Interesting and fun things to see and do in Arizona

Visiting Arizona National Monuments is a terrific way to see the beauty of the state, often with only a fraction of the visitors at Arizona National Parks. National Monuments in Arizona range from areas with unusual geological formations to sights of historic (and prehistoric!) significance. In total there are 18 Arizona National Monuments, more than any other state. Most of these sites are managed by the National Park Service and have services such as interpretive centers, ranger-guided programs and restrooms. Visiting National Monuments in Arizona provides an opportunity to explore the state’s unique scenery and culture without the crowds that can clog up the more well-known National Parks.

To help you understand the many options available to you while traveling in Arizona, we’ve outlined some of the guidelines that distinguish Arizona National Parks from Arizona National Monuments, as outlined by the National Park Service. We’ve also listed all 18 designated National Monuments in Arizona, with the services available at each. Be sure to include a visit to these magnificent sites on your next trip–you won’t be disappointed!

PRO TIP: A road trip is a great way to see Arizona National Monuments. Check out our 11 favorite Arizona road trips for some ideas and inspiration!

Fast facts about Arizona National Monuments

What IS a National Monument?

National monuments are areas reserved by the Federal Government because they contain objects of historic, prehistoric, or scientific interest. Among National Monuments in Arizona you’ll find ancient cliff dwellings, archeological ruins and natural areas with unusual landscapes and rock formations.

What is the difference between a National Park and a National Monument?

National parks are areas set apart by Congress for the use of the people of the United States generally, because of some outstanding scenic feature or natural phenomena (hello, Grand Canyon!). National monuments are generally smaller than National Parks, focusing on a single unique feature. Although some Arizona National Monuments are quite large; Organ Pipe Cactus NM is over 500 square miles.

How many National Monuments in Arizona are there?

Arizona has 18 sites designated as National Monuments, more than any other state.

Who manages Arizona National Monuments?

Most National Monuments in Arizona are managed by the National Park Service. A few sites are managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Occasionally sites will be managed by local authorities, either alone or in conjunction with a federal agency.

Complete list of National Monuments in Arizona

PRO TIP: Opening times and certain park services may be limited due to COVID-19 restrictions. Be sure to check with each park prior to visiting.

Agua Fria National Monument

A large area of preserved mesa and canyon along the Agua Fria River. Varying altitudes provide a wide range of desert vegetation, and there are some petroglyphs among the rocky canyon.

  • Location: Central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Natural Landscape, Ancient Culture
  • Services: None-Bring in and take out all supplies
  • Special Considerations: 4-wheel drive not necessary, but advised
petroglyphs of animals on rock, with canyon in the distance
Photo courtesy Bureau of Land Management

Canyon De Chelly National Monument

A fantastic place to observe dramatic scenery with over 5,000 years of continuous habitation. Some descendants still live on the site (a rarity among national sites). Scenic drives provide magnificent vistas, up-close views of the cliff dwellings are with local guides.

  • Location: Northeastern Arizona
  • Type of Site: Ancient Culture with cliff dwellings
  • Services: Visitor Center, Guided tours, Accessible paths
  • Special Considerations: Located on Navajo Nation lands, which observe Mountain Time Zone schedules

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Ruins of a large structure dating back to the 1400s from a Sonoran Desert agricultural society. Its exact purpose is unknown, but the scale of the remains attest to the sophistication of the community.

  • Location: Central Arizona (between Phoenix & Tucson)
  • Type of Site: Ancient cultural ruins
  • Services: Guided tours, gift shop, picnic grounds
  • Special Considerations: Accessible pathways

Chiricahua National Monument

Wonky, other-worldly rock formations that go on for miles make great atmosphere for hiking or a scenic drive. Chiricahua is located along a North American flyway and is a good site for birders.

  • Location: Southeastern Arizona
  • Type of Site: Natural Landscape, geological wonder
  • Services: Visitor center with museum, bookstore, restrooms, drinking water
  • Special Considerations: camping at Bonito Canyon, Birding

Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument

Parashant is one of the Arizona National Monuments that is vast, wild and absolutely gorgeous. This million-square-mile area on the northern side of the Grand Canyon is completely “off the grid,” with no services. There’s plenty of room to roam, but you MUST have a 4-wheel drive vehicle, preferably with high clearance.

  • Location: Northern Arizona, along the border with Utah and Nevada
  • Reason to visit: Stunning scenery
  • Facilities & Services: No services within the monument boundaries; there is an information center in St. George, Utah
  • Special Considerations: 4-wheel drive required; although located in Arizona, entrances are from either Nevada or Utah.
Parashant, a national monument of Arizona, with joshua tree in foreground and snow-covered mesa in background

Hohokam Pima National Monument

Hohokam Pima National Monument celebrates an ancient people that thrived during the first millennium. Excavations of an ancient site are ongoing and closed to the public, however there is much to learn about the community at the Huhugam Heritage Center, which showcases precious ancient artifacts discovered at the archaeological site.

  • Location: Central Arizona, about 20 miles south of Phoenix.
  • Type of Site: Ancient culture, museum & heritage center
  • Facilities & Services: Visitor center/museum, restrooms.
  • Special Considerations: Managed by Gila River Indian Community; hours may be different to other national sites

Ironwood Forest National Monument

A large (129,000 acres) site that offers plenty of wide-open desert spaces for solitude and exploration. There are 3 designated National Historic archaeological sites within the boundaries for the truly intrepid.

  • Location: Central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Natural Landscape, Ancient Culture
  • Services: None-Bring in and take out all supplies
  • Special Considerations: Camping and hunting allowed

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Stunning 600-year-old cliff dwelling that is remarkably intact. The 40-50 room structure is only viewable from a distance to preserve it. There is a smaller dwelling about 10 miles away, known as Montezuma Well, that is also part of the Monument. Although not as grand, it allows for a more up-close view of the structure.

  • Location: Central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Ancient culture; cliff dwellings
  • Services: Montezuma Castle has a Visitor Center, with museum, bookstore and restrooms, along with picnic grounds. Montezuma Well has picnic grounds and pit toilets.
  • Special Considerations: Two sites, about 10 miles apart, comprise the Monument

Navajo National Monument

Spectacular cliff dwellings from the 1300s set in a massive red rock cave. Long-distance views by walkway with limited wheelchair accessibility. Close-up views of the cliff dwellings by guided tour only, rugged terrain.

  • Location: North Central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Ancient culture, cliff dwellings
  • Services: Visitor Center, with museum, bookstore and restrooms, ranger-guided tours of the cliff dwellings, camping
  • Special Considerations: Located on Navajo Nation lands, which observe Mountain Time Zone schedules

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

The unique desert landscape at Organ Pipe has been designated an International Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations. This Arizona National Monument is large and uncrowded: at over 500 square miles it’s over 3 times bigger than Saguaro National Park, yet it receives only 1/4 of the visitors. There are plenty of hikes and scenic drives; Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is well worth a trip to southwestern Arizona.

  • Location: Southwestern Arizona
  • Type of Site: Natural Landscape
  • Services: Visitor center with displays, bookstore, restrooms; scenic drives, hiking trails, RV and tent campsites, backcountry camping
  • Special Considerations: hike to an abandoned mine on monument grounds.

Pipe Spring National Monument

The homestead at Pipe Spring offers a glimpse into the rugged life of Mormon homesteaders in the late 1800s. The fresh water from the Pipe Spring has attracted settlers for centuries; there is an interesting perspective on both Native American and White inhabitants of the area. Not many Arizona National Monuments grow fresh fruits and vegetables–the National Park Service still maintains the gardens (and livestock!) at Pipe Spring.

  • Location: Northwestern Arizona
  • Type of Site: Historic homestead
  • Services: Visitor Center with museum, bookstore, restrooms; historic ranch with animals, fresh heirloom fruits and vegetables (in season)
  • Special Considerations: Accessible pathways

Sonoran Desert National Monument

A great National Monument in Arizona if you want to spend time exploring the Sonoran Desert landscape on your own, at your own pace. Camp out under the stars . . . and even bring your horse if you’d like to ride! This is one of the few national monuments that allows hunting on the grounds.

  • Location: South Central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Natural Landscape
  • Services: Limited restroom facilities
  • Special Considerations: In addition to camping, hunting and horseback riding are allowed

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Visit the cinder cone of an extinct volcano at Sunset Crater. Even a thousand years (!) after it last erupted, the terrain is still barren near the top. You can also hike the area of the former lava floes–an other-worldly experience if there ever was one. Those with mobility issues can view the terrain via scenic drives.

  • Location: North central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Geological wonder
  • Services: Visitor Center, restrooms, picnic grounds, campgrounds
  • Special Considerations: Admission fee also covers access to Wupatki National Monument, 20 miles away.
Arizona National Monuments-sign for Sunset Crater Volcano with cinder cone in background

PRO TIP: Plan to visit Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monuments on the same day. They are only 20 miles apart and the admission fee gets you into both sites!

Tonto National Monument

There are a LOT of cliff dwellings in Arizona; Tonto is special among Arizona National Monuments in that you can walk right up and into the dwellings themselves. There are two sites: the lower dwelling is accessed via a paved path; see the upper dwelling via a ranger-guided tour over rugged terrain. The central Arizona location makes it a nice day trip from Phoenix.

  • Location: Central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Ancient cliff dwellings
  • Services: Visitor Center, museum, restrooms, picnic grounds, guided tours
  • Special Considerations: trail to the lower cliff dwelling is paved, but is steep, with some steps, so might not be suitable for those with accessibility concerns

Tuzigoot National Monument

Tuzigoot is the remains of a 1,000-year-old Sinagua pueblo perched on a ridge overlooking the Verde River. The complex of 100+ rooms illustrates the sophistication of this society–modern-day condos could borrow a few tips from the construction here! This is one of the Arizona National Monuments that is nearby Sedona, making a nice excursion if you’re in the area.

  • Location: Central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Ancient Culture
  • Services: Visitor Center, museum, bookstore, restrooms, picnic grounds
  • Special Considerations: There are paved trails to the base of the pueblo and along the marsh; access inside the upper rooms requires stairs.

Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

Vermilion Cliffs is a great place to go if you like eerie rock formations. This National Monument has no services, so be prepared to rough it. But you’ll be rewarded with solitude and stunning scenery.

  • Location: Northern Arizona
  • Type of Site: Geological Wonders
  • Services: None-bring in and take out everything
  • Special Considerations: 4-wheel drive required
Arizona national monuments-strange rock formations at Vermillion Cliffs

Walnut Canyon National Monument

Walnut Canyon’s cliff dwellings more hidden than those at the other Arizona National Monuments. They are tucked away along a ridge in the forest, largely hidden from view until you are right on top of them. But that’s part of their charm: you can walk right up–and into–them, giving you an ancient’s-eye-view of life in what would become Arizona in about 500 years.

  • Location: North central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Ancient cliff dwellings
  • Services: Visitor Center, museum, bookstore, restrooms
  • Special Considerations: Path to the cliff dwellings involves climbing up and down stairs

Wupatki National Monument

If you like ancient pueblo construction, you get a lot of bang for your buck at Wupatki. The area encompasses six distinct pueblo structures out on an open plain over an area of about 15 miles. Drive from pueblo to pueblo via a loop road, then take short paths to the structures themselves. Among Arizona National Monuments, this is an excellent option for those with mobility issues. Paths to 4 of the 6 pueblos meet accessibility standards, the accessible path to the remaining pueblos is currently under construction.

  • Location: Central Arizona
  • Type of Site: Natural Landscape, Ancient Culture
  • Services: Visitor Center, museum, restrooms
  • Special Considerations: Admission fee also covers access to Sunset Crater National Monument, 20 miles away.
Photo courtesy NPS

Now that you’ve seen the stunning array of choices to visit at Arizona National Monuments, which one will you visit first?

IF YOU LIKED THIS POST PLEASE SHARE TO ONE OF YOUR PINTEREST BOARDS

One of the reasons we love Tucson is because there are quirky attractions here that you won’t find anywhere else. Whether it’s the best Mexican food in America or the world’s largest collection of military aircraft, here are our top 12 unique things to do in Tucson Az.

Tucson Warehouse and Transfer Company mural

1. Munch through the Best 23 Miles of Mexican Food in America

El Charro Cafe Tucson

It’s no secret that Tucson offers up the best Mexican food in America. We’re not talking chain restaurants in mall parking lots, this is the real deal. Tuscon is part of the Sonoran Desert, which extends down to the state of Sonora Mexico to the south. The region has been sharing culinary treasures since long before there was a border wall. They’re so proud of this culinary achievement that there’s even a Best 23 Miles of Mexican Food in America route you can take, a tasty journey, and one of the unique things to do in Tucson Az.

2. Plane-spot at The Boneyard

Aerial view of hundreds of military aircraft lined up at the Boneyard-one of many unique things to do in Tucson Az

The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson is the largest military aircraft repository in the world and the final resting place of more than 3,000 (yes, three thousand ) aircraft. Officially known in military-speak as the “309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center” (AMARG), you can catch glimpses of the aircraft liked up in neat rows as you drive around southeast Tucson, particularly on S. Kolb Road. But to really see them up close the best thing to do is take a guided bus tour on the grounds of this Tucson airplane graveyard. This is definitely one of the things to do in Tucson AZ that you cannot do. Anywhere. Else.

3. Reach for the stars at Kitt Peak National Observatory

onal Observatory view from above

If you’re looking for things to do in Tucson AZ, but want a different perspective, you can always look up at the stars. Located one hour southwest of downtown Tucson, the Kitt Peak National Observatory hosts the widest range of research telescopes on the world. Three of the nearly two-dozen telescopes are set aside for public viewing events. After winding their way up the curvy road, stargazers take part in nighttime observing programs peering into the farthest reaches of the universe. If you’re not a night owl, there are also daytime activities.

4. Chow down on some Sonoran Hot Dogs

Orange tray with 4 sonoran hot dogs

Okay, so maybe this is not one of the things to DO in Tucson AZ, but more one of the things to EAT. The Sonoran hot dog is so popular that it ranges from southern Arizona across the border to Mexico where they originated. But what is a Sonoran hot dog? In a nutshell, take a top-split bolillo roll then stuff it with a bacon-wrapped hot dog, pinto beans, chopped fresh tomatoes & onions (or pico de gallo), jalapenos, mustard AND mayonnaise. They are found all over town from humble street carts to the James-Beard-award-winning El Guero Canelo.

Here’s our rundown of Sonoran hot dogs in Tucson, based on eating way too many of these yummy treats. (Actually, there’s no such thing as too many!)

5. Soak up the Mid-Century Vibe

Tucson Arizona Sun Land Motel neon sign

In some ways Tucson feels like the land that time forgot. I mean that in a good way. Where many cities have plowed over their history for new development, Tucson enjoys a wealth of surviving Mid-Century architecture and cool neon signs that make you feel like you’ve snuck onto the set of Mad Men. There’s even an annual Tucson Modernism Week that celebrates the city’s Mid-Century architecture and design.

One of the really fun things to do in Tucson Az is to drive around town to see the neon signs in their original locations. Make sure to cruise the Miracle Mile Historic District north of downtown, then check out the many preserved signs at the Ignite Sign Art Museum, one of several unusual museums in Tucson.

6. Tickle your tastebuds in America’s First UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy

Taqueria Pico de Gallo Tucson Arizona

In 2015 UNESCO designated Tucson a Creative City of Gastronomy, joining such foodie destinations as Parma, Italy and Chengdu, China. This selection is based on Tucson’s status as one of the oldest settlements in North America. With 4,000 years of agricultural history, its blend of Indigenous ingredients and Old World traditions form a unique and contemporary Southwestern cuisine.

All this foodie heritage is supported by a wealth of farmers markets, community gardens and food festivals that promote eating local, providing endless good eats on your quest for things to do in Tucson AZ. For a visitor this means you’ll eat very well here; the plethora of locally owned restaurants offer plenty of unique dining experiences.

7. Hunt for Truly Nolen Cars on Tucson’s Corners

1939 Ford Deluxe Truly Nolen classic car

One of our favorite things to do in Tucson Az is go on a sort of classic car “scavenger hunt.” Tucson is the world’s largest open-air classic car museum due to the efforts of a man truly named Truly Nolen. In the 1950s Nolen started setting up the antique cars to advertise his exterminating company. The fleet has grown to 50 Truly Nolen cars parked around town. It’s difficult to miss them parked in strategic locations with TRULY NOLEN emblazoned on the side. During your visit you might run into a 1923 Dodge Roadster, a 1934 Hudson, or a 1939 Ford Deluxe like the one above. You can see more classic cars park outside their offices at 3636 E. Speedway Boulevard, Tucson, AZ 85716.

8. Pedal the Chuck Huckleberry Loop

Photo credit: Nicci Radhe

How many cities offer more than 136 miles of interconnecting paths almost completely without street crossings? The Chuck Huckleberry Loop (known locally as simply “The Loop”) is a system of mostly paved paths that connects parks throughout the city. A system of over-and under-passes make it a terrific way to get around town. In January 2018 the County completed a connection on the north side of town that turned created an actual “loop”, with a complete circuit of 53.9 miles.

There’s a reason why so many professional cyclists train in Tucson during the winter. Although amateurs like us, along with joggers, walkers, wheelchairs, and parents pushing strollers use the Chuck Huckleberry Loop too. And since this is Tucson after all, you might even see a horse along the way, along with Farmer’s Markets and outdoor public art along the route. The Loop is one of the truly unique things to do in Tucson AZ.

9. Drive up to Mount Lemmon

Mount Lemmon is a unique Sky Island that rises 7,000 feet over Tucson, providing a cooling respite during the summer heat wave. There’s even a community called Summerhaven, along with ski activities in the winter, plus hiking, rock climbing and generally enjoying nature year-round. On a relatively balmy winter day it’s pretty cool to wake up to 65 degree weather in Tucson and see snow from a storm dusting the peak of Mount Lemmon.

What makes a drive up to Mount Lemmon one of the really unique things to do in Tucson Az is the climate changes you’ll experience. During the hour-long 28-mile drive along the Catalina Highway scenic byway to its peak, you’ll pass through four separate ecological zones. You start in the desert surrounded by saguaro cacti and end up in an area lush with conifer trees that feels like the Rockies. It’s the climate equivalent of driving from the border with Mexico to the border with Canada, and all in one hour! Think of all the fuel you saved. The views from the top at Windy Vista Point (shown above) are incredible . . . and perfect at sunset.

The University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory atop Mount Lemmon provides SkyNights StarGazing programs using their Schulman 32-inch and Phillips 24-inch telescopes, two of the largest telescopes available for public viewing in the Southwest. If you’re not a night owl–or if perhaps driving down a steep, curvy mountain road in pitch black darkness isn’t your thing–there are also daytime programs.

10. Rock out at the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show

Tucson Gem and Mineral Show turquoise
Photo credit Pete Gregoire

For many people this tops the list of things to do in Tucson Az. According to the Tucson Gem & Mineral Society, the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show is “the largest, oldest and most prestigious gem and mineral show in the world.” We used to think that was just hyperbole, but we have been in town for the annual winter extravaganza and can attest that it truly is a one-of-kind event. Thousands of hobbyists and professionals descend on Tucson to shop, mingle and scratch their lapidary urges. If bling is your thing, you won’t be disappointed.

11. Reflect on space at the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Tucked below the University of Arizona football stadium, the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab produces the largest and most advanced giant telescope mirrors in the world. A 90-minute tour reveals the leading edge technology producing the next generation of telescopes to explore deep outer space. Personally, I would think a location right underneath the stomping feet of thousands of fired-up football fans would upset such a delicate manufacturing process, but what do I know?

12. Catch a flick at Cactus Carpool Cinema

Tucson’s dry climate provides the perfect setting for a long lost art that the Covid shutdowns have revived: drive-in movies. The folks at Cactus Drive-In have capitalized on this by acquiring a site at 6201 S. Wilmot Road in southeast Tucson, hard by the runway for Davis Monthan Air Force Base and the Pima Air & Space Museum. So perhaps you’ll be watching Top Gun on the 40′ inflatable screen while an actual fighter plane goes roaring overhead. Or maybe it’ll be an old western while you sit nestled among the cacti and ocotillos. Overall it’s one of the truly unique things to do in Tucson Az.


IF YOU LIKED THIS POST PLEASE SHARE TO YOUR PINTEREST BOARDS

We love exploring these unusual museums in Tucson, Arizona. Many of the city’s unique museums reflect Tucson culture and showcase exhibits and artifacts that cannot be found anywhere else. From a funky spot to view old signs to a Cold-War colossus, to a rodeo tribute, check out our 7 favorite museums in Tucson.

Ignite Sign Art Museum

A collection of neon signs at one of our favorite museums in Tucson: the Ignite Sign Museum

It’s lit at the Ignite Sign Art Museum in a Tucson museum that celebrates the city’s long legacy of clever neon signage. While many of the signs are still in place at their original locations around town, the museum preserves and displays signs that are no longer used. Since this is a working sign restoration studio, on Wednesdays and Saturdays there are demonstrations of the neon bending that creates these wonderful designs.

PRO TIP: Visit the Ignite Sign Art Museum in Tucson on Wednesdays & Saturdays to see sign restoration in progress.

Tucson Rodeo Parade Museum

A collection of western saddles from the Tucson Rodeo Parade museum

Claiming to be the largest non-motorized parade in the country, the Tucson Rodeo Parade Museum dates back to 1925 when this really was a cowtown. This is one of the more historic museums in Tucson. The museum celebrates the parade’s long legacy with a collection of more than 100 horse-drawn vehicles. (Some of them were used in the movie Oklahoma which, despite the title, was filmed in southern Arizona.)

The Tucson Rodeo Parade Museum is located inside four buildings, one of which is the old Tucson Municipal Flying Field airplane hangar. In addition to all the vehicles and saddles, there’s also a model railroad inside one of the buildings. The Tucson Rodeo takes place in February but the museum is open January, February and March.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Walking path at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson.

Okay, I have to admit that at first I was skeptical about the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Even though this is one of the more popular museums in Tucson, my thought was “When you’re in Tucson there’s pretty much desert all around you, so why would I need to go a museum about it?” Well, when I hike in the desert there aren’t placards and informative guides explaining to me all the flora and fauna I encounter.

I found that a visit to the museum makes me appreciate the actual desert even more. There’s also a zoo, botanical garden, natural history museum and aquarium to round out the experience. And it’s an absolute delight to hang out in the hummingbird house! The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is adjacent to Saguaro National Park, one of 31 Arizona National Parks and Monuments in the state, a great place to test your newfound knowledge of the landscape.

PRO TIP: Visit adjacent Saguaro National Park after you explore the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum to test your newfound knowledge of the landscape.

Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures

I was going to write a short story about this museum but I figured that was too obvious. The museum features more than 500 antique and contemporary miniature dollhouses and models. But it is more than just a museum of dollhouses. There are miniatures here of practically anything you can think of . . . like a set of animal carvings inside a walnut shell.

And lest ye think the Enchanted Tree shown above is not miniature at all, it’s hiding–at kid height–a series of miniature rooms in the nooks and crannies of its magical trunk. This is one of the museums in Tucson that’s lots of fun for miniature people as well!

History of Pharmacy Museum

Okay, a museum devoted to medicine may not be everyone’s cup of tea but there’s no doubting that it’s different. The world-class History of Pharmacy Museum is tucked into Drachman Hall on the University of Arizona campus. It’s definitely one of the more esoteric museums in Tucson.

Hundreds of thousands of items (full disclosure here: we did not count them but take their word for it) ranging from old-timey bottles of elixir to anti-venom kits for snake poison are displayed in antique shelves. A full-scale replica of an old-fashioned drugstore that looks like it was lifted from Main Street USA helps put all these unusual items into context. Reading the ingredients on the labels on some of the old jars it’s amazing what got approved when product safety was not as emphasized.

Titan Missile Museum

Titan II missile in silo at Titan Missile Museum in Arizona

During the Cold War in the mid-20th century there were 54 Titan II missile sites on active alert across America. It’s quite surprising to realize that the picturesque Sonoran Desert surrounding Tucson was the home of 18 of these underground silos, one of which survives as part of the Titan Missile Museum in Green Valley, Arizona, just a 25-minute drive due south of downtown Tucson. It’s the only place in the country where you can see one of these missiles in its original home. But don’t worry, that’s not a real nuclear warhead on top, (or so the guide told me.)

Gadsden Pacific Toy Train Museum

Just one of the many layouts at the Gadsden Pacific Toy Train Museum. Photo courtesy of the museum.

Formally known as the Gadsden Pacific Toy Train Operating Museum, this museum features nine indoor operating layouts. There’s also one set out in the garden, along with a train you can ride around the property. If that’s not enough, hop into the full-sized actual caboose for a browse around and photo op. This Tucson museum is a train lover’s delight.

Franklin Automobile Museum

Franklin antique cars lined up inside the Franklin Automobile museum
A row of Franklin cars lined up at the Franklin Automobile Museum

Lovers of classic cars will admire the collection of Franklin cars–and their unique setting at the Franklin Automobile Museum in northern Tucson. Set within in a quirky neighborhood that still has the original sandy roads from the 1940s with a 15mph speed limit, you get into the “early 20th century mood” before you even set your eyes on the cars themselves. Franklins, with their leading-edge air-cooled engines, were all the rage 100 years ago, but now are quite rare. This is the only independent museum in the country dedicated to the marque.


The magnificent weather around Tucson invites you to spend the majority of time outdoors, enjoying the splendid Arizona sunshine. But when you’re craving a little bit of shade (and air conditioning!) these unusual museums in Tucson are a great option. And if all this exploring has you feeling a bit “peckish,” satisfy your hunger with a Sonoran Hot Dog in Tucson: it’s a James Beard Award-winning classic!


IF YOU LIKED THIS POST PLEASE SHARE IT TO YOUR PINTEREST BOARDS

“Standing on the corner Winslow Arizona” immediately calls to mind the Classic Rock song Take it Easy, made famous by the group Eagles. The town of Winslow has embraced the song and created a park commemorating the song. In the opening line lead singe Glenn Frey sang about “standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona,” putting that town forever on the map of must-see rock-and-roll sights.

Standing on the Corner Park refers to the opening line to one of Eagles’ most iconic songs, from their debut self-titled album. Jackson Browne and Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey wrote Take it Easy in 1971 and it was released as Eagles’ first single in 1972. Even a half-century later, the song still resonates.

“Well, I’m a standing on a corner
in Winslow, Arizona
and such a fine sight to see
It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford
slowin’ down to take a look at me.”

Written by Glenn Frey and Jackson Browne
Standing on a corner Park Winslow Arizona statue

Standing on the Corner Winslow Arizona: the Park

Winslow already had some acclaim as a Route 66 town with a celebrated hotel, the historic La Posada, and, up until the 1960s, it was the largest town in northern Arizona but the song sent Arizona road trippers detouring from interstate I-40 to look for the famous intersection. The only problem was Take it Easy wasn’t written about any particular corner in Winslow. But the town realized they should give these visitors something to see so in 1999 they created “Standing on the Corner Park” at the intersection of Route 66 and North Kinsley Avenue right in the center of town.

You can’t miss it, there’s a giant highway shield of Route 66 painted in the road. Since the song doesn’t mention exactly which corner in Arizona the writer was standing this one will have to do. It won’t be long before you’ll be singing “standing on the corner Winslow Arizona” beneath your breath as you approach the legendary site.

In a mural created by artist John Pugh there is indeed a reflection of a girl slowing down to take a look. To add even more realism, a bright red 1960 Ford flatbed truck is parked in the street for a unique photo op. While Winslow doesn’t get quite the foot traffic of tourists crossing Abbey Road in London does, we were surprised by the steady flow of people on a winter’s day. It’s estimated that 100,000 people a year visit Standing on the Corner Park.

standing on a corner winslow arizona, image of statue in the park
The girl in the flatbed Ford appears in the window reflection. Can you spot the eagle?

The centerpiece of the park is a denim-clad statue named “Easy” holding an acoustic guitar. The statue was created by sculptor Ron Adamson. While it does bear a passing resemblance to Jackson Browne, it is supposed to represent all songwriters. It was installed in September 1999 when the park was dedicated. Upon Glenn Frey’s death in 2016 the statue became a setting for tributes to the Eagles songster. A statue of Frey was added thanks to fundraising efforts of two Phoenix morning radio DJs, Mark Devine and Paul Marshall, from classic rock station KSLX along with the Standing on the Corner Foundation and the City of Winslow.

The origin of Standing on the Corner Winslow Arizona

But where did the famous lyrics come from? Jackson Browne had once been stranded in Winslow and put the town name in the song. But he had trouble coming up with the context to finish the verse. In the 1994 documentary Jackson Browne: Going Home Browne attributed the lyrics about the flatbed Ford to Glenn Frey. According to Browne, “He came up with this great flatbed Ford thing, that’s a transformation made right there. I dug the fact that all these women in Arizona were driving trucks so that appealed to me, ‘It’s a girl, my lord, in a flatbed Ford.'”

Standing on the Corner Park and Route 66

Winslow itself is a pretty interesting town to visit. It’s a great stop along a Route 66 Arizona Road Trip. You can stay in the historic La Posada Hotel which is a former Santa Fe Railroad hotel from 1929. East of town there are a few relics from Route 66’s glory days of welcoming travelers and even a spot where the road literally ends.

In September, Winslow hosts the annual Standin’ on the Corner Festival with live music, craft vendors and food trucks. It’s a great time to visit and mingle with fellow Eagles fans. Year-round there are several souvenir shops to get your Standin’ on the Corner swag.

Old Route 66 peters out below, replaced by the interstate.

Visiting the Park: Standing on the Corner Winslow Arizona

Address: Intersection of 2nd Avenue (Old Route 66 eastbound) and North Kinsley Avenue. Winslow is 58 miles east of Flagstaff. You’ll take I-40 to get to Winslow so make sure to exit the interstate to get downtown.

Hours: 24/7

Admission: Free

Web site: StandinOnTheCorner.com

And here’s one for the road, the Eagles, Jackson Browne and (Arizona native!) Linda Ronstadt performing Take it Easy in 1974:


IF YOU LIKED THIS POST PLEASE SHARE TO YOUR PINTEREST BOARDS

A visit to the Titan Missile Museum in Arizona is an eye-opening experience. This amazing underground sight shows the might (and fright) that was created during the Cold War. Take a tour for a glimpse into national defense in mid-century America.

Ah, the Cold War was a wonderful time. While the United States and Soviet Union were nuclear saber-rattling with each other, some Americans were building fallout shelters in their backyards to survive the expected onslaught of airborne radiation. Meanwhile, school-age children hid under their desks in school during air raid drills–apparently nothing provides as much protection overhead as a piece of flimsy plywood. Those were some tense times.

Titan II missile in silo at Titan Missile Museum in Arizona

Where is the Titan Missile Museum?

It’s quite surprising to realize that the beguiling Sonoran Desert surrounding Tucson, with its majestic saguaro cactus forests, was a nuclear-tipped Ground Zero. Burrowed beneath a landscape that reveals an unexpected array of plant and animal life is a surviving Titan Missile silo. The Titan Missile Museum barely scratches the earth’s surface in Green Valley, Arizona, just a 25-minute drive due south of downtown Tucson.

Radioactive suits at the Titan Missile Museum.

From 1963 through 1987 there were 54 Titan II missile sites on active alert across America; a whopping 18 silos of the encircled Tucson, making the city a prime target for the Soviet Union. (I bet THAT wasn’t in the tourism brochures back then!) The silos are relics of a time when MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) was the normal course of business between the two superpowers. Visiting launch complex 571-7 at the Titan Missile Museum is a sobering reminder of how close the countries came to pulling the nuclear trigger.


Touring the Titan Missile Museum-Underground

Visitors start their tour by descending a set of metal steps more than 100 feet deep into the subterranean bunker, which is protected behind a set of hardened blast doors. As if to show that the only dangers aren’t delivered from the sky, the entrance is clearly marked by a sign stating “Watch out for rattlesnakes.” The guides are former Air Force personnel, many of whom were missile crew members who worked and lived underground during the Cold War.

The key to ending the world.

During the 45-minute tour you get to visit the Launch Control Center. With its vast array of blinking mainframe computers and rotary dial phones it feels like a time tunnel to 1963, or perhaps something out of a cheesy science fiction film. In fact, the museum served as a setting in the 1996 film Star Trek: First Contact; in its cameo role the missile was transformed into a “Warp Drive” space ship. Across the room a standard government-issue metal file cabinet painted bright red held the top-secret launch codes that the crew would have used to send the missile skyward.

PRO TIP: Touring the underground silo of the Titan Missile Museum requires descending and climbing 55 stairs.

Visitors can sit at the launch console and even reenact turning the launch key for a Titan missile. When I tried it I couldn’t believe how nervous I felt. The missile was topped with a dummy warhead and was no longer programmed to wipe out an undisclosed location in the former Soviet Union. So really, what could go wrong? But it’s easy to imagine the thoughts of the men and women who had trained for such a day, with a simple twist of the wrist hurling a nuclear missile skyward.

Tunnels lit by sputtering fluorescent lights turn off at right angles, giving the space the look of an oddly illuminated ant colony. Signs throughout indicate “No Lone Zone. Two Man Policy Mandatory.” This was an extra security measure designed to prevent a rogue crew member from tinkering with the equipment.

At the end of one tunnel the actual Titan missile looms overhead, still poised to reach supersonic speed in seconds. Visitors also access the crew’s cramped living quarters, a Spartan living arrangement they likened to a “Motel 2.” The 4-member crew worked in 24-hour shifts trained for a job they hoped never to fulfill.


Above the missile silo.

Aboveground at the Titan Missile Museum

Back above ground there is a museum that relays the history of the site and the Titan Missile program during the Cold War. In the gift shop you can even buy a mushroom cloud-adorned board game called Nuclear War. It’s billed as the “comical catyclysmic card game of global destruction.” You may never play a boring old game of Monopoly again!

Visitor Information

  • Address: 1580 W. Duval Mine Rd. Green Valley, Arizona 85614
  • Hours: 9:45am – 5:00pm; open 7 days a week Oct-May, closed Tue, Wed June-Sept
  • Price: $13.50 adults; discounts for seniors/military/children 12 and under

PRO TIP: Due to the small space, tours are limited to 26 individuals each; purchase tickets online in advance to ensure your spot


Afterwards, for another Cold war site that is active today, tour the Boneyard of military aircraft in Tucson to see where 3,000+ planes are stored.

IF YOU LIKED THIS POST, PLEASE SHARE IT TO YOUR PINTEREST BOARDS

This Arizona road trip to 4 Corners Monument takes you through the Navajo Nation in the northeast part of the state. You’ll see Monument Valley and many other stunning ancient sights related to Native American history and culture. For geography geeks (like us!), a trip to 4 Corners Monument is a must-see road trip destination. It’s the only place in American where you can stand in 4 states at once!

PRO TIP: 4 Corners Monument (i.e.The Navajo Nation) observes Daylight Savings Time, the State of Arizona does NOTbe sure to plan your schedule accordingly!


The 4 Corners Monument Road Trip Itinerary

Map showing route of 4 Corners Monument road trip
Route map of 4 Corners Monument Road Trip, image courtesy of Google Maps

This Arizona road trip itinerary begins near the north center of the state (Flagstaff or the Grand Canyon) and heads northeast into the Navajo Nation toward 4 Corners. Customize your journey to make it your own personal best road trip in Arizona by linking to one of our other itineraries. Along the way you’ll see some magnificent scenery, including Navajo National Monument and a historic Navajo display in an unlikely location (more on that below).

Spend a night (or two) at spectacular Monument Valley, using it as a base as you explore the area and visit 4 Corners Monument. Afterward, continue southward, stopping in to see the ancient Canyon de Chelly and historic Hubbell Trading post. Finish up near Petrified Forest National Park, where, if you’re so inclined, you can head back west on Route 66 in Arizona.


NOTE: Some National Park and Navajo Nation sights may be closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Be sure to check prior to visiting.


Cliff Dwellings at Navajo National Monument

Visit cliff dwellings that date back to the 1300s Navajo National Monument. There are two sites within the park that are available to visit: Betataking and Keet Seel. You can seek the Betatakin dwellings from a distance via an overlook on a self-guided trail. If you want to seek the site up-close, sign up for a ranger-guided tour, which takes 3-5 hours of rugged hiking. For a real in-country Navajo Nation experience, sign up for the 17-mile round trip hike to Keet Seel.

Sweeping view of cliff dwellings at Navajo National Monument, 4 corners monument

PRO TIP: Up-close looks at the cliff dwellings involve rugged hiking on ranger-guided tours. Sign up at ranger-guided tours at Navajo National Monument.


The Navajo Code Talkers Exhibit

After driving about 150 miles east the Grand Canyon you’ll come to the small town of Kayenta. Don’t bypass the Burger King: what appears to be a run-of-the-mill fast food outlet contains a hidden gem. Inside there’s an exhibit dedicated to the Navajo Code Talkers. These Navajo soldiers transmitted encoded military messages in the Pacific Theater during World War II. The Japanese were unable to decipher the ancient language, helping the Allied path to victory.–a code the Japanese navy was never able to break.

PRO TIP: Interested in learning more about the Navajo Code Talkers? Seek out the 2002 movie Windtalkers, starring Nicolas Cage and Adam Beach.

On the Navajo Code Talker website you can hear fascinating interviews from actual Code Talkers who served in World war II. One display depicts a fascinating blend of cultures: a Purple Heart medal decorated with local turquoise.

mural of a WWII Navajo code talker on the side of a barn in the Arizona desert


What, exactly, is 4 Corners Monument?

We’re both geography geeks so even from a tender age we used to look at maps and always wonder about that magical place where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah met. That’s 4 Corners: the only place in the United States where you can stand in one spot and be in four states at once. And because of that bit of geographic weirdness, naturally there’s a monument. To some it’s a tad silly, but to travel nerds (and since you’re reading this you may be one, too) a road trip to 4 Corners Monument is a must-do journey.

4 Corners Monument feet straddling state borders
As geography geek photo ops go, 4 corners monument is high on the list!

The 4 Corners Monument straddles four states but it is firmly located within the Navajo Nation. The tribe controls the monument at the remote location and charges an admission fee of $5/person in winter; $10/person in summer; ages six and under are free. Given the uniqueness of the site that’s not bad. The monument itself consists of a pink granite slab with markings showing the boundaries of the four states. They intersect at a round brass marker which designates the actual spot where they meet, stamped by the US Department of the Interior.


What about GPS? Is 4 Corners Monument in the right spot???

There’s been some talk lately that GPS technology has proved that the spot isn’t the actual corner of the four states. Some critics theorize that it could be 2 1 /2 miles away. Ray Russell of the Navajo Nation addresses this issue by saying, “In 1868, GPS technology was not available to surveyors. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the current location is the legal location of the Four Corners.” The local Bureaus of Land Management also agree. So when you stand on the brass plaque in the you can be confident that you are indeed standing at the 4 Corners of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah.

“In 1868, GPS technology was not available to surveyors. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the current location is the legal location of the Four Corners.”

Ray Russell of the Navajo Nation
Here’s a cute video of a girl running in and out of four different states.

4 Corners Monument: A Breaking Bad Moment

The Four Corners Monument even made it into an episode of the TV show Breaking Bad. When Skylar White was thinking of leaving her husband Walt she drove up to the 4 Corners with baby Holly in tow. She stood near the plaque and flipped a coin at the middle to determine where she should go. Her choice is pretty telling. (Observant fans of the show will notice that Anna Gunn, the actress who plays Skylar, never actually made it to the Four Corners. Due to the magic of cinema her body double was used for the shots.)


Monument Valley

Monument Valley

After getting your geography fix at Four Corners, head to Monument Valley to see some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, straddling the Arizona and Utah borders. The epic landscape has been featured in hundreds of old Western films, many of them starring John Wayne riding to the rescue and other star-studded fare including Forrest Gump, Thelma & Louise and even the most recent version of The Lone Ranger. (Okay, so maybe they all haven’t been hits.)

Where to stay near 4 Corners Monument

We stayed in Monument Valley for a few nights. We found it was a great location a base to explore the 4 Corners Monument and the stunning rock formations at Monument Valley. There are only two hotels, but they are both winners, each offering their own unique charm:

  • Right at Monument Valley, stay at The View Hotel. It’s owned by the Navajo Nation and just like the name promises, it looks right out over Monument Valley and some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.
  • Historic Goulding’s Lodge opened in the 1920s as a trading post, eventually growing into a motel that housed John Wayne and crew when those Westerns were being filmed. The views of Monument Valley are more long distance views but still spectacular.

Canyons of Navajo Culture

Leaving Monument Valley and the 4 Corners Monument behind, turn south and visit Canyon de Chelly National Monument to see the site of 5,000 (!) years of civilization. Because this park is contained within the Navajo Nation, it is a rare National Park that has inhabitants, whose ancestors have lived there for generations. While there you can view spectacular cliff dwellings, take a guided hike with a park ranger, or an off-road tour with a local Navajo guide.

If all this Navajo immersion has you hankering for a special souvenir, stop into the historic Hubbell Trading Post, which has been selling the work of Native American artisans for nearly 150 years. You can tour the Hubbell homestead, then watch Navajo artisans-in-residence practicing their craft. Much of this magnificent work is available for sale.

After leaving Hubbell Trading Post, head due south for about an hour to connect you with Interstate 40 and Old Route 66. From here you can head west, exploring the mid-century delights of Route 66, or continue south through Petrified Forest National Park and a Road Trip along the Mogollon Rim. Either way, you’ll have completed a unique trip through northeastern Arizona . . . somehow managing to visit 3 other states at 4 Corners Monument!

IF YOU LIKED THIS POST PLEASE SHARE TO ONE OF YOUR PINTEREST BOARDS

Where is Four Corners Monument?

Four Corners Monument feet straddling state borders

Four corners monument straddles 4 states: Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado & Utah, but this intersection of states is firmly located in the midst of the Navajo Nation.

There’s something about Arizona’s clear blue skies and wide open spaces that make it perfect for a road trip. But what are the best road trips in Arizona? That really depends on you, and your own personal interests. We’ve driven all over the state–from corner to corner–and have put together 11 different road trips for you to try.

Some of these Arizona road trips are thematic, others are based on geographic areas. Most can be done in 2-3 days, which allows for plenty of time to visit the sights without simply stopping for a photo op. (Of course, you might want to linger for a few days at some magnificent parks and National Monuments!) Any of these Arizona road trip itineraries can be mixed and matched with another (or 2 . . . or 3!), so you can put together your own personalized best road trip in Arizona!

NOTE: Some National Park, State Park, and Navajo Nation sights may be closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Be sure to check prior to visiting.

Road trip in Arizona-Old station wagon with luggage on roof driving in front of Arizona scenery
Photo courtesy Arizona Tourism

Arizona Route 66 Road Trip

For many, driving along old Route 66 would be the best road trip in Arizona. It’s a mixture of the old west with plenty of mid-century kitsch . . . and even a couple of abandoned old sites just withering in the Arizona sun. Old Route 66 parallels (and in some cases overlaps) Interstate 40 across the state, so the route is pretty straightforward.

map of route 66 road trip route in Arizona
Map of Route 66 Arizona road trip

Stops along the way include Petrified Forest National Park, as well as the cool small towns such as Flagstaff, Willams and Winslow (yep, the town from the Eagles’ song Take it Easy!). See more in our Route 66 in Arizona post.

  • Highlights: Petrified Forest National Park, Old Route 66 towns
  • Total Miles: About 260
  • Days: 2-3
  • Connect with these itineraries: Grand Canyon, North Central, Northeast/Four Corners
  • Where to stay: Any of these retro hotels and motels on Route 66
Two 1950s classic cars parked in front of the Wigwam motel

Arizona Classic Cars Road Trip

Anyone who loves classic cars will love Arizona: the whole state is a virtual outdoor car museum! The dry, sunny climate is perfect for old cars, and there are plenty of places in the state where you’ll be able to see them out there sunning themselves. If you love seeing classic cars in all forms, then this is one of the perfect road trips in Arizona for you.

map of Arizona classic car road trip route
Map of a classic car road trip in Arizona

This road trip through Arizona takes you along Route 66, then turns south, almost to the Mexican border. Spend a day in Tucson, where a unique mid-century marketing idea placed over 50 classic cars around town. Finish your journey in the Arizona small town of Bisbee; a street parked with old cars (and a really cool old bus!) looks like “the land that time forgot.”

  • Highlights: Route 66, Cottonwood, Tucson, Bisbee
  • Total Miles: About 600
  • Days: 4-5
  • Connect with these itineraries: Any other road trip on this list–you’ll be all over the state!
  • Where to stay: Holbrook, Cottonwood, Tucson, Bisbee


Northwestern Arizona Road Trip: Las Vegas to Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is not just a magnificent destination on its own, it also makes a great anchor for road trips in Arizona. Begin (or end) this Arizona Journey at Las Vegas, just a short drive to Hoover Dam, an engineering marvel. Then make your way down to the town of Kingman, which will put you smack-dab in “Route 66” country. Be sure to check out the Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum, and the Arizona Route 66 Museum while you’re there.

map of las vegas to grand canyon road trip route
Map of the Las Vegas to Grand Canyon Arizona road trip

Continue making your way east along Old Route 66–this stretch through Peach Springs and Seligman is said to be the inspiration for the fictitious town of “Radiator Springs” in the Disney movie Cars. Spend some time enjoying the Victorian and mid-century ambiance of Williams before heading north to Grand Canyon National Park.

  • Highlights: Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Old Route 66 towns
  • Total Miles: 297
  • Days: 2-3
  • Connect with these itineraries: Route 66, Flagstaff & North Central AZ, Sedona Loop
  • Where to stay: Kingman, Williams, Tusayan (Grand Canyon Gate)

PRO TIP: If you’d like to avoid the crowds, consider a Grand Canyon November road trip.


North Central Arizona Road Trip: To the North Rim

This Arizona road trip passes through some well-known sites, but then veers off onto the road-less-taken. Begin at the charming town of Flagstaff, with its terrific downtown full of brewpubs and coffee shops. Explore the ancient indigenous dwellings at nearby Walnut Canyon and Waupatki National Monuments, then check out the geologic wonder of Sunset Crater National Monument.

map of north central arizona and grand canyon north rim road trip route
Map of the North Central Arizona road trip that visits the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Head north (be sure to stop at the Cameron Trading Post for some Native American Frybread!) toward the town of Page. From here you can take an excursion to the famous Horseshoe Bend, or go boating on Lake Powell in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Head west, skirting the magnificent Vermillion Cliffs (or off-roading, if you have a 4-wheel-drive vehicle) on your way to the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. Continue on toward Utah and Nevada, stopping to see the historic homestead at Pipe Spring National Monument, which still has a working farm.

  • Highlights: Flagstaff, Horseshoe Bend, North Rim of the Grand Canyon
  • Total Miles: 390
  • Days: 3-4
  • Connect with these itineraries: Route 66, Grand Canyon and Northwest AZ, Sedona & Central AZ, Four Corners and Northeast AZ
  • Where to stay: Flagstaff, Page, Fredonia/Kanab (near North Rim)
native american frybread taco, topped with meat, lettuce, tomato, cheese, onions

Navajo Country: 4 Corners & Monument Valley Road Trip

This itinerary combines Native American history and culture with some wide-open spaces and some world-class geography geekiness! From Flagstaff, head northeast through the Navajo Nation. Be sure to stop into the Burger King in Kayenta, Arizona . . . not just for a Whopper; this is also the site of a museum commemorating the Navajo “Code Talkers” from World War II. Make your way to Monument Valley, home to incredible rock formations (and a whole passel of John Wayne movies!). From here, geography geeks (like us!) must make the short detour to Four Corners Monument–the only place in American where you can stand in 4 states at once!

map of 4 corners and monument valley road trip route
Map of the 4 Corners & Monument Valley Arizona road trip

As road trips in Arizona go, this one really delves into Native American sites. From Monument Valley, head south through the more of the Navajo Nation. Visit Canyon de Chelly National Monument to see the site of 5,000(!) years of civilization. Stop into the historic Hubbell Trading Post, which has been selling the work of Native American artisans for nearly 150 years. Continue southward to connect up with old Route 66 near Petrified Forest National Park.

Purple heart surrounded by turqouise stones
  • Highlights: Navajo heritage sites, Monument Valley scenery, Four Corners
  • Total Miles: 488
  • Days: 2-3
  • Connect with these itineraries: Route 66, Grand Canyon & Northwest AZ, North Central to North Rim, Mogollon Rim & Eastern AZ
  • Where to stay: Kayenta, Monument Valley, Chinle

PRO TIP: The Navajo Nation observes Daylight Savings Time, the State of Arizona does NOT; be sure to plan your schedule accordingly!


London Calling: Western Az & the Colorado River Road Trip

This is one of the lesser-known road trips in Arizona, but those seeking a to see a different side of the state will be well-rewarded. Head west from Phoenix to the small community of Quartzite, popular with RVers and van-dwellers, made famous in the recent Oscar-winning film Nomadland. From here, head northward, coming alongside the Colorado River. Get in some “beach time” (and camping if you like) along the Colorado at Cattail Cove and Lake Havasu State Parks. Be sure to visit the original London Bridge, which now proudly links the city of Lake Havasu with an island in the Colorado River.

map of western AZ and Colorado river road trip map
Map of the west central Arizona road trip-see the original London Bridge!

This Arizona road trip continues northeast to Kingman, which will intersect with Route 66. Spend some time exploring the museums and memorabilia along Old Route 66 (see the Route 66 itinerary, above). Finally, head back toward Phoenix, stopping in at Wickenburg, an old west town that’s home to several dude ranches and the Desert Caballeros Western Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate.

  • Highlights: London Bridge, Colorado River, Route 66, the town of Wickenburg
  • Total Miles: 392
  • Days: 2-3
  • Connect with these itineraries: Route 66, Grand Canyon & Northwest AZ, Sedona & Central AZ, Yuma & Southwestern AZ
  • Where to stay: Lake Havasu City, Kingman, Wickenburg

Red Rocks & Red Wine: Sedona & North Central Arizona Road Trip

This one of those road trips in Arizona that offers a little bit of everything: history, ancient native dwellings, stunning scenery and wonderful small towns. Head north out of Phoenix, stopping at Camp Verde to learn some local history at Fort Verde Historic Park before moving on to Montezuma Castle National Monument (and adjacent Montezuma Well) to see some ancient cliff dwellings. Pick up a map of local hiking trails at the Red Rock Visitor Center outside Sedona. Following a trek through Sedona’s jaw-dropping scenery, browse for crystals & new age goodies in the many shops lining route 89A, or explore the many other ways to enjoy Sedona in the Fall.

map of sedona and north central arizona road trip route
Map of a central Arizona road trip to see charming towns & Sedona’s famous red rocks

Continue on to explore the charming shops, restaurants–and wine tasting rooms–of Old Town Cottonwood. Lovers of ancient culture will enjoy a side trip to the ruins of Tuzigoot National Monument in nearby Clarkdale. Stroll the streets of Jerome, an old mining town clinging to the side of a mountain, before taking the mountain pass (best done in daylight!) southwest to Prescott. While there, stroll the picturesque town square or attend the World’s Oldest Rodeo (really!). Continue the Western theme with a mosey on down to Wickenburg (see the “London Calling” road trip itinerary above).

  • Highlights: Stunning red rock scenery & hiking, great small towns, Verde Valley wine tasting
  • Total Miles: 245
  • Days: 2-3
  • Connect with these itineraries: Route 66, North Central AZ, Western AZ/Colorado River, Southwestern AZ
  • Where to stay: Sedona, Jerome/Cottonwood, Prescott or Wickenburg

Life on the Edge: East Central Arizona & the Mogollon Rim Road Trip

Those craving a little greenery when planning road trips in Arizona should head to the eastern part of the state. Here, the largest ponderosa pine forest in the US sits along the Mogollon Rim, a giant escarpment. At 8,000 feet, the climate is refreshingly cool in summer (and snowy in winter!). Begin by heading east from Phoenix to the town of Globe, with it’s charming courthouse. Explore the Besh Ba Gowah archeological ruins of the ancient Salado people, then head north to Tonto National Monument to see Salado cliff dwellings.

map of east central arizona and mogollon rim road trip route
Map of the east central Arizona road trip amid the state’s greenery

Continue on to Payson, the central point for much of the outdoor activity located amidst the Tonto and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests. From Payson, drive east along the Mogollon Rim itself as you catch glimpses of magnificent valley views 2,000 feet below. Stop by the Mogollon Rim Visitor Center, which provides interpretive exhibits and a photo op. Emerge from the forest and continue northeast to the Petrified Forest National Park and its Rainbow Forest Museum, which shows the type of “critters” used to live nearby. (Spoiler alert: they were BIGGG!)

  • Highlights: Ponderosa pine forest with views, hiking, camping, fishing, ancient indigenous dwellings
  • Total Miles: 285
  • Days: 2-3
  • Connect with these itineraries: Route 66, Navajo Country & NE Arizona, North Central Arizona
  • Where to stay: Globe, Payson, Holbrook
Horton creek in central Arizona with water lily greens in foreground and small waterfall in background-near Payson

3:10 to Yuma: Southwestern Arizona Road Trip

On this road trip in Arizona head west from Phoenix via to explore some of the state’s rugged southwest terrain. Rockhounds will love collecting quartz at Crystal Hill in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. Continue to the most southwestern corner of the state, to explore the many sights in the historic border town of Yuma, including its old Territorial Prison.

map of southwest arizona road trip route
Map of the southwestern Arizona road trip

Head back eastward, turning south toward Ajo, a great stopover when visiting Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, where you can hike to the abandoned Victoria Mine amid majestic Organ Pipe cactus. Continue eastward and drive up Kitt Peak for a tour of the National Observatory, which will give you a new appreciation for those starry Arizona skies, before you head onward to Tucson.

  • Highlights: Crystal collecting, historic Yuma, Organ Pipe Cactus NM, Kitt Peak Observatory
  • Total Miles: 576
  • Days: 2-3
  • Connect with these itineraries: Western AZ & Colorado River, South Central Arizona
  • Where to stay: Yuma, Ajo

South Central Arizona Road Trip: History, Art & Underground Wonders

Tucson makes a great starting point for many road trips in Arizona, especially those in the southern part of the state. After feasting on plenty of Sonoran Hot Dogs in Tucson, take a cooling stroll underground viewing the wonders at Kartchner Caverns State Park. Loop back south and west, stopping to sip some of the recent vintages at one of the 17(!) wineries in the Sonoita/Elgin region. Continue south to the funky little village of Patagonia, perhaps spending a few days at the Circle Z, Arizona’s oldest continually operating guest ranch.

map of south central arizona road trip route
Map of the south central Arizona road trip

From here, it’s just a few miles to the town of Nogales, which straddles the Mexican border. It’s fun to park your car on the Arizona side and walk across the border to the Mexican side of Nogales. Browse the streets for Mexican wares, perhaps stopping for lunch at Leo’s Cafe. Turn northward, and allow plenty of time to explore the multiple exhibits at Tumacocori National Historical Park. From here it’s just a short jaunt northward to the artsy community of Tubac (pottery, anyone?). Finish this road trip in Arizona by touring another underground wonder–this one of the man-made variety: the Titan Missile Museum.

  • Highlights: Underground caverns, Mexican border town, wineries
  • Total Miles: 218
  • Days: 2-3 (longer if you stay at Circle Z)
  • Connect with these itineraries: Southeast Arizona, Classic Car Road Trip, Southwestern Arizona
  • Where to stay: Benson, Patagonia, Tubac
Titan II missile in silo at Titan Missile Museum in Arizona

Southeast Arizona Road Trip: Old West Immersion

Howdy, pardner! Feel like seeing a bit of the Old West? Then this might just be your favorite of road trips in Arizona. The southeastern part of the state is home to the town of Tombstone–home of the famous “Shootout at the OK Corral.” From there you head south to Bisbee, and Douglas, which are old mining towns that are now cool and funky in a retro-sort of way.

map of SE arizona road trip route
Map of a southeastern Arizona road trip

Round this Arizona road trip by visiting two Arizona national parks and monuments: Chiracahua and Fort Bowie. At Chiracahua you’ll see stunning ancient rock formations, whereas at Fort Bowie you’ll learn of the stunning (and often grim) clash between the native Chiracahua Apache and the U.S. Army. If you’re into the history of the old west, these destinations are a must-do on a road trip in Arizona.

PRO TIP: Southeastern Arizona is apple country. If visiting in the fall, be sure to explore ways to enjoy Apples in Arizona!

  • Highlights: The towns of Tombstone & Bisbee, Fort Bowie National Historic Site.
  • Total Miles: About 200
  • Days: 2-3
  • Connect with these itineraries: Classic Car road trip, Tucson & South of the Border
  • Where to stay: Tombstone/Bisbee, Willcox
bizarre rock "needles" at chiricahua national monument

There you have it: 11 different road trips in Arizona. They’re like pieces of a puzzle–mix and match ’em up to make up YOUR perfect road trip in Arizona! Where will YOU go???

IF YOU LIKED THIS POST, PLEASE SHARE TO ONE OF YOUR PINTEREST BOARDS

COMPLETE LIST OF ARIZONA ROAD TRIPS

  1. Arizona Route 66 Road Trip
  2. Arizona Classic Cars Road Trip
  3. Northwestern Arizona: Las Vegas to Grand Canyon Road Trip
  4. North Central Arizona Road Trip: To the North Rim
  5. Navajo Country: Four Corners & Monument Valley Road Trip
  6. London Calling: West central Arizona & the Colorado River Road Trip
  7. Red Rocks & Red Wine: Sedona & North Central Arizona Road Trip
  8. Life on the Edge: East Central Arizona & the Mogollon Rim Road Trip
  9. 3:10 to Yuma: Southwestern Arizona Road Trip
  10. South Central Arizona Road Trip: History, Art & Underground Wonders
  11. Old West Immersion: Southeastern Arizona Road Trip

It might be something in the water (or the lack of it) but Arizona is a giant outdoor car museum. This makes it the perfect place to take a road trip through Arizona in search of classic cars. There are many classic car sights throughout the state sitting right out in the open without any protective coverings. The desert climate provides an arid environment that inhibits rust, so car owners think nothing of keeping their classics parked outdoors for much of the year.

Classic car fans seeking the call of the outdoors have plenty to keep them entertained. During a 10-hour, 600-mile road trip spread out over a few days, visitors can see a wealth of seemingly random classic car sights, along with the beautiful scenery for which Arizona is famous.

Start your road trip through Arizona on an open-air classic car quest right on America’s Mother Road: Route 66. There are several spots along this route that commemorate the glory days of road tripping, with wonderful examples of vehicles (and structures) of days gone by. (For more on Route 66 itself, check out our Route 66 in Arizona Road Trip post.)


Rusty car in the middle of desert-road trip through Arizona

Petrified Forest National Park: Old Route 66 runs through it!

Most people come to Petrified National Forest Park for the magnificent displays of wood that have turned into colorful stone fossils. But road trippers know that hidden vestiges of an early alignment of Route 66 also snake through the park. One guide to finding it is the remains of a 1932 Studebaker that looks like it was abandoned almost nine decades ago by a wayward traveler.

The tires are long gone, yet the vehicle remains, burnished to a deep umber by the desert sun, sitting balanced atop the old road that remains visible in the sand below. Take a moment to look around at the harsh landscape and imagine what it was like for migrants right out of The Grapes of Wrath in the 1930s as they headed west to escape the Great Depression for the promised opportunity of California.


PRO TIP: For more road trip ideas, check out our Best Road Trips in Arizona post.

Holbrook: A classic car with every room

Further west on Route 66 travelers can sleep in a replica Native American teepee at the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook. This novel motel is “furnished” with classic cars that are parked right outside each of the teepees. (Despite the name of the motel they are teepees, not wigwams.) So, even if you’re driving a standard late model rental, you’ll feel like you are cruising along the highway in the 1950s.


map of Arizona classic car road trip route

Winslow: A road trip through Arizona rock n’ roll history

Statue of folk singer with front of ford pickup in foreground, Winslow Arizona route 66
The beloved Flatbed Ford right near the the intersection with Route 66 in Winslow

The town of Winslow takes its Route 66 connections seriously with giant route markers painted on the street. Here you’ll find an intersection that appears in the Jackson Browne-penned song (made famous by the Eagles) Take It Easy. As the song goes: Well I’m standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, such a fine sight to see. It’s a girl my lord in a flatbed Ford, slowin’ down to take a look at me. The town has commemorated this lyric with a statue of a folk singer (and more recently one of the late Eagles singer Glenn Frey) staring at the object of desire in the song, an actual flame-red 1960 Ford flatbed pickup truck.


Seligman: A road trip through Arizona Route 66 history

old cars around old gas pumps, Seligman, AZ
Vintage cars in Seligman, AZ

It is because of this little hamlet, bypassed by Interstate 40, that the Route 66 legend lives on. In 1987 locals petitioned the State of Arizona and had it designated a historic highway. This story is said to have inspired the location of Radiator Springs for the movie Cars. Today this no-stoplight town is a pilgrimage for Route 66 fans, who find retro motels, memorabilia shops . . . and lots of vintage cars parked around town.

PRO TIP: Check out these terrific retro-style hotels on Route 66 in Arizona where you can stay to really get into the “get your kicks” mood.


Cottonwood: Fill ‘er up!

Bings Burger Station Cottonwood Arizona

At this point on your road trip through Arizona you’re probably a bit hungry. Begin heading southward, stopping at Bing’s Burger Station in historic Cottonwood for a midcentury-style pick-me-up. This old-fashioned diner is set up in a restored 1940s Atlantic Richfield gas station. You really can’t miss it—parked next to the vintage Gilmore pumps out front is a bright red 1950 Plymouth Special Deluxe sedan. Enjoy a classic American road trip meal of a deluxe cheeseburger, hand-cut french fries and a malted milk shake while surrounded by decades of service station memorabilia.


Tucson: Truly Something

Black and yellow antique car with the words "Truly Nolen" painted on the side

Continue south on your road trip through Arizona for 215 miles to the city of Tucson. It’s become something of an open-air car museum in its own right, due to the efforts of one man whose name–truly–was Truly Nolen. In the 1950s the pest exterminating king started parking classic cars around town to promote his business. The collection of Truly Nolen cars now totals more than 50 so it’s hard to go a mile or so in any direction without coming across one, creating a delightful scavenger hunt for classic car buffs.

PRO TIP: Be sure to snag a Sonoran Hot Dog while you’re in Tucson!

While 1950s land yachts like the flamboyantly tail-finned 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air are always popular, a few sentimental favorites are the 1923 Dodge Roadster, 1931 Ford Model A and the pocket-sized 1957 Nash Metropolitan. Amazingly, all the cars are left open for inspection. Start your search at company headquarters on 3636 East Speedway Boulevard, Tucson, AZ 85716 where a few of the cars are parked out front.


Bisbee, Arizona: Did I just enter a time warp?

Travel 100 miles southeast of Tucson, to the old mining town of Bisbee is located 100 miles southeast of Tucson. Although only a few miles from the Mexican border, the surprisingly high elevation (5,500 feet!) gives Bisbee the feel of a mountain town. Quaint shops line the historic downtown, but one section on the edge of town in the Lowell Historic District looks like it was abandoned in the 1950s. Largely empty Erie St. is lined with classic cars . . . and one magnificent old bus. The entire street has a slightly apocalyptic air that wouldn’t look out of place in a science fiction film. The blob attacks!

Among the vintage 1950s chrome and tail fin cars is an iconic 1955 GMC PD-4501 Scenicruiser observation coach parked by the vintage Texaco station. It looks as if it’s just waiting for a fill-up before the passengers board. Its owners have cleverly painted a “Strayhound” logo on the side, so you’re not tempted to confuse it with that other canine-ish named bus company 😉.

If all this “in the wild” classic car hopping has worn you out, finish up your road trip through Arizona at The Shady Dell trailer court. Here, you can spend a night in a vintage motorhome. The choice of a dozen accommodations includes a 1947 Airporter bus done up as a “Polynesian Palace,” a 1955 Airstream, and, for the nautically inclined, a wood 1947 Chris Craft yacht. It’s the perfect retro place to rest your head after road trip hunting classic cars in the wild.


PRO TIP: Find more classic car sights in Arizona and the United States in our book, the Roadster Guide to America’s Classic Car Museums & Attractions.

IF YOU LIKED THIS POST, WHY NOT SHARE IT TO ONE OF YOUR PINTEREST BOARDS?

Alice Cooper is an Arizona Classic. The Rock-and-Roll Hall-of-Famer has achieved legendary status for his many hits like School’s Out and No More Mr. Nice Guy. He still tours for six months out of the year, with performances that are part vaudeville, part Broadway, and 100% musical thunder. In keeping with his macabre on-stage persona, he slides into a guillotine for the highlight of the show. Shocking yes, but all done with a sly wink at the audience.

Off-stage, Alice Cooper in Arizona is a reflective family man with many interests, including golf and classic cars. He is especially proud of his foundation, Solid Rock, that helps teens explore and develop their artistic talents in his hometown of Phoenix Arizona.

Note: The band was forced to cancel their 2020 tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic; check the official Alice Cooper website for the latest on 2021 tours.

Alice Cooper on stage Christmas Pudding concert
Photo credit: C. Elliott Photography

When I was a kid I was a big fan of the original Alice Cooper group and later on, Alice Cooper as a solo artist. I recently learned that Alice collects classic cars, which I just happen to write about. Our paths crossed in his hometown of Phoenix, where we conducted this interview. Alice was generous and gracious with his time and is provided an insight into Alice Cooper in Arizona.

Portions of the following interview originally appeared in the May 2019 of AAA World magazine. I’ve added a few questions that were cut from the original article for length.

Alice Cooper in Arizona with his Classic Cars

Alice Cooper in Arizona leaning on a black and gold 1966 Mustang fastback
Alice and his 1966 Shelby Hertz Mustang.

MM: How did you first get interested in cars?

Alice Cooper: I’m originally from Detroit so it’s in my DNA. I’d always sit in art class designing cars. In my teens I was at that perfect age, with all the Beach Boys songs about cars and driving. A car was your declaration of independence that also reflected who you were. You had to have something that was flashy and cool.

MM: What was your first car?

Cooper: It was a 1966 Ford Fairlane GT 390, yellow with a black stripe. The band was starting to make some money while I was in high school, so my share went into a drawer. After two years I had enough to buy it new. By this time my family had moved to Phoenix because of my asthma, so my friends and I would drive out into the desert and cut loose.

MM: You mentioned cars being in your DNA?

Cooper: My dad sold used cars on Woodward Avenue in Detroit. Unfortunately for him, he was an honest used car salesman. He would point out if the odometer had been turned back or if the car had been in an accident, so he made no money at it. When that didn’t work out he ended up selling new Plymouths so we’d get a Plymouth Fury every year, watching as the tail fins grew larger and larger. By 1958 it was a battleship.

MM: What’s a car that you pined for in your youth that you now own?

Cooper:  The 1963 Studebaker Avanti. People hated how the car looked but I liked it because it’s got this asymmetrical body and was just the weirdest car. When it came out I was 15 and thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen in my life. According to an FBI agent that I later met, the one I own was being driven by a Soviet spy when that agent arrested him, so I’ll have to hold on to that one.

Pale blue 1964 Studebaker Avanti in a car museum
This is not Alice’s Avanti. The one here was on display at the Murphy Auto Museum in Oxnard, California. It’s unique styling gives an idea of Alice’s quirky taste in cars.

MM: What cars do you own now?

Cooper: Let’s see, the ’66 Hertz Mustang signed by Carroll Shelby, a 2019 Dodge Challenger Hellcat, 2015 SRT with the shaker hood, 1963 Avanti, 2003 Mach One with a shaker hood and a 2017 Maserati convertible. That’s a great car. I’m normally an Aston-Martin guy but I drove the Aston-Martin and then I drove the Maserati and I really liked the Maserati. It’s got more power and it’s more comfortable. The Hertz runs as good as it looks, the guy who owned it was a mechanic.

Alice Cooper in Arizona standing in front of purple Dodge Challenger Hellcat
Alice’s 2019 Dodge Challenger Hellcat SRT comes with a separate red key to unlock 797 horsepower.

MM: What car would you like to add to the collection?

Cooper: I’m looking for a ’34 Ford with a coyote engine, a restomod.

PRO TIP: See our post on A Road Trip through Arizona for loads of examples of classic cars “in the wild.”

Alice Cooper on the road

MM: With a rigorous touring schedule, what are some tips for staying sane on the road?

Cooper: Travel with people you like to spend time with. For the band I pick musicians I like, they all get along, and they’re professionals. I play golf every morning; nine holes if there’s a concert or eighteen if it’s an off night. My wife Sheryl, to whom I’ve been married for 43 years, is a dancer in the show and travels with us, so I bring “home” with me.

MM: What’s an item you always travel with?

Cooper: It sounds crazy, but I always bring kung fu video tapes. I try to find obscure films like Five Golden Shaolins vs. The Army of Darkness. There are thousands of them out there. The dubbing is really bad, but the fight scenes are great, and they get me charged up for the show. Before I go on stage, I watch an hour of these.

I also throw knives to relax. It started about 10 years ago and since then I’ve become a ninja with my knives. There’s also a lot of knives and a real samurai sword in our show and the band members know when to avoid them. I tell them, ‘You’re gonna see the world, you’re gonna get paid, and you’re gonna get stitches.’ We used to do the knife fight from West Side Story in the show (sings the West Side Story riff) Da-DA-DA-da-da and we’d get into a fight. Sometimes someone would get nicked. It just wouldn’t be right to use a fake knife. The audience would hate it.

MM: You’re on the road for more than half the year. Where do you get the energy?

Cooper: In 9th grade my friend Dennis Dunaway [a co-founder of the band] talked me into going out for cross country. I didn’t know I was a distance runner until then and I ended up being a four-year letterman. That endurance still helps me. I also quit drinking 38 years ago and quit anything having to do with drugs. I never smoked cigarettes.

Once you get in front of an audience the adrenaline kicks in. It doesn’t matter if you have a migraine headache or the flu or a toothache. When the curtain goes up and the audience is there, all of that takes a back seat. You do the show and the adrenaline is making you feel pretty good. Of course, when the show is over that’s a different story.

I remember back when I was drinking, I was using a sword that was owned by Errol Flynn—I still use it in the show—and I’m waving it around and decide to stick it into the stage, but instead I stuck it right through my leg. It was spurting blood and the audience thought it was a trick that was part of the show, but the band knew it wasn’t. I pulled the sword out and there’s little puddles of blood all over the stage and honestly, no pain, nothing, until after the show, when I just collapsed. I poured whiskey on it because I figured that’s what James Bond would do.

The next day I could barely walk, but then the curtain goes up again and I’m out there like nothing happened. I’m flying, no problems at all. I still get that adrenaline burst because there are 10 or 15 thousand people out there who want Alice Cooper and I’m more than happy to give it to them. It’s nothing but fun.

Alice Cooper in Arizona: Inspiring young artists

MM: How did the Solid Rock Teen Center get started?

Cooper: While visiting a neighborhood ministry program on a full block in the heart of a gangland part of town I saw two sixteen-year-old kids doing a drug deal on the street. I thought to myself, ‘How does that kid not know he might be the best guitar player in Arizona, while the other kid might be the best drummer or the best artist?’ I thought we could run a program, just for teenagers, where they would come in and learn any instrument for free. Gang kids or the most rich kid in Paradise Valley, what do they have in common?

Music. You put them in a room together and they’re going to start talking about what music they listen to.

We started raising money for the foundation with the golf tournaments and the Christmas Pudding concert (Note: The annual fundraiser takes place in December in Phoenix. Past musical guests have included Slash, Ace Frehley, and Johnny Depp.)

Two girls working at a table in an art studio
Art studio at Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock foundation.

We’ve expanded from music performance to art and dance. We have a recording studio. We tell kids ‘Come in and discover your talent and let us help you nurture it.’ We get 100 kids a day here, from all walks of life, who come because they are going to get something out of it that could change their life. Maybe you get a kid who used to sell meth but now he’s playing guitar in a band. You don’t just change that kid, you change his family and you change his neighborhood. Nobody ever wins being in a gang. You either day or you’re in jail. Parents see this as a way out of that, and it works.

MM: What are some of the success stories?

Cooper: Our first in-house competition was won by Jordin Sparks. When she went on to win American Idol in 2007, she wore her Solid Rock bracelet the whole time.

MM: Do these kids know who you are?

Cooper: When they get here they might have heard Schools Out or they might have seen me in a movie so they go ‘Oh, that guy.’ But a lot of them have no idea who I am but they still come and that’s good because it doesn’t all depend on me, on who I am. It depends on the fact that they come because they are going to get something valuable out of spending time here. Then they wonder what’s the catch. There is none.

We use space in a church but we are not a church. We genuinely want to help them. And if they can’t play an instrument they can produce or they can get involved in our video program. These kids are so bright with technology. At 15-years-old they can do things that would take me 10 years to learn. Here they can learn how to run a recording studio and go to LA and know how to do it. So it’s vocational in a way too.

Alice Cooper on friends, golf, and nightmares

MM: You were very close friends with Glen Campbell. What was that like?

Cooper: Here’s the thing about Glen. To everyone he was just the Rhinestone Cowboy and he had his own TV variety show and he made nice records. But in the musician’s world, Glen was considered one of the top five guitar players in America and was considered the creme de la creme. Eddie Van Halen called me up one time and asked ‘Can you get me a guitar lesson with Glen?’ Every once in a while Glen would pick up his electric guitar and jump up on a stage with a blues band and they would go WHAT?!? He could sound like Mike Bloomfield. He could play anything.

MM: What would be your ultimate rock-and-roll golfing foursome?

Cooper: Dweezil Zappa, he can really play; Adrian Young, the drummer for No Doubt, he’s a scratch golfer who played in our tournament last year; Brandon Flowers from The Killers, I heard he was on a TV show challenging me to golf, and Willie Nelson, but he’s country.

MM: You’ve spent a career giving people nightmares. What scares you?

Cooper: A few years ago I was playing in Romania with my other group, The Hollywood Vampires, that includes Johnny Depp and [Aerosmith guitarist] Joe Perry. [Movie director] Tim Burton was with us. We had a day off, so they put on a special dinner for us at Dracula’s Castle. A guy dressed up like Vlad the Impaler told us all the scary stories of the old days. It was pretty crazy. It was definitely a place you wouldn’t want to spend the night.

Here’s a video of Alice Cooper in Arizona, revving up his Dodge Challenger Hellcat:

Here’s where to go for more information about Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock.

One of the more recent additions along the so-called “Mother Road” is the Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum. Located in Kingman, Arizona, the museum opened in 2014. It’s billed as “the only museum in the world devoted to electric vehicles.”

It seems fitting that Route 66, the ultimate Road Trip route, should have a car museum on it. Kingman is part of the longest continuous remaining stretch in of the original Route 66. The Powerhouse complex contains multiple attractions to augment a museum visit. In addition to the auto museum, inside you’ll fine the Kingman Visitors Center, Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona and Route 66 Museum.

electric race car, route 66 electric vehicle museum arizona
The electric-powered Buckeye Bullet

The birth of the Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum

The Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum is the brainchild of Roderick Wilde. Wilde founded the Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation with support from the city of Kingman. A long-time proponent of electric propulsion, Wilde started racing electric vehicles in 1993 at Phoenix International Raceway. In 1995, he and his business partner Bob Rickard built what is considered the first all-electric hot rod. They fabricated the canary-yellow car, which is now in the museum, on a 1929 Ford Roadster.

Bright yellow street rod with battery engine
Looks like a classic street rod . . . until you peek under the hood

En route to the electric cars, visitors detour through the Route 66 Museum. This museum highlights the history of the historic road. View exhibits from its days as the National Old Trails Highway up through mid-century. with a 1950 Studebaker Champion parked outside a reproduction Richfield service station. The museum exits via descent into an indoor basketball court-sized space to see the electric cars. Due to the relatively tight quarters, Wilde can only display 30 cars at any one time. The museum’s has almost 1,0 cars in its collection. One of the goals is to find larger space to showcase the entire collection.

Light color brick powerhouse building with cars parked out front
The Powerhouse, home of the Route 66 Electric Vehicle museum; photo courtesy of Jared via Flickr

Electric Cars & a Need for Speed (sort of)

You can view both former and current electric vehicle technology at the museum.

A 1930 Detroit Electric represents “what might have been” for the future of automotive propulsion. It was powered by 14 (count em!) 6-volt Edison batteries. Thanks to all this “power,” it reached a top speed of 20 mph. Not exactly ground-breaking, but batteries were in their infancy back then. Who knows what efficiencies and technological improvements might have been achieved with greater development funding?

White Detroit Electric Antique car
Hard to believe there were electric cars 90 years ago

Flash forward about 80 years. Ohio State University students built the Buckeye Bullet 2.5 racecar (also on display). Because it was powered by lithium-ion batteries, the the car could go much faster than than it’s ancestor from the 1930s. The Buckeye Bullet zipped up to a staggering 320 mph (!) at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 2011.

Sleek electric race car, route 66 electric vehicle museum arizona
Not hard to believe this beauty can reach speeds of over 300 mph!

Not so speedy, but they work . . .

Because electric vehicles represent an alternate energy source, they’ve taken a few detours finding practical application.

One of Wilde’s favorite pieces in the collection is the Custer Chair, manufactured between 1919 and 1933. As the name implies, it resembles a motorized tricycle version of a wheelchair. Since few survived World War II scrap metal drives, the model on display here is a rarity.

Luzern Custer developed the Custer Chair. His friend and business neighbor in Dayton, Ohio–Orville Wright–inspired his invention. Custer also produced four-wheel versions of the chair. Because of its diminutive size, Wilde describes the Custer as “the smallest street-licensed vehicle ever made. The license plate is wider than the front of the car!” Not surprisingly, many Custers were later sold as amusement park rides.

A rare example of a Custer Chair

Not so speedy . . . but they’re fun!

You can find many electric vehicles out and about . . . if you know where to look. Due to their small batteries and low speeds, the majority are golf carts. Here, they are represented in style with two tricked-out versions from country music greats: Waylon & Willie. Willie Nelson’s 1981 Rolls-Royce themed golf cart comes complete with an on-board wet bar. And why wouldn’t you stitch “Willie” on the crushed velvet seats? Sitting right alongside it, Waylon Jennings’ Mercedes-Benz-themed model seems almost tame by comparison.

Red golf cart with Rolls Royce front grille
Willie’s “Rolls” & Waylon’s “Benz” electric golf carts

Electric cars on Route 66

But the museum is much more than one-off racecars and quirky golf carts. If you follow the automotive industry you know that electric vehicles are very much the wave of the future. The Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum gives us a glimpse into cars that paved the way for today’s Teslas and Chevy Volts and the like.

In 1959 and 1960 Henney Motor Company produced the Henney Kilowatt. US-based Henney Motor Company built the cars using Renault Daphine bodies. Henney delivered a few dozen Kilowatts were to utility companies for promotional purposes, but the line never sparked much interest. Despite low-wattage sales, its transistor-based electric technology was a precursor to electric vehicles like GM’s EV1.

Henney Kilowatt electric car at the museum on route 66
The midcentury Henney Kilowatt

Fun Fact: Henney Motor Company invented first electric-powered casket mover—a niche market it there ever was one.

Moving up to the 1990s, we can see two odd-looking cars that demonstrate the evolution of the three-wheeled Personal Electric Vehicle (PEV). A Danish 1993 Citycom City El Targa had a range of 30 miles with a top speed of 35 mph. Corbin produced the turquoise Sparrow sitting next to it Ohio from 1999 through 2003. With an MSRP of $29,999 its range expanded to 40 miles with a top speed of 70 mph. Due to its sinewy lines, it earned the nickname the “Jelly Bean.”

Electric cars at the route 66 electric vehicle museum
A pretty lil’ turquoise Corbin Sparrow, with a red City El Targa just beyond

What’s next . . .

The Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum explores the possibilities of electric propulsion for the future. As recent announcements from the Big 3 automakers show, “Detroit” and “Electric” can once again be uttered in the same sentence. Tesla continues to make progress, and the technology appears to finally be emerging from its former role as a quirky sidecar to the mainstream automotive industry. The industry’s eccentric forbears warrant a visit.

After your visit, stroll across the Mother Road to Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner. The retro café has a few classics parked out front, including a wedge-shaped electric circa 1980 Comuta-Car and a decidedly non-electric 1954 Chevy pickup truck.

old chevy pickup, bright blue, with funny electric car in background
The “Tow Mater”-like chevy pickup is definitely NOT electric!

If you’re hankering to see more of Route 66, check out our Route 66 in Arizona post! And if you really love classic cars, check out our Road Trip Through Arizona post, where we showcase classic cars “in the wild”!

IF YOU LIKED THIS POST, WHY NOT SHARE IT TO ONE OF YOUR PINTEREST BOARDS?