This list was originally published May 18, 2015, to celebrate 125 years of The Arizona Republic. We’ve brought it back to help mark Arizona’s 106th birthday!
There are endless reasons to love Arizona, from the universal (diverse scenery, great weather) to deeply personal (met your romantic partner here).
Regardless of whether you’re a native or a recent transplant, here are our top 25 reasons — plus 100 more — to love Arizona.
1. Grand Canyon
This is the Grand Canyon State, and we have the license plates to prove it. Mention “Grand Canyon” in any corner of the Earth and people will likely say, “Arizona.” (If they say “Las Vegas,” straighten them out.) Any Arizona-based list has to start with one of the greatest natural wonders.
2. Native American culture
The state is blessed with museums, villages and natural wonders that reflect the lives and cultures of people who have lived here for centuries. It’s a shame “casinos” come readily to mind.
With red-rock formations rarely found outside Mars, Sedona would be voted “Best Landscape” in most states, but not in one featuring the Grand Canyon. Still, Sedona is a beautiful runner-up.
It’s just another word for trees and shrubs that require comparatively little care. Combine gravel with drought-tolerant plants and you’ve just freed up a few weekend hours to watch TV instead of mowing and pruning. Unless you’re into that sort of thing.
5. Sunrise, sunset
The hues to be seen when the sun says hello and goodbye are almost always Instagram-worthy. Sure, some of the most incredible -rises and -sets are the result of pollutants, but if you are going to breathe air you can see, it might as well look like this.
6. Decent amount of water for a desert
What with all the lakes, pools and water parks in and around the Valley, the ability to escape the heat is never far away. And based on the number of state residents who descend on San Diego each summer, Arizona could probably annex Mission and Pacific beaches.
With a lack of scientific research to prove otherwise, we say Arizona is one of the 10 most easygoing, modest states (excluding time spent in trendy Scottsdale clubs). Shorts, T-shirts and a friendly vibe dominate among people who rarely take themselves too seriously (unless they’re trying to be trendy in a Scottsdale club).
8. Pro sports
The Phoenix metropolitan area boasts teams in seven professional sports — baseball, basketball, football, hockey, women’s basketball, arena football and soccer. You know who doesn’t have all these options? San Diego. Los Angeles. San Francisco. Seattle. Ha!
9. Climate diversity
Arizona is in a continental sweet spot featuring everything from low desert to alpine meadows. We can enjoy a vast carpet of wildflowers in the spring, and a leafy canopy of golds and oranges in the fall. A different weather pattern is always just a couple of hours away. You know what’s a couple of hours away during a Northeast winter? More snow.
Those who visit southeast Arizona will be greeted by a bevy of birds, from sandhill cranes to all kinds of hawks, robins and sparrows. Not only is the area home to native species, but it sits along a migratory path that’s often busier than Interstate 10, only with chirping, not road rage.
11. Monument Valley
The Western landscape does not get more iconic than this. Name one other place that’s equally associated with John Wayne and the Roadrunner. Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park straddles the Utah state line, but the visitor center, scenic drive and View Hotel are all in Arizona.
12. Predictable politics
Close races in which opposing parties nearly split seats can lead to ineffectiveness (case in point: the federal government). That doesn’t happen here, where an “R” by a name all but guarantees victory. It’s so much easier to pass laws without any opposing views getting in the way.
13. Brief state history
Arizona became a state on Feb. 14, 1912, and is the youngest of the 48 contiguous states. Imagine being a high school student in, say, Virginia, where the state history encompasses nearly 240 years. That’s going to take several semesters. Arizona’s history can be wrapped up in one, leaving other semesters for photography and culinary arts.
14. Counties bigger than states
Arizona’s largest county by area (Coconino) is bigger than nine states. Maricopa County is larger than eight states. Even Arizona’s smallest county, Santa Cruz, is larger than Rhode Island.
15. Hispanic roots
Arizona’s culture and history are richer for the strong ties to Mexico and Central America. From art to food to fashion, Latino traditions have given the state much to honor and celebrate.
16. Frank Lloyd Wright
Homes and structures built or inspired by the famed architect draw attention and tourists. Taliesin West in Scottsdale is a mecca for fans and students, and it stands out in a region where tile and stucco are so omnipresent that you’d expect to find the materials on the state emblem.
17. Old West image
Tourists, especially those from overseas, still expect to see gun-toting cowboys on horseback rounding up cattle on a cactus-studded plain. And dude ranches offer just that. As well as air-conditioned cabins and Wi-Fi. Even the Old West has to keep up with the times.
18. Pope scope
The Vatican loves to look to the heavens as much as anyone, and its Observatory Research Group is hosted by Steward Observatory on the University of Arizona campus. The state’s weather lends itself to optimal nighttime viewing.
19. Hoover Dam
Retaining as much water as it does puns, this dam landmark is a monument to man’s hubris toward nature. Take the dam tour to hear about the dam history, dam power generation and other dam facts. So many dam puns. (Note: Hoover straddles the Nevada state line, but the cool activities are in Arizona.)
20. Sandra Day O’Connor
The former U.S. Supreme Court Justice is the embodiment of Arizona’s pioneering spirit. Her strength and determination made her a force in the male-dominated legal profession, and her name fittingly graces Arizona State University’s law school.
21. John McCain
One of the nation’s leading conservative voices, the Republican U.S. senator is synonymous with Arizona. With frequent appearances on national TV talk shows, his authoritative voice is more familiar than most political leaders’. Sure, there was that little slip with Sarah Palin, but all is forgiven.
22. London Bridge
The British may laugh at how chain-saw tycoon Robert McCullough paid $2.4 million for a sinking bridge (shipping not included) and reassembled it in a small lakeside town. Now the bridge stars in every “You won’t believe what’s in Arizona” list, bringing more than $2.4 million worth of tourist attention to Lake Havasu City. Now who’s laughing?
23. Fry bread
Keep your cronuts and your doughscuits and your cup-pies. The simple deliciousness of fry bread is far more satisfying than any trendy pastry hybrid. Sprinkled with powdered sugar or drizzled with honey, fry bread is the perfect dessert. By the way, there are no such things as cup-pies. Yet.
24. Personalized license plates
Have an opinion or cause you want to support on your bumper? There’s a personalized plate for you. Arizona offers 51, from Alternative Fuel to Women Veterans. In the unlikely event that you are a veteran who enjoys watching the Phoenix Suns and has kids in the Boy and Girl Scouts who love pets and the Thunderbird School of Global Management, you have six plates to choose from. Decisions, decisions.
25. No daylight-saving time
While America springs forward and falls back, Arizona sticks to its time guns. We like our sunrises and sunsets right where they are on the clock, so you can keep your time ambivalence.
Here are some reasons to love exploring Arizona.
26. Apache Trail
This winding road into the Superstition Mountains was built in the early 1900s to move workers and supplies to the Roosevelt Dam construction site. It is still unpaved for many miles. You’ll pass desert vistas, three lakes and the Old West-style town of Tortilla Flat. In 1911, President Theodore Roosevelt noted the route’s beauty: “The Apache Trail combines the grandeur of the Alps, the glory of the Rockies, the magnificence of the Grand Canyon and then adds an indefinable something that none of the others have.”
27. Saguaro National Park
You expect cactus. What you might not expect are ponderosa pines, aspens and fir trees. Yet they all exist in the 92,000-acre park that straddles Tucson like saddlebags. Elevation ranges from 2,300 feet on the west side to 8,482 feet at the summit of Rincon Peak on the east side. Take your pick of scenic drives and hiking trails. There’s plenty for cyclists and equestrians to like, too.
28. Antelope Canyon
Who hasn’t admired a photo of this canyon, where ethereal light teases rich reds, bright yellows and warm oranges into mind-bending shapes and patterns? The canyon, about 3 miles southeast of Page, has upper and lower portions, with tours available for both. The upper section is a short, flat walk; ladders get you into and out of the lower portion.
29. Schnebly Hill Road
In a state packed with scenic drives, how do you narrow the choices? If your wish list includes huge views, red-rock scenery and a twisty dirt road, head for Schnebly Hill Road in Sedona. For maximum thrills, start at the top. Snake your way down, stopping at the overlooks so the driver can get a break from concentrating. If you don’t want to beat up your vehicle, several companies in Sedona offer four-wheel-drive tours.
30. Prescott lakes
The otherworldly rock formations of the Granite Dells make Watson Lake one of the coolest day trips you can take from the Valley. Rent a canoe or a kayak to explore the coves, or just sit on a rock at sunset. Nearby Willow Lake has the same attractions. Goldwater Lake, nestled in the pines just south of Prescott, also has a playground, volleyball court, horseshoe pits and picnic ramadas.
31. Wupatki/Sunset Crater Volcano
It would be impossible to drive the 36-mile road that links these national monuments north of Flagstaff and not imagine what it must have been like when the volcano blew. The impressive Wupatki Pueblo and other ruins indicate that this was a thriving community. The eerie Bonito Lava Flow shows the power of the eruption of Sunset Crater nearly 1,000 years ago.
32. Mogollon Rim scenic drive
Forest Road 300 meanders nearly 45 miles atop the Mogollon Rim between State Route 87 and Woods Canyon Lake, providing vistas that range from nice to gorgeous to stunning. You’ll pass meadows, thick stands of conifers and a few aspens. There’s a good chance of spotting elk, deer and other wildlife. There are several trailheads along the way. FR 300 isn’t paved, but it is in generally good shape. Drive with care and you won’t need a high-clearance vehicle.
Tombstone lures Old West buffs like the Louvre attracts art lovers. It is a pilgrimage that everyone who loves Western movies or history — they are seldom the same — needs to make. You can witness shootouts, ride a stagecoach, dress up like a gunfighter or saloon girl, take a Jeep tour into the Dragoon Mountains and listen to the voice of actor Vincent Price describe the origins of the town at the Historama.
34. Japanese Friendship Garden
Japanese Friendship Garden: It’s near downtown Phoenix but you might drive right past this tranquil spot. The garden, named Ro Ho En, is designed to be an authentic Japanese Stroll Garden with tea garden and tea house. Set among 3.5 acres near 3rd Avenue and Roosevelt Street, the site offers more than 1,500 tons of hand-picked rock, stone footbridges, lanterns and dozens of varieties of plants. Take a walk, and you’ll go past flowing streams, a 12-foot waterfall, and a Koi pond with more than 300 colorful Koi fish.
35. Pipe Spring National Monument
Perched in the desolation of the Arizona Strip, this monument is an intriguing window into pioneer life. Pipe Spring is a water source used by humans for thousands of years and the site of a cattle ranch established in 1870. Guided tours are offered through a ranch house known as Winsor Castle. A museum contains pioneer and Native American exhibits.
Here are 10 things we love about Arizona’s arts and culture. Faves range from the Musical Instrument Museum to the acclaimed Childsplay theater troupe.
36. Musical Instrument Museum
See more than 6,000 instruments from every corner of the globe, from South African guitars built of oil cans to a giant self-playing “organ” made of drums, accordions and saxophones. The Artist Gallery shows pop-culture icons ranging from a Vegas-era Elvis jumpsuit to the piano John Lennon used to compose “Imagine.” And you can hear music from around the world on Wi-Fi headphones that tune in to the nearest exhibit.
37. Center for Creative Photography
Located in Tucson, the center aims to offer the “finest academic art museums and study centers for the history of photography.” The center opened in 1975 and began with the archives of five master photographers—Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock, Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, and Frederick Sommer. The collection has grown to include more than 230 archival collections. There are more than five million archival objects at the center, including negatives, work prints, contact sheets, albums, scrapbooks, correspondence, writings, audiovisual materials and memorabilia.
38. ASU Gammage
This 50-year-old Tempe icon designed by Frank Lloyd Wright is the Valley’s home to touring Broadway shows such as “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Wicked” and “The Book of Mormon” — all on the marquee in the coming months. The university-owned venue also hosts cutting-edge dance troupes and concerts by the likes of Philip Glass, who performed his cycle of piano etudes there this year.
39. Ballet Arizona
The arrival in 2000 of artistic director Ib Andersen, one of the last proteges of the great choreographer George Balanchine, put Ballet Arizona on the national map. In addition to classic story ballets such as “Swan Lake” and “Giselle,” Andersen has earned acclaim for his annual program of Balanchine’s modernist dance.
40. Phoenix Chorale
Formerly known as the Phoenix Bach Choir, the chorus has blossomed into one of the finest in the country under maestro Charles Bruffy. It won a 2009 Grammy Award for best small-ensemble performance for “Spotless Rose: Hymns to the Virgin Mary,” and its “Northern Lights: Choral Works by Ola Gjeilo” was named best classical vocal album of 2012 by iTunes.
41. Phoenix Art Museum
It has hosted blockbuster exhibits ranging from Monet and Frida Kahlo to “The Art of Video Games,” but the best thing about this museum is the diversity of its offerings. It boasts a fashion-design gallery, an excellent collection of Asian art and a curatorial partnership with the University of Arizona’s Center for Creative Photography. It also has a movie theater for screenings such as the National Theatre Live series, beamed over from London.
42. Heard Museum
One of the Valley’s top tourist attractions, the Heard showcases Native American art and culture of the Southwest, from historical relics to contemporary art. It hosts popular events such as the Hoop Dancing Championship, Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market, Katsina Doll Marketplace and Christmas Ornament Marketplace.
Tempe’s professional theater for young audiences has made its name developing new works that have been produced by other companies around the country. Its most recent triumph was the dynamically staged heartbreaker “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane,” based on the novel by Kate DiCamillo. Because this company employs full-time actors, it draws its strength from its sense of ensemble — and company artists such as Jon Gentry, Debra K. Stevens and Katie McFadzen enjoy celebrity status among young theatergoers.
44. ‘Arizona Bold’
Arizona Opera’s recently announced initiative aims to bring contemporary works that speak to Arizona’s diverse audience. The series kicked off last year with the world’s first mariachi opera, “Cruzar la Cara de la Luna” (“To Cross the Face of the Moon”), and continues in coming seasons with “Arizona Lady,” “The Last Dream of Frida and Diego” and the world premiere of “Riders of the Purple Sage,” adapted from the Zane Grey novel.
45. Taliesin West
Arizona’s most famous snowbird was the legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who began building Taliesin West, his winter home (and a colony for his acolytes), in 1937. Now a National Historic Landmark, it offers guided tours that show how the desert inspired the design of the estate. A Lego model of Taliesin West was unveiled this year in the pavilion room, built of nearly 200,000 toy bricks worth more than $100,000.
Here are 10 Arizona historical icons we love.
46. El Tovar
El Tovar hotel at Grand Canyon opened in 1905. Architect Charles Whittlesey wanted to create a dramatic structure reminiscent of a Swiss chalet, then considered very elegant. The hotel was regarded as one of the finest west of the Mississippi. El Tovar has been updated since then, but the expansive porches are the same, and the log walls in the lobby and dining room feel timeless.
47. Canyon de Chelly National Monument
In the 1800s, Navajos sought refuge from U.S. soldiers in the distant reaches of Canyon de Chelly in northeast Arizona. Pueblo structures still stand under red cliffs, while modern-day Navajos farm the bottomlands. Visitors can drive along the canyon rim and stop at overlooks or take a short hike to White House Ruin. Tours into the canyon, led by Navajo guides, give a better understanding of its past and present.
This town was built on the side of Cleopatra Hill during the copper boom in territorial days. Today, it is a funky, friendly place to explore. Don’t miss Jerome State Historic Park — the mansion doesn’t just tell the story of mining magnate James Stuart Douglas. It also describes the boomtown his mine created, how everything evaporated so quickly and how the city found new life.
49. Tovrea Castle
Italian immigrant Alessio Carraro built the Phoenix “wedding cake” castle from 1928 to 1930 with hopes of turning it into a hotel and housing subdivision. His dreams were short-lived; a feedlot expanded next door. Cattleman E.A. Tovrea purchased the castle in 1932 and moved in with his wife, Della. He died within a year but his widow lived there until 1969. The city bought it in 1993 and recently opened it for tours.
50. Orpheum Theatre
The nearly 1,400-seat theater in downtown Phoenix started as part of the national Orpheum Circuit chain, which presented vaudeville acts. The theater, designed with Spanish medieval and Baroque touches, opened in 1929. Through the Great Depression and World War II, residents stayed up to date via newsreels shown at the theater. Later, it operated as a movie theater and then a venue for plays and musicals. The building fell into disrepair and demolition was considered until the city bought it in 1984. It underwent a 12-year, $14 million renovation and now hosts a variety of arts productions.
51. Hubbell Trading Post
Part museum, part art gallery and part grocery store, Hubbell Trading Post on the Navajo Reservation is a portal through time. High counters and shelves are stocked with everything from blankets and baskets to clothing and kitchen utensils. Wood floors creak delightfully with every step. The 160-acre national historic site also includes barns, corrals, farm machinery, wagons and animals, including Churro sheep and their prized wool.
52. Whiskey Row
The heart of Prescott is bustling Courthouse Square, where the Old West’s architecture and spirit are still intact. Whiskey Row makes up the square’s western edge. Most of the buildings were constructed between 1900 and 1905, after a massive fire leveled the original block. Locals and visitors takes advantage of pub crawls, festivals and art walks nearly every weekend of the year.
This southeast Arizona community, once a booming copper-mining town, has reinvented itself as a quirky arts community. Most of the lodging offerings are in cool historical buildings downtown or renovated homes and cottages on side streets.
54. Pueblo Grande
This museum and archaeological site in Phoenix is home to a 1,500-year old Hohokam village. Walk the outdoor trail and explore the structures, and then learn about the Hohokam people in the main gallery. The museum features a gallery and museum store, and provides educational programs.
55. Heritage Square
The square in downtown Phoenix dates to the late 1800s, shining a light on the city’s Victorian past. The Rosson House Museum gives a glimpse of family life in those days. Also in the square are the famous Pizzeria Bianco, high-end Japanese restaurant Nobuo at Teeter House and the Rose & Crown Pub. Concerts, festivals and weddings regularly take place in the square.
Here are some reasons to love getting out in Arizona.
56. Phoenix Zoo
Voted a top zoo for kids, the Phoenix Zoo features 125 acres of family-friendly entertainment. Visitors enjoy a variety of interactive experiences, from the Giraffe Encounter to Stingray Bay to the Monkey Village. The Safari Train circles the park as guides offer tips. The zoo also hosts such popular special events such as the ZooLights holiday display.
57. Desert Botanical Garden
Learn about Sonoran Desert plants, trees and flowers as you stroll pathways through cactuses and succulents. There’s always something going on, such as the Music in the Garden series, art exhibits, plant sales, workshops and special events such as the holiday luminaria display. Gertrude’s restaurant is popular.
58. Pat’s Run
This fundraiser started in a way that almost surely would have met with its namesake’s approval — three friends kicking around ideas over beers. Pat Tillman’s friends wanted to raise money for the foundation created after Tillman, the former Arizona State University and Arizona Cardinals defensive standout, was killed while serving with the Army Rangers in Afghanistan. Pat’s Run now is the largest timed running event in the Southwest U.S. Nearly 30,000 people run and walk 4.2 miles each April to celebrate his spirit and remember his sacrifice.
59. Deer Valley Rock Art Center
More than 1,500 petroglyphs are scattered around the center in north east Glendale, offering a multifaceted view of the past. The drawings, most made with stone tools thousands of years ago, are open to interpretation. The rock art symbols are found as you walk along the quarter-mile path, which has signs pointing out some of the symbols among the outcroppings of dark andesite.Rock art is a collective name for the types of images created on stone: petroglyphs and pictographs. Petroglyphs are pecked, engraved or polished designs on rock; pictographs are painted or drawn designs on rock.
60. Downtown Phoenix arts scene
The First Friday art walk has been giving life to galleries and opportunity to artists since 1994. Phoenix’s artsy neighborhoods are spread about in typical Valley fashion, with popular areas including the Phoenix Art Museum and Heard Museum; the Roosevelt Row Arts District; and the Lower Grand Avenue Arts and Small Business District. You also will find a vibrant Latino-art scene and skillful graffiti.
61. Sahuaro Ranch
Did you know date-palm trees can live for more than 100 years? They do, and you can see many fine specimens at the Sahuaro Ranch Park Historic Area in Glendale, which also features historical buildings, barnyard and fruit orchards. Tour the historic Main House Museum, built from 1891 to 1898, and learn about the history of the pioneers who lived there.
62. Mystery Castle
The home at the base of South Mountain was built by Boyce Gulley in the 1930s. He moved from Seattle to Phoenix with a fond memory: building sand castles with his daughter, Mary Lou. He set out to build her a “permanent sand castle” using cheap and found materials, including salvaged rail tracks, telephone poles, adobe, automobile parts and stone. Gulley died in 1945; Mary Lou died in 2010. Tours are offered October through May.
63. Scottsdale nightlife
Downtown Scottsdale draws locals and tourists with its Western boutiques, great dining and walkable area. And when the sun goes down, it turns into a partier’s paradise. You can drop into a Vegas-style pool club where a top international DJ is performing, walk a couple of doors down to a modern country bar owned by Dierks Bentley, hear a band at an old cowboy saloon, then play arcade games while drinking craft beer.
64. Car auctions
Numerous auctions draw big wheels to the Valley every January. The largest and best known is the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction, which brings in a diverse crowd ranging from international buyers to families looking for a fun day out. Other major auctions include Russo and Steele, Gooding & Co., Bonhams and RM.
65. Waste Management Phoenix Open
This is the largest tournament on the PGA Tour and known for its rowdy atmosphere. Thousands of fans descend on TPC Scottsdale to sip beer in the sun, show off goofy golf attire and cheer or heckle at the infamous 16th hole. At night, visitors make their way to the Coors Light Birds Nest to party as top bands perform.
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66. Camelback Mountain
The wildly popular Echo Canyon Trail is loved by locals and tourists alike. Any day of the week you can see fitness-minded hikers powering their way around those making their way up for a panoramic view of the Valley. It’s a tough hike, with about 1,200 feet of elevation gain over 1.3 miles.
67. Piestewa Peak
There are several trails in the Phoenix Mountains Park and Recreation Area. The most popular — and most difficult — is the Summit Trail up Piestewa Peak. It’s about 1.2 miles to the top and an elevation gain of nearly 1,200 feet.
68. Shoshone Point, Grand Canyon
On most days, this easy walk through the woods might be the most peaceful place on the South Rim. The flat hike is about a mile along an old Jeep road to a gobsmacking overlook. The small parking area is unmarked, so a lot of people don’t realize the trail is there. The point can be reserved for weddings and other events, so if a group has reserved the site you might encounter a crowd.
69. Humphreys Peak
Arizona’s highest mountain — it tops out at 12,633 feet — offers a lung-searing, heart-pounding hike with amazing views. The trail to the summit winds up the aspen-covered mountain. The last mile, above tree line, is especially challenging as it grows windy, steeper and rockier.
70. Thunder River-Deer Creek Loop, Grand Canyon
This 28-mile North Rim trek has it all. First, a leisurely walk through the woods and then a skid down a steep gravel slope. Then — ahh — the flat, otherwordly rockscape of the Esplanade. Then — ugh — the Redwall descent. Then Surprise Valley, another reasonably flat and pleasing stretch. Then more downhill until you reach Thunder River, where the water roars out of the Canyon wall and creates a lush microclimate. Soak your feet, because there’s still another mile of grinding downhill to the Upper Tapeats campsite. From here to the Colorado River you’ll cross Tapeats Creek several times, scramble across a stretch of trail with a sheer drop-off, then pick your way down a rock fall. Good times. The next day it’s a few easy miles to Deer Creek Narrows, a fantastic slot canyon. You hike along a ledge near the top of the slot, so watch your step. And get a good rest. Because it’s all uphill from here.
71. Aravaipa Canyon
This peaceful getaway southeast of Globe shows how fertile the desert can be when you add water. A creek waters a canopy of trees, creating a cool, shady ecosystem. Trails vanish into thickets, pushing hikers into the creek. To keep the canyon special, the Bureau of Land Management limits visitation and requires a permit.
72. Superstition Mountains
Grisly murders, strange disappearances and legends of lost mines have given the Superstition Mountains an ominous reputation. But the 160,000-acre wilderness holds some of the best hiking in Arizona, with everything from jagged cliffs and deeply shadowed canyons to rolling, pine-covered hills and seasonal creeks. And its 200 miles of interconnecting trails make it easy to plan a hike for every skill and adventure level.
73. Cathedral Rock
As you approach Sedona from the south, this dramatic cream- and salmon-colored formation stands as a sort of gateway to the backcountry marvels beyond. See for yourself by hiking the Cathedral Rock Trail up to the base of the cliffs and pillars at the center of the formation. Although it’s only about three-quarters of a mile long, the trail gains more than 700 feet of elevation.
74. Wind Cave Trail
This trail begins in Usery Mountain Regional Park and enters Tonto National Forest. The wide, sandy trail zigzags through lush desert, steadily gaining elevation. As it steepens, it leads along the base of lichen-stained cliffs to the cave. A handful of plants cling to the ceiling, where water seeps through the rock.
75. Arizona Trail
The Arizona National Scenic Trail is like an 800-mile sampler of everything Arizona has to offer. The trail’s 43 “passages” range in length from 8.3 miles to 36 miles and link the Mexican border south of Parker Lake in the Huachuca Mountains to the Utah state line beyond the Grand Canyon. They traverse mountain ranges, grasslands, desert, forests, wilderness areas and canyons.
From summer storms to fair winters, here are 10 reasons to love Arizona weather.
76. Beauty in the skies
While summer storms can be dangerous (and should be viewed from indoors), there is beauty there, too. Monsoon clouds appear heavenly and white as they build over the eastern mountains, then transform to dark and menacing with angry flashes of lightning that paints electrifying pictures across the summer sky. And then, when the night sky clears, you don’t have to travel far from the Valley for breathtaking views of the heavens.
77. Dining al fresco in winter
During the heat of summer, most Valley residents want to spend as much time in air-conditioned spaces as possible. But during the rest of the year, conditions are great for dining outdoors. Metro Phoenix has a great variety of eating establishments small and large that feature outdoor dining, some with incredible city, mountain and desert vistas.
78. Experiencing all 4 seasons
Arizona residents can experience all four seasons, sometimes in just a few hours. Traveling from the desert floor to Arizona’s “sky islands” can take you from searing heat to snowy peak in the time it takes to drive to Flagstaff, which is the place to be for vibrant fall colors as well as snowball fights in the winter. In spring, the wildflowers near Picacho Peak can’t be beat, but if it’s summer you want, well, welcome to Arizona, because we’ve got plenty of that.
79. Fall and winter festivals
During the fall, winter and early spring, Arizonans like to get outdoors to participate in fairs, festivals and other special events. Nearly every weekend during the cooler months features some sort of outdoor event, whether its food, or music or even medieval jousting at the Renaissance Faire.
80. Creosote bush
Republic columnist Clay Thompson was once asked about the “pleasantly sweet smell” that comes from the desert after a rain. His guess was the Creosote bush. Its stems and leaves are covered with a waxy substance that includes naphthalene, which protects the plant from ultraviolet rays and helps it hold in water. “Moisture activates the waxy coating and produces that wonderful smell,” he explained.
81. 90 degrees
Have you ever noticed how 90 degrees in the summer doesn’t feel the same as 90 degrees in spring? After suffering through temperatures of 105-plus during July and August, it’s almost blissful when the day comes that it only gets as high as 90. But head from winter into spring with temperatures suddenly spiking to 90 degrees and, it’s starting to feel pretty warm.
82. It really is a dry heat
Then again, so is a sauna. Still, it’s nice to be able to hang your laundry on the line and have it dry in 20 minutes.
Water. Downhill. Cross-country. You can do all three kinds of skiiing in Arizona, sometimes on the same day if you’re willing to do a little driving. Arizona Snowbowl and Sunrise Park Resort are popular ski destinations, along with Mount Lemmon Ski Valley near Tucson. You can cross-country ski along the Mogollon Rim near Payson, and the major lakes on the Salt and Verde rivers offer water skiing year-round.
84. Swimming season never ends
Despite the way it may look when you fly into Sky Harbor International Airport, everyone in Arizona does not have a swimming pool. But they probably know someone who does. If not, they can take advantage of the dozens of resort pools that are open year-round or splash in one of the Valley’s famous water parks. Back in the old days, kids used to swim in the canals that provide water to the Valley, but these days that’s frowned upon. Still, if you can’t find a cool place for a dip on a summer day, you’re not trying very hard.
85. Backdrop for big events
Pleasant fall and winter temperatures draw people to Arizona from across the world. That climate is also an important lure for big-time sporting events such as the Super Bowl or the Phoenix Open professional golf tournament and spring-training baseball.
The Arizona Republic has been helping Arizonans for the past 125 know where and what to eat and drink.
Here are 10 reasons worth toasting:
86. Mexican food
There’s no need to travel south of the border for authentic Mexican food. We serve it right here. For decades, Arizona restaurants have been dishing up Mexico’s signature dishes. From guacamole, tacos, New Mexican-style adovada pork to Veracruz snapper, we’ve adopted the food from Mexico as our own. Try one of these Valley favorites:
•Carolina’s: 1202 E. Mohave St., Phoenix. 602-252-1503. Also 2126 E. Cactus Road, Phoenix. 602-275-8231. And 9030 W. Peoria Ave., Peoria. 623-487-1400, carolinasmex.com.
•Los Dos Molinos: Check out losdosmolinosphoenix.com for four Valley locations.
•San Carlos Bay: 1901 E. McDowell Road, Phoenix. 602-340-0892.
87. Boutique farmers
A small farmer in Arizona braves months of scorching heat, random gushes of damaging rain and soil as hard as cement. Yet a devoted band of farmers is turning swatches of desert into bountiful gardens, proving that, yes, locally grown fruits and vegetables are better. Our farmers sell their harvest to chefs and at nearly 30 farmers markets Valley-wide. Here are three operations hard at work:
•McClendon’s Select, 15888 N. 77th Ave., Peoria. 623-979-5279, mcclendonsselect.com.
•Maya’s Farm, 6106 S. 32nd St., Phoenix. 480-236-7097, mayasfarm.com.
•Singh Farms, 8900 E. Thomas Road, Scottsdale. 480-225-7199. Search “Singh Farms” on Facebook.
88. James Beard class
In the past two decades, Arizona has upped its restaurant game, closing the gap between top-tier dining cities like New York and San Francisco. Today, we’re loaded with talented chefs. As proof, check out the eight Arizona chefs who have won the James Beard best chef-Southwest award, the culinary version of an Academy Award.
The chefs are: Chris Bianco, Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, 2003; Nobuo Fukuda, Nobuo at Teeter House in Phoenix, 2007; Christopher Gross, Christopher’s of Christopher’s Restaurant & Crush Lounge in Phoenix, 1995; Vincent Guerithault, Vincent on Camelback in Phoenix, 1993; RoxSand Scocos McCreary, formerly of RoxSand Restaurant in Phoenix, 1999; Robert McGrath, formerly of Roaring Fork in Scottsdale, 2001; Bradford Thompson, formerly of Mary Elaine’s at the Phoenician in Phoenix, 2006; Janos Wilder, Janos, Tucson, 2000.
89. Craft beer
Move over citrus, copper and cotton. There’s a new industry in the state, and it’s booming. Arizona has more than 60 licensed craft breweries, ringing up an estimated $650 million in sales a year, according to the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild. For a comprehensive list of craft breweries, check out craftbeeraz.com. Here are a few favorites:
•Mother Bunch Brewing, 825 N. Seventh St., Phoenix. 602-368-3580.
•O.H.S.O. Brewery, 4900 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix. 602-955-0358.
•Four Peaks Brewing Co., 1340 E. Eighth St., Tempe. 480-303-9967; 15745 N. Hayden Road, Scottsdale. 480-991-1795.
Arizona’s wine industry was small and sleepy — until 2001. Since then, winemaking has soared. Production has increased nearly 700 percent in the past 14 years, well above the national average. At the same time, the state’s reputation for quality wines has skyrocketed.
There are 75 licensed wineries in Arizona, many offering tasting rooms at the vineyards. Check out arizonawine.org for locations. Here are three top winemakers:
•Arizona Stronghold Vineyards: 1023 N. Main St., Cottonwood. 928-639-2789.
•Page Springs Cellars: 1500 N. Page Springs Road, Cornville. 928-639-3004.
•Callaghan Vineyards: 336 Elgin Road, Elgin. 520-455-5322.
91. Native American cuisine
The state’s first cooks were Native Americans. Thankfully, a handful of restaurants are working hard to keep the cuisine of Native American forebears alive:
•White Mountain Apache Tribe’s Sunrise Park Resort: Chef Nephi Craig and his all-Native American kitchen staff host dinners to showcase the cuisine of their ancestors. Reservations for the indigenous-food chef-table dinner: 928-735-7669, ext. 2288.
•Fry Bread House: Credit Army rations for Navajo fry bread. These flour-and-grease creations were created by enterprising Native American women in the 19th century with the rations the Army handed out to those relegated to reservations. To make money, women of various tribes sold tourists fried bread, made with flour and lard from the rations. Located at 1003 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix. 602-351-2345.
•Kai: The menu at this award-winning, fine-dining restaurant on the Gila River Reservation showcases tribal and regional bounty. Located at 5594 W. Wild Horse Pass Blvd. (Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa), Gila River Reservation. 602-225-0100, sheratonwildhorsepass.com.
92. Sam Fox
When it comes to opening new restaurants, Sam Fox has the Midas touch. Today, he oversees 44 restaurants in Arizona and seven other states. His restaurants are divided among 15 concepts, each with its own menu, identify and brand.
Fox, named last year in Nation’s Restaurant News as one of the 50 most influential people in the restaurant industry, is Arizona’s most prolific restaurateur. His burgers, wood-fired pizza and organic rice bowls at Fox Restaurant Concepts have given us more dining choices than ever before. Check out foxrc.com for restaurants and locations.
93. Ethnic markets
From Middle Eastern to African, from Asian to Latin American, an impressive collection of specialty markets makes it easy to sample food from another country without leaving the state.
Load up on nopales, bitter melon, Ukraine beer, halal goat, pink lentils, ghee and pickled green tomatoes at markets that reflect our diversity. Start with these three:
•Lee Lee Oriental Supermarket, 7575 W. Cactus Road, Peoria, 623-773-3345; 2025 N. Dobson Road, Chandler, 480-899-2887.
•Los Altos Ranch Market: Locations Valley-wide at losaltosranchmarket.com.
•Middle Eastern Bakery and Deli, 3052 N. 16th St., Phoenix. 602-277-4927.
94. Food trucks
Eating tasty food on the street has never been easier. Nearly 60 food trucks are selling such fashionable dishes as duck-confit tacos, foie-gras sandwiches, Cajun burritos, Asian tacos and creme brulee.
Food trucks are always on the move, so where can you find them? Check out phxstreetfood.org for trucks and locations. Here are three favorites:.
•Short Leash Hot Dogs, shortleashhotdogs.com.
•Hao Bao Chinese Soul Food at haobaousa.com.
•Mamma Toledo’s The Pie Hole at mammatoledos.com.
95. Food makers
In the past five years, Arizona has embraced the artisan-food revolution, a culinary push-back against industrial bland and boring.
Local food makers are selling grass-fed beef, hand-crafted caramels and honey from desert hives. Their goods are available at specialty stores, AJ’s Fine Foods, a local grocery chain that stocks the largest inventory of Arizona-made foods, and at farmers markets. Here are a few favorites:
•Goldwater’s salsa: For the past two decades, the family of the late Sen. Barry Goldwater has parlayed his political pedigree and passion for cooking into a line of salsas that satisfy our cravings for fiery foods. Check out the inventory at goldwaters.com.
•Black Mesa Ranch goat cheese: David and Kathryn Heininger turned a stretch just east of Snowflake into a ranch that produces top-notch goat cheese. Contact at 928-536-7759 or blackmesaranchonline.com.
•Noble Bread: Founder Jason Raducha and Italian chef Claudio Urciuoli are baking Old World-style breads that have built a large and loyal following. Learn where to buy at noblebread.com.
Here are 10 things to love about Arizona sports.
96. Cactus League baseball
On March 30, 1909, the Chicago White Stockings became the first major-league team to play a barnstorming game in Arizona. The concept of spring training here didn’t really take off for another 40 or so years, but from those first roots blossomed an experience that includes half of Major League Baseball and sets annual attendance records across the Valley.
97. The big four play here
The Phoenix area is home to all four men’s major pro sports leagues, making us one of only a dozen markets in the country that can make that boast.
98. You’re covered
There is no such thing as a rainout or bad weather when it comes to our pro sports franchises. Domed stadiums, a necessity given Arizona’s challenging summers, not only guarantee fan comfort but also that the games will go on. Added bonus: Fans don’t have to get bundled up and trudge through snow to watch hockey here!
99. Golf mecca
Climate is one of the Five C’s of Arizona that built our economy and why we are a year-round golfing destination. Try this formula as an example: 50 or so golf courses in Scottsdale and another 150 in the surrounding area, times 330 days of sunshine, equals an estimated 8.28 million rounds of golf per year on those tracks, per City of Scottsdale data.
100. The great outdoors
Much of the Arizona sports experience doesn’t take place in a stadium or arena, but happens all year long under our sunny skies. If you are a water enthusiast, pilot your boat on one of more than three dozen lakes and reservoirs, plus the Colorado River, or float in an inner tube down the Salt River. Hunters can go for game big or small in the deserts, mountains and forests; fishing opportunities are too numerous to mention here. And hiking and camping experiences offer plenty of diverse terrain, vistas and wildlife encounters.
101. Mega events call Arizona home
Super Bowls. National championship football. All-star games. And now the Final Four around the corner. The Phoenix area, simply, is where America comes to put on its biggest sports events.
Participants use paddles to hit a ball over a low net on a badminton-sized court. Pickleball is touted as one of the fasted growing sports in the country. The USA Pickleball Association, organized to promote the growth and development of the sport, has its home in Surprise. Although the sport has captured the hearts of those living in retirement communities and RV Parks, a younger crowd is getting in on the action.
103. We’re World Series champions
Arizona Diamondbacks win the 2001 World Series: The seven-game series between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the New York Yankees included two extra-inning games and three late-inning comebacks. It ended on a Game 7, bases-loaded walk-off single from Luis Gonzalez. Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling were co-MVPs.
104. Weather, or not
If you have a hankering to play outside, you don’t have to let a little thing like Mother Nature interfere. Valley residents enjoying 80-degree winter days can drive two hours to find snow skiing; Flagstaff-area folks can shake off the cold by driving two hours the other way to find a sunny golf course waiting.
105. Go bowling
Since 1971, there has been at least one college football bowl game in Arizona every season, with a second game added in 1989 and a third on Tucson’s wish list. If that happens, the state will host four bowls this winter, capped by the second College Football Playoff title game in Glendale on Jan. 11.
Made in Arizona. From a young state isolated from the outside by mountain, canyon and desert have grown remarkable ideas, people and innovations.
Here are 10 people and innovations to love that have come from Arizona.
106. Carl Hayden
Hayden represented Arizona for 57 years in Congress, 42 of them as a senator. He was instrumental in passing landmark legislation, including a constitutional amendment assuring the right to vote for women and creation of Social Security.
107. Pima cotton
Pima cotton, known for its elegance and durability, was developed on experimental farms near Sacaton. During World War I, the U.S. military liked Pima cotton because of its industrial strength: It was used in airplane wheels, uniforms and wing fabric, among other uses. Now Pima cotton is a go-to material for shirts, towels and sheets.
108. John F. Long
Valley developer John F. Long created the affordable housing community, Maryvale, in the 1950s. Long donated land for schools, community centers and parks and had a profound effect on West Valley growth. He died Feb. 29, 2008 at age 87.
109. Navajo Code Talkers
During World War II, Japanese intelligence officers kept intercepting and deciphering coded messages, allowing enemy troops and sailors to anticipate attacks. The Pentagon turned to the Navajo Nation. Twenty-nine young men were recruited into the Marine Corps and developed a code using their native tongue, Diné. Its unusual syntax and rules of grammar baffled the Japanese, and America finally gained the advantage of surprise in combat.
110. Active retirement communities
The new concept of a senior-living community and Arizona’s reputation as a retirement haven were spurred by the opening of Sun City by the Del Webb Corp. in 1960. The new community was a hit from the start, as thousands thronged to tour model homes in a community with a host of recreational amenities that redefined the lifestyle of older Americans.
111. Cesar Chavez
Born near Yuma, Chavez saw his family lose their farm when he was a young child. His parents became migrant workers, and he grew up to become co-founder of the United Farm Workers Union in 1962. Committed to non-violence, he organized boycotts and strikes of agricultural products to bring national attention to the cause of farmworkers’ rights.
112. Jet Skis
Next time you’re at the lake, take a moment to remember Clayton Jacobson II. In the 1960s, the man who spent many years living in Parker came up with the idea for a personal watercraft powered by internal pump jets. His invention would later be manufactured and trademarked as Sea-Doos and Jet Skis, with sit-down and stand-up models.
113. Tree-ring dating
Short of jumping in a time machine, in the 1800s there was no method to pinpoint dates in archaeology and paleontology — until an Arizona scientist got involved. Lowell Observatory astronomer A.E. Douglass began developing the system of dendrochronology — the science of using tree rings, the growth patterns formed in a cross-section of the trunk — in Flagstaff in the 1890s. Almost 50 years later, he founded the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona. Tree-ring dating is still used today, and has become a key tool in studying climate change.
114. America West Airlines
This startup low-fare airline founded after industry deregulation began flights in 1983 with three aircraft, but its expansion was derailed by a 1991 bankruptcy. It was the first airline to apply for and receive a federal loan after the Sept 11 terrorist attacks. America West purchased carrier US Airways out of bankruptcy in 2005. The renamed US Airways completed a long-sought merger with American Airlines and moved its headquarters to Fort Worth in 2013.
115. Star-gazing discoveries
Arizona has been at the forefront of space discoveries and NASA missions. Clear skies and low humidity make the state an ideal site for stargazing, drawing scientists and researchers from around the world. Kitt Peak National Observatory, which is 56 miles southwest of Tucson, has contributed to numerous scientific discoveries, including galaxy rotation curves, galaxy evolution and environment, and research about star formation. According to its website, KPNO has the world’s largest collection of optical telescopes.
Arizona can boast of many attractions, moments of pride and sons and daughters of accomplishment. Next time you want to exercise bragging rights, think Grand Canyon. That big hole in the ground drew more than 4.7 million visitors in 2014. As for manmade attractions, there’s the mammoth Hoover Dam or that bridge from London that was torn apart and reassembled in Lake Havasu City. We have plenty of folks to admire, including one who spent decades on the Supreme Court.
Here are 10 points of pride in Arizona:
116. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
The 98-acre Desert Museum, which was founded in 1952, is billed as a fusion experience: zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, natural history museum, and aquarium. It is considered a model for innovative presentation and interpretation of native plants and animals in ecological exhibits. Visit and you can go along two miles of walking paths that take you through various desert habitats. At the museum, you may spot 230 animal species and 1,200 types of plants.
117. Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center
Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center: From 1922 to 1949, this cluster of white buildings at First and Culver streets was home of Congregation Beth Israel. It then become Phoenix’s first Chinese-speaking Christian church and then was sold to a Hispanic church. Today it is owned by the Arizona Jewish Historical Society, which operates it as a museum, gallery and cultural center.
118. Miss Arizona becomes Miss America
It happened not once but twice. It was a banner front page headline on Sept. 11, 1949. A photo showed the winner, Jacque Mercer, with a parasol, her hoop dress puffed around her. Arizona won the 1965 Miss America title with Vonda Kay Van Dyke.
119. Canal system
Desert dwellers need water to survive, and the Valley might never have been created without the dedication of the Hohokam Indians. Salt River Project officials say the Hohokams set the groundwork for today’s extensive canal system, which follows many of the same routes.
120. London Bridge
In 1968, Lake Havasu City founder Robert P. McCulloch paid $2.4 million to buy the 137-year-old London Bridge, which was sinking and had to be replaced. The bridge was dismantled and shipped via the Panama Canal to California, then trucked to Lake Havasu City and reassembled.
121. Arizona Highways magazine
The magazine was started in April 1925 to attract tourists. Over the years, the beauty and stories of Arizona have drawn tourists to discover in person what they found among the pages. It has more than 1 million readers today.
122. Women’s suffrage
Eight years before the nation, Arizona men voted to allow Arizona women the right to vote. The initiative won by a healthy margin and was decided in fall 1912, during the state’s first election after obtaining statehood.
123. Old Tucson
If you have a hankering to visit the old West, Old Tucson should be on your bucket list. Even if you’ve never been there in person, you may well have seen it in movie or television show. In 2014, the attraction celebrated its 75th anniversary of the building of the original Old Tucson sets in 1939 by Columbia Pictures for the movie, “Arizona.” Over the years, millions of people have come to wander into the general merchantile store and other businesses in town, catch a gunfight on the dusty streets and or watch a can-can or two in the saloon.
124. Buffalo Soldiers
In 1913, a fort in the Huachuca Mountains of southeastern Arizona became home to the Army’s 10th Cavalry, one of two African-American cavalry units Native Americans referred to as Buffalo Soldiers. The units were formed in 1866, while the Army was segregated, to help control the frontier.
125. Mission San Xavier del Bac
If you are headed to Tucson, why not include in your visit, this mission. It’s just 9 miles south of downtown Tucson. Another plus: no admission charge but many people will leave a donation after seeing what some say is the finest example of Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States. The mission, which is designated a National Historic Landmark, was founded as a Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. Construction of the current church began in 1783 and was completed in 1797. Its interior is filled with original statuary and mural paintings. Today, it continues to minister to the religious needs of its parishioners.
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