Known for its breathtaking natural beauty and dry climate, Arizona is a great place to visit in the southwestern section of America. Whether you’re planning to visit Phoenix for the first time, taking in the action during Spring Training or thinking of attending some of the country’s best universities, there are plenty of things to do in the Grand Canyon State. Use this travel guide to Arizona to help you sort out the best of what to see, where to eat and where to stay.
How to Get There
By Air: The two primary airports in Arizona are Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and Tucson International Airport. Smaller airports include Grand Canyon Airport and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
Serving more than 40 million passengers, Phoenix Sky Harbor International is America’s 10th busiest airport. US Airways and Southwest Airlines represent nearly 75 percent of all the airport’s traffic. Other airline carriers include Alaska, United, Delta, Hawaiian, Jet Blue, American and British Airways. The airport’s Sky Train connects passengers from Level 3 of Terminal 4 to the Valley Metro Light Rail, with service into downtown Phoenix. Other ground transportation services are rental cars, airport shuttles, taxis and limousine. The other airport serving Phoenix is the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, located about 32 miles east of downtown Phoenix.
Tucson International Airport
Tucson International Airport is the second busiest in Arizona. Among the major airlines serving this airport are US Airways, Southwest, American and United. Ground transportation services include car rentals, airport shuttles and limousines, taxis and bus service into downtown Tucson on Sun Tran’s routes 6 and 11.
Amtrak provides train and/or bus service to a number of cities in Arizona, including Flagstaff, Kingman, Phoenix, Yuma and Tucson. Amtrak’s Southwest Chief provides stops in Winslow, Williams Junction, Kingman and Flagstaff, with connecting service to the Grand Canyon or Phoenix via the Amtrak Thruway. The other main route to Arizona is the Sunset Limited, with direct service to Benson, Tucson, Maricopa and Yuma.
Five interstate highways serve Arizona
Interstate 8 – Yuma and Tucson
Interstate 10 – Phoenix
Interstate 17 – Flagstaff and Phoenix
Interstate 19 – Tucson
Interstate 40 – Kingman, Flagstaff and Winslow
How to Get Around
Most travelers will arrive by car but major metropolitan areas such as Phoenix and Tucson also have outstanding public transportation. In Phoenix, Valley Metro is the service provider, featuring bus and light rail service. Tucson’s Sun Tran currently operates 40 fixed routes. A number of tour operators can be found at major destinations, including the Grand Canyon, Phoenix and Tucson.
Where to Stay
Where to Eat
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
2021 N. Kinney Road
Tucson, AZ 85743
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a world-renowned zoological park and one of the most popular attractions in Southern Arizona. Ranked No. 9 among the 10 Best Museums in the World last year by Trip Advisor, the museum hosts more than 230 animal species and 1,200 varieties of desert plants. Highlights include live animal presentations, the museum gardens and the primary exhibit areas, most notably the Warden Aquarium, Mountain Woodland and Desert Grassland. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is open daily all year.
401 E. Jefferson St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004
Chase Field is the home field of the Arizona Diamondbacks of Major League Baseball (MLB). First opened in 1998, the state-of-the-art stadium was the first to feature a retractable roof in the nation. Available for large-scale events such as the Insight Bowl, the stadium has a seating capacity of more than 48,000. The stadium also features a number of restaurants, a beer garden picnic pavilion and a swimming pool and spa behind right-centerfield, the only one of its kind in the MLB.
Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023
Listed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon is the top attraction in Arizona. Extending 277 miles long and up to 18 miles wide, the world’s most famous canyon was shaped and carved by the Colorado River over millions of years to reveal layers of sunburst colors amid a breathtaking panoramic backdrop. Most travelers to the Grand Canyon will visit the South Rim, where most of the visitor services can be found including camping, lodging, dining and guided tours and is open year round. Among the things to see in the Grand Canyon are the Grand Canyon Visitor Center and a tour along Desert View Drive to Yaki Point, Grandview Point, Moran Point and Desert View.
Located along the Nevada-Arizona border and spanning the Colorado River, Hoover Dam is one of the world’s greatest engineering marvels in modern history and one of the world’s largest producers of hydroelectric power. Completed in 1935, the dam is 726.4 feet high, 1,244 feet wide, 660 feet thick at the base and 45 feet thick at the top. The concrete arch-gravity dam generates enough electricity to serve an estimated 1.3 million people. Due to its relatively proximity to Las Vegas, Hoover Dam is one of the more popular side trips from the Gambling Capital of the World.
Lake Havasu City
314 London Bridge Road
Lake Havasu City, AZ 86403
Situated along the California-Arizona border, Lake Havasu City is one of Arizona’s favorite vacation destinations. Frequently described as Arizona’s West Coast, the city resides along the shores of Lake Havasu, the reservoir created by the construction of Parker Dam. Perhaps the most famous attraction in Lake Havasu City is the authentic London Bridge purchased by Robert P. McCulloch and brought to Arizona in the 1960s. Activities in the city include swimming, boating, casino gambling and outdoor adventure tours.
Winslow, AZ 86047
Also known as the Barringer Crater, this impact meteorite crater is one of the most famous in the world. About a 10-minute drive from Highway 40 between Flagstaff and Winslow, the crater is about 4,000 feet in diameter and 570 feet deep. Scientists estimate a meteorite weighing 300,000 tons and traveling at 26,000 miles per hour struck the Earth 50,000 years ago to form the crater. Meteor Crater is open daily and tickets may be purchased at the Visitors Center. Classic rock music fans may also be interested in visiting Standing on the Corner Park in Winslow, made famous by one of the Eagles’ early hits “Take it Easy.”
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
Monument Valley, UT 84536
With vast lands of majestic sandstone formations, Monument Valley is one of the most photographed locations on Earth. A classic image of the American West, the valley has been frequently used in the media, most notably in film. Some of the most famous western movies featured Monument Valley as a scenic backdrop, including “Stagecoach,” “The Searchers” and “Once Upon a Time in the West.” Other notable films depicting scenes on the Navajo park are “Easy Rider,” “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Forrest Gump.” Located along the Arizona-Utah border near Four Corners, Monument Valley is about a four-hour drive from Flagstaff.
Old Tucson Studios
201 S. Kinney Road
Tucson, AZ 85735
Constructed during the golden age of Hollywood, Old Tucson Studios was originally built for the 1940 Western film “Arizona.” Years after World War II, the set location was made into a full working studio filming many famous movies and televisions shows. Among them are “The “3:10 to Yuma,” “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” and “Little House on the Prairie.” Today, Old Tucson Studios remains a working studio but is also open to the public. The historic studios and theme park is about a 30-minute drive west of downtown Tucson.
Sedona, AZ 86336
Known for its distinctive red rock formations and rich culture, Sedona has been described as one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Located just 30 miles south of Flagstaff, Sedona is an outstanding spot for shopping, dining and lodging, in addition to a wealth of outdoor activities. Top attractions include off-road tours, hiking, horseback rides and wine tasting. Sedona is also famous as a spiritual retreat and is believed to be a center of energy vortexes.
University of Phoenix Stadium
1 Cardinals Drive
Glendale, AZ 85305
The University of Phoenix Stadium is the home field for the Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League (NFL). Located in Arizona’s Antique Capital about nine miles northwest of downtown Phoenix, the stadium features America’s first retractable natural grass field and has a seating capacity of more than 78,000. The University of Phoenix Stadium hosts the annual Fiesta Bowl, one of the premier bowl games in college football. Other major events that have been held here include Super Bowl XLII and the 2011 BCA National Championship Game. The University of Phoenix will host both the 2015 NFL Pro Bowl game and Super Bowl XLIX.
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.