Things to do / Travel Guide
Southern Arizona is home to both bustling modern cities filled with all the amenities and long stretches of spectacular terrain where it's just you and unspoiled nature. In between these two extremes, the region gives you plenty of opportunities to experience Native American culture, the excitement of the “Wild West,” and the relaxed lifestyle that has made the region famous.
Just northeast of Phoenix is “The West's Most Western Town,” the city of Scottsdale. It's easy to keep yourself occupied with the tons of shops offering arts and crafts and clothing with a western theme in the city's Old Town or the exclusive shopping at the Italian-inspired Borgata. Scottsdale is also the former home of renowned architect and local resident Frank Lloyd Wright who lived and worked at Taliesin West.
There's a reason why Arizona's capital city is known as “The Valley of the Sun.” With more than 300 days of sunshine every year, Phoenix is a great place to begin your tour of the region. But before heading out to the mountains, be sure to visit Phoenix's thriving downtown area, including the dining and entertainment hotspots at Copper Square and the city's cultural and historical attractions, such as the Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park and the Phoenix Museum of History. Phoenix is also home to many parks, including Papago Park, where you'll find the Phoenix Zoo, the Desert Botanical Gardens, an 18-hole golf course, and plenty of places for picnicking, hiking, and biking. To get a taste of the Phoenix of one hundred years ago, take a walking tour of Heritage Square, where some restored turn-of-the-century houses are open for viewing.
Fifteen miles east of Phoenix is Mesa, Arizona's third-largest city and your gateway to the nearby Superstition Mountains. Visit the city's Mesa Southwest Museum to see a re-created cave and village that depict how prehistoric Native Americans lived. Mesa was founded less than 150 years ago by Mormons and their Arizona Temple is a Mesa landmark. The city also has the largest Mormon population in the world.
If the image of a lonely cactus framed against the cliffs of a rugged, red mountain and a clear blue sky makes your heart beat a little faster, southern Arizona is the region for you. The Sonoran Desert's state parks have miles of hiking trails in places such as the Superstition Mountains, the McDowell Mountains, and Saguaro National Monument.
Also known as “the Old Pueblo,” Tucson is Arizona's second-largest city and the southern hub of the region. Tucson's historic northern section offers ample opportunities to see the city's Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo roots. West of downtown is the world-famous Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which houses flora and fauna native to the region. A very different kind of museum can be found at Old Tucson Studios, where Hollywood filmmakers re-create the Old West for the cinema.
Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday made Tombstone famous after their 1881 shoot-out at the O.K. Corral. Today, you can recapture the “Wild West” atmosphere of “the town too tough to die.” Visit the Boot Hill Graveyard, where many victims of the lawlessness of the “Wild West” are buried, or the old Tombstone Courthouse, where some unlucky scoundrels died of “natural causes” before justice was meted out by the court. And, of course, the O.K. Corral itself is the star attraction.
Bisbee began back in the late 1800's as a mining town because of the rich deposits of copper, silver, and gold that were found nearby. The little town continued to thrive until the closing of mining operations in the 1970s. As property values plummeted artists began to flock to the area and were ultimately responsible for the town's renewal. By the 1990s property value was again rising and there was a noticeable influx of affluent baby boomers to the area. Historic Bisbee is well preserved and showcases a number of examples of both Victorian and Art Deco architecture. If you decide to go, don't leave without some “Bisbee Blue,” the high quality turquoise the town is known for.
Kitt Peak and the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
The area is home to the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation, as well as the Kitt Peak Observatory, where 22 telescopes scan the universe from their perch on this 6,900-foot summit. At the southwestern tip of the Southern Arizona region is the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, home to the famous organ pipe cactus and some of the most spectacular scenery that the Sonoran Desert has to offer.
Places to Visit in Phoenix, Tucson, Scottsdale, Tombstone and Southern Arizona
South Mountain Park - Phoenix, Arizona