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INSIDE: See the best of the Grand Canyon State with our hand-picked guide of 30+ things to visit in Arizona. Awesome scenery, funky towns, & more!

Planning a vacation in Arizona can be a daunting process. You know there are certain *must-see* items on your list . . . I’m gonna go out on a limb & assume the Grand Canyon is one of them 😊.

But what else should you see? It’s a big state and there are SO MANY options!

On top of that, you might be juggling multiple interests and age groups−like those tweens who would rather stay home and watch Tik Tok videos. You may be thinking, “where do I even START?” Don’t despair, we’re here to help . . .

. . . and we’ve put together this hand-picked list to get you started.

We’ve spent years traveling in Arizona. This list is based on places we’ve seen and recommended, things to visit in Arizona that always deliver. Heck, the Grand Canyon has been “delivering” for millions of years 🤩. But not everything is quite that old.

We’ve divided them up into some general categories, so feel free to bounce around to find what’s most of interest to you. (You can also use the handy Table of Contents to jump directly to the item you want.)

Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, history buff or an adventure-seeker, you’re bound to find something that suits you in this list of fascinating things to visit in Arizona. Start planning your Arizona Journey today!

Top Arizona Tourist Spots

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon tops the list of things to visit in Arizona

Come on-you KNEW I was going to start with this one, didn’t you?

No trip to Arizona would be complete without visiting the iconic Grand Canyon. The state’s official nickname is even “The Grand Canyon State.” (Spoiler alert: you’ll see it on most of the state license plates 🙃)

It truly is a must-see wonder of the world. I was literally speechless for 10 minutes the first time I saw it. (And me being speechless for 10 minutes is a wonder of the world all by itself. 🤣)

Grand Canyon National Park boasts awe-inspiring views and OODLES of outdoor activities, including hiking, rafting, and camping. I, for one, could spend hours just gazing at the majesty of it all. (And I have!)

Since it is one of the top Arizona tourist spots, the Grand Canyon can get super-crowded in summer. Spring and fall are excellent times to visit, with mild temperatures and less crowds. Take a look at our post on visiting the Grand Canyon in November for more off-season tips.

Saguaro National Park

When you think “Arizona” and “desert,” what’s the first thing that pops into your head? I’ll bet it’s a saguaro cactus 🌵. And Southern Arizona is the only place in the United States where these gentle (but prickly) giants grow.

Saguaro National Park, near Tucson, is one of THE sites to see in Arizona.

This desert sanctuary is packed to the gills with saguaros (which, btw are America’s largest cacti . . . many are 30-45 feet tall!), as well as all sorts of other desert plants and wildlife.

Viewing platform at Saguaro National Park-one of the things to visit in Arizona
Saguaro National Park is one of the sites to see in Arizona

On our last hike there we witnessed a massive Chihuahuan Raven soaring above the desert floor in search of its next meal. We spotted it after first hearing the “whoosh whoosh” of its wings. So majestic!

Saguaro National Park is divided into two sections, one east of Tucson, the other to the west. Both offer some of the best Tucson hikes -including accessible trails for those with mobility concerns.

Rugged (meaning you’ll have to hike to it!), high-altitude camping is available in the eastern (Rincon Mountain) section. In an ironic twist, all of the campgrounds are above the altitude where saguaros grow. But you’ll see some beautiful speciments on the way in up and out down! 🌵⛰️

Monument Valley

If you’ve ever watched a car ad on TV chances are you’ve seen Monument Valley. This Navajo Tribal Park on the Arizona/Utah border is famous for its majestic and unique sandstone formations . . . a few of which look like giant stone hands! 🤚🏼🤚🏼

This wind-carved masterpiece with iconic red rock formations is one of the more popular Arizona tourist spots. It’s also the place where multiple old western movies were filmed. 🏜️

Drive or hike through to experience glorious sunrises and paintbrush sunsets (being sure to follow designated routes on this sacred Navajo land).

Four Corners Monument

kneeling in 4 states at once is one of the top things to visit in Arizona
Four Corners Monument is one of the top things to visit in Arizona

Geography geek alert! 🤓 Stand in four states at once: Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado. I LOVED it.

This is the ONLY place in the United States where you can experience this. Fortunately, the monument is a large open plaza, with a big ol’ plaque in the ground for the state border. So you can stand, sit (or even lay down) in four states at once. 🧭

Four Corners is located on Navajo land; there are displays of indigenous culture and art surrounding the geographical marker for you to appreciate and enjoy.

Anyone who’s intrigued by geographic anomalies (like moi 👋) should definitely put this on their list of things to visit in Arizona.

PRO TIP: Check out our 4 Corners & Monument Valley road trip for places to see in Arizona!

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend is one of the most popular Arizona tourist spots

Horseshoe Bend is that dramatic U-shaped bend in the Colorado River that’s an Instagram darling. It used to be fairly unknown, but now it’s one of the must-see Arizona tourist spots.

See incredible views, perched high above the river before it winds its way down to the Grand Canyon. (Just promise me you’ll stay behind the railing-that sandstone is pretty crumbly 😳.)

Horseshoe Bend is one of the great things to do in Page Arizona. Check out our list of more!

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

If you love Wild West history, watching the live dramatization of the famous gunfight in Tombstone is definitely one of the sites to see in Arizona. This short performance (it’s only about 15 mintues long), which is re-enacted several times daily, is a raw slice of the wild west. 🤠

Reenactment of the gunfight at the OK corral in Tombstone az-things to visit in arizona
Gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone is one of the places to see in Arizona

When I first went there I expected it to be a little hokey, and I suppose if you’re cynical it can be. But the I realized where I was: Right. There. Where it really happened. Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday strode around this very spot. Apaches raced their horses through the hills surrounding town.

You are smack-dab in the Wild West. When you let that history roll over you, you can feel the tension of the legendary gunfight echoing off weathered walls. And even in that desert heat you’ll get chills.

Taliesin West: Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio

Taliesin West is one of the things to visit in Arizona for architecture fans

Anyone who is interested in architecture must visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and architecture school in Scottsdale. Taliesin West is an architectural masterpiece, one that has stood the test of time like so many of Wright’s works.

Positioned in the Arizona desert, it seamlessly integrates indoor and outdoor spaces, reflecting Wright’s organic architecture concept. Driving up the hill to the entrance, you don’t even see the building, it seems to blend right into the landscape!

Wright definitely loved the horizontal, so you won’t find soaring spaces. Sometimes I wish the ceilings were a little higher to capitalize on those magnificent desert views. But there’s no denying his structures are unique and memorable, and Taliesin West is certainly one of the places to see in Arizona.

PRO TIP: If you like Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, be sure to check out the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, which he also designed. Stop into the Wright Bar and have one of their signature Tequila Sunrises, which was invented right there.

Route 66 in Arizona

Giant arrows in desert ground along route 66 in Arizona
Plenty of sites to see in Arizona along Route 66

Driving Route 66 through the Grand Canyon state is an experience that strings together multiple sites to see in Arizona. You’ll witness a combination of midcentury history and iconic scenery on a Route 66 road trip.

Along this iconic journey you’ll see vibrant vintage towns, such as Winslow, with it’s Standing on the Corner park (yep, from the hit song Take it Easy.) Route 66 passes right through Petrified Forest National Park, one of the many Arizona national parks & monuments worth exploring.

Chow down in vintage diners, and lay your weary head at one of the fabulous retro motels and hotels along Route 66 in Arizona. We’ve driven this route multiple times and somehow all that vintage charm never gets old 😊.

Things to visit in Arizona: Natural Wonders

Petrified Forest National Park

view of painted desert-reddish hills covered in bits of greenery-things to do in Arizona
The Painted Desert is one of the places to see in Arizona, in Petrified Forest National Park

Getting two parks for the price of one makes Petrified Forest National Park one of the great things to visit in Arizona. It features colourful petrified wood, ancient fossils, and Painted Desert vistas.

The northern half features the stunning views of the Painted Desert, where the rock mounds look striped in a variety of colors. (These get even more intense at either sunrise or sunset!)

Then, as you continue the park drive southward, you come upon petrified wood, rock art and fossils. It’s a journey back to prehistoric times.

PRO TIP: Petrified Forest National Park is right along Route 66, so it makes a great stop or detour from a Route 66 road trip.

Chiricahua National Monument

Chiricahua National Monument is a must among Arizona tourist spots

Imagine some other-worldly landscape like something out of a Star Wars movie, then plunk it into an Arizona forest. That’ll give you an idea of what Chiricahua National Monument is like. (btw, in case you’re wondering, it’s pronounced “cheer-ih-COW-ah” 😊)

I couldn’t wait to visit this park in the southeastern part of Arizona, and I was NOT disappointed.

The park is tucked into an almost hidden valley deep in the mountains. Take a scenic drive and/or hike through miles of towering rock formations and eerie hoodoos in a world untouched by time.

It’s breathtaking, and, in my opinion, one of the things to visit in Arizona that you should not miss.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Southern Arizona is cactus country, no doubt about that. After you’ve had your fill of saguaros, it’s worth taking a drive just a bit farther southwest to see the rare organ pipe cactus. The multiple spiky spires are magnificent to see.

Organ Pipe National Monument is the only place in the US where these magnificent cacti grow. And it is totally worth a trip!

organ pipe cactus against a backdrop of rocks at organ pipe cactus NM-places to see in Arizona
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is among the most beautiful Arizona tourist spots

It’s a bit of a scavenger hunt finding the cacti at first, because they tend to grow on south-facing rocky soil. But once you know where to look you see organ pipes everywhere!

The cacti are on view all year round, but I recommend visiting in spring, when the Arizona wildflowers are in full bloom. The combination of the majestic organ pipe cactus surrounded by a field of poppies is a sight to behold.

PRO TIP: There are plenty of things to to in Ajo, AZ, making it a great base for your visit to Organ Pipe. It’s a cute former mining town that’s now got an artsy vibe.

Sedona‘s Red Rocks

Known for its vibrant art scene and natural beauty, Sedona offers stunning Red Rock landscapes that are perfect for hiking, mountain biking, or simply soaking up the scenery.

Red rocks of Sedona in the fall-evening "golden hour" light, with evergreens in the foreground-sites to see in Arizona
Magnificent red rocks of Sedona are some of the places to see in Arizona

No matter where you go, there’s a magnificent vista of red rocks in unique formations, carpeted with greenery, all against the backdrop of a crystal blue sky. Even if you’re not a big hiker, try to get out into nature around here just a bit. The views are breathtaking.

This scenery has been attracting artists for decades, so there are lots of wonderful galleries and cultural events year-round. On our last visit we saw a fabulous plein air (outdoor) painting festival . . . gorgeous!

And there’s something spiritual about all this natural beauty. No matter what your belief, Sedona has something for everyone, from vespers to vortexes.

NOTE: Sedona is one of the top Arizona tourist spots, so it can get crowded during summers and weekends. Check out our list of things to do in Sedona in the fall for options during off-peak season.

Antelope Canyon

Even if you’ve never heard of Antelope Canyon chances are you’ve seen photos of its smooth sandstone walls and mystic light beams.

This hidden gem nestled deep within Navajo land is one of the things to in Page, Arizona, not far from famous Horseshoe Bend. (I was astounded that this magnificent place was practically hiding in plain sight so close to town!)

Walk through narrow paths as sunbeams pierce the canyon’s apex, casting ethereal light patterns, painting a magical canvas that changes with every passing hour. It’s certainly great for photographers, but I was also content to just stand there and absorb it all in wonder.

PRO TIP: Antelope Canyon is on Navajo land; visitors can only see it on a sanctioned Navajo-led tour. Access is limited-be sure to book in advance.

Mogollon Rim

If you’re a geology geek, you’ll love Mogollon Rim. This is one of those BIG sites to see in Arizona: spectacular 2,000-foot high escarpment, stretching across the landscape in the eastern part of the state.

My observation upon first seeing this geological wonder was a (highly scientific), “WHOA!”

“Rim Country,” as it’s known, offers breathtaking vistas and a plethora of outdoor adventures. Experience the thrill of hiking or biking along its numerous trails, or immerse yourself in the serenity of camping under starlit skies. 🌌

Fishing enthusiasts, will find some of the best lakes in Arizona along the Mogollon Rim. The nearby town of Payson offers shopping and some historic sights, including the cabin of famous western writer, Zane Grey.

Unique Historic Sites to See in Arizona

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

This park, deep in Navajo land in northeastern Arizona, offers insight into Native American culture and history. It is one of 18 Arizona National Monuments (the most National Monuments that any state has!)

The timeless beauty of Canyon de Chelly reveals ancient rock formations and prehistoric cliff dwellings that weave a tapestry of indigenous history and culture.

Canyon de Chelly is one of those places to see in Arizona that somehow manages to be out in the open, yet tucked away all at once. I’m always fascinated by the sophistication of these ancient peoples . . . and their tenacity! What an incredible legacy they’ve left behind. 😊

Explore the panoramic vistas via a series of drives around the canyon rims, or hike the trails on a Ranger-led expedition. Those looking to probe deeper can descend into the canyon’s depth by prior arrangement. (Imagine riding horses down here–that’ll certainly give you a sense of the history and majesty of this special place.)

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Montezuma Castle in AZ-view of cliff dwellings as seen from a distance-high up in the cliff
Montezuma Castle: one of the historic things to visit in Arizona

Explore this well-preserved cliff dwelling and imagine the life of the Sinagua people who lived here centuries ago. Montezuma Castle National Monument immerses visitors in the region’s ancient history. For lovers of history (particularly Native American history), this is one of the sites to see in Arizona.

This astonishing five-story, 20-room cliff dwelling-built 100 feet up into the cliff face 😱 is a testament to the ingenuity of the Sinagua people who inhabited these walls . . . over 800 years ago. (I’m not sure how you’d build something like this today, much less waaaay back then!)

Unlike Canyon de Chelly (above), Montezuma Castle is an easy day trip from Phoenix, or a great side trip if you’re spending time in Sedona.

Lastly, there’s a BONUS! 🤩 About 10 minutes up the road lies another magnificent (and related) site: Montezuma Well. Also used by the Sinagua people, this large body of water sunken into the top of a hill is a marvel to behold. This National Monument site is free to visit and is rarely crowded-an underrated nugget just waiting for your discovery!

Glen Canyon Dam

View of glen canyon dam with bridge in front, taken 3/4 mile away at glen canyon overlook-arizona tourist spots
Glen Canyon Dam is an engineering marvel | Things to visit in Arizona

Glen Canyon Dam is a great place to balance a love of nature with an appreciation for all that humans can achieve. This massive structure near Page, AZ, holds back the mighty Colorado River to create the reservoir of Lake Powell, and all the recreational areas associated with it.

Learn all about the dam’s function and construction at the Carl Hayden Visitor Center, located right on sight. You’ll learn (among other things) that the dam is a whopping 710 feet high 😲 (just a few feet shorter than Hoover Dam).

For a unique viewpoint, head about a mile south to the Glen Canyon Dam Overlook, where you’ll get stunning view of the Dam to the north, and the canyon that feeds into Horseshoe Bend to the south. It’s a locals’ hack (and it’s totally free!). 🙌

Wupatki National Monument

Yup, more ruins from ancient peoples, only this time they’re out on the plains instead of tucked into a cliff somewhere.

At Wupatki National Monument, you’ll discover a series of ancient Puebloan ruins, rising up from the rugged Arizona landscape out in the open. It’s a blend of ancient history and natural beauty. Compared to cliff dwellings they seem so unprotected, but they are SO beautiful!

The fact that so much of these red sandstone structures still remain is a testimonial to the sophistication of these ancient peoples.

Wupatki is located just north of the town of Flagstaff, and is among the fascinating historic places to see in Arizona.

Tumacácori National Historical Park

For history buffs, the mission at Tumacacori is one of the sites to see in Arizona

Wander through the historic park featuring the ruins of three Spanish mission communities. Immerse in history at Tumacacori National Historical Park, located in Arizona’s lush Santa Cruz Valley south of Tucson.

Marvelously preserved remnants of three Spanish colonial missions showcase exquisite architectural styles from the 18th-century. The traditional orchards and farmlands along the river give insight on how this spot has housed some of America’s earliest settlers.

These sacred structures, including the historic Mission San José de Tumacácori, stand as a testament to the convergence of Spanish and indigenous O’odham cultures.

Lowell Observatory

Learn about the universe at this historic observatory in Flagstaff. Located in Northern Arizona, the distinguished Lowell Observatory offers boundless celestial exploration. It rests under the region’s dark skies, providing unobstructed views of the cosmos.

It is historically significant as the site where the former planet Pluto was first discovered in 1930! 🪐 (yes, I know that’s a “saturn” emoji, but that’s the only one available 🤷‍♀️)

The observatory continues to be a hub for astronomical research and public education, utilizing advanced telescopes to study and share the mysteries of the universe. If you’re a space geek, star gazer or just like

Places to See in Arizona: Museums & Attractions

Desert Botanical Garden

Witness the incredible diversity of desert plants at this Phoenix-based garden. Immerse yourself in Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden, an oasis showcasing nature’s resilient beauty. This is one the the top Arizona tourist spots for plant lovers.

Wander through scintillating exhibits such as the Wildflower Loop, teeming with vibrant blooms. Feel the tranquility of the Trees of the World exhibit, introducing foreign flora. Discover the Sonoran Desert Nature Loop Trail, revealing desert’s captivating biodiversity. Marvel at whimsical butterfly displays at the seasonal Butterfly Pavilion.

Learn from the Plants & People of the Sonoran Desert exhibit that emphasizes human and plant interdependence.

Standing on the Corner Park

Statue of folk singer with front of ford pickup in foreground, Winslow Arizona route 66
To rock n’ roll fans, Standing on the Corner Park is a must among places to visit in Arizona

Standing on the Corner Park in Winslow, Arizona is an iconic homage to the Eagles’ hit song “Take it Easy”. The lyrics, “Well, I’m standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona“, captured the essence of a free-wheeling life, forever placing this small town in northern Arizona on the rock n’ roll map.

The park, featuring murals and statues (and, of course, a flatbed Ford! 🛻 ) breathes life into the song, encapsulating the timeless spirit of Jackson Browne’s lyrics.

It’s a pilgrimage site for fans; a stop here is like stepping into a verse of the song. And the fact that Winslow is right on Route 66 just sweetens the pot 😍. If you love rock and roll, this should be on your list of places to see in Arizona.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

A raptor takes flight at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

Come here for 3 museums in one: part zoo, part botanical garden and part natural history museum all combine for one immersive experience. Experience the breathtaking beauty of Arizona’s natural landscapes at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum outside of Tucson. This living museum combines zoological, botanical, and geological exhibits, offering a unique fusion of zoo, garden, and outdoor gallery.

Popular highlights include the Raptor Free Flight outdoor bird shows, unique animal inhabitants like (adorably ugly) javelina and quirky coati, and the Cactus Garden with its vibrant desert flora. Enjoy the exquisite Hummingbird Aviary, and marvel at the diversity of life in the walk-through aviary. Immerse yourself in the Earth Sciences Center with its captivating mineral exhibition.

Uncover the secrets of the Sonoran Desert and enjoy the best of Arizona’s natural world. Best of all, it’s literally just down the road from Saguaro National Park, making a it great companion place to visit on the same day-Win-Win! 🙌

Musical Instrument Museum 🎶

If you’re a music lover, this should definitely be on your list of things to visit in Arizona! Phoenix’s Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) is an immersive experience into music from around the world.

SPOILER ALERT: This is one honkin’ (see what I did there?😉) museum! You may need 2 days to see everything here! (We totally did!)

Marvel at the Artist Gallery, where you’ll see exhibits and relics from a wide range of musicians, such as Buddy Rich’s drum set, Pablo Casal’s cello and Roberta Flack’s grand piano (along with a stunning pink dress!). If this has you itching to play some tunes visit the “Experience Gallery” where visitors can play global instruments.

But wait, there’s more! MIM captures heartbeats of various cultures, from a Stradivarius violin 🎻 to ancient Asian gongs. With 7,000 instruments from 200 countries, MIM entertains, educates and inspires. One visit will take you on a worldwide, rhythmic journey, without leaving Phoenix.

Arizona Plane Graveyard (The Tucson “Boneyard”)

Tailfins at Arizona plane graveyard, including coast guard plane
Love airplanes? Then the Boneyard should be one of the places to see in Arizona!

Plane Geek Alert! (that’s me!) Take more than 3,000 surplus military aircraft, plunk them down in the desert for storage and you’ve got the Tucson Boneyard.

This is the world’s largest collection of planes and they’re all “hiding in plane plain sight” at Davis Monthan Air Force Base just outside of Tucson. It’s a sight to behold for plane geeks everywhere (totally raising my hand here 🤓!).

Due to security measures, tours are no longer permitted on base. However, you CAN still see the planes using local roads. . . if you know where look. Check out our guide to seeing the Arizona Plane Graveyard, which has handy maps and viewing tips. This is one of the sites to see in Arizona that you won’t find anywhere else.

Best Places to See in Arizona: Cities & Towns

Scottsdale

Scottsdale is a city teeming with art, culture, and history, and makes a great base for a vacation in Ariozna.

Visit its numerous museums, art galleries, or enjoy fine dining at sophisticated restaurants. There are plenty of Arizona tourist spots in or near Scottsdale, including Taleisin West (see above).

Known for its vibrant art scene, indulge in the stunning displays at Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, which is a Smithsonian affiliate. Keeping with the western theme, explore the charm of Old Town, brimming with unique shops, galleries, and delightful dining experiences.

Sports lovers will enjoy Major League Baseball Spring Training, world-class golf, and terrific hiking in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

Scottsdale, a blend of natural splendor and cultivated sophistication, promises a memorable escape.

Jerome

Once a bustling mining town, Jerome offers a quirky mix of history, horror (through its haunted buildings), and artistry with numerous galleries.

Part of what makes Jerome unique is its location: perched high on a hill, overlooking expansive desert landscapes (and Sedona’s famous Red Rocks.) It’s a little bit of a nail-biter driving up 😬 . . . my husband didn’t see the views-he was too busy focused on driving the twisty road. Make sure you’ve got a designated driver if you decide to do a pub crawl.

Or better yet, spend the night at the funky (and slightly spooky 👻) Grand Hotel for an unforgettable experience.

This historic copper mining town invites you to explore its fascinating past at the Gold King Mine Museum, the Jerome State Historic Park, and the vibrant art galleries all promise an unforgettable sightseeing experience, making it one of the cool places to see in Arizona.

Flagstaff

Flagstaff is known for its historic downtown, vibrant music scene, and access to outdoor activities like hiking, skiing, camping, and more.

This vibrant town on Route 66 offers a blend of rustic charm and urban sophistication. The historic downtown serves up an eclectic mix of dining, shopping, and culture (and some awesome breakfast spots!)

Just outside of town is the iconic Lowell Observatory (see above), while in about 90 minutes you can experience the breathtaking marvel of the Grand Canyon.

Flagstaff’s high elevation (7,000 feet!) keeps it cool in summer and makes it one of the places to see in Arizona for snow sports in the winter months. ❄️☃️

Bisbee

Places to see in Arizona: the former mining town of Bisbee

Bisbee is nestled in the Mule Mountains in the southeastern part of the state, and is a funky and charming Arizona small town.

Anyone interested in vibrant art scene should make it one of the things to visit in Arizona. There are local boutiques, art galleries and events taking place year-round.

Spoiler alert: the town is truly tucked into the mountains and is very hilly. It’s famous for its many stairs!

The town is filled with elegant victorian architecture from its mining days. Today the now-defunct Queen Mine makes a fascinating tour, with its labyrinthine tunnels and vast open pit on the edge of town.

Proximity to the town of Tombstone (OK Corral) and Chiricahua National Monument make it an excellent base for exploring this part of Arizona.

Tucson

The state’s second-largest city is definitely one of the places to see in Arizona. Tucson is a sunny city (300 days of sunshine per year 😎) offering a rich blend of cultures, architectural styles, world-class gastronomy, and a fascinating history.

As the location of the renowned University of Arizona, Tucson has sophistication and culture you’d expect to find in a much larger city. There are many unique things to do in Tucson.

The area is rich in history, and FOOD . . . Yowza! The area has been cultivated for 4,000 years, creating a food heritage so unique that Tucson was the first city in the US to be recognized by UNESCO for its gastronomy.

Ringed by four different mountain ranges, Tucson has plenty of desert, forest and wide open spaces to appeal to nature lovers (including Saguaro National Park.)

On top of all that it’s home to the Tucson Boneyard (see above), a collection of military aircraft that will intrigue any planespotter on the planet. (Full disclosure: it’s the reason I first visited 😍.)

Page

Page is a small town in northern Arizona that’s the gateway to Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Lake Powell. It’s located in the captivating beauty of the high desert and makes a great base for exploring this part of the state.

The town was created during the building of nearby Glen Canyon Dam, and has grown into a center for seeing the many Arizona tourist spots in this part of the state.

In addition to the many things to in Page AZ, the town has great proximity to several nearby Arizona national parks and monuments. The North and South Rims of the Grand Canyon are near enough for a (long) day trip. As are Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park in Utah.

Even with access to all these other parks, I found myself enjoying Page for the things right in and around town. The scenery is stunning and the air is clear. It’s a great place to hang out and just enjoy being in Arizona.

Prescott

Prescott Courthouse in background, compass rose on pavement in front, arizona small towns
The courthouse in the center of Prescott’s beautiful town squarethings to visit in Arizona

If you looked up “charming small town” in the dictionary you might see a photo of Prescott. It really is that cute.

The central town square with courthouse in the middle looks like something from central casting. (Remember the old Back to the Future movies?) The square is ringed by Victorian-era buildings filled with shops, restaurants and art galleries.

For even more fun (and darn tootin’ authenticity), one side of the square is dubbed “Whiskey Row,” lined with saloons left over from the town’s Wild West days. (And yup, America’s oldest rodeo is just a few blocks north, pardner 🤠.)

Prescott is located in the state’s central highlands, about 100 miles northwest of Phoenix, amid pristine national forests at mile-high altitude. It’s one of the places to see in Arizona that will remind you that this was the Arizona Territory long before it became a state.

Phoenix

I couldn’t finish this list of things to visit in Arizona without including Phoenix. Arizona’s largest city (and the 5th-largest in the US) is a sun-drenched metropolis enchanting visitors with sky-high palm trees, rugged mountains, and a vibrant arts scene.

Phoenix beckons with world-class museums, major league sports teams and beautiful resorts. Although there are many attractions through the sprawling valley of the sun, there are also plenty of things to do in downtown Phoenix to keep any visitor happy.

With excellent flight service through Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and a location in the central part of the state, Phoenix makes an excellent spot to start and finish an Arizona road trip exploring the state.

Or, you could park yourself at one of Phoenix’s 5-star resorts and just soak up the sunshine 🌞. Either way, you can go wrong.

In conclusion, Arizona’s rich offering of historical sites, natural wonders, cultural experiences, and vibrant cities make it a uniquely diverse destination. An essential stop for any discerning traveler seeking an unforgettable journey through America’s entrancing southwest region.

FAQ

What is the number one attraction in Arizona?

standing at an overlook of the Grand Canyon November

According to the Arizona Office of Tourism, the number one attraction in Arizona is the Grand Canyon

What do people visit Arizona for?

People visit Arizona for stunning natural beauty, fascinating history, world-class resorts and cuisine, top-notch sports and adventure, all with the state’s fabulous weather. Arizona truly has something for everyone!

What is the most frequently visited attractions in Arizona?

According to tourism.az.gov, the top ten Arizona attractions by attendance (as of its last census) are:
1. The Grand Canyon
2. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
3. State Farm Stadium in Glendale (Super Bowl and other major sporting events)
4. Phoenix Zoo
5. Lake Mead National Recreation Area
6. Saguaro National Park
7. Lake Pleasant Regional Park
8. Petrified Forest National Park
9. Desert Botanical Garden
10. Lake Havasu State Park

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SUMMARY: A visit to this charming former mining town in southwest Arizona makes a delightful getaway. We share 17 things to do in Ajo AZ.

Ajo was such a pleasant surprise! An Arizona small town that manages to embrace its past while still looking to its future in creative ways.

My introduction to Ajo began at the coffee shop on the plaza. Not the usual line of zombies waiting for their morning caffeine infusion–this crowd was only semi-comatose. The barista was keeping things lively by asking if anyone had some spare wood she could use for her latest art project.

In between grinding beans and frothing milk she a found sculptor who had some leftover wood in his studio (she was an expert multi-tasker). Problem solved, she got back to making coffees in earnest, whipping up “the usual” for customers who’d brought their own travel mugs.

When I picked up my “un-usual” (in that she didn’t know me), I apologized for not having any wood for her project (or, for that matter, my own travel mug). She smiled and said “it’s all good–welcome to Ajo!”

I decided I was going to like it here . . .

A Little Background on Ajo Arizona

front view of Curley School in Ajo AZ-1916 Spanish revival building

Ajo is one of our new favorite Arizona small towns! It’s located in southwestern Arizona, not far from Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

If you’ve ever driven down to Rocky Point (aka Puerto Penasco, Mexico), chances are you’ve driven right through Ajo–perhaps without stopping. I know several folks with a house in Rocky Point who have never. stopped. And they’ve totally been missing out. 🤷‍♀️

Because, as you’ll see, there’s a lot more to Ajo than just a traffic light & a pit stop!

How Ajo got Started

Ajo has been known as a mining town since the 1700’s, when Spaniards mined first mined silver in the area. Scientific studies eventually indicated there was more copper in them thar hills, so industrious miners switched gears.

Through most of the 20th century the New Cornelia Mine became one of the largest open-pit copper mines in the world. Dropping copper prices and a bitter strike eventually caused the mine to close in the 1980s, and Ajo has been working to re-invent itself ever since.

Why is Ajo Arizona called Ajo?

Long before the arrival of the Spaniards, the area was inhabited by native peoples. They mixed up a red body paint made from the copper-rich soil, calling it “au’auho,” which became “Ajo.”

Today, Ajo is has become a charming artist’s enclave, with several programs to welcome and encourage the arts, thanks to groups like the International Sonoran Desert Alliance. So a name that means “red body PAINT” seems totally fitting! 🎨🖌️

Whether you are looking for a weekend getaway from Phoenix or Tucson, or are just passing through on your way to Pureto Penasco, take some time to explore the many fun things to do in Ajo!

PRO TIP: Ajo is only a 2-hour drive from either Phoenix or Tucson–it makes a great weekend getaway!

1-12: Things to Do in Ajo AZ

A colorful past and even more colorful (artistic metaphor!) future, coupled with its location amid spectacular Sonoran Desert scenery means there will be plenty of things to do in Ajo for just about everyone!

Arched portico of ajo plaza with tiled cupola above-things to do in ajo az

1-Ajo Plaza

Any visit to Ajo should begin here. This magnificent Spanish Colonial Revival plaza forms the core of the town, filled with park benches and shaded by palms. It’s fronted on 3 sides by a blinding white arched portico–providing a perfect shady spot from the Arizona sun.

2-The Flagpole

Okay, this might seem like an odd entrant in a list of “things to do in Ajo,” but humor me on this. The flagpole in the center of the plaza forms the focal point that anchored the town layout.

Ajo was planned in 1914 to create a pleasant place for miners to live. So . . .no standard “grid” for the fine people of Ajo–no siree.

Instead, streets radiate out from the central axis like “the wings of a bird,” with two similarly white churches anchoring those wings. Pretty cool, huh?

3-Visit the Historic Train Depot (Ajo Visitor Center)

Look for the tiled coupola at the far end of the plaza–this once housed Ajo’s train depot. But, in the words of Warren Zevon, “the train don’t run by here no more,” so the depot has been converted to Ajo’s Visitor Center.

Inside, you’ll be able to see vestiges of the former train station, as well as get information about the town and regional attractions. The folks in there are friendly and helpful. (No word on whether they can help you out with materials for your latest art project 😊)

4-Take a Historic Walking Tour

One of the helpful bits of information you’ll get at the Visitor Center is a handy map of Ajo’s Historic District, pointing out significant buildings and landmarks. This is a great way to get your bearings and view the town’s unique layout from different perspectives.

The tour is roughly 1/2 mile long, and will take you 20-30 minutes.

5-Check Out Artists Alley

Beyond the Murals highlighted on the art tour, you can seed additional creative works lining the walls of this alley behind the plaza.

You know a town is values artistic expression when the alleys sport colorful designs!

wall mural in ajo az-coyote and desert design with words "artists alley-Ajo, AZ" surrounding design

6-Explore Curley School Art Complex

As you’re exploring the town and it’s unique layout, you can’t help but notice that cool old domed building perched where the “wings of a bird” (i.e. the streets) open wide.

That’s the former Curley School, which has been transformed into a unique art complex/hotel/public space. It exemplifies Ajo’s commitment to both the arts and the town’s future.

The original 1916 schoolhouse (very cool Spanish revival architecture!) has been transformed into a multi-purpose complex with studios, a gallery and apartments specifically for artists. The 1930 school annex is now a hotel & conference center (see below).

front view of Curley School in Ajo AZ-1916 Spanish revival building

7-Stay in a Historic Schoolhouse (and Classroom!)

Courtyard of Sonoran Desert Inn with frog sculpture in foreground-Ajo Az
Art is everywhere in the courtyard gardens of the Sonoran Desert Inn

The 1930’s annex of the Curley School (see above) is now the Sonoran Desert Inn. It makes a charming place to stay while exploring Ajo.

We stayed here during our visit, and it really helped us get into the Ajo vibe.

The 11 guestrooms are in former classrooms, which all open onto a large courtyard. They’re decorated in a modern style, with a bit of Ajo artistic flair: funky sculptures and ceiling fans made from re-purposed light fixtures (remember those old fluorescent lights with the little metal grids in them?).

And fuzzy little javelina pillows adorn each bed (made by a local artist, natch). How cute is that?

hotel room bed at Sonoran Desert Inn, with yellow javelina pillow

The courtyard is filled with a collection of welcoming garden spaces that highlight the Sonoran Desert. And of course, there’s art everywhere!

8-Self-Guided Art Tour

Ajo’s support of the arts is evident all over town, in the form of murals, sculptures, and other installations. For a more in-depth understanding of the local works, take a self-guided art tour.

A brochure (available at the Visitor’s Center) provides a map with photos and brief descriptions of nearly 25 works that provide that little something extra to an already pretty town layout.

9-Visit the New Cornelia Open Pit Mining Lookout

A stop at this lookout point is one of THE things to do in Ajo AZ. It’s the mine that put Ajo on the map, and a peek into The New Cornelia Open Pit Mining Lookout gives you a chance to see what all the fuss was about.

Perched at the edge of the (now defunct) open pit, you’ll find a safe (i.e. fenced-off) area to look down into the depths to see just how deep (and wide!) that famous copper ran. A small museum with photos and a short video describing the mining process is also on site.

10-Ajo Historical Society Museum

Ajo Historical Society Museum, housed in a white adobe Spanish Revival church.

This museum is located just up the hill from the open pit mining lookout in the old St. Catherine’s Indian Mission (it’s hard to miss this pristine white building!).

The Ajo Historical Society Museum is a great place to get a sense of Ajo’s past. It contains many artifacts and mementos, including mining paraphernalia, a complete blacksmith shop, and an early print shop. 

11-Browse the Ajo Copper News (Bookstore/Gallery)

man standing in front of building with large desert mural, plus sign for ajo copper news

Ajo is definitely the kind of town that multi-tasks (remember my tale of the artistic barista? ☕️👩🏻‍🎨).

Nowhere is it more evident than the Ajo Copper News: the offices of local weekly newspaper also houses a fabulous used bookstore, a gallery of work by local artists, AND it’s got an awesome giant mural on the front!

Ajo multi-tasking at it’s best!

12-Chill with the locals on the Plaza at Oasis Coffee

The portico on that gorgeous Ajo Plaza is super hangout-able. (is that even a word???) Anyway, it’s a lovely spot to sit in the shade of the arches and watch the world go by.

You might even say it’s one of the musts among things to do in Ajo AZ.

Oasis Coffee (we’re back to the multi-tasking barista again) is the place on the plaza to chillax and soak up the vibe, watching the comings and goings of all and sundry.

And who knows, you might just find a source of materials for your latest art project. 😉👩🏻‍🎨

people sitting under the portico on Ajo plaza enjoying coffee

PRO TIP: Ajo makes a great stop on a road trip through Southwestern Arizona. Check out our Road Trip Planner for more ideas!

13-17: Things to do NEAR Ajo AZ

When considering things to do in Ajo Az it’s important to remember just how rich the region is in scenery nearby. Consider these:

13-Drive the Ajo Scenic Loop

One of the best things to do in Ajo AZ to get your bearings of the surrounding landscape, this 9-mile drive will give you a taste of the Sonoran Desert (with an Organ Pipe twist!)

The drive makes you feel like a star in your own western movie! 🤠. It skirts around the mine and the mountain to the west of town, and cuts through washes drive as it crosses BLM roads that seem to extend forever. Along the way you’ll see Saguaro and Organ Pipe cactus, and the vestiges of a few old homesteads.

Download a copy of the Ajo Scenic Loop Map here, or pick up a copy at the Visitors Center.

14-Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Sign at the entrance to Organ Pipe National Monument near Ajo AZ

Although you’ll see a few Organ Pipe cacti dotting the hills around Ajo, check out Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to get a real sense of these beautiful succulents.

This southwestern part of Arizona is the only place in the US that you’ll find the Organ Pipe Cactus 🏜️, so exploring this park is a special experience.

This park is one of 18 National Monuments in Arizona, and it’s a real beauty!

15-Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge

The main entrance to Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge is just north of town. The Visitor Center there has a small museum explaining the local flora and fauna.

You’ll also be able to get info on what you can experience in this vast preserve (over 800,000 acres! 😲). This area is managed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, and offers lots of space to “rough it.” If you’re into camping, hunting, hiking, birding, etc. this is the spot for you!

16-Go Mountain Biking around the local hills

Map of Ajo Az biking routes and Scenic Loop

The wide-open spaces surrounding Ajo are a mountain biker’s dream. 🚵🏻‍♀️. If you love hitting the trails, this should be one of the things to do in Ajo AZ for you.

The town has created 17 trail segments covering over 30 miles that cater to cyclists of all abilities. Mix and match segments to suit your spirit for adventure, whether it’s the easier “Old Faithful” trail, or the “Lower Chain Breaker” (that one is self-explanatory 😱.

A handy map explains each trail, with elevation changes and sights along the way. Download the Ajo Mountain Biking Map here, or pick it up at the Visitor Center.

17-Visit the Tohono O’Odham Museum & Cultural Center

The Tohono O’Odham Nation sits just east of Ajo, covering an area approximately the size of Connecticut (that’s BIG!)

Stop into the Museum & Cultural Center tucked into a magnificent setting of Sonoran Desert outside the town of Sells. There you’ll learn about the history of the O’Odham people, and the traditions that continue to this day.

Take some time to enjoy the spectacular view of Baboquivari Peak, which is of special cultural significance to the O’Odham people.

man standing in front of entrance to Tohono O'Odham cultural museum

Restaurants in Ajo, AZ

Ajo has a small collection of restaurants and coffee shops to satisfy your hunger pangs. There’s a strong focus on Mexican food-kind of like the rest of Arizona! 🌮

Keep in mind that many restaurants are only open on the weekends. Others may close at 6 or 7pm. So it’s always best to check opening hours of your dining choices.

Here’s a list of restaurants in Ajo, AZ:

  • Agave Grill: Casual, friendly full-service restaurant that offers a little bit of everything . . . steaks, chicken, burgers, all sorts of share-able appetizers, along with daily specials. Full Bar.
  • Ajo Farmers Market & Cafe: Simple breakfast and lunch menu focused on local ingredients. (Try the corn & tepary bean breakfast burrito 😋.) Onsite market features local farmers and food purveyors.
  • Arriba Mexican Restaurant: Full-service spot serving traditional Mexican fare on the north end of town. The red and green chile sauces are lovely. Full Bar.
  • Curley Coffee Roasters: Small cafe in the Curley School Arts Complex offering freshly roasted brews and simple pastries. Closed Monday, Tuesday.
  • Granny’s Kitchen: Down-home diner with a decidedly Mexican flair, located at the crossroads of charmingly named “Why, AZ”. Breakfast, lunch only. Good value.
  • Oasis Coffee: (Home of the multi-tasking barista!) Great place to hang out on the Plaza. All sorts of fun & fancy coffees, plus pastries and breakfast/lunch sandwiches.
  • Olsen’s Patio Cafe: Cafe adjacent to the IGA supermarket. Burgers, sandwiches & fried chicken daily, but the real draw is the Carne Asada specials on Tuesday & Thursdays. Closes by late afternoon most days, so check before going.
  • Roadrunner Java: Coffee shop and bakery on the north end of town. Open weekends only.
  • Sonoran Desert Inn: The hotel does not have a traditional restaurant on site, however they do have a fully-equipped catering kitchen and offer limited food options on a nightly basis. During our stay we enjoyed Chef Lucia’s excellent street tacos! (photo above 😊)
  • Tacos El Tarasco: Traditional Mexican fare right on the Plaza. But you’ll have to come early–they close at 6pm.

Hotels in Ajo Arizona

We recommend spending a night (or two!) in Ajo to really soak up the culture and see the sights. There are a few small hotels/motels to meet your needs and provide a good night’s sleep. Some have rooms with kitchenettes; all are equipped with fridges & microwaves. All, are locally owned and managed; it’s nice supporting the local economy by staying here 🤩.

List of Hotels in Ajo, Arizona:

  • La Siesta Motel & RV Resort: Traditional roadside motel, plus cute cabins, on the north side of town. Beautifully landscaped grounds with lots of shade and desert flowers. Several barbecue/picnic areas scattered around the property. NOTE: despite the name, they no longer accept RVs.
  • Marine Motel: Small and basic, but comfortable roadside motel on the northern end of town. A few rooms have full kitchen.
  • Sonoran Desert Inn: Courtyard rooms in a former school in the historic Curley School Arts Complex (see above), 2 blocks from the Plaza. Rooms overlook gardens and artwork. No restaurant, but hotel offers limited food options in the evenings.

NOTE: RV campers will find several options here. For a more complete list, check Ajo Arizona RV Parks.

Our recent visit to Ajo clearly demonstrated that this town was worth spending time — more than a simple drive-through on our way to somewhere else. With an intriguing mining history, colorful artsy vibe, and sprawling desert scenery, we’re glad we chose to stay a while.

We hope you do too! 😊🌵

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INSIDE: Kingman AZ is more then a Route 66 drive-thru & an awesome drive-thru sign! There are also plenty of terrific things to do in Kingman Arizona.

Yep, Kingman’s an old town on Route 66, but what else is there to do here? It turns out . . . plenty!

There are lots of cool things to do in Kingman Arizona, and driving through during a Route 66 Road Trip is just the beginning. The town has a rich history, and is located not far from the western end of the Grand Canyon. Whether you’re a family with a minivan full of kids who need some distraction, some outdoorsy types looking for some desert exploring, or are just plain curious, Kingman offers plenty to see and do.

Kingman: Intriguing Layers of History

Although the town now known as “Kingman” was first established in the 1880s as a stop on the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, the region has deeper roots. Native American peoples, including the Hualapai, Havasupai and Mojave have occupied these lands for centuries. Later, Spaniards in search of gold passed through these parts.

Fun Fact: Kingman was originally a settlement on “Beale’s Wagon Road,” an 1857 precursor to Route 66!

Beale’s Wagon Road & the Camel Corps

In 1857, surveyor Lt. Edward Fitzgerald Beale passed through this area with a unique crew: camels! His objective: to develop a wagon route west on or near the 35th parallel.

Because of the desert terrain, Beale had the creative idea to use camels 🐪🐪 instead of horses–and it worked!

A 19th century military reenactor with camels-things to do in winslow arizona
Celebrating the Camel Corps with reenactors, photo courtesy NPS

Ultimately the road ran from Arkansas to California and became the first federally funded highway in the Southwest. It was a big hit with cattle drovers, sheepherders and anyone looking to bring goods westward.

(Spoiler Alert: we won’t be suggesting riding as camel as one of the things to do in Kingman Arizona, but you gotta admit, it would be sorta cool!)

The Railroad Years: Kingman is Born

Another surveyor, Louis Kingman, used Beale’s Wagon Road as a guide when assessing the area in 1880. This time the job was for Atlantic and Pacific Railroad (which would later become the Santa Fe Railroad). The town is named for Kingman. (Beale needed a better PR firm!). The first train pulled up to “Kingman” in 1883, with about 100 passengers on board. Kingman quickly became an important hub for ranchers and miners in the area.

On the road again . . . Route 66 and beyond

Once again using prior routes as a guide, the federal government established US Highway 66 in 1926. For the decades that followed, Kingman became an important stopping point for the more than 200,000 people who traveled Route 66 in search of a new beginning in the wake of the Great Depression. By mid-century, this town, with its roots in Native American peoples and, of all things, camels, had found its place in Road Trip history.

Things to do in Kingman Arizona

Knowing the town’s history helps put it all into perspective, and also explains some of the unique things to do in Kingman Arizona. It is one of the truly charming small towns in Arizona. Activities and attractions range from sights related to the town’s history to ziplining over the Grand Canyon.

1. & 2. Historic Powerhouse/Visitors Center: Start Here!

This historic Powerhouse building should be FIRST on your list of things to do in Kingman Arizona. As the name implies, it was at one time the source of electrical power for the town, as well as the construction of Hoover Dam. After being mothballed for decades it was renovated in 1997 and repurposed as a multi-purpose facility that caters to visitors (like you and me!)

1-Get your bearings at the Visitor Center & Gift Shop

In addition to housing the Kingman Visitor Center (where you can get advice and brochures on all the local attractions), the Powerhouse is also home to Arizona Route 66 Museum & Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum (see below). On top of that, there’s an awesome gift shop (with a terrific collection of Route 66 memorabilia).

A visit here will help you just which things to do in Kingman Arizona are best suited to you.

And to keep young ones occupied while you stock up on brochures (and shop!) there are two model trains on tracks that circle the inside of the building 🚂

2-Drive through the Route 66 Sign

Kingman may have create the most awesome Route 66 sign on the whole Mother Road! If there were one thing that was tops on the list of things to do in Kingman Arizona, this has got to be it!

Perched outside the Powerhouse parking lot, it’s a giant light-up Route 66 sign that you drive through! It is the BEST photo op! (Full disclosure, I tried to get a photo at night with the sign lit up, but then you couldn’t see the car driving through, so I settled for the one below 🤷‍♀️. Please share one if you’ve got it!)

Best Route 66 photo-op. Ever.

3. Arizona Route 66 Museum

Located in the Historic Powerhouse visitors complex, this museum tells the story of depicts travel along the 35th parallel–the route that began with Native American trade routes and ultimately became Route 66. If, like most of us, you are traveling along Route 66, this museum is a must among things to do in Kingman Arizona.

Through a series of murals, photos and life-size dioramas, visitors journey through history with Native Americans and US Army-led survey expeditions (remember the “Camel Corps”?). A particularly poignant exhibit depicts the anguish of dust bowl refugees as they traversed the “Mother Road” west in search of a better life.

But the visit ends on an upbeat note as you stroll through a Main Street America display, complete with a Studebaker–(a version similar to the quirky model that was used in The Muppet Movie), heralding the joy of road tripping on Route 66.

Although not the same exact car, this scene from The Muppet Movie shows a very similar Studebaker on the road. (Check at approximately 1 minute in . . . for the classic “fork in the road” bit.

4. Historic Downtown Kingman Walking Trail

If a drive along Route 66 has you itching to stretch your legs a bit, take a walk through Historic Downtown Kingman. The town has more than 40 sights and buildings on the National Registry of Historic Places. In addition to locations open to the public (which are listed in this post), there are several other points of interest to see, including the Mojave County Courthouse, the former Masonic Temple, and a little red schoolhouse.

Walking tour guides are available at the Powerhouse Visitors Center.

5. Mohave Museum of History & Arts

For a break from all the Route 66 and railroad history, stop in to the Mohave Museum. This museum is dedicated to preserving all aspects of the heritage of Northwestern Arizona in a format accessible to the public. There are exhibits illustrating prehistoric times, mining and ranching, with a LOT of memorabilia hanging on walls and stacked on shelves.

The museum also celebrates Andy Devine, a local boy turned 1930s movie star. This museum may not be everyone’s idea of things to do in Kingman Arizona, but if the “good old days” is your cup of tea, you’ll find it entertaining.

6. & 7. Visit (& Hike) Camp Beale Spring

Although named after Lt. Edward Beale, the springs here had been used by Native Americans for centuries. Camp Beale Springs was established in 1871 by the U.S. Infantry to provide protection along the nearby toll road, as well as supply station for the local Hualapai Indians.

The site is located just west of town. A parking permit is required, but is free and available at the Powerhouse Visitors Center.

8. Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum

If you thought Kingman had its head fully in the past, think again. Despite gasoline-focused Route 66 and coal-fired locomotives this museum, the brainchild of the Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation, is on a mission to show us how we can look back while still thinking of the future.

Electric vehicle museum-corbin sparrow car

Tucked into the ground floor of the Powerhouse Visitor complex, the Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum showcases the history of electric vehicles (which goes back a lot further than you might think). Move over, Tesla, the first example here dates from 1909! Pride of place goes to the Buckeye Bullet, a battery-powered rocketship-esque beauty that reached 320 mph 😱 on the Bonneville Salt Flats in 2011.

If you’re looking to get a charge 🔌 (see what I did there?) out of things to do in Kingman Arizona, then head over to this unique museum.

9. Bonelli House Museum

The Bonelli House, which was built in 1915, provides an excellent example of Anglo-territorial architecture at the turn of the 20th century. The house was unique at the time because it was built to be both fire-proof and safe for the family (their original home had burned down.

The house is constructed of fire-resistant plaster and Tufa stone that was quarried locally. To ensure both ventilation (and potentially a quick exit, every room had an exit door (both upstairs and downstairs) to the veranda. The house also had a (very) early version of “air-conditioning”: The cupola on the roof drafted the hot air upward and out the roof. (We once rented a house in the Caribbean with the same type of structure–it really works to cool things off!)

10. Kingman Locomotive Park

Climb up into the cab of an old steam engine! Locomotive Park is home to famed Steam Engine #3759. This coal-burning locomotive was built in 1928 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works (in our hometown of Philadelphia 😊) and served on a passenger run for the Santa Fe Railway between Kansas City and Los Angeles.

PRO TIP: A visit to the Locomotive Park is one of the free things to do in Kingman, Arizona

In 1957, the Railway presented number 3759 to City of Kingman as a historical monument. (Just a few years earlier the coal burning trains were replaced by diesel power. In 1987 Kingman added a colorful caboose to the park, which is located just across the road from the Powerhouse Visitors Center. If your idea (or your kids’ idea) of fun things to do in Kingman Arizona involves choo choos, this is definitely for you. 😊🚂

11. & 12. Kingman Railroad Station & Museum

All Aboard, Trainspotters! More railroad-y things to do in Kingman Arizona . . . This historic train station was built in 1907 and renovated in 2011. The white stucco structure trimmed in bright orange paint is a landmark that occupies pride of place, wedged between Route 66 and the tracks. Inside is a museum of model trains, which is ever-evolving.

PRO TIP: Check out the Kingman Station live trainspotting cam for a preview of what you’ll see when you visit!

*Check out more at SouthwestRailCams.com–these guys do awesome stuff!

Outside, you can stand on the platform and do some real-life trainspotting, where freight trains from BNSF pass by regularly. If you time your visit just right, you might get to see Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, which runs twice a day from Chicago to LA (does that line sound familiar???😉) and back. It’s the same train that passes by La Posada in Winslow.

13. Hike the White Cliffs Wagon Trail–Ruts n’ all!

Just north of town is an old wagon route that was once used to bring ore from one of the nearby mines down to the railroad for transport. At the base of the White Cliffs the wagon route of the same name dates to the late 1800s. Over time the heavily-laden wagons cut trails into the stone road–so much so that the ruts are still very much in evidence 125 years later!

There are currently two trails (both loops) for hiking: a roughly 1-mile beginner trail and a 2.4-mile intermediate trail. Both begin and end along the rutted wagon road. A small parking lot with water fountain is located at the trailhead. If you are looking for outdoor activities in Kingman, Az, this is a good option.

14. Cool Off in Hualapi Mountain Park (15 miles)

This county park sports majestic views (it’s at 8,000 ft elevation!), and a climate that’s super-cool in summer and downright snowy in winter.

There is an abundance of activities up here, including hiking and biking with 16 miles of trails, picnicking and wildlife viewing. Local residents (i.e. animals!) include mule deer 🦌, elk, foxes , mountain lions and oodles of birds.

This is one of the nice day trips from Kingman, Az. Or you can stay overnight in cabin or campsite. For something a little cozier, book a room at the Hualapai Mountain Resort.

15. See Route 66 Kitsch: Giaganticus Headicus (20 miles)

C’mon! Route 66 is known for it’s odd-ball, larger-than-life landmarks, so why not a big green faux Tiki head?

A giant green tiki head–classic Route 66! Courtesy Explore Kingman

Giganticus Headicus was completed in 2004 by artist Gregg Arnold on the Antares curve, north of Kingman. There’s a gift shop where you can buy a replica of this magnificent statue. (And admit it, you know you want to . . .)

The shop also carries the requisite amount of other Route 66 memorabilia, and there’s a cafe on site serving simple meals.

This may be one of the corniest things to do in Kingman Arizona, but it’s also a lot of fun!

16. Get into the Spirit at Desert Diamond Distillery (4 miles)

Spend an afternoon at Arizona’s oldest distillery, makers of award-willing rum, whiskey and vodka. It’s probably the most “adult” of things to do in Kingman Arizona.

Sign up for a tour of the distillery (limited availability), or just head over to the tasting room to sample the, er, distillates 🥃.

There’s also a vintage Pullman rail car on site, which makes a nice location for a cafe that serves charcuterie boards, a fitting accompaniment for with Desert Diamond tipples. Desert Diamond Distillery

18. Visit the “Living” Ghost Town of Chloride (25 miles)

Many former mining towns are now empty, but Chloride still has a beating heart . . . full of art.

In its heyday, Chloride had 75 mines and 2,000 people. Today there are about 300 residents, many of whom are artists and craftsmen–the town is know for its creative yard art.

Mosey around the historic buildings (because “mosey” is what you do in a darn tootin’ ghost town! 👻), including the old jailhouse (with two whole cells!), and the Santa Fe railroad station. Mixed in are antique and gift shops and a few spots to eat.

Don’t miss the Wild West gunfights, which are re-enacted every Saturday afternoon.

19. Drive the most “untamed” section of Route 66 to Oatman AZ

The sign indicates this just might be a bumpy ride

If you are a Route 66 “completist” (like a certain husband who shall remain unnamed 😉), then this should absolutely be on your list of things to do in Kingman, Arizona.

Just west of Kingman, Route 66 officially merges with I-40 until the California border. But there’s a section that’s unimproved, known as a “Back Country Byway.” It’s the original road that climbs through the Black Mountains: a bumpy, twisty, and sometimes hair-raising 17 miles to the town of Oatman (that’s the place with the wild donkeys!).

RVs are not allowed, and 4-wheel drive is encouraged. It’s not a true “off-road” experience, but the last time we went there were some pretty deep, muddy puddles from a monsoon rain the day before. And there are potholes. Lots of potholes 🕳️. And NO guardrails. So you might want to leave your Ferrari at home 😉

But all of the warnings aside, it is totally worth it! 🤩🤩

No potholes in this stretch of Route 66–but no guardrails either 😱

There you have our list of almost 20 things to do in Kingman Arizona. I think you can see that there are plenty of activities in the town and nearby to keep you busy for a day or three. So when you’re planning your next trip along Route 66, or even to the Grand Canyon, consider using Kingman as a base. You’ll be happy you did!

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Some days, we all need to “Take it Easy.”

There are lots of great things to do in Winslow Arizona, even after you visit the corner made famous by the Jackson Browne/Glenn Frey song “Take it Easy.” Take a look at our list–it’ll make you want to linger a bit in this great Arizona small town on Route 66, which is rich is Arizona history and culture.

The historic downtown area isn’t large (about 1.5 miles wide by 3/4 mile deep), so it’s very walkable. Additionally there are several interesting things to do in Winslow Arizona that are just a short drive outside of the main part of town. Plenty of nearby parks and natural wonders make Winslow an excellent base for exploring this part of Arizona.

History of Winslow Arizona

Despite Winslow’s current popularity being associated with the automobile (the “flatbed ford” and Route 66), the town actually has its roots in the railroad. According to the Winslow Historical Society, “in 1880, the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad laid out the Winslow townsite along its new transcontinental line through northeastern Arizona Territory because the nearby Little Colorado River supplied a vital water source.”

large retro style billboard with "visit winslow" text
You’ve GOT to visit a place that welcomes you with a sign like this!

The Railroad puts Winslow on the Map

Winslow really started to grown after 1897, when the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad was acquired by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (known then as the ATSF). At this time, the division headquarters was moved from Gallup, NM to Winslow, AZ. New employees meant new infrastructure for the town, which is evidenced by many of the Victorian-era buildings and homes, many of which are still standing today.

FUN FACT: From 1900 through the 1950s, Winslow had the largest population in northern Arizona!

Even before the ATSF made Winslow a division headquarters, the town had started to become known as a travel destination. It was one of the closest train stops to the many natural and cultural sites in northern Arizona, making it a popular stop for intrepid travelers looking to explore sites such as the Petrified Forest and Canyon de Chelly.

The popularity of Winslow as a train stop for for travelers headed to northern Arizona’s wonders drew the attention of legendary hospitality industry pioneer Fred Harvey. Harvey first built a Harvey House restaurant at Winslow in 1887, and eventually opened the renowned luxury hotel La Posada Winslow in 1930, right along the train tracks.

Planes, trains and automobiles

Winslow had a lock on the railroad presence with the ATSF divisional headquarters. Then, in 1926, Route 66 was established and ran right through downtown Winslow (it still does today!), which brought plenty of automobiles. But what many people don’t know is that Winslow was also an important early destination for air travel.

In 1929, Winslow’s new airport was designated as a key stop along Transcontinental Air Transport’s first coast-to-coast passenger route. For all these reasons, Winslow enjoyed the largest population in northern Arizona from 1900 through the 1950s. This rich history means it’s not so far fetched that Jackson Browne might’ve been “standing on the corner.” And it means there are quite a few worthwhile things to do in Winslow Arizona.

Things to do IN Winslow Arizona

1: Standin’ on the Corner Park

woman next to bronze sculpture of a songwriter in front of Winslow Arizona sign-things to do in winslow arizona
Bonus points for spotting the homage to the band that recorded the song!

Okay, okay, let’s take care of this one first. This pocket park pays homage to the famous lyrics in the song “Take it Easy,” penned by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey. It is arguably one of the most popular things to do in Winslow Arizona. It’s located right downtown, a the corner of Kinsley & 2nd Streets and open 24/7. There are bronze statues of the songwriters, a mural, and (natch!) a flatbed Ford. Learn more in our post about standing on the corner Winslow Arizona.

2: Old Trails Museum

historic railroad memorabilia, including uniforms, photos and lanterns-things to do in winslow arizona
Memorabilia from the Santa Fe Railroad at the Old Trails Museum

One of the best things to do in Winslow Arizona to get a sense of the rich history of the town is to visit the Old Trails Museum. This small (and free!) museum is chock-full of memorabilia that brings many of the towns highlights to life, including the Santa Fe Railway, Route 66, and the heritage of the Harvey House hotels and restaurants. The museum is located right across the street from Standin’ on the Corner Park and their gift shop sells some interesting Navajo and Hopi arts along with books on local history.

3: Hubbell Trading Post & Warehouse

You may be familiar with the Hubbell Trading Post that is a National Historic Site in northeast Arizona, which was the first in what would become an trading post empire for the Hubbell family. But it was in Winslow where Hubbell eventually established the regional warehouse for his goods, because of the town’s location along the Santa Fe railroad line.

Constructed in 1917 as a trading post by the Richardson brothers, the building was acquired by Lorenzo Hubbell in 1921. Until its closure in the 1960s, the building was renowned as a source for the finest specimens of old-time Navajo rug and silver and turquoise jewelry. Today it is the location of the Winslow Visitor Center and has some great exhibits showcasing Winslow’s past, along with plenty of brochures about the many things to do in Winslow Arizona.

4: La Posada Hotel and Gardens

Front entrance of La Posada Winslow-adobe architecture with tile roofs

Described by many as the town’s “crown jewel,” visiting the La Posada is definitely one of THE things to do in Winslow Arizona. The hotel originally opened in 1930 to cater to wealthy travelers exploring the newly popular sights in the southwest. Designed by famous architect Mary Colter, this is one of the last remaining Harvey House hotels. After a (admittedly non-luxurious) stint as the regional headquarters of the railroad, La Posada was lovingly restored to its former glory and is once again a magnificent hotel.

Take some time to explore the beautiful building and grounds–the hotel is surrounded by different gardens on each side. Typical of grand old hotels, there are plenty of nooks and crannies to rest weary feet and soak up the atmosphere. For a treat, enjoy a meal in the Turquoise Room restaurant, or go full-on and indulge yourselves by spending the night (or two!). It’s one of Arizona’s true historic hotel treasures. (For more information, read the review of our stay at La Posada Winslow. Spoiler alert: we loved it! 😊)

5: La Posada Art Museum

A combination of Native American and Contemporary artworks are on display at La Posada

La Posada is more than a hotel and restaurant–there’s also an art museum in the building that’s free to the public. Tina Mion, one of the owners of the hotel, is also an American contemporary artist who has exhibited at the Smithsonian and other prominent museums. Many of her paintings and pastels are on permanent display throughout the hotel, and in a dedicated museum space on the second floor.

An advocate of promoting the arts in the region, Mion also curates the work of local artists, including many Native American artisans. The guest room hallways alone are bedecked with beautiful hand woven rugs and blankets. Situated in these traditional pueblo architecture surroundings, these works really stand out. It’s one of the more “cultured” things to do in Winslow 😉.

6: Winslow Amtrak Depot and Freight Siding

Freight trains pass by regularly at La Posada’s back gate, which is also an Amtrak stop. One of the best things to do in Winslow Arizona for train geeks!

Hold on, we’re not finished with visiting La Posada just yet. If architecture, gardens and artwork aren’t your thing, what about trains??? La Posada may be the only hotel in America that has its own Amtrak depot! Although there are only two passenger trains per day that stop at the hotel, there is a never-ending parade of freight trains passing through (this is still an important siding for the BNSF Railway).

Woman standing at ornate iron gates that lead from train tracks to La posada hotel in background
Viewing the back entrance of La Posada hotel from the train platform (notice the train wheel motif in the ornate iron gate!)

Stroll out through the back gardens, where an ornate iron gate will show where the hotel property stops and the railroad begins. Two shady ramadas are equipped with comfy chairs for hotel guests awaiting their transport (or even just looking to do a little train spotting). Although Winslow is a train horn quiet zone, you might just get the engineer to blow his whistle if you give him the sign by pulling your arm down. (Just sayin’)

PRO TIP: Winslow is a train whistle “quiet zone,” but if you give the engineer the universal “horn” sign with your arm, you might just get a little “toot toot”!

7: First Street Pathway Park

If one of your ideal things to do in Winslow Arizona includes stretching your legs, spend some time in this lovely city park, which links many of the town’s historic sights together via a landscaped pathway over six city blocks. Along the way you’ll see interpretive exhibits about the town’s history and culture.

Get the little ones to work off some pent-up energy at the park’s playground, and then let them watch the “choo choos” on the raised (and fenced-off) railroad viewing platform.

8: Snowdrift Art Space

Art abounds in Winslow (in fact, we could probably write a post just about “arty things to do in Winslow Arizona” 😉) Take in some contemporary sculpture at this incredible space that was once the Babbitt Brothers Mercantile building. Today it is a combination gallery, studio and home for sculptor Dan Lutzick, who was a partner in La Posada rehabilitation project.

Guided tours of the 7,000-square-foot gallery are provided by appointment only, so be sure to submit a request on the Snowdrift Art Space website at least 24 hours in advance. (Additionally, check their Facebook page for updated events and tour availability.)

9: Explore Winslow’s Victorian Roots

Since the town was established with the coming of the railroad in 1880, you can imagine the sudden need for housing and other services. The prevailing architecture at the time was Victorian, and fortunately there are still plenty of examples of that along the streets downtown. For architecturally minded (or maybe just Pinterest-worthy) things to do in Winslow Arizona, stroll the residential areas along 3rd and 4th streets to see the charming Victorian cottages.

Pinterest-worthy Victorian cottages line the residential streets of Winslow

10: Historic Route 66 Relics and Memorabilia (& a great Motel!)

Route 66 is an integral part of Winslow, and you have TWO streets you can explore! Second St. (nearest the train tracks) is one-way eastbound, while the westbound portion of Route 66 is one-way on Third St. Route 66 runs the length of Winslow, approximately 51/2 miles. A drive (or walk) along either street (or both, for the truly intrepid Route 66 fans!) provides a glimpse into mid-century America. Take your time, and really look, you’ll find this is one of the really fun things to do in Winslow Arizona.

PRO TIP: For an awesome “retro Route 66 motel” stay, check out Earl’s Motor Court on 66 westbound (i.e. 3rd St.)

One of the “retro” things to do in Winslow Arizona is staying at Earl’s Motor Court on Route 66

Things to do NEAR Winslow Arizona

11: Homolovi State Park

Remains of ancient Hopi dwellings at Homolovi State Park (photo by Trevor Huxham via Flickr)

Explore ruins of the Hopi, who inhabited this area from the 1200s to late 1300s, while taking in the beauty of more than 4,000 acres of high desert (4,900 feet elevation) scenery, just 3 miles from town. In addition to ruins and archaeological research, Homolovi State Park  houses a visitor center and museum along with trails, a campground and picnic sites.

Viewing ancient pottery and petroglyphs helps put the ancient quality of these lands into perspective. And as an added bonus, they have star viewing parties once a month! Visiting Homolovi is a must-do among things to do in Winslow Arizona.

12: Brigham City Fort

For one of the more unique things to do in Winslow Arizona, get glimpse of the ghost town of early travelers who passed through town in the city’s early days. The fort at Brigham City, about 2 miles northeast of town, was originally built by Mormon pioneers in 1876. The settlement only lasted a few years; ironically in the desert, flash floods washed away the fort’s irrigation systems. The buildings on the site are reproductions; portions of the original walls were moved to La Posada’s grounds to preserve them.

13: McHood Park and Clear Creek

For those of you who didn’t think a list of things to do in Winslow Arizona would include camping and water sports we are happy to share that we’ve got you covered! About 5 miles southwest of town, McHood Park at the Clear Creek reservoir offers a refreshing spot for camping, swimming, boating and more.

Bring your own kayak (with good kayak shoes!) or rent a canoe at the park to paddle to Clear Creek Canyon, a secluded spot that’s popular with locals. Campers can purchase a (dry) camping pass at a kiosk on site.

14: Little Painted Desert County Park

Stunning photo ops at Little Painted Desert County Park (photo by Martin Ely via Flickr)

Head up to this little-known spot for some spectacular photo ops without the crowds. Facilities at this 660-acre county park, which is about 13 miles north of town, are no longer maintained, so don’t expect services. (You’ll see a few old picnic shelters that now have some spectacular graffiti!)

But the exotic combination of colors and natural rock formations are worth the trip–especially at either sunrise or sunset. NOTE: be sure to stick to the roads and major pathways–the rocks are crumbly. Now you can add “stunning desert photography” to your list of things to do in Winslow Arizona!

15: Rock Art Ranch

If your list of things to do in Winslow Arizona includes ancient petroglyphs, Rock Art Ranch is the place for you. The ranch, situated about 23 miles east of Winslow in a remote area off Interstate 40, is home to some of the finest Anasazi petroglyphs in the Southwest along with a collection of pottery and other historic artifacts found on the property.

Rock Art Ranch is a working cattle ranch, so visitors must make a reservation to visit. Rock Art Ranch is approximately 23 miles from Winslow. The ranch is open for tours from May 1st to Nov. 1st. Closed Sundays. Call (928) 288-3260 for reservations and pricing information.

16: Grand Falls (aka “Chocolate Falls”)

Depending on the time of year when you visit, taking a side trip to see Grand Falls (also known as the ‘Chocolate Falls’ because of the often muddy water) is definitely one of the things to do in Winslow Arizona. These incredible falls, which are over 180 feet tall (taller than Niagara Falls!) can range from a deluge to a trickle, depending on the amount of rain and snow melt. Remember, we’re in the desert here, so water is kind of “full on” or “almost off.”

Since it’s closed, watch this video to see Grand Falls on Navajo lands. Hopefully it will open again soon. 🤞

Visit during the late summer monsoons or in the early spring during snowmelt for the best views. and occurs when the monsoon season hits northern Arizona and during snowmelt from the winter snowstorms. The falls are located on Navajo land, about 48 miles north of Winslow. Admission is free, but be sure to respect private property and stick to the roads.

17: Meteor Crater

Woman facing the edge of gigantic Meteor Crater near Winslow Arizona
Gi-normous (!) Meteor Crater, photo by Kevin Walsh, courtesy Flickr

Here we’re moving into the category of “otherworldly” things to do in Winslow Arizona. Meteor Crater is a massive crater (550 feet deep by 3/4 mile wide 😱) caused by the impact of a giant meteor 50,000 years ago. This is one whompin’ big hole in the ground! The terrain is so unique that in the 1960s it was one of the locations where NASA astronauts trained for the first moon landing.

In addition to both outdoor and indoor (air conditioned!) viewing points of the crater, there is also a Discovery Center and Space Museum on site where visitors can examine an Apollo 11 test capsule and learn more about the history and geology of meteors. Meteor Crater is about 20 miles west of Winslow.

18: Petrified Forest National Park

view of painted desert-reddish hills covered in bits of greenery

Located just 55 miles east of Winslow, Petrified Forest National Park offers far more than the world renowned petrified logs. A drive takes you through the Painted Desert, with several viewpoints along the way before meandering into an alien landscape filled with points of interest at almost every turn.

man in cowboy hat looking at petrified log in petrified forest national park

Plan to stop often to see ruins of former Native American settlements, ancient petroglyphs, badlands, and, of course, petrified logs. Two Visitors Centers provide interpretive exhibits, and the rangers are great about informing you of some terrific hikes to see some of these wonders up close. This is one of the many stunning Arizona national parks and monuments, and well worth a visit.

There you have it: 18 fabulous things to do in Winslow Arizona. There are certainly plenty of reasons to stay a night (or 2, or 3), and make it your base for exploring this part of northern Arizona! Which will you do first?

Complete list of Things to do in Winslow Arizona

  1. Standing on the Corner Park
  2. Old Trails Museum
  3. Hubbell Trading Post & Warehouse
  4. La Posada Hotel & Grounds
  5. La Posada Art Museum
  6. The Winslow Amtrak Depot
  7. First Street Pathway Park
  8. Snowdrift Art Space
  9. Explore Winslow’s Victorian Roots
  10. Route 66 Memorabilia
  11. Homolovi Ruins State Park
  12. Bingham City Fort
  13. Rock Art Ranch
  14. McHood Park & Clear Creek
  15. Little Painted Desert County Park
  16. Grand Falls (aka “Chocolate Falls”)
  17. Meteor Crater
  18. Petrified Forest National Park
sign for Amtrak stop in hotel garden
Billboard that looks like a giant postcard about things to do in winslow arizona
Apparently even this guy knows the answer to “what is winslow, arizona famous for?” ! 😉

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INSIDE: Arizona small towns each have a unique history and character-perfect for a road trip! See our fave mining, western & funky artsy spots and work one (or three) into YOUR next road trip!

We needed a pit stop on our Arizona road trip. Sick of truck stops along the Interstate, with their harsh fluorescent lighting and sticky bathroom floorswe spied a small signpost pointing toward “downtown historic district” and “Original Route 66.” That combination was too tempting to ignore, so we veered off the exit . . .

. . . and drove into one of the best days of our road trip.

The trick was finding that Arizona small town to visit.

Exactly what type of charm do you find in an Arizona small town?

Most small towns in Arizona are off the beaten path–or at least off the Interstate–and they make a perfect road trip stop.

Although some of these towns are still bustling with the business that got them started, such as mining and cattle ranching, many have reinvented themselves as tourist destinations that celebrate their heritage. You’ll find a TON of charm, and maybe even include a ghost town👻!

Small town charm to the rescue!

The small town we discovered when we followed the signs? It was Winslow! We’ve included it below in our list of 18 favorite Arizona small towns, along with practical info to help you as your plan your trip. Each town is unique and offers up a special bit of Arizona charm.

We hope this helps you drive into one of the best days of your road trip too! 

Northern Arizona: 7 small towns that are Worth a Visit

1. Flagstaff: The highest elevation in the state!

Flagstaff is the largest town in northern Arizona. Old route 66 passes through the southern edge of town, so you get that “classic road trip” vibe. (And there’s a cool Route 66-themed gift shop in the old train station–souvenir alert!).

The main part of town has a “nice old-fashioned downtown” feel, with historic late Victorian brick buildings housing bars, restaurants, and shops. Northern Arizona University is also based in Flagstaff, which means the town is not just a tourist haven.

Of all the Arizona small towns, Flagstaff has the highest elevation in the state, at nearly 7,000 feet.

Flagstaff’s high altitude means temperatures stay cool in summer, a refreshing break from the desert heat. And in winter? Skiing at nearby slopes! Located midway between Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest National Parks, it’s a central base for exploring the natural wonders in northern Arizona.

Tudor-style train station building along railroad tracks

2. Kingman: Cars, Trains, and . . . Electricity?

Kingman was established as a railroad town in the 1880s, and soon grew thanks to mining in the surrounding area. Historic Route 66 passes right through town; Kingman is the westernmost Arizona town on the so-called “mother road.”

We thought it was going to be a “drive-by,” but we ended up enjoying our visit here. Andy Devine, one of the early stars of western movies, is from Kingman. To celebrate this celluloid hero, the portion of Route 66 that goes through the center of town is known as “Andy Devine Avenue.”

Today Kingman has a real “road trip” feel and celebrates its motoring and railroad heritage. The cool multi-purpose Powerhouse Visitor Center is in an old converted power station. You’ll also find the Arizona Route 66 Museum and the Arizona Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum there.

Across the street in Locomotive Park train geeks will love the ogling historic old steam engine #3579. And there is no shortage of Route 66 photo-ops: the logo is displayed all over town on signs and painted on the street.

Interesting things to do in Kingman Arizona abound for everyone in your road trip crew. It makes a great base for exploring northwestern Arizona, and the western ends of the Grand Canyon.


3. Page: Horseshoe Bend . . . but so much more

Page serves as the gateway to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which includes such attractions as Lake Powell and the famous Horseshoe Bend. Page is a relatively new community, established in the late 1950s to support workers building the dam.

Today it’s a friendly town with the most hotel rooms in the “Arizona Strip,” (the name for this far northern part of the state), which makes it a great base for touring this area of northern Arizona near the Utah borders.

Many people pop into Page, make a quick stop at Horseshoe Bend, then move on. But we found there’s a lot more to see and do in the area. Day trips from here include Vermillion Cliffs, Lee’s Ferry, and even the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

We also love some of the lesser-known spots, such as Glen Canyon Dam Overlook and hiking to the (sort of secret) Hanging Garden Trail. Be sure to allow some time for water sports, whether it’s rafting down the Colorado River or boating on Lake Powell. No matter what you choose, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Page AZ.

Glen Canyon Bridge, looking eastward, with red sandstone in background, one of the things to do in page az

4. Seligman: Birthplace of “Historic Route 66”

This little hamlet, bypassed by Interstate 40, preserved the Route 66 legend. In 1987 locals petitioned the State of Arizona and had it designated a historic highway. Rumors are that Seligman inspired the location of Radiator Springs for the movie Cars.

Battered old red tow truck parked in front of building with American Flag painted on side
Is this Seligman . . . or Radiator Springs???

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 (you might even get to meet Tow Mater!)


5. Williams: Gateway to the Grand Canyon

Two things distinguish Williams: Route 66 and the Grand Canyon. Williams describes itself as “the best-preserved stretch of Route 66.” It was the last town on the “mother road” to be bypassed by Interstate 40 (in 1984), so it hung on to its Route 66 identity.

The center of town, with its diners, motels, and shops is a designated National Historic District. We first came here to use it as a base for visiting the Grand Canyon but found the town itself charming.

building with statue of cow in front
Old-timey charm in Williams, Arizona

Williams is also the town nearest to the main entrance of Grand Canyon National Park (about 50 miles due north), which makes it a great base for exploring the area. The town is the headquarters of the Grand Canyon Historic Railway and Hotel.

Because of its proximity to the park, many Grand Canyon tour operators are based in Williams. Kaibab National Forest surrounds the town, with plenty of hiking, biking, and fishing opportunities for outdoor lovers.

Brick and stucco front of Grand Canyon Hotel on route 66

6. Winslow: Yep, the place with “the corner”!

For anyone who has ever listened to a Classic Rock radio station and heard the lyrics, “well I’m standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona . . . ” Yep, this is the place! This is one of the small Arizona towns along old Route 66 which has capitalized on the Jackson Browne/Glenn Frey song made famous by the rock group Eagles. Get your 70s rock fix at the park that commemorates “Standing on a corner Winslow Arizona” where there’s even (you knew this was coming!) a flatbed Ford.

Route 66 sign on roadbed, Winslow Arizona

Winslow’s other claim to fame is the La Posada Winslow Hotel (we loved our recent stay there!), one of the original 1930s-era Fred Harvey railroad hotels designed by Mary Colter along the Santa Fe railroad line. Current owners renovated and reopened the southwestern-style luxury property in 1997.

Today it contains a top-notch restaurant and art gallery in addition to comfy guest rooms. It makes an elegant old-world stopover while cruisin’ Route 66. And check out these other things to do in Winslow Arizona.

PRO TIP: Go retro in Northern Arizona! Stay at one of these fabulous hotels on Route 66 in Arizona!

7. Honorable Mention: Sedona-Red Rocks & Blue Skies

You may be wondering why I didn’t include Sedona in the above list. While Sedona is a wonderful destination, and you’ll find plenty of reasons to visit Sedona (especially in the fall), it’s hard to classify it as a “small town.”

Shopping abounds along State Route 89A, although much of it is in clusters of small strip malls. And this road gets super jammed during weekends, so you’re not likely to go for a random stroll.

Shopping in Sedona along Hwy 89A-gorgeous red rocks, but not a small-town atmosphere

Sedona is best appreciated away from highway 89A–that is, enjoying the hiking amid the magnificent red rocks, or chilling out at a spa. By all means, check out Sedona, just don’t expect a “quaint small town” atmosphere. For a “village-esque” atmosphere, head over to the Tlaquepaque complex, a beautiful cluster of shops, galleries, and restaurants resembling a Mexican village.

  • What we love: Hiking the red rocks, Tlaquepaque shopping
  • Fave Eats: Mariposa (swanky, Latin-inspired spot with amazing views)
  • Highlights: Cathedral & Bell Rocks, Vortexes, Tlaquepaque
  • Road Trips: Red Rocks & Red Wine
  • Where to Stay: Hotels in Sedona
man sitting on deck looking at red rocks of Sedona
Sedona is best when enjoying the red rocks

PRO TIP: For small-town charm NEAR Sedona, check out Cottonwood & Jerome (listed below)

Central Arizona: You need to see these 5 Adorable Arizona Small Towns

8. Cottonwood: Water & Wine

Cottonwood sits alongside the Verde River in the valley just north of Jerome. Due to its location along a river, Cottonwood is a unique small Arizona town: it began its life as a farming community in the late 1800s. The cute main street has a midcentury feel.

Our first visit to Cottonwood in 2013 showed a town with “good bones” but not a lot going on. However, all those storefronts with potential couldn’t stay empty for long! On recent visits, we’ve been delighted to see a town full of shops, cafes, and wine tasting rooms. (Be sure to visit NORTH Main St.–that’s the cute part 😊)

Lots of places for wine tasting in Cottonwood

Cottonwood has stayed true to its agricultural roots. Tuzigoot National Monument is just outside of town, the stone remains of this Indian pueblo providing evidence that this has been a prime growing country for centuries. The Verde Valley Wine Trail provides more modern evidence: rows of vines grace the gently sloping hills surrounding town and that musky smell of fermenting grapes permeates the air. Over 20 wineries and tasting rooms are open for sampling in and around the town.

Red 1950s car parked in front of vintage gas station Cottonwood Arizona
A fun throwback experience at Bing’s Burger Station

9. Globe: Cattle, Copper, and Cute!

Globe was founded in the 1870s on copper mining and cattle, and both are still important industries today. This central Arizona small town is equidistant from Phoenix and Tucson and makes a nice day trip or weekend destination.

Take a walking tour of the historic downtown. Visit the Gila County Historical Museum and explore the work of local artists at the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts (in the former courthouse).

Sitting in the middle of the Tonto National Forest, Globe is near several native American historic sites, such as the Tonto National Monument (cliff dwellings), as well as Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park. The 3,500-foot elevation transitions between the saguaro-filled desert and ponderosa pine forest. Wildflower lovers come to Globe for some spectacular natural displays.

BONUS: Keep an eye out for interesting wildlife–we had to break for a tarantula crossing the road! 🕷😱


10. Jerome: Wicked (& a little creepy 👻)

Jerome is a unique former copper mining town that’s perched up high on Cleopatra Hill, not far from Sedona. It’s a hair-raising drive up a twisty road to get there. (I need to look straight ahead-not down!) But the good part is the view of the surrounding valley is spectacular. You can even see many of Sedona’s red rocks in the distance.

Jerome is an Arizona Victorian small town perched on a mountain, here is the 1898 Hotel Connor with the red rocks of Sedona in the background

Jerome once had so many saloons it was called “The Wickedest Town in America.” Now you can browse in funky shops and wet your whistle at atmospheric bars and restaurants. Planning on whoopin’ it up old-tyme miner style during a night on the town? We recommend staying in one of the cute Bed & Breakfasts (or the allegedly haunted Jerome Grand Hotel). You won’t want to tackle the drive down that mountain late at night after a few drinks.

photo courtesy Visit Jerome

11. Prescott: Epitome of Small Town America

Prescott may be one of the most charming Arizona small towns. A classic old courthouse anchors the central square. (Remember the old Back to the Future movies? It wouldn’t be surprising to see Marty McFly zipping by in his SteamPunk DeLorean.) Pretty Victorian homes and cottages line the downtown streets.

Prescott Courthouse in background, compass rose on pavement in front, arizona small towns
The courthouse in the center of Prescott’s beautiful town square

Restaurants, boutiques, antique shops, cafes, and western wear outfitters surround the courthouse square. Visit historic “Whiskey Row,” so called because that’s where all the “hootin’ & hollerin'” happened. Today you can do a bit of hootin’ & hollerin’ of your own on Whiskey Row, as you get your Western on . . . many of the bars feature live music.

That western atmosphere is legit: Prescott is also home to the world’s oldest rodeo, with the grounds about a half mile northwest of downtown. Nearby Prescott National Forest and Watson Lake State Park provide plenty of opportunities for outdoor pursuits.

Watson Lake near Prescott offers great hiking

12. Honorable Mention: Scottsdale: Big city Small town

Scottsdale is a super-popular destination, and there’s an Old West feel to Old Town Scottsdale. But it stopped being a small town a long time ago. But with just over 250,000 people, it’s about the same size as Richmond, VA, and Toledo, OH.

Lots of cute shops in an “old west” setting in Old Town Scottsdale

Scottsdale is worth visiting: great restaurants, terrific shopping (including a gorgeous mall with a Neiman Marcus & a Nordstrom), as well as some wonderful museums, including Western Spirit Scottsdale Museum of the West (a terrific Smithsonian Affiliate). It’s just not a small town.

The skyline of Downtown Scottsdale-pretty, but not a small town

Southern Arizona: 6 Small Towns that are western, funky & fun

13. Ajo: Creative, Folksy & Outdoorsy

Ajo is a small town in southwestern that is in the midst of a revitalization. A former copper mining town (like Bisbee, below), Ajo is the nearest town to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. It also gets a lot of traffic from people headed down to the beach at Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco) Mexico.

The cupola in the former train station anchors Ajo’s pretty plaza

In recent years Ajo has embraced an artistic culture, with several creative programs to attract artists. The result is a mixture of mining history with a creative culture, all centered around one of the prettiest plazas in Arizona.

organ pipe cactus with brittlebush at the base

14. Bisbee: Funky, Artsy & Historic

Bisbee, Arizona was established in 1876 as a copper mining town tucked away in the Mule Mountains southeastern part of Arizona. The mine is no longer operational, but Bisbee has now transformed itself into a cool and funky destination with a sort of “Victorian-meets-Midcentury” kind of vibe.

Street in Bisbee, Arizona with mountain in background
The winding streets of Bisbee, a small town nestled in the Mule Mountains of southeastern Arizona.

Learn how copper helped shape both the town⏤and the nation⏤at the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum, and then see the real deal underground on a Queen Mine Tour. Browse Bisbee’s many art galleries, and spend the night (or 3) at one of the town’s picturesque bed and breakfasts.


15. Patagonia: Chill at a Bird-lover’s Paradise

Patagonia is a small town nestled high in the Santa Rita Mountains, about an hour southeast of Tucson. Once a mining town, Patagonia today is focused on cattle ranching and recreation. The wine-growing region of Sonoita is just a few miles north.

The old train station in Patagonia is now the court house

The Sonoita Creek flows through Patagonia year-round (a rarity in Arizona’s dry climate). As a result, the region is a popular flyway for many unique types of birds⏤and is a great spot for birdwatchers. Downtown Patagonia has a few funky art galleries, shops, and cafes. The town’s high altitude (4,500 feet) keeps it cool in the summer, and many visitors like to stay for a week, enjoying nearby State Park at Patagonia Lake AZ, or ropin’ and ridin’ at the historic Circle Z Ranch.

  • What we love: The low-key cowboy vibe
  • Fave Eats: Wagon Wheel Saloon (fancy it ain’t, authentic? Yup!)
  • Highlights: Fairs on the town green, Patagonia Lake
  • Road Trips: South Central Arizona
  • Where to Stay: Hotels in Patagonia
Birders love Patagonia

16. Tombstone: Hootin’, Hollerin’ Wild West🤠

Pose with Wyatt Earp & the lawmen at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, the classic western Arizona small town

It would be hard to get more “Old West” in Arizona small towns than Tombstone. This is home to the famous “OK Corral,” where the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday gunned down the ornery Clanton-McLaury gang. But there’s a lot more to Tombstone, including a rich silver mining history and clashes with the Apaches.

Tombstone has done much to preserve its Old West atmosphere. The main street is still dirt, and cars have to share the road with horses! Western wear shops, restaurants, and saloons line the wooden sidewalks. Historic sights include the Birdcage Theater and Tombstone Courthouse. But be sure to allow some time to see the “shootout:” it’s re-enacted daily.

17. Tubac: Artsy Historic Fun

Tubac is a small Arizona town about 50 miles south of Tucson that today is a thriving artist colony. Unlike most Arizona small towns, the history of Tubac predates mining and cattle. Because of its location along the Santa Cruz River, it was a settlement for native tribes. Many of these native tribes greeted the Spanish Missionaries when they arrived in the late 1600s.

Colorful pottery outside a shop in Tubac, Arizona
Colorful pottery is one of the many types of creative expression available in the artsy small town of Tubac, Arizona. (photo courtesy AOT)

History buffs should visit Tumacacori National Historic Park just outside of town. Here, hundreds of years and layers of history mingle together, incorporating Native Peoples, Spanish Missionaries, and Mexican and American soldiers. Tubac’s multiple art galleries line the sleepy streets of Tubac. The Tubac Center of the Arts hosts rotating exhibits, art workshops, and performances.

  • What we love: Great Mexican pottery
  • Fave Eats: Elvira’s-funky Mexican in a hip setting
  • Highlights: Art galleries; Tubac Presidio Historic Park
  • Road Trips: South Central Arizona
  • Where to Stay: Hotels in Tubac

18. Yuma: An Old West Border Town

Yuma is a small Arizona town in the extreme southwest corner of the state. Sitting along the banks of the Colorado River made Yuma a strategic location in the 18th and 19th centuries. Initially, it was missionaries who traveled this route. Passing through Yuma became one of the fastest ways to get out west during the California Gold Rush.

Today visitors to Yuma can get the feel of a real “old west” town by visiting the historic downtown. The center of town took off during the gold rush years. Yuma was also home to the Yuma Territorial Prison, which is now a state park. (The prison figured largely in the classic Western movie 3:10 to Yuma). Visit the Colorado River State Historic Park to learn about the importance of the crossing throughout the past few centuries.

  • What we love: The mixture of old west & border town
  • Fave Eats: Wagon Wheel Saloon (fancy it ain’t, authentic? Yup!)
  • Highlights: Territorial Prison Museum; Downtown
  • Road Trips: Southwest Arizona
  • Where to Stay: Hotels in Yuma
Visiting a small town makes a road trip more fun

These Arizona small towns help to tell the fascinating history of the state. They all sit amid Arizona’s fabulous scenery, under those magnificent blue skies. The combination makes each of them a great destination for a few days’ excursion.

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List of Small Arizona Towns to Visit on a Road Trip (alphabetical order)

  1. Ajo (southern Arizona)
  2. Bisbee (southern Arizona)
  3. Cottonwood (central Arizona)
  4. Flagstaff (northern Arizona)
  5. Globe (central Arizona)
  6. Jerome (central Arizona)
  7. Kingman (northern Arizona)
  8. Page (northern Arizona)
  9. Patagonia (southern Arizona)
  10. Prescott (central Arizona)
  11. Scottsdale (central Arizona)
  12. Sedona (north/central Arizona)
  13. Seligman (northern Arizona)
  14. Tombstone (southern Arizona)
  15. Tubac (southern Arizona)
  16. Williams (northern Arizona)
  17. Winslow (northern Arizona)
  18. Yuma (southern Arizona)

three photos of charming arizona small towns, with text overlay