We just love Arizona.
It’s location in the Sonora Desert offers unlimited beauty and outdoor adventure.
Our post will show you several of the top things to do in Arizona for your bucket list, including top hikes, star attractions, scenic drives and overlooks, Navajo history and cultural experiences, and so much more.
Tucson and Scottsdale are worth spending time in for your Arizona city fix.
Great Year-Round destination
The most wonderful thing about Arizona is it’s a great destination to travel to during the winter.
This doesn’t mean your Arizona road trip will be absent of snow – this can still happen, and it did to us at the Grand Canyon.
But once you travel through those lower elevations in Arizona, you can feel confident of warm sunny days. On some days we were in T-shirts. Evenings will be cold as you’re in the desert.
Craig and I have also road tripped through Arizona before during the summer. You’ll want to plan carefully as those scorching desert temperatures cause their own set of problems.
Great Road Trip destination
Whether you do it in your car and stay in a variety of accommodation, or travel through Arizona in an RV, or travel trailer, Arizona is a fantastic road trip destination.
It’s easily accessible from LAs Vegas which is where many visitors road trip from. We have done both and have spent about 4 weeks in total exploring Arizona, and about four months in Southwest USA.
Let’s hope we continue to return. There are so many more Arizona attractions and places to see waiting on our bucket list.
- 2 week Southwest USA road trip itinerary
- 3 Week American Southwest road trip itinerary
- 4 Week Desert Southwest road trip itinerary
Now, let’s move on to our top tips on places to see and things to do in Arizona.
Do a Monument Valley Guided tour
Now, only a small section of Monument Valley is in Arizona. It’s right there on the border of Utah and is a must not miss US attraction.
I’ve been so fortunate to see places around the world of exquisite beauty. It’s hard to say what is your favorite place and why.
I can’t say whether mountains, deserts, or beaches fill up my soul more than the other as each has its place and separate purpose.
I love them all.
But there are some places that stand above the others. They have this special magnetic pull that pulls you into their beauty.
They enchant you. They heal you. They call you to look in so you can create something better when you look out. You feel something ancient, timeless, spiritual and God Like about it.
Monument Valley is one of those places.
You know when you’ve arrived even before you see it. The air electrifies somewhat, and you feel called to the present.
Then you see it and it connects to you and opens you up.
Monument Valley is one of our favorite places to visit in the USA, and one of the top Southwest landmarks in North America
We recommend going deeper on a guided tour with a Navajo guide.
These tours have permission to go off the beaten path in Monument Valley and you get to experience other wonders like visiting a Hogan, and rock formations with names like Sun’s Eye and Wind’s Ear. It’s a completely different perspective to Monument Valley.
The most enriching part to the experience is of course to learn more about Native American culture with your experienced Native American guide.
Stay in a Navajo Homestead Airbnb
I never thought to check Airbnb before for RV camping, but Megan (one of our now traveling friends) discovered it.
It was a lovely experience. We camped on the property of Cecelia and Steven and their grandchildren.
We had a stunning white horse beside us and who even roamed around our campsite of a morning. And we had beautiful views of the mesas and buttes.
A short walk from our RVs took us to this stunning Monument Valley view.
Cecilia sand Steven were very friendly and welcoming and accommodating. I loved chatting with them and soaking up their gentle, peaceful, Navajo spirit. We were right near the entrance to Monument Valley as well.
We organized our Monument Valley tour and Navajo Taco dinner with them.
Admire the View at Horseshoe Bend
You’ve probably seen plenty of images of this famous bend in the Colorado River as it winds through Page in Arizona. It is spectacular and you only need a short amount of time.
There isn’t much to do at Horseshoe Canyon itself, except gaze in wonder, although it depends on how many photos you want to take from multiple different angles.
You can walk to certain viewpoints along the rim, but there is only a small section that is actually fenced.
Standing on the edge of the high cliffs was quite scary. I was amazed at how many people would risk toppling off the edge just to take that coveted Instagram worthy photo.
I loved the emerald green of the river below and we saw many boats cruising by that next time I’d love to join!
You can read more tips in our post on Horseshoe Bend, Arizona.
Tour the Lower and Upper Antelope Canyon
Antelope Canyon is a magical slot canyon near the Utah border.
It’s one of Arizona’s top attractions.
The canyon has been created by water splitting and polishing rock crevasses over time into incredible shapes, colors, and textures.
This wonder is hidden under a tiny crack in the ground, reminding us to dig a little deeper and explore a little wider to find treasures.
How the carved canyon walls changed in the light was spellbinding. The canyon is split into the Upper and Lower Canyon, each different to the other and can be viewed on separate tours. We did the Lower Antelope Canyon.
Our Navajo guide was knowledgeable about the rock formations and pointed out various shapes and creature and was excellent in taking photos for us and showing us how to capture the unique colors and features.
I also loved how he demonstrated how the canyon was formed at the end with a pile of sand and a bottle of water. This really helped the kids to connect to this experience.
Put this on your Arizona road trip. It’s popular, especially the Upper Antelope Canyon, so it’s best to book your tour in advance here.
Hike the Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon
If there is one hike to do in the Grand Canyon, it is the Bright Angel Trail. It’s manageable with kids and will give you an appreciation of the inner canyon without going too far.
If you’re game, go the entire 12-mile return down to Phantom Ranch. Craig and I did that in 06 on our 4 day Grand Canyon vacation (north and south rim) . It’s one of our favorite hikes in the US. Go early and you’ll almost have it to yourself.
You can go as far in as you like if you only want a short experience of it. Bear in mind the hard part is coming out. For an extra thrill go in the winter when the path is snowy. CAVEAT!! You must be careful. Safety is priority.
Desert View Watchtower Viewpoint
Desert View Watchtower was probably my favorite view of the Grand Canyon.
This is the place where the Vermillion Cliffs, San Francisco Peaks, Painted Desert and Colorado River come into view.
I loved getting a great view of the Colorado River snaking through the valley, watched over by the jagged cliffs of the rim.
It was dramatic and bright and colorful, made all the more better with a rainbow bursting out of the clouds and over the river.
Be sure to climb the watchtower which is the highest point on the South Rim. I loved the design of this building which resembles an ancient Puebloan Ian watchtower.
It was designed by Mary Elizabeth Coulter who designed many of the buildings within the park.
Stroll the Grand Canyon Rim Trail
The Rim Trail is the easiest walk at the South Rim and an excellent way to take in incredible views for all ages and fitness levels.
Whilst this trail does stretch for 13-miles from the South Kaibab Trailhead west to Hermits Rest, you can walk short sections of the trail and begin from any viewpoint in the Grand Canyon Village or along Hermit Road.
The 2.5 mile section of the Grand Canyon Rim Trail between the Visitor Center and the Village is worth doing, especially if you visit the Grand Canyon with kids.
It’s mostly flat the entire way, follows the rim of the canyon and gives you exquisite views. In the winter, it’s a chance to throw snowballs at each other as well.
Take your time to stroll, enjoy the views and learn along the way with the interpretative trails, museums and ranger talks.
Whitewater Raft the Colorado River, Grand Canyon
This is my ultimate bucket list for Arizona and the USA.
Rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon has been on my list forever. It’s something we’re holding off on doing until the girls are a little older. It’s hugely popular and does require reservations months if not years in advance.
Rafting companies offer trips from 3-18 days. Find out more information here.
An alternative option might be this full day rafting trip from Las Vegas into Grand Canyon West.
Hike to Havasu Falls, Arizona
Another attraction topping my list of things to do in Arizona is the 10 mile hike to Havasupai Falls. The area is part of the Havasupai Indian Reservation and is managed by the tribe. The Havasupai people live near the Havasupai Falls in the Supai Village.
A series of beautiful and photogenic waterfalls can be found on Havasu Creek, a tributary to the Grand Canyon. The water flows out of limestone, which gives it a pleasing blue-green hue.
The only option to visit the falls is to book a 3-day permit. Permits for Havasupai sell out immediately, and can only be booked online. To get permits for 2020, create an account on the Havasupai Reservations website.
West Rim Grand Canyon and the Skywalk
While I think the Grand Canyon is spectacular no matter where you visit, I did find the West Rim experience a little underwhelming.
One BIG contributing factor to that was that the glass floor Skywalk, which it is famous for, and the Eagle Point where it is located were closed.
Sadly, about 30-minutes before we arrived a man from Hong Kong stumbled and fell over the edge to his death so they had to close it to recover his body.
Unlike the South Rim, there are no protective barriers here at Grand Canyon West. It was quite scary and we had to keep a very close watch on our kids.
Grand Canyon West is not part of the Grand Canyon National Park, it is owned by the Native American, Hualapai Nation. It’s only a new attraction so I do think there is loads of potential and work being done to create more of an experience.
You do get beautiful views of the Colorado River at Grand Canyon West.
Broken Arrow Pink Jeep Tour, Sedona
The Pink Jeep tour in Sedona is what memories are made of.
“You’re kidding me, we’re really going down that?” our girls asked as we approached the rocky steep trail called Devil’s Staircase. Their nervous giggles quickly turned into screams as we surely did go down it.
These jeeps were made for rock crawling.
The Broken Arrow tour is the most popular and thrilling pink jeep tour one of the best things to do in Sedona with kids.
It goes up and down rock faces along the 4WD trail through stunning red rock scenery.
Ride the Verde Canyon Railroad, Sedona
The Verde Canyon Railroad is a 40-mile return train journey through 100 years of history, culture, and dramatic desert southwest scenery.
It follows the Verde River as it carves its way through the cottonwoods and high sandstone cliffs flanking its sides.
This is a region in Sedona, Arizona that is only accessible by train – unless you want to strap on the boots and do a bit of hiking.
Be sure to step into the open-air carriages for a better look at the scenery and to engage with the guide who will point out notable features and share cultural, geological, and historical insights.
We recommend paying extra for a first-class seat – it comes with comfy chairs, a cash bar, buffet food, and a champagne toast on arrival.
Find the Sedona Vortexes
A vortex is thought to be a swirling center of energy that has powerful ability to heal, calm, and give insights and clarity to transform your life.
These are places where the earth seems especially alive with energy. You cannot see a vortex but you can feel it.
Sedona is special as it is said to be full of vortexes.
You’ll know as soon as you arrive that this is special place
Sedona is full of vortexes and easy to feel. Basically, you drive into Sedona and instantly feel an uptick of energy. It’s very special and home to many spiritual people.
Quite frankly, every hike in Sedona is incredible.
Read this post on the Sedona vortexes.
Hike Cathedral Rock, Sedona
I think you can classify Cathedral Rock as more of a rock climb than a hike, but our kids managed it safely and it ranks as one of their favorite adventures in Sedona they love climbing up and over rocks after all.
There is a designated path to follow and being one of the most-photographed sights in Arizona, and popular Sedona hikes there are plenty of people around to follow in their footsteps.
We hiked up to the saddle, which is the gap in the opening, and the views going up and at the top are amazing!
We did this hike during our January visit, but if you visit in the summer months it would be best to do this in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the harsh sun and heat.
Hike Bell Rock, Sedona
The Bell Rock Pathway is one of the most popular hiking trails in Sedona and one of the easiest Sedona hikes with kids, and it’s a stunning view as you get closer and closer to these iconic red rock formation
Well, we made it halfway up the rock, found a nice flat and safe area to sit and have a picnic and take in the incredible views.
I would consider the path up a moderate to easy climb, and the path quite easy to follow, plus there are several people doing it so it’s hard to lose your way!
We came to a large gap in the rocks you scramble through, which was fun for the kids, then we hiked around the rock about another 10-minutes before finding this flat area.
Just take your time, keep your kids close to you, and you’ll be fine!
Eat at Elote Café, Sedona
The Elote Café came highly recommended to us by several friends, and it didn’t disappoint.
This is one of the most popular restaurants in Sedona, with cuisine inspired by the markets of Mexico, and is one of the top food attractions in Arizona.
They do not take reservations so get there early or be prepared to wait.
We thoroughly enjoyed the service, and our goat cheese balls, duck carnitas with guacamole, and vanilla bean flan.
Slide Rock State Park, Sedona
We did not get to visit Slide Rock State Park in Sedona, but it came highly recommended as a top thing to do in Arizona with kids. It’s also been named one of “America’s Top 10 Swimming Holes!” (We also visited another one in Natural North Florida.)
It’s on our list for our next Arizona vacation.
We drove past its location in Oak Creek Canyon several times and it looked beautiful with its red rock landscape. Slide Rock is 80 feet long and 2.5 to 4 feet wide, had has a seven percent decline from top to bottom. Algae on the rocks creates the slippery ride.
Eat, Spa Break, and Play Golf in Scottsdale
On your Arizona road trip, you will probably want to have some kind of break from all that amazing outdoor adventure activities.
Head to Scottsdale, this small resort town located in the Greater Phoenix area. Scottsdale is known for its upmarket spas, shopping and golf courses.
TPC Scottsdale Golf Club (a PGA Tour public course and home to the Phoenix Open) featuring two legendary courses, Scottsdale Airport and WestWorld.
Craig stayed there with the girls at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa (review post) for two nights with his family. The resort looked incredible and I was very jealous, especially the spa treatments!!
We popped into Scottsdale on our way to Sedona. I loved the look and feel of Old Town Scottsdale. We stopped in for a quick bratwurst bite and craft beer in the beautiful gardens of Brat Haus. It’s a cool place to eat in Scottsdale.
We were also meant to attend our friend’s Colleen’s housewarming party but Kalyra came down sick so we had to forget about it!
You can check out our friend, Colleens guide to Scottsdale with kids.
Go Cactus Crazy at Saguaro National Park, Tucson
One of the easiest and unique national parks in the USA is Saguaro National Park It is divided into two parks – East and West – which are separated by the city of Tucson.
Of course, the Saguaro National Park is home to the saguaro cactus, which I just can’t get enough of seeing, and getting up close and learning about these plants is one of the best things to do in Arizona with kids – I only wish I could hug one!
Be warned cactus can hurt, as Kalyra discovered when she was attached by a jumping cholla.
Both sides of Saguaro National Park offer something special and are worth visiting.
Saguaro National Park West probably has more interesting hikes and stunning landscapes, if you only had time for one.
Read more about that in our post on Saguaro National Park.
Hike Sabino Canyon, Tucson
We loved the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area in the Santa Catalina Mountains, a much loved playground for local Tuscans.
Filled with hiking trails, saguaro forests, riparian creeks, waterfalls and swimming holes, there is plenty to do in Sabino Canyon.
We spent the afternoon hiking one of the Sabino Canyon trails through quite diverse environments and enjoying a picnic under the shade of a few trees
You can read more about our time and things to do in Sabino Canyon here.
Go Back to the Wild West in Tombstone
The Wildest Town in the West is sure to entertain you and take you back in time to a land of lawlessness.
I loved our visit to Tombstone, wandering the streets of the preserved 1880’s town, watching the reenactment of the O.K. Corral gun fight and getting an insight into the craziness of this silver mining town.
It’s one of the most unique places to visit in Arizona.
You can read our post on things to do in Tombstone here.
Take a Scenic Drive and Sunset on Gates Pass, Tucson
Gates Pass is a mountain pass at an elevation of 3,172ft located on the crest of the Tucson Mountains.
Gates Pass Road is lined with scenic overlooks and is well known as one of the best sunset spots in Tucson. We missed it but it’s now on our Arizona things to do list for our return visit!
The views from driving through in the daytime were exquisite. Be careful as there are sharp drop offs.
Learn at the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum, Tucson
We opted out of visiting the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, despite it being recommended by numerous people within our community.
It’s meant to be an incredible museum and one of the top Tucson attractions, but you can’t do everything when you travel so you want to be sure you know exactly what you want to experience when you visit Tucson AZ, especially considering your budget.
Read More: 18 amazing things to do in Tucson with kids
Mission San Xavier Del Bac, Tucson
Founded in 1692 by Father Kino and built in 1783, this Catholic mission is considered one of the best-preserved examples of Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States.
It stands in the center of a Papago Indian settlement along the banks of the Santa Cruz River, about 10 miles south of Tucson.
As a national historical landmark and the only remaining intact mission in Arizona, the Mission remains a working parish for the Tohono O’odlham people, many of whom still live nearby.
Be sure to do the free 45-minute docent led tour (donations encouraged) to discover the beauty of the mission architecture and learn the story of the church and fascinating insight into the history of this region.
Read more: 36 hours in Tucson itinerary
The following suggestions on things to do in Arizona were provided to us by our community. We ran out of time, but they still remain on our bucket list and we’re sharing them with you.
Play (or Ski) at Mt Lemmon, Tucson
We didn’t get to visit Mt Lemmon. We left it too late to go after our Sabino Canyon hiking adventures. Many locals recommended Mt Lemmon to us as a top place to visit.
It came highly recommended as one of the best things to do in Tucson Arizona. Mt Lemmon is north of Tucson and here you can go hiking, bicycling, horse riding, scenic driving, camping, fishing and much more!
What’s cool about Mt Lemmon is that it has ski fields in the winter – yes skiing in Arizona that has to be unique thing to do! You can golf and swim in Tucson in the morning, then downhill ski at Ski Valley, in the afternoon!
Canyon de Chelly, East Arizona
Canyon de Chelly National Monument is located on the eastern edge of Arizona.
Its dramatic, 305-meter-high sandstone walls preserves centuries-old ancestral Puebloan dwellings and rock art. It was first home to the Archaic-era people and for more than 300 years now, the Navajo have inhabited this sacred land.
There are two scenic rim drives with panoramic overlooks into the canyon. Most popular is Spider Rock, the iconic 244 rock formation rising above the canyon floor.
White House Trail is the only hiking trail allowing you access into the canyon. Otherwise you need to be accompanied by a Navajo guide.
Navajo guides lead four-wheel-drive, hiking and horseback trips within the canyon.
Petrified Forest & the Painted Desert National Park, East Arizona
The Petrified Forest National Park has one of the world’s largest and most vibrantly colored assemblies of petrified wood, historic structures, and archaeological sites. It’s located in eastern Arizona, about 110 miles east of Flagstaff and 210 miles west of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Scientific studies show that the petrified trees found within the park date back 211 to 218 million years.
The southern section of the park has the highest concentration of wood. The northern half are the colorful hills of the Painted Desert which stretches all the way to the Grand Canyon.
The Painted Desert is a region of colorful, rocky badlands colored from deep lavneders to pinks, reds and oranges. Like most of Southwest USA it’s like walking through an Art Gallery.
Meteor Crater, Winslow, Arizona
Budding astronomers and astronauts will want to visit this top Arizona attraction near Flagstaff.
Meteor Crater is the spectacular result of a collision that rocked the American Southwest approximately 50,000 years ago. It is said to be the best-preserved meteorite impact site on Earth!
As it’s terrain resembles the surface of the moon it has been used by US Astronauts use it as a training site.
You can explore it via an interactive discovery center and crater trail.
Navajo National Monument, East Arizona
Navajo National Monument encompasses three of the largest and best-preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings in the Southwest region — Betatakin, Keet Seel, and Inscription House. You can visit both Betatakin and Keet Seel, but, due to its fragility, Inscription House is closed to the public. There are overlooks to the dwellings, and if you want to see the ruins up close, full-day hikes are also offered to both the Betatakin and Kiet Seel sites.
The cliff dwellings were built by Kayenta Ancestral Puebloans, the ancestors of today’s Hopi and Pueblo peoples. The Navajo now inhabit the area and arrived centuries after the cliff dwellings had been abandoned around the middle of the 13th Century for unknown reasons.
Arizona Travel Video Playlist
Arizona Car Rental
Arizona is a fantastic road trip destination. If you have your own car, keep on reading.
Booking Arizona Accommodation
Each of the posts below have accommodation recommendations specific to the destination and from our personal experiences + ones we have thoroughly reviewed.
We recommend the following two booking sites (it’s the ones we use the most)
What are your insider tips on best things to do in Arizona? Please share them for future readers and our future Arizona travels.
Share with us below some of your favorite destinations and things to do in Arizona!