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While Arizona may best be known for its natural wonders, it’s filled with interesting cities to explore as well. From towns where you can get a taste of the Wild West to places for experiencing mysterious cosmic forces and everything in between, you’re unlikely to ever get bored in this state. With so much to see and do it can be hard to decide what to put on a travel itinerary here, but these are arguably the very best cities to visit in Arizona.
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Flagstaff is a beautiful mountain town in northern Arizona that offers the chance to breathe in the fresh scent of pine and enjoy some fabulous hiking, including treks to Humphreys Peak, situated at 12,633 feet. From here you’ll be able to see everything from the north rim of the Grand Canyon to the White Mountains. More hiking can be found in the two-million-acre Coconino National Forest, and nearby you can explore the world’s best-preserved meteorite impact, which measures some 4,000 feet in diameter and 570 feet deep. After dark, be sure to visit the Lowell Observatory to observe the impressive star-filled night sky using one of the complimentary expert telescopes.
Sedona is renowned for its jaw-dropping landscape that’s dotted with fiery red rocks and jagged sandstone buttes which rise up into the nearly always brilliant blue skies. It’s a place that’s drawn artists and other creative types for decades, as well as being spotlighted in a number of films like “Midnight Run” and “310 to Yuma.” You’ll find lots of opportunity for outdoor adventure, from jeep tours to hiking and mountain biking, as well as the opportunity for something more unique. Travelers come from across the globe to experiences its swirling centers of energy known as vortexes, which are believed to be conducive to self-exploration and spiritual healing.
Bisbee is renowned not only for its scenic beauty, but its quirky character and street art. A colorful, historic mining town and a funky artist town, it sits a mile up in the southeastern region of the Mule Mountains. Filled with Victorian-era homes that are perched precariously on the steep hillsides, many can only be reached by climbing old deteriorating stairways that were built right into the mountainside – and some are available to rent for short stays. Just taking a walk through the city can make for a good time with all of Bisbee’s street art, which can be found around nearly every corner – including cars that have been transformed into works of art. There are beautifully painted murals, mosaic walls created with a kaleidoscope of glass bottles and broken tiles, and so much more. In between, check out the art galleries and artist studios, antique shops, museums and restaurants.
Lake Havasu City is an outdoor playground with a long list of recreational opportunities on land and on water, from golfing and hiking to jet skiing, water skiing, parasailing and boating. It’s a true oasis in the middle of the Arizona desert, along the Colorado River and the massive reservoir from which it takes its name. Lake Havasu is also home to the famous London Bridge.
Tucson is not only a fantastic college town filled with a wide range of shopping, dining and nightlife opportunities, it’s home to Saguaro National Park which protects and preserves a giant saguaro cactus forest that stretches across the valley floor. Viewing the endless cacti that cover the beautiful Sonoran desert landscape is an incredible sight to see on its own, but visitors will also find prehistoric petroglyphs, historic sites and abundant wildlife, like coyotes, desert tortoises and javelinas in the lower elevations, and the Mexican spotted owl, deer and black bear in the upper elevations of the park. Scenic drives, hiking and biking trails offer the chance to see the giant saguaros that sometimes rise as high as 50 feet.
Snowbirds flock to this city that lies near the border of Mexico and California every winter, but it offers more than warm weather and sunshine. It’s home to the Yuma Territorial Prison State Park, which includes the infamous prison built in 1875, featured in “3:10 to Yuma.” Now a museum, visitors can wander through the cell blocks and read the stories of prisoners who were once housed here, for a glimpse of what life was like here. By climbing the guard tower and onto the view deck, you can soak up gorgeous views of the Colorado River too.
Williams is a mountain town with an authentic western feel that serves as a gateway to the Grand Canyon. It makes a great base for enjoying hiking, fishing, camping, and just about everything else you can think of in the Great Outdoors. The streets are lined with interesting shops and galleries, but its most popular attraction is Bearizona. This safari park not only offers close encounters with wild bears, but wolves, Dall sheep, mountain goats, burros, bison and more on a drive through tour, before descending into a walk-through section with even more exhibits that showcase smaller animals like the especially adorable bear cubs. The Birds of Prey show features owls, falcons and other raptors, and visitors even have the opportunity to help out with animal training sessions too.
Once known as the town that was “too tough to die,” today Tombstone is known as one of the best destinations to relive the days of the Old West in the nation. This was the very place where the legendary gunfight at the O.K. Corral took place back in 1881, a 30-second gunfight that pitted the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday against Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers. You can practically hear the gunfire, the sounds of the saloons and the buck boards clip-clopping down the dirt streets. Be sure to visit the old courthouse which has been converted into the town’s museum, separating fact from fiction through a variety of fascinating exhibits that tell the story through objective eyewitness accounts and historical records.