Phoenix is Arizona's indubitable cultural and economic powerhouse, a thriving desert metropolis boasting some of the best Southwestern and Mexican food you'll find anywhere. And with more than 300 days of sunshine a year, exploring the 'Valley of the Sun' is an agreeable proposition (except in the sapping heat from June to August).
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.
A college town with a long history, 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 snaggletoothed mountains and swaths of saguaro, Arizona's second-largest city smoothly blends American Indian, 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 accessible and (comparatively) developed Grand Canyon South Rim. This is particularly true in summer when camera-toting day-trippers converge en masse, clogging its roads and easiest trails.
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.
From Flagstaff east to the New Mexico line, the most dominant scenic feature often seems to be the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railway freights that run alongside the interstate. But there are some iconic Route 66 sites along here, and a few spots that will surprise you, just off the road.
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.
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 artificial reservoir was created by the construction of Glen Canyon Dam in 1963.
A pretty slow spot by day, Williams comes to life in the evening when the Grand Canyon Railway train returns with passengers from the South Rim…and then closes down again on the early side. It's a friendly town, with history up its sleeve, and an openness to Grand Canyon tourists.
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.
This stubborn hamlet, which enjoys one of the most spectacular views in Arizona, is wedged into steep Cleopatra Hill. Once home to the fertile United Verde Mine, and the copper-rich Little Daisy Mine, the 'Wickedest Town in the West' once teemed with brothels, saloons and opium dens.