of Liberty). It created a crater that is 570 feet deep and nearly a mile wide.
There are hiking tours available around the rim of the crater. And when it is too hot to be outside, be sure to take a tour of the Discovery Center and Space Museum where you’ll enjoy hands-on displays teaching you about meteors and all kinds of other cool things about outer space. You definitely don’t want to miss the 4D immersive theater experience where you will participate in a flight mission to save earth from another meteor hit!
6. Get Spooked Out In Tombstone, Arizona
In the late 1800s, Tombstone, Arizona was the fastest growing city between San Francisco and Saint Louis. Thousands of people called it home and there were many churches, saloons, shops, restaurants, and even a “red-light district.” Wyatt Earp walked the streets here, along with his friend Doc Holiday, when they weren’t busy shooting people at the OK Corral.
Today, much of Tombstone still stands. It is considered the most authentic Old West town left in the United States. And along with Wyatt and Doc, it is said that spirits walk these streets and linger in some of the buildings, as well. But whether your family sees any ghosts or not, you’re sure to have a lot of fun exploring the Old West in Tombstone, AZ!
7. Painted DesertThere are many seemingly magical places in Arizona. And stretching between two of them – The Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest – is a third: The Painted Desert. This enchanting place consists of over 93,000 acres of sand and rocky badlands. But rather than the expected shades of red and brown, the land here comes in many shades and colors.
In addition to the expected reds and browns, you’ll also see pink, orange, deep purple, gray, and more, all formed from layers upon layers of sandstone. This is a place of enchanting beauty, and when the sun sweeps across the surface of the rocks, the moving shadows make you feel as if you are constantly seeing everything anew. When the Arizona sun gets too hot, there is a Visitors Center with hands-on exhibits, an orientation film, a restaurant, a bookstore, and more!
8. The Hoover Dam
When you’ve seen enough of the natural wonders filling the state of Arizona, be sure to pay a visit to the Hoover Dam. The tours of this engineering marvel are legendary and you and your family are sure to be in awe of the things human beings can create. Built between 1931 and 1936, this dam is stunning on every level, including the number of people that found employment during the Great Depression when they were hired to build it. Thanks to the Hoover Dam, the beautiful Lake Mead exists and thousands of people in Nevada, Arizona, and California have electricity.
9. Flagstaff, Arizona
Even if you just stop there for lunch, Flagstaff is a beautiful city to spend a little time in. Nestled in the mountains and surrounded by pine forest, when you are in Flagstaff it is easy to imagine that you have suddenly found your way to Colorado. No matter how big it gets, Flagstaff always manages to feel like a small mountain town. Shop for treasures in the historic downtown, gaze at the stars at Lowell Observatory, explore the Museum of Northern Arizona and learn all about the Colorado Plateau, or take a self-guided tour of Route 66 narrated by Ted Danson. These are only a few of the cool things you can do in friendly Flagstaff!
10. Tucson Botanical Gardens
Right there in the middle of the arid Sonora Desert, the Tucson Botanical Garden is a place of lush, green splendor. Walk through over five acres of gardens, visit the butterfly exhibit, or enjoy a meal at the on-site restaurant. After that, check out the latest art exhibit on display. There are special events held at the Botanical Gardens throughout the year, and if you live in the area you might want to check out the classes they offer, too. If you like plants and butterflies, the Tucson Botanical Gardens is downright magical!
These are only a few examples of the amazing things Arizona has to offer. If you are planning a visit, you’ll find many wonderful ways to keep your family happily busy all vacation long!