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Places to go in and around Arizona





AZReplublic Top 50 places in Arizona

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No. 50: Swansea - A reviving ghost town Despite the site's formidable access road, tourists and history buffs have been coming to Swansea from around the world for decades. Every year, 3,500 to 5,000 people explore the miners' barracks, slag heaps and smelter ruins. An iron fence surrounds the main shaft, which is 1,200 feet deep.

No. 49: Summer celebrations in White Mountains The White Mountains sprawl across eastern Arizona, a land of rugged peaks, tall pines and lovely lakes. Other than the San Francisco Peaks, it is the highest mountain range in Arizona, with several peaks topping out at more than 11,000 feet.

No. 48: Shake, rattle and roll at South Mountain

South Mountain Park is one of the great recreational resources of the Valley. With more than 50 miles of multiuse trails crisscrossing more than 16,000 acres of rugged desert beauty, the park is adored by hikers, bikers and horseback riders alike.

No. 47: Camelback Inn endures

Marriott's Camelback Inn lies between two of the Valley's signature mountains and smack in the middle of many locals' hearts. Nominated as one of 50 favorite places in Arizona by readers, the 70-year-old resort has played host to movie stars, business tycoons, political leaders and legions of tourists, but the hometown crowd is among the most loyal clientele.

No. 46: Playing Arizona

Arizona and Las Vegas casinos both offer the chance to win and lose large amounts of money, but ours are different from the Vegas brethren. Arizona's are scattered around the state, rather than being concentrated on or near a strip and downtown. However, there are advantages to the Arizona experience.

No. 45: Rustic fantasy

Wouldn't it be great to have a cabin tucked away in the mountains or hidden in the forest? For most of us, that's a fantasy. But thanks to the "Rooms With a View" program run by the Forest Service, the dream can become a reality, at least for a day or two.

No. 44: Walking in beauty

After writing four Arizona hiking guides and hiking thousands of miles on hundreds of trails in the past dozen years, I still discover hidden jewels. But some trails linger in my mind's eye and keep me coming back. Here's a selection of the 10 most scenic trails.

No. 43: Arizona Strip remote wonderland of beauty

Arizona is full of remote, backcountry beauty. No place, though, is quite as remote or difficult to reach, or, arguably, more beautiful than the Arizona Strip, a 5 million-acre swath of splendor between the Colorado River and the Utah line.

No. 42: Santa Cruz's little acre

Besides birds, Santa Cruz County also is well known for destinations such as the arts colony at Tubac and the old mission at Tumacacori. It's a county rich with lesser-known destinations, too, such as the Amado Territorial Inn that houses restaurants and artist studios.

No. 41: Sizzling summer resorts

Scorching triple-digit weather means triple-digit savings in the neighborhood of $200 to $1,000 a night at some Valley resorts. Stay at resorts during the off-season, now through September, and experience how celebrities, presidents and the wealthy live - without spending what they spend.

No. 40: Sycamore's secret splendor

Sycamore Canyon may be the best place in Arizona you never heard of. The second-largest canyon in the state - 20 miles long and, in places, seven miles wide - slices through the Mogollon Rim just a dozen miles northwest of Sedona. It has been described as Oak Creek Canyon without the people.

No. 39: 2 mountain hamlets lure big-city refugees

Leave the hustle and bustle of city life - and the triple-digit heat - and head north to experience the neighboring mountain communities of Pine and Strawberry. Just 15 miles north of Payson, the air is fresher and 15 degrees cooler than metropolitan Phoenix.

No. 38: A relaxing train of thought

No matter how many times you ride the Grand Canyon Railway or the Verde Canyon Railroad, there's something different to see. And there's always a new group of guests eager to explore another area of the state.

No. 37: Jerome strikes it rich with art

Jerome draws visitors with its Old West history and sends them away with a healthy appreciation for its modern-day charm. Today, the town is home to artists, writers, merchants, hippies and restaurateurs.

No. 36: Chino Valley winery

Granite Creek Vineyards is a 20-acre organic winery in Chino Valley, a town known more for its mishmash of farms, retirement villas and sandstone pits than Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

No. 35: Mount Lemmon lifts desert-baked spirits

Mount Lemmon is a cool place - literally (the daytime temperature rarely gets higher than 80 degrees), figuratively (as in "Cool!") and superlatively ("Way cool!").

No. 34: Tonto Bridge a natural high

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park features picnic areas, four steep trails into the gorge, paved paths near the parking lot, designated viewpoints and herds of javelinas.

No. 33: Undergound fantasy

Kartchner Caverns State Park is 2-1/2 miles of nearly unrivaled wonders and as magnificent as that big hole in the ground north of Flagstaff. It's the Grand Canyon with a lid. • Arizona's other fantastic caves

No. 32: Canyon de Chelly awes

There are several ways to view the labyrinth, and they're all good, because the canyon is one of those spectacular creations that have no bad side. The south rim drive alone seven wondrous overlooks.

No. 31: Riordan Mansion, a treasure in the pines

Visitors will see a home filled with the Riordans' belongings — from flypaper to luggage. Their furnishings include nearly pristine, now priceless, handcrafted chairs, tables and rockers by Gustav Strickley.

No. 30: Chiricahua Mountains

In few places on Earth are the forces of geology on such extravagant display as in the Chiricahua Mountains, in the southeastern corner of the state. • Ariz. a wonderland of stone formations

No. 29: Apache Trail to 3 Lakes

The trail's saguaro-covered hills and deep canyons stretch for miles, broken by red-rock cliffs and hoodoos. The area remains a favorite among local sightseers, boaters, hikers and anglers.

No. 28: Petrified Forest National Park

Visitors to the vast park (its boundaries, extended in 2004, encompass 218,533 acres) will see the petrified remains of trees that grew here millions of years ago.

No. 27: Grand Canyon's Phantom Ranch

Nestled along Bright Angel Creek at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, Phantom Ranch is one of the world's premier destinations. And for good reason.

No. 26: Picacho Peak

The redundantly named Picacho Peak ("peak" in Spanish is picacho) rises abruptly from the desert floor between Phoenix and Tucson and for centuries has served as a landmark for explorers.

No. 25: Havasu Falls, a watery gem

Little else matters, especially not the lawn that needs mowing or office desk buried with work, as I recline against a warm, smooth rock after a swim in the turquoise-hued pools of Havasu Creek.

No. 24: Monument Valley towers in lore

We know it from the movies as John Ford's favorite stage. And yet Monument Valley feels like the most foreign of places, even exotic - if such things still can be said about a large piece of our map.

No. 23: Desert Botanical Garden rewards patient visitors

This 67-year-old Arizona treasure hosts events from the annual Music in the Garden concert series to winter holiday evenings that feature thousands of candlelighted luminaries.

No. 22: Canyon Ranch Spa

Voted best spa by Condé Nast Traveler magazine 10 times, Canyon Ranch may be the best-known resort of its type in America. It's been a leader among destination spas in combining health and fitness, and it employs 3 staff members for every guest to ensure that customers leave happy.

No. 21: Offbeat Sedona

Had enough of viewing Sedona's red rock beauty and searching for bargains at Tlaquepaque? Don't leave yet. There are lesser-known, hidden-away places that are well worth exploring. And they don't cost nearly as much as a foray into the upscale attractions.

No. 20: The sky's the gimmick at Benson inn

At the Astronomers Inn in Benson, stargazers can stay all night and examine the heavens through a variety of telescopes, then enjoy a hearty breakfast the next morning.

No. 19: Globe-Miami renaissance

The twin mining towns of Globe and Miami are becoming destinations for Valley travelers, not just a passage to the White Mountains. The communities lay claim to spectacular views in the foothills of the Pinal Mountains and provide a glimpse into the state's rich mining history.

No. 18: Sabino Canyon

There's no off-season in Sabino Canyon, a desert oasis and spectacular canyon at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains northeast of Tucson.

No. 17: Montezuma Castle National Monument

Montezuma Castle, a five-level cliff dwelling in a limestone alcove above Beaver Creek near Camp Verde. The structure was home to Sinagua people more than 600 years ago. It's one of three well-known ruins in the Verde Valley, about 90 miles north of Phoenix. Montezuma Castle, Montezuma Well and Tuzigoot National Monument make a scenic and informative day trip from the Valley.

No. 16: Old West comes alive in Wickenburg

Wickenburg is near the Hassayampa River, a rich riparian area that has sheltered the Yavapai Indians, lured there by its fertile planting ground. Gold wooed miners. Clear skies, uncluttered mountain views and the Sonoran Desert lure Valley visitors, who can escape urban life, journey into the state's historic past and still make it home before sunset.

No. 15: Delightful bookshop in Benson

For more than 20 years, Singing Wind Bookshop has been delighting its visitors, not just from Arizona but also from around the world. Charmingly, the bookstore is plunked in the middle of a cattle ranch just north of Benson.

No. 14: Southern Arizona's 'White Dove'

Nine miles south of Tucson, the towers of San Xavier del Bac Mission rise unexpectedly from the sun-baked desert floor. Nestled in the Santa Cruz Valley, the mission is one of the state's gems.

No. 13: Lake Havasu hums year-round

Forget London Bridge and spring break. The real fun of Lake Havasu lies, surprise, in the lake. From boating to scuba diving to wakeboarding, visitors to Lake Havasu have myriad choices when it comes to water-related activities.

No. 12: Old West meets art scene in Scottsdale

Downtown Scottsdale covers a lot of territory historically, from remnants of the Old West farming community founded in 1888 by Army chaplain Winfield Scott to the contemporary art interspersed with traditional pieces in galleries around Main Street and Marshall Way.

No. 11: El Presidio Historic District

Walking through El Presidio, Tucson's historic, geographic and psychic center, you'll see vibrant reminders of a past that's still celebrated.

No. 10: Route 66

Route 66 has been described as the "world's longest small town." Millions of drivers who have followed the route since it was commissioned in 1926 have discovered the flavor of America as this two-lane road linked early highways, farm-to-market roads and city boulevards in states from the Midwest to the Pacific Ocean. Visiting a few towns along Route 66, which generally follows present-day Interstate 40 across northern Arizona, is an easy, practical alternative to traveling the entire length of "the mother road" from Chicago to Los Angeles. Here are things to do in three towns along the route.

No. 9: Lake Powell

The second-largest man-made lake in America (after Lake Mead), and one of the most beautiful in the world, Lake Powell is a boater's paradise. Bordered by sandstone canyons, the lake is part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which covers hundreds of miles in Arizona and Utah.

No. 8: Tombstone & Bisbee

Though they share a region (southeastern Arizona) and a legacy (mining), Tombstone and Bisbee are on opposite ends of the tourist spectrum. Tombstone's rough-and-tumble past appeals to the outlaw in all of us. The shoot- out at OK Corral put the town on the map and continues to draw visitors, who can watch daily re-enactments of the gunfight. Tombstone also claims the world's largest rosebush, worth a look once you've spent enough time along Toughnut Street and Boot Hill. Bisbee, a quirky art town perched along cliffs, embraces its independent spirit (a popular hotel is composed of 1950s travel trailers) and vertical nature (dozens of staircases are among the fastest, and most traveled, routes in town). Enjoy the galleries, then descend into a copper mine to see how Bisbee came to be.

No. 7: Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Arizona's largest and oldest botanical garden features 323 acres of trails and gardens galore, including cactus, herbs, hummingbirds/butterflies, desert legumes and roses.

No. 6: Lowell Observatory

Founded in 1894, Lowell Observatory is one of the oldest research institutions in the United States and a National Historic Landmark. There are two large telescopes, including the original 24-inch telescope, for public viewing. Lowell is building the 4.2-meter Discovery Channel Telescope, which will be operational in 2010.

No. 5: Saguaro National Park

This park in Tucson comprises 91,000 acres set aside as a preserve for the giant saguaro cactus, whose blossoms are the Arizona state flower. The saguaro is native to the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. The Sonoran Desert is a cactus-friendly environment with two rainy seasons, which make this one of the most lush deserts in the world and bring biodiversity to the region.


No. 4: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Take desert creatures such as prairie dogs and Gila monsters and put them in a nearly natural outdoor setting. Add a dose of natural history and you have the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. The museum features hundreds of creature species and more than 1,200 varieties of plants and is a great way to pass a few instructive and interesting hours.

No. 3: Heard Museum

Since 1929, the vibrancy of era-spanning Native American art and hands-on exhibits has wowed Arizonans and out-of-state visitors. For artist Joe Baker, curator of fine art for the Heard, the museum's intellectual, social and physical space, "where artists can give themselves permission to experiment and visitors can be exposed to both traditional and contemporary Native American art forms," is worth treasuring.

No. 2: Sedona

Sedona is one of Arizona's must-see wonders. At the end of Oak Creek Canyon, another scenic destination, the town is known not only for rock formations such as Coffee Pot Rock, Cathedral Rock and Courthouse Butte, but also for its hiking and biking trails, art galleries and spiritual-energy vortexes

No. 1: Grand Canyon National Park

One of the seven natural wonders of the world is a four-hour drive from Phoenix. That's one of seven. In the whole, wide world

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