Look down into the depths of the Grand Canyon, up to the red rocks of Sedona or all around at the prickly saguaro cacti to appreciate the range of Arizona’s natural beauty. Several large cities offer contrasting interests of modern conveniences and Native American culture.
The Colorado River winds through northern Arizona, etching a path 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) deep through colorful sedimentary rocks to create the Grand Canyon. Visit this national park north of Flagstaff. It’s particularly striking to observe the sunrise, with the walls gradually lighting up as the sun rises above the horizon. Reserve in advance to stay in the rustic Phantom Ranch lodge at the river level and hike or ride a mule down the steep switchback trail.
Near Holbrook, see very old artifacts in Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert: dinosaur fossils and petrified wood that are more than 200 million years old along with more than 13,000 years of human history at 350 Native American sites.
Go to Phoenix for big-city excitement with a laidback style. Enjoy diverse attractions that include museums for firefighting and musical instruments, castle and pueblo architecture and a botanical garden in this unlikely desert location. Arizona State University-West Campus, with over 60,000 students, offers an incredible college sports scene and a renowned public art collection.
Drive further south to Tucson for great golf. Here you’ll find Saguaro National Park and other outdoor spots with the tall tree-like cacti and desert wildlife. The Mexican border is just an hour’s drive south. Sample Arizona’s unique cuisine of authentic Mexican salsas, prickly pear cactus cocktails and baked goods made with sweet mesquite flour.
Summers in Arizona are very hot and dry. The rest of the year is pleasant, making the state a popular spot for people seeking an active retirement or a relaxing vacation. Watch the desert come alive with bright flowers after a rare rain shower. In winter, you can even go snow skiing in Flagstaff and Williams.