Arizona, a state where scorching temps send rolling tumbleweeds across long cacti lined highways. It’s also so much more than that. While Phoenix and Tucson tend to get all the attention, in this Arizona travel guide, I’m breaking down some of the most unique places to visit in Arizona.
While some are extremely popular and others are more remote, here’s a look at some of Arizona’s charming, cooky, eclectic and unique.
Hang on to your hats, folks. First stop? Tombstone.
Does your mind automatically recite Doc Holiday’s “I’m your huckleberry,” from the film Tombstone? Mine too. The town itself is entrenched in the glory of Hollywood’s gracious 15-minutes, with the film playing on a TV in nearly every establishment you walk into.
Wyatt Earp and his compadres even stroll down the Main Street, cloaked in their long black coats. There’s a reason Tombstone’s slogan is “the town too tough to die,” as it remains faithful to the old western culture and heritage that put the town on the map.
Stepping foot on the dusty streets of Tombstone grants diehard fans of the film (guilty) free rein to live out their favorite cinematic moments. Only once my leather boots strolled the wooden porches of storefronts did I realize that it goes much deeper than that.
The Old West is a cornerstone of U.S. history. Despite it being a cutthroat time where people often died young from tuberculosis or straight up unjustifiable murder, we love to romanticize it.
So, forgiving that whole death at every doorstep situation, Tombstone represents everything we’ve grown to love about the cinematic Old West.
Bisbee is a picturesque town settled cozily beneath the backdrop of the Mule Mountains. With a copper mining history, a historic town center, and a free-spirited arts scene, Bisbee combines old heritage with modern ideals.
If you’re already visiting Tombstone, Bisbee is another unique nearby town brimming with charm. How far is Tombstone from Bisbee? Only a 25-minute drive, so a great idea is to make a Bisbee day trip.
Stroll Main Street to peruse artisanal shops crafting and selling unique goods including antiques and furniture, locally made art, clothing, instruments and more.
Most places shut down around 5 p.m., so if you want to shop plan to get there in the early afternoon. A Tombstone and Bisbee day trip is especially unique because the old country Tombstone ideals contrast the surprisingly progressive and modern scene in Bisbee.
I also had some of the best Thai of my life there, so yeah, I’d call my day trip to Bisbee a success.
If you’re into the mystical realm, you’ll be pleased to learn that Sedona is filled with vortices. What’s a vortex? Allegedly, vortices are “swirling centers of energy that are conducive to healing, meditation, and self-exploration.”
Now, even with an open mind, I can’t help but think this whole vortex thing is some genius ploy to attract tourists. I say this as a hippie vegetarian healing crystal beach bum.
It’s not that I don’t believe in vortices, it’s that I believe in marketing more. lolz.
Whether intentionally devised by a mastermind or not, it worked. Tourists are flocking to Sedona! Yay for them. Not so great for us. I found this city overpriced, slightly pretentious, and amazingly beautiful.
If you’re into spiritual awakenings where you get charged simply to park your car at a viewpoint lookout, go for it.
If you’re not into overpaying for a view, skip Sedona and go to Monument Valley. I know, I’m dogging on Sedona. Of course, the red rock that envelops the town is a unique and stunning sight, which is why Sedona is one of those naturally unique places to visit in Arizona.
While Sedona didn’t win me over, I greatly enjoyed the Coconino National Forrest, about 15 miles from town. With its accessibility to both Flagstaff and Sedona, hiking trails, and swimming holes, Coconino is a beautiful and fun recreational forest to explore.
I wouldn’t exactly call the Grand Canyon a hidden gem being that more than 5 million people visit every year. However, it’s an Arizona staple so I couldn’t write a post about the most unique places to visit in Arizona without listing the Grand Canyon. Frankly, it’s one of the most unique places to visit in the world! A massive gape in the earth caused by millions of years of water erosion from the Colorado River? I’d call that unique.
Downside: packed with tourists. Upside: Literally one of the most picturesque, breathtaking, awe-inspiring, drop-your-jaw views ever. Want to view an epic Grand Canyon sunset? Here’s a tip: The second the sun drops, the canyon gets blanketed in dark shadows. However, in the hour leading up to sunset, the dropping sun illuminates the magnificent vivid hues in the canyon. Purples, pinks, oranges, and blues come alive in shelves of sunlight that cascade into the canyon.
The town of Page itself is not a tourist attraction. So, what drew me in? The fact that I could visit two of the trending natural wonders that are located within close proximity to Page. Once I got there, however, I was quickly over it. Though the elements were taxing me, (it was hot as hell), I was simply turned off by the whole hype about it. Antelope Canyon is expensive, you only get a certain amount of time in there, there’s that whole confusion about a photography tour versus a regular tour, and it’s expensive. Not to mention you have to book a tour months in advance and get hoarded in with a bunch of other tourists. That’s not how I enjoy nature. Yes, I wanted that amazing photo to prove I was there, but would I enjoy it? The verdict was a long and resounding no. Did that mean Antelope Canyon was out for me? Hell no.
With a little research, I found the option to kayak into antelope canyon. I’m going to write a full post on this soon, but in the meantime, there are two options: take a tour or rent a kayak for significantly cheaper and have as much time as you want. Bottom line, this trek is strenuous. During the excursion I was exhausted, however afterward I had experienced one of the most unique canyons in one of the most unique ways. Bonus: We only saw three other people in the canyon. Bring excessive amounts of water and snacks… and sunscreen… and patience.
Similar to that expansive, inexplicably amazing Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend is another jaw-dropping natural wonder. It’s also another tourist trap where it’s common for people to faint from heat exhaustion. Though the hike is only a mile and half, temperatures are extremely high, making what would otherwise be an easy hike seem difficult. Good news! I didn’t pass out. The view was incredible, and I lived to write about it here. I keep writing advisory blurbs about bringing water… so I’m just going to make it super obvious that when you travel to Arizona in the summertime, no matter where you go…
mmmmmk? I think that just about covers that. Moving right along…
This one puzzles me. Is Monument Valley in Arizona? Or is it in Utah? Because I straight up drove across two state lines… without ever leaving Monument Valley. Monument Valley belongs to Navajo Nation and is one of the most picturesque and unique places to visit in Arizona. Here I go again declaring my affection for good cinema. Hell, if you’ve read this far I’ve got nothing to lose, anyway. Do ya recognize the backdrop? It’s only from my favorite movie EVER. I’ll give you a hint.
From that day on, if I was ever going somewhere… I was running!
Forrest Gump! Damn, that was a great film. Let me get back on track. GO TO MONUMENT VALLEY. You can take a tour, or you can drive the 17-mile loop yourself. Remember, this is native land owned by Navajo Nation. Despite the fact that it’s been a Hollywood western backdrop, people live here. Be respectful, honor their peace, and be a good tourist.
There you have it! That just about wraps up my recommendations for unique places to visit in Arizona. I only scratched the surface, but if you’ve got a week to traverse the highways of AZ, don’t miss these truly beautiful destinations. Now giddy-up and get on the trail, partner, Arizona awaits you.
Christina Lyon is a coffee-sipping, word-obsessed business blogger, content writer, and blog consultant. She’s on fire for helping creative entrepreneurs and small biz owners build thriving blogs that enhance online visibility and convert to sales. When she’s not reading or writing, she loves to play music and explore the beaches and wild trails along the California coast with her husband Steve and rescue pup, Clio.
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