Tourism is an important sector in Arizona, as it should be because the state is teeming with attractions that will wow every traveler. A whopping 32.1 million people visited it in 2020, a stunning number given that that was a COVID-19 pandemic year.
There are many popular Arizona cities, like Flagstaff, which is near the state’s most famous attractions; Lake Havasu, which is dubbed “Arizona’s playground;” Paradise Valley with its luxurious resorts; the ‘Red Rock Country of Sedona; and the urban jungle of Phoenix. What makes the Grand Canyon State an interesting place to visit is its abandoned spots in lesser-known towns, the perfect hangout spot for an authentic Arizona experience. From its urban centers to its rural spots, there’s something for everyone in Arizona.
Amado in Santa Cruz County only has 198 residents, but it should not be overlooked. Firstly, it has the famous Longhorn Grill and Saloon. Known for its cast-iron cooking, the restaurant is easy to spot because of its unique facade. Nature lovers and birders can also consider Amado their hangout spot as it's located in the Santa Cruz River Valley, a picturesque place where pine forests thrive. The town is also known as the location where Gordon MacRae sang Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin for the musical Oklahoma! Amado is a must.
Mohave County is home to Chloride, the oldest continuously inhabited mining town in Arizona. This “living ghost town” once had 5,000 residents but dropped to just 229 as of 2020. The silver mining might have waned, but the town never lost its shine. The town is a famous stop for those going to Las Vegas. It has attractive public artworks, like Roy Purcell’s murals. Travelers can also visit an old railway station and the local-favorite Yesterday's Restaurant. The Old West is alive in Chloride.
Another small town is Dragoon, inhabited by only 178 people. It has the Amerind Museum, which is dedicated to the preservation of Native American history and culture. However, what made this town famous is its unusual attractions, primarily The Thing. What is it? It’s best that tourists just check it out. Another interesting site to visit is the grave of Johnny Ringgo, a known Wild West outlaw. From the museum to the grave of a man who died mysteriously, there’s always something to tease the mind in Dragoon. Then there’s The Thing.
Yet another tiny town is Summerhaven, with only 71 residents. The town is located in the Santa Catalina Mountains below the peak of Mount Lemmon, and is frequented by those from Tucson to escape the summer heat; thus the town name. It's an ideal spot for hikers, campers, fishers, birdwatchers, sledders, and rock climbers, while the nearby Mt. Lemmon's Ski Valley is also a popular attraction. Other landmarks in the area include the Mt. Lemmon General Store & Gift Shop and the Cookie Cabin, famous for its tasty treats. It's the seventh heaven in Summerhaven.
Supai is located within the Grand Canyon and is the most remote village in the lower 48 states, accessible only by helicopter, mule, or foot. Thus, it’s the only place in the United States where mail is delivered via mules. That’s how remote this town is, and that’s what makes it unique – like an oasis for tourists. It’s the capital of the Havasupai Indian Reservation and home to the stunning Havasu Creek. The photos of its cascades and blue-green waters are majestic to look at, more so when viewed in person. Supai is a pocket of paradise.
It’s lovely in Valentine not because of its name but because of its historic spots. This community in Mohave County is an important part of Arizona State Route 66. Those who want a trip down memory lane must visit this village, home to landmarks of the past. Such historic attractions include the high school, Valentine Station, which is now a gift shop, the heart-filled post office, Chief Motel, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs building. The place is also home to Keepers of the Wild Nature Park, where big cats can be observed. It’s nothing but love in Valentine.
4 Window Rock
Those who want to learn more about the Navajo Nation should visit Window Rock, its seat of government. The main attraction is its tribal park, a big sandstone cliff with a big hole can be seen, and where the town got its name. There’s also a statue to remember the veterans, and those who want to learn more about the local history can drop by the Navajo Nation Museum & Library. They can also visit the Navajo Zoo & Botanical Zoo, aside from the marketplace, where they score good deals. With or without souvenirs, the stay in Window Rock is the gift itself.
Meadview is a community near Lake Mead that started as a retirement village. It has a national recreation area where tourists can enjoy fishing and hiking. What makes the town special is the presence of Joshua trees that dot a vast open space. Aside from the trees, day hikers can also enjoy the views of monoliths, an old mine, canyons, mesas, and other nature spots. Fishers, meanwhile, can score stripers, bass, catfish, bluegills, and trouts in Lake Mead. Whatever the activity, Meadview got tourists covered.
Stargazers and astronomy lovers should visit Safford because its dark sky is waiting to be checked out. The town has Mount Graham International Observatory, where guests can find the Heinrich Hertz Submillimeter Telescope, the Large Binocular Telescope, and the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope. Other than the giant telescopes, tourists can also explore Bonita Creek where they can have a picnic and observe some wildlife. Gila River, meanwhile, is perfect for floating and Riggs Lake for fishing. Staring at the stars or busy on the ground, Safford is the place to try them all.
Strawberry is one sweet destination, thanks to its mountain vibe. It’s a place of fresh air, pine trees, and the inviting Verde River. The village is home to the oldest standing schoolhouse in Arizona, something tourists should check out for some history lessons. Other than the Strawberry Schoolhouse, visitors can also relax by Fossil Creek, learn more about the area at Pine-Strawberry Museum, conquer the hiking trails, or take a dip in Verde Hot Springs. With all that, who wouldn’t like Strawberry?