We are in the midst of tourist season here in Arizona. I don’t blame the rush of people who come here during winter and spring as the weather is nearly perfect and there is a LOT to do here! I often get asked “Where should we go when we come to Arizona”. I’ve broken down a basic list with some information and links that will help you figure out where (and when) to visit places around our beautiful state!
In Phoenix –
If you are staying in Phoenix, there are quite a bit of things to do here.
Our number one thing to do when it’s under 85 degrees is hiking. Our favorite mountains include White Tanks and Thunderbird. To find a trail near you, download the All Trails app and you’ll find plenty of desert mountain hiking trails. Just remember, you need more than a bottle of water on our trails. Read all of our hiking tips here!
If you are up for a quick trip, visit Tonto National Monument. A hiking trail that will take you right up to Indian Ruins. You’ll learn more about how they lived and even get to go inside one of the dwellings.
Visit the Lakes
When it gets a little warmer it’s a perfect time to visit one of the many lakes surrounding Phoenix. Whether you want to kayak or water ski, there are plenty of opportunities. We love visiting Lake Pleasant for the kayaking and we love Saguaro for the Desert Belle boat ride! This boat will take you around the beautiful views of Saguaro and you’ll get to see wildlife and our beautiful desert landscape full with saguaro cacti of course!
This is seasonal and it starts in February and ends in March. It is definitely one of the most touristy things to do here (and for that reason it is one of the more expensive times to visit). You can see some of the MLB teams play practice games for a fraction of normal tickets. Find out more info here – http://www.cactusleague.com/
A Few Indoor & Outdoor Places to Visit –
- Will you be here for a bit? Try the POGO Pass and be sure to use my code: CLEVERPIRATE to save money! (this is an affiliate link)
- Odysea – A giant aquarium right here in the desert!
- Arizona Science Center – A hands on museum for both adults and kids!
- Phoenix Zoo – Near the heart of Phoenix, this zoo has beautiful animals and plenty to do!
- Old Town Scottsdale – get lost here with delicious food, bars, and stores! You’ll also find plenty of museums here.
- Big Surf Water Park – if you come in the summer and can’t escape the heat, come to this fun waterpark!
- Cereta’s Chocolate Factory – yes, here in the desert we have our own chocolate paradise. You can do free tours, kid’s activities and enjoy plenty of chocolate.
Take a Trip Outside of Phoenix!
You really can’t visit Arizona and not see one of the seven wonders of the world! Trust me, it’s more than just a “hole” in the ground. There are beautifully layered canyons as far as the eyes can see. You aren’t just limited to viewing it, you can go on a hike, camp, kayak, and more! You can even take a train! Be sure to read our post about visiting the Grand Canyon with Kids!
On your way up to Flagstaff, stop by Montezuma’s castle for a little bit of Native American history. Once you get to Flagstaff, you’ll find pine trees and MUCH cooler weather making this a perfect summertime place to visit. If you visit in the summertime, you have to do the Arizona Snow Bowl ski lifts. It’s one of our favorite summer traditions and the views are breathtaking! While you are in Flagstaff, make plans to travel west a little bit and check out Bearizona. You’ll get up close with the wildlife of Arizona but don’t worry, it’s very safe.
Got a little bit of time? North of Flagstaff is Page where you’ll find Antelope Canyon, you need reservations but don’t worry it’s pretty easy to get reservations even just a day before your visit. You can also visit Horseshoe Lake in the same area. Just east of Flagstaff you’ll find the Grand Falls, also known as Chocolate Falls which is perfect to see during February and March after the snow melts.
In 2 days we did this I-40 scenic drive and saw Winslow Arizona (yes, that one from the Eagles Song), the Petrified Forest, Route 66 and then drove up to Antelope Canyon. If you like adventure, heading north is the way to go!
Another beautiful site to see in Arizona is Sedona. The red rocks here are simply breathtaking and there are plenty of hiking trails you can go on like Devils Bridge. If hiking isn’t your thing, go for the food and enjoy the scenery.
South of Phoenix you will find a this desert city. There are quite a few things you can do here but we like visiting the outskirts of Tucson and checking out places like Tombstone and Kartchner Caverns.
A short trip just north of Phoenix you can find pine trees and some of Arizona’s oldest history. This is home to Whiskey Row, a street full of restaurants and bars and also to some of our favorite lakes like Watson Lake!
If you are taking a trip to Prescott, you should definitely add Jerome to your list. The very small town is hidden in the hills of the mountain and is perfect for a bite to eat and a drink at the Haunted Hamburger. You’ll also see one of Arizona’s mining towns. I actually have a letter dated from 1922 from my Grand Uncle where he talks about staying here and how the culture was so different because during this time it was still very much populated with miners and other workers.
If you’ll be in Scottsdale or Mesa, this is a place you’ll want to check out. About an hour and a half north of Fountain Hills, you’ll find this small mountain town that has beautiful views. If you are feeling adventurous, south of the town you can go hiking at Water Wheel. If you keep driving north, you’ll find Strawberry and the Strawberry Inn (the cutest little inn). If you are feeling even more adventurous, you could do Fossil Creek but know that you need a permit to hike this trail. East of the town you’ll find the 260 that heads up to the Rim and other mountain towns like Heber and Snow Flake. The rim is where we love to go camping in the summer time!
There you go, our top 10 things (and a little more) to do in Arizona! If I missed any of your favorites, let me know!