There are plenty of things to do in Arizona besides exploring its vast Sonoran Desert landscapes and sandstone arches. While both of those are iconic parts of the southwestern US state, it's much more varied than many people realise.

    From the glory of the Grand Canyon to the cultural enrichment offered at Arizona's many museums, there’s a little something for everyone here. In this guide, we’ll walk you through some of the best things to do in Arizona, whether you’re interested in exploring pristine natural beauty or learning more about the state’s indigenous peoples.

    What are the best things to do in Arizona?

    1

    Lower Antelope Canyon

    Exploring Arizona’s most iconic slot canyon

    Antelope Canyon offers incredible sights and experiences. It’s divided into 2 areas – Upper Antelope Canyon is the most frequently visited by tourists, but just a few miles away is Lower Antelope Canyon, which until recent years was only accessible by climbing.

    In the Lower Antelope Canyon, you’ll find longer, narrower stretches of water-carved sandstone, with more convoluted features, all crowned by the bright blue Arizona sky and sunshine. Note that this hike is more challenging than the upper canyon, though stairs lead in and out to make passage easier. Visiting Lower Antelope Canyon also requires having a Navajo guide, as it lies on tribal land.

    Telefon: +1 928-698-2808

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    2

    Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

    Drive through towering sandstone buttes

    Located on the Arizona-Utah border, Monument Valley National Park is part of the Navajo Nation and offers a glimpse of the Southwest’s most iconic sandstone buttes. You can drive through the valley, explore the arid landscape, and wonder at the massive stone towers.

    Besides experiencing some of the most astounding landscapes in the US, you can also stop by the visitor centre. Because the park is on the Navajo Reservation, visitors must abide by strict rules regarding rock climbing, photography, and activities that might be considered ‘desecration’.

    Lokalizacja: US 163 Scenic, Oljato-Monument Valley, AZ 84536, USA

    Otwarte: April–September: daily from 6 am to 8 pm. October–March: daily from 8 am to 5 pm

    Telefon: +1 435-727-5870

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    3

    Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

    Learn about Arizona’s natural history

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    The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is in Tucson, which makes it easy to add to just about any Arizona road trip itinerary. You’ll find that this facility offers fun for everyone in the family, with up-close looks at the state’s flora and fauna, and so much more.

    You’ll enjoy a visit to the zoo, where you’ll learn about desert animals and plants, as well as ancient Arizona. You even get to explore lush botanical gardens, an aquarium and art gallery. Want to try your hand at making art? There are classes offered throughout the week.

    Lokalizacja: 2021 N Kinney Rd, Tucson, AZ 85743, USA

    Otwarte: Daily from 7.30 am to 5 pm

    Telefon: +1 520-883-2702

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    4

    Chapel of the Holy Cross

    Visit Sedona's most recognisable church

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    The Chapel of the Holy Cross sits at the intersection of Sedona’s famous surrounding red rocks and spirituality. Commissioned in 1932 and finally finished in 1956, the facility sits on top of a red sandstone butte, surrounded by Sedona’s natural beauty.

    The namesake was originally a 90-ft iron cross hung on the chapel’s southwest wall, but it was damaged many years ago. A feature created by sculptor John Muir now hangs in its place. The entire chapel can seat up to 150 people and holds Roman Catholic services regularly. The Chapel of the Holy Cross is open for sightseeing and regularly hosts weddings.

    Lokalizacja: 780 Chapel Rd, Sedona, AZ 86336, USA

    Otwarte: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm

    Telefon: +1 928-282-4069

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    5

    Tonto National Forest

    Rethink your idea of a forest

    At almost 3 million acres, Tonto National Forest is the 7th largest in the USA. However, it might not look much like a forest at first glance, at least if your idea of a forest is towering trees. These millions of acres include the Sonoran Desert and forest, and instead of trees, towering cacti dominate the landscape.

    You’ll find plenty to do here besides admiring the scenery. There are hundreds of miles of hiking and horse trails, some of which are even designated for bikes and ATVs. You can enjoy river rafting, camping, and wildlife viewing in Tonto National Forest. Note that the forest is home to black bears, as well as 55 breeding pairs of bald eagles.

    Lokalizacja: US 188, Payson, AZ 85541, USA

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    6

    Meteor Crater National Landmark

    Astronomy makes a big impact

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    The Meteor Crater National Landmark offers a glimpse into what happens when a celestial body smashes into our planet. The impact occurred approximately 50,000 years ago, and the meteorite that caused the crater measured just 160 ft across. It impacted at 29,000 miles per hour, exploding a hole that's around 3,900 ft in diameter and 560 ft in depth.

    In addition to exploring the crater itself, you can also learn more in the Discovery Center. The visitor centre has a souvenir and mineral shop, a bistro where you can grab a bite to eat, a big-screen theatre, and a 4D experience, as well.

    Lokalizacja: Interstate 40, Exit 233, Winslow, AZ 86047, USA

    Otwarte: Daily from 7 am to 7 pm

    Telefon: +1 800-478-4002

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    7

    Havasupai Falls

    Pristine water in the arid desert

    Havasupai Falls (previously Havasu Falls) is an incredible sight. The crystal-clear water plummets 98 ft from Havasupai Creek at the top to the turquoise pool below. At 70°F (21°C), the water is always refreshing.

    Reaching the Falls is a challenge. It requires an 8-mile hike to the lodge, and then another 2-mile hike to the campground near the Falls for a grand total of 10 miles (20-mile round trip). Because of the length, it’s recommended that you make this a 3-day trip. The campground offers drinking water, picnic tables, and restrooms, but no showers or food.

    Otwarte: May–October: daily from 6 am to 6 pm. November–April: daily from 9 am to 3 pm

    Telefon: +1 928-448-2180

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    8

    Navajo National Monument

    Tour ancient cliff dwellings and Native American history

    The Navajo National Monument offers an incredible look at Arizona’s history and the history of the Pueblo people. Established in 1909, the site sits within Tsegi Canyon and includes not just the cliff dwellings themselves, but also miles of hiking trails as well as self-guided and guided tours.

    After you’ve seen the cliff dwellings, stop at the museum to learn more or head over to the visitor centre for even more information. There’s an auditorium with educational programming on offer and even a park store where you can pick up a souvenir before leaving. Note that there is no camping at the monument, but there are 2 free campgrounds nearby.

    Lokalizacja: AZ-564, Shonto, AZ 86054, USA

    Otwarte: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm

    Telefon: +1 928-672-2700

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    9

    Montezuma Castle National Monument

    Multi-storey cliff dwellings built by the Sinagua culture

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    The American Southwest is rich with Native American sites, and one of the most interesting is Montezuma Castle National Monument. Here, you’ll find a 5-story cliff dwelling build from local bricks and set within the face of a cliff. The self-guided tour takes you on a loop trail (1/3 mile) to the cliff face, through a grove of sycamores, and then along Beaver Creek.

    In addition to the tour, you can also enjoy ranger programmes throughout the year, have lunch in the picnic area, or head 11 miles north to Montezuma Well. The visitor centre offers informational and educational opportunities, too. Note that pets are allowed in this area.

    Lokalizacja: Montezuma Castle Rd, Camp Verde, AZ 86322, USA

    Otwarte: Daily from 8 am to 5 pm

    Telefon: +1 928-567-3322 Ext:221

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    10

    Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block

    Culture, art, history, and so much more

    The Tucson Museum of Art is a prominent destination in its own right. It sits right on the city’s historic Presidio District, providing access to some of the area’s top attractions in just a few steps. Founded in 1942, the museum showcases American and indigenous art, along with annual events, art classes and so much more. It covers a total of 74,000 sq ft and displays over 8,000 pieces of art.

    You’ll also find an onsite store selling original art, as well as work from local and regional artisans. If you’re hungry, the  Tucson Museum of Art's fine-dining café is among the best dining spots in tow

    Lokalizacja: 140 N Main Ave, Tucson, AZ 85701, USA

    Otwarte: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Telefon: +1 520-624-2333

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    zdjęcie: Michael Barera (CC BY-SA 4.0) zostało poddane edycji

    11

    Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA

    Get up close and personal with an immense geological landmark

    Seeing the Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA, is on many a bucket list, no matter which country you call home. Even so, it’s often difficult to find a suitable time to visit. November provides a prime opportunity as Arizona’s typically sweltering weather cools down a few notches. Not only will you avoid the summer heat, but you’ll also avoid the summer crowds – thousands of travelling families would often flock to look out over the canyon rim with their children during summer vacations.

    In November, hiking the Grand Canyon becomes an enjoyable and leisurely activity, rather than a sweat-soaked chore in the midst of crowds. If you’re lucky, you might even glimpse the canyon after a fresh snowfall – a particularly picturesque sight.

    Let's go

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    12

    Heard Museum

    A fascinating look into Native American history

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    Since opening in 1929, Phoenix’s Heard Museum continues to grow in size and has become one of the best showcases of Native American art in the country. Its vast collections and world-class exhibitions offer an unrivalled insight into the history and culture of the American Indian people. The Heard is more than just a museum. The way that the art tells a story gives visitors a 1st-person perspective of what life was really like in American history. It brings the past to life.

    When you visit the Heard Museum, you’ll get access to 12 exhibition galleries, as well as the outdoor sculpture gardens and a contemporary art gallery. Take advantage of the free guided tours while you’re there and make sure you grab a bite to eat at the excellent Courtyard Café.

    Lokalizacja: Heard Museum, 2301 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004, USA

    Otwarte: Daily from 9.30 am to 5 pm (Sundays from 11 am)

    Telefon: +1 602-252-8840

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    zdjęcie: Visitor7 (CC BY-SA 3.0) zostało poddane edycji

    13

    Horseshoe Bend, Arizona

    The view made famous by Instagram

    There are several spots across the western USA named Horseshoe Bend, but the most famous and most photographed is undoubtedly the one in Page, Arizona. Located just south of the border with Utah, the sweeping bend in the Colorado River has created a striking slot canyon that is a wonder to behold. The view from the overlook, 1,000 ft above the river, only started to become popular in 2018, following increasing appearances on Instagram. It’s amazing at any time of the day but is particularly popular (if hard to photograph) at sunset.

    Lokalizacja: Page, AZ 86040, USA

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    14

    Discover the bizarre beauty of the Desert Botanical Garden

    Curious creatures thriving under Phoenix’s hot spell

    The Desert Botanical Garden is a collection of more than 50,000 plants on 140 acres. This place is home to Southwestern plants, desert plants and succulents in all shapes and sizes, with more than 350 endangered species in their care.  

    While being mindful of the prickly pears, check out the wildflower loop trail and the Sonoran Desert loop trail. The crested saguaro is one of the most photographed trees, along with the totem pole cactus, agaves and the butterflies in the Butterfly Pavillion. Although the botanical garden is mainly known for its desert plants, this place deserves credit for its cutting-edge art space and avant-garde exhibitions. Its outdoor area hosts many unique installations, such as the blown glass sculptures and the Electric Desert show that displays psychedelic lights after dark, projected on to their cacti gardens.

    Lokalizacja: Desert Botanical Garden, 1201 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008, USA

    Telefon: +1 480-941-1225

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    zdjęcie: Simeon87 (CC BY-SA 3.0) zostało poddane edycji

    15

    Lake Powell, AZ

    Photograph spectacular sandstone landmarks

    Lake Powell is a manmade reservoir in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The red sandstone landscape is stunning and there are plenty of activities to enjoy. Kayaking and hiking – particularly the Rainbow Bridge North trail – are always popular here, as well as fishing and stargazing. This area of the USA is ancient Navajo land, so hire a local guide to learn more about the sacred landmarks scattered all around Lake Powell.

    Photographers should certainly take a day trip to the iconic spots, such as Antelope Canyon and the Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado River. You’ll find plenty of hotels in this popular tourist town, but you can also camp or even stay on a houseboat.

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    Valerie Mellema | Autor

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