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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Be A Tourist in Your Own State

By Josh Coddington

The state of Arizona is enjoyed by more than 40 million visitors each year, who come to the Grand Canyon State seeking outdoor recreation, culinary delights, and curated wellness experiences. Fortunately, the state delivers on all these adventures and offers many, many more. Here’s how to be a tourist in your own state. 

But Arizona’s amazing experiences certainly aren’t just reserved for tourists! The largest group of visitors to Arizona destinations are, in fact, Arizonans! So, just in time to kick off the summer road-trip planning season, here are a few quick suggestions on how to explore Arizona like an expert! These ideas and more are available at VisitArizona.com/explore.   

Dark Skies for Curious Eyes

Arizona is famous for beautiful sunsets, which bathe the landscape in brilliant, colorful hues. But as the sun dips below the horizon, another show is just beginning. With the Four Corners region offering more Dark Sky communities than anywhere else in the world, Arizona is a premier destination for stargazing, with nearly 20 Dark Sky places. The clear night skies offer an exceptional chance to view many of the stars, planets, and celestial bodies which inhabit the Milky Way.

Arizona’s own wonder of the world, Grand Canyon National Park, is one of the largest official International Dark Sky Parks, with lodges on the park’s South and West Rims providing great opportunities to appreciate the stars above while relaxing closer to Earth. The 2023 annual Grand Canyon Star Party will be held June 10-17 and offers a week of events including free nightly astronomy talks, constellation tours, and telescope viewing. Lodging options include the elegant and historic El Tovar Hotel, the cozy cabins of Bright Angel Lodge, and the more contemporary Kachina and Thunderbird lodges.     

Basking in the Glow

Wander among the bright, blinking lights and neon signs of Tucson’s Ignite Sign Art Museum, an illuminating look at the history of Southern Arizona and beyond through signage. High-“lights” include a spinning orange 76 Gas Station ball and a towering Arby’s cowboy hat. Check out the imagery-based scavenger hunt, which encourages visitors to look at some of the smaller details around the museum. While there, don’t miss the 30-foot-tall neon “Gateway Saguaro” on North Oracle Road near West Drachman Street, which was designed by local artist Dirk J. Arnold and was a centerpiece of Tucson’s “Miracle Mile Strip” in the 1950s and 1960s.

Revel in the beautifully colored and vibrant lights of the outdoor Neon Sign Park on Casa Grande’s Main Street. This four-acre park in the Arizona Plaza opened April 2019 in the heart of the Historic Downtown District, with 14 lovingly restored and salvaged signs mostly from the 1950s. 

Pull Up a Chair at Arizona’s Smallest Bar

Bisbee, a once raucous, 1880s mining camp, has embraced its rich historic identity and built a reputation as an eclectic enclave that’s the envy of small towns everywhere. In addition to a welcoming, free-spirited arts and culture community, the Southern Arizona town also offers unconventional experiences. Visitors in-the-know will head up the stairs at the Silver King Hotel to crowd into the Room 4 Bar, Arizona’s smallest bar. This eccentric drinking hole offers two barstools and two seats at a table, but patrons are welcome to stand and order a drink. The quirky setting, personable bartender, and robust alcohol selection keep Room 4 Bar packed. Of course, “packed” means something different when the bar is only 100 square-feet.

Plan Your Own Adventure

Arizona is defined by a dizzying array of natural beauty and inviting terrain, all of which beg to be explored. Many Arizonans who are frequent travelers enjoy the ability to discover something new, plan a quick escape, or add stops to an existing adventure. 

The Arizona Digital Wine Trail Passport uses geolocation to deliver easy access to the state’s 120+ wineries, vineyards, and tasting rooms, while there’s much information to be explored through the Arizona Wine Growers Association’s visitor’s guide

The grandeur of Arizona’s 50+ parks, monuments, and recreation areas is now even easier to explore with the Arizona Parks Digital Passport. From iconic cacti-studded landscapes to sandstone canyon walls, thick pine-tree forests to the Sky Islands of southern Arizona, there is always an adventure awaiting. For a fun twist, the passport can also divide the parks by their prominent features, such as “colorful canyons,” “dark sky wonders,” “lush landscapes,” and several more. 

Route 66 has long held a place in the hearts of travelers near and far, its legendary status catering to lovers of Americana, nostalgia, and the feel of the open road. Discovering the undeniably Instagrammable landmarks and one-of-a-kind experiences that can only be found along Arizona’s Mother Road is easier than ever with the Rock the Route 66 Digital Passport.  From Topock 66 on the Colorado River in the west to The Painted Desert Trading Post in the east  –  pllus miles of famous sights, shops, eats, and towns in between  –  the free digital passport makes planning a Route 66-centric road trip easier than ever.


As Arizonans, we’re lucky to reside in an amazing state that attracts millions of national and international visitors each year. Everyone who enjoys the places and experiences Arizona provides also shares a responsibility to maintain and protect this beauty for the travelers of today and tomorrow.

As such, it’s up to all who traverse Arizona’s beautiful terrain to apply responsible and sustainable tourism principles to every trip. The Arizona Office of Tourism is dedicated to making it easy with its AppreciateAZ program, offering simple ideas on how to “Plan Ahead & Prepare,” “Stick to Trails,” and “Be Careful with Fire.” With certification taking only about 10 minutes on average, it’s a no-brainer when it comes to protecting our natural lands.

Check out Green Living’s other travel articles on our Travel page!


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