There are hundreds of lists of things to do in the USA, or individual states like Arizona, but we’ve come up with one thing in every state plus D.C. in 21 different categories. Truly something for everyone, from historic places to foods you have to try, from the downright quirky to amazing museums, and from weird places to stay to fun things to do. Our primary criteria were we have or want to see them, and they are things you can physically visit or try.
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Historic Place: O.K. Corral
See Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday’s gunfight with the McLaury’s re-enacted in daily shows. Then explore the historic town and see photos of Tombstone life in the 1880’s, including pictures of the famous Apache warrior Geronimo.
Famous Person: Frank Lloyd Wright
The winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright, and now the headquarters of his fellowship, this beautiful building is well worth exploring. Sitting in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains near Scottsdale, it was built almost entirely by his and his apprentices’ hands.
Natural Wonder: Antelope Canyon
The stunning Antelope Canyon can only be visited by organised tour. We chose Antelope Canyon Tours who drive you to the canyon and then escort you through it, showing some of the many features and shapes you can see in the walls. If you can visit in the summer, you could get to see the magical looking shafts of light that drill down into the canyon when the sun is at its highest.
Food & Drink: Chimichangas and Cactus Cooler
Chimichangas – it’s even fun to say, never mind to eat. Rice, cheese and meat, wrapped in a flour tortilla and deep fried. Wash one down with the most desert sounding drink around, Arizona’s own Cactus Cooler.
Factory Tour: Teddy Bears
Everyone had one as a kid didn’t they? Find out how the cute little critters are designed and made with a behind the scenes visit to Stuffington Bear Factory.
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Man Made: London Bridge
Whilst the bridge is perfectly pleasant, it’s the story of how it was moved, brick by brick, from across the Thames in London, England to Lake Havasu that’s interesting. The bridge was put up for sale in 1967 and city founder Robert P.McCulloch placed a winning bid of $2,460,000. Every brick of the bridge was then numbered as it was disassembled, shipped across the Atlantic and rebuilt in Lake Havasu, complete with City of London plaques and strafing marks from WWII!
Record Breaking: World’s Largest Solar Telescope
Named after Dr. Keith Pierce and Dr. Robert McMath, the world’s biggest solar instrument is several decades old! Dedicated in November 1962, it is nearly 100 feet (30m) high and the diagonal shaft is 200 feet (61m) long and disappears into the ground.
Quirky Record: World’s Largest Rose Bush
Planted from cuttings sent from Scotland, the “Lady Banksia” began to grow in 1886. Now covering 9,000 sq. feet (836m2) it is a primary attraction at Rose Tree Museum and Books; a museum showing how a home in the area would have looked over 100 years ago.
Activity: Desert Botanical Garden
With five unique trails off the primary loop, the Desert Botanical Garden showcases all kinds of desert plants, trees and cacti. Founded on its present site in 1939, it contains over 21,000 specimens, half of which are cacti and includes over 100 specimens that are endangered or rare.
Atlas Obscura: Mystery Castle
Built by Boyce Gully for his princess (daughter), the mystery castle is built out of all kinds of materials. The 18 room castle ended up with 13 fireplaces along with turrets, odd winding staircases and even a chapel, cantina, and a dungeon.
Most Visited: Grand Canyon
The first time you see it can’t quite comprehend how enormous it is. If you ever get the chance to fly over it in a helicopter, you can truly appreciate its sheer scale. Maybe one day we’ll land at the bottom for a completely different experience again.
State/National Park: Red Rock State Park
Stunning red rocks, rich with colour in the sun, and Oak Creek Canyon are the main attractions in this park. Well worth a visit if you are in the beautiful Sedona area.
Event: World’s Oldest Rodeo
Prescott Frontier Days claims the title of ‘World’s Oldest Rodeo’ at over 130 years old and going strong. Watch bareback riding, cattle roping, barrel racing and of course, bull riding.
Different Place to Stay: Grand Canyon Caverns
Grand Canyon Caverns is an interesting stop in its own right, especially if you are getting your kicks on Route 66. But as part of the tour, you will see a fully equipped, hotel suite like, living space. And yes, you can stay the night deep down in a cavern. Turn off the lights to experience TRUE darkness.
Different Place to Eat: Mining Camp Restaurant
From family style dining, through “Dutchman’s Hide Out” to their “Hello Arizona!” dinner show, there are plenty of ways to enjoy food at Mining Camp Restaurant. With some mining equipment outside and long tables inside, you can pretend you’ve just come back from a hard day’s mining, or just enjoy the atmosphere and food.
Have Some Fun: Tower Butte
This will probably be one of the most expensive things we suggest, but it’s worth it if you can afford it. Taking off from Page airport, you fly in a state of the art helicopter to Tower Butte and LAND on top of it. You then have about 20 minutes (which is plenty) to explore the top of this tower standing tall amongst the desert. Take in the views, walk the rim and just marvel in the beauty and inaccessibility of your surroundings.
Top Tip: If your pilot asks you if you want the exciting take off, or the normal one – say exciting. Seriously, don’t question it, just say exciting, sit back and enjoy the ride…
Film Location: Contact
Canyon de Chelly is where ‘Contact’ ends with Jodie Foster’s character sitting and contemplating the events of the film. Don’t look for the “nearby” radio antennas though – they are actually over in New Mexico! The magic of the movies right!
The amount of copper on the roof of the Arizona Capitol building is equivalent to 4,800,000 pennies.
Something Different: Standin’ on the Corner
A throwaway line in a song made into a reality. So we can all now actually be “Standin’ on a corner in Winslow Arizona” and there’s even “a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford”! You can’t help but sing along to ‘Take it Easy’ by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey whilst you are there.
Museum: Titan Missile Museum
How can you resist seeing a REAL Titan missile in its silo? A weapon that, if ever launched in anger, could have decimated a city. Learn about the last Titan II missile site, how it, using the MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) principle, helped deter a nuclear conflict and how it would have been launched if it came to it.
Scenic Drive: Apache Trail
The Apache Trail heads out from Apache Junction east of Phoenix towards Roosevelt Dam. Unpaved for much of its distance but don’t let that put you off – this is a stunning drive which we did in a convertible Mustang with no issues.
Don’t miss Canyon Lake Vista – a great overlook of Canyon Lake.
We’d love to hear what you think. What did we miss? What do you think we should have chosen instead?
If we love your idea, we might just swap it into the list, if we like it, maybe will give it an honourable mention; either way we’ll be sure to give you credit, AND add it to our list of things to see and do when we are in the area.
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