Now, more than ever, people are turning to the great outdoors for perspective, reflection, and adventure. As a travel destination, the diverse landscape of Arizona offers an array of attractions perfect for meeting the expectations of this modern traveler. Nature enthusiasts, adventure seekers, cultural explorers and travelers of all ages will have no trouble finding the perfect destinations and activities to match their interests. Here we’ll delve into the diverse attractions that make Arizona so alluring with a particular focus on the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon, lodging options, and the many adventures that this Southwestern gem of a state has to offer.
Arizona Attractions: An Amazing Diversity
Known as the Grand Canyon State, Arizona is home to three National Parks, dozens of state parks and national monuments, and six National Forests. The state offers unique opportunities to explore everything from volcanic eruption sites and a meteor crater to the second largest human-made lake in the country and the world’s largest natural rock bridge. Archeological sites abound with remarkably preserved Native American dwellings and rock imagery. And natural wonders are carefully protected for our viewing pleasure, such as unique plant and wildlife, petrified wood, lava caves, fossils and more.
Flagstaff, AZ: Arizona’s Destination for All Seasons
A must-see stop on our list of Arizona attractions is the city of Flagstaff. Known for its distinct four seasons and small-town charm, there is something to see and do for everyone. Adventure enthusiasts might hit the slopes of the Arizona Snowbowl on the majestic San Francisco Peaks, test their limits at the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course, or tackle one of the many hiking or mountain biking trails running through and around this beautiful mountain town. Stargazers will delight in exploring the universe through the telescopes of Lowell Observatory where Pluto was discovered, and cultural explorers will enjoy fascinating exhibits at the Museum of Northern Arizona. No visitor will be able to resist historic downtown Flagstaff for shopping, galleries, food and entertainment or visiting local vendors at one of the many outdoor markets and festivals.
Sedona, AZ: Red Rock Country
Perhaps you’ll begin tackling Arizona attractions among the mesmerizing red rocks of Sedona. Whether hiking up them, sliding down them, off-roading around them, or soaring above them in a balloon or helicopter, these spectacular rock formations evoke a reverence that is impossible to replicate outside of this sacred space. Oak Creek Canyon, Red Rock State Park and Slide Rock State Park offer stunning hikes, views and one-of-a-kind experiences interacting with these geologic wonders. Invigorating spa experiences, energy vortexes, award-winning restaurants, and local artisans and shops will perfectly round off your red rock experience.
Williams, AZ: Small Town, Big Adventure
West of Flagstaff you won’t want to miss Williams, Arizona. Known as the Gateway to the Grand Canyon, this historic town was the last on Historic Route 66 to be bypassed by Interstate 40. Home to several notable Arizona attractions, families will enjoy mountain tubing or riding a mountain coaster where the riders control the speed at Canyon Coaster Adventure Park. Animal enthusiasts will want to visit Bearizona Wildlife Park where guests can see animals in their natural habitat. They’ll also enjoy Grand Canyon Deer Farm where guests can walk among the deer and feed them right from their hands along with seeing and interacting with a wide range of other animals. Catch a Wild West show, eat at a nostalgic diner, or hop aboard the Grand Canyon Railway for a scenic ride to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. On the way, enjoy entertainment by musicians and an authentic cast of cowboy characters. Or come back in the winter and ride it as the Polar Express, a magical holiday experience for families based on the beloved book of the same name.
Grand Canyon: Discover the Grandeur
Of all the memorable Arizona experiences, perhaps the most notable and anticipated will be the incomparable Grand Canyon. Measuring one mile deep, 277 miles long and 18 miles wide, this designated UNESCO World Heritage site and astonishing natural wonder truly must be seen to be believed. One never forgets their first time standing at the edge of this magnificent geologic masterpiece. It is truly humbling to feel so small against the backdrop of such a spectacle and yet so infinite in our ability to connect with nature, science, and humanity—past, present and future—as we observe and learn from this breathtaking display.
A great place to start your Grand Canyon exploration is taking a walk through history on the Rim Trail. Children enjoy hopping to each bronze marker embedded every meter in the trail to represent one million years in the geologic history of the canyon. Interpretive signs explain the natural events that have shaped this otherworldly space and provide context for the layers of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rock visible in the canyon walls from various vistas along the trail. With gorgeous views and ample photo opportunities, this overview of the canyon will leave you wanting more.
Park guests can then visit museums, galleries and information centers detailing the history of the people and cultures that have lived in or been influenced by the canyon and its allure.
Once you’ve seen the canyon, plan to experience it. Hiking, biking, river rafting on the Colorado River, sunrise and sunset viewing, guided tours and scenic flights are among the many activities available and encouraged at the canyon. There is something for all skill levels and levels of daring. Tackle a day hike descending into the canyon from the Bright Angel Trail or the South Kaibab Trail. Or train and plan ahead for a Rim-to-Rim excursion or a trek down to Havasu Falls (permit required). However you choose to explore the Grand Canyon, it will no doubt be unforgettable. You will leave fundamentally changed—mind, body and soul.
Grand Canyon Lodging: Make your stay part of the adventure
Finding the perfect lodging is essential to planning the ultimate Grand Canyon and Arizona experience. Traditional lodging and camping and RV sites are all available in and near the park. But these locations fill up quickly, especially during peak visitation times such as fall weekends, spring break, and summer months.
Many who visit the park choose to stay in surrounding areas in order to more conveniently experience other Arizona attractions and adventures that await them nearby. Hotels, luxury resorts, Airbnb and VRBO properties are available options in nearby Flagstaff, Williams and Sedona. For a more rugged experience, camping and RV sites abound in Northern Arizona for easy access to the canyon and other popular destinations.
Alternatively, visitors might consider indulging in a unique glamping experience that arguably offers the best of both worlds: where luxury seamlessly meets the outdoors. Conveniently located in central Northern Arizona near Williams, Backland Glamping Resort is one such option that offers an exciting alternative to more traditional Grand Canyon lodging.
Our eco-luxury resort offers fully insulated energy efficient tent suites that provide the amenities of a luxury hotel while being fully immersed in nature and maintaining an organic connection to the outdoors. Guests from all over the world can enjoy the camping experience without sacrificing creature comforts or having to bring all the gear. With a farm-to-table restaurant, private pond and beach for water fun, horseback riding, geocaching and more, there is no shortage of activities and entertainment. As the resort is surrounded by the largest ponderosa pine forest in the world, there are also ample outdoor opportunities to experience wildlife, hike, stargaze, recreate and meditate. And, of course, conveniently visit the Grand Canyon and many other nearby Arizona attractions.
Insider Tips and Tricks
Be early—or late!
During peak busy times such as spring break and summer, arrive at the Grand Canyon park gate early morning or early evening, before 9am or after 5pm, to ensure your wait at the entrance is a short one. Shuttles are also available for certain trail and sightseeing destinations, so check in with the Visitor’s Center for the latest schedules.
Wear sunscreen and layers.
Arizona is known for its sunshine and, especially in Northern Arizona and at the Grand Canyon, temperatures can fluctuate pretty drastically from daytime to night. Preparing yourself for high altitude adventuring can also be beneficial as many of the Arizona attractions mentioned above are located at or above 6,000 feet. Take a deep breath and go for it!
Get out at night!
Flagstaff is recognized as the first International Dark Sky City and many surrounding areas, Grand Canyon National Park included, have followed suit, which means Northern Arizona in particular is the perfect place for stargazing.
Plan Your Arizona Adventure Today
With so many magnificent Arizona attractions and activities to consider, it’s no wonder that first-time visitors end up returning time and time again. Whether you seek nostalgia, culture, adventure or communion with nature, Arizona has you covered. With the variety of comfortable and convenient Grand Canyon lodging options available visitors can centrally locate themselves to maximize sightseeing and recreating potential, including the majestic canyon and beyond. Prepare to be changed. Prepared to be inspired. Adventure is waiting—are you ready?