WHY VISIT ARIZONA
A jewel in the USA’s crown, Arizona is a state of seemingly infinite possibilities; a place where you can hike from snow-capped mountains to the dusty depths of the Grand Canyon; where you can dance around campfires with Navajo tribesmen and rattle down Route 66 on a road trip to California.
While the north of the state is crisscrossed with mountain streams and canyons, the south and west offer eye-catching deserts with stunning rock formations, Native American tribes, and ramshackle ghost towns from Arizona’s mining days.
Phoenix, the bustling state capital, boasts world-class cultural attractions, restaurants, and shopping, not to mention a buzzing nightlife. It borders swanky Scottsdale, one of Arizona’s primary resorts, which is crammed with trendy hotels, spas, and golf courses.
Chock-a-block with students, Tucson is a hip and culturally vibrant city. Surrounded by rugged mountains, it has a lively nightlife, heavy Hispanic influence, and distinctive downtown.
Flagstaff, meanwhile, is the place for adventure, as it is the gateway to some of the best hiking, biking, and skiing in the state. And then there’s Sedona, a small city in Yavapai County surrounded by stunning sandstone formations and scented pine forests.
For a taste of the Wild West, there’s the notorious, frontier town of Tombstone, which offers visitors the chance to stroll down its saloon-lined high street and watch re-enactments of the famous shooting at OK Corral.
Of course, the Grand Canyon is the big draw, but dig deeper in Arizona, and you’re in for a treat.
WHAT TO SEE IN ARIZONA
- Grand Canyon National Park: Grand Canyon National Park meanders across the northern reaches of Arizona and has become a symbolic display of Mother Nature’s brute force, sheer brilliance, and hard-nosed patience. This expansive rock formation is simply breathtaking, so visitors are advised to make a detailed itinerary before heading here. The South Rim entrance is where most people arrive and tourists can swim in the pristine pools of Havasu Canyon or get lost in the solitude of the 800-meter-high North Rim.
- Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum: the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, a splendid museum-slash-zoo, welcomes tourists from all over the state and country. You could easily spend a half day admiring the fantastic range of animals such as coyotes, wild boars, snakes, and bobcats. Be prepared to be amazed at the huge list of fascinating fauna living in this desert environment. During the warm months, there is even a night-safari tour on Saturdays which highlights rarely-seen after-dark creatures of the sand.
- Meteor Crater: around 50,000 years ago, a large meteor struck Arizona and formed a massive cavity. No, this is not the Grand Canyon. It is another major hole in this beautiful state. Meteor Crater is one of the world’s most recognizable astrological attractions and even though tourists are not able to hike to the bottom, there are plenty of lookout points dotted across the rim. The crater is only an hour’s drive from Flagstaff.
- Casa Grande Ruins National Monument: about two hours from Tucson is the historically significant Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. This large house is believed to have been built many centuries ago around AD 1350. Covered by a metal/wooden awning which was first placed over the dwelling in 1932 in an effort to preserve the building, it was constructed by the ancient civilization of the Hohokam. Despite being somewhat shielded from view, it is still a powerful attraction of Arizona’s landscape.
- Fort Verde State Historic Park: step back in time to witness frontier culture in all its glory at Fort Verde State Historic Park. This one-time farming settlement was transformed into a living history museum last century. Tourists should visit the beautiful fort which contains military quarters, civic landmarks, and information on frontier history, including life and war. On occasion, staff dresses up in old-west costumes to make the experience even more authentic.
- Flagstaff Arboretum: this beautiful arboretum is the highest botanical garden in the USA, not just in Arizona. Located within the Flagstaff metropolitan area, the magnificent park boasts more than 2,500 species of plants, which is quite remarkable considering the area is predominantly a desert with a suitable growth period of just 75 days a year. It sits on about 200 acres of land and includes a bird show, guided tours, and picnic spots.
- Montezuma Castle National Monument: for more than 1,000 years, Montezuma Castle has become a nationally recognized monument and archaeological site. Even though visitors are not permitted to enter the structure, there is a museum on site that highlights the major events surrounding the Sinagua dwelling. Located only a short distance from Sedona and accessible by Interstate 17, if you can’t make it out, it is possible to tour the castle virtually via its website.
- Wildlife World Zoo: Wildlife World Zoo is just 35 miles outside of Arizona’s largest city, Phoenix. Visitors can get up close and personal with the world’s most amazing animals and is among the state’s best family outings. Giraffes, kangaroos, tigers, and many other exotic species are found here. In addition to land-based fauna, an aquarium showcasing a variety of marine wildlife is also at the zoo.
WHEN TO GO TO ARIZONA
The best period to visit Arizona is from March to June.
Arizona has two distinct climates that depend largely on the landscape. In the lower desert region around cities like Phoenix and Tucson, hot and dry weather with mild winters dominate. During the summer months (May through to August), temperatures can reach high levels, but generally average around 93°F (34°C). Winter temperatures fall to about 64°F (18°C), but occasionally can drop to around 32°F at night.
The higher elevations of Arizona around the city of Flagstaff see temperatures fall to below 32°F (0°C) during the winter months of December, January, and February. This drop brings snow fall to many areas of the state’s highland region. In summer, temperatures reach warm averages of 80°F (27°C).
Like the contrasting weather between Arizona’s two main landscapes, precipitation is also significantly different too. Each year, the desert regions of South and Central Arizona receive much less rainfall than the mountainous areas. Heavy precipitation in the form of snowfall blankets the elevated region during winter. However, summer monsoons between July and September bring short bouts of heavy rain and thunderstorms to much of southern Arizona. Despite the moisture, humidity levels across the year are significantly lower than in other parts of the United States.
WHAT TO DO IN ARIZONA
Raft the Grand Canyon
Anyone can take a road trip to the South Rim, peer over the side, and say, “Boy, that’s a big hole in the ground.” But you truly get to appreciate the majesty of the Grand Canyon by taking a week or so and rafting the Colorado River that runs through it. You’ll careen through Class III-V rapids with expert guides and hike into seldom-trekked side canyons with tropical oases that will help you forget how long it took to get a permit to visit Havasupai Falls. As you go, the guides will tell you the canyon’s history from its formation to the time of the Native American tribes. More importantly, they’ll cook you dinner every night as you watch the purple sunset fade into the brightest stars you’ve ever seen.
Following is a list of typical festivals and celebrations in Arizona.
- First Fridays Artwalk: First Fridays Art Walk is a public art project that occurs on the first Friday of each month of the year beginning in January. Open to anyone and every one, this Phoenix event began in 1994 and has developed into the United States’ largest art walk. Shops, galleries, and a variety of other establishments open their doors to create a welcoming, social atmosphere for locals and visitors alike.
- Gem Show Tucson: in Arizona’s second-largest city, Tucson, a gem and mineral show dominates the headlines during the second week of February. Spread across more than 50 venues, the Gem Show sees thousands of visitors and gem specialists annually. View the stunning dinosaur fossils on display or witness the beauty of opals dug directly from the Australian Outback. Hotels host a variety of gem and mineral shows around town too.
- Arizona Matsuri: Arizona has a strong Japanese culture which can be witnessed during February’s Matsuri Festival, held in Phoenix. Plenty of fascinating activities and exhibitions highlighting Japanese culture are on display and some of the more popular activities include taiko drumming and martial arts performances.
- Phoenix Film Festival: held in Scottsdale, the Phoenix Film Festival occurs every April and has become one of the most recognized movie celebrations in the United States. Originally designed to accommodate films with budgets less than $1 million, the event now attracts flicks with a much heftier price tag.
- Prescott Rodeo Festival: Arizona has a proud rodeo tradition. Between June 28 and July 4, Prescott is home to the Annual Frontier Days and Oldest Rodeo Festival. The event lures thousands of visitors annually with its parades, activities, food, dances, and music.
- Flagstaff Fourth of July Parade: if you’re looking for a great place to celebrate the Fourth of July, head to Flagstaff. The historic downtown hosts a spectacular parade boasting food, dances, music, floats, and vintage vehicles. Festivities begin at 9:00 a.m. and run well into the night.
- Winterhaven Festival of Lights: Christmas in Arizona is always a special time. However, the most illustrious festival during the holiday season is held on Tucson’s Fort Lowell Road. The Winterhaven Festival of Lights is a brilliant lights show put on by 40 or so houses on this iconic Americana boulevard. The event begins in the middle of December and ends before the New Year’s celebrations.
HOW TO REACH AND TRAVEL THROUGH ARIZONA
The quickest and most convenient mode of transportation into Arizona is by air. The state boasts more than one international air gateway and dozens of regional airports. Several major national and state highways also run across the state, including interstate arterial roads. The Amtrak rail network connects Arizona with other parts of the US through two major routes. Public transportation in the state’s most populated cities is becoming increasingly convenient, but options for getting between cities via public transportation are still relatively limited.
Inter-city buses are operated by Greyhound, which makes stops in most major metropolises of Arizona including Phoenix, Tucson, Yuma, and Glendale. Apart from Greyhound services, transportation between cities is relatively thin on the ground.
The larger cities of Arizona boast excellently organized and affordable bus networks, including the Mountain Line of Flagstaff and Phoenix’s Valley Metro on which express buses are available. Buses are a great option for getting around the state’s major cities, as they are cheaper than taxis and reasonably comfortable.
In addition to bus services, Valley Metro also manages a light rail network in Phoenix. Northern Arizona is served by the Amtrak Southwest Chief route (Chicago to Los Angeles), while the south-central region of the state falls on the Sunset Limited track (New Orleans to Los Angeles). In general, though, roads are much more common and useful than train lines in Arizona.
Main airports are:
GENERAL INFORMATION ON ARIZONA
health tips & vaccination: none
local currency: US Dollar
local time zone: GMT-8,-7 (-7,-6)
electricity: type A and type B (120V – 60 Hz)
WHAT TO DO IN ARIZONA
Typical food in Arizona
- Chilli and Frijoles
Souvenirs from Arizona
- Navajo silver and turquoise jewellery
- sand paintings
- rug weaving
- Hopi silver jewellery
- kachina carvings