With so much to explore in Arizona, it’s hard to narrow down the list of cities, towns, and villages to visit, but we’ve picked a handful that are definitely worth your time and money.
From the Editors
Tombstone & Bisbee
LESS THAN TWO HOURS AWAY ARE two Cochise County communities where the storied past coexists comfortably with the 21st century. Driving east on I-10 to State Route 80 and then heading south takes you along a scenic stretch that perfectly sets the mood for exploring these former mining communities.
Tombstone, the first big stop, is famous for being the scene of a notorious gun battle that is still controversial 138 years later. Earps or Clantons … who started it all? And why?
Allen Street, which is a major artery through the town, still resembles its frontier-day self, and it comes alive for re-enactments. This month, Vigilante Sundays will take place on July 14 and July 28, from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. The festivities include a period-correct fashion show, as well as skits that reflect the wild and woolly history of the area.
Big draws for aficionados of the Old West include the OK Corral & Historama; the Bird Cage Theatre; Boothill Graveyard; and the Tombstone Courthouse State Park. You can easily tour these destinations yourself, but if you wish, there are multiple tour groups, including one that takes you around in a stagecoach.
Dining options in “The Town Too Tough to Die” range from Mexican and Italian dishes at Café Margarita (located in an 1880s lodging house), to the American pub food offered at the Crystal Palace Saloon & Restaurant (whose lineage includes housing the office of U.S. Marshal Virgil Earp).
Continue down State Route 80 and the winding road will take you through the Mule Mountains in Bisbee. For many years this was a booming mining town, and the good news is that many of the historic buildings are intact and repurposed as shops and restaurants.
There are numerous reasons to visit here, including the fact that it’s generally several degrees cooler than Tucson; it features a fascinating mix of architecture — from Victorian to Eclectic Movement to Italianate; and it has more character than a cartoon convention, with lots of fun places to explore, and distinctive events.
Must-see stops are the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum; the Copper Queen Hotel; and if there’s a game scheduled, the nearby Warren Ballpark, said to be the oldest continuously operating baseball diamond in the U.S.
Among the many annual events that draw packs of visitors is the coaster race through Tombstone Canyon. The next one takes place July 4 at 7 a.m., and adults are invited to attend and cheer the kids on!
When you get hungry, checkout famed Café Roka, where casual fine dining with locally sourced ingredients is on the menu, or Santiago’s Mexican, which has both numerous traditional Sonoran menu items and an extensive list of spirits from South of the Border.
Sonoita, Elgin and Patagonia
STATE ROUTE 83 SOUTH IS A TRIP INTO THE heart of Southern Arizona’s Wine Country. The big appeal of the trio of communities is the amazing landscape, with its rolling grasslands that stood in for Oklahoma in the 1955 movie musical. But it’s no secret any more that the region also is popular for the multiple wineries that are open for tours and tastings.
Some of the standouts are Dos Cabezas Wineworks, Callaghan Vineyards, Kief- Joshua Vineyards, and Arizona Hops and Vines. There are many events throughout the year dedicated to wine production and tasting, including HarvestFest, which will take place at Sonoita Vineyards on July 27 and include grape stomping, vineyard tours, and wine and food pairings.
Speaking of food, check out The Café in Sonoita, where Chef Adam Puckle puts his own spin on the classics.
IF YOU HEAD DOWN STATE ROUTE 90 YOU’LL WIND your way to one of the premier spots in the state for bird watching. Even in the summer, you can observe many species in Ramsey Canyon Preserve, Ash Canyon and Miller Canyon, to name just a few locales.
Guided nature walks take place in Ramsey Canyon Preserve on July 1, 4, 6, 8, 11, 13, 15, 20, 22, 25, 27 and 29. Additionally, there will be hummingbird banding sessions (where staff and volunteers from the Southern Arizona Bird Observatory will catch, measure, weigh and band hummingbirds) on July 6, 13, 20 and 25 at San Pedro House. The public is invited to observe.
Guided bird walks also will be held at Environmental Operations Park on July 7, 14, 21 and 28, and at San Pedro House on July 10 and 27.
Lastly, the Southwest Wings Birding and Nature Festival, with everything from hands-on activities to lectures to field trips, will be held July 31-Aug. 3 at Cochise College.
IF YOU CONTINUE NORTH ON I-17, you’ll soon be in Flagstaff, a city known for a vast range of outdoor activities, historic Route 66, Northern Arizona University, and being a gateway to the Grand Canyon.
It is much more than all those things, however, which is why “Flag” is a favorite stop for Tucsonans year-round. More tolerable summer temperatures here make it a great place to focus on for hiking, mountain biking, camping, geocaching and other activities. Maybe you like a little more adrenaline in your vacation? Head to Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course, which offers the opportunity to go ziplining through the tall trees.
While you’re in Flag, stop by the Museum of Northern Arizona to learn more about the area’s history. Drop in at the Lowell Observatory to find out the facility’s role in the exploration of our solar system. Cruise the Mother Road and pull into the Museum Club, a newly reopened bar that’s been around since the 1930s, and has played host to the likes of Willie Nelson and Wanda Jackson.
Near Route 66 you’ll find The Toasted Owl, a retro-style, classic American establishment where the vintage décor is actually for sale! For steakhouse/pub-style food with a twist, head over to NAU to the 1899 Bar & Grill, which has lunch, happy hour and dinner options. Also, the Beaver Street Brewery is a long-established brewpub, whose offerings include a killer chocolate bread pudding.
And because this is a college town, there’s an active nightlife (not New York active, but Northern Arizona active!). Rockabilly Country Bar, which opened in 2018, is exactly what the name suggests, with an eclectic mix of activities thrown in. Altitudes Bar & Grill on Beaver Street is open until 10 p.m. and has live music and line dancing lessons on select nights.
I-10 TO I-17 NORTH WILL TAKE YOU TO A town that’s become famous internationally for its gorgeous scenery and cosmic vibes. Sedona is revered for being a vacation spot that envelops you in nature, while providing you with all the luxury amenities that anyone could ask for.
Visitors flock to the many galleries that show and sell everything from contemporary to traditional Southwestern art. Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping is very popular with tourists (it’s a great picture-taking spot), as is the Sedona Arts Center, which not only has a fine arts gallery, but an actual arts school.
The Chapel of the Holy Cross, a modernistic architectural wonder that rises out of the red rocks, is a wonderful place for contemplation and reflection. Completed in 1956, the chapel has regular Monday evening services and is available for weddings
Although many visitors love the outdoor activities — hiking, biking, horseback riding and climbing — in spots such as Red Rock State Park, others look for the spiritual connection offered in this unusual landscape. Everything from healing activities conducted in the great outdoors, to UFO and vortex tours are available.
Coming up on August 2, the brilliant skies over the town are featured in the Sedona Star Party, taking place from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Astronomers will have telescopes set up for public viewing, and will provide educational talks on the constellations and planets.
When hunger kicks in, you have a lot of dining choices, including Rene at Tlaquepaque, an award-winning fine dining restaurant; romantic Casa Sedona, open for breakfast and dinner (seasonally); and the fun and funky Pump House Station, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.
MANY TUCSONANS ESCAPE TO THE COOLER climes of the White Mountains during the summer
months, and with a rich mix of scenic beauty, state history, and interesting festivities, it’s easy to see the appeal.
Driving on I-10 north and connecting with State Route 60 takes you up to Pinetop-Lakeside, as well as Show Low and Springerville farther down the road. These peaceful communities in the pines offer a variety of outdoor activities that vary with the season. Hiking, boating, fishing, and nature watching are all popular in the summer.
Additionally, events this month include an arts and crafts festival July 4-7 at Charlie Clark’s Steakhouse; a July 6-7 gem and fossil show at Hon-Dah Conference Center; and Medieval Mayhem Renaissance Faire, taking place July 12-14 at Mountain Meadow Recreation Complex.
Not far from Springerville is the picturesque village of Greer, renowned for its beautiful lakes and forests, as well as its blessed relief from summer temps. You’ll actually need a sweatshirt after the sun goes down! Rent a cabin and enjoy pine-scented peace and quiet, far removed from city strife.