Dusty desert vistas full of sun-soaked badlands and craggy canyons ring the scenic outer edges of Greater Phoenix, a massive metropolitan area home to everything from Wild West-themed walking tours to major league sporting events to world-class attractions and festivals. It’s no wonder this is one of the fastest growing cities (and states) in the country, as well as one of the most popular destinations on the continent for winter-weary northern snowbirds. Rustic backcountry environs and laid-back outer suburbs perfectly balance the lively downtown core, making this an ideal landing spot for those with a diverse palette of interests and tastes.
Ghost towns, cacti and craggy desert foothills make a drive through the outlands of south central Arizona akin to stepping into your own classic Wild West film. Set up camp in the buzzing desert metropolis of Tucson or the vibrant border city of Nogales farther south and go for a deep dive into the region’s rich tapestry of quintessentially Southwest terrain, which stretches as far as the eye can see in every direction. Don’t miss the Old West towns of Bisbee and Tombstone, where guided tours reanimate the rough-and-tumble days of high noon gunfights and rollicking saloon smashups.
The mighty Colorado River serves as Arizona’s de facto western coastline, snaking its way south from the Hoover Dam to the old frontier town of Yuma. In between lies a smorgasbord of treasured small towns. Explore a fully preserved mining town in Castle Dome, visit the infamous Yuma Territorial Prison (once the most notorious jailhouse in the old Wild West) or open-up on a stretch of the original Route 66. Just don’t forget your sunscreen—this is one of the hottest regions in the country, with Yuma holding the Guinness World Record as the sunniest spot on earth.