Mention Arizona to any traveler and the first thing to come to mind is the Grand Canyon. It’s big and kind of hard to miss after all. But one you’ve peered over the edge, taken a couple of panoramas, and maybe walked down into it a ways, you’ve pretty much done it. Get the postcard and get on your way. There are so many other places to see; so here’s where to travel in Arizona next!
Where to Travel in Arizona (other than the Grand Canyon)
Luckily there is way more to do in Arizona than the Grand Canyon. Phoenix is a surprising cultural hub. From here, head north for a couple days and visit Acrosanti and Sedona, head west and visit Palm Springs and Coachella, head south and you’ll find Tucson and Tombstone, or just stay in town and explore some of the country’s best art festivals.
Where to go in the North of Arizona
Acrosanti is an experiment in urban planning that uses innovative building techniques and city planning to explore new ways to increase metropolitan sustainability and reduce urban sprawl. Originally founded 1970 by the Italian architect, Paolo Soleri, the futuristic decor and original building styles are delightfully reminiscent of the Jetson-esque future imagined by 1950’s designers.
To me, the style felt part space lab, part post apocalyptic utopia, and I loved all of it. A series of guesthouses provide a minimalist sleeping space that allows guests to fully immerse themselves in the Acrosanti experience. I highly recommend visiting for a day, and staying for the evening. Take the tour, learn about their projects, and become inspired. Dine in the cafeteria with the resident volunteers and imagine a better way to live.
I highly recommend visiting for a day, and staying for the evening. Take the tour, learn about their projects, and become inspired. Dine in the cafeteria with the resident volunteers and imagine a better way to live.
Sedona is a quiet little desert town that makes a great place to rest, detox, and embrace the great out doors. Downtown Sedona is filled with art galleries, new age shops, and trendy restaurants. Everywhere you look you’ll find stunning red rock vistas calling your name.
Any visit to Sedona isn’t complete without a trek into the red rock buttes and canyons around the town. There are probably hundreds of hiking trails to choose from. My favorite hikes included Devil’s Bridge Trail and West Fork Canyon. Devils Bridge culminates at an impressive natural arch so large you can walk across it like a bridge.
West Fork has over a dozen stream crossings, and stayed cool and shady in shelter of the cliff walls even in the heat of the day. Pick up a good walking stick at the start of the trail. You’ll need it for balance!
Where to go in the West of Arizona
The Palm Springs/Coachella Valley area of California has become something of a mecca for festival-goers in recent years. But no matter the season, Palm Springs is a town worth visiting. Like Sedona, it is known for its healthy mix of relaxing spas, healing springs, and the beautiful Sonoran Desert to explore.
Go for a weekend. Spend the days hiking, biking, horseback riding, or off-roading the many trails in the Coachella Valley Preserve. Come in the spring to beat the heat and enjoy the cactuses in bloom.
There’s nothing quite like the sight of a brilliant flower blossoming on the spiky uninviting side of a cactus to make you respect nature’s will to thrive and survive. In the evenings soak your weary muscles in the desert hot springs, fed from an aquifer of mineral-rich spring water.
Where to go in the South of Arizona
Two hours south of Phoenix is Tucson and just a bit farther on is Tombstone. Tucson is another serene desert town, nestled between several mountains and speckled with Saguaro cacti. Wandering from one cute oasis town to the next, separated by lengths of highway and harsh desert landscapes, just doesn’t seem to get old no matter how many I visit.
But then Tombstone is another story all together. They’ve stuck close to their Wild West roots, and celebrate their colorful history everyday of the year with historically themed shops, galleries, museums, performances, tours, and more.
If you like historical tourism, funny costumes, and celebrating the crazy history that brought us to where we are today; consider a visit to the Arizona Renaissance Festival too. Open in February and March, just east of Phoenix, its a silly way to spend a day recreating the best parts of Renaissance England (the beer, the food, the corsets, and the jesters!) The Arizona Renaissance Festival is a great place to go shopping too. Artisans and crafters fill the shoppes with their own unique crafts and works of art.
But then, Arizona is pretty great at celebrating artists and small business owners. The Tempe Festival of the Arts is one of the nations best and biggest art markets and well worth a visit. Tempe also has monthly art nights every first Friday. These nights are a fun way to check out new local artists, buy some cool crafts, and try some new eats.
Arizona has so much to offer other than the Grand Canyon!
From art and culture to natural beauty, Arizona has plenty to offer. Visit for a day, a week, or a month. No matter how long you stay, there will always be something else you wish you’d seen, one more city you wish you’d explored and one more mountain you wish you’d climbed.
Have you ever had the urge to just drop what you were doing, pack a bag, and set out on an adventure? Seven years and over two dozen countries later, Aeri Rose is proof that excitement, independence, and discovery await those who are bold enough to say “yes” to life’s craziest choices. When not exploring the world with her little grey backpack, Aeri Rose an be found living a nomadic lifestyle traveling the United States as a writer and entrepreneur. To follow Aeri on all her adventures, check her out online on her blog, Facebook and on Instagram.