To say that there are countless things to do in Arizona would be an understatement. I’ve lived in this southwestern US state for three years and have yet to run out of fun things to do.
The best part of Arizona is that it’s home to a diverse landscape including cities, mountains, canyons, deserts, lakes, and rivers. Within a matter of 4 hours, you can drive from the big city of Phoenix to the mountains and lakes in Flagstaff, and arrive at the Grand Canyon.
Table of Contents
- Best Things To Do in Arizona
- 1. Hike the Grand Canyon
- 2. Guided Tour of Antelope Canyon
- 3. Take a Jeep Tour in Sedona
- 4. Take a Train from Williams to the Grand Canyon
- 5. View Horseshoe Bend
- 6. Ski Arizona Snowbowl
- 7. Hot Air Balloon in Phoenix
- 8. Desert Botanical Gardens
- 9. Hike in Sedona
- 10. Take a Mule Ride Down the Grand Canyon
- 11. Drive Through Monument Valley
- 12. Musical Instrument Museum
- 13. Boat on Lake Powell
- 14. Lowell Observatory
- 15. Walnut Canyon Flagstaff
- 16. Natural Water Slides in Slide Rock State Park, Sedona
- 17. Visit the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson
- 18. See a Show at the Hale Center Theatre
- 19. Enjoy Nightlife in Old Town Scottsdale
- 20. Kayak Watson Lake in Prescott
- 21. Hike Camelback Mountain
- 22. Shop Downtown Jerome
- 23. Kayak or Float Down the Salt River
- 24. Golf at Troon North in Scottsdale
- 25. Boat on Tempe Town Lake
- Quick Travel Itineraries For Arizona
- Getting To Arizona
- Things To Do in Arizona: FAQs
- In Closing
No matter what you like to do for fun, I am sure Arizona will have something to offer you. There’s just something magical about the desert that makes you want to keep coming back. Arizona is one of the top destinations in the USA, find out why in this article.
Best Things To Do in Arizona
This list captures some of the best attractions in Arizona. Check it out and get ready to book your plane tickets for your next epic adventure:
1. Hike the Grand Canyon
If I could choose just one thing out of the many things to do in Arizona, I would choose to hike down into the Grand Canyon. I’ve hiked to the bottom of the Canyon 10 times and it never gets old; it’s just as incredible each time.
This activity is best for active nature lovers and adventure addicts. Expect lots of sun exposure and difficult climbs – and remember, going down is optional but coming back up is mandatory!
Pay the national park fee and head into the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to hop onto Bright Angel Trail or South Kaibab Trail. Be sure to prepare well for this activity with plenty of water, snacks, and electrolytes.
☞ SEE ALSO: 15 Best Things To Do in The Grand Canyon
2. Guided Tour of Antelope Canyon
I’ll never forget walking through Antelope Canyon for the first time. It feels as though you are in another world as you meander through the smooth and vibrant orange slot canyon.
This activity is a great thing to do in Arizona for families. Come prepared with water, comfortable walking shoes, and a camera so that you can capture every step of the way.
3. Take a Jeep Tour in Sedona
Sedona is one of my favorite places to escape to for a weekend trip. It’s home to countless hiking trails, streams and rivers, and epic forest roads that are best explored by Jeep.
If you’re looking for a little thrill and are wondering what to do in Arizona, then I highly recommend considering this activity. Expect to see the area’s most dramatic scenery while discovering places not many visitors do.
SEE ALSO: Best Things To Do in Sedona
4. Take a Train from Williams to the Grand Canyon
This activity is one of the best things to do in Arizona for families. Any kid or adult is sure to be fascinated by the 65-mile ride that goes from Williams to the Grand Canyon and back – it even features a western shoot-out, western musicians, and cowboy characters.
Book your tickets here for the train that departs daily at 9:30 am and returns to Williams by 5:45 pm. In the middle of the trip, the train stops at the Grand Canyon for visitors to explore for 3 hours. Click here for more information.
☞ SEE ALSO: 15 Best Things To Do in Payson
5. View Horseshoe Bend
A short 20-minute hike from the parking lot brings you to one of the most picturesque views in the entire state. It’s not an overstatement to tell you that I haven’t stopped thinking about the view since the first time I visited 5 years ago on a hot July afternoon.
Seeing Horseshoe Bend with your own eyes is one of the top things to do in Arizona. It’s an incredible activity, (that won’t take too much time), to include in your travel itinerary.
Expect to pay $10 to park anytime between sunrise and sunset and pack a bottle of water for the 1.5-mile round-trip walk to and from the edge of the breathtaking bend.
6. Ski Arizona Snowbowl
I never would’ve thought that you could enjoy snow in the state of Arizona, but sure enough, its diverse landscape allows visitors and residents to experience a myriad of activities. Skiing at Arizona Snowbowl is one of my favorite things to do in the state during winter.
Whether you’re an experienced skier or not, add this to your winter itinerary if you’re looking to be active during your trip. Expect to have an epic day sailing down the western slope of Mount Humphreys.
Renting equipment, purchasing lift tickets, and information on private lessons are all possible through their website.
7. Hot Air Balloon in Phoenix
If you’re looking for things to do in Arizona for couples, consider this activity that involves flying high above the city landscape and the Sonoran Desert. This activity offers a unique perspective and views you won’t ever forget.
The experience is romantic and thrilling at the same time; enjoy the sunrise from the sky with a champagne breakfast and take in the peace and serenity of the ride.
8. Desert Botanical Gardens
Meandering through the 55 acres of cactus, trees, plants, and flowers is one of my favorite things to do in Arizona as it’s relaxing and refreshing. The desert is a unique landscape and touring the botanical gardens gives you the most up-close and educational experience to best explore the beauty.
This activity is a great thing to do in Arizona as the sun is setting and the air is getting cooler. During the hours of 7 am and 8 pm, walk through the garden’s five thematic trails taking in the exhibits and other onsite experiences.
9. Hike in Sedona
If you’re wondering what to see in Arizona, I would encourage you to plan a hike in Sedona to see some of the most breathtaking natural beauty from the hiking trails. My favorite part of hiking in Sedona is taking in the vibrant orange and red rocks set against the contrasting, bright blue sky.
You can find trails ranging from family-friendly hikes like the Fay Canon Trail to longer hikes like Wilson Mountain for those looking for a challenge. Regardless of the route you take, make sure you’re prepared with plenty of water and snacks, and be ready to see beautiful views in all directions.
The parking availability at Sedona trailheads runs out fast, so make sure to start your day of hiking early and take advantage of the free Sedona Shuttle when possible.
10. Take a Mule Ride Down the Grand Canyon
If hiking the Grand Canyon feels too ambitious for you, consider letting a mule take you all the way down (and back up) instead. Although I’ve only ever hiked the Canyon personally, every time I visit I get a little envious of others exploring the canyon on the back of a sure-footed mule.
This adventure is perfect for those 9 years and older and for those without any fear of heights. Expect to take in the vast beauty of the Canyon at ease, and enjoy an evening along the Colorado River while you stay overnight at Phantom Ranch.
Whether you want to ride along the rim of the Canyon for a few hours or take a 2-day trip all the down before making the return journey up, be sure to book your mule ride at least 15 months in advance (it sounds extreme but the trips fill up quickly!). Make sure you check their website to gather more details for your trip; including how to book, what to bring, and where to check in. Find out more information here.
11. Drive Through Monument Valley
Whenever I drive through the northeast part of Arizona, I am struck by the beauty of Monument Valley. The unique rock formations and vastness of the sky take my breath away every time without fail.
Monument Valley may be one of the most photographed attractions in Arizona and is a perfect activity for families. Expect to see many of the famous rock formations like Mitten Buttes, John Ford’s Point, Yeibichai, Three Sisters Spires, and Elephant Butte.
12. Musical Instrument Museum
I’ve found that exploring a museum is the best way to spend a hot summer day in Phoenix. Given that I am a musician myself, I have loved every one of my visits to the Musical Instrument Museum.
Located in northeast Phoenix, this museum is ranked in the top 20 museums across the United States. Expect to take your time exploring the collection of over 15,000 musical instruments and associated objects including examples from over 200 countries and territories.
13. Boat on Lake Powell
I believe the best way to experience Lake Powell is not by sitting on the beach, but by actually being on the water. Jet-skiing across the sprawling lake and down the many slot canyons is one of the most exhilarating things I have ever done in Arizona.
This activity is great for anyone 18 and older visiting in the summer and looking to cool off from the hot Arizona sun. Expect to explore just a sliver of the lake when you rent the jet ski for the entire day.
14. Lowell Observatory
I never knew the night sky could be so fascinating until I visited Lowell Observatory. For those that love science, or are just interested in learning something new, I highly suggest stopping at this hilltop center.
With a general admission ticket, there are so many options of things to do including science talks, historical tours, open houses, and stargazing.
Most days the observatory is open from noon until 10 pm, but check their website for the most up-to-date schedule. Also, pay attention to the various special events they have going on like meeting an astronomer. Plan your trip here.
15. Walnut Canyon Flagstaff
Another great attraction in Arizona is Walnut Canyon National Monument. This is also located in Flagstaff and is home to unique geological formations and ancient cliff dwellings.
This tourist attraction in Arizona is perfect for families as the one-mile round-trip Island Trail gives you access to over 20 cliff dwellings. After you complete the trail, you can explore the Visitor Center which has Junior Ranger activities and more historical information.
16. Natural Water Slides in Slide Rock State Park, Sedona
Located off Highway 89A in Sedona, Slide Rock State Park is one of the most popular attractions in Arizona in the summertime. Sliding down the natural water slides or lounging on a nearby rock is the perfect way to cool off on a hot sunny day.
This Arizona attraction is perfect for families, couples, or individuals looking for a fun afternoon. Be prepared to handle the popularity here, however; expect to battle crowds of other people and cars with the same desire to have fun and cool off.
Be sure to arrive early in the day to secure parking and a good spot next to the slides, and take plenty of water and snacks along. The state park charges a $20 fee per car, and last entry is permitted one hour prior to closing. The swimming area closes one hour prior to closing. Find out more here.
17. Visit the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson
Before I visited the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum for the first time, I had no idea what to expect – when I finally made it, it blew my expectations out of the water as it has so much to offer including botanical gardens, exhibits, an art gallery, and a natural history museum. My favorite part is the artificial cave that features stunning minerals like ruby, amethyst, and emerald.
This attraction is perfect for those who love nature and history as in one stop, you can get a fix of both! Dress accordingly as 85% of the museum is an outdoor walking experience – this includes taking sufficient water.
18. See a Show at the Hale Center Theatre
If I could, I would see a show at the Hale Centre Theatre every weekend. The 350-seat theatre-in-the-round offers an energetic yet intimate show experience. Taking in the singing and dancing of Foot Loose made easy work of getting me out of my seat.
Expect to purchase tickets well in advance as they often sell out quickly. Each show is featured at the theatre for around 1-2 months before another show rotates in.
Get ready to sit back and enjoy a lively show put on by extremely talented individuals. Click here for more information.
19. Enjoy Nightlife in Old Town Scottsdale
Whether your taste buds fancy Italian, Mexican, or American, I promise there will be a restaurant here for you. And if you’re looking for more fun after dinner, there are plenty of bars and nightclubs that offer both indoor and outdoor spaces.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to grab something sweet after dinner from a local ice cream shop like Buzzed Bull Creamery. Dress for a night in Old Town Scottsdale by wearing smart yet casual clothes for a night of eating and dancing.
☞ SEE ALSO: 15 Best Things To Do in Old Town Scottsdale
20. Kayak Watson Lake in Prescott
Located just 2 hours from Phoenix, escaping to Watson Lake in Prescott is one of my favorite summertime weekend adventures. Some friends and I often load up our kayaks and get ready to spend the day fishing, kayaking, hiking, and picnicking.
If you decide to spend a day here, bring plenty of water and food to fuel your adventures around the stunning and unique Watson Lake.
The park itself charges $3 for parking and if you want to rent a kayak, there are a few options including Prescott Outdoors-Adventure Rentals which rent kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddle boards.
21. Hike Camelback Mountain
Each time I hike Camelback Mountain I’m shocked at how short yet intense this hike really is. Camelback is one of the most popular hikes in Phoenix, but don’t let that popularity mislead you into thinking it’s easy!
Be prepared for a very busy trail with sections that involve moderate climbing. I also recommend hiking it in the early morning or at sunrise to avoid the hottest parts of the day.
22. Shop Downtown Jerome
Jerome is well known for once being a booming copper-mining town. Today, some refer to it as a haunted ghost town. Because of its rich history, wandering through its downtown and exploring the shops and art galleries makes for a fun thing to do in Arizona.
Spend an afternoon aimlessly walking through the colorful buildings and stopping in jewelry shops, pottery stores, art galleries, and fun tourist shops. Within a few hours, you can expect to see some beautiful and unique treasures.
23. Kayak or Float Down the Salt River
Because Arizona isn’t home to much water, anywhere it can be found draws in plenty of people jumping at the opportunity to make the most of it. For example, floating down the Lower Salt River in the Tonto National Forest is a relaxing and refreshing summer activity that I always look forward to during a visit.
Kayaking down the Salt River is an ideal thing to do in Arizona for couples who are dating or married. Come prepared with plenty of sunscreen, water, and a dry-bag to keep any valuables safe.
This unguided kayaking experience provides you with the kayak, a shuttle to the start, and a pickup from the finish. Consider joining this activity for a unique water experience that encompasses the beauty of Tonto National Forest. Click here for more information.
24. Golf at Troon North in Scottsdale
If you’re a fan of golf, then I’m sure you know that Scottsdale is home to some of the country’s best golf courses. Troon North is an iconic desert course that provides guests with views of Pinnacle Peak and the Sonoran desert all around.
As an Arizona resident, staying at the resort and golfing the course is one of my favorite “staycations” to take in the Phoenix area.
25. Boat on Tempe Town Lake
There’s something about pedal boats that take me back to my childhood. Maybe that’s why I always have a blast renting one and zooming around Tempe Town Lake. But if pedaling sounds like too much work, you can also rent motorized donut boats, kayaks, and stand-up paddle boards.
Exploring Tempe Town Lake by boat is a great activity to add to your itinerary if you’re exploring Arizona with a group of friends. Pack some snacks and drinks and get ready to rent a boat for an hour or more.
Quick Travel Itineraries For Arizona
Whether you only have one day in Arizona or an entire week, here are a few options for how you could spend your time:
1 Day in Arizona Itinerary
If you have only one day in Arizona, I suggest staying around the Phoenix area to maximize the time that you have. Spend the morning golfing at one of the many beautiful golf courses like Troon North. If golfing isn’t your thing, spend the morning meandering through the Desert Botanical Gardens.
As the temperatures rise in the afternoon, take advantage of the indoor Musical Instrument Museum. After the museum, put on your hiking shoes and race to the top of Camelback Mountain as the sun begins to set. Finish off your day with dinner on a patio in Old Town Scottsdale.
This itinerary will keep you on the east side of Phoenix; doing most of your driving North and South.
2-3 Days in Arizona Itinerary
If you’re planning to spend 3 days in Arizona, you’d be surprised how much you can see. On day one, drive up to Sedona from Phoenix and spend the day exploring Sedona either by hiking some spectacular trails or taking a guided jeep tour down the rocky backroads.
On day two, leave Sedona and drive to Williams where you can board the 9:30 am train for a 65-mile ride up to the Grand Canyon. You’ll have 3 hours to explore the Canyon before returning to Williams.
On your final day, spend it exploring Phoenix by floating down the Salt River or boating around Tempe Town Lake. In the evening, grab dinner at one of the many restaurants in Old Town Scottsdale.
1 Week in Arizona Itinerary
If you have an entire week in Arizona, I suggest that you fly into Phoenix-Sky Harbor and rent a car that will allow you to cover many miles throughout the week. After you land on a morning flight, stretch your legs by climbing Camelback Mountain and spend the evening viewing a show at the Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert, AZ.
On your second day, drive 2 hours north to Flagstaff and begin by exploring the ancient cliff dwellings at Walnut Canyon National Monument. Once the sun starts to set, make your way to Lowell Observatory for some epic star gazing. On day three, drive 2 hours further north to Page and cool off by jet-skiing around Lake Powell. Spend the evening watching the sunset over Horseshoe Bend.
On day four, you can stay in Page for the morning and take a guided tour of Antelope Canyon. Once your tour has ended, drive 2 hours back south to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon where you can spend the evening walking along the Rim Trail before using Day 5 to hike into the Canyon, either on Bright Angel or South Kaibab Trail.
Day six is reserved for taking in the beauty of Sedona. Wake up early and drive 2 hours from the Grand Canyon to Sedona for a guided jeep tour and any hiking you want to tackle. On day seven, make your way back down to Phoenix and round off your trip by spending the day exploring the Musical Instrument Museum or the Desert Botanical Gardens.
Getting To Arizona
The best way to get to Arizona is by flying into Sky Harbor Airport, located in Phoenix. From here, you can rent a car and explore the entire state from a central location.
If you’re staying in the bigger cities of Phoenix or Tucson, you’ll be able to find public transportation options easily. Aside from public transportation, there are also scooters and Ubers available in many towns.
Based on my experience, I would suggest renting a car and exploring the state with your own transport. Most places are just a few hours apart from each other and this allows you much more freedom to explore at your own pace.
Things To Do in Arizona: FAQs
Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about visiting Arizona:
Arizona is known for the Sonoran Desert, impressive red rocks, the Grand Canyon, and activities such as golfing and hiking.
The best time to visit Arizona is either in the fall (October/November) or in the Spring (March/April).
Arizona is definitely worth visiting! In one trip you can experience so many different things like the desert, mountains, rivers, and cities.
If you want to explore as much of all the state has to offer as possible, you should spend at least 8-10 days in Arizona.
Yes, Arizona is a very safe place to visit. In the three years I’ve lived here, I have never felt unsafe. Most areas you go to are busy with other people visiting. Pay attention to local guides and authorities’ advice and you’ll be fine.
The most popular thing to do in Arizona is to visit the Grand Canyon.
The best beach in Arizona is Wahweap Beach which sits on the shore of Lake Powell. Boat rentals and tours are available nearby at Wahweap Marina.
You must try the authentic Navajo fry bread and anything that features the iconic Arizona prickly pear.
I hope that in reading through this list, you’ve come to realize just how endless the number of things to do in Arizona is. Whether you’re coming to visit over spring break with the family, in the winter to ski some slopes, or in the summer for a new place to explore, I promise you will not run out of fun things to do in Arizona.