Arizona is a really beautiful state with a lot that is interesting for a visitor to see. What is really great about Arizona, though, is that you can see many different types of things within a fairly small geographic area. There are mountains and valleys, deserts and forests, huge urban areas and deserted ghost towns. There is the hustle and bustle of Phoenix, one of the largest and fastest-growing cities in the nation and there is the laidback life of Native American reservations and rural communities. There is snow for skiing and extreme heat during the summer. And there is, of course, The Grand Canyon, one of the natural wonders of the world.
The best way to plan a trip to see the most out of all of this different stuff in Arizona is to hit ten of the most interesting and diverse cities in the state. Here are the ten cities that you would want to put on your Arizona travel itinerary.
1. Phoenix. Phoenix is the capital city of Arizona and it’s smack dab in the middle of the state so it’s something that you’re not going to be able to miss on a tour of Arizona even if for some reason you wanted to. Because it’s such a huge, sprawled-out urban area, there are a lot of options for what to see and do here and in the suburbs surrounding here. Many people go to enjoy resort vacations filled with golf and spas. Other things people visit here are designer fashion stores, the Phoenix Zoo, art galleries, museums and the Desert Botanical Gardens. People interested in college towns can check out neighboring Tempe, home to Arizona State University which is one of the biggest party schools in the nation.
2. Tucson. Tucson is a great place for people who want to head to an urban area but who find Phoenix to be a bit too overwhelming. With a population hovering around one million, Tucson is a large city with a lot to offer to visitors but it’s also small enough to be a welcoming, laid back and friendly place. Outdoorsy people will find opportunities to go hiking in the mountains (try Mt. Lemmon) or the desert (check out Saguaro National Park). Urbanites can do window shopping in the Fourth Avenue, Downtown and University districts. There are many galleries, shops, museums and landmarks to see in Tucson for the visitor who wants to do it all. This is also the home to the University of Arizona, a campus which offers a lot to do including an impressive planetarium and science center.
3. Flagstaff. The third major university in Arizona, Northern Arizona University, is the main reason that people come to this small town in Northern Arizona but there are a lot of other good reasons to come here as well. For one thing, it’s really close to the Grand Canyon but far enough from it that hotel prices are good. Although this is a college town, there are some other things that can be done here including a lot of skiing in the winter. One cool thing to do during warmer weather is to explore the volcanic lava tubes that are a tourist attraction at this site.
4. Sedona. This is a really fascinating city unlike any that you’ll see anywhere else and therefore one that you should take the time to check out while you’re traveling through Arizona. It’s located north of Phoenix and south of Flagstaff in Northern Arizona. It is considered to be a mystical healing center where vortexes of energy come together so you’ll find a lot of stuff here about psychics and crystals. But you’ll also find a lot of really great opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. There’s nothing quite like horseback riding in the red rock canyons of Sedona to make you feel like you’re truly living it up in the Southwest. Go to Oak Creek Canyon to enjoy natural water slides or explore the art galleries that are popular here.
5. Bisbee. This is an old mining town in Southern Arizona that should be explored because mining plays such an important role in the history of Arizona. There are many different abandoned and active mines throughout the state but this city is great because it’s a fun little place where you can take a tour of an old copper mine. In addition to taking that tour, take an architectural tour of some of the neat homes built on the hills here.
6. Nogales. This is a border town on the edge of Mexico and it’s something that you should experience while you’re in Arizona. You should also experience the chance to cross over into another country into the city of the same name on the Mexican side of the border. The Mexican culture plays a big role in the life of people in Arizona and it can be enjoyed as a tourist in this area.
7. Jerome. This is a town in the middle of Arizona that often gets overlooked by travelers because it’s a small place without a whole lot going for it. However, it’s also a really, really neat place. It’s built on a mountain and has some interesting panoramic views of Arizona. It’s filled with little shops and galleries and it’s one of those places that you should stop at for half a day, grab some lunch and explore for the sheer experience of seeing a neat part of Arizona that other travelers might miss.
8. Willcox. Willcox is a small town in southern Arizona. There are many small towns like it where farmers live out in the country of the state. However, Willcox is particularly of interest because many of the farms here are set up for tours. You can go to these places and pick apples or have a fresh pressed glass of apple cider on the farm where the apples where grown. A great time of year to go here is Halloween when the pumpkin patches are open to the public but you can go at almost any time of year.
9. Chinle. This is a really small town that you’re going to take one look at and wonder why you’re here. It’s a Native American town but there aren’t a lot of landmarks here to check out. Mostly it’s a residential place with a number of hotels. So why would you come here? Because Chinle is located near one of the coolest hiking spots in Arizona – Canyon de Chelly. Yes, you should head further north and see the wonder that is the Grand Canyon, but you shouldn’t miss the chance to see this smaller canyon that is beautiful in its own right and much less populated with other tourists.
10. Tombstone. You shouldn’t go to the Southwest without seeing at least one ghost town. Tombstone is set up for tourists and it’s a great place to go to experience a fun day of history in the Wild Wild West.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on November 17, 2015:
We are in Arizona now and will certainly check out these places. Bisbee was a real surprise and, of course, Tombstone. Be prepared to be a tourist here. It is fun. Downtown Florence, though quiet, is a beautiful Western movie set.
kenzie on September 19, 2013:
Grace Haskell on March 19, 2012:
Thanks for all of the information I was working on a state report and this website helped me tons
Adam M. on March 06, 2012:
I live in Sedona and I love it. Here. All I got to say if You visit Arizona you need to come see Sedona. The views are gorgeous and if You like hiking, jeep tours, hot airballoons, helicopter tours, mountain biking, and shopping and the fine shops with fine. dinning
Connie on January 26, 2012:
Nice list of cities/towns in Arizona, but nothing there to draw my attention. Try visiting my blog, My Awesome Arizona Vacation, or better yet, visit my website, http://www.visiting-arizona.com
If you're more interested in AZ history and natural environment, I think you'll enjoy it.
butt lartinkergeropolisstein on January 18, 2012:
Rachelle Williams from Tempe, AZ on December 12, 2011:
I moved to Arizona a little over a year ago and I am absolutely in love with the state, and my Phoenix suburb - Tempe.
I cannot wait to take my Canon 60D out to Sedona, Prescott, and the Grand Canyon.
Thank you so much for penning this interesting hub.
Chris on November 14, 2011:
I Think Wickenburg Is More Interesting Than Many Arizona Towns On This List!
Susan on October 07, 2011:
Cottonwood is just 20 minutes from Sedona. 15 from Jerome 45 from Prescott and flagstaff Affordable, quaint, wine trail, old town, and friendly! Come see us. Lots of options for exploration in the southwest!
Arizonagirl on August 31, 2011:
Prescott Arizona is the #1 small town on my list. I'm shocked it wasn't mentioned but Phoenix made the list (which is not a small town at all... it's a BIG city in the desert).
Check out Visit-Prescott.com. This city is quaint with old buildings and shops, 450 miles of trails, cool weather, a downtown square with FREE entertainment all summer long. You must see Whiskey Row. It's a row of bars in their original state. Some likely 100 years old and rustic. What always makes a great town.... the people!!! They are so nice and welcoming.
Aliiiiiiiiiiiii on June 03, 2011:
You forgot Yuma! Haha :D
arizona101 on May 17, 2011:
I love arizona.It is the most beautiful state
Jim on April 16, 2011:
From someone who was raised in AZ, lives in AZ, and has explored most every corner of AZ let me rebut this list. Phoenix has enough to do for nearly everyone, Tucson isn't worth the two hours it takes to get there and neither is Nogales (unless you're interested in touring ghettos). Visit Sedona if you love tourist hot spots and snooty rich old people (as well as crowded trails). Flagstaff is fantastic for everyone, great outdoors, great culture. If you have time visit eastern AZ and the White Mountains, beautiful for hiking, fishing, Native American culture without crowds. Basically give yourself time to explore the smaller places, the more desolate corners, and try to ignore most of this list.
viveresperando from A Place Where Nothing Is Real on April 12, 2011:
this is a nice list!
Brittany on March 20, 2011:
I live in Lake Havasu City, Az (home of the London Bridge) I moved here almost a year ago and I love it. Arizona is so unique with lots of places to see and stuff to do.
djjones_32 on March 11, 2011:
Glad I came across this. I am moving to Arizona this summer and wanted to tour the state before the school semester began. I really want to visit a hot spring.
Jennifer N. Williams from Independence, MO, USA on March 05, 2011:
I've always thought about visiting and eventually moving to Arizona!! I live in Missouri and it sounds pretty boring compare to Arizona. I thought about going to Le Courdon Bleu in Scottsdale. I'm still trying to figure out when and where I'm going to visit first!!
Nan Mynatt from Illinois on January 26, 2011:
It's the next vacation spot for me, and it looks good.
craigmissuea from USA on January 12, 2011:
Arizona always seem to attract me. I am particularly interested in visiting Tucson.
akirlew from Phoenix, AZ on November 14, 2010:
For someone who lives in the Phoenix area, I really need to get out and see more of these places. Sedona is one of my favorites, however.
John R Wilsdon from Superior, Arizona on November 12, 2010:
Great hub. I'm from Superior, Az, 60 miles east of Phoenix. It's a copper mining town of about 3000. The mines here are being prepared again for production. We don't have a developed arts district like Bisbee, but we have Mexican food that can't be beat. Visit Los Hermanos, known throughtout the Phoenix Valley.
Pollyannalana from US on July 13, 2010:
Yeah, I hope we get to keep Arizona, if the government will allow it. Polly
Gloria Siess from Wrightwood, California on May 02, 2010:
NICE work--Arizona is very lovely!Check out my new Hub on Sedona!
Carolyn Augustine from Iowa on July 01, 2009:
Arizona is incredibly varied in geography and history. Arizona has a sense of place to the nth power! We've enjoyed getting to know its special treasures since we moved here over 6 years ago.
lafenty from California on May 03, 2009:
I grew up in Phoenix and am familiar with all of these places. Thanks for bringing them back to mind.
earnestshub from Melbourne Australia on March 03, 2009:
I worked in Phoenix for a week after traveling down from Las Vegas by road.
The landscapes were amazing all over Arizona. I took a helicopter ride over the canyon, and it is spectacular from the air.
rhondakaye from Wichita, Ks on March 02, 2009:
I went to a training in Sedona and it was simply gorgeous. It was during the summer and I had such a good time. I want to go back there very soon.
laringo from From Berkeley, California. on March 02, 2009:
I went to Flagstaff once when I was very young but don't remember much about it. My In-laws are thinking about buying some property near Tucson. If they do move there then I'll know about the towns there. Thanks for the informative Hub.