The Southwest's most populous city isn't great with first impressions, but give this desert metropolis a chance. Just when you've dismissed the place as a faux-dobe wasteland of cookie-cutter subdivisions, bland shopping malls and water-gobbling golf courses, you're pulled short by a golden sunset setting the urban peaks aglow.
This is a land of Stetsons and spurs, where cowboy ballads are sung around the campfire under starry, black-velvet skies and thick steaks sizzle on the grill. Anchored by the bustling college-town of Tucson, it's a vast region, where long, dusty highways slide past rolling vistas and steep, pointy mountain ranges.
Sedona's a stunner, but it's intensely spiritual as well – some even say sacred. Nestled amid striking red sandstone formations at the south end of the 16-mile gorge that is Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona attracts spiritual seekers, artists and healers, as well as day-trippers from Phoenix trying to escape the oppressive heat.
Flagstaff's laid-back charms are countless, from its pedestrian-friendly historic downtown crammed with eclectic vernacular architecture and vintage neon, to its high-altitude pursuits like skiing and hiking. Buskers play bluegrass on street corners while bike culture flourishes. Locals are a happy, athletic bunch, skewing more toward granola than gunslinger.
An energetic college town, Tucson (too-sawn) is attractive, fun-loving and one of the most culturally invigorating places in the Southwest. Set in a flat valley hemmed in by craggy, odd-shaped mountains, Arizona's second-largest city smoothly blends Native American, Spanish, Mexican and Anglo traditions.
Grand Canyon National Park South Rim
If you don't mind bumping elbows with other travelers, you'll be fine on the South Rim. This is particularly true in summer when camera-toting day-trippers converge en masse, clogging its roads and easiest trails. Why is this rim so popular? Easy access is the most obvious reason: it's a mere 60 miles north of the I-40. Abundant infrastructure is another.
The western border of Arizona lies along the Colorado River, which stretches south from the Hoover Dam all the way to Yuma and Mexico. Savvy marketers have dubbed this region the 'West Coast.' The famous Hoover Dam is one of a series of mega-dams that regulate the flow of the river after it emerges from the Grand Canyon.
Page & Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
An enormous lake tucked into a landlocked swath of desert? You can guess how popular it is to play in the spangly waters of Lake Powell. Part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, the country's second-largest reservoir was created by the construction of Glen Canyon Dam in 1963. To house the scores of workers an entire town was built from scratch near the dam.
Kaibab National Forest
No canyon views, but no crowds either. Divided by the Grand Canyon into two distinct ecosystems, this 1.6-million-acre forest offers a peaceful escape from the park madness. Thick stands of ponderosa dominate the higher elevations, while piñon and juniper create a fragrant backdrop further down.
Fire raged through Whiskey Row in downtown Prescott (press-kit) on July 14, 1900. Quick-thinking locals managed to save the town's most prized possession: the 24ft-long Brunswick Bar that anchored the Palace Saloon. After lugging the solid oak bar across the street onto Courthouse Plaza, they grabbed their drinks and continued the party.
It's hard to describe Jerome without using the phrase 'precariously perched.' This stubborn hamlet, which enjoys one of the most spectacular views in Arizona, is wedged into steep Cleopatra Hill. Jerome was the home of the fertile United Verde Mine, nicknamed the 'Billion Dollar Copper Camp,' as well as the copper-rich Little Daisy Mine.