10 unique places you can only visit in Arizona
From giant saguaro cacti to the deep Grand Canyon, Arizona is teeming with natural wonders and beauties that cannot be found anywhere else in the United States. Add a nod to a popular Eagles song, the vision of a world-famous architect, a massive green experience, and more, and you have these 10 unique places that can only be experienced in Arizona.
My favorite time to visit Grand Canyon State is spring, when wildflowers paint the mountain meadows and desert soils with color. But you can visit these unique places in Arizona any time of the year. While destinations within miles of Phoenix provide a sunny respite from freezing winters elsewhere in the United States, they can be quite unbearable in the summer. In fact, Phoenix and Tucson are the the hottest cities in the United States, with more than 140 days a year at 90 degrees. So June, July, and August are fantastic months to visit northern Arizona instead.
This list of unique places begins with the Grand Canyon, one of the state’s most visited destinations, and moves clockwise.
1. Grand Canyon National Park, Northwest Arizona
Colorado’s capital may be a mile above sea level, but in Arizona visitors gaze into a wide crevice a mile deep. And at 277 miles long and 18 miles wide, the natural wonder of the world which inspired the nickname of the state of Arizona covers more square miles than Rhode Island. The sweeping views of the striped limestone walls carved by the Colorado River draw nearly six million visitors a year, making it Grand canyon national park one of the most visited of the park network. While there is hardly a bad view along the rim, adrenaline junkies and acrophiles will certainly want to stroll 70 feet above the canyon along the iron-shaped glass bottom Skywalk. on horseback. And if you’re brave enough to do it, you’ll be treated to unique views 4,000 feet above the canyon floor.
Pro tip: Plan an amazing trip to the Grand Canyon with these articles.
2. Meteor Crater Natural Site, Coconino County
Although it is not as wide or deep as the Grand Canyon, the Barringer meteor crater near Flagstaff is the country’s largest known impact crater (and Arizona’s second most famous hole in the ground). Although it has been designated a natural monument, the land where a huge meteorite crashed into Earth approximately 50,000 years ago remains the private property of the Barringer family and is not maintained by the National Park Service. Learn about the 550-foot-deep, 4,000-foot-wide crater through a brief movie, museum exhibits, and a guided tour of the rim.
3. Standin ‘On The Corner Park, Winslow
When many travelers in their forties hear the words “Winslow, Arizona,” they immediately think of the Eagles song. Take it slow, in which a girl in a flatbed Ford slows down to take a look at the singer. And now the lyrics written when Jackson Browne is car broke down in small town Arizona were immortalized at the corner of Route 66 and North Kinsley Avenue. Only in Arizona can you stop Standing at the corner of the park and take a selfie with a statue holding a guitar in front of a mural backdrop of a young blonde woman driving a red Ford truck.
4. Petrified Forest National Park, Holbrook
Traveling east from Winslow, historic Route 66 – or the new Interstate 40 – will take you to Petrified Forest National Park. It is the only site in the national park that includes a segment of the Mother Road that once connected Chicago to Santa Monica. As well as a unique experience along Route 66 in Arizona, you’ll also be treated to some spectacular scenery, especially if you think the forests are a deep green and the deserts are boring brown!
Covering more than 220,000 acres in northeastern Arizona, the Petrified Forest National Park protects one of the largest concentrations of petrified wood in the world. For millions of years, nature has transformed the fallen trees in this prehistoric forest into colorful works of art. Today, the woody colors that you would expect to see when looking at a fallen log have been replaced by sparkling white, brilliant blue, deep red and other colors thanks to quartz, manganese oxides and oxides of iron.
Pro tip: When you visit Petrified Forest, don’t forget to explore the Painted Desert in the northwest corner of the park as well.
5. Taliesin West, Scottsdale
You might associate legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright with the original Taliesin, an 800-acre estate in southwestern Wisconsin. But at 70, Wright was fed up with winter like any other Midwestern dweller (myself included) and migrated west to Scottsdale. Now a Unesco World Heritage and National Historic Landmark, the sand and stone structures with abundant natural light and long horizontal lines at Taliesin West are proof that Wright remained inspired by nature until his death in 1959.
6. Biosphere 2, Oracle
In the 1990s, eight scientists made international news when they were voluntarily locked in a huge glass enclosure for two years. Known as Biosphere 2 (because Earth is the original biosphere), the 3-acre site about an hour north of Tucson was used to better understand the complexity of our planet and the relationship between plants, animals, and the elements. Visiting this fascinating structure is something you can only do in Arizona.
Fun fact: Biosphere 2 was parodied in the 1996 film Bio-Dome with Pauly Shore and Stephen Baldwin.
7. Saguaro National Park, Tucson
Native to the Sonoran Desert, the majestic saguaro cactus found in southern Arizona is as synonymous with Arizona as it is with the Grand Canyon. One of the most awe-inspiring places to see these thorny, multi-branched giants is Saguaro National Park, where hundreds of cacti dot the rugged foothills north of Tucson. Visit at sunrise or sunset any time of the year for the most spectacular views. If you are lucky enough to visit on an infrequent rainy day, be sure to breathe in the unique scent of desert rain caused by damp creosote bushes. And if you visit Tucson between late April and early June, keep an eye out for another rare sight: saguaro cactus flowers. These beauties – the state flower of Arizona – bloom for only 24 hours.
8. Mi Nidito, Tucson
Whether it’s entertaining a foreign leader at a state dinner or dining in the residence on a Tuesday night, I imagine the President of the United States eating like a king. And when he dines, I expect him to visit some of the best restaurants in the country. This is what makes this next Arizona spot so unique. Inside a modest, brightly painted adobe building on Fourth Avenue in Tucson, Mi Nidito hosted rock stars, Hollywood elites, sports legends and heads of state. In fact, the President’s Plate – a bean tostada, birria taco, chili relleno, chicken enchilada, and beef tamale – was created in recognition of President Bill Clinton’s visit in February 1999. And , you guessed it – the rectangular six-top marked with a gold star and lined with photos of the POTUS 42, this is where Clinton sampled some of the best Mexican food in the Southwest.
9. Davis-Monthan Air Force Base Aircraft Boneyard, Tucson
Have you ever wondered what happens to an aircraft when it is downgraded? Like many humans in their 40s, commercial planes and fighter jets are retiring in the American Southwest. Known as the boneyards, there are seven main destinations for permanently ground planes in Arizona, California, and New Mexico. But the world’s largest boneyard is the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, where 4,400 jets are stationed on 2,600 acres near Tucson. Because AMARG is a controlled access facility, the only way to visit this ossuary is through a visit to the Pima Air and Space Museum.
10. Titan Missile Museum, Green Valley
When I was a teenager and attended school on a NATO base in Europe in the 1980s, the Cold War was very real. While my fellow Americans watched Red Dawn and Spies like us on the big screen, the AWACS that regularly slipped past my classroom window made me fear that the next world war could break out in Europe between the United States and the USSR at any time. Visit the Titan Missile Museum and exploring the last of the 54 Titan II missile sites that were on alert across the country from 1963 to 1987 is a one-of-a-kind experience only possible in Arizona and a great way to end the fear of many around the world world felt during the cold war.
Pro tip: To descend 10 meters into the missile complex, see the control center, and experience a simulated Titan missile launch, you will need to be able to descend 55 steps and climb them up at the end of your tour.
From natural wonders to man-made wonders, these 10 unique sites are must-see attractions in Arizona.