Being the sixth largest state, Arizona has a wide range of terrains, hosting many famous natural wonders (hello, the Grand Canyon State) that will satisfy outdoor enthusiasts and impress any visitor.
From nature explorations in the Antelope Canyon to downtown adventures in Phoenix, the state of Arizona is full of remarkable places waiting for you to discover. Below are 15 of the best things to do in Arizona.
15 Best Things to Do in Arizona
Have a Great Time at The Scottsdale Resort of Great Wolf Lodge, Arizona
For families on vacation, this is one of the best resorts to stay in Arizona. Its most famous facility is its indoor water park full of slides, pools, and more. Your kids will love the exciting tube rides and water gun fights, and grownups can relax in the hot tub nearby.
Looking for more places to stay in the Grand Canyon State? Check out these six kid-friendly resorts in Arizona!
Other than its water park, the resort is packed with other fun activities that all can enjoy. Enjoy a little family competition on its mini-golf course and bowling alley, or sift through paydirt to find the hidden gems inside and hit the rock climbing wall.
You can even have a yoga session together and dance to the hottest beats at the daily dance party. You’ll never run out of things to do here; the difficult part is choosing which activity you want to do first!
Visit The Grand Canyon
Nicknamed the Grand Canyon State, it’s obvious that the Grand Canyon is a must-see in Arizona. Cut out by the flowing waters of the Colorado River, forming the deep canyons and remarkable landscape we know.
It is one of the world’s most impressive natural wonders and is a World Heritage site, so it’s something you don’t want to miss. There’s also a national monument located on the canyon’s remote northern edge.
It’s also home to many ecosystems and a refuge for many types of animals and plants, so don’t forget to put this place into your travel itinerary for animal and nature lovers. The more daring ones in the group can take a walk on the glass walkway of the U-shaped Skywalk; the path is almost a mile high from the lowest point below.
While you’re there, hit the trails of South Rim to get some of the most breathtaking views of the canyon.
If your family really enjoys interesting rock formations and long walks on the desert floor, you can also make the trip to Navajo Nation’s Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. It’s just three hours away from the Grand Canyon by car and makes for a great road trip, with plenty of places to stop along the way!
Make a Splash Down the Colorado River
The mighty river that carved out the Grand Canyon has many things to offer for outdoor enthusiasts! Raft your way down to Lake Mead (the largest artificial lake in Arizona!) on an exciting whitewater rafting trip, kayak into the black canyon and emerald cave on crystal clear waters, relax on a river float down the river, and more.
If you prefer to stay on dry land but still want a view of the flowing waters, there are also paths along the Colorado River. For seasoned hiking veterans looking for a challenge, take on the Colorado River Traverse, a 5-6 day trek that takes you from the Tanner Trail to the New Hence Trail or Grandview Trail.
Hike around the Grand Canyon
For hikers looking for their next adventure, the Grand Canyon offers many trails to choose from. There are a few short and easy hikes around the North Rim and South Rim for beginners or those who simply want to reconnect with nature.
The Rim Trail on the South Rim has a primarily paved trail and is 13 miles long. It offers a great view of the inner canyon and is an easy hike most can enjoy. On the North Rim, the Bright Angel Point Trail is a 30-minute hike that’s both scenic and easy.
The Transept Trail and the Birdie Trail are also short hikes (1.5-hour round trip) that offer incredible views of the Grand Canyon. The Cape Royal Trail is also a good option if you want a beautiful view of the Colorado River and Angels Window.
For longer and more challenging hikes, trek through a forest and along the rim of the canyon on the Ken Patrick Trail. You need to schedule a whole day for this, though, as it takes 6 hours to hike, one-way.
Another great hiking option with lush forest and canyon views is the Widforss Trail. There are even more suggestions on the Grand Canyon’s site.
Have Fun at the Petrified Forest National Park
Named after a forest of petrified wood fossils found here, the Petrified Forest National Park is known for its archaeological wonders. Still, this national park also has lots to offer for travelers.
You can backpack to the park’s designated area and enjoy peaceful solitude under the starlit sky there and wake up to a gorgeous sunrise on the horizon. Hit the biking trails and marvel at the fantastic landscape.
For hikers, there are maintained trails as well as off-the-beaten-path routes you can choose from. You can hike to see petrified logs and the 700-year-old Agate House, or you can trek to see eroded landscapes in shades of blues and greys, strange rock formations, and enjoy the view of the arid badlands.
For a more educational tour, you can follow a ranger, scientist, or field experts on guided tours as they tell you all about the beautiful Petrified Forest National Park.
Experience the Wild West in Ghost Towns in Arizona
The most famous one is the Goldfield Ghost Town. As its name suggests, it’s a former mining town, and it was inhabited from 1890 to 1926. Now, it’s a popular destination for travelers from all over the world.
You can tour the gold mine, walk down the main street lined with old buildings, see a classic gunfight performance, and ride a narrow-gauge train – the only one in Arizona.
If you’d like to go to a less commercial and more abandoned ghost town, here are some recommended ones near Phoenix. You can camp or rent a cabin at The Kentucky Camp for a quiet night surrounded by antiques, visit the cemetery and hotel remains of Agua Caliente, or see dozens of historic buildings and ruins of Swansea.
Go on an Adventure at the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
This area is perfect for a family vacation as it’s got lots to offer for all ages. There are fun exhibits and ranger talks for the kids that teach them all about the Glen Canyon Area, be it about rocks, ancient peoples, geography, the Glen Canyon itself, and way more.
There’s also the Glen Canyon Dam to explore. The area marks the second-highest concrete arch dam in the United States. The Hoover Dam maintains this claim by about 16 feet. The Carl Hayden Visitor Center is right next door and even has a play area with educational games that will keep your little ones busy.
In search of more things to do when in town? Learn about these family spring break destinations in Arizona.
For family fun, you can marvel at the expanse of barren landscapes and canyon walls on a scenic drive together on the Burr Trail or the Hole-in-the-Rock Road, and you can also camp in this area to enjoy s’mores and the starlit sky at night. Fishing at the Glen Canyon Dam is also a popular option, and kids under ten don’t need a license to fish in Arizona.
Adrenaline junkies can enjoy some off-road adventures on ATVs or dirt bikes. With no maintained trails, you can also explore the backcountry on a self-guided hike on recommended routes in this area, like the hike to the famous Horseshoe Bend and the Rainbow Bridge.
For more things to do on the water, you can enjoy the view of the dam on a kayak or take a relaxing boat trip down the river.
Dive Into the Waters of Lake Powell
Whether you’re into watersports or prefer to relax next to the rippling waters, Lake Powell is the perfect spot for you.
This artificial reservoir is ideal for all sorts of activities on the water. You can rent a jet ski and enjoy an exciting speedy trip around the lake. Fishing is also popular here, but since this lake is on the border of Utah and Arizona, you need permits from both states. You can even spend a relaxing afternoon on the sandy beaches of this lake.
Kayak around the famous Lone Rock to the sandstone up close. With guides, you can even go rock jumping and enjoy a refreshing swim in the calm waters of Lake Powell.
Take a Guided Tour at the Antelope Canyon
Even if you don’t know its name, you may have seen photos of the Antelope Canyon somewhere because it’s one of the most visited and most photographed slot canyons in the world.
The Antelope Canyon is known for its flowing and smooth sandstone canyon walls formed by rushing water over centuries. The Navajo people call this place “the place where water runs through rocks.”
The Antelope Canyon has two parts – the upper and lower canyon. While both are equally stunning, the lower canyon is a more challenging trek.
Since the Antelope Canyon is still prone to flash floods, it is required that visitors join a guided tour to see this place safely. But don’t worry, you’ll be able to walk through the smooth flowing walls of the canyon and see the light highlight their curves on all guided tours.
Tour Lake Havasu City
Lake Havasu City is definitely worth a night’s stay or more, as there are many things to see and do here, including the famous London Bridge and stunning hiking trails in the desert.
For those who like city tours, there’s plenty for you to do, including visiting the London Bridge and exploring its history (it’s actually from London, and its lamp posts are even made from Napoleon’s cannons!), pay a visit to its charming English Village, and take a lighthouse tour along the beautiful lake.
For outdoor lovers, this place has lots to offer too. Lake Havasu City is also famous for boating and recreational fishing so that you can enjoy some relaxing time on the water of this large man-made lake. It’s also an excellent place for birdwatching.
Over 355 species of birds are identified here, and you can see the waterfowl on a canoe or kayak early in the morning, or you can see many other species on a land excursion, so get your camera ready!
Haven’t booked a place to stay just yet. Don’t worry! We’ve got you covered. Learn about the best family resorts in Arizona.
Explore Waterfalls along the Havasu Creek
There are many famous waterfalls along Havasu Creek, including Beaver Falls, Mooney Falls, Navajo Falls, and, of course, Havasu Falls. Havasu Creek is located inside the Havasupai Indian Reservation. A permit is needed to enter, which you can buy from the Havasupai Tribe.
Havasu means “blue-green water,” and that’s exactly what the waterfalls are famous for along this creek. When you hike to see a waterfall here, you’ll see turquoise waters contrasting against the red, exposed soils and the lush green plantation behind – an absolutely stunning view that is worth the hike.
A thing to note is that hikes to many waterfalls here (including the Havasu Falls, the most popular attraction along the creek) take more than a day to complete.
You’ll need to stay a night at either the Havasupai Lodge located in the Supai Village or the campground and reach your destination the next day.
Visit the Phoenix Art Museum
If you’re in Phoenix, don’t forget to visit the Phoenix Art Museum. This museum is home to over 19,000 pieces of artwork, including paintings, photography, fashion designs, and more. Some pieces date back to the renaissance period as well as contemporary art.
The museum also holds special exhibits regularly, and you can follow guided tours to get to know the art and the museum better.
One thing to note is that it’s closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so don’t go on those days.
Smell the Flowers at the Desert Botanical Garden
When you’re in Phoenix City, stop and smell the flowers at the Desert Botanical Garden, where countless desert plants thrive. The garden has multiple maintained paths that you can take to immerse yourself in the peaceful scent and beautiful scenery of the desert landscape or learn how native people use desert plants for food.
Other than plants and flowers, its Butterfly Pavilion is home to over 2,000 butterflies, and you get to interact with them up close. Every year in spring, the garden hosts exhibits that center on the lifecycle, behaviors, and characteristics of these delicate creatures.
In the fall, the theme turns to the migration of the Monarch butterfly. So, if you’re visiting Phoenix during these seasons, you’re in for a treat.
When you’re tired from walking the beautiful paths of the garden, you can sit down to have a relaxing meal here. For a quick bite to eat, grab something from its Patio Café. For a more fulfilling meal, head to Gertrude’s for a fresh food experience in an oasis.
This restaurant uses local ingredients that come directly from farms, pastures, and local artisans, and the menu changes according to the season. It doesn’t get any fresher than this. No wonder it’s a Diner’s Choice Award winner!
Visit the Heard Museum
First opened in 1929, the Heard Museum is a premium museum showcasing Native American art. Marvel at countless displays of Native American art at the Heard Museum and learn more about the different cultures of tribes around that region.
It hosts exhibits regularly to tell people more about the cultures of other tribes. It even has demonstrations and live performances by indigenous artists, and it also showcases contemporary Native American art. Every year, it also hosts an American Indian art fair, the largest in Arizona, and you can buy art straight from artists in this event.
After gazing at art for hours, you can also dine here and enjoy delicious Southwest-inspired cuisines made with American Indian ingredients that are fresh, seasonal, all-natural, and locally sourced.
If you’re in Phoenix, Arizona, don’t forget to schedule a few hours for this museum. We promise you won’t regret it.
See the Natural Wonders of the Saguaro National Park
A sanctuary of natural wonders, wild desert animals, and historic rock art, the Saguaro National Park is definitely worth putting on your itinerary.
Looking for a way to beat the heat? Check out our list of the best water parks in Arizona.
The Saguaro National Park is home to the biggest cacti of the US – the saguaro. You can hit the trails of this park and be surrounded by these majestic plants in a desert setting.
One short trail leads to 800-year-old petroglyphs, also called rock art, where you can admire the mesmerizing swirls and patterns drawn by the Hohokam people.
You can also learn more about the desert ecosystem at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum with an aquarium, animal exhibits, botanical gardens, and more. Don’t forget to pay a visit to the Saguaro National Park!
What is the number 1 attraction in Arizona?
The number one attraction of the Grand Canyon State is, well, the Grand Canyon. For good reason, too. It’s one of the seven wonders of the world and is one of the most popular national parks in the US.
You can see the mark of mother nature on the 6-million-year-old canyon walls, and the landscape is truly an awe-inspiring sight.
What is the prettiest part of Arizona?
Arizona is a treasure trove full of natural beauty, and many believe the most beautiful part of Arizona is Sedona. Being only 1.5 hours away from Phoenix, Sedona is a popular day trip option for those staying in the city.
With surreal red rock mountains soaring from the ground covered with desert plants, it’s certainly a sight you’ll remember.
What is the best time of year to visit Arizona?
The best time to visit Arizona is during winter and spring. You’ll be able to avoid the searing heat of the summer, and you’ll see wildflowers and plants thriving in spring. Win-win!
What are some things to do in Arizona for kids?
A beautiful view isn’t usually a kid’s idea of fun, but there are many things your kids can do in Arizona. The Scottsdale Resort offers a comfortable stay, fun activities, games, and even a water park to keep kids happy. They’ll also like ghost towns, especially those with shows and rides like the Goldfield Ghost Town.
There you have it, 15 of the best things to do in the state of Arizona.
No matter if you want to add a dash of art and culture to your trip or have plenty of exciting outdoor adventures, this beautiful state has got something for you.
There are plenty of places to call home base during your next Arizona adventure, including our Scottsdale Resort.
If you don’t have plans to travel this year, then don’t worry. We’ll bring the spirit of Great Wolf Lodge to you! Check out our blog for things to do at home. There, you’ll find family recipes, DIY crafts, birthday party ideas, and much, much more!