Arizona is, well, amazing. Big cities and small towns, snow and sun, history and natural wonders, adventure and relaxation — whatever you like, you’ll find it here. So, you can feel good about working a bit of family vacation into your upcoming college visit.
We’re going to break our top 10 into two parts: the top five things to do in the Phoenix area and the top five things to do around the rest of the state.
Top 5 things to do in the Phoenix area
Did you know Phoenix is the fifth-largest city in the U.S.? A city this size offers lots to do.
The arts and music scenes
The arts landscape in Phoenix is booming, and you can really experience it at the First Fridays Art Walk. On the first Friday of every month, some of the best art is on display in downtown Phoenix, and you can walk around and check it all out. And the music scene in Phoenix offers an eclectic array of bands no matter what your music tastes.
Hiking trails and waterways
If exercise and nature make you smile, there’s nothing like a good hike or some fun on the water. The Phoenix area has more than 65 hiking trails, from easy to difficult, all surrounded by the natural beauty of the desert. And there are several lakes on the outskirts of town perfect for paddleboarding, fishing or just relaxing.
Any big city worth its salt has an outstanding food scene, and the Phoenix area is no different. We’re known for our Mexican food — some of the best anywhere — but you’ll also find restaurants offering fare from every corner of the world. And yes, there are top chefs and five-star restaurants across the city, but for college students who probably don’t have a five-star bank account, we recommend the hip diners and food trucks. Food trucks are huge here, offering affordability and deliciousness.
Awesome weather means lots of awesome outdoor festivals. Almost every weekend you can find a fun event to check out, such as the Taco Festival, Greek Festival, Hawaiian Festival, Ostrich Festival, Tempe Arts Festival, Dia de los Muertos Festival, music festivals and even a donut festival.
If watching pro athletes do their thing is your thing, you’ve come to the right city. The Phoenix area offers all the big profewsional sports: Arizona Diamondbacks (baseball), Arizona Cardinals (football), Phoenix Suns (basketball), Arizona Coyotes (hockey), Phoenix Mercury (women’s basketball), Arizona Rattlers (arena football) and Phoenix Rising (soccer). The area also hosts two NASCAR races each year, the Phoenix Open golf tournament and spring training baseball. And of course, 26 Pac-12 teams.
Top 5 things to do in Arizona
Weekends are for exploring, as long as students are caught up on your studies, of course. And Arizona is full of adventures just a few hours away.
One of the seven natural wonders of the world is just a four-hour drive away from the Phoenix area. Anyone who hasn’t seen the Grand Canyon in person, needs to — pictures don’t do it justice.
That’s right, skiing. Just a two-hour drive up to Flagstaff and your student can be in a winter wonderland of snow and pine trees. Arizona Snowbowl has some challenging ski runs and beautiful mountain scenery.
Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, the gunfight at the OK Corral. It all happened back in 1881 in Tombstone, Arizona, a small old westerntown only a three-hour drive from Phoenix. Your student can check out all the Wild West history there and stand where the gunfight actually took place.
Sedona is a unique Arizona town in both style and scenery. It’s an art-lover’s paradise with galleries and shops, but it’s the scenery that really captivates visitors. Its Mars-like landscape of red rocks is unlike any other spot in Arizona. An area highlight is Slide Rock, a fun spot in Oak Creek where the creek offers a slippery, watery ride down the smooth rocks.
Lake Havasu City
Set in western Arizona on the California state line, Lake Havasu City is a charming small town that offers lots of water recreation. The focal point is sparkling Lake Havasu and the London Bridge that spans part of it (yes, the London Bridge of nursery rhyme fame — they packed it up and moved it across the pond to Lake Havasu City in the early 1970s), and while you’re here, visit ASU’s location just up the street from the lake.
There you have it. The top 10 things to do in Arizona. This should get you started, at least. We invite you and your family to find your favorites and fall in love with Arizona, too.