If you are heading off to Arizona soon, lucky you! You are in store for some stunning views and heat and we’ve put together a guide for some of the most iconic sites the Grand Canyon State has to offer.
You can do ALL the things listed in the span of a few days (we did), but if you want to take a couple of extra days to hang out and relax and see a little more things, we totally get it.
So let’s dive right into some of the must things to do while you are in the state. Trust us, if you motor around Arizona you’re going to be in awe of all of the different landscapes you’ll be treated to. Complete eye candy!
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Day One: A visit to the Grand Canyon
It’s one of the natural wonders of the world, and the Grand Canyon is, you guessed it, VERY grand. So many words could be used to describe it, like immense, wild, mesmerizing, and even a little terrifying at how something so big makes you truly feel so small.
Hit the canyon up at sunrise and sunset, with picturesque photo opportunities and sights that make you go “ahhhh.”
Allocate a decent amount of money during your time here, especially if you are travelling with a family. Food is on the pricey side no matter where you go. We learned that the McDonald’s in Tusayan just south of the park’s gates is the fifth most expensive McDonald’s in the United States.
If you are planning on spending some time here, your best bet is to stay at the Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn. Pool, restaurant, big rooms. It’s the place to be!
To get a less-than-seen view of the canyon, we recommend checking out the Hermit Road Tour offered by Bright Angel Bicycles. It’s a chance to zip around the canyon’s edge (safely, of course) and learn about its history and get all the questions you may have about the area answered.
Day Two: A visit to Monument Valley
Ok, we personally think Monument Valley is kind of THE treasure of Arizona, it offered such dazzling landscapes and views it was almost unfair!
You can stay right outside the valley itself, however, we opted for a stay at Goulding’s Lodge. See the valley right from your hotel, AND it has Goulding’s Trading Post Museum as well as “John Wayne’s Cabin.”
Visit the iconic Forrest Gump location
A must-see is a spot where some of the iconic film Forrest Gump was shot, where he decided he doesn’t want to keep running anymore. Anyone that has seen the classic movie will appreciate this spot, it feels like a landmark in its own right!
Take a tour of the valley
We took a jeep tour of the valley that gave views of many of the famous monuments when the tour makes stops at The East and West Mittens viewpoint, John Ford’s Point, Three Sisters viewpoint, the Totem Pole viewpoint, Artist’s Point, and the North Window viewpoints. In the back-country, you will make stops at The Sun’s Eye and Ear of the Wind.
We recommend doing this bright and early in the morning — the sun isn’t nearly as hot, and the crowds are nice and quiet, too.
Day Three: A visit to the Petrified Forest National Park
Heading to the badlands of Arizona, the Petrified Forest National Park just outside of Holbrook is like nothing you have probably ever seen before.
You can do some hikes around the painted desert, check out petroglyphs left by people hundreds and even thousands of years ago, and have your mind blown by massive — and we mean MASSIVE — pieces of petrified wood that are scattered throughout the park.
It’s truly a sight to be seen, just huge pieces of petrified wood that are all over the place and in all different colours, too.
Stop at the old Route 66 location
Everyone gets their kicks on Route 66, and you can see an old abandoned portion of the instantly recognizable highway with a marker placed in the park where the route used to run. If you check out the row of powerlines in the distance, that’s in fact left from the old route too, frozen in time.
The park ranger we were with mentioned how they find “historical trash” along the old route all the time, from old pop bottles, vehicle parts, spoons, and much more.
Day Four: A visit to Phoenix
Desert Botanical Garden
A stop at the Desert Botanical Garden is a must, and of course, you’ll see plenty of Arizona’s iconic cacti, as well as plenty of birds, hummingbirds, insects, and a massive array of other plants. Expect to spend a decent couple of hours here, and bring plenty of sunscreen!
Musical Instrument Museum
We personally think the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix is such a hidden gem, and be prepared to spend a good chunk of time marvelling over not just celebrity musical instruments and items, but musical instruments and cultures from around the world.
Highlights include the Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash sections (if you have never seen a Grammy award or Golden Globe award in person, this is your chance) as well as detailed halls of each and every country’s musical instruments and history. At first glance you might think why would you want to see this museum but trust us, it’s well worth the stop!
Dine at Tia Carmen
Mixing tradition and modernity across its vast food and drink menu, Tia Carmen prides itself on creating an authentic experience, with acclaimed chef Angelo Sosa taking the time to visit and explore many of the areas the dishes come from, celebrating the rich food culture of Arizona.
The restaurant is perfectly situated in the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, which opened at the end of April 2022. The views are gorgeous and the atmosphere is cozy and warm.
The author of this article was hosted by Visit Arizona