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Things to Do in Arizona - page 3

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Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum wears a lot of hats; it's a museum, zoo, aquarium and publishing house. Just outside Tucson, the museum is one of the area's most popular attractions. The facility is dedicated to showcasing the flora, fauna, and history of the Sonoran Desert, with more than 230 species of animals and 1,200 kinds of plants spread throughout the 98 acres of the property. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum was founded in 1952, and expanded from its original focus of simply plants and animals native to the region to include an aquarium which opened in 2013. There is a walk-in aviary, a hummingbird aviary, and a desert garden. In addition to the many exhibits, there is a half-mile-long trail that visitors can explore, periodic birds-of-prey demonstrations, and presentations about the area's venomous creatures. There is also an art gallery that showcases local and national artists and a publishing company that produces books and guidebooks for adults and children.

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Tonto National Forest
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Encompassing about 3 million acres (1,214,057 hectares), the Tonto National Forest is the country’s fifth-largest forest. The altitude ranges from 1,300 to 7,900 feet (396 to 2,408 meters), allowing for diverse flora, fauna and landscapes throughout. In fact, while in one part of the forest you might find a cactus-filled desert, in another you’ll walk through rugged mountain dotted with pines. You’ll also find beautiful lake beaches for peaceful relaxation and aquatic pursuits.

The main reason people visit Tonto National Forest is the outdoor recreation. There are eight wilderness areas in Tonto National Forest, including Four Peaks Wilderness, Hell's Gate Wilderness, Mazatzal Wilderness, Salome Wilderness, Fossil Creek Wild and Scenic Area, Salt River Canyon Wilderness, Sierra Ancha Wilderness and Superstition Wilderness. Each of these offers its own unique experiences.

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Antelope Canyon
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Antelope Canyon is a breathtaking natural attraction in Arizona and a large source of tourism revenue for the Navajo Nation. The stunning slot canyon is the most visited in the American Southwest and was formed by erosion of Navajo sandstone.

The canyon is composed of two parts, the upper and lower canyon. The upper canyon is referred to as “the place where water runs through the rocks” and does not require you to climb. The lower canyon is called “spiral rock arches” and has stairs so you can access the base.

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Cameron Trading Post
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Cameron Trading Post is a Native American themed motel, restaurant and shop located 30 minutes from the south rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The trading post was established by the Richardson brothers shortly after a suspension bridge was built over the Little Colorado River in 1911. At that time, the only visitors were members of the local Navajo and Hopi tribes who came to barter their wool, blankets, and livestock for dry goods. Since the journey to the trading post took days, the Richardson brothers offered their hospitality by giving visitors food and a place to stay. Due to road improvement and proximity to the Grand Canyon, eventually tourists started coming to Cameron Trading Post as well to learn about the history of the southwest.

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Petrified Forest National Park
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If you want to see some of the coolest sites that nature has to offer, than few destinations are better than Arizona's own Petrified Forest National Park. The park is divided into two areas along a north-south corridor.

The northern half of the park is home to the famous Painted Desert, an 146 square mile (235 square meter) area of badlands. Composed of stratified layers of easily erodible siltstone, mudstone, and shale, these desert stones gain their varied pigmentation from the iron and magnesium compounds found within the rock layers. The site makes for an absolutely breathtaking expanse of colorful desert landscape. "The southern half of the park is home to some of the world's largest and most colorful concentrations of petrified wood. The major concentrations have been given various forest names such as "Black Forest," "Rainbow Forest," and "Crystal Forest."

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Sonoran Desert
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The Sonoran Desert is a 100,000 square mile (260,000 square kilometers) arid region in North America that stretches across large portions of Arizona, California, and the northwest Mexican states of Sonora, Baja California, and Baja California Sur. Although it is the hottest of the four North American deserts, its distinct bimodal rainfall (raining heavily both in the summer and winter) makes the region extremely biologically developed and diverse. The Sonoran Desert is home to some of the most unique animal and plant life in North America, many of which cannot be found anywhere else. For example, the only remaining jaguar population in the United States (estimated between 80 to 120 jaguars), can be found in the Sonoran Desert. Other more well-known animals include roadrunners, gila monsters, cactus wren, and desert bighorn sheep.

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Airport Mesa
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Airport Mesa is more than its quirky name suggests. The scenic trail loop guides travelers along well-marked paths that lead to panoramic views of the city’s iconic red rock landscape. Outdoor enthusiasts agree Airport Mesa is one of Mother Nature’s most impressive local wonders, but with occasional old-school aircraft flying overhead, there’s still a nod to some modern marvels, too.

The 3.5-mile loop has just a 200-foot elevation change, but its uninterrupted views of Courthouse Butte, Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, Cockscomb and Chimney Rock make it one of the area’s most scenic treks.

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More Things to Do in Arizona

Williams

Williams

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Williams, Arizona, is a town in the northern part of the state and within the Kaibab National Forest. It was founded in 1881 and named after Bill Williams, a famous trapper, scout and mountain man. Williams offers a variety of outdoor activities. There are seven fishing lakes in the area. Several hiking trails go up Bill Williams Mountain and into Sycamore Canyon. The town has an alpine ski area as well as cross country skiing trails. There is plenty of wildlife in the area, including a drive-thru wildlife park. Visitors can also play golf at one of Arizona's premier golf courses, Elephant Rocks Golf Course.

Williams is known as the gateway to the Grand Canyon, since it is only an hour's drive away. You can also choose to ride in a vintage train to the park with the Grand Canyon Railway, a journey that takes about two hours. The town also lies along the historic Route 66 and was the last town on the route to be bypassed by Interstate 40.

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Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

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Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is famous for its red rock formations that soar up to 1,000 feet (305 meters) into the desert sky. It is also known as the setting for classic Western films starring John Wayne. Straddling the Arizona-Utah border, the area is home to nearly 92,000 acres of massive buttes, cacti, and natural arches, as well members of the Navajo Nation.
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Apache Trail

Apache Trail

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Apache Trail is a 120 mile (193km) historic road that connects Apache Junction (the east edge of the Phoenix metropolitan area) to Theodore Roosevelt Lake. Although the trail’s official name today is “State Route 88”, it adopted the name “Apache Trail” in reference to the Apache Indians who originally inhabited the Superstition Mountains. The road was initially built as a way to open copper trade between the city of Globe and the Phoenix area. Today, however, it has become a very popular tourist destination. Winding through the Superstition Mountains, this circular road provides some of the most beautiful scenic views in central Arizona. It guides you up and down the steep desert mountains, past cliff dwellings, lake shores, eroded canyons, and old mining towns.

In addition to simply enjoying the beautiful scenery, many travelers choose to stop and explore the various historic treasures along the way.

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Montezuma Castle National Monument

Montezuma Castle National Monument

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The Montezuma Castle National Monument is one of the most well-preserved and accessible ancient dwellings in North America. Built amongst the limestone, these 1,000 year-old ruins were once home to ancient farmers known as the Sinagua Indians. Although the monument has adopted the title “castle” due to its majestic appearance, the ruins were actually a multi-family cliff dwelling (similar to a modern-day high-rise apartment complex). Abandoned irrigation systems built by the prehistoric Hokokam Indians made the land and location ideal of these farmers. The high cliffs allowed them to access the fertile land surrounding Beaver Creek while remaining safe from flooding. In 1906, the Montezuma Castle was declared one of our country’s first national monuments. Since then, it has been a popular tourist location. In addition to the cliff dwellings, the monument includes the Montezuma Well, a limestone sinkhole that is believed to be the remains of the Sinagua’s irrigation system.

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Grand Canyon IMAX Theater

Grand Canyon IMAX Theater

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At six stories tall and 82-feet wide, the screen at Grand Canyon Imax Theater is nearly as big as the canyon itself. Start a Natural Wonder adventure in this massive 487-person theater that’s been showing “Grand Canyon—The Movie” 12 times a day, 365 days a year since it first opened. The 34-minute show gives travelers an up-close look at the canyon, as well as a trip through its history and incredible aerial views.

After catching a film, visitors can wander the visitors center and load up on Grand Canyon gear, snacks and park passes before heading out to explore the real life canyon.

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Superstition Mountains

Superstition Mountains

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Located in Central Arizona’s Tonto National Forest -- within an hour of Phoenix -- the rugged 160,000 acre (64,750 hectare) Superstition Mountain Range is one of the state’s best hiking, rock climbing and outdoor activity attractions, especially for those with a true sense of adventure. Some popular treks in the Superstition Mountains include Miner’s Needle, Weaver’s Needle, Cave Trail and Peralta Canyon Trail (Peralta Canyon Area) and Treasure Loop Trail, Siphon Draw Trail and The Hand (Lost Dutchman Area). Those wanting to enjoy otherworldly desert scenery will love the mountain’s hoodoos and curving canyons, formed by volcanic eruptions that occurred over 15 million years ago.

Superstition Mountains is an apt name for the range, as it’s home to a number of legends. Its history dates back 9,000 years, with some of its many inhabitants including the Apache Indians, Spanish explorers, Mexican gold miners and American trappers.

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Mogollon Rim

Mogollon Rim

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Glen Canyon Dam

Glen Canyon Dam

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In 1964 the roaring waters of the Colorado River needed to be tamed, so the towering 710-foot-high Glen Canyon Dam was built and nearby Lake Powell created. The 186-miles long lake is the second largest manmade lake in the country and took17 years to fill to capacity.

Today, Lake Powell attracts some 3 million tourists every year. The site has become a popular destination for houseboats and waterskiing because of its placid waters and incredible views. Each marina has its own public picnic area and houseboats are available for rent. Lenient park rules mean visitors can set up camp almost anywhere, too.

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SEA LIFE® Aquarium Arizona

SEA LIFE® Aquarium Arizona

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The SEA LIFE Aquarium near Phoenix is home to over 5,000 animals and is an excellent attraction for families. One major draw is you don’t simply look at animals, you interact with them. First of all, the aquarium hosts a number of educational talks as well as feeding demonstrations with rays and sharks. Additionally, a touch pool allows you to hold crabs, starfish, sea squirts and shellfish.

While there are many animals to explore at SEA LIFE Aquarium, there are some visitor favorites. One is a white tip reef shark -- especially interesting to watch during feeding time -- named Jr. residing in a 161,000 gallon (60,9451 liter) ocean tank. There’s also Loki the Giant Pacific Octopus, known as the trickster around the aquarium and a lover of shellfish and crustaceans. Then there’s Zival, Arizona’s first green sea turtle and an herbivore that lives in the water but breathes oxygen.

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Tempe

Tempe

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If you’re hoping for a getaway filled with warm, sunny days, hit the road to Tempe. With 330 days of sunshine each year and an average temperature of 85 degrees, just thinking about Tempe can make you feel warm.

The combination of nice weather and 50 parks make spending time outside easy. Papago Park has more than 13 miles of hiking and biking trails and Tempe Beach Park boasts 25 acres of recreation space, while cyclists love Tempe’s 175 miles-plus of dedicated bikeways. Tempe is home to Arizona State University. Just North of ASU is Tempe Town Lake, a popular spot for boating, kayaking, fishing and rowing. An assortment of water toys are available for visitors to rent. Shoppers flock to The Mill Avenue District and its more than 100 shops, restaurants and bars.

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McDowell Sonoran Preserve

McDowell Sonoran Preserve

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If there’s a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, McDowell Sonoran Preserve just might be it. With more than 30,000 acres, including the McDowell Mountains, visitors can hike it, bike it or even climb it.

With more than 120 miles of trails, picking which way to go can be tough, so ask the experts. Most mornings McDowell Sonoran Conservancy Pathfinders are on duty at the Brown's Ranch Trailhead, Gateway Trailhead, Lost Dog Wash Trailhead, Sunrise Trailhead and Tom’s Thumb Trailhead. Pathfinders have all sorts of information and suggestions to insure a fun, safe day on the trails.

Fit families will enjoy the way the Family Passport keeps everyone moving together. Scavenger hunts for animal tracks, rocks and other nature provided attractions can provide inspiration for hours of exploring. When you visit five Preserve trailheads (Gateway, Lost Dog, Sunrise, Tom’s Thumb and Brown’s Ranch) and get your passport stamped you’ll win a Preserve bandana.

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Canyon Lake

Canyon Lake

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The smallest of the Salt River Projects lakes, Canyon Lake is just 10 miles long but offers 28 miles of shoreline.

Being wet is popular here. Water skiing, boating, swimming and fishing are how most folks spend their days when visiting. Along with a designated swimming area, there is also a pair of boating ramps. Motorboat and row boat rentals are available. On weekends and holidays from April through October, the lake usually reaches capacity in the morning. Lucky fisherman can hook walleye, largemouth bass, yellow bass, rainbow trout, bluegill, channel catfish and crappie.

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