What is Arizona known for?

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Arizona is the 48th state in the United States, and is home to dramatic natural landscapes, rich history and bustling metropolis’. Arizona only became a state in 1912, and was seized by the US from Mexico in 1848. As a result, many names for towns, cities, monuments and natural wonders are in Spanish.

It is known as both the Grand Canyon State and the Copper State due to the location of the natural wonder, and the states abundant levels of copper. One of the biggest allures of the state are its vast National Parks, of which it has 22, and its further 35 state parks. Inside these National Parks are important monuments, deserts and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. If you are a keen hiker, Arizona’s myriad of hiking trails of varying difficulty through spectacular landscapes are for you.

The Rocky Mountains run through the state giving it the perfect mixture of desert hikes and mountain climbs. Despite its naturally desert-filled landscape, Arizona has gained popularity in recent years in the wine market thanks to its more than 100 wineries making it the perfect destination for a relaxing vineyard break.Arizona is an interesting and culturally diverse state to visit. To find out exactly what makes this state so special, keep reading.

What is Arizona known for?

1- The Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon In Arizona At Sunset
Grand Canyon what is Arizona most known for.

The Grand Canyon is perhaps one of the most well-known natural landmarks in the United States and one that is recognisable the world over.

It is also one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and draws more than five million visitors each year.

The Grand Canyon is a natural rock formation known as arid-land erosion, that has carved out 277 miles (445.79 kilometres) of canyon, and can be up to 1 mile (1.61 kilometres) deep.


It is believed that the Colorado River, which still flows through the canyon today, began to carve this natural wonder around 6 million years ago, however recent research shows that the canyon could be even older, with some dating it to around 70 million years old.

If you enjoy hiking and looking for fossils, keep your eyes peeled for fossils from ancient marine creatures around the river and land mammal fossils from 10,000 years ago, which have been found in its caves.

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2- Sonoran Hot Dog

Barbecue Grilled Hot Dogs With Yellow American Mustard
Arizona is known for its tasty Sonoran hot dogs.

Every state has its own unique delicacy, and for Arizona it comes in the form of a hot dog.

The Sonoran Hot Dog is a popular dish primarily in Tucson and Phoenix, but can be found throughout the state.

This delicious dish is made from a hot dog wrapped in bacon and grilled, before being served on a bolillo-style bun.

Topping this hot dog are pinto beans, fresh tomatoes and fried onions with added extras including ketchup, mustard and for a spicy kick jalapeños and salsa.

This fusion of American and Mexican cuisines is what makes the Sonoran Hot Dog so special.

If you fancy trying the Sonoran Hot Dog, it is widely available from street vendors, however for a country-wide recognised and award-winning dog go to El Güero Canelo, a James Beard Award-winning hot dog joint.

This Tucson-based destination has been serving hungry customers Sonoran Hot Dogs for more than 30 years, and with hot dogs costing less than $5, its a tasty and cheap way to experience the state on a plate.

Recommended tour: 3 Cities and Nature Tour – Shopping, art, history and food in Scottsdale, Phoenix and Tempe.

3- Lemonade

Cold Lemonade
Lemonade is a drink Arizona is known for.

Lemonade is so popular in Arizona that it was made the state drink in 2019, thanks to a campaign by a high school student.

Garrett Glover realised that Arizona did not have a state drink, and that the seal of the state included 4 of the states 5 C’s of cattle, copper, cotton and climate, but ignored citrus.

The citrus industry has long been a part of Arizona culture and life, and predates its statehood.

The soil and warm weather year round allows the state to produce delicious citrus fruits including oranges, grapefruits and of course lemons.

Following his campaign, this sweet summer beverage was declared by the state legislature system to be Arizona’s official drink.

Across the state there are many lemonade stands including the AZ Lemonade Stand in Phoenix.

AZ Lemonade Stand’s drinks became so popular that they are now available at a number of supermarkets and restaurants across the city, and come in a wide variety of additional flavours including pineapple, which was launched to support those effected by the natural disasters in Maui in 2023.

4- Saguaro Cactus

View Of Phoenix With Saguaro Cactus
Saguaro cactii are what Arizona is known for.

The Saguaro Cactus is synonymous with Arizona, and its flower is the state wildflower.

The Saguaro Cactus is tall and tree-like, reaching over 12m (40ft) tall.

This particular species of cactus is native to the Sonoran Desert and is reminiscent of typical images of cacti associated with desert landscapes.

The body of the cactus and its upward-stretching arms have deep folds and are covered with long spines.

Saguaro Cacti bloom between May and June before giving way to red fruits which are eaten by bats, mammals and reptiles.

The cactus is protected in Arizona, not only due to its statewide significance, but for its long lifespan.

It can take up to 100 years for this species of cacti to grow its arms, and it can live for more than 200 years.

While the cactus is not endangered, measures are taken by the National Parks Service to ensure that problematic plants such as buffelgrass and red brome are removed from areas where the cacti grow, to ensure they have the space and the nutrients they need to thrive.

Download the Saguaro National Park Self-Guided Driving Audio Tour.

5- Three Desert Regions

Desert Next The Lake Mead In Mohave County, Arizona
The Mojave is one of the deserts Arizona is known for.

Arizona’s natural landscape is wild, untamed and dramatically different to other states.

The state features three desert regions; the Chihuahuan Desert in the southeast, the Sonoran in the southwest and central region and finally the Mojave in the upper west of the state.

Despite all being known as deserts, their landscapes and endemic wildlife and plant species are varied.

The Sonoran Desert borders Tucson and Phoenix, making a trip to this spectacular landscape easy during a city break.

Here you will find spectacular and towering Saguaro Cacti, rich orange-coloured soil and pretty and brightly coloured flowers.

In the Mojave desert, the driest desert in North America, you will find the Joshua Tree which are unique to this desert in Arizona.

The Chihuahuan Desert offers grassland dotted with towering hoodoos, or pillar-shaped rocks.

Within this desert there are more than 500 species of cacti and more than 3000 species of other plants and trees.

6- Native American Culture

Sketch Of Tattoo Art, Native American Indian Head
Native American culture is something Arizona is known for.

There are 22 Native American tribes in Arizona, including the widely known Navajo tribe.

Arizona has a turbulent history with occupation by the Spanish and English, before war between Mexico and the US, and finally becoming recognised as a state in 1912.

During this time the Navajo and other tribes fought to protect the land that is rightfully theirs.

The Navajo Nation was formed after Spanish and English settlers arrived in order to protect their home.

The Navajo Nation covers the area where the states of Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico meet, and has its own capital city, Window Rock.

Navajo Nation is the largest reservation in the US spanning 27,000 square miles (69,929 square kilometres).

It is possible to visit Window Rock Navajo Tribal Park with a Navajo tour guide who will give you a glimpse into their culture.

7- Desert Wildlife

With much of the state covered in dry, desert landscapes, animals have had to adapt to the heat and lack of water, but that by no means limits the variety of species that can be found here.

Many of the animals living in this desert landscape are nocturnal which allows them to hunt and feed during cooler temperatures, and seek the darkness and colder temperatures of their burrows during the hot days.

Within the state you will find the American Golden Eagle, one of the largest birds of pray in North America.

This majestic bird has a ginormous wingspan of up to 7ft (2.13m), and can be seen soaring through the skies particularly above rocky and mountainous terrains.

Black bears are the only species of bear found in Arizona, and they typically reside in the forests, woodlands and desert riparian landscapes of the state.

Seeing a black bear in the wild here is rare, however it is possible to see these intelligent and cute animals up close at the Bearizona Wildlife Park, which is also home to some grizzly bears.

8- Spanish Missions

San Xavier Del Bac Mission, Arizona, USA
San Xavier Del Bac Mission is one of the missions Arizona is known for.

There are more than 20 Spanish Missions in Arizona, with many stemming from one man in the 17th century.

Padre Kino, a Spanish settler, built many of Arizona’s missions between 1678 and 1711 to convert the Native Americans to Christianity and to encourage them to adopt a Spanish way of life.

The buildings forming the missions are a mixture of European and Native American architectural styles.

There are many tours throughout the state of the remaining Spanish Missions which not only show you these well-preserved buildings, but also allows tour guides to share their knowledge on the history of the missions and the outcome for both natives and settlers.

The most famous Spanish Missions in Arizona include San Xavier del Bac and San Agustin del Tucson.

San Xavier del Bac is the oldest European structure in the state and is filled with intricate religious paintings dating from its founding.

This mission is still functioning as a church today, and it welcomes visitors and worshippers daily.

9- The Most Sunshine in the USA

Phoenix, Arizona
Phoenix is a city Arizona is known for.

Arizona is famous for its warm and dry climate, and it holds the title of the sunniest state in the USA.

Arizona is perfect if you are looking for a sunny USA destination for a vacation regardless of the time of year.

The sunniest destination in Arizona is Yuma, where the city receives on average 4015 hours of sunshine each year, and holds the title of the sunniest city in the world.

Temperatures in Yuma reach 42C (107F) in July, the peak of summer for the state.

Phoenix, the capital city of Arizona, is also exceptionally sunny, with an average of 3872 hours of sunshine each year.

Similarly to Yuma, Phoenix sees its highest temperatures in July, mirroring those of Yuma.

Phoenix is surrounded by the Sonoran Desert and is known in the US as the Valley of the Sun.

Recommended tours:

10- Arizona Cardinals

Like many American states Arizona has an NFL team; the Arizona Cardinals.

In 1898 the Cardinals franchise was formed, making it the oldest NFL professional club.

Then franchise have played Arizona since 1988, having previously been known as the Phoenix Cardinals before adopting the title of Arizona Cardinals in 1994.

While the Arizona Cardinals have never won a Super Bowl, they did reach the final in 2009 where they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Cardinals play at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, a relatively new facility that was built in 2006.

Tours of the stadium are available, offering visitors the chance to see behind the scenes as part of a tour group, or on a private tour with friends and family.

Why not join the Birdgang, the strong Cardinals fan base, and visit the stadium on a game day if visiting Arizona during the NFL season? Book your tickets here.

11- Cowboys and the Wild West

OLd West Town
Cowboy culture and the Wild West are what are Arizona is known for.

Step back in time and experience life in the Wild West throughout Arizona.

Before Arizona became a state, it was a series of tough mining towns home to some of the most famous names in Wild West history including both outlaws and respected lawmen.

One of the most popular Wild West destinations in Arizona is Tombstone, a city that dates back to the 1800s.

Within Tombstone is Wyatt Earp’s house, which has been transformed into a museum and gallery.

If haunted Old West towns interest you, there are plenty of stories about Tombstone including sightings of ghosts at The Bird Cage Theatre.

To fully immerse yourself in Arizona’s Wild West history, spend a few days at a Dude Ranch and learn the core skills required to be a cowboy.

There are many Dude Ranches across the state offering lessons in horse riding, archery and shooting as well as highly rated spas and golf courses for those seeking added relaxation.

12- Gunfight at the OK Corral

One of the most infamous tales from the Wild West and the town of Tombstone is the Gunfight at the OK Corral, which has been immortalised in a movie from 1957.

The gunfight was between a group of lawmen lead by Virgil Earp, a US Deputy Marshall, his brothers Morgan and Wyatt, and Doc Holiday, a policeman.

They were up against outlaws Billy Claiborne, Ike and Billy Clanton, and Tom and Frank McLaury.

There had been a long-simmering feud between the two groups which came to the surface on October 26th 1881.

Following the gunfight where Clanton and the McLaury brothers were killed, and Virgil and Morgan Earp and Doc Holiday were wounded, Wyatt Earp became the synonymous name linked to this historical event.

The fight lasted 30 seconds and only served to fuel the ongoing tensions between the two groups with further gunfights breaking out in the following months.

Despite its well-known name, the gunfight did not take place near the OK Corral, and was actually held a few streets away in a narrow lot.

13- Monument Valley

The Unique Nature Landscape Of Monument Valley In Utah
Monument Valley is what Arizona is known for.

One of the most famous and breathtaking landscapes in Arizona is Monument Valley, a part of Navajo County running along the border between Arizona and Utah.

Monument Valley is a sacred location for the Navajo and features in many of their stories and histories.

Monument Valley is one of the most photographed natural landscapes in the world and has been used in countless movies and TV shows, including Forest Gump, Lone Ranger and many John Wayne films.

Within Monument Valley are towering sandstone pillars reaching up to 1000ft (304.8m) high.

Surrounding the monuments are cacti, shrubs and other desert plants adding touches of green to the otherwise deep-red landscape.

It is possible to drive through Monument Valley on a 17 mile (27.36 kilometres) loop road taking in some of the most spectacular sites found in the valley.

14- Petrified Forest

The Name Of The Park, Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park is another place Arizona is known for.

Another spectacular natural and famous landmark within Arizona is the Petrified Forest.

The Petrified Forest is a unique landscape set within the Painted Desert, where the rock formations have unusual coloured lines of differing rock types.

The Petrified Forest is well-known for its petrified logs and wood which are vibrantly coloured and dotted across the desert landscape.

Theodore Roosevelt named the Petrified Forest as a National Park in 1906 to preserve it and prevent it from becoming damaged by mining.

Today the Petrified Forest National Park spans 221,390 acres, 50,000 of which is specifically designated to the Wilderness Area.

Within the national park it is possible to see a wide variety of animal species including coyotes, porcupines, hummingbirds and burrowing owls.

Aside from the astonishing natural landscape and fascinating plant and wildlife, the Petrified Forest is also home to more than 13,000 years of human history, with 800 archaeological sites to explore.

15- Arizona Balloon Classic

Arizona is famous for many things, but one of its most famous and exciting festivals is the annual Balloon Classic.

Held each January, the Balloon Classic runs over 3 days in Goodyear.

Balloon flights are completely weather-dependent, as hot air balloons cannot fly during high winds.

The best times to see the balloons area early morning as the sun rises, and in the evening as the sun sets, as the balloons do not fly during the middle of the day.

As well as watching a variety of colourful and unique hot air balloons taking to the Arizona skies, there are opportunities for those attending the festival to take a ride.

For those feeling a little apprehensive about hot air balloon rides, the festival offers tethered balloon rides that stay attached to the ground using guide ropes, and only reach heights of around 75ft (22.86m).

Map Of United States With Arizona Highlight

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Sarah Holmes
Sarah Holmes is a travel and fashion writer living in the heart of England. From family adventures in numerous parts of the UK and Europe to exploring cities as an adult, Sarah has a wide knowledge of the best areas, sights and local tips that the UK and the neighbouring continent can offer. Sarah grew up in the North East of England, with incredible sights and landmarks only a short drive away. Her favourite places to visit include Seaham Beach, the Lake District and Alnwick Castle. Sarah has written for a range of fashion and travel blogs and print publications.