Photo by Mark Sacro
There are things to do and then there are THE BEST things to do in Arizona. What makes the 48th state so special? This Arizona travel guide contains our picks on how to do it right.
There are few places quite as ICONIC as Arizona. We’ll cover some of the best things to do in Arizona, from the cinema-famous wondrous landscapes to the sunsets that won’t stop, the state has some incredible things to offer.
If you are here for a week or a season, let this Arizona travel guide give you the full taste of the 48th state.
SEE THE FAMOUS ARCHITECTURE OF TALIESIN WEST
Experience the Sonoran Desert at the famous Taliesin West. There’s the original Taliesin Frank Lloyd Wright built in 1911 in Wisconsin, and then there’s Taliesin West, a winter home for the famous architect built in 1937. The building was mindfully designed a desert utopia, reflecting the “sweeping expansiveness of the desert,” as Wright made it a point to preserve as much of the desert environment within his several hundreds of acres of land. Each building has something unique to offer, and are connected through a series of terraces, walkways, pools and gardens.
Today, Taliesin West features several tours and activities, making it one of the best things to do in Arizona. In fact, you can reserve an in-depth guided tour where you’ll have access to exclusive private living spaces and a knowledgeable guide to answer all your Frank Lloyd Wright questions. There are also a number of other events held here—you could tap into your spiritual side with yoga, meditation or desert walks. Or relax and unwind with the ‘Sunset and Sips’ happy hour.
TOUR & DINE AT WRIGLEY MANSION
We had to include the chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr.’s grand manion, built in 1932 as a 50th wedding anniversary gift for his wife, on our Arizona travel guide. Now a historical landmark in Phoenix, the mansion was saved in 1973 by Geordie Hormel and his wife, Jamie, who restored it to its former work of art and made it a venue, touring site and best of all—home of fine dining. Today, Jamie is at the helm of the grand dame after the passing of Geordie, and you can toast him in his namesake bar.
Grab your cameras and explore the colorful history of two grand families—Wrigley and Hormel—that make the Wrigley Mansion. In this tour, you’ll get to hear the famed ghost stories, learn the history, ask questions and explore the design that makes the mansion one of Phoenix’s most storied landmarks.
Don’t miss Chef Christopher Gross, a James Beard award winner with a long-time passion for the culinary arts. His restaurant offers the epitome of fine dining, making it one of the best things to do in Arizona. Christopher’s, located at the top of the historic Wrigley Mansion, is said to be the chef’s dream restaurant.
As soon as you enter the room, the experience of Chistopher’s starts. Glass walls allow for romantic views of the gorgeous Sonoran Desert, and you’ll be greeted with a French cocktail, champagne or hor devours. The tasting menu includes delectable items that change by day, along with Christopher’s classic options.
TAKE IN THE VIEWS OF THE GRAND CANYON
One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, no Arizona travel guide is complete without the Grand Canyon. Its origins are nothing short of a scientific miracle. Estimated to be about six million years old, this natural landmark contains some of the oldest exposed rock on Earth. Millions of years of erosion from the Colorado River cut deep channels that turned it into the wonder that it is today.
No picture does it justice, and yet, it’s hard to comprehend that you’re not staring into a painting when viewing this beauty. Although you can just relax and take in the views, there are some exciting activities to do at the Grand Canyon as well:
You can take a helicopter tour from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon, which offers stunning aerial views and is a quick day trip. While just visiting the ICONIC canyon is one of the best things to do in Arizona, you can also book private flights with customizable activities, if you want to add on a detour to the stunning Antelope Canyon or Sedona.
Within the Hualapai Reservation along the West Rim, the SkyWalk is a bucket list item. It ventures out in a horseshoe shape into the open canyon, making you feel like you’re walking on air—4000 feet above the canyon!
One lesser known place on our Arizona travel guide is the Caverns Grotto, a dining experience nearly 200 feet underground, accessible by a 21-story elevator.
Originally built as a bunker for President Theodore Roosevelt, The Caverns Grotto is a private restaurant with just four tables available. The dishes are cooked at ground level then delivered via an elevator and pulley system, with an all-you-can-eat menu. Reservations are required in advance for this one-of-a-kind dining experience.
GHOSTLY HOTEL SAN CARLOS
Arizona is one of the “most haunted” states in the country, thanks to its many ghost towns, which were originally built for mining but came to abrupt halts after the mines dried out, causing most every resident to leave. Whether it’s “gold mines” or old resorts, one of the best things to do in Arizona is to seek a thrilling ghost adventure.
One of these haunted historical sites is the Hotel San Carlos. Built in 1928, this hotel is famous for being visited by many classic celebrities, including Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Mae West, Carol Lombard and more. Unfortunately, just weeks after its grand opening, the hotel experienced a tragedy as a young woman, Loene Jensen, jumped from the seven-story hotel. To date, the hotel has had a number of witnessed hauntings.
A common sighting is believed to be said Jensen, as some reported seeing a woman standing at the foot of their beds for several seconds before she walks toward the door and vanishes. Others see a little girl crying or hear children running in the basement. Some believe this is because before the hotel was built, it was Phoenix’s first school in 1874. Before that, the land was sacred for indigenous people.
Centrally located in Downtown Phoenix, The San Carlos Hotel is next to great food and shopping. The question is, do you dare to tour the historic building, or check into room 720, the room of Loene Jensen?
ATTEND A FAMOUS SPRING TRAINING GAME
Use this Arizona travel guide during springtime, the time when Arizona loves to boast beautiful temperatures, cactus blossoms and most importantly, spring training games.
Running this year from February 24 through March 28, 2023, spring training is an annual preseason series of practices and games for Major League Baseball teams. Arizona’s spring training started over 75 years ago with just two teams—the Cleveland Indians (now called the Cleveland Guardians) and the New York Giants. It wouldn’t be long before the Cubs joined in 1952, making it the official “Cactus League” of teams that has grown to what it is today.
Teams in the Cactus League you could watch play during Spring Training include:
To many, attending a spring training game is one of the best things to do in Arizona.
TRY THE ORIGINAL CHIMICHANGA AT EL CHARRO
It all started by mistake. The juicy shredded beef wrapped in a perfectly deep-fried tortilla tradition began in Tucson in 1928 when Moncia Flin, “Tia Monica,” accidentally dropped her meal into a boiling pot of oil. Not wanting to swear in front of children present in the kitchen, she exclaimed her version of the word “thingamajig” in Spanish, “chimichanga.”
Home of the chimichanga, El Charro is a staple of Tucson, and if you can afford the extra drive down south, a place not to be missed, one of the best things to do in Arizona. The restaurant also offers sangrias and margaritas. And if deep-fried burritos aren’t quite your thing, you can opt for a delicious chile relleno, street tacos or one of the many gluten-free, plant-based options. There are three locations in Tucson, including the original Downtown location, Oro Valley and one in the Tucson International Airport.
CATCH A SHOW AT THE HISTORIC ORPHEUM THEATER
Photo by Mark Sacro
It was a $750,000 construction project in 1927 to add to the vaudeville acts of the Orpheum Circuit, built in a Spanish Baroque style with intricate murals and moldings throughout. Although over the years, it would change hands and purposes, from Paramount PIctures to the Corona family for Spanish-style films, the City of Phoenix restored the Orpheum Theater in 1984. Located in Downtown Phoenix, the Orpheum Theater is home to the Phoenix Opera, and hosts ballets and broadway musicals throughout the year.
Whether you’re looking for a laugh, a classic musical or a refined operetta, The Orpheum Theater always has something to offer; we had to include it in our Arizona travel guide! The 1364 seat offers a balcony area, but if you do sit in the upper level, beware. Reports of a ghost nicknamed “Maggie” is said to often shush noisy visitors, even giving them a nudge at times.
Enjoy your ICONIC adventures in Arizona!