A trip to Arizona usually includes one or more of the following—the ever majestic Grand Canyon, colorful and creative Sedona, or the bustling desert metropolis of Phoenix. Visitors to Arizona are quick to put the picturesque state in a touristy little box, missing out on the locally-loved spots that give the state its unique flavor. For an off-the-beaten-path getaway to the "The Grand Canyon State," check out these activities (that aren't The Grand Canyon.)
10 Find Some Magic At The Valley Of The Moon
Although Tucson's Valley of the Moon is definitely geared towards the younger crowd, people of all ages can appreciate the magic of a storybook land come to life. George Phar Legler dreamt up the wonderland in the early 20th-century and shared it with his people as a means to "promote kindness and spark imagination." Families head to Valley of the Moon for elaborate scavenger hunts on the wildly creative grounds, and historic tours share the unique vision of George Phar Legler and what it's done for the community.
9 Lose Your Sense Of Space And Time At The Phoenix Art Museum
There are times when no picture can do a place justice, and that is certainly the case with artist Yayoi Kusama's installation at the Phoenix Art Museum. The work of art, titled "You Who are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies," is a disorienting and beautiful piece that needs to be seen to be appreciated. LED lights bounce off an infinity room encapsulated by mirrors, breaking the mind's ability to perceive depth. The overwhelming installation manages to take its visitors on an intergalactic experience in a 25 square foot room in the heart of Phoenix.
8 Gain Special Entrance To The Cave Of The Bells
Tucked inside the Santa Rita Mountains in Coronado National Forest is a cave so special it's kept under lock and key. Delicate formations continue to grow inside the cave's walls. To protect the fragile environment, park officials require guests to put down a hundred-dollar deposit to obtain a key that unlocks a gate at the opening. Cave of the Bells is surprisingly warm and wide open, with several passageways and rooms to explore. Inside one, a subterranean lake stays at a comfortable 76 degrees year-round, thought to be warmed by something beneath it.
7 Explore The Domes
Abandoned places are littered throughout Arizona, and people love to create stories about them as a way to up the spook factor associated with ruined, empty sites. According to some locals, satanic rituals go on inside The Domes, a computer manufacturing facility left to wither away in the heat of the desert. Grafitti decorates the insides of the bright yellow structures, whose floors are littered with chunks of ruins. The historical landmark sits on private property, though the landowners generally give curious folks permission to explore.
6 Find Something Strange At The History Of Pharmacy Museum
One of the most rewarding things about collecting is being able to share that collection with others who might find it interesting. Inside the University of Arizona's College of Pharmacy lies an expansive collection of pharmaceutical objects acquired by Jesse Hurlbut and others. Over 60,000 objects spread over four stories provide students with a unique look into pharmacology practices over the decades. One floor is fashioned into an old-timey drugstore, the cabinets filled with vintage decanters and pill bottles.
5 Check Out The Architecture In Arcosanti
The creative mind behind Arcosanti, architect Paolo Soleri, set out to realize his dream of building a town that kept its natural surroundings in mind. The result is the visually stunning Arcosanti, an experimental town built on arcology, "the fusion of architecture and ecology."
Visitors can go on guided tours to learn about the fascinating history of the town or even stay a while and fully immerse in the communal environment. The unique structures are a real treat for the eyes, with natural elements that blend seamlessly with the desert backdrop yet feel futuristic at the same time.
4 Hike In The Underrated Petrified Forest
While Petrified Forest National Park isn't exactly a local secret, far too many travelers bypass the natural wonder for The Grand Canyon. Colorful rock formations spread across the park are often referred to as "The Painted Desert," and while those are spectacular sights in themselves, the real wonder of the park is in the name.
It might be hard to believe, but 225 million-year-old trees (over four times as old as the dinosaurs) flood the landscape. Volcanic ash destroyed the once flourishing forest, leaving behind pieces of petrified trees frozen in time. The park is also home to an impressive collection of fossils and petroglyphs, a unique marriage of the unbelievably distant and not-so-distant past.
3 Get Drenched At Cibecue Falls
When in doubt, follow the river—or, in this case, the creek. A two-mile trail through Cibeque Creek blesses hikers with views of the stunning Salt River Canyon, carrying wet-socked wanderers to a waterfall surrounded by warm-toned rock formations. The 30-foot falls cascade into a shaded pool, providing people with some much-needed relief from the powerful desert sun.
2 Fall In Love With The Story Of Mystery Castle
Plenty of parents do everything they can to ensure their children's happiness, but Boyce Gully truly went above and beyond when he built Mystery Castle. Gully found out his time on earth would be cut short by illness. He left his home and set up shop in the desert, using his remaining time to create an elaborate castle for his daughter, Mary Lou, who he fondly remembered building castles of her own in the sand.
The native stone structure has multiple rooms and fireplaces, and southwestern antiques give the palace a royal desert feel. Princess Mary Lou moved into the castle after her father passed and shared the labor of love with the public for years before her own passing. Today, Mystery Castle continues to touch visitors with its heartwarming fairytale about a father's enduring love for his daughter.
1 Get Spooked At The Apache Death Cave
Route 66 is known for its quirky roadside attractions, many of which can be found in Arizona. Beyond all the quirk is a site shrouded in darkness—the Apache Death Cave. Tensions between tribes came to a head after a series of raids by the Apache laid to rest several Navajo people. In response to the attacks, Navajo leaders lit the entrance to an Apache hideaway in a cave on fire, trapping the people inside. It is said that no Apache has entered the cave since, but it doesn't stop others from checking out the eerie dark tourist destination.