Wondering what to do in Arizona? You’ll find there’s plenty to do, no matter what your idea of adventure may be. Hot air ballooning, skydiving, off road tours, water sports and many other adventures are waiting for you in the Grand Canyon State.
Interesting Facts about AZ
Arizona boasts an unparalleled amount of Things to Do throughout the state ranging from the low lying desert at the Colorado River sitting at only 72 feet in elevation to Mount Humphreys in Flagstaff rising above the sea to 12,637 feet (3,852 m). Located in Western United States with bordering states that include California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico its tremendous diversity provides travelers an ample supply of Adventures and Activities. Arizona covers an impressive 113,990 square miles making it the 6th largest state in the U.S. and was admitted to the Union February 14th, 1912 as the 48th state. A fact that most individuals do not realize is that still today nearly 25% of all Arizona is federal land that provides many Native American Indian Tribes their homes throughout the state. Some of these tribes include the Navojo Nation, Hopi tribe, Apache tribe, and Yavapai people not to mention many others.
It’s likely that the Grand Canyon is responsible for the state’s status as one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. Nearly 5 million people visit the Canyon each year, but it’s only one of the many unique geographical formations to consider visiting.
There is Monument Valley, a popular movie location, with its crumbling rock formations, mesas and buttes. There’s the Mogollon Rim, a series of cliffs and canyons that span around 200 miles separating the northern mountain region from the desert regions in the south of the state.
All of Arizona’s unique geographic formations are popular hiking destinations. They’re also quite popular with photographers, both amateurs and professionals alike. With the spectacular flora and fauna, the photographic opportunities are nearly limitless.
The Best Times to Visit
One of the reasons there are so many things to do in Arizona (and so many visitors every year) is that there is almost no “off-season” in the state, no bad time to visit. The off-season in the northern region is from November to April and that happens to be the “in-season” in the southern desert regions. In the spring, you get to see the desert bloom.
From June to September the temperature in Phoenix and other major southern cities ranges from 90-120 degrees. Most people would find those temperatures uncomfortable.
As the summer progresses, the wet season begins and the southern cities become almost unbearably humid. It wasn’t until the introduction of air conditioning that the population in the south began to grow.
By contrast, the temperature in Flagstaff is quite pleasant during the summer, usually in the 80s. So, June thru August is the “peak” season in Flagstaff, partly because southern residents choose to vacation in the mountains.
Summertime is also the peak season for Grand Canyon visitors and Flagstaff is a popular choice for lodging. Still, the right time to travel depends on what you want to do.
What to Do in Arizona Any Time of Year
The Grand Canyon and the town of Sedona are the two most visited spots. The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is open year-round – weather permitting – for camping, sightseeing and hiking.
The North Rim usually opens in mid-May and closes in mid-October. The climate on the rims is temperate – cold in the winter, warm in the summer – while the temperatures at the floor of the valley next to the Colorado River are similar to those in Phoenix.
It’s colder and wetter at the North Rim, which is why the area is closed during late fall, winter and early spring. Hiking becomes dangerous and camping uncomfortable due to the wet, cold weather. There is also a wet season in late summer that can make hiking, backpacking and horseback riding treacherous.
Sedona is a city to the south of the Mogollon Rim. You may have heard of the Red Rocks of Sedona. The main attraction is the array of red sandstone formations in the area.
The sandstone is unique in that it is only found in the Sedona area. Cathedral Rock is one of the best-known and most photographed of the sandstone formations.
Hiking and mountain biking are among the popular activities. There are hundreds of miles of trails in and around Sedona. The best times for tent camping or backpacking are in late spring and early fall. Year-round, the temperature drops nearly 30 degrees when the sun goes down.
In May, the average high is around 82 and the average low is around 50, making it comfortable weather for hiking during the day and camping at night. The temperatures are similar in October.
Things to Do in Arizona – National Parks, Attractions and Adventures
There are 22 National Parks, 9 National Natural Landmarks and 44 National Historic Landmarks, which means that the National Park Service presence in the state is larger than anywhere else in the country.
The Grand Canyon National Park is the largest and most popular of the 22 National Parks. If this will be your first trip, you must see the Grand Canyon and there are many ways to see it. The right choice for you may depend on your sense of adventure. You can see the Canyon…
- By Water
White water rafting on the Colorado River has been popular for years. You can choose an 8, 14 or 16 day excursion on the River and see the Canyon walls up close. Many of the modern rafts are motorized to make the trip a little easier. The companies that take tours down the Colorado focus on safety. So, while the trips are exciting, you’ll be a lot safer than if you tried to brave the white water on your own.
- On Foot
Grand Canyon Hiking Adventures take you down from the rim to see one of the most popular and most photographed waterfalls in the country. Havasu Falls plunge into a natural swimming pool filled with blue-green water to create a striking contrast against the backdrop of the red-colored canyon wall. The Falls are the highlight of the trip, but you will have many photographic opportunities along the way.
- From the Air
There are numerous airplane and helicopter tours of the Grand Canyon. The tours leave from Grand Canyon National Park Airport and from several other locations in the state. Touring the Canyon by air is popular for many reasons. You can fly during any season in climate-controlled comfort. You get views that you cannot get from the ground. You’ll likely gain a greater appreciation of this natural national treasure.
Other Interesting Arizona Tours
Maybe you’ve seen the Grand Canyon and you want to do something different. There are many different Arizona tours that allow you to take in a variety of attractions. You can tour Phoenix homes designed by world-famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright and visit his winter home, the “Jewel of the Desert”. You can tour the old town section of Scottsdale as you ride on a Segway. You can take a Spiritual Healing Walkabout in the red rock hiking country of Sedona.
There are archaeological tours through the Anasazi ruins, eco hiking tours through many of the national parks, desert jeep tours and horseback tours of all kinds. It is simply impossible to run out of things to do in Arizona.
Places You Might Want to Stay
As you are deciding what to do in Arizona, you might want to decide where to stay. There are dozens of resorts, thousands of hotels and hundreds of other lodging choices. These are just a few favorites.
- In Flagstaff
There are 70 hotels and inns in Flagstaff, in addition to the RV parks, campground, cabins and lodges in the area. Being so close to the Grand Canyon makes Flagstaff a much-visited location.
If you need some peace and quiet, the Arizona Mountain Tudor-style Inn is a good choice. In addition to the Inn, the resort features 17 cabins varying in size from a cozy one bedroom to a fully furnished house large enough for 16. You can bring the family and your pets, since this is a “pet-friendly” location.
- In Sedona
One of the nicest places to stay in Sedona is the Red Agave Resort. It’s close enough to Flagstaff, the Colorado Plateau and other Arizona attractions. But you might be happy to stay in the resort. There is a heated swimming pool and two hot tubs. Mountain biking and hiking trails for all skill levels run through the resort. You can often find packages that include lodging, golfing, bike rentals or tours of the area.
- In Tucson
Just northwest of Tucson is the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain Resort. The resort covers 850 acres and has 20 miles of hiking and biking trails.
Another good option near Tucson is the Miraval. A mind-body-spirit resort, the Miraval is located near the Santa Catalina Mountains high in the Sonoran Desert. Many visitors say they have had life-changing experiences at the Miraval.
- In Phoenix or Scottsdale
The cities of Scottsdale and Phoenix border each other. They are particularly popular destinations for golfing.
One of the really nice resorts near Phoenix is the Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa. The resort was designed to represent the culture and heritage of the Gila River Indian Community through the architecture and interior design.
At the resort, there are two 18-hole golf courses, an equestrian center for horseback riding, four pools with cascading waterfalls and a 111 foot waterslide modeled after the ancient Casa Grande ruins. There’s also a 5-star restaurant called the Kai. More details about the Kai are included in the “places to eat” section of this page.
Another popular choice near Phoenix and Scottsdale is the Phoenician and Canyon Suites. It is a country-club-like resort sitting on 250 acres at the base of Camelback Mountain, a landmark you can’t avoid seeing once you get to the area.
Popular Places to Eat
You could work up an appetite just thinking about all of the things to do in Arizona. There are hundreds of wonderful restaurants to choose from, including nationwide chains and locally owned restaurants. Here are several that you might want to try.
- Cottage Place Restaurant
Cottage Place, located in Flagstaff, offers the ultimate in fine dining and an award winning wine selection. The chef is Frank Branham, recently published author of the cookbook “Cottage Place Flavors”. The restaurant is open for dinner from Wednesday thru Sunday and reservations are recommended.
- The Cowboy Club
The Cowboy Club of Sedona can be described as “casually elegant”. Traditional western dishes including buffalo steak and fresh game are served alongside desert specialties like Cactus fries. Reservations are not typically needed and the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, 7 days a week.
The Bianco is a unique restaurant in Phoenix with a menu that features locally grown pecans dipped in honey, Arizona white beans, wood roasted vegetables, dairy fresh goat cheese and an assortment of pizzas you won’t find anywhere else. The chef’s chicken thighs with the desert honey glaze are simply delicious.
- The Kai
For a fine dining experience, the Kai is the place to go. The award winning restaurant features a menu that is rich in creativity, history and Native American Culture. Chef Janos makes use of locally farmed ingredients that convey the essence of the Pima and Maricopa tribes. The restaurant is located in the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort. Reservations are recommended.
- Big Earl’s & The Sugar Bowl
If you’re in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area and looking for a more relaxed atmosphere, stop at Big Earl’s BBQ. Your drink will be served in a Mason jar. Your table will be covered with butcher paper and you’ll listen to country and western music while you sample the flavors of authentic Southern Barbeque. For dessert, take a short drive to the Sugar Bowl, Arizona’s oldest ice cream shop. You don’t need a reservation to eat at Big Earl’s or to get an old fashioned ice cream cone at the Sugar Bowl.
If you’re still wondering what to do in Arizona, you can visit some of the other pages of this site for more information about Scottsdale, Phoenix, Tucson, Sedona and other popular cities. Your ideal adventure is just a mouse click away!
Additional Arizona Resources